The Japanese-Filipino Youth Educational Program is transformative in as much as it offers opportunities for discoveries, learning and friendship through various activities like workshops, camps, exposures, field trips and study tour in the Philippines. The program has been running for a total of 14 years.
The Japanese-Filipino Youth Educational Program is a parish-based program that aims to transform the lives of the youth. Although established and managed by a Religious of the Assumption, it is not connected with any of the Assumption Schools in the Philippines or Japan. It was a project of Assumption Tokyo (when the RA were still in Tokyo) and the Augustinian Fathers who directed and managed Kasai Catholic Church (a parish in Tokyo) where Sr.Remedios Locsin r.a. worked for 16 years. The two Religious of the Assumption Sisters involved in this program were Sr. Remedios Locsin and Sr Francis Keiko Miyamoto, the present provincial of the Japan Province. The program continues to flourish as it is now managed by the Japanese-Filipino Youth.
Currently, the over-all coordinator of the program is Sr. Remedios Locsin r.a. and assisting her is Celine Santillan, who is an alumna of the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption – Philippines. Both designed and facilitated the orientation and training and post – tour group sessions, managed the preparations and the conduct of the actual study tour.
“Bloom where you are planted” – Saint Eugenie Milleret said. But, what if one is unsure of his/her roots ? What if some “roots” are missing ?
This is the reality of some young people who are Filipino – Japanese – or as they are called DOUBLES, have to face. Born to Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers but because of certain situations, their parents did not stay together, through the years lost contact and they grew up not knowing their fathers. Not knowing their Japanese culture. Not knowing half of their identity. Feeling they didn’t know themselves fully. They would say “half Filipino and half Japanese”.
In 2013, 5 young Japanese-Filipino, were again given the opportunity to participate in the study tour and visit Japan. They visited places like Hiroshima, Koyasan, Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and home-stayed with Japanese-Filipino families. They also had an afternoon to interact with other Japanese-Filipinos and realized they undergo the same challenges like bullying, being mis-understood, learning to blend two cultures.
The participants of the study tour were invited by Batis Women’s Center and Sr Remedios Locsin. [Batis is a non-profit organization that provides support to women migrant workers and their children.]
Prior to the trip, 4 preparatory meetings were conducted. These focused on Japanese and Filipino history and culture. Right before the trip, the participants joined an afternoon recollection with CLAY (Commission of the Laity) Facilitator Lirio Mapa. The recollection focused on the GIFTS they had received from God, that the trip itself was a gift and more essential that they themselves, their being Japanese and Filipino is a gift.
The study tour included visits to places such as Hiroshima, Koyasan, Kyoto, Tokyo, a home stay with Japanese-Filipino families, and visit to Assumption Primary School in Osaka. During the trip, on three occasions the group was gathered to reflect on the day’s activities, share their learning, express their feelings and pray together.
On their visit to Hiroshima
“I can’t help but think that the generation before me ; my father’s family suffered and endured the wrath of the bomb. It makes me sad but also proud to see how the people here have over-come the effects of the war. “
On the visit to Koyasan
“It was beautiful. I could not imagine how they built the town thousands of years ago without the cable car. The commitment and perseverance the people had ; they must have been very dedicated to their beliefs.”
Part of the trip’s agenda was to try to have participants meet their fathers. The three boys were able to meet their fathers.
About meeting their fathers
- Tomu : My happiest moment was when I met my father – although brief, I was happy to meet him and hopeful that it is only the beginning of our relationship. I was a bit sad to know that my mother was the reason for the separation but now, I know I can strive to see and even, be with my father.
- Joji : In a way, so much has changed – and also nothing has changed. My life is the same, my work, my friends BUT now I know my father – that has changed me. It feels so good to know I have a family – I am so lucky to know my father, and met my cousin and grandmother ! I never even dared to dream about this before but now – we are a family. I can’t imagine that they even said they would come to my wedding, when and if I do get married. I am overwhelmed that my family there would keep photos of me -it looked so well preserved !
- Mark : Meeting my father changed in me : With conviction, I say : I will strive hard to go to Japan, I will change my ways and think of my future. I feel so blessed that I had this opportunity and because of it, I can make something of my life, of myself.
The group also shared that they observed that what was common among them was that family was of great importance. They saw this and felt it – that they needed a family. There was a certain desire to be with family.
Four weeks after the group arrived back in the Philippines, it converged to meet for a de-briefing.
Mark said : “After the trip, I realized I had wasted 2 years and didn’t study well but now I want to finish my schooling and I know I have to do well so that I can take more opportunities as they come my way. Now that I met my father I know it is possible to go to work and live in Japan. But even without that, I saw that other Japanese-Filipino like me, even if they don’t have much, they strive hard and do well – I want to try to be like that too.”
In the end…
Their thoughts and feelings went from a state of feeling like they were only ‘half’ [half Japanese and half Filipino] to being able to embrace their double identity - and basking in the thought that this is quite a unique gift.
They were reminded of the core values, (Filipino) hospitality, (Japanese) harmony and how both can bring about peace. They realized how true their recollection’s message was - they are a gift ! Their life is a gift, and like Jesus, this gift can and should radiate – and make the world a better place !
What a transformation !
St. Marie Eugenie would probably say … “take root in Jesus Christ and you will blossom anywhere” !
By : Celine Santillan