Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Lt. Shigenobu Mochizuki and the New Philippine Cultural Institute

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Lt. Shigenobu Mochizuki and the New Philippine Cultural Institute

Article excerpt

Introductory Remarks

The Japanese occupation in Southeast Asia produced two types of "war heroes", later called "national heroes": the anti-Japanese guerrillas and the "Japanese collaborators", both of whom contributed to the region's eventual independence. The latter played prominent roles in post-war Indonesia and Burma, but in the Philippines only the former were recognized. However, a small number of Filipinos resisted the returning American forces alongside the Japanese military in order to gain, or rather to sustain, independence for their country. The bulk of them, estimated at about five thousand, were known as Makapili or Kalipunang Makabayan ng mga Pilipino [Patriotic League of Filipinos].(1) The mention of the name Makapili even today brings fear, anger and disdain to the hearts of most Filipinos. Indeed some Makapili members were opportunists and even criminals who joined the organization to seek personal gains when the Japanese occupied Manila and other parts of the country. However, the core of the group consisted of members of a pre-war anti-American, pro-independence political organization, called the Ganap. The entry of criminals into their organization tarnished their name and was responsible for the negative reception by outsiders.(2)

In contrast with the Burmese and Indonesian situation, in the Philippines these "Japanese collaborators" were considered traitors since they cooperated with the enemy. Why did Filipinos respond differently from other Southeast Asians? Were Makapili participants really traitors as they have been branded?(3)

This essay does not answer these questions directly, but the materials it discusses provide some basis for evaluating the issue. Originally I planned to present information about one of the volunteer armies, besides the Makapilis, which declared war against the returning American forces to maintain the independence of the Republic, even though it was a Japanese sponsored polity. The name of this volunteer army was Bisig Bakal ng Tagala [Iron Arms of the Philippines] and it was born out of the New Leaders Association. However due to space limitations, this essay does not deal with Bisig Bakal ng Tagala or with the Association but rather with the Institute which produced the organizers as well as the bulk of the membership of these bodies.(4) Special attention is given to the unique education given at the Institute, to the principal instructor, Lt. Shigenobu Mochizuki, and to the impact of the Institute on its students.


After their experiences with the occupation of Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria, the Japanese military came to realize the importance of pursuing cultural objectives in tandem with military operations. Accordingly, they organized additional propaganda corps to be attached to the military and sent to various areas in Southeast Asia brought under Japanese control. For this purpose, so-called "cultural people" were drafted into the military service. Among them were novelists, poets, painters, philosophers, theatre and movie persons, photographers and linguists, including translators.

In view of the religious atmosphere in the Philippines, the Propaganda Corps attached to the 14th Army included about sixty Catholic priests and protestant ministers and lay religious workers. They were joined by about a hundred newspaper correspondents and some three hundred soldiers. The corps was led by four military officers, one of whom was Lt. Shigenobu Mochizuki.

Following the Japanese military's successful entry into Manila on 2 January 1942, the main focus of the Propaganda Corp was an effort to "regain normalcy" in the city of Manila and other areas. The Corps devoted considerable time and effort to re-opening the radio station, newspapers and movie theatres. In the provinces, propaganda corps units sought to persuade inhabitants to return to their villages and resume normal activities. In Bataan and Corregidor, they used pamphlets and radio broadcasts to urge USAFFE soldiers to surrender. …

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