Remarks of Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez at the Meeting of the Filipino Community in Japan with His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III on the Occasion of the Commemoration of the 117th Proclamation of Philippine Independence

02 June 2015, Tokyo, Japan

Good evening.

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this gathering of our kababayans from all over Japan as we commemorate the 117th Proclamation of Philippine Independence.

The Filipino community in Japan is one of the largest overseas Filipino communities in the country. We have more than 220,000 Filipinos here, comprising the third biggest group of foreigners in Japan. A large number of Filipinos are married to Japanese nationals and the increasing number of Japanese-Filipino youth serve as bridges of friendship and understanding between the Philippines and Japan.

Our kababayans and the Filipino-Japanese youth are a diverse group. They represent a wide range of professions and backgrounds but they also share several things in common – they are all hardworking, talented and a source of great pride to the Filipino nation.

As we celebrate our National Day, Mr. President, we take this opportunity to present the achievements of our kababayans in Japan.

Two Filipinas in Japan were honored to be recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Filipino community overseas. Our own Nanay Anita Sasaki received the Banaag Award in 2014 and Ms. Marie Bernabe Nihei, also known to us as “Mayang” received the Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino Award in 2004. May I ask them to rise and be acknowledged?

Assistance to migrants, including Filipinos, living overseas is a challenging task. Mr. President, the Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to Japan, Mr. William Barriga hails from Cebu. Mr. Barriga headed the Labor and Facilitated Migration Division at IOM headquarters, Geneva. He is a veteran of the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Morong, Bataan. Under his watch, IOM-Tokyo is implementing a support programme to facilitate school education for foreign children also known as the “bridging school” program; works on refugee resettlement; and provides return and reintegration assistance to victims of trafficking. Mr. President, I am pleased to present Mr. Barriga.

Many Japanese and foreign employers hold a high regard for their Filipino employees. Under the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), our nurses and caregivers may practice their professions in Japan after undergoing stringent licensure examinations in Nihongo. Since the Filipino nurses and caregivers began taking the Japanese licensure examinations, only 55 nurses and 103 caregivers have passed. Mr. President, may I present some of the Filipino nurses and caregivers working in Japan under the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

As parents, we are naturally proud of our children. We have among us tonight, Filipino-Japanese youth who have distinguished themselves in the art and sports world of Japan. May I request them to stand when I call their names?

Ms. Sayaka Akimoto, pop singer, actress, model.
Daughter of Mylene Akimoto, a native from Camotes Island, Cebu

Ms. Mutya Mori, professional basketball player.
Daughter of Mrs. Betty Vinluan Mori, of Dagupan, Pangasinan

Mr. Tomohiko Hoshina, judo master and the Philippine judo representative to the 2012 Olympics.
Son of Mrs. Vilma Aldaba Hoshina from Malolos, Bulacan

Mr. Akira Takayasu Zeki, professional sumo wrestler.
Son of Mrs. Bebelita Torrefiel Takayasu, of Getafe, Bohol.

By the way, his father, Mr. Eiji Takayasu, is also here tonight. May I invite him to also rise and be acknowledged?

In these crucial times when strong and deep alliances have important implications on the security and stability of our region, we have nine (9) outstanding cadets currently in training with Japan’s prestigious National Defense Academy under a student exchange program with the Philippine Military Academy. After finishing their plebe year in PMA, they will undergo a rigid one-year Japanese language course before they go through a full four year academic curriculum. They undergo a total of 6 years of training. Upon their graduation in JNDA, they will be commissioned in the Army, the Air Force or in the Navy and begin their progressive military journey in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. These are our future military leaders, Mr. President. May I invite our young cadets to please rise and be acknowledged.

Mr. President, as Ambassador, I am very proud of our kababayans in Japan. Kahit napakarami ng mga Pilipino dito, they are solid and united as a community. Our kababayans work together to make positive contributions to the Filipino community, to Filipinos back home, as well as to our host country. In my almost five years here, I witnessed how members of the Filipino community made use of their exceptional talents to organize activities aimed at raising the image of the Philippines and providing assistance to those in need.

The March 11, 2011 Earthquake in Japan has forever changed the lives of Filipinos in Japan. I recall how the Filipino community here proved resilient because of their sense of solidarity, the sharing of their time, talents and services in numerous projects and activities in aid of the victims. Hindi lamang po mahusay ang mga Pilipino sa Japan, sila rin po ay may mga ginintuang puso at may tunay na malasakit sa isa’t-isa.

The Philippine Embassy in Japan, in cooperation with the Network of the Filipino Social Workers in Japan also known as NETFIL created a handbook entitled Paghahanda sa Kalamidad: Gabay Para sa Mga Lider ng Komunidad. It is intended to guide Filipino leaders during times of disaster in Japan. May I request NETFIL and those who volunteered to make this book a reality, to stand and to be acknowledged?

Mr. President, this book is meant to prepare Filipinos to effectively respond in times of emergency in Japan and to support your Government’s disaster preparedness initiatives assisting Filipino overseas.

Lubos po akong nasisiyahan sa pagkakataong ito na maipagkaloob ang unang kopya ng libro sa ating mahal na Pangulo.

Your Excellency, despite the distance between the Philippines and Japan, the hearts of our kababayans remain in the Philippines. We are all eager to hear directly from you on the latest developments at home. I hope that you – and everyone here tonight – will enjoy this evening’s program, and leave this event with a clearer understanding of the lives and aspirations of the Filipinos living in Japan.

As we celebrate Araw ng Kalayaan, may we all be reminded of our duty to our nation: to be a Filipino the whole country will be proud of and to keep the embers of nationalism burning. We are all keepers of the hopes and dreams our forebears have worked hard to attain, with sacrifices too precious to be put in vain.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan!

Arigatou Gozaimasu!

Maraming Salamat!