Wednesday, March 10, 2010
She came to Japan knowing she would just become an ordinary housewife and a mother. That was 35 years ago. Now, 35 years later, she became one of the most influential women in Nagoya. Sometimes, fate offers ordinary people with extraordinary work. One of them is Linda Taki. She is your ordinary regular Filipino wife married to a Japanese who happened to be a past Honorary Consul and she is a loving mother of 2 children. At the extraordinary end, Linda hosts several exceptional feats. She is the chairman of the longest running Filipino organization in Nagoya, the Chubu Philippines Friendship Association (CPFA). She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Aichi International Association, Nagoya International Center. She is a sensei and a former president of the Ikebana International Nagoya Chapter. She is a member and former chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nagoya International School, and at the moment serving as one of the Board of Trustees. With all the many responsibilities that her positions entail, Linda still finds time to do volunteer work and serve as the president of Nagoya International Association, and chairman of Central Japan International Society. She works in Aichi Shukutoku University (ASU), as the NPO Internship Program Coordinator since 1995 to the present, and has gone to Washington, D.C. as part of this program.
But no matter how extraordinary the ordinary, and how ordinary the extraordinary is, Linda shares a common story of numerous and uncounted experiences that transpired in her life like most Filipinos living in Japan. Let's get to know more how Linda turned her ordinary life into an extraordinary one.
When did you first arrive in Japan? July 21, 1975
Why did you go to Japan in the first place? I got married to Dr. Yoshihiro Taki.
Where did you meet Mr. Taki? In Baguio City, my hometown. He was there with a group of dentists for a tour, so at first I thought he was also a dentist. But it turned out that he was a master student in aeronautical engineering at the time.
When did you get married? And when you arrived in Japan, how did you feel?
We got married in February 11, 1975. My image was just to go abroad, specifically America. I even wore a suit, because that was also part of my whole image about going abroad, I can wear a suit. Yoshi, my husband was very surprised, because although we got married in February, I actually went to Japan in the summer, and to Nagoya, no less. So I was wearing a suit at 35 degrees. Another impression I had about travelling abroad, was that people spoke in English, and I was so surprised that no one seemed to speak English.
What were some of the problems or challenges you met when you first arrived in Japan?
The main challenges when I first arrived were food, language and daily life. And also the small apartments in Japan. We first lived in a small place, and looking back now, I could not imagine that we could live in such a small area. Another thing is that at that time, there were very few Filipinos, I had no one to talk to, and no friends at all. It was all very confusing, but I decided that there is no going back to the Philippines, and that my life was already here in Japan.
How did you face the challenges of living in Japan?
Now I do a lot of volunteer work, and this keeps me busy. But when I first arrived, before starting to do volunteer work, I was a housewife for 6 years. I just stayed at home, taking care of my children, trying to learn the language and learn to cook both Philippine and Japanese food, I didn't really know how to cook when I first arrived in Japan. So, my days were filled with taking care of my children, cleaning the house, cooking and preparing meals for my husband. I was really a full-time housewife.
How did this experience change you?
I got bored and I really wanted to do something for the Philippines. I graduated from the University of the Philippines, Business Administration, and I was working as a Budget Officer and pioneer of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education. So I was pretty busy then, and was not used to not having anything else to do. At the time when I was a full-time housewife, my children were very disciplined, and everyday, they will have a siesta from 1pm to 3pm. It was like clockwork. I needed to do something during the two hours that they were sleeping, and I could not leave the house. It had to be something I can do in the apartment. So I called YWCA, asking them if there is anything I can do between 1pm-3pm. I told them I have a typewriter and I can write. So I started making the Nagoya News. Some YWCA staff went to my house. And from 1pm to 3pm we were typing and proofreading the Nagoya News. We did this for seven years. The Nagoya News has now since evolved into the Nagoya Calendar.
You mentioned volunteer work. When did you really start volunteering?
In 1981, my children were starting to grow up, and my husband was also becoming busy with his work and studies. So I started thinking about what to do. My husband supported my volunteer work. I was still thinking about what to do when my family went to Stanford University for a year, from 1982 – 1983. My husband went there as a researcher. After the year in Stanford, we came back to Nagoya and some people from the Nagoya City Hall got in touch with me to be a member of the foreign committee to discuss the establishment of the Nagoya International Center. I guess at that time, there were very few foreigners in Nagoya. I agreed to be part of the committee, and that started my volunteer work. And that is also the start of the improvement of my Japanese language and understanding of Japanese culture.
How did this affect your outlook in life?
The important thing to remember in this experience is that it took time to be accepted in the Japanese community. I attended numerous seminars, and observed the office practices of the Japanese. This helped me understand the community where I moved in. I learned to act the same way as them: to use “sumimasen” and “arigatou.” I also learned to understand how much the Japanese value time---that when there is a meeting, you have to be there at least 15 minutes before. Since there were very few Filipinos at the time, I had to prepare materials introducing the Philippines in Japanese, and I also had to cook Philippine food in public. This I did by first practising at home. This was a time I call “The Age of Internationalization,” and there were many things to do and understand. This understanding was a long and often difficult process. The effort I exerted during this time earned an award given by the Aichi International Association, in 1987, for promoting internationalization. I was the first foreigner to be given this award.
Is there any other experience that you had related to interacting with Filipinos in Nagoya?
I had experienced being the secretary to the Honorary Consul to Nagoya. From this experience, and even after the term expired, I continued to do consultation work as a volunteer. This is what I do in Riverside Consulting.
Taking in consideration all your experiences, which experience would you say is the most memorable and helped give you strength to continue what you do?
It has always been the volunteering. My volunteering experiences helped me get strength to move on and still do the work of helping other Filipinos. It was through volunteering that I was able to make connections, meet influential people, and establish my own reputation. With volunteering, I experienced many things, both good and bad, and I was able to face the trials and challenges in my life.
I believe that volunteering is my calling. I can't really stop even if it is very hard and challenging because I decided that this is the work I will do for others and for my country.
You are the Chairman of Chubu Philippine Friendship Association (CPFA), would you tell us something about this group?
CPFA started with Fr. Nishimoto in 1981, in the Logos Center of the Nanzan University Campus. It was originally called Association of Philippine Intermarried couples, and was changed to Chubu Philippine Friendship Association (CPFA) in June 24, 1984. The name change came about so that students and professionals could also be members of the group. The original purpose was to gather the housewives so that they will not be alone, and will have a group to support them in their life in Japan. These housewives were married to Japanese husbands, and this was also a venue in which they could get together and talk about their lives and concerns. And this was also a venue where they could interact with the Japanese people around them. There was also very few support groups for Filipinos at the time, and we started helping Filipinos who were in trouble, or needed information and guidance. Along with the change of name, the CPFA started doing volunteer work in a wider sense. We started helping in terms of translation, getting in touch with necessary offices for help. We also started introducing the Philippines to the different ward offices. This even included cooking Filipino food and showing Philippine dance, the most popular of which was the Tinikling. Many Filipinos helped in these activities, and it was a very busy time for CPFA. CPFA also organizes the Philippine Festival in Nagoya every year. Last year was our 25th Festival, and it was quite a celebration.
Looking back, I realized I really have been doing volunteer work for quite a long time.
So, this coming May 2010, there will be another Philippine Festival in Nagoya, could you tell us something about this?
Every year we have a different theme, this year is PAGSASAMAHAN, or partnerships. The festival will be focusing on the role of Filipino women in Japan. We are inviting people to attend the festival which will be on May 30, 2010, Sunday, at the Nagoya International Center from 9:00am to 8:00pm. There will be talent presentations, raffle draws and a dance party.
Why did you choose this theme?
This year's theme is related to the power of women. We would like to give recognition to the effort that Filipino women put into taking care of their family, working for the benefit of all family members, and the love and care they show toward their children. We would also like to encourage the good relationships between mothers and daughters. It should be noted that we do recognize the role of men, fathers and sons. But just for this year, we would like to give special attention to women and daughters.
In closing, do you have any message or advice to the many readers of Jeepney Press?
First, I would like to thank Jeepney Press for featuring me in their publication. It is quite an honor. Regarding advice, I would like the Filipinos to share their talents and skills via community service so as to make a difference in the society that we live in.
Papunta ako nung isang hapon sa grocery upang mamili ng pagkain. Nauubos na kasi ang pagkain namin sa refrigerator. Sa tuwing bubuksan ko ito, wala akong makitang pwede kong papakin. Puro hilaw na gulay at mga nagyeyelong isda at karne. Hindi ko ginalaw ito at baka mag-amok ang aming tiyahin. Siya kasi ang nagluluto sa bahay at inilalagay niya sa iisang supot ang lulutuin niya sa isang araw. So kung titingnan mo ang loob ng freezer, pwera sa nakaimbak na yelong pang-inumin, eksaktong pang isang linggo ang laman nito. Pitong supot ng nagyeyelong karne, manok o isda ang nasa loob nito. Isang supot para sa bawat araw ng linggo.
Pwera sa mga hilaw na karne at gulay, tubig, ketchup, at tirang sabaw kahapon, walang lamang kutkutin ang aming ref. Wala man lang tinapay o palaman o juice. Inuubos kasi ng aking matakaw na kapatid lahat. Kapag bumili ka ng isang loaf ng tinapay, asahan mong bukas o sa umaga ng araw pagkatapos nun eh wala ng tinapay. Kung meron man, ang dalawang matigas na dulo ng loaf na lang ang tira. Wala na ring palaman. Wala rin kaming biskwit o kung anu-ano man lang na makakain sa bahay dahil nga lahat ng ito ubos na, o sadyang wala.
Pero gutom ako at balik ako ng balik sa ref. Unang bukas ko pa lang, alam ko nang wala akong makakain dito na pang merienda. Nakatayo lang ako dun na nakatitig at iniisa-isa ang mga laman ng ref. Pagkatapos ay hihinga na lamang ako at isasara ito. Pero ewan ko ba na kahit alam ko namang ganun pa rin ang makikita ko sa loob kapag ito’y binalikan ko’t binuksan ulit eh bukas pa rin ako ng bukas. Wari bang may makikita akong misteryosong pagkaing bigla na lamang lulutang kapag ito’y binuksan ko ang tinitigang muli.
Tumingin ako sa kusina, may kanin naman sa rice cooker namin, at may ulam naman sa loob ng kaserola at pritong isda sa mesa. Lagi namang may kanin at ulam sa bahay namin kahit anong oras ng araw. Ngunit alas tres y medya na ng hapon at ayokong kumain ng kanin at ulam sa ganitong oras. Naghahanap ako ng makukutkot o snack. Walang snack sa bahay namin. Gaano kadalas ang minsang may snack sa bahay namin. Kung meron man eh kabibili lang nun at hindi pa inabutan ng magdamag. Kaya, nagpasya na lang akong mamili.
Papunta na nga ako sa grocery nun, mga ilang minuto na rin akong naglalakad habang nag-iisip kung ano ang bibilhin nang bigla kong na realize na mali ang direksyong nilalakad ko. Pero imbes na bigla na lamang akong bumaling pabalik eh huminto muna ako, kunwaring tumingin sa aking relo at cellphone. Tsaka lamang ako bumalik papunta sa aking pinanggalingan na pailing-iling habang naglalakad, kunwari ba’y may nakalimutan. Baka kasi isipin ng mga tao na sira ulo akong bigla na lamang lumiko at bumalik.
So habang naglalakad ako papunta sa direksyon ng grocery, iniisip ko kung ano kayang makakain ang masarap kainin ngayong hapong ito. Siopao na may sandamakmak na banana ketchup na itinuturok ng nagbebenta nito pag itineyk-out? Yung buy-one-take-one na hamburger na sobrang nipis ng karne kaya? Kwek-kwek na hindi naman itlog ng pugo ang laman kundi isang maliit sa hiwa ng puti ng itlog? Banana-cue na inaratay ang sabah kaya matigas? Barbeque ni Rochelle na hindi pa luto dahil alas quatro y medya pa siya nagsisimulang mag-gisa? Marami akong naisip kainin na hindi naman nabibili sa grocery at marami rin akong naisip kaining wala sa kalye. Pero hindi ako makapag desisyon kung ano ba talaga ang iuuwi ko sa bahay upang imerienda naming lahat. Ito na yata ang isa sa pinakamahirap na punto ng aking araw, ang pag-isipan kung ano ang bibilhin. Kung meron man akong naisip, ayoko dahil hindi gaanong masarap. Gusto ko yung masarap!
Habang naglalakad ako, bigla kong naalala yung napanood ko sa TV Patrol nung isang gabi. Tungkol ito sa isang batang lalaking ipinanganak na hindi magkadugtong ang lalamunan at bituka. May butas siya at tubo sa tagiliran kung saan dito ipinadadaan ang gatas diretso sa kanyang tiyan. Mga limang taon na siya ngunit hanggang ngayon eh ganito pa rin ang paraan ng kanyang pagkain. Hindi niya natitikman ang pagkain at hindi niya manguya. Ultimo yung gatas na bumubuhay sa kanya ni hindi niya nalalasahan. Hindi niya alam at hindi niya nalalasap kung gaano kasarap ang kumain, isang luho na tinatamasa nating mga normal na tao.
Nakunsensya ako. Siya nga na ganito ang sitwasyon eh hindi nagrereklamo, mabuhay lamang, tulad ng mga taong walang makain. Tapos ako, napakaselan pa sa pagkain. Ginatungan pa ang kunsensya ko nang may isang batang nagpapalimos na lumapit sa akin. “Ate, pahingi naman, pangkain lang…” bati niya sa akin. “Kelan ka huling kumain?” tanong ko sa kanya. Nagulat ako sa sagot niyang, “Ate pakibilisan naman oh, nagmamadali ako eh.” Parang joke…parang gusto ko siyang batukan ngunit pinigil ko ang sarili ko at binigyan ko siya ng limang piso. Sampu sana ibibigay ko, kaso pilosopo. Kaya yun, umuwi na lang ako at kumain ng kanin at ulam. Sana bukas, bumili and tiyahin ko ng tinapay.
“I think that I shall never hear
A poem lovelier than beer;
The stuff that the corner bar
has on tap,
With golden base and snowy cap...
The stuff that I can drink all day
Until my mem'ry melts away…”
—from “Ode to Beer”
At last, the chilly winds of winter begin to surrender to the warm and flowery blossoms of spring. Spring in Japan celebrates several major events: the graduation ceremony, school entrance ceremony, passing the school entrance exams, and the first day of work for freshmen company employees. That is why, for Japanese, spring is the beginning of a new life. When colorful blossoms start to sprout, the Japanese know that the dark cycle of winter has ended, and a new cycle of hope begins. And, where there is celebration, there is also the occasion for drinking. In Japan, celebration equals alcohol—or, as I was told.
I was not an avid drinker before coming to Japan. But as a foreign student, I learned that drinking is an important aspect of social interaction for Japanese. In the university, we were often pulled by senpais (seniors) to go out for a konpa (drinking party) to one of those local and smoky izakayas (night bar and restaurant) with private rooms—start with tall mugs of beer, a senior or sensei makes a boring speech, everyone cheers “Kampai!” then, digs into those yakitori, age dofu or edamame, while laughing, talking loudly (sometimes, singing), and just half understanding where the conversation was going. Even if you don’t drink, you’d be led to do so. Once your sensei hands you the glass of beer, it seems you just can’t refuse it. I witnessed in these konpas how Japanese pour drinks on each other’s glasses endlessly, like every five minutes, even if you haven’t finished your drink yet. And, I’m sure you’ve noticed that women are expected to serve the men. Then, they move from beer to wine, and to the finale saké, or mixing them all. They even drink wine the same way they drink beer—in gulps, instead of sips—and fill up the glass almost until the brim, instead of halfway. Then, you see them all rosy-cheeked (or rosy-eared); the once poised seiza (Japanese squat) slowly shifts to a slouch, to legs spread apart, and when they’re all burned out from all that booze, to the sleeping position.
When I started to work in a Japanese company, the konpa became the nomikai. Basically, they are both the same, except that, the smart business suit replaces the rugged student’s attire, and the leather portfolio replaces the backpack. But, it is the same endless pouring of drinks (and also the women being expected to do that “duty”), the same red faces, the same loud laughter, slouching, and sleeping. A nomikai can be organized for any reason: welcoming a freshman, sending off a retiree, congratulating an engaged couple, celebrating a successful project, and so on. Then, when the izakaya gives you the warning of the last order (usually around 9 or 10 p.m.), the group will suggest a nijikai (second venue), which can easily turn into a sanjikai (third venue), and so on, until the favorite stop at a karaoke, as though the night will never end. Actually, sometimes, it really never does. Some Japanese like to make a final stop at a small ramen house or the yatai (mobile eating stall, usually serving ramen or oden) where they can enjoy their final gulp of shochu.
To foreigners, Japanese are known for doing business negotiations over drinks. Going out to drinks after office is as normal as buying your daily newspaper. Bars are extended office annexes. Even I, myself, had been pulled to such kind of “office annexes” where you can see clients and your colleagues showing off their worst behaviors. Then, the most horrific part of this drinking culture is the night train ride going home. Any time between 7 pm to midnight (or after), night trains will be packed with red-faced Japanese salary men (and salary women) smelling like rotten alcohol—the kind of fume that wasn’t inhaled properly and pumps out from within their intestines to their breath, their noses, their sweat, and the fabric of their suits. Ughh! Totally disgusting! These red-faced and red-eyed predators will either be babbling loudly to their companions, the stranger seated next to them, or worse, to themselves. Some of the males may harass you (if you’re a woman), puke on the floor (or puke at you), piss unconsciously (I’ve witnessed one pissing on the train tracks), or just go to sleep (yes, standing up, too), dropping their heads on your shoulders now and then, or just fart the night away! Imagine this scenario in a jam-packed train in the peak of summer! That’s right, a late night train ride in Japan can be your worst Japanese culture nightmare.
What bothers me about the drinking culture here is why and how the Japanese almost force you to drink even if you say “no.” It has happened to me, not only during the konpa or nomikai but also in home parties. Refusing a drink can be taken as impolite, unsociable, ill mannered, disrespectful (especially if the one offering you the glass is a higher-ranking or older person), or simply boring. A Japanese man once told me that, to have fun is to drink. Well...shall I rest my case? And, it is not only the over 20-year olds that you see drinking but also teenagers, which is causing a big problem in Japanese society.
Why do Japanese drink a lot? While some may think that they just want to have fun, many drink, in fact, to relieve stress: from hard work, frustration in the office or at home, marital friction, or any kind of personal reason. After all, it is said that Japanese started drinking since the 3rd century. And, saké was an important ingredient in all ceremonies during those days.
With spring just around the corner, Japanese will be flocking the parks for hanami. And, hanami is no hanami without beer, wine, or saké. Kaya, maghanda. The hanami is just a sophisticated version of the konpa and the nomikai, beautified by the sakura blossoms around you. But, just the same, you will find the same red faces, slouching, sleeping or pissing positions amidst loud laughter and singing. For Japanese, this is the occasion to be excused for displaying your worst behavior, like finding a niche where they can turn wild and shed off the inhibitions and frustrations they have kept for so long in their offices and homes. Come to think of it, this article is making me drunk…hic, hic…oops, I forgot my “vomit bag…”
Have a merry spring holiday!
I love trains. Densha ga daisuki!
The first time I rode the trains in Tokyo, I fell in love with them. Feeling ko, nasa loob ako ng art gallery. Kasi, ang ganda ng mga poster ads sa dingding at kisame. Very imaginative ang mga ads: may nakadikit, nakabitin, nakasabit at kung anu-ano pang gimmick ang meron nila. Siempre, ako, bilang isang visual artist, I appreciate looking at these poster ads even though I did not understand a bit of what they are selling or promoting. Basta maganda ang kulay, picture at composition, enjoy na ako. Ang babaw ng kaligayahan, no? I was already artistically nourished.
Now, several years have passed, marunong na rin ng konting Japanese, I am able to understand most of what these ads say. In fact, whenever I ride the trains, lagi kong tinitingnan ang mga ads sa loob. Not that I am interested at them but I try to test my Japanese reading ability. I look for the kanji characters I need to know. Kung meron akong kasamang Hapon, I ask them to translate what those characters mean. It's a good way to learn Japanese while riding the trains. Kaya kayong merong asawang Hapon, o kung medyo malaki na ang mga anak ninyong Hapon, huwag ng mahiya. Magtanong sa asawa o anak. Are wa dou iu imi desu ka? Anong ibig sabihin noon?
Basically, the train ads are great teachers. I learn so much about the Japanese language: grammar and kanji. I learn about Japanese culture, history and geography. I learn about the new celebrity endorsers. I learn the news, as well. Inside the car trains of JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo, meron TV monitors at each door. They tell you what is happening in Japan and all around the world. They tell you the weather forecast for a week. They even give you your daily fortune, as well! They tell you if there are accidents in other train lines and advice you what you should do. Dakara densha ga daisuki!
On-the-dot ang mga trains dito. Minsan, sabi ng friend kong si Taro, we meet inside the first car of Yamanote Line Shinjuku Station at exactly 3:17 PM. Dumating right on time ang train at nakita kong nasa loob at naka-upong naghihintay na si Taro sa akin. Hindi pwedeng ma-late. Mortal sin ang pagiging late dito sa Japan. I wonder if I were late that time. Eh di, good-bye na sa train at kay Taro. Just imagine if the friend you are supposed to meet inside is giving you a gift, eh di, sayonara sa gift na rin! The trains in Japan tell you one important thing: Be on time or it's good-bye.
Ang lupit naman ng mga tren dito. Iiwanan ka talaga without any mercy at all! So what if di mo talaga kayang maabot ang oras? Actually, mabait pa rin ang mga tren. Why? Because they give you second chances. You just take the next train. Ganoon ka simple. Ganyan ang buhay. Try and try again. Dakara densha ga daisuki!
Si Teroy, mas grabe pa sa akin. Kung wala raw siyang ginagawa, nag-tatambay sa loob ng densha. He travels as far as the train could take him. Nag-eenjoy siya sa mga scenery outside. He takes the best seat while enjoying the comfort and convenience of the modern Japanese rail system. Wika ni Teroy, "It's so warm inside. Meron heater during winter. At during summer, it's cool inside. Nag-ba-baon ako ng onigiri at o-cha para feel-na-feel na nasa Japan! Aba, walang problema sa 'call-of-nature.' Meron toilet sa loob ng densha." Kulang na lang siguro at mag-lagay sila ng shower room sa mga densha. Baka hindi na umuwi si Teroy sa kanyang maliit na apato at sa densha na lang siya manirahan. I think that would be a great idea: train hotels! And why not? In Japan, basta pagkakakitaan, they would do anything.
When my friend, Beatrice, visited Tokyo as a first time tourist, just buying a train ticket seemed like a nightmare to her. She looked at the train and subway maps which appeared more complicated than a spider web's design. Although I have been living in Tokyo more than half my life, I understand well her predicament. Sometimes, when I travel outside of Tokyo to Nagoya, Osaka or Fukuoka, I get lost even with their simple train/subway map system. I agree, the Tokyo train and subway system is a jungle maze! That's why if you are lost, just ASK! Magtanong lang po kayo. Japanese are very much accommodating when it comes to helping lost foreigners particularly the ones who want to practice their English.
It's so fun sometimes when my friends and I meet. I usually advice my friends the cheapest or fastest way to get from one station to another. They get surprised when after all these years, they have been commuting the long way when in fact, they are other ways to travel shorter or faster and even, cheaper! I love staring at the train maps. Para siyang puzzle. I learn new ways of sneaking my way into the Tokyo jungle.
Pero not all is well and good about the trains in Tokyo. Meron din mga negative aspects like the groping crimes. Perhaps you've heard about the chikan (pervert) where they try to grope on victims especially women. When Japanese women get surrounded by strangers during the rush hour, most Japanese women would rather pretend that nothing unusual is happening than to create a scene. Hindi sila iskandalosa tulad natin. Mag-ingat lang sila kung Pinay ang katabi nila! Anyway, during rush hours, "women only" train cars have been introduced with guards present to enforce this. But how does one protect oneself when faced with this situation? Basta, tularan si Darna at sumigaw ng, "CHIKAN!" I tell you, takot ang mga Hapon sa mga iskandalosa. They would leave you immediately alone in peace. Amen!
Also, be warned of the rush-hours in Tokyo trains and subways. Kahit ba sabihin nilang marunong mag-pila ang mga Hapon, walang pakialam ang pila during rush hours because they fill up the trains to more than 200% capacity. People push each other just to get inside the train. Again, people will push you out when they leave the train. Mas hamak pa sa sardinas ang turing sa mga tao sa loob. Imagine mo ang init sa loob. At kung morning rush-hour, naku po, yung amoy ng bad breath. Alam na alam mo kung sinong kumain ng natto, piniritong isda, miso shiro, toyo, oshinko at kimchi. Hindi ba sila marunong mag-tooth brush and gargle after eating? Baka wala na silang oras. Kung evening last hour train naman, mag-ingat sa mga lasing! Amoy beer, sake, mizuari at whiskey ang mga salarymen. At laging tingnan ang linalakaran at baka maapakan ang curry rice o ramen na sinuka ng lasing na salaryman! Sus ginoo!
With the good and the bad points said, I still love the Tokyo trains. At least mas safe and feeling mo kesa sa mga Jeepney sa Manila. Naku po! Kung hindi aksidente ang abot mo, baka heart attack naman ang aabutin mo! Beep, beep!
Dakara densha ga daisuki!
"Shoganai" is not the first Japanese word I learned, but it is certainly the most used word in my vocabulary when dealing with daily life in Japan. It means, "some things can't be helped." This is, of course, a rather loose translation because "shoganai" is used for a myriad of situations with a slew of different meanings. Basically, this column will talk about the many things in and around Japan that are "shoganai," specially for Filipinos, and perhaps for other foreigners, as well. By the way, "shoganai" should not be confused with "shioganai," which means "there is no salt." One letter difference, and a whole new meaning is made. This is another thing about Japan that is "shoganai," the language and its many quirks. "Shioganai" by the way is the link to my blog, "Why?" you ask. Well, that is a whole different story which I will probably tell at some future date.
In Japan, commuting is "shoganai." But one thing I did notice in Japan is the ease of commute. A lot of foreigners often feel that commuting in Japan is the most confusing thing on Earth, but actually, with a little patience and practice, commuting becomes a piece of cake. People who drive are often more at ease with riding cars than commuting. But for people like me, who cannot drive, and who had to face the horrors of daily commute in Manila, we think that easy commuting is a God-send. So, I love the fact that commuting in Japan is really easy. It is as if this country was specifically designed for non-drivers like me.
Living in Japan, people often think that the main means of transportation is via trains. This is true for the most part, however, buses are also quite useful. Buses go to places where the subways can't. And riding the bus is quite scenic compared with subways. But many foreigners are daunted by the seeming complexity of bus maps and routes. Actually, bus maps and routes are available online, for almost any city in Japan. All you need is a little bit of patience, and you can discover many places erstwhile unavailable in the usual tourist maps.
Living in Japan can be fun and adventurous if you just take the time to go out and discover the places around you. Riding the trains and the buses, well, this is a cheap and educational way of discovering places. And you might actually discover a new mall, or park, or coffee shop, or maybe even a Filipino store/restaurant that you haven't been to before. So, grab a bag, check out the bus schedules and start your adventure. Happy Commuting!
Ironically, Lenten Season comes to the Philippines when this whole gamut of an election fever or "circus" is all over the place. It will be amazing to see some form of abstinence from the candidates to constrain themselves from using "guns, gold, and gang" to influence the result of the coming elections. But, whatever optimism I could squeeze out of my veins, it seems very apparent that the "guns, gold, and gang" syndrome is endemic to any election fever in the Philippines. At the end of the day, it is the electorate who bears the grunt of this epidemic and yes..it all boils down to a responsible electorate.
Lenten Season, perhaps, is the time for us to reflect on the integrity and honesty of Jesus. Here we have candidates talking about how they came from the poor and that they know how it is to be poor. Jesus came from a carpenter's family. The candidates say that they have seen it as incumbent upon themselves to lift up the lives of the poor. Jesus walked through vast plains and mountains to preach that blessed are the poor for the heaven is theirs. The superstars of the show come and distribute gifts and goody bags and then commence their piece of elocution in giving hope and emancipation from their hunger. Jesus saw them without food and water and he multiplied the loaves and wine to feed them all. Perhaps, those who have more will get more. Jesus had more but he had himself nailed on the cross so that they will have more. That was Jesus' integrity and honesty. Through these years, it was Jesus' honesty and integrity which won the hearts of millions of people all over to put him into victory.
Will the present line up of candidates care any less for the form of honesty and integrity which Jesus showed? Candidates invest a lot of their funds into this circus. Some say it as a sacrifice. For others, as human as they are, their conscience tells them that they have to have the returns. One popular candidate says he is not concerned about ROIs because he says that was not his intention in the first place. His intention is to help the poor. He continues to expound that if he at all is concerned about getting his money back, he would have remained as a businessman and not join politics. He forgets that in the Philippines, politics is business. He is still in business.
So how does this evil cycle end? How will the reflections of the Lenten Season ever come to our senses? The answer maybe is not in the hands of the candidates who promise hope and freedom for all. Is the answer with the electorate? Maybe, it is neither with them since there is still a cloud of doubt whether politics in the Philippines has already matured and whether the electorate is responsible enough to vote for the responsible.
My learning prods me to look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow contends that people will never mature to the level of self-actualization and self-esteem unless his physiological needs are met. In effect, people will continue to be influenced by guns, gold, or goons or gang..whatever...because it is the guns, gold, and goons who satisfy their physiological demands. As long as there are people without food and house and as long as people without food and house are used for personal and vested interests...the cycle of desperation is there to stay... Such a pessimistic picture, isn't it?
But, the Lord knows what reason does not...and this brings us back to the Lenten Season.
Let us give the candidates the benefit of the doubt. And perhaps, we vouch for the least evil of them...somehow, somewhere...there ought to be persons replacing the incumbents, after all.
Lenten Season is a time for taking a breather, a pause. It is that moment given to all to put things in a standby mode and taking stock of ourselves. It is a gift given to re-energize and cleanse ourselves. Yes, perhaps, it is a time to take a shower more than once...maybe twice or thrice a day...but, you see it will not help conserve water during the El Nino.
That is what is meant by taking a pause. Not everything that we see seems right.
Let us pause then...and listen more...then, we can find the answer.
BAYARAN Ka Rin Ba?
(Mga Guidelines para sa Inyo bago mag-Eleksyon 2010 Part 4)
Ayaw na ayaw ko iyung pulitikong laging nagpapa-cute sa mga masa. Don’t get me wrong. Hindi ako galit sa common tao. Ganoon din naman kasi ang pamilya ko. At para sa lahat pinadala ang isang paring katulad ko. Pero alam naman ng lahat na ang unang ginagamit ng mga pulitiko ay mga masa. Kapag kampanya na, ayan na sila at naglalakad at nakikihalo sa mga masa. Ok lang sa kanilang mabahiran ng pawis ng mga masang naghihintay sa init ng araw. Pero come to think of it, hindi nila karaniwang ginagawa ito. Pag kampanya lang. Usually, nasa mga aircon na lugar sila at nakikihalubilo sa mga sosyal. Kaya utuan lang talaga ang nangyayari…at nakakapanggigil sila. How dare they use the masses!
Tapos meron din diyang mga pulitiko na nakikita mo lang ang mukha pag may nasalanta ng bagyo, lindol, at kung anu-ano pang trahedya. Wala naandoon lang sila…paturo-turo, pabati-bati…at laging may kasamang assistant na inuutusan niyang isulat ang mga pangako niyang hindi naman tutuparin. Of course naandiyan din sila para mag-distribute ng mga plastic bag na may lamang pagkain para sa isa, dalawa o tatlong araw lamang – na kalimitan ay mga instant noodles na ang alat-alat at walang balanse sa sustansya.
May nakilala nga akong opisyal sa munisipyo na galit na galit sa isang senador: may proyekto kasi siyang magtanim ng mga puno sa kung saan-saan para daw sa kalikasan. Kaya nagsimulang magtanim ang mga volunteer sa ilalim ng init ng araw… ang tagal ni Senador…halos patapos na ang pagtatanim…halos ubos na ang mga itatanim…ayan na, dumating na si Senador…bumaba sa kanyang malaking SUV, pinapayungan, tapos, umalis sa sukob ng payong, kumuha ng isang halaman, tinabihan ang mga nangangamoy-araw nang mga volunteer, ngumiti at nagpakuha lang ng picture. Tapos, balik sa SUV. Kaway diyan, kaway doon…at isinarado na ang pinto ng SUV…at umalis na. Ni juice man lamang hindi nagpainom. Kung hindi ka pa naman ba masuka sa mga kalokohan ng mga pulitikong ito!
Kaya ang iboboto ko ay yung ginagawa niya talaga ang kailangan niyang gawin dahil alam niyang iyon ang trabaho niya. Iboboto ko yung walang pakialam kung ano ang hitsura niya dahil hands-on siya sa trabaho – kahit maalikabukan siya o maputikan o parang binuhusan na ng langis sa mukha pag iniinterview sa TV. Iboboto ko yung taong walang pakialam sa sasabihin ng mga taong gusto lang naman makalusot sa batas. Iboboto ko siya dahil sa kanyang “work ethic.” Oh by the way, at dahil sila rin ang unang makikita at makakausap ng mga ibang bansa at ng international press, iboboto ko ang taong makapagpapabalik ng respeto ng mundo sa Pilipino!
Hindi ako utu-uto! Hindi ako magpapadala sa mga survey na iyan! Basta ang importante, alam ko ang obligasyon ko bilang Pilipino. Gusto kong umangat ang aking Bayan. Oo, kailangan nga ang pagsisikap ng bawat Pilipino. Sobra-sobra na nga yata siguro ang pagtitiyaga natin! Nakokontra lang dahil sa mga sakim na pulitikong iyan! Kaya para makumpleto na rin ang pagtitiyaga nating mga Pilipino, let’s vote for the right and worthy person this coming elections!
Mabuhay ang Pilipino!
ALAM NYO BA... talagang iba ang selebrasyon ng pasko at pagsalubong ng bagong taon sa Pilipinas. Kahit mahirap ang buhay, masaya pa rin kasi tipun-tipon kayong mga mag-anak. Dumating kami ng Christmas eve sa NAIA then straight home na kami sa Pampanga. Mahaba nga lang ang biyahe from NAIA to Pampanga kasi super traffic within Metro Manila. Wish ko lang na maayos ang traffic condition sa Metro Manila. Da best talaga when you spend Christmas and New Year sa Pilipinas. Kahit saan parte ka pa ng Pilipinas, there is really no place like home. Agree kayo, di ba?
ALAM NYO BA… mga kababayan, please check ninyo ang Philippine Embassy website for updates. Pwede na rin ma-download ang mga application forms at iba pang mga impormasyon. Malalaman nyo rin sa website ang mga araw na walang pasok sa Embassy para di na kayo mahirapan sa biyahe lalo na kung kayo ay galing pa sa malayong lugar. Kaya check nyo na ang website ng Philippine Embassy Tokyo at the following URL: http://tokyo.philembassy.net/
ALAM NYO BA… that sometimes when you are in love, you feel frustrated only because your love for that person is taken for granted lang. Marami sa atin ang nagmamahal ngunit kadalasan nasasaktan. What is love nga ba talaga? Is it to give you pain or hurt your feelings? Is it to make you happy forever? To love, you will have to experience everything, masakit man o masaya, masasabi mo na masarap palang magmamahal. It does not really matter if you are taken for granted or not, as long as you know that you are in-love, at ang importante ay wala ka naman nasasaktan na kapwa. Go on, go ahead and fall in love, love-cry, love-hurt, love-happiness.
ALAM NYO BA… na ang Office of the Commercial Counsellor ng Philippine Embassy ay nakapag-organize ng isang IT Mission to the Philippines last Feb. 7 to 12, 2010. The mission is in coordination and sponsored by the ASEAN-Japan Centre, isang organization ng Japanese government. The mission comprised of 17 members including our Commercial Counsellor, Mr. Mike T. Haresco, he is also the leader of the mission. The main purpose of the mission is to attend the 10th e-Services 2010 in the Philippines. The e-Services is the largest IT-Enabled Services (ITES) sourcing event in Southeast Asia. It is also the venue for IT and ITES companies to meet, building of partnerships and for high level business matching. Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the special guest of honor. She delivered her keynote address and said that she is very happy that for ten years now, since the start of her administration, she declared technology as the foundation of the future of the Philippines’ economic development, create wealth by developing the labor-intensive skills. The group also met with some IT companies and visited UP-ITTC in Manila and in Cebu.
ALAM NYO BA… the date for Palm Sunday this year is on March 28. Ang Palm Sunday ay ang pang-anim at huling Linggo ng Lent at simula ito ng Holy Week. Ang Holy Week naman ay ang week before Easter, commemorating events in the last days of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. This year, April 1 is Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), ito yung last supper of Jesus and the betrayal by Judas, followed by the Good Friday (Holy Friday), ito yung hinuli si Jesus, his crucifixion, death and burial at ang Holy Saturday, ito yung Sabbath on which Jesus rested in the grave.
ALAM NYO BA… pagka-simba namin ng isang colleague, si Tess, last Ash Wednesday, we went for a quick lunch. Pag pasok namin sa restaurant, tinitignan kami ng mga Japanese. Then we realized na may ash pala sa forehead namin. Ang nakakatawa ay yung waitress even offered us oshibori (hand towel) para daw punasan ko ang nuo namin. I wanted to laugh but instead, I explained na lang sa waitress yung reason. Then we just laughed and alam naman namin ni Tess why they were staring at us.
God bless you all and may all your dreams for this year 2010 come true. Let’s continue hoping and praying for the best!
On September 3, 2003, Sr. Josephine Tan Dugay, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC) from the Philippines, came to Japan as a Pastoral Worker. She was assigned to the Kyoto Diocese, through the sponsorship of the Bishop of Kyoto.
I first met her at their Sisters' House located next to the Saiin Catholic Church soon after she arrived in Kyoto. My initial impression was that she had an approachable personality. We started talking about the Filipino Community in Kyoto, briefly discussing some common problems and the means of support given to them. From then on, we have been tackling such matters until now.
Sr. Josephine or Sr. Josie, as she is fondly called, was born and grew up in Roxas, Isabela. She comes from a family of ten siblings, whose parents are of Chinese descent. Her experiences from their family business and college training (she has a degree in Commerce), plus a lot of "optimism" has helped her in her several asssignments not only in the Philippines but elsewhere.
On a trip from Japan to Kenya, Africa for the "World Social Forum 2007," when asked by an airport immgration officer checking her documents what her profession was, she answered "nun." Having heard the word "none," the officer was confused. However, after seeing Sr. Josie dressed in the Franciscan habit of white and gray, all was understood.
How the Franciscan Sisters started their "reaching out" social services network in Japan is a never ending love story. Love in the sense that it is to sacrifice one's time, energy, effort, and comforts of life in exchange for the joy and needs of others. Giving "hope" to those who most need them is their priority!
Almost three decades ago a Franciscan priest from the Netherlands based in Kyoto, Fr. Gerald Salemink, Sr. Judith Kamada and her co-sisters from the Notre Dame School Sisters and a few lay people, gathered to discuss ways of starting a community-based group to assist the foreign residents of Kyoto, particularly to those who were already married to Japanese spouses and other Filipinos living in the Kyoto Prefecture. Later, a couple of Franciscan Sisters (SFIC) from St. Joseph's College in Quezon City, where Sr. Josie belongs, were invited by the Franciscan priests to join the members of church volunteers in order to meet the growing needs of Filipino migrants, and other members of International groups in the Kyoto Diocese.
It was also at this time that the Kyoto Pag -Asa Filipino Community (KPFC) was organized. This church-based community became bigger and this year KPFC will be celebrating its 25th year anniversary.
Of the Franciscan Sisters who first came, there are now eight of them: working, assisting, and expanding their social services not only in the Kyoto Prefecture but other far away places as well. Srs. Mary Lou Razon, Lorenza Alfonso, Cherryline Delgado are assigned to Niiigata. Srs. Nora Jaurigue, Mila Lumasac in Mie Ken, Sr. Fredelina Rivera in Nara, Sr. Altagracia Miguel in Shiga, and Sr. Josephine Dugay in Kyoto.
After studying Japanese language in Kyoto, Sr. Josie was assigned to Nara for two years and came back to Kyoto. She has been with the Kyoto Prefecture Filipino communities for almost five years now also providing spiritual needs for those who cannot regularly come to the church for the Sunday masses. In our present world, where many prefer to be thinkers, Sr. Josie is a "doer." She deeply feels that it is her responsibility to help in whatever way she can for the betterment of the community and its members. If someone would call for help, she would gladly volunteer. Her presence is a big force, when things need to be finished on time. With her vigorous support, cooperation, encouragement, many of KPFC's activities and programs - like the yearly UTAWIT singing contest for charity, Christmas celebrations, leadership trainings/seminars, and other church related gatherings, are successfully performed.
With her almost seven year-stay in Japan, Sr. Josie thinks that most of the problems of Filipinos living here are related to differences in culture, family values, traditions, and lack of communications. These gaps can only be bridged if concerned parties discuss such issues with an open mind or heart, resolve such matters. Some challenges are reaching out to the Japanese spouses, children, and even in-laws living with them. Domestic violence problems sometimes involve such parents.
Sr. Josie, who is also with the Social Services Committee of KPFC and the other communities of the Kyoto Prefecture, has ample experience in counselling even to the point of looking for temporary shelters for Filipino wives/children running away from problematic spouses, to visiting detention centers and networking with related NGOs providing legal advice, medical services, government services/info just to name some.
She has found meaning in her choice of vocation as a Franciscan Sister ministering to the needs of fellow Filipinos here in Japan. And she believes there still more we can do if only we find happiness in helping others.
Thank you, Sr. Josie for showing us that "Heaven" exists even during the worst of times. We are glad that our roads have crossed!
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 1-8
Name: Maria Concepcion Pidelo-Ona
Name of column:
Occupations: Development Communication Specialist and Part-time English Teacher, Struggling Writer
Other jobs: Homeschooling Mom, Family Cook and Family Counselor (expertise earned after being married for ten years and raising a child in a foreign country without family support except my husband's)
Time in Japan: This year -- 11 (can't believe we've stayed that long here!!! when we were only planning on staying for a few years because of my husband's graduate studies)
Where are you from in the Philippines? I am from the City of Seven Lakes and the city famous for its Coconut Festival -- San Pablo City.
Where do you live in Japan?
We have lived only in Nagoya, the third largest city in Japan but in the 10 years we've lived here, we've moved about 5 times.
What brought you to Japan?
My husband was granted a scholarship by the Japanese government, the Monbusho Scholarship to do his masteral and doctoral studies in the field of chemical engineering. At that time in 1999, he was also granted a scholarship by the Australian government to do his graduate studies in Melbourne University but being tech savvy and an admirer of Japan's advanced technology on robotics, he opted to study here. I came here to support him as his wife. We both think the support was very important because it provided him focus on his primary reason why he came here in the first place which is to study. He eventually took on a company job after his graduation.
What do you like most about Japan?
Clean streets; I can go out at night without fear of being raped or kidnapped. Sa Pinas, I have to be home at 8 pm when I am out of the university campus. If for me, peace/ quiet and safety of my family are important; for my husband, he likes Japan because of the money, being the more practical person in our household. I have also learned the value of saving which I probably got from being a Nagoyan for 10 years now.
If you could bring "anything" from Japan to the Philippines, what would it be?
Discipline and being organized. Following rules. I have been raised in a "Japanese-mitaina" household in the Philippines so when I came here I liked it because it fits my personality but now that am 40, I hate rules and slowly hating Japan and would love to have some form of Philippine-ness in Japanese society. It is good to earn money here when you are young and strong but the Philippines is the best place to relax and retire.
If you were to be trapped for 3 hours inside the train or subway, what item would you like to have with you?
My bag contains all the basics. Am sort of an obsessive-compulsive type of person ever since I was born so I bring everything with me (kung pwede lang buong bahay eh) but now as I get older, I try to travel light so let me see -- a book and my MP3 player (some music) to get me entertained while I wait.
How did you learn about Jeepney Press?
At church, I got a copy and wanted to write for it since I couldn't do hands-on volunteer work that much with a small child so I decided to write for JP to share info which I think will be useful and relevant for our Pinoy community in Japan specially information on how we can survive as migrants in this country.
How long have you been writing for Jeepney Press? One to two years.I am an irregular contributor.
What do you think about the conditions of Filipinos in Japan?
A lot of us will be needed to fill-in the gaps left by the huge population of Japanese retirees. I think the majority of educated Japanese are slowly realizing that they need foreigners so nakikisama rin sila ng maayos, meaning they try to adjust and be flexible. I have not yet encountered racial discrimination. I guess it helps that I am light-skinned and speaks English quite fluently. For me, it is more of a language problem than a racial discrimination problem.
Sometimes, I encounter sexual harassment problems. I think some Japanese men have this stereotype image of Filipino women as entertainers so they make a pass and they get surprised if eventually they see that Filipinas can also be journalists, engineers, teachers. You have to prove to them that this stereotype is not true but proving oneself can also be tiring so minsan hinahayaan ko na lang. Nakakapagod na rin kasi minsan makipaglaban at magpaka-totoo kung sino ka man specially when you reach 40 (ayan naging senti na naman ako!) I think one has to just be sincere and be yourself and people would know.
How would you advice Filipinos in Japan on how to improve their lives?
Focus is important to help you reach your goals and always reflect on the basic reason why you came here. If student ka, so student ka, hindi yung maraming extra-curricular activities. It helps to have a breather or other hobby/ies other than studying but if it's a lot, di mo matatapos ang pag-aaral mo.
Engage in talks that are encouraging and will promote positive energy in the community or in the group. Negative talks or talking behind other peoples' back are signs of insecurity and could affect the mental health of those involved. It is important that we stay fit not only physically but also mentally lalo na dito na wala tayong strong family support.
Wag laging gaya-gaya puto maya. I am sometimes guilty of this and it creates pressure on me and my family life. Ok naman gumaya pero pag nagiging destructive na, stop. So, to be aware of this tendency, ask close and trusted friends for advice on how they see you and reflect alone on which Fil or Jap values should you continue to hold dear and raise your child with.
Name: Nanette Fernandez
Name of column: Paraa!
Occupation: college teacher; teacher-trainer
Time in Japan: 14.5 years
Where from the Philippines? Quezon City
Where did you live in Japan (and which places have you lived in Japan)? 10 yrs in Nagoya, 3 yrs in Kobe (plus 1 and a half years in Osaka as a student)
What brought you to Japan? first time - foreign studies; last 13 years, my husband's work
What was your first impression of Japan? clean, disciplined, very efficient
What do you like most about Japan? aesthetics, the seasons, onsen!
What's the worst/weirdest thing you have experienced here? being illiterate; women as 2nd class citizens
If you could bring "anything" from Japan to the Philippines, what would it be? ofuro; spring and fall (skip winter!); efficient train system, disciplined people; accountable government officials
If you were to be trapped for 3 hours inside the train or subway, what item would you like to have with you? internet connection, my husband or at least someone interesting to talk to
What do you think about the conditions of Filipinos in Japan? Filipinos are hard-working and contribute to this country by making it more human(e).
How would you advice Filipinos in Japan on how to improve their lives? Learn as much as you can from Japan; have integrity; show that Filipinos can be trusted; be grateful always; save and invest your earnings for the future---bring your money back home and build a better life for you and your family.
Name: Farah Trofeo-Ishizawa
Name of column: Short-cuts
Occupation: Freelance- Film-T.V. coordinator; soon to be an ALT
Time in Japan: Since 1991, but I have been here twice before that...
1981 for a month; 1986 for 6 months.
Where from the Philippines? Quezon City; Vigan, Ilocos Sur; and Bacolod.
Where do you live in Japan (and which places have you lived in Japan)?
I have lived in Sakura, Chiba; Ebisu and Takadanobaba in Tokyo.
Now, we live an hour away from Tokyo.
What brought you to Japan?
At first, I was on a cultural student exchange at Sophia University in 1981. Second and third time, I was a Japanese language student.
What was your first impres-sion of Japan?
Japan is so clean. People are disciplined. People have good manners.
What do you like most about Japan?
Generally, Japan is a clean country. People try to keep it clean. Japan’s transportation and communication networks are just so synchronized and so efficient. The health insurance and pension plan (even though it is not as good as before, they have it). Love the food, fruits – specially the strawberries.
What's the worst/weirdest thing you have experienced here?
One day in 1986, I have seen three “exhibitionists” in a day. So I thought to myself, what a country. But that was it… only one time.
If you could bring "anything" from Japan to the Philippines, what would it be?
The transportation system; the takkyubin, and the postal system; their way of driving; and the attitude of people towards TIME; Japanese rice; food and fruits – and the strawberries.
If you were to be trapped for 3 hours inside the train or subway, what item would you like to have with you? Water, my camera and my I-phone and headphones.
What do you think about the conditions of Filipinos in Japan?Filipinos come to Japan for their own reasons. For marriage, or for work and earn some money… Filipinos are luckier now, because we are now more accepted compared to years ago.
How would you advice Filipinos in Japan on how to improve their lives?I hope Filipinos learn to be more dignified and speak better Japanese. Avoid being vulgar and loud because “nakakahiya.” We have to change our image first if we do not like to be “stereo-typed.” Learn to dress up properly anywhere and specially inside the churches. The way you dress says a lot about you. Remember we are not in the Philippines. This is Japan. “When in Rome, do what the Romans do." Para happy!
Often called the harbinger of spring are the fragrant white and pink flowers of the plum tree. After a long dormant sleep in winter, it proudly shows off the beautiful flowers nurtured in the cold as if to beckon the other plants and flowers around to do the same. Nature fascinates me, in the same way as human societies change in the course of time.
In the second issue of the year featuring interview projects of students at the Department of Philippine Studies, Osaka University, Minoo campus, we are honored to introduce Jeff Plantilla who works at HURIGHTS OSAKA (Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center). Jeff belongs to the North Nara Catholic Church Filipino Community in Nara city where he lives with his wife (Miho) and daughter (Maya). Before coming to Japan, Jeff worked in a legal assistance group (Structural Alternative Legal Assistance for the Grassroots) in the Philippines practicing his profession as a lawyer by taking up cases of farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples in Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Quezon, Rizal and Mindoro (Oriental and Occidental) provinces. He went on to Bangkok to work in a regional non-governmental organization focusing on human rights education. There he met his wife, and got married. Three years later, he and his wife and daughter moved to Japan.
Jeff admits that it is not easy for a foreigner to access in Japan vital information on human rights in English. Many compatriots are not even aware that their human rights are being violated in school, at work and even at home. Having been known to some Filipinos as a lawyer, he has been asked by them about the legal aspects of problems in the Philippines and sometimes in Japan. Being part of a community, he supports whenever needed the work of the Catholic Sisters in assisting members of the community. As a representative of the community, he networks with other Filipino communities within the Kyoto Catholic Diocese, and helps organize activities for the benefit of the communities within the diocese (including dialogues with Philippine consulate officials on laws in the Philippines and Japan). Although he uses only his weekends for these activities, Jeff considers this involvement as “the long winter of the hibernating plum tree.” The fragrant blossoms will bloom and so will the fruit of the plum tree be ready for harvesting... the long process of cultivating human rights awareness among Filipino expatriates.
Jeff works in HURIGHTS OSAKA’s regional program trying to gather information on human rights issues in Asia-Pacific and disseminate them back through publications, the website, and activities like workshops. He is responsible for the English publications of HURIGHTS OSAKA as well as its regional research activities. HURIGHTS OSAKA was established in 1994 to promote human rights in the Asia-Pacific region and specifically raise human rights awareness among the people in Japan in meeting its growing internationalization.
Interview in Filipino:
Taga-saan po kayo sa Pilipinas?
Kailan po kayo dumating sa Japan?
Ano po ang inyong propesyon?
Abogado. Matapos akong makapasa sa bar exams, nagtrabaho ako sa isang NGO sa Pilipinas. Lumipat ako ng trabaho sa Thailand at doon ko na nakita ang aking naging asawa. Kaya tuloy sa Japan na ako tumira. Sa kasalukuyan ay nagtatrabaho ako sa HURIGHTS Osaka.
Paano po kayo nagkakilala ng misis ninyo?
Mayroon kaming common Thai friend na naging tagapag-pakilala sa amin.
Saan po kayo ikinasal?
May anak po ba kayo?
Oo, teenager na siya at nakakaintindi ng Ingles pero hindi Tagalog.
Ano po ang masasabi ninyo sa inyong trabaho ngayon?
Malawak ang nasasaklaw ng programa ng HURIGHTS OSAKA dahil buong Asia-Pacific dapat ang sakop nito. Kailangan makakuha ako ng impormasyon tungkol sa mga nagaganap sa iba't-ibang bansa. Kasama sa trabaho ko ang paggawa ng mga publications sa Ingles at trabaho ko rin ang pagpapahayag ng impormasyon sa pamamagitan ng website. Marami rin challenges at marami rin pagkakataon na natututo ako sa iba't-ibang taong kaugnay sa isyu ng human rights. Kahit paano, may pagkakataon din na naibabahagi ito sa mga kapwa Pilipino dito sa Japan.
ABOUT MAI, ZOE and KAZUSA
MAI OTSUKI is a member of the Osaka Gaidai Filipiniana Group and can dance some traditional Filipino dances. A typical Capricornian born on the feast of the Black Nazarene, Mai has never been absent in class, dependable and intuitive. Her favorite word is “maswerte” and she hopes luck will shine on her in the future when she applies for a job in a government office.
MACHI TAKEZOE belongs to the “Kyudo” circle and commutes from Kishiwada City (a town famous for DANJIRI processions). Inspite of the distance she travels, she is always ready for class and practices Filipino diligently. Her dream is to be a pilot, hopefully with Philippine Airlines.
KAZUSA TAKAYAMA whose nickname is KT (Kaytee) comes from Kyoto and no wonder she loves to sip green tea with authentic Kyoto confectionery. In the class, she always ask thought provoking questions. Her ambition is to work in the Foreign Ministry and she is brushing up on her Filipino language skill by reading a lot of books about Filipino culture.
In the English alphabet, K is the eleventh letter. How about that for a starter? Since I cannot easily find the right words to put my thoughts for an important occasion like this, especially if it is for my first column, I will just begin by citing identical events. It is not that I am a great believer in "de ja vu," or that my experiences tell me otherwise... that it is already written in our book, before it came to be (Psalm 139).
Well, here are some:
1. my name (sans Iriarte) has 11 letters,
2. I was born on November, the 11th month, National Holiday pa dito sa Japan being "Labor Thanksgiving Day,"
3. married to a Kohno (K),
4. lived in Kyoto (K) for the past 30 years now, and
5. K was my good friend Dennis' first suggestion for the title of this column. And I think it is a great idea!
Having lived here in Japan for half of my life has its rewards and most of my soul-touching experiences are the ones I spent "journeying into the world of the Filipinos" as the JP cover says. Of course, they are not all a "bed of roses" (one of my favorite expressions) when confronted with questions like: were they happy ones, do you enjoy the encounters, can you find fulfilment, meaning, joy, enhancement, and so forth. I am simply a believer in doing good to others, in sharing God-given talents to people who need them, just by being there, and thankful for whatever blessings we have. That is the "enjoyment" I find in my life. Guess, I am sounding a bit trite so I will just share one personal story which I call "a grateful heart anecdote" from the volumes I have now, which is a product of having lived here for a long time.
Some years ago, when our president, Gloria M. Arroyo, was still a senator, she visited Kyoto with her family and mother, Mrs. Eva Macapagal. I had the pleasure of showing them this beautiful city. After a hearty dinner mostly of raw fish and meat at the famous "Gion" area where the red lights and geishas are, she asked to be shown one of the nightclubs nearby where our "kababayans" worked. At short notice and after some calls, we were able to arrange a hasty meeting with some of them. It was a very memorable night. The following year, she visited Osaka, and again I had another happy encounter. On behalf of the Filipino community leaders of Western Japan, I was asked to give the bouquet of flowers at the Welcome Reception. When she saw me, she gave a familiar smile and even mentioned that night in Kyoto during her speech. Good deeds do not go unnoticed, di ba? Till next time. God bless.
This is my first greeting for 2010… “Hello readers and fans of Jeepney Press.” Could not make it on the first issue because of some personal stuff going around.
That was our “lipat bahay.” Yes, it was a BIG change - from Tokyo to somewhere outside Tokyo. Living in Tokyo for 15 years and then leaving Tokyo, that is CHANGE, right?
You will never appreciate something until it is gone. I just realized how convenient living in Tokyo was--- when Shinjuku and Ikebukuro were just a few stations away from home. We even biked to those areas on fine days. “Syempre, I miss Tokyo and the convenience that was at my finger tips.” With our former home on the Yamanote loop, going around was really so easy. Another thing I miss is the variety of delicious food and restaurants.
Now, it takes almost an hour to go to Tokyo. But, I do not mind that anymore.
I have discovered the benefits of being away from the city. One, of course, is “mas-malaki ang bahay ngayon.” Second, we have a view – and lots of nature. I have never seen so many stars in my stay in Tokyo compared to each night here. And most of all, the sunshine comes in. In Tokyo, our condomi-nium was surrounded by other houses and condomi-niums that the sun was most of the time blocked by other towering units.
These simple things are what make me happy at this moment: space, nature, and a “more human condition of living.” Being away from Tokyo is not “that bad” as I had imagined.
It is true that home is where your heart is. Right now, my heart is an hour away from Tokyo. I am enjoying my new life far away from the metropolitan sounds and lights. Tokyo and other big cities will always be there. I can go anytime. Now I look forward to visiting my friends in Tokyo.
By Japanese standards, more space now means I have really just a little more compared to how it was in Tokyo. But again, if I would compare it to the space back home in the Philippines or even in the U.S.A., space would not be enough yet… Human nature, the “wants” never stop there. Thank God, in my case – I stopped comparing…and I can say I am happy where I am.
Wish all of you, readers, find your own happiness in the simple things in life. When was the last time you appreciated the sun? Or the fresh air you breathe? Or that wind that blows against your face?
Learn to feel good with everything around us.
As the song goes, “the best things in life are free.”
God Bless – Mama Mary loves us !
When I went on a short business trip to Fukuoka with a Japanese colleague many years ago, we had our first experience using a Global Positioning System. The GPS has a female voice, so in my mind, I have given her a name – Mandy. Our trip was programmed all the way to our final destination, and Mandy did her job and plotted our direction. With this, we were completely relaxed just waiting and trusting in this tiny but high technology gadget to guide our journey.
Every command that Mandy has told the driver was never been a miss, but always a hit! When we accidentally made a detour to stop by a convenience store, Mandy was persistent in saying: “U-turn please immediately, U-turn please immediately!” Obviously, we went on a different direction other than her programmed course. Should we have chosen to go straight, definitely, we won’t be able to reach our final destination.
Comparing this situation to our own self-centeredness as human beings, we always tend to follow our flesh and gone to our own ways. To go our way, is our choice. It is our choice: not to listen to our parents; not to finish schooling; to be a drug dependent; to be a liar; to become a thief; to be corrupt; to be a murderer, the list goes on and on but it seems that we cannot get enough of our selfishness. This selfishness that could lead to death, but not to be buried six feet under the ground but to be like walking zombies – physically alive but spiritually dead.
It doesn’t matter how far you have travelled in the wrong direction, but it’s never too late to make a U-turn and acknowledge that you have done wrong, and that was your choice.
During this Easter season, we must be reminded that we are just the drivers of our own lives and God is the Savior – he saved us from all our sins. As it is written in Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." He is always ready to forgive and restore our lost souls. So, the next time you have chosen the wrong road,
“U-turn please, immediately!”
Pagkahilo (Dizzy spells)
Tanong (T): Dear Doc Gino, gusto ko po sanang itanong kung anu-ano ang mga dahilan ng pagkahilo? For three days nakakaramdam po ako ng pagkahilo. Mawawala pero maya-maya babalik uli. Hindi naman po sumasakit ang ulo ko o anu pa man at wala ring ibang masakit sa akin. Hindi naman ako nasusuka. Basta nahihilo lang po. Nakakapagtrabaho naman po ako, kaya nga lang hindi maganda sa pakiramdam at hindi gaanong komportable. Nai-check ko naman po ang bp ko, okay naman. Sana po ay matulungan ninyo ako. Salamat po ng marami.
Doc Gino (DG): Marami ang mga dahilan kung bakit nahihilo ang isang tao depende na rin sa mga kondisyong pangagatawan, paligid, gulang, problema atbp. Hindi mo nabanggit kung ano ang iyong edad, kasarian, kung babae-huling regla, posibilidad nang pagdadalang-tao, kung gumagamit ng salamin sa mata, impeksiyon sa tainga, kung kulang sa tulog, uri ng trabaho, atbp. Kung hindi naman nakasasagabal ang pagkahilo sa iyong pang-araw-araw na buhay, ang pagpapahinga at sapat na pagtulog ay makakatulong upang manumbalik ang kalusugan.
(T): 29 years old po ako at September 21-24 po ang last menstruation ko. Mayroon po akong salamin, 100 po ang grado ng dalawang mata ko, although hindi ko po masyadong naisusuot. Pero hindi naman po ako nakaramdam ng mga pagkahilo dati. Lately po, stressed dahil po sa trabaho at masyado po akong nag-iisip kaya rin po napupuyat. Nung naligo po kasi ako nung Sunday, nakaramdam ako ng pagkahilo. Hindi ko po alam kung dahil medyo mainit yung tubig o dahil sa halos katatapos ko lang pagpawisan sa exercise at paglilinis ng bahay nung naligo ako. Sana nga po ay panandalian lang itong pagkahilo ko. Salamat po ng marami.
DG: Mas mainam kung magpasukat ka muli ng iyong salamin sa mata. Marahil ay kailangan mong mag-adjust sa panibagong salamin.
With all the adversities happening each day...what could be the most efficient weapon that anyone of us must possess in life in order to survive?
Wow! May nabibili kaya nito? Kung meron, bibili ako. Pero, wala po. We've got all these advanced gadgets around, the best technology wonders popping each time. Pero, there will never be another alternative to the timeless impact of our own mindset.
In fact, kung minsan, dahil sa di na maiwasang pag-usad ng panahon ay nawawaglit na sa isip natin ang "life basics." It is still very important not to forget to go back to the basics every now and then to refresh, di po ba?
It is true that the busy world keeps all of us so occupied everyday. Kaya naman kung may kadalasang hinaing na pwede nating marinig sa isang kaibigan o kakilala ay walang iba kung hindi ang mga katagang "Nakaka-stress!"
Have we ever wondered kung saang aspeto tayo na-ii-stress? Pwedeng dahil sa kapwa natin (peer), pwedeng environmental (world), o pwedeng sarili natin mismo (man versus man).
Factors: (Bilugan ang tamang titik) kung saan/kanino ka nai-stress... Halimbawa...
a.) Alam mong stressful kausap si Maria Clara, pero sige ka pa rin sa pakikipag-usap sa kanya...tsk! tsk! tsk!
b.) Minsan, kaya mo namang magsabi ng "NO" pero dahil sa pakikisama, sasabihin mo pa rin ay "YES"...nakupo!
c.) Hanggang ngayon ay di mo pa rin name-memorize na walang contentment ang tao... na minsan, kahit di nito ka-level, pilit pa rin nitong hahangarin na maka-level si ganito o si ganyan (dahil kaya ito sa inggit?...ewan ko po).
d.) To the nth power ka kung magalit, pero alam na alam mo naman na di ito kailan man magiging solusyon sa kahit anong paraan, bali-baligtarin man natin ang mundo... Hmmm....
Uhmm... Nabilugan mo ba ang tamang titik? These are just some of the few common instances. Marami pa pong iba. Try to squeeze it out to reflect on yours. Kapag nahuli mo kung alin ang akma sa yo, siguradong makaka-relax ka. Sabayan mo pa ng konting realization, panalo yan! Nowadays, in the midst of our daily struggles, when we know ourselves well, mas okay! Our mindset is the most powerful element in dealing with life. Make it positive and everything will be beautiful.
Importante ang state of mind natin. Nagre-represent ito ng ating pagkatao. Agree? Disagree? Be the one to judge. Teka, napansin mo ba na halos kung papaano mo pakitunguhan ang kapwa mo ay ganoon din ang sukling pakikitungo nila sa'yo kalimitan? Simply because people we interact usually have the power of reading our mind. Ang galing, di ba? This equates to the fact that the amount of respect we give to others is what we actually gain back. This is comparable to a cycle. We only need to learn the formula of mindset management at some sort. Ano kaya ang possible formula mo? Para naman magaan ang feeling. How about having a positive mindset? It is contagious, nakakahawa! Kaya naman, no matter how long a day could be... why not try to detoxify our mind? We all owe it to ourselves, right? Clear mind, less stress!
Pamper yourself once in a while, especially your mind. Let the beauty of cherry blossoms this springtime accompany you somehow...
Ang ama ay Hapon at ang ina ay Pinay. Gaya ng karaniwang istorya, sa umpisa siyempre masaya. Dumating ang panahon na nagka-anak sila. Hangang umabot sa nagkaroon nang iba't-ibang dahilanan at sila ay di na makatiis sa isa't-isa.
Si lalake, mayroon nang ibang babae at si babae, ay mayroon na ring ibang lalake.
Kaya ang anak na si Sakura ay naiiwan sa kanyang Lola at Papa at sa bagong asawa ng papa niya.
Si Sakura ay lumaki na. Ang kanyang paligid ay puro mga Hapon ang mga kaibigan.
Paminsan-minsan, si Sakura ay namamasyal din kasama ng kanyang tunay na ina. Ngunit ang mga kasamahan nang kanyang ina ay halos mga Filipina din dahil ang asawa ng kanyang ina ay Filipino. Ngunit mapapansin kay Sakura na hindi siya malapit sa mga Filipino. Noong ika labing walong taong kaarawan niya ay pinaghanda siya nang kanyang tunay na ina. Siyempre marami sa mga bisita ay mga Filipino. Mapapansin mo na si Sakura ay hindi nakikihalubilo sa mga Pinoy. At doon lang siya sa mga Hapon na kaibigan niya.
Minsan mayroon siyang paligsahan na sinalihan sa paaralan. At doon, ang ina niyang tunay ang kanyang kasama. Ngunit hinatid sila nang ama niya. At doon sa paligsahan siya ay nanalo. Ang mga kaibigan niyang kalahok sa paligsahan ay iniwan siya at hindi na nila tinapos ang paligsahan. Kaya lalo siyang nalungkot dahil wala siyang kakilala maliban sa kanyang ina at iba sa amin.
Mula sa paaralan pagkatapos nang paligsahan ay sinundo sila nang kanyang ama.
At doon sila sa bahay nang kanyang ina ipinaghanda.
Nakita ko kung gaano kasaya si Sakura. Kaya kahit sa ilang oras o sandali masaya kong nakita si Sakura dahil nandoon ang kanyang mga magulang. Kung baga buo ang kanyang mundo dahil magkakasama silang tatlo.
Ito ang kahalagahan ng isang pamilya para sa isang anak. Naroroon ang haligi at ang ilaw nang isang tahanan.
Ito ang kahalagahan ng isang pamilya sa mga anak---matibay na haligi at maliwanag na ilaw.