Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Neriza Sarmiento Saito


January-February 2014

I was born on the feast of the Nazarene, that is why my name is spelled with a Z. Every year, on the eve of my birthday, my father and I would stay at his brother's house in Manila and would wake up at 3:00 am the next day to join thousands of devotees in Quiapo Church to pay homage to the miraculous "Hesus Nazareno." All I could remember as a little girl were the strong smell of incense and candles and the long line of women clad in dark purple clothes kneeling their way up to the altar. After the mass, we would walk along the narrow street towards Avenida Rizal where the delectable aroma of freshly baked pandesal and hopia fills the early morning air.

My father loved to bring me to Carvajal Restaurant  in  Chinatown every year on my birthday. There, he would order steaming hot noodles, siomai and siopao. The climax of this yearly  birthday treat was a ride in a calesa to go to another store to buy fresh lumpia at Globe as pasalubong to my mother, brothers and sisters.

The sound of galloping horses way back those years are still vivid on my mind. Oh yes, 2014 is the Year of the Horse which is a gentle and loyal animal, silently reacting to spectators at races, or silently suffering from trauma and disease as depicted in a documentary "Matsuri no Uma" or the contaminated horses of Fukushima.

After typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, there was  an outpouring of generosity from all over the world. Japan was one of the earliest countries to respond providing aid and rescue work and rehabilitation, NGO, NPO groups, government offices, schools, universities and private individuals including a little boy who gave his meager savings inside a bottle. The Philippine Community Coordinaitng Council in Kansai organized a symbolic candle lighting charity event to encourage survivors to move on.

Students majoring in Philippine Studies at Osaka University in Minoo presented an original play last Nov. 16. At the curtain call, lead stars Maria Yagashiro and Keigo Teraji said that inspite of the short time for preparations, they succeeded in putting it up. Finally they made an appeal to the audience to pray for the typhoon victims in the Philippines.

These young Japanese students are not the typical inward looking ones who choose to stay in the comfort of their own country. They are the outward looking types who are prepared to meet challenges in the global world because they think of themselves as citizens of the world.

Maria is from Nara. Keigo is from Aichi. Megumi Fukuhara is from Tokushima. Ayumi Ohashi is from Izumi-otsu. Maho Kamiya is from Gifu. Arisa Okazaki is from Osaka. Minako Kishino is from Shiga. Yohei Mikami is from Osaka. Mayumi Murakami is from Hyogo. Reina Ochika is from Osaka. Mamiko Setou is from Hyogo. Saki  Matsuura and Shuntaro Matsumoto are from Osaka.
Maria has a striking resemblance to announcer Kristel Takigawa who pronounced Omotenashi, one of this year's top buzzwords, in a slow drawl during the Olympic bid. I gave her the nickname Magdalena in the Filipino class. She struck me as someone very unique and artistic not only because of her cross cultural background but because she is indeed interested in the arts. Instead of going to an art school, she decided to enroll in Osaka University so that she can gain fundamental knowledge of languages and pursue further studies abroad in the future.
It was Maria who volunteered to write the original script when all other members of the class thought it was impossible to put up a play in a month's time. In a few days, she came up with a love story between a Filipina and a Japanese.
Her classmates became enthusiastic and, one by one, they offered their expertise. Keigo Teraji or Carlos, who lived for some years in the U.S. where his father worked, translated the script in English. He decided to study Filipino because he thinks that there are a lot of similarities between Japan and the Philippines being island countries and thus prone to natural disasters. Since he wanted to become a bridge between the Philippines and Japan, he is contemplating on becoming a diplomat.
He played the role of Maria's fiancé where he felt so embarrassed at first but after several days rehearsing he felt more relaxed and now considers the play as the best memory of his university life!
Mayumi Murakami or Melody also translated the script into English and Filipino. Although she could not join the actual play, her good command of English and quick translation techniques were beneficial to the success of the project. She belonged to a student volunteer group that also raised funds for the typhoon victims in the Philippines.
The initial stages of production were organized by Saki Matsuura (Sherry) and Mamiko Seto (Lily) who were in charge of technical effects and music. They coordinated with the staff of Toyonaka campus. Although they were hesitant to do the work at first, the day to day rehearsals and team work made them feel a strong bond among the members of the class. Lily strongly recommends the next batch of students to do Gogeki!

Arisa Okazaki (Ailyn) and Reina Ochika are always cheerful and dependable. As sisters in the play, they did not only have to memorize lines in Filipino but they also had to do Jack en Poy, hale hale hoy and it was really hard to act like kids onstage. Doing dual roles also was challenging according to Reina.

Maho Kamiya (Maribel) was also one of the sisters and also as Maria's friend at the party. When she could not decide which Asian language she wants to major in, she thought destiny helped her decide when she saw banana and mango at a supermarket.

Jasmine is the nickname for Ayumi Ohashi who played the role of mother while Yohei Mikami who I fondly call Pacquiao  is the father. Ayumi studied English in Cebu when she was 14 and she was shocked at the big gap between these two countries that is why she decided to study Filipino. Her role in the play gave her a chance to improve her Filipino and can now understand the words that she can read only in the textbook .

Pacquiao, on the other hand, is not only a boxing enthusiast, he is also a good singer and he was in the Philippines three times and plans to study there next year.

Minako Kishino is a doctor by profession but takes time for a while to study Filipino because she is planning to bring her family there sometime. She played the role of a sick grandmother and inspite of her short cameo role, she did it with passion and she made her own props like a blood tainted handkerchief. She was a real trouper.

Megumi Fukuhara, whose nickname is Angela, is really an angel in the production. Whenever I need to inform the class about something by e-mail, Angela gets it done quickly. She was the narrator in the play and her soothing yet powerful voice gives the production a professional touch. Inspite of that, she humbly says that her pronunciation is bad although I always say to her she sounds like a native speaker. When she met Filipinos like when she interviewed the Ateneo Basketball Team and when she attended the Light for Life concert, she looked so happy talking with them. She knows very well that Southeast Asian countries are on the track to economic prosperity so she hopes to work in the Philippines someday.

When the play was staged last Nov. 16, Maria captured the audience's hearts with her superb performance inspite of the fact that she had to direct and act at the same time. Barely three weeks of preparation, they had a great production complete with subtitles prepared by Benito or Shuntaro Matsumoto, who worked long hours to get the Japanese subtitles in time for the performance.

Well, they are the younger generations of Japanese seeking career opportunities in the Philippines and they are more outward looking than ever. Let us give them a Philippine style O-MO-TE-NA-SHI! Happy Galloping New Year in the Year of the HORSE!!

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