how i combat the anxiety of being a commuter in the philippines

it has been more than a year since i returned to the philippines and yet i’m still not used to my life as a commuter here.

everyday i have to mentally and physically prepare myself for the sluggish traffic, faulty train lines, and unsafe cab and bus rides.

my daily experience as a commuter has not sedated me to the routine.

to overcome the anxiety brought by commuting, i found that having something to look forward to helps.

and one thing that really excites me is staring at the sky as the sun rises and sets.

here are some photos i took.

LRT sunrise

Trinoma sunset

MRT sunset

Blue sky

Purple sky


Pink and purple


Rants of a heretic #456, #552

during a recent typhoon in the philippines, one meme caught my attention and reminded me of a similar incident a while back.

a few years ago, i attended an international conference on japanese-filipino children concerns. during which, one of the presentations attempted to delve into the difference of the japanese and filipino culture. the speaker for the said presentation used garbage disposal as a sample to explain cultural differences (i.e. how the japanese have discipline with their segregation system as opposed to unruly filipinos who just throw their garbage anywhere).

this reminded me of a gramci’s concept of hegemony where institutions establish the dominance of a social order by inducing consent. this extends to embodying the idea of the superiority of one race over the other through justifications that uses measures such as discipline, being law abiding, etc.

but i refuse to be a casualty of such thinking.

i am not a big fan nor am i invested in the activity of branding who is the lesser being/race by use of hegemony-endorsed criteria such as self-discipline. nor am i interested in the act of appropriating values as something characteristic or isolated within a race to validate its superiority.

in the case of the photo below i resent the use of the rhetoric that the problem of flooding is solely attributable to the individual, a matter of self-discipline, in terms of waste disposal, as characterized by that of developed countries. this problem of flooding goes way beyond individual discipline. it is a problem deeply rooted in the system.

p.s. how callous of this fb page to use the photo of one of the staunchest advocate on the rights of women specially those in the urban poor sector.

yeah right, because it is easier to blame the urban poor and not the system.


i talked to various adults in the past days. but, one conversation i had i cannot forget.

a few years ago, i had an encounter with someone who claimed that those who are protesting against the nuclear plants in japan are fueled by fear and misinformation. and in a rehashed version of that statement i met an adult who infered that people involved in activism might be dealing with some personal unresolved issues (i.e. a child having parent issues) which they negotiate through activism.

i have dealt with similar claims even during college, when i was formally introduced to activism. i have met many anti-protesters and adults who see activism as a sort of escape committed by activists to come to terms with their own personal demons like seeing state authority as interpretative of the encounters they had with their parents as authoritative figures. and that they are indoctrinated by a dogma that blindly interprets the world as black and white.

i think about the many martyrs and how they must roll in their graves that their deaths are seen as a mere product of unresolved personal issues. that perhaps i too am a rational fool who begs the question of “why do it if it is not in my personal interest?”

and i thought the years of the hypodermic needle theory thinking was already passe. apparently the audience are still mindless zombies.

Mission Unimpossible

I went out last weekend to finish some errands and accomplish left-over work (yes, I work on my days off too hurray!). It was my usual weekend so I expected everything to be smooth and ordinary but it turned out to be an amazing day. Or maybe it was just me overreacting to the sight of the sun after the monotonous week of staring at the computer screen, white walls and overhead lighting.

Mission 1:

Pay the price to salvation a.k.a tiket pauwing Pinas

I was able to make it in time at Ginza to pay for my plane tickets, after which I got so hungry and decided to stop over a ramen shop near the travel agency. I saw the shop’s specialties and it had me with its Machine Gun Ramen.

"You had me at machine gun."

Finally! Something that could revive my ability to perspire amidst the crisp cold air of autumn.  As I sat at the counter I was both scared and excited of its arrival on my table for it has been a long time since I ate spicy ramen.

At last it came, the machine gun, the ramen that would heat up my palette like a thousand bullets of spices aimed at my defenseless taste buds.

Ma-shin-gan ramen (Machine gun ramen)

The first bite. As I chew I tasted the beef, the sauce, the garlic it was awesome! But then I relized that I still have the gift of taste! The ramen fell short of its name, not even a drop of sweat fell. It was like savory but bland life itself.

What I was rooting for was the supernatural encounter. A gastronomic experience where I can say that I had faced the gates of chili hell and survived.

The last time I had ramen that made me weep, was in Shibuya. It was an emotional experience.  It was what spice was supposed to be, utter numbness coupled with perspiration and snot. The kind of snot that could make the Weasley twins’ Skiving snackboxes amateurish for this one doesn’t end in the digestion process.

It haunts you again on the post-digestion stage.

So as I finished eating real-life-in-a-bowl, I went out to my next mission.

Mission 2:

Buy an N2 Nihongo exam reviewer and have a decent hair cut

Buy Books.

Mission 2 was easy I just have to buy a book in preparation for my N2 exam and then head to the salon for a decent hair cut. But as I am adept in the art of getting lost, I walked for about 15 minutes inside Shinjuku station without finding the exit. I got so frustrated that I was almost tempted to wear my shirt inside out. (*A Filipino belief where if you can’t reach your destination and kept on going around in circles then a supernatural being, like a dwarf, must be playing tricks on you. In which the antidote is to wear your clothes inside out.)

Here is the destination (Oh! those buildings, so near yet so far away.)

So near yet so far away.

So after a while, I decided to just march on and get into every turn and to just trust my instinct. But each turn just got me deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast that is the Shinjuku west exit.

Until finally, salvation!  A shagri-la for bibliophiles! I found this great bargain shop for books and Japanese block paintings deep inside Shinjuku west exit. I fell in love with the sight that I wanted to hug the sales people. But wait, it gets better! They got English booooooooooooks! Holy Salvation! The book sale was called: “古書まつり” which I believe loosely translates into “Festival of Old Books.” It occurs twice a year in June and in November.







































I got these books!

A book on famous Japanese painter Taro Okamoto

Asu no Shinwa or Myth of tomorrow painting installed at the Shibuya station.

Life Magazine's Faces

What's inside Time Magazine's Faces

I am not an architect but this caught my fancy.

Cool! Floor plans!

Interior and architecture.

Photo book on Euskaleria

What's inside























I also wanted to buy this one but it costs  21,000 in Yen! I completely forgot about the salon trip. Seriously, I don’t care if I have frizzy hair until the next payday as long as I have boooooooooks!

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

I also learned a new word, amekome=american comics. Katakana and foreign words are really difficult. Seriously, I thought Kanji will be trouble but on the contrary, it’s the adopted foreign words. Here are other foreign words I learned:

  1. shi-chikin (Sea Chiken aka Tuna)
  2. ka-re (Curry)
  3. mi-su (mistake)
  4. kone (connection aka networks aka social capital)
  5. Nyu-ha-fu (New half (?) or Transgendered males)

P.S. Ang ikatlong mag-comment sa wordpress ko (na nakatira within NCR) will have the book below.

Lenin's collected works. Sorry medyo gutay ang cover! :p

And for the fifth to comment, this book on Hayao Miyazaki can be yours!

Book on Ghibli animations.

What's inside. 😀

A not-so-ordinary Day (a.k.a How I realized my dream to be an action star!)

Today was almost the same as every other day.

I woke up at 6:30 to the sound of my alarm clock. Its rhythm was that of a cricket’s. I turned it off and spent the next 15 minutes staring blankly at the ceiling. My body was taking time to adjust, it thinks it is Sunday so there is no need to rush things. But I have to, I have work.

I stood up, went downstairs to brush my teeth and shower and went to my daily morning routine of checking mails. At 8:00am sharp it is time to leave for work. I went out and the sky was gray from the rain. It felt like every other day, nothing special.

I went out with 3 bags on hand. One, a plastic bag to be delivered to my friend’s boyfriend later in the evening, another one my laptop bag to plan my articles for the next 3 months and organize my life and the third my office bag. It was 8:10 as I was walking towards the garbage can in our street to sneak in 6 bottles of drinks that have been in my room for a week (I wasn’t able to take it out on recyclable trash day). Everything was the same.

I remembered that I have some appointments to plan so I rummaged for the phone in my pocket but the only thing there were three 10yen coins. It was 8:20 when I went back home, got my phone and left again. I can still make it in time for work. No worries.

I got on the 8:30 train which 20 minutes of travel means I will reach Shibuya by 8:50. I am a fast runner after all. I can still make it at work by 9:00. So when the doors opened at my stop. I joined the race with everyone towards the exit. It was 8:54.

Today was like any other day with Tokyoites rushing around to get to their destination. I guess it is still too early, for the usually crowded streets of Shibuya are almost empty. Some shops that come to life at night are still asleep.

I was nearing the bridge already in which on the other side lies our office building. 8:55, as I was running towards the bridge someone blocked my path. It was a group of young people. I assume they think it is fun to randomly stop people rushing for work.

8:56 my instinct told me to go and run past them. So I did and got through the one whose arm was wide open trying to block my way. They said something in Japanese that I chose to ignore and then they laughed. I turned my head staring at them and in a thinking-out-loud manner said “@#$holes!” and went back on my way.

9:04 I arrived at work late, disgruntled and no longer eligible to my perfect time bonus. But as I was punching my time-in card I realized how dangerous it could have been if they heard my “@#$holes!” commentary. I guess I should have taken the self-defense P.E. in college. A 5 versus my lonesome self match will not look good especially if the only move I know is the poke-in-the-eye-then-run.

Maybe I should put “live the life of an action star for a day” in my bucket list, yes? I love Hit Girl, anyway. *beaming smile*

So here are some tutorials on becoming a Pinoy action star:

This one is on the basics like having astig na clothes, astig na hair at astig na lines! Sayang naunahan na ako sa “Saging lang ang may puso!”

For a more intricate tutorial check this one by Youtube sensation Ashleyslips:

But if I am going to be  action star for a day, I want to get it on big time with the explosions and everything. And try the cool-guys/gals-don’t-look-at-explosions move. But first, must buy that quintessential black leather jacket.

repeat after me: gyu-nyu

let me begin this post with words that have brought me a surge of endorphins.

“respect is not given, it is earned.”

do you know the feeling when you had a dream, one that you had years ago, and then it sort of happens in real life? like deja vu, but the good kind. like the spirit returning to the body after astral projection? this is how i feel with the phrase above.

originally, this post is supposed to be titled “knowing” an entry i made but never did finish more than a month ago. it was a post made in the midst of disillusionment mixed with cupfuls of depression resulting to a very confused me. my introductory post was supposed to start like:

i have read somewhere that depression is only for people who do not fully understand the roots of their misery. i can’t remember the exact words and who said these words but it resonated in me. the past days i have been riddled by questions and unidentifiable emotions. i have felt misery and repression though it hasn’t really manifested its true form in me.
maybe that what makes it dangerous.

you know that it is there existing.

you feel it but you can’t see it.

this makes you unaware of its existence. you tend to shrug it off as the natural state of things.

so there. that was how i felt. this was a post i made after i half-heartedly declared that ignorance is bliss. i was wrong and i regret that i even surrendered to such a notion. ignorance will never be bliss, what it does is only to put me in a state of denial, passivity and silence. it was ignorance that made me blind to the things that matter and blurred down my surroundings that what i see is only an illusion. ignorance allowed me to look but not to see. it was ignorance that demanded for respect undeserved. and so i say again, i was wrong.

and so with that, let me go back to what i really want to speak about in this post… which is milk. this morning as i was sitting in a cafe, of course drinking coffee while trying to catch up with my readings, i decided that i would love to have some milk. i first contemplated whether this is a restaurant where you can ask for milk or you have to do self-service. (one of the things that always challenges me in japan.) so i stood up and did two rounds around the counter to find the little milk packets. but to no avail. so i just returned to my sit and stared at my disappointed cup. the 店員 or tenin (waitress) who seem to have noticed my baffled expression came to my table and asked what it is i am looking for. so i happily said:

はい、 牛乳 (gyunyu) お願いします. (Yes, can I have milk please).

but she just met my request with confused eyes and pursed lips and asked me to repeat what i said. so i did, and the second time i added the japanized version of the word which is ミルク or miruku (milk). still to no avail. so in the end i said that it’s okay and there is nothing in particular that i want supplemented by a charade-like gesturing of the equivalent of “no, thanks.”

while the waitress walked away i noticed the people sitting on the table next to me looking at the spectacle and offered smirks instead of a much needed helping hand. i was wondering if it was my 発音 or hatsuon (pronunciation) so i asked a japanese friend to check my pronunciation where the verdict was that it was just fine.

i don’t know what but i usually experience such things and often suffer being misunderstood. in some way i relate to the man from the garage in this comedy sketch (see from 4:06). you know, you speak the same language in a grammatical arrangement that is commonly used everyday but still they don’t understand you.

i am the garage man who had the bitter-and-milkless-coffee. let me, for lack of a better term call this the gyunyu paradigm which is the moment where you try to communicate but as you are tainted with foreignness (appearance, accent, wrong grammar in the beginning of the conversation, etc.) you are found to be difficult to be understood.

however, what is unique with this paradigm is that you are already equipped with basic communication skills to put your point across. but there is seemingly a conspiracy in their subconscious to block comprehension of what your foreignness is trying to put across. maybe a prejudice that affects their subconscious seeing as you might not or aren’t capable to understand.

so i wonder, if i were to conduct an experiment involving a drunk japanese guy with marbled speech and a foreigner with an accent who can be better understood by the opposite party (in terms of language), who will have the milk?

sorely missed

it has been a while since i wrote here and i find it difficult to compress everything i experienced for the past weeks.  this entry was supposed to be an academic entry, an entry explaining my predicaments in a foreign country from the exactness of theories. it’s weird how i find comfort from words, reading has helped me find refuge, a breathing space from all the overwhelming realizations. it has been a buffer for all the cultural stimuli i have been receiving.

but this entry will not be about that. i wasn’t able to catch up with my readings the past days (partly because this country is very efficient in taking time away from people that what little time i have left i’d rather spend sleeping and catching up with people who make me happy).

this entry, will be about things i felt, about reflections. i remember how someone told me off about blogging how i felt. i think people find that writing about emotions can be baseless and reckless. but i believe that it is very important. especially, if you want a venue to shout. and in japan that is just what i want to do.

this country is  country of rules. some i find admirable and some is just plain odd. just to clear things off, i have no problem in following rules. i do find that the law is an efficient alternative to violence. but let us not scrap the fact that laws are also used to advance the status quo. as kafka said in on the question of the laws: unfortunately, our laws are not generally known, they are the secret of the small group of nobles who rule us.

and migration policies are part of this (unfortunately, this part of the entry is still an unread reading. haha.). so anyway, i think i’m getting off topic. what i am trying to point down to are cultural rules which are laws ingrained in culture. somewhere between being told off as “embarrasing” because i was 5 mins “late” (i went out for  while from the conference room to bid farewell to a friend and go to the toilet and meet with toto-san) and being told to not drink my medicine with bottled tea drink (because it’s unjapanese and the japanese way is supposed to be water-medicine combination), i got suffocated. like what’s up with this “japanese way,” really.

the japanese culture has been a real craze and i have heard our mothers tell about romanticized versions of their japan encounter. but i feel otherwise. i feel that cultural laws like real laws can be used to impose superiority of one culture upon others.  i can’t breathe and i want to shout. what’s funny is that i see japanese people who themselves do not follow this “japanese way.” but as a foreigner in this country, as a jfc, people have been imposing on me to follow this one homogenous japanese way, which i observed to have no space to perform a sense of filipinoness, it doesn’t recognize diversity.

by following the “japanese way” they have ingrained on me that i am respecting them. but in the process i lose my self and my identity. i hear people saying how the japanese culture is very rich and refined, how its values are so high. treating culture as if it is an inherent naturalness, an inevitable trait ingrained in the dna. but this i ask, does one country really have a monopoly on any value? let us think about how cultures are produced.

in a way this entry is a tribute to all the things i sorely miss. things that i have lost in the process. things that i desperately hold on to so i shall never lose. things that i promise i shall never lose.

anyway, this is a video i have seen about japanese women and their views of women’s roles in japanese culture:

a trip to kamakura

A week ago, the camera I bought was delivered. I bought a blue G2 Lumix camera which includes 2 lens, a 14-42 lens for nearby shots and a 45-200 for long distance shots. I heard that Panasonic stopped producing this model (making it obsolete). But still, I believe I got it for a very affordable price considering I got 2 lens for free. The only downside is that this camera comes in Nihongo-only model so I had a difficult time with the settings. The good side, however, is that I learned new Nihongo words like 設定(settei)or settings  and 焦点(shouten)or focus.

So yesterday, I took it out for practice shots at Kamakura. Some office mates invited me to come with them at Kamakura to see the 大仏 (Daibutsu) or the big Buddha statue. According to this article:

“The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu in Japanese) is a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha in the city of Kamakura, Japan… At 13.35 meters high and weighing 93 tons, the Daibutsu is the second largest monumental Buddha in Japan (after the one at Todaiji in Nara) and to many, the most impressive… [It]  was cast in 1252 in the Kamakura period and was originally housed inside a temple, as in Nara. But a huge tsunami washed away the wooden structure sometime in the late 15th century, and the statue has sat out in nature ever since. The Great Buddha is seated in the lotus position with his hands forming theDhyani Mudra, the gesture of meditation. With a serene expression and a beautiful backdrop of wooded hills, the Daibutsu is a truly spectacular sight.”

The entrance ticket for the Daibutsu costs only ¥200 also, you can go inside the statue of the Great Buddha for a meager amount. Here is a shot I took of the Daibutsu:

The surrounding  area was was fascinating too, there was a Koi garden and lots of shops where you can eat and buy souvenirs.

I dont know how I did it but this photo ended up with a blue hue, which I believe gave it a serene feeling. The Great Buddha is in a meditation position, in which according to my officemate, reminds her of a cat sitting idly with an arched back. What do you think?

From the Flickr account of twg1942.

Before going to the Daibutsu, we went to the Great Kannon Kamakura Hasedera, a temple which is just a few minutes walk away from the Daibutsu. It was breathtaking, so calm and peaceful.

Entering the Hasedera temple costs ¥300 and inside there is a restaurant where you can drink tea and eat dango, a sticky rice treat.

You can also have a souvenir certificate stamped with the temple symbol and with calligraphy writing for about ¥1000. There was also a nice view of the nearby beach.

Just be wary of the Kite, a kind of bird, flying around because, it will without hesitation swoop in on your snack and won’t be afraid to use its sharp claws to get it. But this majestic bird specie looks elegant in the sky.

The day was capped with a wonderful snack and great tasting beer. We shared stories, and it feels good to be able to converse in Nihongo. My officemates, taught me lots of new vocabulary words and fascinating stories.

A message of solidarity from Filipinos and Japanese-Filipino Community

This is a repost on a solidarity message released by Batis Center for Women, an NGO focusing on distressed women migrant returnees coming from Japan, presented during an ecumenical service in solidarity of the people of Japan.

Also, a video message coming from the Japanese-Filipino community is included. I would like to explain the video but I believe that it can better speak for it self. As a JFC and part of the global community, I am also in solidarity with the people in their advancement and rebuilding of their lives.

Nihon fight!


A Stream of Hope from Batis Center for Women

A Message of Solidarity from Batis Center for Women for the People of and in Japan

March 31, 2011

Ecumenical Prayer Service in Solidarity with the People of Japan

St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary Chapel, E. Rodriguez, Quezon City

March 11, 2011 changed the lives of many people of and in Japan.  As the oftentimes solid foundation of the ground the people of and in Japan tread upon and where their houses and places of work and leisure are built on suddenly shook violently, seemingly solid infrastructures swayed and toppled.  The violent shaking of the ground also unleashed a devastating tsunami which flattened and erased houses, places of work and leisure and other places where people conduct their everyday life activities.  Thousands of lives, billions of dollars worth of properties and livelihoods were lost in an instant.

As if the devastation of the twin natural disasters were not enough for the people of and in Japan, the earthquake and the tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, further aggravating the already horrendous impact of the twin disasters on the lives, livelihood, and way of life of the people of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima and other prefectures.

The March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting nuclear crisis in Japan has taken on various meanings for the affected people.  Those who survived are still dealing with the trauma of the disaster, of the resulting loss of loved ones and/or their way of life as they know it.  For others still, it means uprooting themselves and living their lives somewhere else.  In the midst of the devastation and the lingering uncertainty over the escalation of the nuclear crisis, the people of and in Japan are working hard to pick up the pieces of and rebuild their lives.  These are signs and glimmers of hope in the midst of devastation and despair.

To our brothers and sisters in Japan, and to fellow Filipinos working and living in the affected areas, we offer our deepest sympathy for your loss and the devastation you experienced.  We continue to keep all of you in our prayers as you struggle to overcome the challenges brought on by the twin disasters and the lingering nuclear crisis.  We know how difficult times are for all of you right now, as we ourselves have had to deal with our fair share of disasters – natural, man-made and systemic.  We stand in solidarity with all of you in this difficult period in your nation’s life.

We also keep in our prayers the people who extend assistance to those affected by the disasters. We know that the task at hand is enormous, be it work in an evacuation center, rescue and retrieval operations, cleaning up the debris in the affected areas, delivering much-needed supplies, among others.  We know that the times call for you to tap into a reservoir of strength and courage.  We send thoughts and energies to fill that reservoir of strength, courage, faith, and solidarity.

And for Filipinos returning home, the disasters in Japan unexpectedly interrupted your pursuit of a better quality of life for yourself and your families in Japan and the Philippines. Batis Center for Women offers a stream of hope as you return home amidst the many uncertainties in your life right now.  Through our programs and services and in however else we can, Batis offers returning Filipinos along with their Japanese – Filipino children and their families a lifeline of support.  In the here and now, towards coming to terms with the experience, healing and rebuilding.

in response: on organizing japanese-filipino children (jfc)

This post is in response to a series of exchange from the JFSekai Facebook group. It has always been my mantra to be polite and engaging in all arguments so as to gather support for the cause of Japanese-Filipino children. However, there are times that you have to recognize that you can not involve some people in your cause. It is adversity that roused us to take action years before and it is also due to adversity that I write this piece.

The issues brought about by migration between Japan and the Philippines has been going on for about 3 decades already and it is high time that involvement of the JFCs in their issues be advanced. Claims have been made and cases discussed, and I now rest my, hopefully final, case on this issue.

In my years of involvement on this issue, I have come to realize a lot of things. And with each realization is the improvement of our methods of work and the process of learning and relearning. I have stumbled upon this wonderful quote from Reverend Theodore Hesburgh: “Compassion without competence would be a cruel hoax upon those they serve.”

I agree, compassion by itself does not necessarily translate to competency and to be fueled by compassion only runs the risk of limiting your mind and the scope of what you can do.

One can not say that you should keep yourselves confined if you cannot provide for services (i.e. looking for fathers, ensuring recognition and support). In the first place, as a JFC I experienced how difficult it is to achieve such services where I had to go through both the Japanese and Philippine laws and culture. I experienced and saw my fellows go through the difficulties of searching for fathers who refuse to recognize the blood ties between them or fathers who are in hiding. Others still, though their fathers were found, can not be provided with child support as their fathers are also facing the challenge of having a meager wage while others were too late with their fathers already dead.

With this, we had to formulate other forms of aid that we could do to support each other given our respective situations. And what better way to do this than to organize ourselves and raise our status from being clients to active advocates. I feel that to speak of silencing ourselves will just reinforce our helplessness. Such a way of thinking furthers the prejudice that had long been labeled on us. Leaving us in a spiral of silence, it would limit our worlds and our capacities, it would bring about only our isolation and not our growth.

No one can say that if you can not provide work and financial support to JFCs then do not organize yourselves at all. I agree that in one level, given the economic situation of JFCs, they do need child support to pay for their education and other expenses. But saying that what all JFCs need are recognition and support is fallacious, if not short-sighted, for we can not isolate ourselves from the society. We can never isolate ourselves, at a time where labor export policies continue and JFCs fall prey to the same cycle of migration that our mothers walked before.

We can not isolate ourselves as part and parcel of not only the Philippine society but the Japanese society as well. We can not isolate ourselves as only JFCs with particular concerns for we also face general concerns of other young people like us. JFCs are capable of so much more and it is high time that they lift themselves away from the pit of helplessness and uncertainty. It is high time for JFCs to empower themselves and be active in advocating their own cause.

One can not say that this, THIS is the only way to help and assign who are the only ones who must be helped. This is not an issue of mothers versus children. This is an issue that has much more deeper roots than that. This is an issue that incorporates the experiences of mothers AND their children, for their stories are weaved. It is a story not only of migration but the policies and causes behind it. Claiming so would wrongly limit the scope of our experiences and our capacities to contribute to a greater cause.

There is nothing wrong for groups to organize themselves. If anything, from my experiences in an organization,  it has showed our strength, built on our capacities and served as a support group for each other. It has taught me to actively engage in issues we are facing and has widened my views of the world. Thus, I encourage everyone to help out, to reach out; for if there are many of us we can do and achieve a lot. Let us concert our efforts to achieve greater triumphs. Let us unite.

on the 3/11 earthquake

I was reviewing my test paper, thinking hard about the answer on the last remaining question. My company sent me to a Nihongo school in Takadanobaba, Tokyo to be proficient in the language and I was trying hard to have a score that will be enough to have me assigned to the intermediate class.

Tapping my pen as I read the question, I suddenly felt the table shaking. I looked around wondering if someone have hit the cubicle I was in but there was no one around. I looked back at my paper and poured all my energy trying to remember the Katakana for “nu.” In my head I was thinking how irksome it is to forget the one character that may be the defining point between the beginner class and the intermediate class. And as my thoughts drifted I realized that the table didn’t stop shaking. In a split second,  I looked around and saw that everything was trembling and in that moment, I was certain that there is an earthquake.

Prior to this event, my company circulated information on what to do during earthquakes. The first step was to open all windows and doors and then to find refuge under a sturdy table or chair and so on and so forth. However, as the event happened, my first instinct was to document. My journalism training caught up and I quickly scrambled for my iPod. I tried to stand up to record what was happening but I was thrown off my balance. I did so again and this time I was successful; and as I pressed the record button it felt like the right thing to do during earthquakes.



The earthquake was strong and lasted for about a minute. It felt surreal. I looked back at my camera and saw that it stopped recording long before and I was able to capture only 3 seconds of the event (Boo! to sensitive touch screen gadgets!). I quickly pressed the record button again in hopes of capturing the last few seconds of the quake and kept recording and documenting until I reached home.



As we went down to go out of the building, I saw some people crying. The people from the school advised students to go home and those who are taking the exam to stay posted for the next schedule. So I returned my test paper and went back, with an officemate, to the train station. There were no trains. We tried to call people from the office but the lines were off. I knew that something was severely wrong.

After almost two hours of travel by bus this is what I saw at Shibuya:

Since, train systems were immobilized, many people fell in line for the bus. Others, chose to spend the night in the city as they wait for the trains to come back. Still others like us, chose to walk to their homes. Many people were buying comfortable shoes in preparation for the long walk.

It took us almost 5 hours to go home. And it was extremely cold. It was a good thing that some buildings and companies allowed people to use their toilets and gave away hot tea and treats.

When I reviewed my footages, I realized that I was laughing out the event. Japan has this effect on me that I feel I am secured whatever happens and the event felt like it was no big concern.  It was when we arrived at home that I saw on television the vastness of the catastrophe. It was heartbreaking. The images shown tsunamis one after the other, homes destroyed and lives taken. I felt that Japan is not ready for this kind of event.

To see the extent of the damages please see this link.


In events such as these, I am really happy to know that there are lots of people willing to help out each other. The Filipino community in Japan have been very active in collecting data on disaster areas and lending out support to fellows. An example is the Info Group for Quake and Tsunami Victims in Japan, where people created an organized task force to respond to fellow kababayans (countrymen).

Also, many Japanese friends have been very willing to extend information on how to get help. This is from my friend, Mari:

Hey Mikas,

So I’ve done tons of research online but couldn’t find any info that is explained in English. But from what we see (a lot of people on internet that I don’t even know helped me), overstay/undocumented workers CAN get 罹災証明書 if they apply.

罹災証明書(Risai Shoumeisho) is something you get from your local offices (city halls) to prove that your house/properties have been severely damaged by natural disasters. You need this りさいしょうめいしょ/罹災証明書 to claim donations/funds that have been send to the victims. In another word, those people who were damaged by earthquakes SHOULD apply for this 証明書/しょうめいしょ so that the money people send could get to them.
They should bring passports and/or drivers license and a proof (a contract would work) to show that they lived in that particular housing.

And once again, the city offices WILL not care if someone’s overstay/undocumented. They will be able to get the help/money they need.

So please spread the word. If I can find any good source I’ll send it to you.



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September 2018
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