THE GLITTER AND GLORY OF GINANG KALAYAAN
with JOY YOSHITOMI
I often associate Spring with the words "Usbong" which means sprouts or young leaves of trees. The buds of plum trees are called the harbinger of Spring. It is a popular theme used by haiku poets to herald the coming of Spring. When the buds blossom into flowers, all other plants and trees follow with the pink cherry blossoms
spreading its flowers like a pink carpet across the sky!
I also chose the words "TUTUBO" and "LALAGO" in the March program of From Overseas Philippines in FM Cocolo. These two words not only sound rhythmical for the Japanese but it connotes a sense of productivity for it means to grow for plants or it can also mean to gain profit or achieve something.
The "Sakura" tree of Japan fascinates me for its resiliency. After a long time enduring the cold winter season, year after year, it blooms without fail in spring. Although my best friend Lilia-sensei
considers herself a late bloomer when she started writing poetry and short stories and essays, many of her writer-colleagues think that she is one writer who can weave words so creatively to produce those award-winning poetry.
My brother, Louie, loved to climb our Siniguelas and mango trees. He loved adventure and was not afraid of anything even the spankings he would get for disobeying our parents. From an early age, he knew what he wanted. He studied and worked hard to reach his goal. From a bud, he grew into a tall tree, became an expert on his field and was later awarded in 2012 as the
Philippines' Top 40 professionals in the Mining Industry. I was not like him. I was like the cherry tree a seasonal achiever. In the many winters and springs of my life, I published a few books, produced and directed some plays, appeared in some TV and radio programs and documentaries. And one of my greatest satisfactions so far is writing for this column because this has given me the confidence to introduce interesting Pinoys in Japan and some Japanese who are interested in the Philippines. No matter how simple each life story is, it is unique and special.
One such person who has blossomed through these years is the current chairperson of the Philippine Community Coordinating Council, Ms. Joy Yoshitomi. During the Dec.12th visit of President Benigno Aquino Jr. in Tokyo, Joy received a warm applause from the audience when she uttered the words "Nandemo Dekiru" (Anything is possible to do) when she referred to how the typhoon victims in Tacloban can rebuild their lives. On Dec.15th, the PCCC held a touching "Light for Life" event, where candles were lit for a few minutes in memory of those who perished and give hope to the survivors.
Filipino community members performed song and dance numbers inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in Tamatsukuri. The Archdiocese of Osaka, the Philcongen, DOT and DTI and all other member communities of PCCC especially the Samasama Community supported this project. From sales of candles and donations from individuals including a young boy who gave a bottle full of coins that he saved, a couple travelling from New York who just happened to pass by, Ms. Noriko Nakagawa - a professor from Ryutsu Kagaku University who I met at a seminar, some friends like Belinda Lorly, Roberta Beth and Junko Matsumura, students and teachers from Meitoku Yotchien, Life Co, Ltd., Deguchi Co. Ltd, Mr. Eiichi Sajiki, Elizabeth and Miniru Fukada, Jane Shibatani, Brillante Family, Yoriko Hayashi, Nobuko Uodomo, KMC Service and the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Japan. PCCC raised ¥181,891. Kindergarten students from Abeno Catholic Church painted the cups holding the candles. Such gestures of support are indeed what Joy meant by Nandemo Dekiru. "Anything is possible if we have determination.”
Joy studied at La Consolacion Colllege in Manila, got married in Japan and is blessed with two boys. She established a group of women in Abeno and then joined the PCEC in 1998. She was mainly in-charge of the Ginang Kalayaan Pageant that began in 1998 with Ms. Kalayaan. The following year it was suggested that Filipino housewives must be given a chance to prove their vital role in society by empowering them not only with beauty but also with virtues of being a loving, dutiful and compassionate wife and mother. Many joined the contest from as far as Saitama, Nagoya, and Tokyo. The first Ginang Kalayaan 1999 was Ms. Maricel
Suzuki, a tourism graduate from Nara.
In the millennium year, more than 20 contestants joined and the contest had become even more competitive with entries getting prettier and wittier. The contestants had to go through tough screenings for the talent portion and tricky questions from the board of judges composed of professors, doctors, businessmen and artists.
Ms. Liberty Puno Suzuki was proclaimed Ginang Kalayaan 2000. Meanwhile, Libye represented the Kitano Filipino Community. In the succeeding years, Joy had to take a leave from PCCC to take care of her family. Henry Tabao and Noemi Itsukage took over. The last Ginang was held at the Ritto Center for the Arts in Shiga in cooperation with the Filipino Community in Shiga represented by Delia Nakashima and Ms. Liza Kumai.
But the seed that Joy planted did not stop growing. After almost 10 years in hibernation, its buds are coming out. As the current chairperson of PCCC, Joy is determined to revive this project that she started. With renewed energy and vision for a more prominent position of women in society, Ginang Kalayaan will be an event to look forward to on June 8th. Those who are interested to join may inquire from any Filipino community in your area.