Life in the Philippines no picnic for Japanese
BY MOTOKI YOTSUKURA CORRESPONDENT
Police officers in Limay investigate the home where a Japanese man committed suicide. (Motoki Yotsukura)
MANILA--Dreaming of an idyllic existence in an exotic locale, many Japanese have packed their bags and moved to the Philippines.
But for an increasing number of adventurers seeking a laid-back, low-cost lifestyle, the dream can turn to disillusionment, loss of vital organs or even death.
This has led to a term heard with greater frequency among Japanese nationals here: "Destitute Japanese."
One Japanese man appeared on a TV variety show in the Philippines last December and made an appeal in Tagalog to his 39-year-old Filipino wife.
"I don't care if you run off with a younger man and become happy, but you should let me have half of our assets," the 49-year-old former police officer said.
The man met his wife at a bar featuring Filipino hostesses in Tokyo, and they were married in 2001.
The man retired from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and moved to the Philippines. The man's mother, who was over 80, also took a liking to the wife and sold a condominium in Japan to join her son and daughter-in-law in the Philippines in 2007.
However, after an expensive home and commercial building in Manila was purchased, the wife disappeared with her lover while taking the cash and jewelry owned by the man and his mother.
The home was put up for collateral for loans taken out by the wife and had to be sold off. The man and his mother lost all their assets, the equivalent of about 150 million yen ($1.9 million).
Taking his case to the local police and courts, the man was able to get an arrest warrant on suspicion of theft against his wife and her lover in March.
However, the lover phoned the man and said, "Your wife has hired an assassin to have you drop the case."
The man continues to hide at the home of an acquaintance.
"I cannot face my mother," the man said. "I have to do everything I can to get my money back."
On Oct. 3, 2010, in the town of Limay in central Luzon island, a 46-year-old man originally from Osaka was found dead in a rental unit, the victim of a suicide.
According to the man's 26-year-old Filipino common-law wife, while the man was in the Philippines, the company he worked for in Japan went bankrupt.
The couple faced economic difficulties and owed three months back rent. The man killed himself after his wife left after the couple fought.
The man's relatives in Japan refused to accept the body so it was buried in a public cemetery in Limay.
The Foreign Ministry released statistics in June of the number of cases handled in 2010 by overseas embassies and missions to provide support to Japanese nationals.
The embassy in the Philippines handled 1,354 cases, an increase of 46 percent over the previous year.
Reflecting the increase in crime in the Philippines, the number of such cases has more than doubled over the past 10 years.
The embassy in the Philippines handled the largest number of such cases last year of any Japanese overseas mission, replacing the embassy in Thailand, even though there are 2.5 times more Japanese nationals living in Thailand.
Between 60 to 80 Japanese nationals visit the embassy in Manila every month, including a number of repeat cases of destitute Japanese.
Most ask for loans. There are many elderly Japanese who are escorted to the embassy by their Filipino family members and left at the embassy.
When embassy officials ask the Japanese nationals why they came to the Philippines, a typical response is "With the bad economic conditions in Japan, I thought I could get by if I came here."
There was one person who came to the Philippines with only 2,000 yen.
An embassy official said, "Japanese men seem to think they can live rather easily here, influenced in part by the cheerful nature of the people."
Most of those men have met Filipino women and often end up marrying them.
Amid the general poverty in Filipino society, many Filipinas enter into relationships with foreign men with high incomes. However, the often large gap between ideals and reality frequently leads to problems among such couples.
Last December, a 46-year-old homeless Japanese was found in the mountains of central Negros island.
The man was taken into protective custody by an officer with the Commission on Human Rights.
The man was originally from Yokohama and worked as a pipe installer. After the man's wife died in Japan, he came to the city of Dumaguete on Negros Oriental in 2002, because a friend lived there at the time.
He began living at the home of a young woman in the city and they had a daughter. While he worked on construction projects, his income did not even approach the monthly average of a Filipino worker. The women's family treated him coldly.
Unable to bear with that situation, the man left home in October 2010 and began living outdoors in the mountains.
According to the human rights commission officer, the woman began living with the man because she thought he was a rich Japanese, but once she learned he didn't have any money she dumped him.
The officer advised the man to return to Japan, but he refused because he did not want to be separated from his daughter. No contact has been made with the man since February.
According to sources, there have been cases of Japanese desperately short of money becoming involved in drug smuggling or providing organs for transplants and entering into fake marriages arranged by organized crime groups.
Because the Japanese Embassy does not have a budget to provide loans to Japanese nationals to enable them to return to Japan, embassy officials often phone relatives or friends in Japan and ask that money be sent. However, such requests are often rejected with relatives and friends claiming they have cut off all ties or complaining that they would be inconvenienced if the individual returned to Japan.
In some cases, those contacted in Japan suspect they are being targeted for a scam.