The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo Hosts the First Filipino Graduation in Japan

The Philippine Embassy in cooperation with the Association of Filipino Students in Japan (AFSJ) held PAGHAYO 2015, the First Filipino Graduation in Tokyo on 26 September 2015. Nine (9) new graduates were honored as well as eleven (11) Filipino alumni of Japanese universities. The UP Balik PhD Roadshow and the Awarding Ceremonies for Japan-based nominees to the Bayaning Pilipino Awards 2015 were also held. It was a star-studded evening graced by Ms. Julia Barretto and Ms. Kz Tandingan.

One thousand thirteen (1,013) Filipinos are currently in Japan to study and take higher studies. Many are scholars of the Philippine Government, the Japanese Government or private foundations and they graduate every March and September after the completion of their academic requirements.

PAGHAYO 2015 recognized the academic achievement of new 5 PhDs, 3 Masteral and 2 Bachelor degree holders that graduated in September 2015 in the fields of Civil and Nuclear Engineering to the Medical Sciences to Information Technology. The awardees included a Japanese

Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez with the new Filipino graduates in Japan in a ceremony transferring their obi-sablays from their right to their left shoulders to symbolize the attainment of their academic degrees.

language graduate from the Aoyama International Education Institute as well as alumni from leading Japanese universities such as Tokyo University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Waseda University, Sophia University and the University of Tsukuba.

During the graduation ceremony, a Certificate of Recognition and a medal with the words “Paghayo: Kaalaman Para sa Bayan” was awarded to the new graduates. The graduates transferred their obi-sablays from their right to left shoulders to symbolize the attainment of their academic degrees.

In his remarks during the evening, Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez praised their graduation from Japanese universities as a testament to hard work, competence and perseverance, as well as a recognition of Filipino talent and excellence. He exhorted them to let the knowledge they gained in Japan become a beacon of hope for the Philippines.

The Keynote Address given by Hon. William Barriga, a Cebuano and currently the Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Japan, put in context the uniqueness of the Filipino student in Japan. Filipino students in Japan number only about 6% of all Filipino international students worldwide, while all Filipino international students represent only .3% of all international students in the world. He observed that students are the embodiment of the positive aspect of migration enhanced for the benefit of all – for the student, the country of origin and the host country. He encouraged the new graduates to include their community back home in their agenda or to maintain that linkage, as they continue to explore the big wide world.

Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez speaks to a Filipino graduate during ceremonies of Paghayo 2015. Also present are Consul General Marian Tirol-Ignacio and Mr. Rajiv Abdullah, AFSJ Vice President for Academic Affairs. Mr Chris Santos, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, speaks behind the graduates. Seen clapping is Hon. William Barriga, Chief of Mission of IOM-Japan.

University of Tokyo graduate, Mr. Mario Rico Florendo, gave the student response on behalf of the graduates. He asked his peers to seek out their own personal symbols of achievement and meaning, which for him is the Japanese Akamon and urged them to hold on to their own Akamons, be it sinigang from home, or a Nihongo poster, or publication in a respected academic journal. He said that with each new beginning comes new challenges that need their own Akamon to inspire and motivate them in their journey through life.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director for the University of the Philippines’ Office of International Linkages, Dr. Aaron Villaraza, presented a convincing argument for the graduates to return to the Philippines and avail of the new initiatives by UP to produce globally competitive Filipinos in his presentation. Currently on a swing through Asia with the UP Balik PhD Roadshow, he gave a presentation during PAGHAYO 2015 entitled “Towards an International UP: Serving the Filipinos, Serving the World”. He invited the graduates to either to join the UP faculty through the BalikPhD program, or to enhance teaching and research through the Visiting Professor Program, or to be hosted as UP students/researchers at foreign institutions through the COOPERATE program. He also discussed other programs such as mechanisms of financial support for continued research productivity, continued foreign training, participation in international conferences, hosting of international meetings, and mechanisms for supporting UP financially.

The evening rounded out with a recognition of ordinary Filipinos engaged in extraordinary acts of heroism with the 2015 Bayaning Pilipino Awards in Asia and the Pacific. The audience was serenaded by Ms. Kz Tandingan while Ms. Julia Baretto presented the three (3) Filipino nominees from Japan, Ms. Helen Hanzawa, Ms. Rita Kita and Ms. Jena Shigemizu. Fr. Nilo E. Tanalega SJ, the head of Ugat Foundation (Ugnayan at Tulong Para sa Maralitang Pilipino) and caretaker of the Awards, recalled that the award was inspired by the bravery of a Filipino maid in Hong Kong who was hit by a car to save the life of a child. Launched in 1995, a Bayaning Pilipino awardee must embody social responsibility, moral and social acceptability, as well as hard work, industry and discipline, and love for family.

Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez puts a medal on a new PhD graduate during Paghayo 2015. He is assisted by Consul General Marian Tirol-Ignacio who hands over a Certificate of Recognition to the new graduate.

For more information on the Filipino Graduation in Japan, please visit the AFSJ website at For more information on the UP Balik PhD Program and other UP Programs, please visit and For more information on the Bayaning Pilipino Awards, please visit