Order of the Rising Sun conferred on Cotabato City’s Michiko Roales 


GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 29 March) — A woman who has spent most of her life helping fellow Nikkeijin after the war has been recognized by the Japanese government for her feat, conferring on her one of that state’s highest honors, the “Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays.”

The Order of the Rising Sun (Kyokujitsu-shō) was established on April 10, 1875, by Emperor Meiji, through a decree of the Council of State. It is conferred to a select few who have rendered distinguished service to the state in various fields except military service.

What 86-year-old Estelita Michiko Sakai Roales did to help numerous Nikkeijin obtain their Japanese nationality, earned for her the recognition from the Japanese emperor.

Nikkeijin is a Japanese term for second generation descendants of Japanese who migrated to the Philippines before or during World War II.

HONOR. Japanese consul-general Ishikawa Yoshihisa confers the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays on Estelita Michiko Sakai Roales, a Cotabato City resident, for helping war-displaced Japanese descendants. The award was given on behalf of Emperor Naruhito of Japan. Photo courtesy of Maria Dolores Roales

A resident of Cotabato City, Michiko served as first president of the Cotabato Nikkeijin Kai, an association of war-displaced Japanese descendants, accepted the award from Japanese Consul-General Ishikawa Yoshihisa, who conferred the decoration on behalf of Emperor Naruhito of Japan.

The conferment of the order was held during rites at the Japanese consulate in Davao City on Sunday, March 26. Foreign Affairs assistant secretary Renato Pedro Villa, along with the family of Michiko, witnessed the conferment of the Order.

Yoshihisa said the emperor sent his appreciation to Michiko for her significant contributions to improving the welfare of Nikkeijin in the Philippines, particularly in the Cotabato region.

In accepting the recognition, Michiko thanked the Japanese government for opening the doors to Japanese descendants wishing to go home.

In a statement, the Japanese government said: “In recognition of her exemplary work and accomplishments, the government of Japan extends its sincere congratulations to (Michiko) who indeed deserves the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays.”

Yoshihisa said Michiko played an important role in helping members of the Cotabato Nikkeijin Kai gather all necessary documents and other requirements in obtaining their Japanese nationality.

A daughter of the awardee, Maria Dolores Roales, said that before the war, her mother, eldest among four siblings and their father, Hiroo Sakai and mother, Pimitiva Yanez, were living in Dansalan (now Marawi City) where they owned a hardware store.

When the war broke out, Japanese soldiers took their father to be their interpreter, and was sent on assignments to various places, like Malaybalay in Bukidnon and Malabang in Lanao del Sur. It was the last time they saw him.

They did not know what happened to their father, who was from Shibuya Ken in Japan, until they learned that he perished during the war. Their mother, who was from Cagayan de Oro City, also died during the war.

From Malabang, their mother took them to Cotabato City, where Michiko would later meet her husband Juan Jose Roales.

The meeting began when Juan Jose saw a picture of her displayed in a photo studio in town, sending him to look for her around town. Their union gave them seven children.

Michiko, her siblings, and other Japanese descendants suffered discrimination after the war, their classmates would pelt stones at them because they are children of Japanese, Dolores said.

She said her mother helped other descendants find their relatives and their birth registry in Japan, obtain their Japanese nationality and be able to go to Japan to seek greener pastures.

Decades after the war, Michiko got reunited with an aunt, her father’s sister Aiko and other relatives in Tokyo, said Dolores, who is presently in Japan.

With the hardship that she and her siblings went through after they lost their father, “my mother learned there were other descendants who were in poverty and struggling to survive. This is what drove her to help,” Dolores narrated.

Most of the time, she would go even to remote villages to locate Japanese descendants and listen to their stories, Dolores said. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)