It has been the 11th day of my stay in Japan since my arrival here last July 23, 2014 as the lone Filipino participant to the 25-day 1st ICA/Japan Training Course for “Fostering Leaders to Reinforce Business Development of Agricultural Co-operatives in FY 2014″ sponsored by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (MAFF) of the Government of Japan. Since Day 1 of the training held at the Institute for the Development of Agricultural Cooperation in Asia (IDACA) in Tokyo and the ensuing trip to the various agricultural co-operatives in Iwate Prefecture, I gained valuable insights which were really food for my thought but it was only in the morning of August 5, 2014 that I encountered events that struck the innermost chamber of my heart.
As we dropped by the road side fronting the Yumoto Kindergarten located at Dai 3 Chiwari-79-11 Yumoto in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, Japan which is operated by the Japan Agricultural Cooperative (JA) Iwate-Hanamaki, my eyes were glued at the sight of these kids gaily playing at the ground…
The admiration from the seven (7) training participants comprising of 3 Indians, 1 Malaysian, 1 Filipino (me) and 3 Thais including the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) representative and the 4 IDACA Staff really flowed for the officers and management of the primary cooperative when the Kindergarten Director explained that the Yumoto Kindergarten was established in 1968 to cater to the needs of working mothers so they can devote more time to their farming works and other jobs knowing that their toddlers and kids were being watched with tender loving care by the professional staff of the day care center.
But the best thing of our visit happened right after the orientation of the Yumoto Kindergarten services and facilities when we had a direct encounter with the kids. . .
Candidly, nothing beats my excitement when the kids engaged with me in a thumb’s up. . .
Until we capped the visit with a group photo . . .
Truly, when we bid goodbye to the kids, I saw the face of my youngest son Edrian Nathaniel from among the smiling faces of the healthy boys in the kindergarten facility. As I relaxed and reclined my seat on the tourist bus, I couldn’t stop my lips from smiling as the sight of the kids kept flashing in my head while my son’s voice of “I love You Tatay” kept reverberating in my mind until we reached the home for the aged operated by the same primary cooperative.
The car used to fetch the elderly people to and from the “Hatsu-Ratsu Longevity House” equipped with Electric Rear Loading Wheelchair Hoist had really caught my attention. . .
I was about to draw my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera from my pocket and take pictures at the men and women in the 60’s gaily singing at the Karaoke Room under the guidance of a professional singer but got an instruction that picture taking is forbidden inside the facility for the reason that the aged generation in Iwate Prefecture are too shy as they used to stay in their homes for almost a half of the year due to extreme cold during winter and biting heat of the summer.
The revelry ambiance of the facility suddenly turned melodramatic when we entered the room for the 70’s and above and I witnessed the staff combing at the hairs of some of the aged who were singing in unison to the tune of the Japanese country song that traced its roots at the Iwate Prefecture. Mystified by the sweetness and pleasantness of the music sound which I found to be identical with that of the songs of the angels in heaven, I choose to become the last person to exit from the establishment.
While walking down the aisles towards the exit, I was really wondering that had this type of facility for the aged offering various hobby courses on pottery, karaoke, folk dancing, karaoke singing, nursing care and others been operating near our home in the Philippines, my mother who died a few years back and my father, who just turned 90 years old last June of this year, could have a place of recreation and relaxation to enjoy the twilight years of their life in vigorous fashion. As I neared the exit door, I chanced upon a group of the elderly sitting in a room intended for non-music lovers who promptly waived back as I waved my hand to bid good bye. But, I was truly struck at a woman sitting in the corner whose facial features were strikingly similar to my beloved deceased mother. Call it as mere product of a fertile mind, but I really saw her gesturing and inviting me to come closer to her side.
I was holding back my emotion as I stepped on the bus to escape notice from my study trip colleagues but I secretly wiped my tears that kept rolling down my cheeks as I was waxing nostalgic for my mother while on my seat. Call it sentimentalism or whatsoever but I really considered the trip to be fruitful and meaningful not only for the reason that it strengthened my resolve to replicate such projects one at a time in our primary cooperative in the Philippines but because I saw my mother and son, at least in my own imagination, in Japan.