As millions of aid from foreign countries and international organizations trickled into storm-battered Philippines to help rebuild a city reduced to rubble and rotting bodies, one Japanese man seeking atonement offered his own.
Upon hearing about the heartwrenching devastation in Leyte, Kenji Hirakawa knew what he had to do.
He sent a letter to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and enclosed was 200,000 yen in donations for the typhoon-ravaged archipelago.
“I am enclosing here 200,000 Japanese yen for all the troubles my father may have caused the Filipino people,” Hirakawa’s missive stated, which was quoted by mission. He was referring to his father, a member of the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in the Philippines during World War II.
His father left for the war when Hirakawa was just 3 months old. He never made it back home.
“My father lies sleeping on a mountain somewhere in Luzon,” Hirakawa wrote.
The gesture was both a selfless and deeply personal.
Hirakawa “knew that the Philippines had lately been besieged with various calamities so he took it upon himself to help in whatever way he can. However, the story of Hirakawa… ran deeper than that. His ties to the Philippines have been sealed with blood,” the embassy said in a statement.
“He is hoping that the money will somehow help alleviate the plight of the typhoon victims in central Philippines.”
Japan was among more than 40 nations lending a hand to the grieving nation, mobilizing Self-Defense Forces aircraft and troops in its largest humanitarian deployment overseas yet. The Japanese government also tripled its pledges to $30 million for the Philippines.
An emergency medical unit of 25 Japanese doctors and nurses were also sent to Tacloban. The team’s assistance mirrors the efforts contributed by the Philippines during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“We will never forget,” Kenzo Iwakami of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency said.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/Flickr