CONVERSATIONS with Ricky Lo
Sunday, March 30, 2008
After checking in at the Princess Garden Hotel, we had a hearty dinner (cholesterol-free, burp!) at a nearby restaurant, shoes off, and then we retired to our respective rooms for a dreamless sleep, waking up to a bright spring morning in a city with very clean streets (look, sir, no potholes!), very polite people (and honest, too; you leave your valuables at a restaurant and find them intact after several hours...and no cellphone-snatchers), and trees lining almost every lane. Paradise!
We were here for a joint event: The first ever job fair sponsored by the IPS, which is headed by the soft-spoken Koji Miya****a (who has homes in both Japan and the Philippines where IPS also maintains an office managed by Ms. Amoyo), and the launch of the second channel of the GMA Life TV which began airing shows (including, blush, The Ricky Lo Exclusives) of its sister channel Q-11 last month. (GMA 7’s Pinoy TV, the international channel, has been airing shows for a few years now.) The provider of both GMA channels is the Access TV of IPS which has expanded its services beyond job placement, and now including publishing (Pinoy Gazette and Access TV magazines, etc.), systematic overseas call centers and running a caregiver academy. The work force of IPS is 90 percent Filipino.
The job fair was kicked off at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 22, with POEA director Nini Lanto giving an inspirational talk. The venue, accessible by foot two turns away from the hotel, was packed full with Filipinos wearing contented smiles, some of them carrying Japino babies along with application forms as they hop from one booth to another, put up by the 70 participating companies.
And then came the GMA Life TV launch as finale. Glued in their off-hours to GMA (and now Q-11) shows, thanks to Access TV, the OFWs as well as the Pinoy migrants are familiar with GMA/Q-11 stars. When Richard and Jewel appeared onstage, the whole place erupted into wild cheers. Jewel sang first; Richard then joined her in a duet. Part of the agenda was a Q&A portion, with GMA/Q-11 goodies (T-shirts, bags, etc.) given away as prizes for those who answered correctly.
For almost two hours, our homesick kababayan had a grand time posing for photographs with the two stars and getting their autographs.
That same night, after a quick supper at Denny’s, our group took the bullet train for the two-hour trip (very smooth!) to Tokyo. We arrived at past 10 and retired to our assigned rooms at the Hotel Fontaine in the Shinbasi area.
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TOKYO — It was here where we had our first glimpse of the famous Cherry Blossoms (Sakura in Japanese) which bloom at the transition between winter and spring and last no longer than two weeks, as ephemeral as the splendor in the grass on a dewy, snowy, faintly sunshiny morning. I’ve been to Japan a few times and I haven’t been fortunate to catch the Cherry Blossoms, so I always left Japan with a heavy heart. This time, I was lucky.
Almost the whole of Sunday, March 23, was devoted to the same joint event — the job fair and the GMA Life TV launch — with an even bigger turnout of OFWs and Pinoy migrants this time, all of them apparently more eager for the meet-and-greet with Richard and Jewel than the prospect of finding another (a second) job. POEA director Nini Lanto again opened the affair with an inspirational talk together with Danilo Cruz, the Philippines’ Labor Attache in Japan.
We capped the night with a quick look-see of Akihabara, called the Techno Town because it offers all kinds of electronics at incredibly bargain prices (the PSP2 costs only roughly P7,800 apiece, would you believe!?!)
On Monday, March 24, our way to the Philippine Embassy for a courtesy call (minus Richard and Jewel, first-timers in Japan, who went to the Tokyo Disneyland), Nini, Aster and I made a stopover at the Recruit Agent (a Japanese placement agency) for an informal conference. Along the way, riding in a cab, we felt our eyes popping out at the sight of pretty Cherry Blossoms in white and pale pink, clinging to brown, leaf-less trees, looking as fragile and as vulnerable as dainty Japanese ladies in colorful kimono. At one point, shivering in the cold night on the way to and from the Japanese restaurant where we had a shabu-shabu dinner, we actually picked some Cherry Blossoms off low-lying branches. How tender they felt in our hands!
On the way back to dear old Manila (according to a Barry Manilow song,...back in the city where nothing is clear...), I felt as if I left a generous piece of me in Nagoya and especially Tokyo, after that oh-so-short visit which was as ephemeral as the Cherry Blossoms.