Glenda A. Tabata builds bridges through music

B.D. Tutor, Jr.

DSC_8203_small__edited_.jpg Glenda Tabata uses her musical talent to bridge two culturally diverse worlds–her home country, the Philippines, and her adopted country, Japan.

Music is a universal language–nothing rings truer than this for Glenda A. Tabata.  As wife of a Japanese, Glenda straddles two culturally divergent worlds which coexist under one roof in her home. Through the musical talent that she shares with her husband, she knows that music can harmonize people of different backgrounds.

She does not hide the fact that she herself had once been among those big-in-Japan wannabes barely out of their mother’s clutches, performing at the Sweet Line Theater Restaurant in Shinjuku. It was there that she met an accomplished pianist with whom she married, paving the way for a change of role into a full-time mother of two and an artistic activist on the side.

After settling into domestic peace raising two kids, this former church choir member decided to put her God-given talent into use connecting the musical chords of her adopted and home country. In 2000, Glenda, her husband and a family friend, Jessie Hakuno, embarked on a project to develop a CDBOOK of Japanese pop songs which she translated into Tagalog. She also wrote two original songs in the two volumes of Magkantahan Tayo CDBOOKS that have been released in the market.

But this burst of artistic energy was not enough to quench her thirst. In 2001, she banded with a group of Kanto-based artists to put up Teatro Kanto, a double word-play on the area Kanto and the Filipino word for street-corner. She is currently the vice-president of this widely recognized organization that promotes Filipino artists in theater and music. She has been visible as a performer, emcee and organizer of various Filipino events, like the annual Philippine songfest in Tokyo dubbed Utawit, Independence Day and Family Day. Last year, she was involved in such Teatro Kanto productions as North Diversion Road, Pitong Tig-sasampung Minutong Dula, and the musical Talento.

Glenda recently shared with us her thoughts on the Filipino cultural scene in Japan and her role in it.

In Japan, Filipinos are typecast or stereotyped in the low-end entertainment image. Now that the talentos are gone, do you think we have a better to chance to project our image as professional, creative entertainers? How?

Una sa lahat, hindi pa naman nawawala ang talento, mas kumonti lang sila. The Japanese government severely restricted the number of incoming Filipino entertainers in response to the U.S. State Department report that included Japan among the countries that condone human trafficking. Kaya hindi ako magtataka kung makailang taon lang ay pumayag na naman ang gobyernong Hapon na dagdagan ang mga entertainer visas para sa mga Pilipino.

To answer your question, yes I think we Filipinos have a better chance of projecting a more respectable image if there are fewer talentos who engage in indecent and illegal activities. But it’s an uphill battle. We cannot erase the years in which we have been stereotyped in just a couple of years. We need a government and a Labor Department that ensures proper training and deployment of legitimate artists. Something also has to be done to prevent sending desperate Filipino women who end up being exploited here in the illicit sex trade.

As for me and the other Filipino artists, we can only keep trying to develop and showcase our artistic talents, not just among Filipinos, but to the wider international community as well.

Why do you think we don’t we see more Filipinos in the mainstream music scene in Japan?

Part of the answer is in your previous question. For too long, Filipinos in Japan have been identified as entertainers, not as real artists. As long as that stereotype exists, it would be a challenge even for legitimate Filipino artists, to break through.

I am sure you also have a family to look after. How do you balance your time for family and outside commitments?

Simple, there is no balancing involved! Family comes first.

What achievements are you proud of?

I am tempted to cite the two Magkantahan Tayo CDBOOKS I have launched, the concerts I have produced, and my appearances in various Teatro Kanto productions. But nothing gives me more pride than raising two wonderful children–Hiro, my 12 year old son & 9 year old daughter Mika. They are indeed a blessing.

(A portion of this interview was published in the November 2006 issue of Airmart Newsline. Photo is provided by Glenda.)

Click Text Here