For today’s lengthy post, I will be sharing something very personal in detail. Not sure if this is oversharing already but if this blog post could help or encourage somebody out there, then I’d be so happy!
Last week, I received one of the best news I’ve had.
I have just been granted with a 5-year working visa here in Japan! I could not believe it at first! I silently prayed everyday ever since I handed my papers that it would be in the hands of a kind & generous immigration officer, lol! I remember meeting up with sensei (our visa counselor) and he told me that I might just get a 1 yr. visa (instead of my previous one, the 3 yr.) because my brother’s company was at a struggling / challenging stage at that time. My visa is sponsored under my brother’s company for almost 6 years.
When I got rewarded with this legal visa (ain’t fake news haha), I had many flashbacks. I literally cried alone when I received the alien card (funny name lol)! Finally, all of my hard work these years are now paying off! I’ve been promoting Japanese culture for many years through my online activities and maybe this is Japan reciprocating my love for the country. Huhu, thank you universe!
Before I share my plans in the future, let me narrate in detail my humble beginnings.
Where I came from. What motivated me to never stop trying even if there were little chances for me. What fueled my drive to keep on keeping on.
So first.. let’s say hello to mini me, hehe!
I was born last 1991. The only girl, after 4 brothers. My mom used to sell life insurance. My dad worked (and still works) in the energy industry (Chemical Engineer).
We’re a big middle-class family.
I grew up with many people in the house. I was exposed to people from different walks of life. I played with our helper’s daughter (hi Nanay Rosie in heaven) and I would even eat at their house. My mom’s nanny when she was a kid also became my second mother as well (and a big source of moral support). I had many strong women to look up to when I was young. I saw my mom still working even after getting radiation therapy for her cancer. I witnessed my dad burning the midnight oil almost every day sending project proposals to different people / companies who would sadly… pay him even months after. I grew up witnessing my older brother in Japan (Kuya Eric) rebelling responsibly as he built his own path here in Japan without any financial support from anyone. I’ve lived almost all of my life struggling.. but now, I think that maybe “being challenged” is the better term.
At school, my classmates would call me as Catherine. I wasn’t the brightest. I was that C+ student who would have to study very hard just to pass. Sometimes, even with best effort.. I got mediocre results. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to improve. My English sucked a lot to the point that I would ask my brothers to correct my grammar for book reports. I wanted to improve so I tried blogging when I discovered the wonders of webpage design (through a friend’s introduction). I made my first Cardcaptor Sakura shrine website / fanlisting (lol) using Microsoft Paint. I passionately coded the website manually using notepad. I didn’t have a lot of equipment or resources, but I still felt blessed. I maximized whatever was given or gifted to me. My parents saw how I was so into computers so when I won a place in an interschool webpage design competition, they bought me a laptop (the brand was a locally-made one called “Neo”). My brother bought a second-hand wacom tablet from Japan and I used it for many years.
My preschool and highschool photos haha ~
Rainbowholic ever since!
When I turned 18 and my brother came home for my DIY debut, he tried helping me obtain a visiting relative visa for Japan. I even took a risk and applied for “Leave of Absence” (LOA) at my university. At this point, my parents were scared that I might not be able to finish my university anymore if I do stop for a while and find opportunities in Japan. Unfortunately, I got a blank passport with a rejected visa submission. Instead of sulking around, I looked for another opportunity. I found out that the Japan Embassy had many info about scholarships in Japan. Though I did give it a try, I failed the test. It was so funny because I remember that I felt even thankful because I passed the first screening. Sometimes, my own mindset also shocks me? Haha! I even hired my friend’s friend to help me with college algebra / math! I was sad but I still felt proud because I gave it a try. I gave it my best. My brother probably felt I was doing my very best so he sent me some money and with that, I enrolled myself in a Japanese Language School in Manila (Nihongo Center Foundation). I only learned the basics and I even remember going to this school using Philippine jeepney. Oh my gaahd, Quiapo to Tandang Sora in scorching Manila heat hahaha. Add traffic! I don’t know how people survive the jeepney from Taft to Fairview though, haha.
During my LOA days, I studied e-commerce. I created eBay templates for his growing online store. I helped him with graphic design / anything techie-related while he helped me finish my studies. For me to obtain a working visa in the future, having a diploma is a must! I went back to school (after 6 months) and I was so glad to know that I only got delayed by 1 term and I could still graduate on time. The universe was cooperating with me!
Since I wanted to graduate on time without added stress, I decided to rent an apartment near my school. Before, I would wake up at 4AM for my morning class just so that I wouldn’t be late if I took the tricycle, jeepney, MRT, and LRT. Manila traffic was crazy (and I believe, crazier now). I did not take that blessing for granted and as promised, I tried my best to make the most out of my university life. I didn’t graduate with any awards / honors but I had fun meeting many people and lifetime friends!
Our thesis was about a feminine wash hahaha lol
I remember that it was around late 2010 when my brother offered to help me / sponsor my language school. Things were doing great at his own self-built company and he managed to save tuition fee for me. I could not believe it too because he enrolled me at Bunka Fashion College’s sister school (Bunka Institute of Language).
It was a hard decision for me to make but I chose to leave my comfort zone. I joined my brother here in Japan so we could also help my family back home (ask any Filipino working abroad, most of the time.. this person is sending money to his/her family). Even if a year had passed by, it still felt surreal. That period was straight out of a “coming-of-age” movie haha!
First day in Japan. I bought all the cutely shaped food haha! I bought all the tiny Japanese kombini cakes because they were SO cute!
I went back to blogging and started to share my life as a Filipina dreamer / language student living in Japan. I also helped my brother after school. After all, he was paying for my tuition!
Then during the middle of the year (or 3/4?), we’ve decided to risk and apply for a 1 year working visa under his new company. And miraculously, I got it!! And just to be honest, having a company might seem fancy and all (“my brother is a ceo”) but I always see my brother work very, very hard. He works during weekends too.. because he’s got a big dream. If you already think I’m a big dreamer, I personally think that he’s the craziest one haha! He could have chosen a safer route where he could earn more money and not worry about the salaries of other people but he courageously chose this path.
Though I had to repeat an entire term in the school (many reasons haha), I still finished the program. It was one of my happiest days in life.
Then in an instant, life decided to be funny. Life decided to test my character! I got hospitalized for many days, called the ambulance many times,.. because of my gallstones. It all happened during an important phase in my life. I got opportunity to go to Europe just to blog my experience and the night before that flight, I got my heart broken. Eventually, I fell into depression. When I had to meet someone outside, I had to pretend I was okay and happy. I was not. I was sick, I was depressed, and I was at my rock bottom.
Eventually, through many self-help books, realizations, and self-motivational talks (I literally wrote down notes about “how to be happy), I was beginning to feel better. I used my failures and negative experiences as my drive to continue what I’ve started.
During my healing / recovery, I was chosen to be one of the first kawaii leaders in a program by NHK World (Kawaii International). We were only 5 that time. I thought to myself, is the universe trolling me?? Super happy and super unlucky things at the same time? Lol! I finally learned that playing the victim (ex: blaming others about my unhappiness) … began to take every mishap with a grain of salt.
At that time, most of the people were using facebook (than instagram). I quit facebook for 6 months and I worked on this JapanLover.me project with a big dream / goal with my teammates.
I wanted to share kawaii culture so I called my friends in PH who shared the same passion and together, we organized Kawaii events (workshops, convention, meet-ups, etc.) when I had to stay in Manila for more than 6 months for my driving license. Kawaii Philippines was born.
I remember going to Taiwan with my college friends and we flew big paper lanterns with our dreams / wishes in the sky. 90% of those came true!
One of the biggest work-related challenges I had was to “make noise” about Japanese Souvenir Jackets.
Nobody was willing to shell out money and to invest in an embroidered sukajan. It was also great timing for us because it became trendy, and we were one of the first online select shops!
My brother invested in a couple of jackets and I was tasked to make an e-commerce website. Nowadays, it’s easier to customize your own webstore compared to my college years. My self-taught webdesign background was really helpful.
During our first days, we didn’t even earn anything. I think that it must have taken me a couple of months before my first sale. I took product photos using my iPhone (to make it seem like online vintage stores) and that strategy didn’t work. I began putting more effort and really working on it. My friend Justin would help me take photos after his language school. At that time, we were only a few in the company. Years later, we have 2000+ souvenir jackets, 1000+ happy clients around the world, moved out from our old office to a bigger (and cheaper) one, and hired more people. We used to rely on eBay only before but now, we’ve managed to upload / take photos of our Japanese arts & antique items (from old Edo screen paintings to samurai armor, we have it). At first, I had to do everything. Take photo of the sukajan, upload and list, market it, build our fanbase / clientele, edit the webstore, talk to the clients for customer support, pack the items, send shipping details, and more! Now, I mainly do the accounting work (lol, the job I hated the most haha) and just provide assistance as we have reliable staff already. We also have some original designs that we produced too.
A few years ago, I began to mix kawaii journaling and content creation. I plan to do the same things (but expand it more) in the future.
What a long journey it has been since day 1. From loss and failures, I’m here and still doing the best that I could.
During my first attempts, not everybody really believed in me. There were a few and I treasure them very much. That’s why it is very important to believe in yourself and in your limitless potential even if others don’t want to do the same.
I really believe that everyone who gets to live a life deserves the best out of it. It is up to you whether you do something about your dreams and plans, or just let them be dreams and plans. I created my own luck in this journey. Anyone can be as lucky by improving your chances. How do you improve your chances? Get moving. Don’t give up even if it’s hard! Your dreams may change or even improve but stay focused on the game. I knew that everything would take time (yeaaars) and I accepted that fact. I think that the more we work hard or put effort into something, the more we appreciate when it pays off.
From a rejected visa to the maximum one, it has been truly a humbling experience for me. Opportunities are everywhere if you just grab them by being extra active in pursuing. The road to success is not just a straight line upwards. It’s a zigzag one that is rich with life learnings. When there’s a troubling situation that may come your way, try to view it from another perspective. What is this teaching me?
Even right now when I feel like I’ve made it, people still doubt me.
Does it matter?
No, it doesn’t.
What matters is my answer to the question of.. What’s next? What should I do next from point D to E?
To answer that, I have started planning on what steps to take. Later in the future, I dream about the day when I’ve already gotten my permanent residency and built my own company. Sounds crazy, right? For now, let me struggle and find a way to get there. I’ve managed to find my ways to multiple finish lines….and though this one sounds the toughest / most challenging, I shall reassure myself that just because it’s something hard to achieve, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I know that with determination and willingness to learn, I will thrive. I will get there. (pats self)
Thank you for reading up to the end. Being vulnerable was something hard for me years before but through sharing my ups and downs here, it has been truly helpful. Being surrounded by like-minded people also helps! Through positivity, you can attract positive people who will be there to bring out the best in you.
To whoever is reading this, I will be cheering you on too! Let’s gambatteru and enjoy life!