Thursday, January 12, 2012

ON THE ROAD by Neriza Sarmiento

Neriza Sarmiento's
Re-aligning History, Religion and Tradition with
And The Sama-Sama Filipino Community

As early as November, papier mâché makers in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture have been making blue dragon dolls in preparation for 2012, the year of the mighty dragon. Residents of the tsunami stricken areas believe that blue dragons will protect them from natural calamities.
Dahil nga sa March 11 disaster sa Tohoku area, napili ang character na "KIZUNA" ng Japan Kanji Testing Aptitude Foundation na ang kahulugan sa Ingles ay "BONDING" at “pagsasama-sama” sa Tagalog. According to a TV news program, the Japanese kanji or characters chosen every year through a nationwide survey are "those that reflect the mood and situation" of the times.

Dahil na nga sa trahedyang ito, nadama ng marami ang kahalagahan ng pagtutulungan at pagsasama-sama upang maibsan ang lungkot sa pagkawala ng mga mahal sa buhay at ari-arian.
Bukang-bibig ng mga Pilipino ang salitang "bonding" lalu na kung pasko at bagong-taon at kung magbabakasyon sa Pilipinas o dadalaw sa mga kaanak sa ibang bansa. Kaya nga siguro tayo ang may pinakamatagal na pagdiriwang ng pasko sa buong mundo ay upang magkaroon ng mas mahabang bonding ang pamilya. Maaring ganoon rin ang Japan sa mahabang bakasyon sa bagong taon. Although traditions differ between Japan and the Philippines, still the need to bond with families and friends are very much the same.

Filipinos begin Christmas with the simbang-gabi and herald the new year with loud bangs of firecrackers while the Japanese view Christmas as a mere prelude to "O-shogatsu" (New Year).
Nick Joaquin, the foremost Filipino literary writer and national artist said that: “Pinoys look Asian, dress like westerners, speak like Americans and worship like Spaniards.”

In Japan, many church-based communities have provided spiritual solace to Filipino expats and has made networking easier. In addition to regular Sunday masses, recollections, confession, baptism, confirmation and others, simbang-gabi was introduced in Osaka by FR. MARIO COLINA with the knowledge of the collaborative ministry group of the parish council. Knowing the significance of the simbang-gabi to every Filipino, he initiated to have the first "simbang-gabi" at the Sakuranomiya Church. Instead of the usual "dawn masses" in the Philippines, the masses were said at 7:30 followed by some light meal contributed by attendees. Somehow, it alleviated the loneliness of homesick Filipinos who could not go home to the Philippines during the Christmas holidays. Siyempre pa, mayroon ding arroz caldo, puto at iba pa pagkatapos ng misa.

A few months ago this year, Fr. Mario was assigned to the St. Mary's Cathedral in Tamatsukuri enabling him to reach out to many kababayans as the spiritual adviser of the Sama-Sama Community which was founded 25 years ago. Hulog nga siguro ng langit ang pagdating niya sa Japan. Kaya lang ng dumating siya sa airport, he was detained for an hour because the immigration officials got suspicious of him when he assisted a kababayan but later apologized to him.

By nature, Fr. Mario is helpful even to strangers most especially with his fellow Pinoys. He comes from a brood of 9 children of Regina (now 93 ) and Andres, who perished in a car accident. His family went to Sunday masses together before the break of dawn. Having a grandfather, who was in the guerilla movement during the war, he first wanted to be a soldier but instinct and inspiration guided him to enter the seminary at the age of 12. He excelled in history as well as in sports like soccer, volleyball and tennis. In 1981, he was ordained as a member of the Congregatiom of the mission at the St. Vincent de Paul Parish at San Marcelino Ermita on March 14, 1981. After a year in Iloilo, he was transferred to their major seminary in Angono to be the Director of students.

Meanwhile, his sister, who was an ICM nun passed away at age 34 after arriving from a mission in South Africa. That was also why he wanted to go there but was assigned to Maiko in Kobe at the Daughters of Charity. After a few years there, he was assigned to work as assistant to Fr. Murata at the Center for Migrants at the old seminary now housing the Archdiocese bishops and staff. Aside from the introduction of the “simbang-gabi” and re-envigorating the multi-cultural members of the congregation, he was also one of the founders of the Filipino Missionaries in Japan. With about 100 members nationwide, the group meet to share views and to offer assistance to members.

What keeps Fr. Mario happy these days is the warm atmosphere during Sunday masses at the Cathedral. The choir members practice on Saturday evenings with Rudy Quinal, Mari Hashizuka, Joanne Kawamoto, Liberty Puno and many new members who are also working in the day as language teachers. Many of them are also very musically inclined, proof of which was their superb rendition of Filipino Christmas Carol medley with Fr. Mario singing solo. And they already have the next generation of talented members like OJ Solon and Julia and Siphia Pelaez who will probably continue the great "Sama-Sama" tradition and history! The 26th anniversary of the group was held last December 18 with Consul General Ma. Lourdes V. Ramiro Lopez as guest of honor.

Very few can recall that in the 80's, Sr. Remedios Locsin arranged to have masses in a room in the seminary. Mrs. Bibiana Ishita, fondly called Mommie by some of us, first called the group of Filipinos there Ylang-Ylang. Later on, the group was called “Sama-Sama” with Edwin Bunales as its president in 1985. I fondly remember the first mass we had in the former Room 101 of the seminary where we also had my second son's baptism. When it could no longer hold the growing number of Filipinos going to masses, finally we could use the big cathedral. Much water has gone under the bridge for 26 years.

A new set of officers was elected last year with Jun Silva as President, Cris Macam (Vice-President), Jessica Puno (secretary), Joanne Arellano (Asst. Secretary), Gloria Completo (Treasurer), Bong Arreza (Asst. Treasurer).

Fr. Mario hopes that the Sama-Sama Community can initiate projects that will benefit not only the Filipino community but the people of Japan, as well. "We have to be models in the practice of our faith, so that we can gain the trust of the Japanese. If they trust us, then we can all live harmoniously," remarked Fr. Mario. He adds, "NOT WHAT WE SEE, BUT WHAT WE LIVE. THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT BUILD AND BLESS THAT LEAD TO HUMAN HAPPINESS."

Where are you from? Mandaue City
What is your occupation/ profession? Catholic Priest
How long have you lived in Japan? Since 1989
What do you miss most about the Philippines? The way Filipinos bond with each other.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced in Japan? When we went to a public bath with my classmates in a language school. Of course, I was shocked.
What do you like best about Japan? Majority of the people are well-disciplined.
If you can change things about Japan, what would it be? I wish they can be more open about their feelings.
If you can teach things you have learned from the Japanese, what would it be? To be time-conscious.
Please tell us about your recipe for a successful life in Japan. Prayers, prayers, prayers and kneeling everyday for God's blessings!


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