Japanese emperor praises Nihongo-speaking Philippine nurses
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino nurses who speak Nihongo fluently led Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to see how their national language is being taught at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Taguig City, which the imperial couple visited on Thursday.

In a press statement, Malacañang said the couple were supposed to visit TESDA’s Women’s Center only but later went to see the agency’s Language Skills Institutes (LSI) to personally witness how Nihongo was being taught to Filipino nurses and caregivers applying for work in Japan.

The Emperor expressed interest to go to the LSI after he visited a hospital in Japan in 2012 where he met Filipino nurses who spoke Nihongo fluently.

The Emperor and Empress were met at the LSI by a reception party led by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and acting TESDA director general Irene Isaac.

Aside from touring the TESDA facility, the royal pair also observed a Nihongo class and had an interaction with students. They asked the students why they wanted to go to Japan and also mentioned how cold it was in Japan.

Nihongo language training in TESDA was organized through the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

According to Teodoro Pascua, TESDA’s deputy director general for operations, the Department of Labor and Employment and TESDA provided the facility and the Japan Foundation gave the pool of instructors to the LSI.

Under JPEPA, applicants for health care jobs in Japan must undergo language training six months prior to their departure. Once they pass the qualifying examination in Japan, they have to undergo another six-month training in Japan.

The Emperor and his wife leave today after a visit that started on Tuesday and which the Palace said served to strengthen the friendship and strategic partnership between the Filipino and Japanese peoples as both nations marked the completion of six decades of harmonious relationship.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said one important aspect of the imperial couple’s visit was also the further improvement of people-to-people relations between the two countries.

The imperial couple visited a war memorial in Cavinti, Laguna yesterday with the families of the fallen Japanese soldiers and war veterans as well as the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, also in Laguna.

“Their Imperial Majesties are exemplars of humility, congeniality and heartwarming empathy,” Coloma said.

Also on Thursday, the Emperor and Empress met with representatives of the Philippine Federation of Japan Alumni (PHILFEJA) at the ancient San Diego Garden, located along the walls of Intramuros in Manila.

Escorted by Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, the couple arrived at the garden, popularly known as Baluarte de San Diego, at about 10:20 a.m. The garden was constructed in 1596 by Jesuit priest Antonio Sedeno.

Upon arrival, Their Majesties were introduced by PHILFEJA president Philip Sanvictores to the federation’s members – Filipinos who were scholars of the Japanese government (Monbusho Scholarship) as well as private companies in Japan.

For 30 minutes, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko shook hands and talked to all 57 PHILFEJA members who attended the event.

From Intramuros, Their Majesties proceeded to Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel for a meeting with members of the Japanese community in the Philippines.

Among those present were Yoshio Amano, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines; Ines Mallari, president of the Federation Nikkei Jin Kai; Nami Iwashita, regional director of the International Children’s Action Network; Mitsuhiko Shimizu, president of the Japanese Association Manila; and Carlos Teraoka, former honorary general of the Japanese community in Baguio.

Akihito and Michiko also met with third-generation Filipino-Japanese descendants, who waved small Japanese flags at the hotel lobby. The descendants were attending the 9th National Convention of the Filipino-Japanese Descendants being held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.

In the evening, the Japanese ambassador hosted a reception for Their Majesties attended by President Aquino and his sister, Pinky Abellada.

The President and his sister arrived at Ishikawa’s official residence in North Forbes Park in Makati City at about 7 p.m.

The emperor and the empress exchanged pleasantries with the officials, then had a chat with the President in a private room.

Other officials who attended Thursday’s event were Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., former president Fidel Ramos, Sen. Pia Cayetano and former senator Edgardo Angara.

Cabinet members present were Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras and Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad.

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