Bayanihan and Kizuna
12 seconds of Japanese prime-time TV. Nagulat ako nang mapakinggan ko ang Pilipino at nang makita ko sa telebisyon ang bahay-kubo at Mt. Mayon! Aba – may komersyal na pala ang Department of Tourism (DOT) natin dito sa Japan at sa primetime TV pa! Ang pumatok sa social media na “More fun in the Philippines” series nga siguro ang pinaka-epektibong kampanya pangpromosyon na ginamit ng DOT. Ang nakita ko noong Abril 4 ay ang “Moving house” version na pinapakita ang bayanihan sa atin.
May mga kababayan tayong nagtutulu-ngan para makaahon sa kapinsalaan sa Miyagi noong Marso 11. May isang grupo ng 70 na mga Pilipino ang nagtayo ng “Bayanihan Kessenuma Radio”, isang pangkomunidad na programa sa radyo ng mga Pilipino. Hindi sila nagpasimula sa radyo. Nung una ay pangkaraniwang tumutulong lang sila na i-kontak ang mga kapwa Pilipino sa ibat-ibang bahagi ng Japan na nagpadala ng tulong sa kanila at kaagad na pinamahagi nila ang mga relief goods upang makaabot ang mga ito sa mga pamilya ng mga kapwa Pilipino nila sa Kessenuma. Napansin ng mga Hapon ang kanilang grupo. Nagmungkahi ang FMYY (isang multi-lingual community broadcasting station sa Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture) na gamitin ang radyo upang makarating ang impormasyon sa maraming Pilipino. At dahil sa nagpakitang gilas sila sa kanilang pagiging organized, ngayon may regular na programa na ang mga Pilipino sa FMYY na nag-rerecording sa bahay ni Ms. Charito Ito sa Kessenuma at mapapakinggan sa internet broadcasting na estasyon at pang-rehiyonal na radyo estasyon.
May isa pang grupo ng mga kababaihan sa Miyagi na nag-asawa ng mga mangingisda; at nung lumaki na ang mga anak nila ay marami rin sa kanila ang mga nagtatrabaho sa mga fishery na kumpanya sa Kessenuma at Minami-sanriku, mga lugar sa baybaying dagat ng Miyagi. Nguni’t noong Marso 11 di lang kanilang mga bahay at ari-arian ang nawala kundi pati ang mga pabrika kung saan sila nagtatrabaho.
Nguni’t talagang matatag ang mga kababayan natin. Hindi sila nawalan ng pag-asa at hindi sila naghintay lang ng mga dole-outs. Marami sa kanila ang nag-aplay sa isang NGO na nagtrain sa kanila para maging mga caregiver sa Kessenuma na may mahigpit na panga-ngailangan ng mga mag-aalaga sa mga matatandang nasa evacuation shelters. Pinag-aral rin sila ng NGO na ito ng Nihongo para malaman nila ang mga salitang Hapon na kailangan sa trabaho ng care- giving. At dahil marunong na rin sila talaga ng Nihongo dahil matagal na silang naninirahan sa iba’t-ibang komunidad sa Miyagi, mabilis nilang natapos ang training nila. Ang nakakatuwa sa ating mga kababayang ito ay mabilis silang natanggap sa mga komunidad nila dahil marunong silang makipagkapwa-tao o dahil sa bayanihan. Marami-rami rin ang nakapansin sa komunidad ng mga Pilipino sa Kessenuma at ayon sa pahayagang Asahi na ininterview si Ms. Amelia Sasaki mula sa Minami-Sanriku,“…I’m not considered a foreigner but a local… I’ve always tried to help out and show the town that I'm not waiting for people to do something for me, but that I’m waiting for them to ask me what to do for them.”
Solidarity in trying times: “Kizuna”
“Kizuna” meaning “unity, brotherhood or bonds of friendship and hope”, a word used when people need to help each other was a prevalent byword inspired by the response efforts by several people right after the March 11 crises. If you do a search on the Web, you will get several hits for “kizuna”. This shows that “kizuna” continues to be the keyword among recovery support initiatives of several organizations, both public and private which continue their own projects to show solidarity with and support for Tohoku. Some private sector initiatives are noteworthy. Among these are oyster owner programs started by various companies in the fisheries industry to rebuild the oyster farms in the coastal areas of Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. Basically, people buy shares at 10,000 yen a piece (approximately US$100) in exchange for at least 20 oysters upon reconstruction of the oyster farms. In addition to oysters, some companies throw in some other products like fresh scallops in their “reconstruction gift sets” to owners.
Kirin Holdings, the investment arm of Kirin, the beer brand producer (which incidentally owns 48% of our very own San Miguel Beer), in collaboration with the Nippon Foundation, Japan's largest private philanthropic organization started its own “Kizuna project” supporting the reconstruction not only of oyster beds but also of Tohoku’s agriculture and fishery industries including seaweed farming and various agricultural processing industries by providing forklifts and other heavy equipment needed to clean up the debris in the affected areas. Kirin is also one of the companies supporting Tohoku University’s Faculty of Agriculture academic impact initiatives such as “Recovery of Village, Agriculture and Food Project” and the “Nanohana (or rapeseed) Project”.
One of Japan’s well-known NPOs engaged in environmental conservation is based in Miyagi and is called “Mori wa Umi no Koibito” (literally “forests and the sea are lovers”). Mr. Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, the head of this NPO is an oyster farmer, entrepreneur and an environmentalist. His family has been harvesting oysters and scallops in Kessenuma Bay in Miyagi for three generations and through the years he realized that replanting forests upstream have a positive impact on the water quality in his area and consequently improve the quality of his oysters. He engaged with the farmers in the upstream areas of Okawa River and has been working with them to sustainably manage the local forests and the sea. He established the Society to Protect Forest for Oysters and has been advocating for more than 20 years annual tree planting events in nearby areas.
Mr. Hatakeyama continues to inspire many. A couple of months after losing his 92-year old mother, his home and business worth millions of dollars to the March 11 tsunami, he still participated in the annual tree planting in a nearby town where he apologized for not being able to bring any oysters or scallops which he shares with the upstream farmers every year. He spoke about his positive vision for the future of the Tohoku region which he believes can be a model for Japan’s sustainable management of biodiversity in an agricultural and marine context. Several corporations like Mitsui Group and Louis Vuitton Japan support Hatakeyama’s efforts in restarting oyster cultivation and monitoring the impact to the ecosystem. Mr. Hatakeyama’s efforts have also been recognized by the United Nations awarding him the “Forest Hero” medal—a first for a fisherman to receive this honor which until then had been received only by forestry folks. The“Mori wa Umi no Koibito” movement is now printed in textbooks of elementary and junior high schools across Japan. A team from Kyoto University is also helping Mr. Hatakeyama rebuild his farm and to design a model of reconstruction that can be implemented in other disaster-affected areas.
Disasters such as that of March 11 are tragic but it’s how people respond and empathize with each other by igniting the bayanihan spirit to begin rebuilding homes and lives and find strength in kizuna.
References: Templado, Louie. (March 14, 2012). “3/11 For Foreigners (4): Filipinos stand by their Japanese families.” The Asahi Shimbun. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/life_and_death/AJ201203140001.
Sawaji, Osamu. (2012). “Radio Mutual Assistance” in “Highlighting Japan: Rising from Adversity Tohoku, One year on,” page 16. Public Relations Office, Government of Japan.