A celebration of friendship

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

It’s a day celebrated not just in Japan but in different parts of the world, hosted by Japanese embassies across the globe.

But here in our country, the celebration of the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan is always extra special because it combines the best of Japanese hospitality and the warmth of the Filipino, not to mention the gastronomic delight of traditional Japanese cuisine and good servings of polished sake, often prepared together by Japanese and Filipino chefs.

Friday night at the Ty-owned Grand Hyatt Manila was no exception as Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko hosted the annual National Day Reception to celebrate the 64th birthday of His Majesty the Emperor.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin graced the event and led the toast in honor of “the health of His Majesty the Emperor, the continued peace and prosperity of the Japanese people and the lasting friendship between the Philippines and Japan.”

It was indeed an evening of friendship, with government officials, lawmakers, tycoons and friends of the Japanese embassy in Manila descending into the glittering ballroom of Grand Hyatt in Taguig, some as early as the sun set in the city.

It was a fitting venue to celebrate a milestone for Japan because, as we all know, the Ty Group has been consistently instrumental in strengthening our country’s ties with Japan through its partnerships with some of the sogo shoshas from the so-called Land of the Rising Sun.

Not surprisingly, the Ty brothers, Arthur and Alfred, dapper in their suits, were there that evening; you can be sure it’s really an important event when Arthur, who isn’t usually seen in big crowds, makes a rare public appearance.

In his speech, Amb. Koshikawa reflected on the dramatic growth of Japan-Philippine relations. He lauded the mutual visit of President Marcos to Japan and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the Philippines in 2023, emphasizing the significance of these actions in reaffirming friendly relations between the two countries and setting a course for the future.

Economic cooperation

The evening wouldn’t be complete without talking about economic cooperation, and Amb. Koshikawa did just that as he underscored Japan’s commitment to strong economic ties with the Philippines.

A testament to this, he said, are the Japan-backed important infrastructure projects such as the Metro Manila Subway, the North-South Commuter Railway, the Davao Bypass, as well as the Mindanao peace process.

He also raised the importance of security cooperation, mentioning the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that is under negotiation between Japan and the Philippines and the Official Security Assistance (OSA). RAA is aimed at facilitating cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Japan Self-Defense Force while OSA is for the provision of coastal radar systems.

Hello Ja-Fun!

Amb. Koshikawa also happily reported that because of a post-pandemic resurgence of tourism, the number of Filipinos going to Japan reached a record high last year.

There were 622,268 Filipinos who went to Japan, exceeding the pre-pandemic figures of 613,114 recorded in 2019, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization.

VIPs who filled the stage for the toast included House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown.

Also spotted that night were former prime minister Cesar Virata, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito Galvez and members of the diplomatic community.

Tycoons, businessmen and executives also took time out of their busy schedules to join the festivities. Aside from the Ty brothers, I also saw Cecilio Pedro, founder of Lamoiyan Corp., the company behind the popular Hapee toothpaste brand; Edgard Cabangon, chairman of ALC Group of Companies and Yoji Kawaguchi, president of Mitsukoshi Federal Retail Inc.

New Toyota Philippines prexy

Just as I was chatting with Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) chairman Alfred Ty, whom I congratulated for Grand Hyatt’s successful hosting of the event that night and the official turnover of the TMP presidency, newly appointed TMP president Masando Hashimoto walks by.

At last, I had the opportunity to finally congratulate Hashimoto because I wasn’t able to talk to him during the turnover ceremony held in the same glittering ballroom just a few days ago.

Hashimoto assumed leadership from Atsuhiro Okamato, who in turn, described his tenure in the Philippines as his most memorable, what with the Pinatubo eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going back to the Friday’s Japan National Day celebration, there were many other notable guests but one who stood out was the indefatigable and energetic Ramon S. Ang or RSA who arrived just as the program was about to start.

In no time, RSA was swarmed by well-wishers – including a rival bidder – congratulating him for his recent victory in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport bidding.

But it was not only his NAIA win that earned him praises, but also for Gilas Pilipinas’ landslide win against Hong Kong in the recent FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.

That night, everyone wanted a minute of RSA’s time and he gave it. He was really visibly happy with what seems to be an alignment of stars for San Miguel Corp., the diversified conglomerate that he leads.

Overall, Japan’s National Day reception in the Philippines was a lovely evening not just to celebrate the oldest monarchy in the world, but to mark the good friendship it has built with other countries, including ours, through the years.

I, too, offer my warmest felicitations to Japan on its special day.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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