Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Neriza Sarmiento Saito

A Place in the Sun
With the UT Gakuen  Global Studies Club

Ahh, spring! Cherry blossoms in bloom. Only time of the year that seems to inspire everyone to start anew!

I watched a chorus concert organized by Chorus Messe Osaka and supported by the  Osaka Prefectural Government the Osaka Municipal Government and the Osaka Board of Education held at Izumi Hall in OBP on April 14 and really felt refreshed after listening to the Woodrose School Chorale and the University of the Philippines' Manila Women's Chorale. The youthful high school students' angelic voices charmed the audience from their opening number, Celebrate this Day Together, to the well applauded Piliin mo ang Pilipinas, Time to Say Goodbye and Ryan Cayabyab's Better World. Conductor and pianist Angela Kliatchko moved with ease and precision creating a lilting harmony of voices. The rapport between her and the students can be felt. I can only imagine the long hours they did for rehearsals or perhaps the scoldings and the tears and sweatings before that splendid performance. It goes without saying how a teacher's trust and belief in her students can work wonders.

In this issue, I will introduce a group of junior and senior high school students and their adviser who have taken a special interest in the Philippines. They are the members of the Global Studies Club of Uenomiya Taishi Gakuen, a private educational institution of the Honen Shonin Jodo-shu religion. Mr. Yoshihide Maruyama, the GSC adviser and in-charge of curriculum planning is an English teacher of the school for more than 15 years. In the past, the club has introduced the Philippines at the school's cultural events and some senior high school members took part in a translation contest of a storybook "Tough Times" organized by Kobe Jogakuen. Some members also started to study other foreign languages including Filipino. Mr. Maruyama, a very dedicated teacher of English has always believed in the hidden potentials of his students. Most of the members are typically shy but when they meet for club activities 3-4 times a week for English conversation, their faces lighten up.
During the spring vacation, they visited the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka to learn more about the Philippines. They were welcomed by Consul-General Ma. Teresa L. Taguiang and Consul Michael Lyndon Garcia. To Mr. Maruyama's surprise, the usually shy students were very confident as they asked questions one after the other. One of the questions asked was about books that most school children read in schools. Consul Mike showed everyone copies of "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" by Jose Rizal. Contrary to expectations that these quiet and shy students might not be able to ask the questions they prepared, Mr. Maruyama was relieved when Takuya, the GSC club leader and members like Koki, Chisato, Maki, Yuma and Jun stood up with confidence to ask several questions. Consul Mike also explained the work of the Philippine Consulate General in Western Japan such as providing consular services to Filipino nationals, visa application services to Japanese nationals as well as promoting trade and tourism in the Philippines. He regrets, however, that Filipinos are not always free from negative publicity in Japan so he also hopes that Japanese and high school students can incorporate studies about the Philippines in their schools to get a better perspective of their Asian neighbours. In Kansai, there are over 25 Filipino communities that are mostly church based and many of the children of Filipino-Japanese couples attend public and private schools in Japan. Sometimes for fear of being bullied by their classmates, they conceal their Filipino identity. Many schools have encouraged introducing studies of other Foreign cultures particularly Asia.
Uenomiya Taishi Gakuen started introducing Foreign cultures in its period for Integrated Study in 2010 using English as the medium of instruction. Mr. Yoshihide Maruyama, who was the Chairman of the English Department was very instrumental in planning the integration in the school curriculum for the Junior High School from first year to third year. In the beginning, the students were not very receptive. Most English classes are held at English Immersion Rooms in the Junior High School and the Senior High School. This is also the venue for all activities of the GSC like writing newsletters, translating practice and learning other foreign languages.
Although there are only very few members, compared to the other sports  club, they don't seem bothered at all and enjoying their place in the sun. "They must have a place where they can be themselves,” Mr. Maruyama said.  A former graduate of Uenomiya Taishi, Mr. Yosuke Shohara who is now a 4th year senior in the Philippine Studies Program, also joined together with Ms. Natsuki Iwai. Mr. Kozu Yoneda, current head of the English Dept. and other teachers: Ms. Saki Mukai, Ms. Atsuko Yamamoto and Ms. Makiko Sasaki were also present.

The visit to the consulate had a good impact on the students. Mr. Maruyama' s hard work is now bearing fruits!

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