Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jeepney Press March-April Centerfold

Adding Extra Into The Ordinary:
An Interview with Mrs. Linda Taki
by Abie Principe

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.

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