by RONALYN BANAKEN
Kama-i (seated, second from left) with the other student participants and supervisors from the Philippines
Kama-i Sulikam Okubo, a fifth year BS Accountancy student of the University of Baguio, set out for Japan last November to be part of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths, a program that gathers young people of diverse cultural origin and heritage from across the globe.
The program – launched by the Japanese government to “provide a sound foundation for strong solidarity within Asia” – ran from Nov. 5 to 13.
Okubo, together with 44 other participants and four supervisors from the Philippines, arrived in Tokyo on Nov. 5. The participants – a stew of nationalities and races – attended an orientation with JOCA, a public interest association composed of overseas cooperation volunteers “who utilize their skills to promote the welfare of those living in developing countries.”
They sat down with the well-known inventor Takao Murayama, drawing inspiration from the man who has a dozen of patented inventions in his name. They also visited some of Japan’s – and the world’s – biggest corporations, which featured the country’s most sophisticated and advanced technology, which Japan is known for.
The participants – with the batch name “Tourism” – were then divided into subgroups, each travelling to a specific provincial area. There, they met their respective host families, who would afterward accommodate them during their stay there. Okubo was assigned in Nagano.
In Nagano, Ueda High School students – who visited the Philippines last year as part of an exchange program – warmly welcomed Okubo’s group by singing the Philippine national anthem, followed by their rendition of “Pusong Bato” which they learned when they made the trip to the archipelago.
“They know very little English, so it was an opportunity for us to look for a way to communicate with them clearly, to learn their language and way of living,” Okubo said of her experience.
On Nov. 13 – during the closing session – Okubo and the rest of the Philippine delegation performed a skit-dance routine that touched on the “Cool Japan” concept.
“It was overwhelming,” Okubo said.
Okubo qualified after a series of endorsements, applications and interviews. She represented the Cordillera Administrative Region along with another student from the region.
Approximately 6,000 youngsters – who come from ASEAN member countries, India, China, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, and SAARC member countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan) – visit Japan yearly for the program, which has expanded its coverage over the years. Also called JENESYS 2.0, it likewise seeks to advance mutual understanding and friendly relations. – With reports from Kama-i Sulikam Okubo
Okubo (left) with her host family in Nagano, Japan, Kobayashi Sachiko and Kenji