Silang Mga Nagpapaalala: My Intern Experience

Silang Mga Nagpapaalala: My Intern Experience

by: Mario Rico Florendo

Disclaimer: Paumanhin po sa lahat na sanay ng basahin ang kolum ko sa wikang Filipino. Pero sa pagkakataong ito susulat ako sa wikang Ingles, dahil para sa kolum na ito sumusulat ako hindi lamang sa mga kababayan kong Pinoy pero pati sa mga dayuhan na natutunan ng mahalin ang Pilipinas. Salamat sa inyong pag-unawa.

This summer, amidst the excitement of my friends to climb Mt. Fuji, return home to the Philippines for a vacation, or go hanabi dressed in yukata, I was busy preparing for my own one-of-a-kind summer experience as a first-time intern. Back in the Philippines, my course didn’t require me to do internship, so right out of college, I worked as a part-time instructor in a local university in my hometown in Pangasinan and then at an exclusive high school in San Juan. So I never really knew how to be an intern, more so, how to work for an NPO like the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center or PNLSC.

Lesson #1

As I read in a book about Japanese culture before, human relationships is very important to the Japanese especially in the workplace. Because of this, I knew that if I wanted to learn and at the same time enjoy my internship, I would have to deal with the people I will work with. Would I blend in? What if I didn’t get along with everyone because I’m the only foreigner in the workplace? What if I don’t get their jokes or their stories? Time went by so fast, and before I knew it, I had to deal with these worries soon enough.

I first became acquainted with Tajika-san because of our constant email exchanges before the internship began. She was very kind and reassuring about the tasks ahead of me and constantly reminded me that she was always there should I need her help. Takano-san on the other hand was the one who made me talk about my family and myself as she interviewed while she was orienting me around the Yotsuya neighborhood. Then there was Ishii-san who chatted with me on the bus about her experience working in the Philippines. While Yuka-san, who arrived fresh from the Philippines together with the Nikkei-jins, had that kind aura in her. And of course my boss, Inomata-san who always sported the smile that reassures everyone that everything is alright and under control. They all had different qualities that made my stay in the office very interesting. One funny instance was when I had to do so many things in one day, and Takano-san asked me if I knew the meaning of “Koki Tsukau.” At first, I thought it had some importance in my work and that I had to remember it. So I said no because I didn’t really know the meaning, but all of them were smiling, signaling that they understood what it meant. Then my boss, Inomata-san explained it to me, “alam mo yung parang ginagawang slave?” “Aaahhh.” Then it dawned upon me, they were right, but somehow I wasn’t complaining because I was enjoying what I was doing.Face Your Fear

Probably also, one of the reasons why I enjoyed being the errand boy of the organization was because I feared being asked of something that I cannot do--translation.

One of the reasons why I wanted to be an intern was because I wanted to improve my Japanese skills especially the language in the workplace. Like most foreigners, this is the aspect where I know I still lack confidence at. And especially now that I was in a formal setting, I had to brush up my ~masu, ~desu and keigo and memorize new words and kanjis. And with the help of template translations and my electronic dictionary, I was translating so many documents that I have never translated in my life.

Though I cannot claim that my translations are all accurate, at least I now know that I can be capable of doing this even when I think that there are so many things that I still need improving. Because until now, there are still so many things that I know, words that I encounter for the first time, Kanjis that I can’t read. Glimpse of the FutureNevertheless, this internship and the people that I met gave me a glimpse of the future that was waiting for me should I find and decide to work here two years from now. While others may claim that the Japanese nowadays lack human interaction because of the various SNS available, I believe that it is still important in the workplace and my interaction with my workmates proved to be important. Because of this, even though my internship has been finished, I still plan to visit the office and help them with their activities in the future.Their work remind me of the dreams that I held when I was in college but never got to do because I was busy reaching my own dreams. Tajika-san, Takano-san, Ishii-san, Yuka-san at Inomata-san are a reminder, that if you really wanna help, it doesn’t matter if they are from a different culture; that if you want to create an impact in other people’s lives, you don’t have to look like them, you just have to accept that you cannot be like them to symphatize with them.

As the weather in Tokyo starts to get cold, the leaves start to fall, and summer draws to a close, I don’t regret the why I wasn’t able to climb Mt. Fuji, go back home to the Philippines or watch hanabi in a yukata. Because I know that I can always do that next summer, but meeting a wonderful set of people that share the same passion and commitment in helping fellow Filipinos, I know I chose the right way to spend the summer vacation.

*this is a tribute to all the Japanese and other foreigners who has embraced Filipino culture good and the not so good.For all who want to know more about PNLSC, visit their website at (Japanese, English).