What I learned in Japan

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda - The Philippine Star

I was recently invited to grace the grand launch of Astoria Vacation and Leisure Club, Inc. (AVLCI) in Tokyo, Japan. We stayed at Hilton Hotel (located in Shinjuku, Tokyo) where the event also took place. Thanks to the Philippines’ Astoria team headed by AVLCI president Jeffery Ng and Mrs. Vivian Ng, Arnold Gamboa, Dan King and Ric Valenzuela.

AVLCI tops the list of its thousands of very satisfied members when it comes to travel and leisure. The company has burgeoned from one resort to six luxurious resorts in a span of six years. AVLCI is an RCI Gold Crown Resort awardee for eight consecutive years — the highest rating given by RCI Exchange Guests for excellent customer service and world-class accommodation.

A membership to this A-list club gives its members the opportunity to explore exotic cultures and well-known destinations as well as to stay in some of the best resorts and hotels around the world.

AVLCI is a proud affiliate of Resorts Condominiums International (RCI) — the leader in vacation exchange with 4,000 hotels and resorts in more than 100 countries.

As part of the program during the launch, I interviewed three Filipinos now residing in Japan: Abby Watabe, Ramil Diez and Lovely Pineda Ishii. They all shared their inspiring stories about how they made it to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Abby’s rags-to-riches story is a compelling Cinderella story. She went to Japan in 2005 and worked as a club entertainer to help her family in Tarlac. A Japanese businessman took interest in her when they saw each other in an elevator. Soon, the guy became a frequent visitor in the club and eventually asked Abby to resign from her job and to study at a Japanese school. At first, Abby had reservations of the man’s true intention and his supposed wealth. When he proposed marriage to her, Abby told him to call her 10 times a day while she was on vacation. He did. Now, Abby and her husband manage Karaoke Kan, a chain of over a hundred luxury karaoke bars in Japan with Internet cafés, showers and laundromats. Abby’s blessings have been extended to her family in the Philippines as well. Her parents have a laundromat business now.

Meanwhile, Ramil left for Japan after suffering from a gunshot wound in the head. He took various jobs to make both ends meet. He met his first wife who was Japanese and they have a daughter. When Ramil lost his job due to bankruptcy, he started his own buy-and-sell-car business. His business plummeted after the tsunami catastrophe. He divorced his Japanese wife and married a Filipina with whom he has a son. He plans to open a new business in Japan to help his countrymen living there.

Lovely is the owner of LOYDS International Marketing Co., Ltd. that provides general services such as videography, photography, sales and marketing for Filipino communities in Japan. She was in Japan during the devastating earthquake in 2011. Her family used to live just a kilometer away from the Fukushima (Daiichi) Nuclear Power Plant which exploded and threatened the people with its harmful high frequency radiation. Now, together with her three kids, she started rebuilding their lives and regaining their lost livelihood in Okuma.

Last year, LOYDS produced a charity event called JP Music Party Vol. 1 (JP stands for Japan-Pilipino) for the benefit of Sagip Bata Foundation in Davao. The event featured selected local Pinoy artists in Japan and mainstream Japanese artists like KENTA (former LUV & Soul), Blue Moon Boo, Hi-D, among others. Lovely also works in an entertainment company and is a member of the managing team for cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao. She also produces a 30-minute cooking show called Kokusai Kitchen which is hosted by Filipinos. It is being aired on YouTube every Saturday at 5 p.m.

A funny yet interesting thing happened while I was in Japan. Ric Valenzuela was holding a welcome banner while waiting for me and my companions at the Narita Airport. A crew of the famous Japanese television program Why Did You Come to Japan? spotted him. He may have looked like an over-zealous relative waiting for the arrival of his long lost cousin. As soon as the crew saw me, they pleasantly ambushed me for an interview. “Why do you come to Japan?”

I have learned that the reality show (which airs every Monday) is hosted by comedians Osamu Shitara and Y?ki Himura. The show has a team of interviewers who go around various destinations in Japan like the Narita Airport and ask foreigners of their reason for coming to Japan. They also follow foreigners as they travel around the country.

Why do I want to go back to Japan? Because the Japanese people are helpful, welcoming and honest.










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