The KALIPAPI Party and Japanese Pan-Asianism in the Philippines, 1942-45

Sven Matthiessen (Heidelberg), Research Associate (Japanese Studies)

Three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 10 December 1941, the Japanese navy started invading the Philippine main island of Luzon. This day marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands, which would last for almost three years. In spite of the lesser role the Philippines may have played in the Japanese government’s plans before the war against America became an important issue, the Philippine archipelago had been home to the largest Japanese community in Southeast Asia since the early 20th century. In the late 1930s, about 25,000 Japanese people resided in the Philippines, most of them in the Davao community in the southern island of Mindanao where they engaged in the cultivation of abaca (Manila hemp). [1] In planning for the Pacific War, the Imperial government showed greater interest in the Philippine Islands. The American military bases in the archipelago posed a direct threat to the Japanese main islands and therefore the Philippines were strategically of great importance. [2]

The official justification given by the Japanese government for its southward expansion, including the invasion of the Philippines, was the liberation of the peoples of Southeast Asia from Western oppression and their unification in a self-sustaining economic bloc, namely the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS, Daitōa kyōeiken). The underlying philosophy of the GEACPS was pan-Asianism (Han Ajia-shugi), an ideology that propagated the liberation and unity of all Asian peoples.

In this paper I will discuss the Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI: lit., “Association for Service to the New Philippines”) as an important political instrument for the implementation of the concept of the GEACPS in the Philippines. The existing literature on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines pays comparatively little attention to the impact of pan-Asianism on the administration policy. The KALIBAPI usually is interpreted as a mere tool for Japanese propaganda, [3] its close ideological connection with Japanese pan-Asianism is often overlooked. I will argue that this organization exemplifies the failure of Japanese pan-Asianism in the Philippines as it never developed into the kind of mass movement Japanese pan-Asianists had considered necessary for the concept of the GEACPS to strike roots in the archipelago.

The KALIBAPI functioned as the single political party in the Philippines after the Japanese Military Administration had forced all other parties to dissolve. The Japanese appointed the Executive Commission’s Chairman Jorge B. Vargas (1890-1980) party leader, but Benigno S. Aquino (1894–1946), who acted as the party’s Director-General, along with Pio Duran (1900-1961) as Secretary-General and Benigno Ramos (1893- 1946) as a member of the executive, were concerned with the day-to-day management of the KALIBAPI. The party was officially inaugurated on 30 December 1942, the anniversary of Philippine national hero José Rizal’s (1861-1896) death, in order to underline the patriotic approach of the organization. Party members saluted each other by bowing with their right hand on their heart. [4] Even though the KALIBAPI functioned as a single political party, it was, according to Aquino, a “non-political service association;” however, at the same time, “no person can be employed in the government and any of its institutions unless he is a member”. [5] On the party’s inauguration, Vargas pointed to the close connection between the goals of José Rizal who had died for a Philippines freed from Occidental rule and Japan’s war aims:

The mighty Japanese Empire, moved by the generous desire of emancipating and protecting the nations of the Orient, has accomplished what we ourselves sought for long without success. [6]

The Philippines becoming a member of the GEACPS thus was portrayed as the fulfillment of Rizal’s legacy. Vargas also listed the elimination of bad, Western- implemented habits from Filipino culture, and stated that the party would be “dedicated to Rizal’s great humanitarian principle of peaceful cooperation among all nations as brothers.” [7] This principle equals the pan-Asianist leitmotiv of hakkō ichiu (“all eight corners of the world under one roof”) and Japanese pan-Asianists made the call for the Filipinos to rid themselves of their Western-imposed weaknesses and flaws. Benigno S. Aquino, too, in his speech on the same occasion put an emphasis on the necessity for the Filipino people to develop a spirit of self-sacrifice for the sake of the Philippine nation, just as Rizal had done:

In Rizal, that patriotic sentiment was the flame, which lighted the path of his whole life. Love of the country and the fate of his brothers constantly engaged his thoughts. For the welfare of all his countrymen, he dared to challenge even death which he knew was hovering menacingly over him. […] The thought of sacrifice for his country, instead of causing him moral torture, produced in him an ineffable assurance. [8]

This spirit of self-sacrifice, along with a sense of duty towards the state, was exactly what Japanese pan-Asianists such as Rōyama Masamichi (1895-1980) [9] and Miki Kiyoshi (1897-1945) had demanded from the Filipinos. The latter also considered it Japan’s obligation to provide the people of the Philippines with an “older brother’s guidance” in their efforts to contribute towards the formation of the GEACPS. [10] This is the kind of guidance that Aquino wanted the KALIBAPI to exercise:

The KALIBAPI aims to aid and guide the Filipinos in the performance of this particular duty. Therefore, the organization of the KALIBAPI is the actual expression of the earnest desire of the Filipino people to serve willingly the cause of all the peoples of Greater East Asia. [11]

Indeed, Rizal seemed to be the perfect symbol for the virtues promoted by pan- Asianism. He had visited Japan in the spring of 1888 but stayed in the country for only six weeks. Nevertheless, his brief stint in Japan was commemorated there in the postwar era as an example for the good Japanese-Philippine relations prior to the occupation period. The pan-Asianists and architects of the KALIBAPI utilized Rizal as a figure who admired Japanese culture and fought Western rule in his country. However, they ignored the fact that Rizal had by no means been a Japanophile and that he had also visited various European countries. Rizal had been both a cosmopolitan and a Filipino patriot, rather than an Asianist. As Lydia Yu-José puts it,

[…] the international character of a symbol like Rizal stresses the death of pan-Asianism, which had turned out to be anti-Europe and anti-West, and was therefore narrow. [12]

After the party’s inauguration, Aquino, Duran and Ramos toured the entire archipelago to promote the idea of the “New Philippines” and set up KALIBAPI chapters all over the country. The KALIBAPI not only functioned as an organ for the promotion of the concept of the GEACPS, but also as a labor recruitment agency, especially for military purposes. [13] The involvement of Ramos and Duran shows that Philippine Asianists actively engaged in the building of this organization. The usual suspects in terms of collaboration with the Japanese did not solely run the KALIBAPI. Camilo Osias (1889– 1976), who prior to the Japanese invasion had not been famous for being an outspoken advocate of close Philippine-Japanese cooperation, wrote the preface of The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook. This was published in July 1943. Osias was first Assistant- Director-General and later became Aquino’s successor as Director-General of the party. He was a nationalist and prominent figure in the Philippine Commonwealth who had studied in the US. He was elected Resident Commissioner in the United States House of Representatives in 1929. [14] In his preface to the Worker’s Handbook, Osias described the purpose of the volume as “to give a basic working notion of the KALIBAPI as a people’s movement dedicated to national service”. [15] In this way, the KALIBAPI was designed to function as a tool to implement the kind of dynamic movement among the Filipino people towards the creation of the GEACPS that pan-Asianists such as Rōyama Masamichi had demanded. The oath of allegiance that the people present at the organization’s inauguration ceremony had to swear clearly reflects this. The oath included

[…] to develop the native virtues that will give strength and happiness to the Filipino people; to unite my mind, my heart and my efforts with those of my countrymen in the establishment of a Bagong Pilipinas as a useful unit of the Greater East Asia Co- Prosperity Sphere […]. [16]

The KALIBAPI was also designed to act as a means of educating Filipinos towards “re- Orientalisation”. The organization inaugurated a “Labor Institute” on 3 May 1943 that offered Japanese and Tagalog language classes as well as courses on Oriental and Filipino culture.[/ref]Ibid., 15.[/ref] Furthermore, on 18 May 1943, Executive Commission Chairman Vargas approved the amended Executive Order No. 109, in which the establishment of the “Junior KALIBAPI” was decided. This was open to “any Filipino, less than 18 years of age, who likewise believes in the ideals, aims and purposes of the Association and who is of good standing in the community.” [17]

Osias expressed the necessity for the young Filipinos in particular to become aware of the Oriental values that stood at the centre of Japanese pan-Asianism at the official inauguration of the “Junior KALIBAPI” on 19 July 1943:

Young Filipinos should be proud to become members of an organization intended to produce like-mindedness and to foster the spirit of self-help and cooperation among the young people of today who will become the leaders of tomorrow. […] One of the purposes of the KALIBAPI is to strengthen such virtues as hard work, faith, self-reliance, loyalty, bravery, discipline, and self-sacrifice. [18]

Within the “Junior KALIBAPI” there was a section for children aged from 7 to 15 years (Kabataang Maghahanda) and one for youths aged from 16 to 18 (Kabataang Katulong). Boys and girls were kept separate. [19] Just like Vargas and Aquino, Osias referred to José Rizal whom he considered the embodiment of these Oriental virtues. Osias described Rizal as a patriot whose “love of country was not selfish; it was of the sacrificial kind.” [20] By pointing to Rizal, the initiators of the KALIBAPI wanted to stress their belief that these Oriental values had always been part of Filipino culture but had been merely buried under US-imposed hedonism and superficiality during the years of American rule.

The KALIBAPI also played a crucial role in the preparations for Philippine independence as KALIBAPI delegates decided the members of the “Preparatory Commission for the Philippine Independence” at a meeting held on 18 and 19 June 1943. The Philippine Asianists Duran and Ramos were not among the 20 persons chosen to join the commission. [21] At a banquet following the meeting on 20 June, Lieutenant General Kuroda Shigenori (1887–1954), who served as the highest commander of the Japanese army in the Philippines from May 1943 to September 1944, addressed the KALIBAPI delegates and members of the Preparatory Commission to highlight the purpose of the KALIBAPI in the process of integrating the Philippines into the GEACPS. Kuroda was not only the Commanding General with the longest term in office in the Philippines; he also, unlike his predecessor Homma Masaharu (1887-1946) and his two successors, Lieutenant General Tanaka Shizuichi (1887–1945) and General Yamashita Tomoyuki (1885–1946), survived the war. Homma and Yamashita were sentenced to death at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and Tanaka committed suicide when Japan surrendered. Kuroda, however, was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment in 1949 and was eventually sent back to Japan in 1952. Apparently, it was Jorge B. Vargas and Camilo Osias who gave positive statements in his defense. Osias claimed that the General had often ignored orders from Tokyo and had supported the teaching of English instead of Japanese. [22] In a strong reflection of Osias’ definition provided in the handbook’s preface, to Kuroda the KALIBAPI represents a people’s movement on a large scale dedicated to the cause of the New Philippines on the basis of solid unity among social, cultural and economic circles in the Philippines. [23]

Similar to Osias, Kuroda put an emphasis on the KALIBAPI being a people’s movement and an instrument of integration that would evoke a sense of Orientalism and Asian identity among Filipinos. It was one of the main duties of the KALIBAPI to propagate the concept of the GEACPS among the Philippine population and make Filipinos become aware of the Philippine role in the sphere. According to the KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, “geographical propinquity and biological factors would dictate the Filipinos’ being a part of a great Asiatic system” [24] and thus a natural part of the GEACPS. This argument resembled exactly the approach of the pan-Asianists of the Dai-Ajia Kyōkai (Greater Asia Society), who had been eager to establish geographical and racial affinities between Japan and the Philippines. At the same time, the Handbook also emphasized the obligations of the Filipinos to put all efforts into the construction of this New Order in which they would be free to shape their own national destiny and develop their individuality as a nation; that their sovereign and territorial integrity will be respected; and that the wealth and natural resources of the Philippines will be left to the enjoyment of the Filipino people and their posterity. [25] This was completely in line with the “Proposed Measures dealing with the Philippine Islands in the Event of War with the United States,” which had been issued by the First Department Research Section of the Army General Staff on 31 March 1941. The Philippines should by no means become subject of exploitation by the Japanese, but should contribute to the common prosperity of all Greater Asia. [26] The KALIBAPI’s mission was to foster this spirit of dedication among the Filipinos. Nevertheless, the organization’s growth was rather modest. By April 1943, the KALIBAPI counted 550,000 members; the group’s strongholds were Aquino’s home province of Tarlac and the capital Manila. [27]

Despite the official inauguration of the KALIBAPI, and despite its not officially counting as a political organization, it did in fact function as a political party, which sought to proselytize Japanese pan-Asianist thought throughout the islands. Its purpose was to convince Filipinos of the concept of the GEACPS and make them aware of their duties towards building the “New Philippines”. The emphasis on Filipinos “rediscovering” their Oriental roots, including virtues such as self-sacrifice and duty towards state and society, strongly resembled the pan-Asianism of Rōyama Masamichi and the Shōwa Research Association (Shōwa Kenkyūkai), whose members were concerned about the high degree of Westernization in the Philippines. At the same time, the KALIBAPI focused on the racial affinities between all Asian peoples, thus following the orthodox Asianism of the Dai-Ajia Kyōkai. The assumption that Filipinos would appreciate the idea of the GEACPS automatically, and join the party in great numbers as it represented the “New Philippines” as part of an Asian brotherhood, were never realized. In addition, despite the huge propaganda effort made by the party’s initiators, the organization failed to become a mass movement of the kind pan-Asianists like Rōyama Masamichi had believed necessary in order for the Philippines to develop the concept of the GEACPS. Thus, the failure of the KALIBAPI exemplifies the failure of pan-Asianism in the Philippines.


Sven Matthiessen holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from the University of Sheffield and a Doctor of Law from Tohoku University (within the Ph.D. Joint Degree Program of the two universities). He is currently Research Associate at the Institute for Japanese Studies at Heidelberg University. His primary research interests lie in the fields of pan-Asianism, regionalism and modern Japanese History. He has mainly published on the impact of pan-Asianism on Japanese-Philippine relations. This contribution stems from his dissertation research on Japanese pan-Asianism and the Philippines, 1868-1945. He can be contacted at



[1] Ken’ichi Gotō, Tensions of Empire. Japan and Southeast Asia in the Colonial and Postcolonial World (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003), 89.
[2] Kageyama Tomoji, Hiripin no zenbō – beikoku kyokutō shinshutsu no kyoten (Tokyo: Aikoku Shinbunsha Shuppanbu, 1941), 15-16.
[3] See for example Teodoro A. Agoncillo, The Fateful Years: Japan’s Adventure in the Philippines, 1941-1945, vol. 1 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1965), 367-368.
[4] Renato Constantino and Letizia R. Constantino, The Philippines: The Continuing Past. Second edition (Quezon City: The Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 1979), 75-76.
[5] V.H. Hartendorp, The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, vol. 1 (Manila: Bookmark, 1967), 449.
[6] Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (Association for Service to the New Philippines), The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1943), 17.
[7] Ibid., 19.
[8] bid., 20.
[9] Masamichi Rōyama, “Formation of an Independent State,” in The Philippine Polity: A Japanese View. Rōyama Masamichi and Takeuchi Tatsuji, trans. Tatsuji Takeuchi, ed. Theodore Friend (Yale: Monograph Series No. 12, Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University, 1967), 131-53.
[10] Miki Kiyoshi, Hyōron (3), Vol. 15 of Zenshū., ed. Hirosumi Jirō (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1967).
[11] Kapisanan, The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, 21.
[12] Lydia N. Yu-José, Filipinos in Japan and Okinawa, 1880s–1972 (Tokyo: Research Institute for the Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2002), 42-43.
[13] William J. Pomeroy, The Philippines: Colonialism, Collaboration and Resistance! (New York: International Publishers, 1992), 118.
[14] Eduardo Bananal, Camilo Osias: Educator and Statesman (Quezon City: Manlapaz Publishing Co., 1974), 28.
[15] Kapisanan, The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, 3.
[16] Ibid., 12.
[17] Philippine Executive Commission, “Executive Order No. 156. Amending certain Sections of Executive Order No. 109 dated December 4, 1942, so as to authorize the Establishment of a Junior KALIBAPI and the Appointment of an Assistant Director- General and four Directors-At-Large,” in The Official Journal of the Japanese Military Administration, vol.12, ed. The Bureau of Publicity, The Department of General Affairs, The Japanese Military Administration (Manila: Nichi Nichi Shimbunsha, 1942), 33.
[18] Kapisanan, The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, 22.
[19] Hartendorp, The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, vol. 1, 450.
[20] Kapisanan, The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, 23.
[21] Ibid., 13.
[22] Satoshi Nakano, “Appeasement and Coercion,” in The Philippines under Japan: Occupation Policy and Reaction, ed. Ikehata Setsuho and Ricardo T. José (Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1999), 21-58.
[23] Shigenori Kuroda, “Message of His Excellency, the Highest Commander of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines (at the Luncheon Party in Honor of Representatives of the KALIBAPI and the Members of the Preparatory Commission for Philippine Independence. June 20th, the 18th Year of Syowa),” in The Official Journal of the Japanese Military Administration, vol.13, ed. The Bureau of Publicity, The Department of General Affairs, The Japanese Military Administration (Manila: Nichi Nichi Shimbunsha, 1942), i.
[24] Kapisanan, The KALIBAPI Worker’s Handbook, 50.
[25] Ibid., 51.
[26] Sanbō Honbu Dai-Ichi-bu Kenkyūhan, “Tai-Bei sakusen ni tomonau Hitō shori hōsaku-an,“ in Nanpō sakusen ni okeru senryōchi gyōsei tochi yoko-an, Tokyo: 31 March 1941.
[27] Hartendorp, The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, vol. 1, 451.