Made-in-Japan revolution

In Photo: Japan Foundation Manila Assistant Director Yukie Mitomi

column-Rodel Alzona-a differen viewIT has been said over time that when Jollibee, the local fast-food chain, hits your town, it is one clear sign that progress and development has arrived in your community

But for someone like Japan Foundation Manila Assistant Director Yukie Mitomi, her finally dining at a Jollibee outlet and actually having one of its burgers is an affirmation that she is now more Filipino than Japanese.

Late last week, a day removed from all the medications our family doctor had given me, I sort of tested myself to see how my body would react away from my bed. After more than two weeks of battling illnesses, I thought maybe it was time to go out and hit the streets again.

The visit to the Japan Foundation Manila office was on top of my list because of its new Hope and Dreams (HANDs) project it started in an effort to foster collaborative efforts among the youths of Japan and the Southeast Asian region.

I am, in a way, personally supporting the project because it wants its participants to see firsthand communities devastated by natural disasters, tackle the issues in those areas, come out with action plans, and then implement their own programs that could in the future mitigate the impact of such calamities.

Seeing Yukie again to discuss the project was like a breath of fresh air for someone who has been confined at home for quite some time. She is so classy, humble, articulate, and deeply devoted to her work.

Yukie is one of the supervisors of the HANDs program that is being administered by the foundation’s newly created Asia Center in the region. She is directly responsible for aligning all the programs of the project that involves participants from the Philippines, along with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Thailand.

With 24 participants, thoroughly selected from the six countries, the project got a literally stormy start here in the Philippines when a thunderstorm, floods, and heavy traffic welcomed them after a lecture series at the Japan Foundation Manila office.

Yukie told me that some of the participants were surprised that heavy rains that fell for a short period of time could bring so much inconvenience.

What could I say? Welcome to the Philippines. It is more fun in the Philippines?

Well, I guess there is still some fun in it, especially if you consider the P50 bathtub or refrigerator rides when the floods are waist-deep high in some parts of Metro Manila.

Like what I wrote last week, the impact of the storms that hit our country directly shows the mismanagement that has been done both on the national and local levels. It is also indicative of the lack of discipline we have as a nation, even in simple tasks like thrash segregation.

According to Yukie, they want to deal with natural calamities, a common issue shared by the region and in Japan. She said its impetus was the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years back and Supertyphoon Yolanda, which devastated central Philippines last year.

Yukie said the project would be very creative in its approach, cross-sectoral, and would involve culture and the arts. The 24 participants would be having site visits, learn best practices, and would be meeting with action teams.

Here is the fun part, though. When they implement their action plans, the participants are expected to be directly meeting with government units and officials to get them involved in the programs they will be doing.

Well, I do not know how it is in the five other countries that have participants in the program, but here in the Philippines, it will be, I guess, tough but fulfilling at the end of the day.

Today the participants are on the last day of their visit to Tacloban City, one of the areas that Yolanda ravaged late last year.

In Tacloban City the participants visited schools and communities and had firsthand experience on the ongoing relief and reconstruction efforts that are being done.

Early next year, the participants will get to visit Thailand and Japan to see how both countries have coped and are preparing for natural disasters.

The HANDs project is expected to run until 2020 and will have three batches of participants from the region and Japan by the time it is completed; hopefully, the program will be extended.

As for Yukie, she has been in the Philippines for six years already and wants to stay here longer. She reasoned out that it is fun to work here in the country, and the people are some of the nicest she has met.

Yukie told me that she has already adjusted to the culture and climate of the country, while the floods and traffic no longer bother her.

Within Metro Manila, she loves the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City with all the lush greens that surround the campus. She also loves traveling to Batanes and the Cordillera Region.

Oh well, one of these days I am going to ask her out for lunch at Jollibee. I think it would be a good idea to see her again. Two orders of ChickenJoy, please.

Speaking of thunderstorms and floods, it seems the work of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya’s Kapit-Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig (KBPIP) is paying dividends.

During the recent widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Mario, some parts of Metro Manila were spared because of the estero cleanup done by KBPIP in some select areas.

One of those places that had zero flooding during the typhoon was the area near Estero de Paco. It was an area that experienced high floods during the habagat of 2012 and Typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

KBPIP is a partner of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, which aims to transform 17 tributaries of the Pasig River from dangerous flood-prone slums into green parks.

For comments, suggestions and reactions, I can be reached at [email protected].

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