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Post Japanese Retirees in Philippines; a WWII Experience on Cebu
Created by John Eipper on 12/30/15 4:40 AM

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Japanese Retirees in Philippines; a WWII Experience on Cebu (Richard Hancock, USA, 12/30/15 4:40 am)

A December 22, 2015 Wall Street Journal article brought news that Mactan Island, the place where Magellan was killed on April 7, 1527, has become an unbelievable retirement community for Japanese retirees. Three hundred Japanese retirees have bought 300 of 720 condos at Mactan Newtown in Cebu.

I participated in the liberation of Cebu from March 7 to August 25, 1945, when I departed for Japan. I could not have imagined during that time, that Japanese would ever have found it possible to retire in the Philippines. When I was there, the city of Cebu was practically deserted and destroyed, with a population by 1948 of only 167,503. Cebu city now has three million plus. When I was there, Mactan was completely unsettled, the only structure being a monument to Magellan. Cebu was occupied by the Japanese on April 18, 1942.

Retirees in the Philippines can live comfortably on $20,000 per year. One of Mactan Newtown's new Japanese residents says, "The Philippines has warm, tropical weather all year round and the cost of living here is a tenth of what it would be in Japan." But it was the potential for future growth that almost certainly won him over.

On about April 25, 1945 our company moved some 25 miles north of Cebu to a beach-side camp in a coconut grove. I remember how beautiful those coconut trees were on nights when we had a full moon. The palm fronds seemed to be etched in silver. The four months we spent in this encampment was one of the pleasantest memories of my overseas experience. We lived in open tents and did not suffer from heat or cold.

On July 5, 1945, this beautiful site was where I experienced my most painful hours of WWII. A Japanese patrol entered our camp and killed three of our comrades, including my best friend Al Mash. Trying to rescue a comrade who was lying on the beach, three of us unwisely advanced into a plot of jungle, where our leader was shot and killed. Another friend and I were pinned down for 4 or 5 hours within 15 feet of the Japanese soldiers, who evidently were not aware of our presence. We finally jumped up and ran out, with only one shot being fired at us by the Japanese.

After an Infantry unit arrived, another of our comrades went to sleep that night while he was guarding the area where the Japanese were ensconced. He awakened to find a Japanese soldier standing over him with a rifle pointed at his face. He grabbed the rifle and beat this soldier unconscious, then turned to find his rifle and fired one shot where he thought the Japanese soldier was lying. This soldier was found dead next morning with one bullet hole behind his ear.

After having lived through this desperate experience in Cebu, it is hard for me to think of that island as a magnet for retirees, but such is the case. Six thousand retirees are expected to arrive in the Philippines in 2015--33.6% from China, 21.9% from Korea, 10.5% from Taiwan, 8.1% from Japan and others, 26%. This was definitely not the picture when I was there 70 years ago. I guess that the world can really heal itself over time.

JE comments:  This is the kind of WAIS post I would call "perfect"--a comment on world developments with a unique, personal twist.  And Richard Hancock (I hope he doesn't mind me revealing that he'll turn 90 in 2016) has lived a treasure-trove of experiences.  This account of his war service in Cebu will forever remain etched in my mind.

I find it fascinating that the Cebu retirement demographic has a pan-Asian character.  We might call it a "co-prosperity sphere"--but certainly not the type envisioned by Japan during its phase of imperialist expansion.

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