Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

TERM PAPER PART 9–Pacific Encounters I: A Japanese Visitor in 1958

In 1958, Toshio Yoshioka, a Universalist from Japan made a visit to the Universalist Church of the Philippines to provide information and advice to the Universalist Church of America and the Universalist Service Committee.  (Yoshioka and another Japanese man had graduated from the Universalists’ St. Lawrence Theological School in Canton, N.Y., in 1954, and returned to Japan.  Universalists had begun a mission to Japan in 1890, with limited success. By 1936 there were only six congregations, and the Second World War ended the mission.) [i]

Yoshioka spent much of his time in the company of Toribio Quimada.  Noting “extreme poverty” and “little or no education” among the people, Yoshioka described the meager food, hand-built homes, and lack of gas, electricity, running water, or toilets.        Yet, he said, “they are happy people… thankful of what they have and they were one of the most hospitable people I have met.”[ii]   [This could be my own description of what I observed in March of 2011.  The food they served our group was plentiful and varied, but I am not sure that reflects their diet. Their UUCP headquarters had subsidized each village church that hosted us for a meal.]

Yoshioka said he did not like the food and feared their “unsanitary” handling of it, and he could not sleep well on their schedule (even though they gave him an army cot so he would not have to sleep on a mat on the floor, as they did.  He wrote:  “They go to bed at about midnight and at four thirty in the morning they are already up and singing their morning hymn.”  Perhaps this way of life maximized the cooler hours of the morning and evening.

Yoshioka reported there were “major congregations in Negros, some in Mindanao, and one in Cebu which is just starting,” and he visited the island of Cebu before departing for Japan.  I have encountered no records to show that congregations continued on those two islands; none are there now.

Regarding theology, he said the church members “were surprised and relieved by the… teaching of universal salvation and loving God rather than angry God.  In fact, I was asked time and time again if they could really be saved in the end.”   They asked him questions about the Bible and the nature of Jesus “with utmost interest.” He said:

“They were happy to know that my answers were the same as those which had been given by Mr. Quimada before.”  People on Negros “sacrificed days in coming to meet me and to listen to me, which shows their eagerness… to know about Universalism [and not because] of their curiosity to see a stranger from Japan.”

He recounted his refusal to ride horseback, and Quimada’s insistence that it was the only way to get to the mountain villages.  At first a child led a small horse while Yoshioka rode it in great fear; later he got comfortable with it.  “We visited the house of an old woman where we had a memorial service of her deceased grandson.  “Mr. Dilantar … had a very nice house and three lovely daughters…. [A] relatively well to do landlord, … he is one of the important personalities in the Philippine Universalist work.”  Yoshioka also met “three of the most intellectual sympathizers [of the church] …, that is the attorney, the mayor, and … a school teacher,” but he noted they were not yet members.

[i] Minister and historian David Bumbaugh argues that the Universalist message refuting eternal damnation could not gain traction in a society without the widespread acceptance of orthodox Christian doctrine. For an interesting (undated and without an author, but from the UUA website) Power Point presentation on Universalist and Unitarian engagement in India, Japan, and the Philippines, see…/uu_internatl_history_01.pps

[ii] UUA Overseas & Interfaith Relations Director Records, Correspondence, 1957-70.  bMS 1220/15 “Universalist Church of the Philippines Survey, September, 1958.” Indigenous Unitarian Universalist Societies, 1986-1987.  Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  All references to Yoshioka’s report come from this source.


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