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.