Following its successful launch in Tokyo last November which was graced by over a hundred dignitaries, including Yoko Ono, the book History and Heritage of the Kudan: The Official Residence of the Philippine Ambassador to Japan was launched in Manila at the Rockwell the other night with the members of the diplomatic corps and the business community in attendance.
The book launch was also part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Philippines-Japan diplomatic relations, and we must give full credit to Philippine ambassador to Japan, Manolo Lopez not only for a new era of strengthened relations between the two countries, but also for the preservation of our prime properties in Tokyo.
I remember sometime in 2007, during the time of Jun Siazon as ambassador to Japan when we had a conversation about the government’s plan to sell or lease for 50 years some of our Tokyo properties, including the one located in Nanpeidai in Shibuya to make way for a condominium building, with a suggestion to have the penthouse occupied by the Philippine ambassador. I told Jun it was a foolhardy plan. Selling the properties in Shibuya, Kobe and Roppongi would have been desecration of the historical significance attached to these properties that were acquired with the blood, sweat and tears of Filipinos because they were part of war reparations from Japan.
When Manolo Lopez was appointed as the new ambassador to Japan, he was dismayed at finding the ambassador’s official residence in Kudanshita – also known as “The Kudan” – in a state of disrepair. Not many of today’s youth know the property was originally purchased in 1944 during the time of President Jose P. Laurel. And while this was not part of Japanese war reparations, it is still a patrimonial property imbued with historical significance, having been the first Philippine Embassy and residence established outside of the country. The mansion – described as an architectural gem – was originally owned by Baron Zenjiro Yasuda who happens to be the grandfather of Yoko Ono. It was the late president Diosdado Macapagal and Doña Eva who were the first presidential couple to stay in the mansion during the 1964 presidential state visit to Japan.
The Kudan has since been declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines – the first one to be given such distinction outside the Philippines, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ambassador Lopez who also managed to successfully recover our Nampeidai property (which was sold to a Japanese property developer) with the help of Ambassador Macario Laurel, the older son of Speaker Pepito Laurel and grandchild of the late President Jose P. Laurel. Cario was also actively involved in efforts to resist the sale of the Tokyo properties and successfully got the Supreme Court in stopping the sale.
All told, no amount of money can justify the sale of these properties that are part of our patrimonial heritage and as precious as crown jewels.