Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine in Davao - Philippines
Almost everything on Japanese history in Davao City finds its roots way back 1903. And it’s all about an abaca plantation problem created by the influx of Japanese abaca industry pioneers. The Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine, for instance, has this story.
The Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine is located in the town of Mintal in the district of Tugbak in Davao City. This is about 10 to 12 kilometers land travel from the city proper. The town has a lot of historical landmarks, like Japanese plantations, a war cemetery, shrines, and the Battle Memorial. Why the numerous Japanese historical sites?
About a century ago the Japanese started to migrate to Davao City in growing numbers. They found places fit for abaca plantations and processing. Mintal was among them. Among the pioneer Japanese abaca investors was Ottha Kyosaburu. The Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine was, of course, made in his honor. He was among Japanese middle class people who ventured out of Japan for a fresh start in Davao.
During that time Okinawans were also among those who migrated to Davao. They were laborers together with Filipinos in the plantations. The Japanese provided the capital. But one day, news broke out that it was illegal for the Japanese to occupy the ancestral lands of the native Bagobos. This started the Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine story.
Ottha was in big trouble. He had invested enough in Davao—built a huge abaca industry and hired people—and now legalities were threatening to force him out of business and Davao. Other Japanese investors met the same dilemma. Among them, Yoshizo Furukawa, Ottha’s strongest competitor.
However, Ottha one day learned that the law allowed leasing, homesteading, and even the selling of ancestral or public lands by a corporation. Without delay, he set up a corporation and invoked the said law on homesteading. He won his case and soon other Japanese followed suit. Ottha saved their businesses. Thus, the Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine.
Today, the Ottha Kyosaburu Memorial Shrine stands on the Mintal Elementary School grounds, the former plantation site of Ottha. It is a tall and narrow 4-sided obelisk monument whose side dimensions get narrower as they reach the top. The top is a small pyramid. This site reminds visiting Japanese tourists of the struggle and unfazed spirits of Japanese pioneers like Ottha who preserved their interests in Davao.
The Ottha Kyobasuru Memorial Shrine should teach us the virtues of persistence, courage, and wisdom in the face of seemingly impossible adversities.