Saturday, March 16, 2013

Neriza Sarmiento Saito

Neriza Sarmiento Saito’s
The Bridges that Link And  Connect Japan and the Philippines
With Prof. Mamoru Tsuda of the Global Collaboration Center, Osaka University

Sometimes I wonder if I should ever feel guilty about not doing anything on a
leisurely weekend! A famous novelist, Kanako Nishi who penned  "Kiroi Zo" which was later made into a movie recalled a friend who rode a train in Osaka and watched an old man idling away time, seemingly enjoying his task of absolutely doing nothing!!!
It is a blessing that I live in Osaka, where we never feel guilty about being idle. Kenmin-sei is a Japanese term to describe personalities of people from certain areas! People from Aichi are said to have a lot of pride and like doing things the big way, so they produced three great military leaders, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokunaga Ieyasu. Those from Yamaguchi love discussion and politics and 8 Japanese Prime Ministers hail from that area. Kyotoites dress themselves into bankruptcy, Tokyoites play themselves into bankruptcy and guess what, Osakans EAT themselves into bankruptcy!
So, I did not feel guilty idling and whiling time away that weekend. I snacked on Skyflakes and chicharon and green mangoes I bought from a Pinoy grocer in Tamatsukuri Church. I remembered how I longed for those in the first stages of pregnancy with my first child 30 years ago. There were no Pinoy restaurants, no Pinoy Grocery stores nor takkyubin services for Pinoy goods. Thanks to my mother's ingenuity, she made burong mangga, minus the seed, packed it in aluminum foil and sent by mail from the Philippines!

At that time, I never imagined that 30 years hence, daing, manggang hilaw and even itlog na pula can be purchased conveniently! Thanks to those who made living in a foreign land easier for migrants.

That was I felt when I attended the joint lectures of Prof. Mamoru Tsuda  and  Prof. Randy David last Jan. 26. Prof. Tsuda or RICO sensei pioneered  the field of legal interpreting and translation. His researches in Philippine Studies have contributed to improvements in court interpretation for migrant Filipinos in particular.

In his retirement lecture, he gave tribute to his Filipino wife, Prof. Yolanda Tsuda of Kobe Jogakuen University and his 4 children, sons and daughters in law and grandchildren for the inspiration in his long and never ending  adventure that started when he was 19 years old.

Here is a chronology of RICO sensei's adventure based on an interview by Ms. Remy de Jesus Martin, a Filipino scholar, finishing her masters degree under his supervision in 2010. Remy commented that the rich experiences of Prof. Tsuda can probably tickle the adventu-rous spirit within us.
1967...  At 19 yrs old he travelled to Pusan, Okinawa  (which was not a part of Japan yet) and then to Manila and practiced English with Filipinos.
1968... He went to San Francisco via Hawaii as a sentimental journey just like his great grandfather Sen, who was the official interpreter for the Edo government mission to Washington, and Umeko,
Sen's daughter, who was the first and youngest female overseas student in the Meiji Period.
1970... He graduated from Aoyama Gakuen University. Before graduation, he attended a seminar where he was impressed by the presentation of the Filipino students and became friendly with them.
1971... He studied at U. P. and learned Japanese History that he never learned in Japan. When Martial Law was declared in 1972, he continued to live there.
1973... He became an incidental interpreter and started interpreting in meetings between government officials, educators, prominent businessmen and industrialists. He studied under Prof. Randy David, who established the Third World Studies Program and  was introduced to the great nationalist Renato Constantino. He was appointed full time lecturer at U.P.
1980... He became consultant for Business Day.
1985...  He returned to Japan after studying in Australia and taught in a small university in Shikoku.
1985 -1987... He commuted by boat every week from Shikoku to Osaka Gaidai.
1995...The Philippine Studies was established at the Osaka University Of Foreign Studies in Minoo.
1998... The Phil. Studies Program finally became an independent department. The first  graduates include Dr. Gyo Miyahara, who is the current chairperson of this department, and Prof. Sachi Takahata of Hiroshima Kokusai Daigaku.

Prominent Filipino scholars who have contributed to the Philippine Studies Department as visiting Professors are national artist in the arts Dr. Bien Lumbera, historian and former U.P. Vice- President Oscar Evangelista, Philippine literature scholar Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, writers and U.P. Professors Dr. Rosario Torres-Yu, Dr. Lilia F. Antonio, Dr. Roland Tolentino, Dr. Joi Barrios and Dr. Galileo Zafra.
At present, the other Japanese professors in the Philippine Studies Dept. are Prof. Masanao Oue, Prof.
Gyo Miyahara and Prof.  Satoshi  Miyawaki. The other Filipino lecturers are Ms. Jenny Yoshikawa, Atty.  Jeff Plantilla and Neriza Saito.
What seemed like idling and whiling time away for an adventure-seeking lad from Tokyo who followed his great grandfather's footsteps in America and his sojourn to the Philippines has contributed immensely to bridging the gaps between the Philippines and Japan. Prof. Tsuda's contribution to society as a legal interpreter-translator is magnanimous.  "I interpret not only for one side but for all sides. As a court interpreter, I hope that the process of justice can berealised equally," Prof. Tsuda remarked.

When I first met Tsuda-sensei in the early 90's, he was with Dr. Lumbera and Tony Fernandez, the leader of the Philippine scholars at Gaidai at a reception in the DOT Osaka office and his passion for the Philippines and a thorough understanding of the Filipinos  complemented the scholarly researches he was deeply involved in.

One time, as I was traveling back to Japan from the Philippines with my three small boys, who felt nauseated,Tsuda-sensei was so helpful and very natural with the kids. His own big brood of 4 children raised in the warmth of their family home, and occasional interactions with visiting scholars, writers and friends are all global-oriented.
With hundreds or thousands of students taught by Tsuda-sensei, in the Philippines and in Japan, the bridge that he built between these two countries is solid. What started as an adventure has produced long lasting effects for he has believed that "only an education based on equal protection of human rights will make the Japanese understand that protecting foreigners is the same as protecting other Japanese, for we belong to the same family of human beings and we share the same home called the world."
I remember how Agatha Christie once said that we must enjoy the pleasures of memory---not hurrying ourselves.
Tsuda-sensei's task will go on for years but as an adventurer from Tokyo, he would not call it a task. As for him, it is a pleasure!!!

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