In October 1970, Sister Theresia Unno enplaned along with other Japanese religious who came to see Pope Paul VI on his visit to the Philippines. This visit drew her attention to plight of many poor Filipinos living in Tondo. This was a moment in her life she knew was the realization of her dream, to help needy people in a foreign land. Immediately after returning from the Philippines, Sr. Unno requested permission to destined in this country and was readily granted.
A few months later after her return to the Philippines, her missionary work started with the poor and disabled in Quezon Province. The heat in the area however, became unbearable for the sixty year old nun.
Noticeably enough, her health promted the Sister Provincial in Manila to recommend rest for her at St. Francis Convent in Baguio City.
On the way up by bus to Baguio City, she became fascinated by the roads that led her there which she later found out was made possible by the thousands of Japanese workers, who came in by shipload from Japan, because of their skill and industriousness. She found that many workers lost their lives in this construction. After the project was completed, some went back to Japan while others opted to stay behind living near and elsewhere and started a family with Filipina wives.
Upon her arrival, she wondered what became of the families of these survivors. She found out that after the Second World War broke out, many of these Japanese laborers were forced to become informers and interpreters for the Japanese Imperial Army in order to preserve their lives and that of their families. When the war ended, all Japanese nationals were sent back to Japan leaving their families behind. Some survived the rage of war but not the rage of fellow Filipinos who despised all Japanese nationals and descendants.
At this point, Sr. Unno knew there was something more to this story. She suspected a sad plight for these people. The idea of a Filipino-Japanese Association was born when she made her decision to seek and gather Japanese descendants orphaned by the thousand of Japanese who labored in the construction of Kennon Road.
After setting this mission, she started her search, it was not an easy job then since many have dropped their Japanese surnames. This did not discourage her whatsoever until one day she had her first lead, she encountered the Japanese surnames Okubo and Hamada who operated a printing press in Baguio City. It was the start of it all. After finding and meeting a few more, she gathered them together to get acquainted at the Baguio Printing Press. The sight of each other in that meeting gave each one present the feeling of affiliation. Each one felt the need to be united and to work together for a common good.
The first meeting of the nucleus of the Association was on October, 1972. Thereafter, monthly meetings were held alternately in different homes of members. Without any prodding from the good Sister, those who gathered at her instance expressed their desire to organise themselves and form an association. Subsequently, the Articles of Incorporation with its By-Laws were drawn up. On June 2, 1983, the Association was duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the name Filipino-Japanese Friendship Association of Northern Luzon, Inc. (FJFANLI).
During the formative years of the FJFANLI, Sr. Unno devoted her time tracing, and tracking down Japanese descendants and inviting them to come out to the open. Little by little membership to the Association increased, posing a problem for an adequate place to hold regular monthly meetings. Through the courtesy of the Sister Superior of the St. Francis Convent, regular monthly meetings have been accommodated at the social hall of the St. Francis Convent, Baguio City. The convent's storeroom was likewise offered to accommodate the increasing volume of donated used clothing and other items being received from Japan.
Having gathered her flocked of Japanese descendants, Sr. Unno was faced next with the challenge to uplift the quality of life of these descendants. From her encounters with them she learned that providing education to their children was more of a problem rather than poverty itself. Based on this finding, she set on another mission to help provide education for the younger generation. With this new mission, the good Sister sought the help of her many benefactor friends and donors in Japan. In no time, an outpour of support came from various civic minded individuals and groups, veteran's groups and religious organizations in Japan. A scholarship committee was formed and seven (7) college students emerged as the first beneficiaries. From a modest beginning of seven scholars, the number swelled to several hundreds.
Realizing the fact that the St, Francis Convent's Social Hall cannot forever accomodate the the regular monthly meetings, Sr, Unno considered the idea of having a permanent place to house the FJFANLI. With funds from benefactors, she was able to purchase a house and lot in Pico, La Trinidad. For sometime, meetings every second Sunday of the month were held in Pico. Still the place turned out inadequate so Sr. Unno continued her search for a better place. Until finally, in November 1987 a building and lot at No. 3 Bukaneg Street, Legarda Road, Baguio City was acquired by Sr. Unno for and in behalf of the FJFANLI, giving up the place in Pico. Upon the suggestion of the late Oseo C. Hamada, the place is now commonly known as "Abong", a native word meaning "small house". Though big in structure, it is truly a small house to accommodate the ever increasing members of the FJFANLI. Abong now stands as another monument of Sr. Theresia Unno especially in the hearts of each member.
With her deteriorating health, Sr. Unno set plans to prepare for the future needs and stability of the Association by the time she will be gone forever. In order to carry out her mission for the FJFANLI, the idea of forming a Foundation was ignited.
When the Foundation was initially realized, the proposal was to name it Sr. Theresia Unno Foundation. This was however rejected by the Sister Superiors in Manila because Sr. Theresia was still alive and it was not proper to name a Foundation after a living person. The name of Filipino-Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon Inc. was adopted instead and was registered with Securities and Exchange Commission on September 23, 1987. It was duly licensed in 1995 by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as a Non-Government Organization (NGO) to operate as a youth and family Social Welfare Agency. The Foundation is also duly accredited as Civil Society Organization (CSO) by the City of Baguio.
A retired teacher from Shizuoka, Japan, came to the Philippines in search for something she can do.
Imbued with a burning desire to help, last 18 years of her life was devoted in searching, gathering,
and assisting the Filipino-Japanese descendants in Baguio City and Northern Luzon
A filipino businessman of Japanese descent from Baguio City. Serves as Honorary Consul-General of Japan to the Philippines from
(1995-2010) makes him the first Filipino, the first Asian and the sixth in the world.
Sister Theresia Unno, FMM Founder
Arnel M. Cabanisas Executive Director
Carlos B. Teraoka Chairman
Arnel M. Cabanisas is the Executive Director of Filipino-Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc. He joined the foundation since 2016.