June, July and August are both meaningful and sad moments for me. June is the birth month of my little brother and in the same month this year, my mother died. July is my birth month and on the same month my son died ten years ago.
However, many of my relatives contend that there will always be two sides of the same coin – we get to always remember them during our birthdays. May their souls rest in peace.
Exactly seven years ago today, I wrote a feature article on the significant role played by Filipino women wherever they may be, attributing to their huge contribution to the honing and molding of the young Filipino generation. In describing the women of today, I quote: “…Like my dearest mother, her sense of integrity, humility and the militancy to fight for what she think is right for herself, her children and her family are all over innately carved within her womanhood. It doesn’t matter if she is a Filipino Christian, a Muslim, or of Indigenous origin – I know that despite her many faces, a Filipina here will always be the Filipina I knew back home.”
I will always dedicate this few phrases for my mom. Indeed, mothers are irreplaceable. My family reminisces August as we honor her memory on her birthday. May her soul rest in peace.
In spite of what had happened this year, June is also a favorable month for me as I received a travel grant to present my paper at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conference in Seoul, South Korea; all thanks to Japan Foundation (JF).
Way back home, Filipinos could be more than proud of as we host Korean students at our universities. The first time I arrived in the “Land of the Morning Calm” was in 2010 and it has not changed that much. Still, just like Japan and Taiwan, it is where modernity and traditions meet. I cannot help but notice at the conference in Korea University, major structures were dedicated to its seemingly big corporate sponsors. For instance there is a building named after LG, another one for Samsung, Hyundai Hall, among others. Indeed, it only signifies a very good public-private partnership. Korea had the worst of its past too, when it was occupied and eventually colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945.
In July, I again received a JF fellowship grant to attend the Summer Institute in Japan. In this watershed moment, I have been given the chance to take a glimpse of Tokyo and Northern Japan from Hayama to Kesennuma. In the port city of Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, part of the summer fellowship was to explore its many delicacies such as shark fin, bonito and saury, and the scenic views of the sea and mountains. The city was seriously hit by the “Great East Japan Earthquake” and Tsunami in 2011. The JF fellows were caught by surprise that indeed fisher folks and women of this coastal village are working hard towards its recovery in spite of their disastrous past. We were even invited to witness and participate in a traditional fishermen’s performance. In my mind, the locals have a deep understanding of those natural disasters’ role in their lives. Acceptance is a necessary step for disaster preparedness and prevention of casualties. Among the participants, I thought, I had a deep sense of being connected to the community as I spent my younger years growing up in a fishing village in the small islands of Balut and Sarangani, on the southern-tip most part of Mindanao, Philippines.
August is a festive month of Kadayawan in Davao City, Philippines, known as “harvest month” where Davaoeños could be seen on the streets partying and celebrating. Contrast all of these with the disastrous Davao of the past and you will be surprised how far it has thrived through it all. Perhaps, I was in an advance party, as my wife and I were given the opportunity to visit Taipei, Taiwan through a sponsored roundtrip promo airfare in the first week of August. Taipei was once known as Taihoku during the Japanese occupation period (1895-1945) of the Formosa Island (Taiwan). With all of its temples, public markets, and major tourist sites, a visitor could only appreciate with amazement how the nation and its people could have ever surpassed its tragic past.
Indeed, I could only say that in three months’ time I had the rare opportunity to revisit these renowned East Asian destination countries out of sheer luck and some cheap thrills. However, what made me write this awe-inspiring article is the very message of transcending the bad past, ill-fated hurts and catastrophic disasters. Each one of us do need to face our own monsters in life one day, whether as a local folk or as bystander or as a nation. And one thing is required for us to understand the very meaning of life is acceptance and reconciliation. Let us go back to the basics, in the same way as we are here in Mindanao and in the Philippines, we do need to accept the fact that we live with others, and that there is a need for us to “reconcile with our past” so that we could reach a brighter tomorrow someday. I could always remember my motto twenty-two years ago, as shown in my grade school yearbook, “Sacrifice Today, Success Tomorrow.” (davaotoday.com)
Andi, owing to the Japanese Romaji version of his Katakana nicknameアンヂ, is a loving husband to a wife, a teacher, researcher, political analyst, and a community development specialist. He finished his PhD in Japan and has travelled extensively around East and Southeast Asia.