Filipino’s ‘vision’ of Japan wins in essay contest

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 08:00 PM February 05, 2012

For presenting a clear vision of Japan as an “innovation superpower,” a Filipino graduate student won the Prize of Excellence in the Japan Foreign Trade Council Inc. (JFTC) essay writing contest.

Chiden Balmes, 25, a graduate student at the Catholic University of Korea, won 200,000 yen (about P100,000) for “The Making of a New Innovative Japan: Road Map to Great Recovery,” the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo said.


Jamaica’s Nicole Brown won the grand prize for “Japan v.3.11-Reclaiming the Date.” The number represents March 11, 2011, when a massive quake struck eastern Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that swept away villages and damaged a nuclear power plant.

The competition challenged young people from all over the world to give a prospective of Japan following last year’s devastating tsunami.


The winning essays were selected from 186 submissions from 43 countries, the embassy said. Balmes and Brown personally received their prizes in Japan in early January.

Reached by the Inquirer, Balmes, an honor graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman who is balancing work and graduate studies, wrote from Seoul that he was, at first, “in a state of disbelief because I doubted my knowledge about Japan.”

“Though I’m studying international relations for my master’s, we rarely discussed Japan—it was always US, China and Europe. So I did my research online but [I was] still not convinced if I really understood Japan,” said Balmes, a 2007 UP magna cum laude graduate.

“So when I received their e-mail [asking] if I was available to go to Tokyo for the awarding ceremony, I read it repeatedly to check if it was true,” said Balmes.

He started working on his 4,000-word essay a month before the deadline.

“I almost decided not to join because I thought I was just wasting my time writing a long essay … I left my draft on standby for a week then I thought to organize my essay based on my three-pronged vision of Japan: entrepreneurial Japan, green Japan and global Japan,” Balmes said.

He elaborated this vision in his essay: “Entrepreneurial Japan means that small and medium enterprises are given more opportunities to innovate. Green Japan involves seizing the huge opportunity to set the best example in positioning for a green recovery. Global Japan necessitates developing enterprises and institutions with a global mindset. The 3.11 catastrophe should serve as an impetus for radical changes.”


This vision earned the nod of the JFTC judging committee, said the embassy.

“…The committee said, ‘He frames his argument by saying that Japan needs to become an innovation superpower, and compellingly outlines the potential Japan has in three areas. He concludes his essay by positioning 3.11 as a major opportunity for Japan to become the innovation superpower he proposes,’” said the embassy.

In his speech at the awards ceremonies, Balmes also cited Japan’s resilience following the worst disaster to hit the nation.

“The profound sense of tragedy among the Japanese has enabled them to rise from the catastrophe with their dignity intact. Just as ecological disasters come naturally to Japan, the Japanese are naturally born to overcome these tragedies because history proves that resilience is deeply embedded in the Japanese DNA,” Balmes said.

Balmes is due to finish his international relations master’s in August.  He works as a communications assistant at the Asia-Europe Meeting SMEs Eco-Innovation Center and is also a volunteer teacher of Filipino culture to Korean elementary school students in Seoul.

JFTC is an organization of Japanese trade firms.

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TAGS: Chiden Balmes, Essay writing, Japan, Japan Foreign Trade Council
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