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On March 3, a marker declaring the Philippine Ambassador’s official residence a national historical landmark was unveiled at the building in Fujimi in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

A five minute’s walk from the Imperial Palace, the residence sits on a 4,500 sq. meter piece of prime land, which was formerly owned by the family of Baron Zenjiro Yasuda (1838-1921), founder of the pre-war Yasuda zaibatsu and Yoko Ono’s great-grandfather.

The residence was purchased for the Philippine government by President Jose P. Laurel in 1944, and a long list of Philippine ambassadors and their families have called it home ever since. The residence has played an important role as a venue for diplomacy and the promotion of Philippine culture.

The Iberian style mansion, which was built in 1934, is one of the most beautiful houses among the residences of ambassadors in Tokyo. It is also one of the few architecturally important houses in its original condition remaining in Japan from that era, making it the subject of interest and studies by Japanese architecture experts.

Although the precursor of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) installed a historical marker at the residence in 1952, the Philippine government led by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo planned to tear it down and replace it with a 21-story building, with a penthouse serving as the new ambassador’s residence in 2009.

The plan was met with vigorous opposition from both Filipino and Japanese people, including the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (PAFI), which requested the declaration of the residence as an important cultural property. On March 11, 2013, the NHCP declared the residence a national historical landmark, and urged the Philippine government to retain, protect and preserve the site as part of national patrimony.

Organized by the Embassy of the Philippines, an unveiling ceremony was held on March 3 at the residence and was attended by members of the Laurel family, former Philippine ambassadors to Japan and former Japanese ambassadors to the Philippines.

During the ceremony, a certificate of transfer of the historical marker was signed between Philippine Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez and NHCP Chair Maria Serena I. Diokno.

“This is the only national historical landmark that exists outside the Philippine Islands,” Diokno said, adding “we should keep our eyes open to ensure that future generations of Filipinos will enjoy this place.”

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