by: Reese Camposano || Photo Credit: Kendra Osias
The sun shines through the plane’s window on the Ritsumeikan delegates’ faces as the aircraft gently descends and its wheels bounce on the tarmac. Simultaneously, the bus outside the airport vibrates in anticipation of their arrival as it glows beneath the daylight. After two years, the Philippine-Japan Partnership Summit (PJPS) has finally been brought back as the world now adjusts to the new normal.
Keiichiro Izumi, Miyu Ishikawa, Ryosuke Chiaki, Riko Témma, Kótaro Mizue, Shingo Morikawa, Hiroki Takada, Asahi Kinoshita, Aoi Sano, Hinata Yoshimoto, and Koki Havase were the 11 students from grades 9 to 12 who represented Ritsumeikan High School in the PJPS last February 1-4, 2023. They were accompanied by their teachers Karin Suehiro and Yoshiki Matsuyama.
Upon arrival, they were taken to the Divine World Hospital for a health check before settling at the hotel to rest before the first day of PJPS.
Before the event’s opening program, each delegate was assigned a buddy from grades 10-12 of PSHS-EVC to accompany them during their stay. The assigned buddies accompanied the delegates in roaming around the campus and in exploring the school facilities. They also demonstrated and explained all there is to learn about our country, the Philippines.
Aine Latoja, the buddy of Kotaro Mizue, shared, “It [buddy system] helps in giving them a more local approach. Since there is a language barrier, it’s very important that we guide them and introduce to them what student life is like in the Philippines.”
The buddy system significantly encouraged engagement with other students on campus, with some of the buddies’ friends introduced to the delegates, creating more interactions with the foreign visitors.
“I think it’s nice since their main goal in visiting Pisay is to immerse themselves in the Pisay culture, which includes connections among the students,” said Frances Canicon, a grade 12 student at PSHS-EVC and buddy of Ryosuke Chiaki.
FLOW OF ACTIVITIES
The boom of the speakers could be heard throughout the gymnasium as the opening program began with all of the Sportsfest houses seated on the bleachers. Ms. Yvonne Esperas, the campus director, gave a warm welcoming speech to the Japanese exchange students for this year’s PJPS. As another way to welcome the exchange students, this year’s Sportsfest cheer dance champion, House Euthymia, performed an intermission number that once again earned loud cheers and applause. Afterward, each delegate was then enjoined to introduce themselves on stage.
Following the program, the Japanese delegates were introduced to Laro ng Lahi, where they played traditional Filipino games such as Limbo Rock, Piko, Sipa, Pukpok Palayok, and Pabitin. Every game brought out the child in everyone, including Pisay students who were simply watching and cheering for the delegates. With smiles on their faces and the prizes from Pabitin, the exchange students were eager to experience more of the day’s scheduled activities.
After their break from playing games under the sun’s heat, they toured around the campus and surveyed the various facilities, such as the Learning Resource Center (LRC), Center for Research in Science, and Technology (CReST), gymnasium, and other laboratory and research facilities. After familiarizing the different features of the campus, the delegates and their companions explored the Fabrication Laboratory to learn the use of each facility.
Once done with their lunch, the delegates, along with their buddies and the teachers, boarded the bus that would take them around Tacloban City. However, due to limited time, they were unable to visit all of the destinations on the itinerary, but still, they were able to appreciate the several must-see attractions in the city.
They stopped by the Astrodome Yolanda Monument, where they bought a lot of souvenirs in one of the shops. This was then followed by a visit to the Sto. Niño Church and the UPVTC Leyte-Samar Heritage Center, where they toured the locations with the help of their buddies to learn more about Philippine culture. They also visited the New Leyte Capitol Building and one of the most renowned bridges in the country, the San Juanico Bridge. They shot countless photos at each destination as each was so different from traditional Japanese places.
On the final day of PJPS, February 3, 2023, the Japanese students spent most of their time immersed in the Sportsfest 2022: The Charistesia. Delegates mingled with the Pisay students by taking selfies with them, chatting, and joining them in playing different sports. Some delegates watched the championship matches, such as the Aglaea vs. Thalia Basketball Championship, while being surrounded by voice-rasping cheers and intensifying moments. Of course, their Sportsfest experience wouldn’t be complete without the booths from the love-stricken marriage booth to the alluring body painting at Itsura Pintura.
By noon, they learned more about Filipino culture. The delegates were taught how to write Baybayin, an abugida used to write Tagalog and other related languages in the Philippines until the 17th century. The characters of the ancient script could even be considered art in and of themselves, representing the entire nation and its people with the stroke of a pen. Traditional folk dances, or Kuratsa, were also taught to the delegates, who danced with their buddies as partners.
Later that day, they had their fellowship night where the delegates, their buddies, and PSHS-EVC personnel were dressed in traditional Filipino attire like the Barong Tagalog and Baro’t Saya. As performers of the night, Pisayaw demonstrated their firm and precise movements of Filipino culture, followed by Musikanta’s soulful and sweet singing to Kwerdas’ graceful strumming and rhythmic melodies. The distribution of the certificates and souvenirs to the delegates followed suit to mark as a memento of their time in the Philippines. Finally, all sang and danced as the night progressed, enjoying the last day of the 7th PJPS.
Being exposed to the sun’s searing heat while playing folk games, surrounded by the deafening cheers of basketball games, and pulled in by the Filipinos’ festivity, we cannot help but wonder how the Japanese students think after getting a grasp of the Pisay culture.
Most of the delegates, if not all, expressed their gratitude to everyone for their kindness and welcoming enthusiasm, as they have made many memories and friends at Pisay.
When asked about their favorite activity in Pisay, Shingo Morikawa, a grade 12 student from Ritsumeikan High School, shared that watching the basketball championships was his favorite.
“I congratulate Thalia for their achievement. The basketball championships were certainly very nerve-racking to watch; some say it was more of a wrestling match than basketball,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Miyu Ishikawa, a 10th-grader, said she favored the traditional games they played, specifically Sipa, more than the other activities.
Despite the limited amount of time available, this year’s PJPS brought everyone together to immerse themselves in each other’s cultures and become more connected with one another in a variety of ways.