Sunday, December 21, 2014

Neriza Sarmiento Saito

ON THE ROAD TO: Recapitulating On a Year
Filled with Amazing Moments!

Nov - Dec 2014

Someone said that "When you have confidence, you can have fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” Perhaps 2014, the year of the horse, enabled me to gallop through places and events which were meant to give me back the confidence in myself that I lost a few years ago. 

I spent New Year with my family in Australia. In keeping with traditions that my late father instilled on us, we cooked our usual New Year "handa" complete with "queso de bola," "hamon" and hung 12 grapes by the window for another year of blessings. More than the abundance of food, what matters most, at that time, was the togetherness of family. We chatted and laughed at episodes when we were kids growing up in the Philippines and how we miss our late father and brother. If they were alive, our joy would have been complete.
I came back to Japan feeling refreshed after that brief New Year holiday. On the first day of work in January, I thought that I went to a different classroom! The doors were locked and the room was dark! Bad joke! But suddenly the door opened and my students were all inside singing "Happy Birthday!" Totally unexpected, the surprise birthday presentation brightened my day!

Then I remembered how happy I was as a child every time my parents prepare food for my birthday! It boosted my self-esteem! Of course, I had fun but more than the students felt a warm bond with me.  Of all winters, this year was perhaps one of my warmest ever.

Spring came. My sister's wedding brought our family together again. She was radiant, like the budding flowers of spring, her husband so gallant like an English knight. The Taylors taught me many things about relationships. Being frank about your feelings isn't bad at all. 
Being considerate to your partner is telling the truth even if it hurts sometimes. Above all, love is never possessive, for the more you give freedom to your partner, the more it enhances the other. 

Before the onset of summer, I got another inspiration from a group of educators from SIETAR (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research) Kansai. For their annual field trip in May, they visited the St. Mary's Cathedral in Tamatsukuri and talked with officers and members of the Sama-Sama Commumity headed by Mr. Jun Silva. Their enthusiasm and interest in the activities of the Filipino Community in Kansai affirmed my belief that the next generation of Japanese Filipino children should be proud of their heritage. Considering the historical and spiritual significance of the church in the life of Filipino migrants all over the world, church based communities have a greater role of encouraging their members to plan events that will bring people together for Intercultural exchange. Moreover, collaboration with educators who are interested in diverse communities can pave way for activities that will promote the well-being of immigrants. 
The people behind SIETAR are Miho Yoshioka of Momoyama Gakuin University, Donna Fujimoto of Osaka Jogakuin, Lisa Rogers of Kwansei Gakuin and Jeff Berglund of Kyoto University of Foreign Studies who is also a well known TV personality and concurrently appointed goodwill ambassador of Kyoto City. Because of them, I gained more confidence to continue working for the improvement of the lives of Filipinos in Japan in my capacity as a member of the Human Rights Advisory Panel of the Osaka Prefectural Government. 

In autumn, two of my best friends retired: Dr. Lilia F. Antonio and Ms. Lorelei Cruz. Both were born on the same year of the ox: strong and powerful women never giving up and real achievers. They are both very religious women, early risers, regular church goers. They taught me how to persevere, how to appreciate little things in life and to value true friendship! From time to time they send excerpts from poems to inspire me:

From Lilia: "So I trust in God for leading each moment of my day.” 

From Lorly: (a message to her children) “When you look back and I am but a memory, I pray that you always remember that you were, are and always will be deeply loved by me.”

A time to "let it go" happens to anyone. We saw Lorly off at the airport filled with sadness. On the other hand, the new start in her life could bring in something positive. 

At the 2014 International Day at St. Mary's Cathedral last October 19 organized by the different Roman Catholic parishes in Osaka and the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan, Diocese of Kobe, some of the most applauded numbers were the band of the Matsuura brothers led by Bishop Goro Matsuura and the song "I am but a small voice" directed by Marian Chico. I felt very happy serving as emcee! I have never felt so confident like that before I felt more at ease with myself and realized I was having fun, too! At the end of the program, Bishop Matsuura and Fr. Murata led in the singing of "We are the World.” It was touching!
Our families give us the confidence to go out and have fun with friends while it is God who can only help us do amazing things! 


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