by Elena Sakai
Can you give an introduction of
I'm Chelo Mori, biologically Pinoy, was born in Manila and have lived in Japan with my Japanese father and my Filipina mother since five years old. Now I live with my Japanese husband and two lovely Japanese cats.
You went to graduate school in the Philippines. Why did you decide to study there? What was your major?
My major in master course is Health Policy Studies. I have also studied in the Philippines as an exchange student when I was in the undergraduate course. Then I visited many places for field work and knew the situation of the rural and squatter areas, such as poverty and bad sanitary conditions, etc. In confronting this reality, I thought how I could contri-bute to make their situation or their life better there. But I didn't have any competency for that (actually even now). So I wanted to have one specialization to go into the field of "international cooperation". I chose "health" for my specialization because we cannot do anything if we lose our health. I also wanted to brush up my English and Tagalog because I lost my mother language "Tagalog" when I was still in elementary school. These are the reasons why I studied in the Philippines.
I heard you were active in NGO activities, aside from your studies. What activities were you involved in?
The Japanese NGO "People to People Aid" is supporting rural deve-lopment activities, which are done by a counterpart NGO "Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement" in the Philippines. I visited the project sights to see the situation there and translated their reports in Japanese for Japanese donors. When we have Japanese visitors, I became an interpreter. Now I'm still active in this NGO in Japan. I translate reports as well and we sell fair trade products for fund raising. Our NGO members are all volunteers.
Can you tell me about your current job?
For work, I'm a coordinator of one model project of a public foundation in Kanagawa prefecture, which is supporting foreigners residing there. One of the components is the launching of a homework class for elementary school children. Once a week the children who have foreign parents come to our class after their school to do homework. I'm happy to meet and talk to the children there.
How do you help Filipinos in Japan? What are the issues that you see?
Through my current job, I might help Filipinos in Japan, especially children, in some way. In many cases not only Filipino children but also children whose parent(s) are foreigner and have difficulty in studying in Japanese. When I see a girl who came from the Philippines after graduating high school there and got in junior high school here in Japan, I can feel the pain she is undergoing in her life in Japan because she could have enrolled in a college in the Philippines where she could have passed the entrance exam.
Are you involved in any other activities, aside from your current job?
I love to play Jembe though I'm still a beginner. I learned to play it in the Philippines.
Growing up between two countries, which country do you think is your 'home' country?
This is a very difficult question. I want to say the Philippines is my "home" country but sometimes even my relatives say that I'm foreigner in the Philippines though my nationality is Filipino. At the same time, I also feel at home here in Japan because I’ve lived here for a long time with my family.
What do you like about Japan? What do you like about the Philippines?
What I like in Japan is neatness and cleanliness. What I like in the Philippines is warmness and closeness of the people and warm weather.
Can you give a message to Pinoys in Japan?
I love Filipino culture and Filipino people. Filipino hospitality and brightness are world-class. I hope the life of Pinoys in Japan, in the Philippines and in other countries would be better. Mabuhay!