Hello, I am Itsuki Kanno, a Spring 2012 Yujo-no-Reporter.
It was my fourth day in the Philippines as a reporter. Today I had the deepest experience of the last four days.
First I met Ms.Agnes who is an exective director of KnK Philippines at Wakamono-no-Ie before we took off, where she told me a little about Bagong Silang. I was shocked with her stories of the Smokey Mountains, lives, people who cannot survive without working as gangs, and the damage caused by floods. I was scared when I was told that we might be threatened by gangs, but my enthusiasm to learn about the lives of people who are forced to live in that way excelled my fears. Then we visited Meann and Joshua, whom I made friends with on the 26th, to interview them.
From left side, Itsuki, Hiroki, and Joshua
It was Joshua that I more strongly empathized with. His house stood along a river and was washed away in the 2009 flood.
The horrific sight of the tsunami suddenly occurred to me. The height or distance from the coast was nothing and meaningless against the black water. Everything was swallowed in the wave instantly. The moment of insecurity, fear, and despair that changed everything came back to me in a vivid image as I was talking with Joshua. The tsunami changed the scenery in a second, but the flood gradually swallowed everything with the gradually rising water level. While we feared only from the moment of terror, the people in this village had time to think. I wondered what they thought during that time with the horrific sight in front of their eyes, and what Joshua thought when he was only nine years old. A survivor of a natural disaster myself, I wasn’t bold enough to ask that question.
But I had some more questions to ask him. I got up my courage and asked Joshua, though I understood, more than anyone else, that it was an awful experience for him. I am sure he felt awful, and I, while listening to him answering the questions, painfully understood he was feeling awful.
“Are you still scared of water?” “Do you hate to live close to the river?” “What do you think about tsunami?” “Was your house washed away in the flood?” I felt sorry for asking
him such bad questions. I knew it was difficult and scary for him. I knew he can never forget the experience. I noticed when he was answering the questions without protest that his eyes were all red as if he were about to cry. The moment I saw the eyes and wondered how he was feeling, I could not hold it anymore and burst into tears. Joshua was at a loss and looked into my eyes, but I was sure that he was having a more difficult time, being asked lots of startling questions and forced to answer them by someone he had known only for a couple of days. I would run away, but he answered all of them. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I wondered how he felt. He was way smaller but much stronger than I.
Looking up when I finished interviewing Joshua and thanking him, I noticed almost everyone there, including KnK staff member Christina and Joshua’s mother, were crying. I for the first time felt that my experience moved other people. I had never felt that way, even with the school counselors or reporters who came to ask us questions after the disaster.
Damage by water cannot be generalized. The mechanism of tsunami is different from that of flood. The situations and degree of damage can be very different in Japan and the Philippines. I think I was the only one who experienced the tsunami who, despite the differences, was able to feel the exact fears and insecurity that Joshua had felt when he witnessed the shocking disaster right in front of his eyes. It wasn’t just a superficial understanding but empathy. I think that was what I had been looking for since I experienced the disaster. That was probably what Joshua was looking for, too. In order to find it, we must keep talking about our experiences and share our memories. Although it is not easy, we cannot keep avoiding it our whole life.
I would not have share the moment with Joshua if I had not experienced the tsunami. If I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have come to the Philippines as a Yujo-no-Reporter. I wouldn’t have even come to know KnK. I would have just let the floods in the Philippines pass as somebody else’s problem.
I don’t want to speak well of the tsunami, but I feel that the tsunami deprived us of lots of things and has also brought lots of good things. Today I felt that.
What I experienced today will help me meet children in a different way tomorrow.