Postwar friendship between two soldiers | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Postwar friendship between two soldiers

/ 05:05 AM January 31, 2018

How many Nick Joaquin biographies are lying around in drawers, unpublished, because the people who commissioned them, or their relatives, or their lawyers found some parts unprintable?

There is an urban legend about Joaquin’s unpublished history of high-end retailer Rustan’s; never published because it was not told from the point of view of the owners or their well-heeled clientele, but from the voice of a lowly salesgirl!

Another is a biography of war-time martyr Jose Abad Santos unpublished because Joaquin’s iconoclastic conclusion was that the Japanese made a mistake in executing Jose because they were actually after his brother Pedro!

As a young writer, I was awed by Joaquin’s prodigious output, the rumor that he was paid P1 million per book, unlimited San Miguel beer to keep him going, and the license to write what he wanted.

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Last Friday’s column on Manuel Roxas escaping at the hands of his Japanese captors because a certain Lt. Col. Nobuhiko Jimbo defied orders for Roxas’ execution generated a lot of response from readers. Colonel Jimbo sought a clarification that revealed Gen. Masaharu Homma did not issue the order of execution.

Jose Abad Santos was not as lucky and was executed by his captors upon receipt of the fake order. The twist in our story is that at the end of the war, Colonel Jimbo was a prisoner of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces. Then newly elected president Roxas personally interceded for the man who saved his life and, as we would say in Filipino, “patas na sila.” Jimbo returned to Japan and maintained a relationship with the Philippines and the Filipinos until his death.

Arturo Henson Acosta, whose father Col. Manuel Acosta (Philippine Military Academy Class of 1940) was assigned to Tokyo as deputy military attaché to the Philippine Embassy and chief of the Philippine Military Procurement, met Jimbo. He sent an e-mail that reads:

“Even after our family’s almost 5-year stay in Japan, my father’s friendship with Col. Jimbo extended for decades, as Col. Jimbo regularly visited the Philippines. As to the postwar Col. Jimbo, he was a pleasant old man who genuinely loved life, and loved Filipinos. Following Japanese custom, he always had a token gift every time he visited. Like a couple of other Japanese friends of my parents, Col. Jimbo loved our mangoes!

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“Col. Jimbo by then was head of his own Jimboras Company. In his visits to our country, he was accompanied by his loyal secretary Eiko Murai, and they always touched base with our family; I still have fond memories of lunches and dinners with them. Miss Murai continued to visit even years after the passing of Col. Jimbo. With his limited use of English, Miss Murai was an efficient interpreter, while my father would constantly use some Japanese words and phrases that were appreciated by Col. Jimbo.

“My father was given several booklets by Col. Jimbo which had a photo of him with Manuel Roxas when he had the rank of Speaker/General. You may know more details of Col. Jimbo’s short association with President Roxas, but this is my knowledge of this Japanese officer and gentleman:

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“Col. Jimbo was a Catholic and he was against the brutal atrocities of the Japanese military when they occupied the Philippines. When Speaker/General Roxas was captured, the Mindanao garrison commander was persuaded by his chief of staff, Col. Jimbo, not to follow verbal orders to have Roxas executed because he refused to collaborate with the enemy. So, initially Col. Jimbo hid Roxas from Japanese officers. To my understanding, Gen. Masaharu Homma, commander of all Japanese forces in the Philippines, was not aware that his name was used to issue the execution order. Jimbo went to Homma’s office; he was not around, but Homma’s chief of staff, who knew his boss well, did not believe the order came from Homma. Roxas was spared but was then incarcerated in a Malaybalay prison camp where Jimbo visited regularly. From here, I do not know what subsequently ensued, but to make a long story short, Col. Jimbo did save the life of President Manuel Roxas.”

One would wish there were more positive stories like that of Roxas and Jimbo in our history but it is unfortunately an isolated case in a sea of gruesome narratives of murder, rape, destruction and mayhem that accompanied the Battle for Manila in 1945. Painful as it is, we should not forget the pain of war, so that we do not repeat it.

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, jose abad santos, Looking Back, manuel roxas, Masaharu Homma, nick joaquin

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