Philippines - Arihiko Hasegawa (June 2008-April 2009)

Country of dispatch: Philippines
Dispatch period: June 2008-April 2009
Name: Arihiko Hasegawa

Photo of Arihiko Hasegawa with students at Mindanao International College

    I was assigned to Davao on Mindanao in the Philippines for 10 months. Mindanao International College, the institution where I was sent, is a leader in Japanese-language education in the Philippines, and at the beginning I wondered for days how I should face my students and what my role should be.

    At first I focused only on staying on a friendly footing with students and always tried to be gentle. After about two months, however, I was intentionally strict at times, a change that was triggered by a remark by a fellow Japanese-language teacher.

    “You can quit teaching but you cannot stop being a teacher.” Even after I stop teaching as a profession, I will continue to be ‘a teacher’ for students I have taught, and things I have taught will stay with them forever. When I heard this, I realized that even a short-term temporary teacher needs to deal with students on a serious level. It might have been difficult for students, but by the time my assignment was up, I could see they had made significant progress, and many students expressed their appreciation; they found it tough to say good-bye.

    From these students, I learned something important as a person.

    On the anniversary of the end of World War II in August, I talked about the war in the first-year class. The Philippines is a country Japan occupied during the war and a place where we caused great damage. I thought that as a Japanese I should not forget the past tragedy. In that class, one student began in English, saying “although we shouldn't forget the war,” and then continued in Japanese, using a pattern we had just learned: “I like Japan.” At that moment I realized that I was not only teaching Japanese but standing in front of the class as a bridge between Japan and the Philippines.

    In the Philippines, where economic well-being is not widely seen, many students take Japanese out of necessity for their jobs or to make money, and as someone who was sent there to teach Japanese, I sometimes had mixed feelings about my job and position. However, through exchanges with cheerful and forward-thinking Filipino students, I reconfirmed that being a Japanese teacher is rewarding and meaningful for me. The 10 months I spent in the Philippines is a precious time when I learned a lot and grew both as a teacher and as a person.

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