Born in 1919 Leocadio de Asis was valedictorian at both San Beda
High School and San Beda College and graduated with honors from the University of Santo Tomas College of Law. Called to the colors at the outbreak of United States-Japan hostilities, de Asis was captured
with the Second Regular Division, USAFFE after the fall of Bataan. After being moved in and out of several different POW camps, de Asis was selected by the Japanese, on the basis of his good record and excellent health, to enter a two month training program at the Japanese-established Philippine Constabulary Academy. Immediately upon graduation, finishing number two in his class, de Asis was assigned to the Academy staff and taught criminal law and government regulations.
In May, 1943 after a fairly routine screening consisting of an aptitude test and a personal interview, de Asis was one of ten Philippine Constabulary officers selected by the Japanese for training and study in Japan. The ten ranged in age from twenty-one to twenty-nine, and all were, like de Asis, unmarried college graduates (some were lawyers) serving as instructors at the Philippine Constabulary Academy. Some of the group had studied rudimentary Japanese language either in the POW camps or at the Academy, but de Asis himself did not know any Japanese language prior to his selection.
Clearly, as the Constabulary officer selectees themselves recognized, this was a very carefully chosen group, all of whom had excellent pre-war scholastic records and whose leadership capabilities were thoroughly recognized by the Japanese. Interestingly, too, although little in the Japanese occupation of the Philippines seemed to bear the earmarks either of considered planning or of even moderately longer range concerns, the decision to send these ten Constabulary officers to Japan did have specific purposes. For the Japanese intended that these ten men should be, as a result of their training in Japan, the vanguard of a new-style national police force in the Philippines. Having apparently already demonstrated their mettles in the reconstituted and reoriented Constabulary Academy, these young men, as the Japanese military viewed it, would return from Japan fluent in the Japanese language, thoroughly knowledgeable about Japanese society, culture and customs and indoctrinated with the values of Imperial Japan generally and of its police specifically. Accordingly, these future police officers would bring to “anarchic” Americanized Philippine society a “regularized” and Japanized order which would, in turn, contribute significantly to the well-being and safety of Japanese forces in the Islands…
…in addition to the ten chosen Constabulary officers the Japanese also selected a group of 17 so-called general students for study in Japan. These pensionados were much younger (three were 15, one was 16, three were 17, five were 18, four were 19, one was 21), and all of them represented a convenient combination of impressive prior academic records with elite family origins.
For among their number were scions of two of the most powerful Muslim families of Mindanao and Sulu, sons of top civil servants and of cabinet ministers, two sons of Jorge B. Vargas, Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission, the immediate successor under the Japanese to the departed Commonwealth regime, and one son of Jose P. Laurel, who in October, 1943 was to become President of the Japanese-sponsored independent Republic of the Philippines.
From May 11, 1943 to June 27, 1943 the Constabulary officers and the general students together, 27 in all, were given an intensive training course prior to their departure for Japan. This program was conducted in Malacanan Palace, the presidential residence in Manila, at what was called the Preparatory Institute for Government Scholars to Japan…
Being assigned on his return as Aide de Camp to Teofilo Sison, Minister of Justice in the Laurel government, de Asis accompanied Sison to Baguio when the Laurel regime evacuated from Manila at the end of 1944 in the face of the American reconquest. Then in March, 1945 de Asis managed to escape from Baguio, slip through the battle lines and rejoin his old unit at Camp Murphy. It was at that time that de Asis finally realized one of the unspoken goals of his Japan experience, namely to turn his diary over to the American forces in order to provide them with pertinent information on Japan…
Discharged from the Philippine Army in 1946, de Asis entered the private practice of law and simultaneously taught law at both his alma mater San Beda and at the University of the East. During the 1950s and 1960s de Asis gained increasing prominence as a very successful private businessman. Today he has a wide variety of business interests in real estate, land development, insurance and finance. Civically de Asis is an active member of the Rotary Club of Manila, a founding member and stalwart leader of the Philippine Federation of Japan Alumni and a prominent participant in the Philippines-Japan Society.
From the citation of his 1993 Philippines-Japan Society Medal of Merit,
In May 1943, after careful screening by the Japanese, de Asis was again selected as one of ten constabulary officers for further training in Japan together with seventeen (17) other younger youth representing the elite Filipino families. The group left for Japan under great secrecy where they were joined by other scholars from the occupied territories in Southeast Asia. This group of scholars were later on identified as “Nampo Tokubetsu Ryugakusei” or special scholars from the South. De Asis enrolled at the Kokusai Gakuyu Kai for further Japanese Language studies and later on at the Tokyo Police Academy.
During his more than one year stay in Japan, de Asis met several Japanese families who had shown genuine concern and understanding for the Ryugakusei. This probably explains the positive attitude taken by de Asis and his companions after the war in working for the restoration of normal relations with Japan. It should also be noted that it was the special scholars from the South that spearheaded the organization of the Asean Council of Japan Alumni (ASCOJA), the first and only regional alumni association of its kind in the world.
De Asis and his wartime group actively participated in the founding in 1976 of the Philippine Federation of Japan Alumni (PHILFEJA) of which he was its first President, a position he held with distinction for 12 eventful years.
The same citation mentions Leocadio de Asis was also the Founding Chairman and First Executive Governor of the Asean Council of Japan Alumni (ASCOJA); Director of the Philippines-Japan Society, Inc.; Secretary-General of the Philippines-Japan Economic Cooperation Committee (PHILJEC); Trustee of the Philippine Institute of Japanese Language and Culture (PIJLC); Member of the Joint Committee for Annual Philippines-Japan Friendship Celebration; Member of the Selection Committee, Japan Air Lines Scholarship Program, and Member of the Philippine Selection Committee, Japan Solidarity Committee for Asian Alumni (JASCAA) Fellowship Program.
Conferred the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class, by the Japanese government on April 29, 1985.
About the diary: Published as From Bataan to Tokyo : Diary of a Filipino Student in Wartime Japan, 1943-1944, edited with an introd. by Grant K. Goodman, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Kansas, 1979. Available online in the KU ScholarWorks site, as an Open Access item.