by Julius Diyeng D. Canja
Batis Center for Women is committed to raising the awareness of the general public on the plight of women migrant workers in order to generate a strong public opinion against the exploitation and continued deployment of women migrant workers. To answer this challenge, one of Batis Center for Women’s efforts is by hosting study tours for students and professionals from Japan and other countries for them to get to know about the work that we do and the issues confronting women migrant workers and their families.
From February 3- 9 2011, Batis Center for Women hosted a study tour for students and faculty of Japan College of Social Work. The week-long study tour’s primary objective is for the participants to develop an understanding of how human and social welfare differs according to society, culture, geography, political and economic systems and circumstances. Through the study tour, it was also hoped that the students who are all Social Planning majors be introduced to multi-cultural social work by having a direct experience in interacting with Filipinos and women migrant workers and Japanese-Filipino children in particular in order for them to know more about the ways of life of the fourth largest minority group in Japan. It also aimed for the participants to develop an understanding of the nature of poverty and disaster management, and the role of gender empowerment and social action in bringing about social change.
The study tour which was dubbed as Trip Pinas was participated in by seven students and they were joined by two of their professors, Prof. Helen Fujimoto and Prof. Masaki Soeta. The study tour program included the following activities: workshops and discussions on Philippine history and culture, social realities and migration situation; homestay with Batis AWARE and Batis-YOGHI members; exposure to a rural community in Nueva Ecija; interaction with former migrants from Japan, Syria and Lebanon; visit to San Jose Orphanage and interaction with the children; sightseeing and historical tour in Corregidor Island and Camp Pangatian; community service with Buklod Tao in San Mateo and; interaction with UP Social Work and Community Development students.
In the first day, the students attended the lecture about the Philippine history and culture, social realities and migration situation which was discussed by Batis Center. The discussions imparted to them significant events in the history which helped shaped the country to where it is now, its peculiarities and some similarities from Japanese culture and the different places, traditions and celebrations which are worth seeing and experiencing. The lecture about the current status of the Philippines showed the crisis, that the country is facing. Poverty, scarcity in jobs and resources and the realities in life of Filipinos particularly from the marginalized sector were discussed to enable them understand and be critical of what is happening in countries other than their own. Aside from the lectures, activities to enhance team work and creative thinking were conducted.
The students were also able to experience an overnight home stay with a Filipino family. They were assigned to either a member of Batis AWARE or Batis-YOGHI’s family or to a Batis Center staff. Students were asked about their experiences during their home stay and everyone said that they got to experience or see things which they have never done or seen before. Some were able to go to the wet market, interact with other family members, got a glimpse of how Filipino families are like, felt the warmth of other relatives of the host families and the hospitality even of other neighbors, went around the local community, ate native cuisines, played with the kids and a lot more. The students said that it was a positive experience for them and some even said that it was the highlight of their study tour. They were hoping that the home stay had been longer.
To get a glimpse of life in the rural community, the group was brought to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. They were able to meet local leaders, visit a public school, tour a barangay and most importantly interact with Batis Center clients who were former migrants from Lebanon and Syria. Going around the community they saw the big houses which were owned by families of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). However, they also learned that not all OFWs have successful migration experiences just like the Batis Center client who had a negative experience in Syria.
The visit to the Bahay ni San Jose Orphanage was also a moving experience for the group. Here they were able to interact with children who were abandoned by their parents and children with special needs. The kids prepared a heartwarming presentation to welcome the group. In turn, the students played with the kids and taught them how to make origami. They also brought snacks which they shared with everyone. The group left with smiles on their faces knowing that even for a short period of time they made the children happy.
Community service was also an important part of Trip Pinas. It was fulfilling to be able to contribute to the development of a community. The group visited Buklod Tao, a people’s organization that aims to strengthen the capacities of the community in disaster preparedness and environmental conservation. Ka Noli, the president briefly discussed in the morning the nature of work of the organization. Afterwards, the groups was then introduced to gabion box making, a wire-mesh box that has to be filled with rocks and are to be placed along the riverbanks to avoid the erosion of the soil and flooding in the community. The group formed a human chain to pass along the rocks that will be stacked inside the gabion boxes. This was also a good opportunity for the JCSW students to interact with the Community Development students from the University of the Philippines and the members of Buklod Tao. The group was also able to help plant pechay in the organic urban garden of Buklod Tao. Despite the burden of carrying heavy rocks, everybody was just grateful that they were able to help the community and enjoyed doing the tasks as well.
Of course it is not just work all the time, the group was also able to do sightseeing in historical spots such as Corregidor Island in Bataan and Camp Pangatian in Nueva Ecija. These two sites were very significant to World War II particularly during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. The visit to these sites was not to point out the atrocities of the Japanese during the war but to show them the consequences of war and how it affects the lives of people especially the innocent ones. It is also a call for everyone to strive for peace at all times.
The trip ended with a Sayonara Party attended by the JCSW study tour participants, Batis Family and students from UP. The JCSW students had a song presentation and showcased their clay sculptures which represent how they feel about the whole program and what they will remember most about it.
Experience plays a major role in learning. In this case, the study tour experience allowed the students to see what is happening outside of Japan, know more about the social issues and at the same time interact with people from other
culture. Hopefully through this experience, they have come back to Japan with raised awareness, has grown more compassionate towards people from other cultural background and learned lessons that will aid them to become better persons and contribute to a better world.