He may have been long-detested by the nearby townspeople because of decades of terrorizing the area, but the Imperial Japanese Army officer who surrendered 30 years after World War II ended is now being honored by a Philippine town. Lubang Island plans to dedicate the expanded hiking trail and tourist attraction to Hiroo Onada, who passed away at age 91 earlier this year.
Local residents now say that they have forgiven Onoda for the things he has done against their people, and are now crediting him for actually helping preserve the jungle. The 82-year-old mayor of Lubang, himself a former soldier, says, “Few dared to go into the jungle to illegally fell trees or to hunt animals or gather plants because people were scared of him. As a result, the jungle remained pristine.” Currently, they’ve already named an existing hiking trail through the jungle after Onoda. But now they are planning to expand the course and even put up a museum dedicated to the Japanese soldier who became famous for being the last hold-out in the Philippines, long after the Imperial Army had surrendered to American forces.
While some would find it strange that a town would honor someone who terrorized them in the past, the Philippines had easily forgiven their former colonizer. In fact, the Southeast Asian nation enjoys a very amiable relationship with Japan, unlike other former colonies like China and South Korea. Recently, Japanese ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe apologized to the Filipino people for the past atrocities, while at the same time thanking them for their “positive attitude” towards Japan.
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]
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