Japanese Pioneers

In the early years of the 20th century, American government installations in the Philippines were important work sites for Japanese migrant laborers.  In northern Luzon, the most ambitious of these projects resulted in the creation of Baguio and it's development into the country's most famous vacation resort.  The building of a highway (the "Benguet Road," later called the Kennon Road) to connect this proposed urban center to the Manila railroad employed over a thousand Japanese men.  Upon the completion of the road in 1905, some workers went to live in the Baguio-Benguet region.


These Japanese pioneers joined the Filipinos, Americans, and Chinese who flocked to this highland zone in the early 1900s in search of gold, commerce, or wage work.  With them, they built Baguio's foundations for a northern economic and tourist capital.  Among the Japanese were numerous skilled carpenters, masons, and gardeners, as well as merchants and building contractors.  With more arrivals from Japan during the first two decades, they ran the sawmills and constructed the first Western-style residences and government buildings in Baguio. Some opened provision shops and general stores in the city center.  Others started up vegetable farms.  They founded a Japanese Association, established a school, and organized farming cooperatives.  In 1920s and 1930s, Japanese retail businesses as well as agricultural, construction, and trucking enterprises flourished in a prosperous city. 

This book describes a vibrant Japanese community that was fully engaged in northern Luzon economic, cultural and civic life in the first decades of the 20th century.  Because of the great toll on Filipino life and society in the Second World War, most of the stories here came to be shared only within small groups of Japanese-Filipinos.  Few of their elders, the pioneers' children, now remain.  Through oral accounts, archival research, and over 300 previously unpublished line drawings and photographs, this volume retrieves for us a portion of Baguio and Cordillera history that has come close to being totally forgotten.

In memory of... 


The Japanese workers who came to help build the "Benguet Road," the first Cordillera highway to the world;


The Japanese pioneers who came in peace to build their homes here and bequeath their talents and genius to the mountain peoples;


The descendants whose stories are recorded in this book;  to the mothers who were left behind when they were forcibly separated from their Japanese husbands;  to all children, who suffered the stigma of being children of Japanese and the poverty that followed the losses of life and property in wartime;


Sister Theresia Unno, who first arrive in the Cordillera to seek out Japanese descendants, to hear their stories, and to tell them that they mattered;


Those who first organized the Filipino-Japanese Association in Baguio in 1972, for their dedication to bringing Filipino-Japanese descendants together with the Japanese people, and their commitment to the education of Filipino-Japanese youth.


They all made this book possible.