Rosemarie Aritaka: Unfolding Fukuoka’s Pinoy Pride
by Dennis Sun
I had three days to get to know this woman --- the woman I would later come to realize as the Iron Rose in Fukuoka. Iron… because her personality exudes a strength of character. Rose… because it’s a fraction of the identity handle given to her that unfolds her feminine facet. It’s not only about her name but her personality, as a whole, that radiates this fragrance of a strong woman.
Popularly known to Japanese as Mari-san, to fellow Filipinos however, she is mostly known as Rose or Rosemarie. Rosemarie Aritaka has spent more than two decades of her life as a resident of Fukuoka. She spent several years working at both the Fukuoka International and Domestic Airport. Afterwards, she became an English-Tagalog interpreter and was eventually certified by a congregation of groups such as the Fukuoka Bar Association, Interpreter’s Association, Fukuoka District Prosecutor Office, Immigration Control Center, and other NPO Legal Assistance Center in the Kyushu area. Presently, she is more vigorous working as an event producer reaching out not only to fellow Filipinos but to the international community of Fukuoka.
Born in Mandaluyong City and raised by a father who happens to be a lawyer, she was reared to focus on her studies and sharpened to be active and alert in life. Rosemarie is the eldest among one sister and one brother. Being the eldest one, she was already trained to become a natural leader. She was active in sports and would later become the school’s corp commander. She would later join the Arnis Judo Karate Kendo Martial Arts in the Philippines (ARJUKEN). She joined the tournament for Asian’s Women Martial Arts in (PICC) Philippine International Convention Center for two years consecutive winning 3rd placer in position. By the age of twenty, she received a certification from Philippine Martial Arts Federation under Fidel Ramos as the first black belter Asian woman during that time. Even at this budding age, her dreams encompass from working for the military, becoming a flight attendant to leading the country as the president of the Philippines.
Rose pursued her studies at the Lyceum of the Philippines in Intramuros, Manila where she graduated cum laude with a degree in Foreign Service, and major in
International Law for Political Science. Before taking up law proper, she was trained in a law firm for half a year. Fate would decide later that her life would land across the seas far away from the Philippines. While working at the law firm, she met her future Japanese husband. He was a client in their company getting legal advice from a labor accident that happened in a project they were handling. They became good friends and he became very dear to her family. After his work in the Philippines was finished, he had to go back home to Japan. Thinking he left the woman of her life, he went back to the Philippines and married Rose. That was more than 20 years passed already.
Like most Filipinos, Rosemarie had a very difficult start in Japan. This is the reason why after two decades, she would devote much of her precious time in helping the less fortunate Filipinos and foreigners. Working as a teacher, a radio announcer, a legal interpreter, and an event producer, she barely has time to enjoy the remaining spare time she has. However, it is in doing charity work that she gets to unwind.
This year, she handled UTAWIT in Fukuoka with her group, Global Filipino Japanese Friendship Association in Fukuoka. Rose is an indefatigable lady. She works non-stop and would prefer doing everything herself rather than asking people to do the work just so the job could be done immediately. She loves to work. Work for her is like air that people breathe. A week later, she would do another international event.
Several years ago, she worked as an ALT, an assistant language teacher. Aspiring to go higher, she attended training courses in English teaching. Eventually, she created her own English Center where she now employs English teachers.
Every Monday from 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Love FM 76.1 The Daily Tips Tagalog, you can hear Rosemarie as she transforms herself into a radio air jockey. Her half an hour Tagalog program airs Filipino music and plugs community activities for the Filipinos in Fukuoka. She has a warm style of connecting to her listeners as she gives them nuggets of wisdom she herself have learned from life.
Eight years ago, she started the Global Filipino Japanese Association in Fukuoka to add reinforcement in helping Filipinos with legal problems, give support to battered housewives, and offer emergency help when needed.
Now, let us find out more about this so called Rose of Fukuoka. As Jeepney Press digs deeper into her life, let’s learn more from her life as she says it in her own words.
Can you tell us more about life in Japan when you arrived here more than 23 years ago?
Because of my husband’s job, we first resided in Takeo City in Saga Prefecture. It was really a countryside. All that I expected of Japan was totally different from what I was living. It was hard for me because I couldn’t communicate. Nobody spoke English. I was getting depressed so my husband decided we moved to a place where there is an existing and active Filipino community. That was when we moved to Fukuoka. I got excited when I learned that there was an English Mass offered at the church. From thereon, I found that there is hope.
You didn’t study Japanese in the Philippines. How did you cope up with learning Japanese and adjusting to the Japanese culture?
It was a total shock for me in the beginning. I didn’t understand the language. I was homesick. I didn’t have any friends. The words of my father kept echoing in my mind: “Never give up. Just learn and study their culture.” Watching Japanese TV helped a lot. I was also fortunate to have a loving mother-in-law who would help me learn their culture and language. I kept a dictionary with me always and searched words one by one. It is indeed difficult, but one must really start from the bottom and gradually go up.
How did you end up with your work as a radio announcer for Love FM?
Nothing was actually planned. I was offered to give a speech at a high school in Kita Kyushu about education in the Philippines and the Filipino youth as compared to the Japanese youth. Then one thing led to another. One Japanese teacher introduced me to the radio station and I was lucky enough they were looking for a Filipino announcer.
Where do you draw your energy from?
I think I am naturally energetic. I love to be busy so I control and schedule my daily work. But of course, I also give time to meet friends, be with my family, and most of all, get a good night sleep to refurbish my body fuel for the next day.
How would you like to describe yourself? Who is the real Rosemarie Aritaka? What aspects of yourself do you want to tell other Filipinos?
It is really very hard to describe oneself. I am just like any woman who wants to have many friends whom I can share love and happiness. I want to connect with more Filipinos, share our experiences and learn from each other. I would like to encourage the Filipinos to bond together and help one another.
What is your most precious possession?
The wisdom I have learned from all the struggles I have endured in life.
Aside from all the projects you have been doing, what are your future plans?
I want to go abroad more and visit my relatives in U.S.A. Of course, I want to do more charity projects like UTAWIT as project like this helps unite Filipinos in the community.
Can you tell the other Pinoys about Fukuoka? What’s so good about Fukuoka?
There are a lot of Filipino groups in Fukuoka itself and are very active with the community. Fukuoka is located in Kyushu and is the fourth largest city in Japan. It has lots of beautiful scenery and tourist spots. The people in Kyushu are very warm and very welcoming like Pinoys! Fukuoka is famous for its hakata ramen and mentaiko, tiny red fish eggs. Please come to Fukuoka and feel the breeze of this wonderful city. “Kon ne” means to come.
What do you think Filipinos should do to become better and successful in Japan?
Be true to yourself. Be hardworking and never do bad things against others.
Finally, what message can you give to all the Pinoys living in Japan?
As this is Japan and not the Philippines, we really need to adjust. The Japanese should not adjust to us. We should learn more about them by studying their language. This would take time but we need to start somewhere.