The Japanese word, kizuna means the relational bond or connection between people. For some years now, a project has been successful in sustaining good relations between the Diocese of Sapporo and the Lasallian Family in the Philippines. I was working in Bagac, Bataan and then Brother Victor Gutierrez Sanchez FSC who was assigned in Hakodate La Salle put forward the idea of hosting volunteers from the Diocese of Sapporo. The said church had sustained volunteer program with an orphanage in Davao and during a certain time of difficulty, they had to look for an alternative venue. Since some of the volunteers involved teachers and students from Hakodate La Salle, he asked if Jaime Hilario Integrated School – La Salle could host the program.
In 2015, after an ocular trip by Mr. Deok Bosco Han of Hakodate La Salle, the program was finalized and the first visit was facilitated in 2016. The succeeding visits encouraged the students to raise funds in Japan and extend support not only to Jaime Hilario but to Kuya Center as well. For four straight years, the project has not only retold the story of the Lasallian Family in the Philippines but also brought deep learning to the Japanese participants, most of which come from various schools in Sapporo. It is very interesting how the project evolved from a simple charity project to a meaningful exchange and brought about rich experiences on culture, poverty and peace. The following are excerpts from the reflections of the volunteers in their recent visit in July this year. (Text & Photos: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC)
“I was able to see a lot of meaningful connections among people during my 11-day learning visit to the Philippines. Whether in a rich or a poor place in Manila, the family is the most important in one’s life. Especially in St. Jaime Hilario School – De La Salle Bataan, even if the family has low income, they are always together and they have a warm relationship among themselves. It is easy to see that they are proud of this and I felt envious. During my homestay experience, it was nice not only to experience the warmth of the family where I was assigned to but also the neighbors took care of me as if they were part of the family as well. It is something I don’t usually see in Japan.” Sodai Fukuya, First Year, Senior High School, Hakodate La Salle
“Keeping the warmth of the Filipinos in mind, we went to the World War II museum (in Mt. Samat, Bataan) and my heart overflowed with emotions with what I saw. Until now, we’ve always learned the story about the atomic bomb and the war with a perspective of a victim and I never knew about how others saw Japan during the war and the acts that Japan was accused of. But when I saw the photos in the museum, while I was a bit suspicious, I was a little scared to meet the Filipinos after that. While learning what the Japanese have done in the Philippines, I wondered why they still welcomed us warmly. I am sure that the people of the Philippines will never forget the tragedy. I believe that to avoid it from happening again, we should accept this and keep this in our hearts. I hope to keep this attitude in a strong way.” Momoka Ishida, First Year Senior High School, Sapporo Fuji Girls’ High School
“This Philippine Volunteer visit was an opportunity to rethink my way of life. I thought about the importance of thinking about what you can do for those who suffer and doing something about it. Compared to Japan, the gap between rich and poor could be clearly seen in the Philippines. You could see that in one town, there is a high-class residential area and an area where street children lived. It was the La Salle volunteer network who skillfully helped me see these painful images. I also felt the generosity and the potential of my fellow volunteers to help the poor and it gave me hope like a light shining in the darkness. Even in Japan, there are many people who suffer and have difficulty. Looking at the Philippines, we would like to continue to expand our eyes and think about what we can do and carry out with the student volunteers.” Shinichi Nakazawa, Faculty, Sapporo Fuji Girls’ High School.