Kizuna, in Japanese, means “tie” or “bond.” A bond is formed when two cultures meet in a spirit of dialogue, openness and friendship.
It has been almost two months since I got home from Japan. I was there for 10 days, and it was a life-changing experience.
Reliving the moments I had with my home-stay family, coordinators and fellow delegates leave me missing and wanting more of Japan.
This longing drives my desire to visit again and to repay the kindness they had shown us during the Kizuna Bond Project.
Surprisingly, that desire was granted when, last January, the Japanese government sent to the Philippines 17 Japanese high-school delegates under the Kizuna Bond Project. The program was in coordination with the Quezon City Government and Red Cross Quezon City Chapter.
Under the program, students from different colleges in Quezon City and Filipino Kizuna delegates hosted the sixth day of the stay of the Japanese delegates.
The day started with a warm welcome from the Red Cross Youth Volunteers. Freshly separated from their Filipino homes, the Japanese delegates needed comfort.
Their Sensei or teacher, Chie Suzuki, explained how the Japanese delegates changed a lot after their home stay: “I’ve seen that they gained confidence after they interacted with the Filipinos. Before, they were not used to speaking the English language, but after the home stay, they are somehow fluent.”
Asked what Filipino traits she liked, Suzuki replied: “Filipinos are so hospitable, their way of treating us was so heartwarming. In almost an hour after the home stay, my students already missed their home-stay families and they cried.”
Her remarks reminded me how I felt the same way in Japan. It’s hard to explain how a simple home stay can bring about so much love and passion between two different cultures.
The Japanese delegates also joined a seminar and tour around the Red Cross QC Chapter. Students from the University of the Philippines showed the delegates around.
From the blood donation services to the rescue centers, the Japanese delegates learned a lot, especially the spirit of volunteerism, one of the core values of the Red Cross.
The Japanese were then treated to Filipino cuisine—pancit, puto, sinigang, and other Filipino delicacies.
Seeing their great appetite for Filipino food—they went back to the table for seconds again and again—made me realize that I should appreciate more our own cuisine, not take it for granted.
They asked for simple Filipino food. Their simplicity was very humbling to see. Their enjoyment of little things in our country taught me that I should appreciate Filipino culture more—what’s Pinoy.
After lunch, the Red Cross taught the Japanese delegates how to pack relief goods. Since Japan and Philippines experience natural disasters with relative frequency, this activity was very relevant and practical.
It was great to see how serious the Japanese were—they weighed the rice, counted the canned goods and put water bottles and relief goods in plastic bags. Japanese discipline is really very admirable.
Afterwards, we played games. Taking after the noontime TV game show “Pinoy Henyo,” we had a game called “Japanese Henyo.”
At first, the Japanese delegates found it hard to play the game, but after some time, they enjoyed it immensely.
Later we went to Barangay Bagong Silangan, where, with barangay captain Crisell “Beng” Beltran and the barangay staff, we had a tree-planting activity.
A Japanese delegate was paired off with a local to plant a seedling near the river. Afterwards, each pair was given a Red Cross flag.
Each pair then gave to the barangay the boots they used in the tree planting. The boots should come in handy in the community because Barangay Bagong Silangan is flood-prone.
The hardest part of the day were the farewells. The Japanese visitors and their Filipino hosts felt sad saying goodbye to each other. But they drew comfort from the thought that friendship was formed during their encounter, no matter how brief.
We will relish that moment of friendship into our adult years.