Neriza Sarmiento-Saito 2024




With Ang mga Kababaihan sa Kapihan 5 sa Kansai

March - April 2024

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll be a happy man.

But if you get a bad wife, you’ll be a philosopher.


In the days of the 3 famous Greek philosophers, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, it was the latter who became prominent for his crystal clear logic. He believed that women are equal to men in making a country strong and often argued that intelligence and wisdom are not determined by gender but by one’s innate abilities. Sources also said that Socrates helped establish shelters for homeless women in those days.

But how and why did he say that? Was it because there was no divorce then or because their standards of a good wife are subservient or for a bad one, a strong opinionated woman?

That leads us to reflect on the lives of women in the 21st century. To coincide with the celebration of International Women’s Month, the Philippine Community Coordinating Council in partnership with the Migrant Workers’ Office, Osaka and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, Osaka, in collaboration with Osaka International House Foundation and Convention Linkage Inc., will hold Kapihan 5 at the International House Osaka on March 20 to gather Filipino communities together and share opinions with the Japanese about the conditions of women in Kansai.

History introduced to us Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, and our very own Cory Aquino. I was very fortunate to have been able to interview her in Osaka in the 1990’s and it made a lasting impression.

I was surrounded by strong women in my childhood. My grandfather became a writer and retreated to his typewriter to write poems and essays to avoid Lola’s nagging. My mother was a quiet, unassuming school teacher but would not back out once her principles and those of her children’s welfare were at stake. But she knew her role as a dutiful wife and mother and was able to create a happy balance between family and career. Even my father knew that it would be better not to argue with her once she kept quiet because her silence was more deafening than nagging and confronting her would mean a declaration of war! From them, I learned that women should stand up for their principles.

Another strong woman who had a big impact on my university days and on my career was theater awardee Naty Crame Rogers, who was my mentor and department head in the Speech and Drama Department. One of the challenges she gave me was to alternate for Mila Ocampo (mother of Snooky Serna) in Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,“ directed by Lamberto Avellana during a performance at the Pines Hotel in Baguio.

I had butterflies in my stomach on opening night. Luckily, I said my lines, “A tisket... a tasket“ quite convincingly. Thanks to the grand dames of Philippine Theater Daisy Avellana, Veronica Palileo and Naty Crame Rogers who trusted me to do that role. From them, I learned that “trust begets trust.“

Trust in people was my secret to surviving life in Japan after I got married and gave birth to three boys. I juggled time between child rearing and social activities with the Japan Philippines Friendship Society or Kansai Nippi Tomo No Kai that we formed in 1984. At meetings that we held at the Phil. Tourism Office, I was the only woman, and on some occasions, when my husband was on business trips, I had to bring my boys along.

There was a time, out of curiosity, I went to an English Conversation School to apply for a part time teaching job, but the interviewer’s face was visibly displeased when he noticed that I was pregnant with my third baby. It would have been different if that happened in the present, when online English lessons are popular.

My third baby was born with a defect on his finger, so he had to undergo two operations. My husband’s family blamed me indirectly, but the impact was felt when he started to go to school. He was bullied not only for the defect but also for the fact that his mother is a foreigner. It got worse until he didn’t attend school anymore. It tore me apart, and a once happy family was torn apart too! From this, I learned how to turn misfortunes into positive ones.

That was when we had just formed the Philippine Community Coordinating Council in December 2000. Two years from now, we will be celebrating our 25th year.

We were on the verge of canceling Kapihan 5 due to time constraints had it not been for the timely visit of Dr. Jovelle B. Laoag Fernandez, a multi-awarded healthcare executive and author of the book “THE EXPAT.” Right after a very stimulating conversation with her and her husband, Dr. Alex Fernandez, the other women in the group, OWWA Officer Ms. Pilipina Dino asked if we could incorporate a discussion on women’s issues in one of our PCCC events and immediately, we thought of Kapihan 5. Lea Bartiquin, who is very much involved in radio broadcasting in the Philippines and who is now working as an English teacher with the Osaka Board of Education in Kishiwada was tapped by OWWA to do a presentation on gender sensitivity. That afternoon we spent with Dr. Fernandez was the pivotal factor in why we can go on with Kapihan 5 and had it not been for Labor Attache Elizabeth Marie Estrada’s trust in us, we wouldn’t be able to do this. It would also be a good time for the induction of the new set of PCCC Officers for 2024, headed by Ms. Katrina Fujikawa, the indefatigable woman behind the success of two PCCC major events, “Paskong Kansai-Ya“ in 2023 and HIPTOK in 2024!

To the women of Kapihan 5 and to all the men in the group who have supported us, Mabuhay!!!!


New Hopes... New Beginnings in 2024, 

the Year of the Dragon...

January-February 2024

“Do what you can now and build on that one by one."

(from an old Buddhist saying)


A blessed and prosperous New Year to all our readers and supporters of Jeepney Press. Once again, for good luck, I’m including pictures of the youngest members of our clan. Lewis and Duncan now have younger brothers, Renny and Cade. The smile on their faces is enough to start the new year on a happy note, despite the tough times.

The year of the dragon made a bold and fiery entrance with a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture, just as families across the country were celebrating the first day of 2024. My family had just gathered for the New Year get-together. My usual three-tiered jubako had three sets of food: the first layer is Philippine dishes with adobo and atchara; the second layer is Japanese kamaboko, daisies, dashi, maki tamago, beans, and Kuri Kinton Kazunoko; and the third layer is ham, cheese, and olives. A jolt in Osaka interrupted our online New Year pleasantries with my sister.

Barely a day after that, Japan was in the news again. JAL Flight 516 collided with a Japan Self Defense Force aircraft at Haneda Airport. Foreign media said that it was a "miracle“ and that it was amazing that all 379 people on the plane were evacuated in 18 minutes. The crew was praised for their quick action, all attributed to the rigid training of the staff on emergency procedures. It was also said that the passengers were calm and followed instructions well. No one was seen carrying any luggage, and it helped a lot with a smooth evacuation.


I’ve seen earthquake and fire drills conducted in many schools and centers for disaster preparedness, and from an early age, Japanese children take these drills seriously. No one is allowed to make jokes or smile while the drill is being held. Perhaps it’s the reason for the "miracle evacuation" at Haneda Airport. Instinctively, all passengers knew exactly what they had to do: remain calm and follow the instructions of the crew.


My niece and her boyfriend came for their holidays in the aftermath of the calamity and the collision at Haneda Airport. From Tokyo, they took the "Shinkansen." Shin Osaka station was overcrowded with holidaymakers, and the staff had to announce through loudspeakers, just like in Shibuya station, where policemen had to control the crowd on elevated platforms.


Their stay was brief but significant, as we discovered many things about living in multicultural settings. They were awed by Japan’s advancement in information technology, digitalization, anime, and manga culture, yet they say the Japanese people have preserved many of their cultural heritage and traditions, as well as being genuinely helpful to others.

I watched a news story on TV where a local restaurant in the earthquake-stricken area was shown serving hot food to residents and how students in one town are doing the best they can to get ready for senior high school entrance exams in spite of the fact that they do not have enough water or electricity. These are very inspiring stories about people rebuilding their lives after the disaster.


Meanwhile, let’s hope that this year will be merry and bright, and don’t take things too seriously. Do things one at a time!