Tiki-Tanka

Article By: Joshua Emmanuel Tan

All of us have written poems, at least in class. Although most of us accept that writing is an art, most would not believe that there is a show solely based on a specific type of poetry. Recently, NHK, a Japanese media company similar to CNN and BBC, featured ISM in one of its educational programs. The show focuses on the creation of and appreciation for the “Tanka,” a type of Japanese poetry written in a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern.

This year, ISM introduced a new Japanese literature course. Mrs. Naoko McQueen, an ISM Japanese teacher, says that she “wanted to try something new in the area” for her grade 10 students since they do not have the “time constraints” that are present in IB. After analyzing a Tanka novel in the first semester, understanding that the poem has become “remote” from her students’ everyday lives, Mrs. Naoko believed that she needed “something to motivate [her] students.” For this reason, she encouraged her students to send their poems to NHK, accompanying their poems with a message informing the company of where the poems and the students were from. Not too long after, the show’s producers responded with interest, asking if they could come over and feature the school.

During the actual filming in the end of February, there was a poem construction competition between the ISM students and the guests from Japan, among whom included comedians and models. The competitors walked around the school, searching for possible topics for their Tankas. On February 28, the group travelled to Intramuros, one of the few ruins still present in Manila, to search for more inspiration. There, the competition continued with the students, who were fortunate enough to receive direct feedback from a Japanese professional poet who judged the tournament.

Similar to many of the nationalities in ISM, the Japanese community in the school has been able to maintain their traditional culture in spite of living in a foreign country. Even though she is aware that her culture is known for being “strict,” Akira Sugata, a sophomore, still embraces her culture by speaking the language and celebrating “Japanese holidays” by having a “traditional Japanese dinner.” Another Japanese ISM student, Ayaka Sugiyama, having lived abroad for the past 8 years, thinks that “Japanese media coverage” has allowed her to “experience how awesome and deep the culture is,” making this interaction with NHK memorable since it gives her the opportunity to “recall how precious [her] culture is.”

Although ISM is an international community, it does not prevent its’ students from embracing their individual cultural heritage. Rather, it allows collaboration with outside communities and creative ways to bridge students to the classroom.