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Japanese-Filipino children long for fathers

Posted on: September 10, 2009

Japanese-Filipino children long for fathers
By Anna Valmero First Posted 15:01:00 09/10/2009 Filed Under: Children, Migration, Overseas Employment, Poverty

MANILA, Philippines – Risa Reyes hopes to become a doctor someday.

And she has pinned her future on a father she has never met and whose existence she found out about only when she was in gradeschool, having been raised by someone else after her mother remarried.

At 18, Reyes remained optimistic that she would meet her father, a Japanese, to whom she would seek financial assistance for her college education.

“I want to become a med [medical] technologist and later a doctor. But right now, I cannot enter college for lack of finances,” said Reyes.

Mary Joy Barcelona does not have a Japanese father but she went to Japan in 1990 hoping to save up for her college education.

“I just graduated from high school then when I decided to go to Japan. A friend of my sister works there at that time and she said she earned good money as dancer in Japan so I decided if I wanted to save up for college immediately, I’ll go to Japan,” said Barcelona in Filipino.

“My employment papers said I would be a dancer and entertainer in hotels but when I arrived there, I was brought to a cheap bar where girls dancing on stage were barely clothed. I was brought to different places together with other girls to do unwholesome work. I even dated Japanese customers on afternoons or what they call “dohan” so they could be patrons of the club,” she added.

“I was brokenhearted when I returned to the Philippines after my
six-month contract. How can I become a teacher after all that
happened? I vowed never to return there again,” said Barcelona.

The plights of Reyes and Barcelona have not been lost on non-government organizations (NGOs) like the National of Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), the Maligaya House-Citizens Network for Japanese Filipino Children and the Development Action for Women Network (Dawn).

They staged “Move on Woman: YOU CAN,” a P2,500-a-plate benefit show at the Heritage Hotel Ballroom Tuesday night that sought to help women who have worked in Japan and their children to rebuild their lives here in the Philippines.

The mothers performed a musical for the patrons, highlighting their personal experiences as entertainers in Japan while the children gave a play centering on their experiences both in Japan and the Philippines like discrimination and hopelessness caused by poverty.

“Since the late 1970’s, Filipinos have migrated to Japan for work. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reported [that] 63,041 Filipinos went to Japan in 2000, and 74,800 in 2004. Most of those deployed are entertainers or ‘overseas performing artists,’ said Emelina M. Santos, chief of NATCCO’s Member Relations and Networking Group.

Development Action for Women Network (Dawn) executive director Carmelita Nuqui blamed the migration to “the lack of jobs in the country,” which has led to the situation where these Filipinos “would later be abused for lack of policies that protect them.”

“We hear stories of our women entertainers in Japan being exploited and abused by their employers,” said Nuqui.

“Previously, there were government trainings and certification exams before they were sent abroad. But when they arrive there [Japan], they sing and dance way differently some dancing all-the-way or naked. Some do hostessing na nahihipuan sila ng customers [wherein they are touched in their private parts by customers], yung iba pinipilahan [some are marketed] for sex. Even if they plan to escape, they can’t because their passports and legal documents are hidden by their employers,” said Nuqui.

The ongoing migration of Filipina entertainers or “overseas performing artists” to Japan since the late 1970s has produced an estimated 200,000 Japanese-Filipino children (JFCs), many of whom were abandoned and much more get no support from their Japanese fathers, Nuqui said.

When marriages or relationships do not work out, some women go back to the Philippines with their children in tow. The returnees who were able to save have something to fall back on, said Nuqui.

But those who did not prepare have found themselves in a problematic situation, unable to find jobs to support themselves and their children, she said.

“The JFCs and their mothers need help. They need to be able to capacitate themselves and become micro-entrepreneurs,” said Aurora Javate-De Dios, director of Dawn.

The capability-building activities will be facilitated through Dawn Multi-Purpose Cooperative, organized for the JFCs and their families, according to Dawn.

The project aims to:
1) Inform the public of the sad plight of the many unskilled/ unemployed women who go abroad hoping to get decent jobs but end up being abused, exploited and worse, forced to work as sex workers;

2) Inform the public about how distressed migrant workers and their children can be partners in nation-building, given the opportunity to develop certain livelihood skills and functional literacy; and

3) Raise a seed fund for a Program that will capacitate the distressed migrant workers, their children and other unskilled/unemployed women to acquire livelihood and micro-finance skills.

Livelihood trainings and educational assistance have been given to at least 898 former Filipino entertainers from Japan, said Nuqui.

Natcco, Dawn, and the Maligaya House have also been working together to counsel returning entertainers from psychological or emotional trauma and assist their children to gain support from their fathers while lobbying for policy reforms for migrant workers and their children.

“So far we have succeeded to lobby for Japan to tighten immigration controls which resulted in the decrease of Filipina workers going to Japan to only 5,000 last year. But it was also frustrating that our own government was the one lobbying for Japan to lift the new measures but I don’t think the Japanese government will revert to the old policies after it was ranked among the tier two hot spots for human trafficking by the US,” said Nuqui.

For these JFCs, Dawn and Maligaya House provide legal assistance programs that help to locate the father of the child and negotiate for legal recognition and financial support, said Maligaya House executive director Naoko Kono.

Kono said JFCs have had problems in acquiring Japanese citizenship because a requirement was that they be recognized first by their fathers.

“The main issues for Japanese-Filipino children were the lack of
financial support and lack of recognition when they were abandoned by their Japanese fathers. Regardless of nationality, it is the obligation of the father to support his child. Let’s admit it, one worker in the family is not enough to support the needs of the household, much less to support a kid to school,” said Kono.

“I hope I can find my father so he can send me to school or let me fly to Japan. I want to see him,” said Risa Reyes.

Maligaya House is located at Cabezas St., Project 4, Quezon City.

Dawn is a development migrant NGO established in February 1996 to address the growing number and concerns of distressed Filipino women migrants in Japan as well as the returnees, and the growing number of JFCs.

It protects and promotes the rights and welfare of Filipino women migrants and the JFCs, as well as to support them in their reintegration into Philippine society.

Natcco is the biggest cooperative federation with 330 member cooperatives all over the country and assets reaching P900 million. The group provides its members varied services such as training for cooperative leaders, financial services, and enterprise development.


1 Response to "Japanese-Filipino children long for fathers"

Thanks for posting on this important issue. Most of the people our organization has sponsored or interviewed for scholarships come from a broken family where either the mother, father, or both are not present and the remaining parent cannot afford to send their children to college.

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