Oita Rising: An Interview with Rhodora Yoshitake
I get the chance to travel around Japan and meet different Filipino leaders in their respective communities. I see a few good ones but one Pinay leader shines the most! She comes from Oita prefecture in the island of Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan. Her name is Rhodora Yoshitake. She would like to be referred simply as Dang.
It has been almost half a decade when I first got the chance to meet her. She actually gave me a call one afternoon inviting me to attend their annual festivities of the Oita-Philippines Friendship Association, a group she founded and organized. Since I was committed to host another Filipino event in Nagoya during that time, I had to decline so it was a year later when, after arranging my schedule, that I finally got the chance to meet her in person.
Watching her work, I saw how a good leader she is to her fellow Filipinos in Oita and neighboring prefectures. There is a positive factor on how she leads her members. She is intelligent, dynamic and most of all, she has a good sense of humor. I admire her competence of the Japanese language, a skill which most Filipinos in Japan lack but an aptitude she holds mastery of. How I wish that more Filipinos living in Japan study Japanese language seriously. If more Filipinos are like Dang, I believe we will have less problems.
Her leadership doesn’t only encompass Oita but the other surrounding prefectures of Kyushu, as well. It is so heart warming to see Filipinos travel from all around Kyushu to grace their event. Very few Filipinos have this sanguine disposition to gather all these Filipinos from afar. But she does it every time.
Recently, she was awarded the “Woman of Distinction” by the International Soroptimist Oita for her outstanding contribution in the social and economic development of the Filipinos in the Philippines. It’s an award well deserved.
Jeepney Press is proud to present Ms. Rhodora Yoshitake on its centerfold this autumn, an article interview long overdue because of her tight schedule.
Where are you from the Philippines?
I was born and raised in Quezon City.
Tell us about yourself growing up.
I am actually an only child in the family so my parents were so protective of me. I remember I used to play around Claret Church when I was small. But I consider myself an average child.
How about in school?
I think I was a good student. I study hard during weekdays but “lamierda rin ako” during weekends like everyone else. I was permitted to go to the discos on Saturdays with my friends and cousins but with my parents sending us off and picking us up afterwards.
What did you study in college?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies at the University of Santo Thomas.
Did you learn Japanese in college?
Yes! During my time, we had units in Nippongo. This is why I am already fluent in Japanese before I came here. Swerte talaga!
And how did you go to Japan the first time?
After college, I was able to work for a Japanese company in Manila. After working for a year, my Japanese boss and his wife convinced me to work in Japan for a while to develop my skills more.
So where in Japan did you go to and what did you do?
I was referred to my boss’ friend’s school in Oita where I taught English to adults. I was never really planning to stay long in Japan as I was planning to go back to my work in Manila. It was never a part of my dream to live in Japan, let alone marry a Japanese.
So what happened?
One of my students in school, a very nice lady, introduced me to her son who became a good friend and then, my husband! Never have I known that my student would also become my mother-in-law.
What do you do now?
My husband and I own a construction company and with God’s blessings, we have been doing well so far. I consider myself a workaholic. Aside from being the vice-president of our company, I also work as a registered interpreter for the Oita Lawyer’s Association, Oita Prosecutor’s Office and the Oita Regional Trial Court. I also work as a consultant for Filipinos in Oita International Plaza and I teach Social Studies in some schools.
Wow! That’s a lot of work.
And don’t forget, I am also a full time mother to my 3 children!
How are you able to do all that?
I always put God in the center of whatever I am doing. And with a supportive husband and loving children, I just take one work at a time so hindi nagkaka patung-patong. Maybe, just scheduling things and delegating tasks to different people help. And most of all, I try to love whatever I do so this, in itself, makes a big difference already!
You also founded Oita-Philippines Friendship Association.
Yes. Since I am grateful to God for all His blessings to my life, I wanted to give back and help my less fortunate countrymen back home.
Can you tell us more about your group?
It is our group’s objective to help people in times of crisis especially Filipinos who are victims of domestic violence. We try to provide them shelter with the help of our local government here in Oita. Some Filipinos also come to us asking for financial help for medical reasons. During the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, we tried our best to send our support. Since Oita is basically a rural, rice producing prefecture, we sent 1,000 kilos of rice during the Great Quake and Tsunami a few years ago to Filipinos who moved temporarily in Tokyo.
In the Philippines, we give cash donations and hold medical missions. We provide work to jobless mothers thru one of our livelihood projects like the “Sewing Machine Program.” We send sewing machines, train people how to create clothes and other products which they can sell.
Other than those things, we also want to help uplift the image of our country by holding Filipino cultural events here in Oita. We do help support the Philippine Tourism in our events in order to bring more Japanese tourists to our country. We show videos of the beautiful Philippines in our events and distribute tourism pamphlets and we manage to bring in10 Japanese every year to come visit the Philippines.
Also, our group is hosting UTAWIT in Oita which is a charity event to help the less fortunate children go to school through Gawad Kalinga. We are actually preparing for it now this coming September 29. And for our Livelihood Project, we will be donating used sewing machines again on December as Christmas gifts to our less fortunate kababayan.
Why did you choose to give sewing machines?
Because this is not a one time gift. It would give them a chance to earn a living for a lifetime!
How is it like leading Filipinos in your group?
I love helping and leading our group. Hindi mo rin maiwasan na meron mga taong may crab mentality. We cannot please everyone but we only need to give our best.
I am so grateful to God for giving me co-officers who are dedicated in what they are doing. I call them my sisters because we’re united in helping people. We always start with a prayer before we start something. And by putting God in the center of the activities, it makes us stronger as a team. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members and supporters for being there always. And from the bottom of my heart I want to thank my co-officers for all the dedication they have namely Barbara Rivera (adviser and my beloved mom), Ruth Yamasaki (Vice President), Carmen Yajima (Secretary), Lea Kawabe (Auditor), Leilani Yano (Treasurer), Jasmine Sakanaka (Public Relations Officer) and Marisol Kudo (Treasurer and Head of the Press Division). Without these people, I will not be able to do what we are doing. And leading a group is easy because of them. Also I’m so grateful with the Oita Prefectural Government and Oita International Plaza because of their full support to our group.
How do you handle the negative people?
We need to have dedication and determination on what needs to be done. Then, focus lang lagi sa positive things and objectives ng grupo para mabuo ang goals natin.
What have you learned being a leader?
Being a leader makes me work hard to earn a living because a leader means leader ka rin sa mga expenses that will come along the way.
Tell us more about the Filipinos in Oita.
Ang mga kababayan natin dito sa Oita, they are very warm and supportive when it comes to Filipino events and doing shows to benefit the needy.
What do you think are the biggest problems affecting Filipinos in Japan?
“Inggit sa kapwa” and “crab mentality” kaya hindi umaasenso ang iba.
And what is your advice?
Work hard and pray hard. And always keep in mind that the success of other Pinoys is our success also. We should be proud of each other and help each other achieve our goals. The more successful Pinoys there are in Japan, the better image will the Japanese have on us Filipinos.
What are the good things you admire among the Japanese?
Their being so disciplined in almost everything in their life.
What do you think we Filipinos can do to uplift the image of the Filipinos in Japan?
Let’s be prim and proper wherever we go and let’s abide by the rules and regulations always.