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For most girls flowers make them smile especially if they receive it from their loved ones. But I guess  I am not like most girls. I prefer arranging the flowers and it makes my heart smile when people appreciate my arrangements. Although it was not planned that way, I am very grateful for discovering that I can make beautiful flower arrangements. And most importantly, I never pictured that my passion for flower arrangement would give me a new direction in life.

I was ten years old when I started, better yet forced, to help my mom prepare the paper flowers for the arcs for Flores de Mayo. It is an old Philippine custom held in May where young girls dress beautifully and parade in their town in honour  to the journey of Queen Helena and Prince Constantine in finding the cross of Jesus.  At that time, we used different colours of crepe papers. The moment that summer vacation starts. my mom would excitedly begin making paper flowers of various kinds.  Most of the time our house would look like a factory because paper flowers were hanged in every corner.

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Paper rose taught by my mom

This is an annual scene in our house until I was 18. For me, it was not something to look forward to  but I did not have a choice but to help make the paper flowers. I was already in my senior year in high school when I started doing some experiments with my mom’s paper flowers. Instead of crepe  papers, I used other materials such as coloured sandwich bags, candy wrappers, wood shavings, and fabric ribbons.

As I was arranging them in the arcs, I realised that I am actually enjoying making the flowers and designing them. Since then, I grabbed every chance that I can have to make flowers even if it is not for Flores de Mayo. Sometimes, I would even help my mom prepare the candy flowers for her cakes. It became a bonding activity for me and my mom, something that we never had before.

In the summer before my university days started, I took another step with my flower arrangement. This time, I was brave enough to try fresh flowers! I find fresh flowers very delicate to deal with because unlike the paper flowers, you can’t really bend, twist, or alter the fresh flowers without causing great damage. And since fresh ones are quite pricey, carefulness is of paramount importance. I started with the flowers delivered to us every Sunday for our altar. When my mom saw my pieces,  she asked me to help her arrange some bouquets for a wedding of her client.

After graduating from the university, I decided to take some months off to relax and think of what career I should venture in. This gave me some time to focus on my flower arrangement and establish our cakes and flowers business.

It was sometime in 2002 when I got my major break in the events world. A friend of mine introduced me to his friend who was looking for a florist for their wedding. They asked me to do their flowers for the whole entourage and the church. A whole wedding package for a newbie! I was overwhelmed whenever the guests say that they liked the flowers. And it was more overwhelming when the wedding was featured in a broadsheet with my name being acknowledged for the flowers! Not bad for a first timer!

It was a major jumpstart for me as a florist. From that time on I started accepting job orders for different occasions especially for weddings and debuts. First group of clients were family members and close friends and then slowly we accepted orders from friends of friends and other people. Unfortunately social internet networks were not yet accessible at that time. So we keep pictures and documentations of the events the traditional way - photo albums!

When my mom passed away in 2005, I thought that she carried with her my love for flower arrangements. After her death, my arrangements became monotonous and my choice of flowers became dull. Though I still accept job orders, it was very  rare and only for very close friends.  I still admire the flowers per se, but arranging them made me sad and lonely. It was like a reminder that my mom who is also my mentor is forever gone.

I did not know that coming here to Japan would lead me back to my passion for flower arranging. I went to Japan last October 2013 to live with my husband. My plan was to look for work and continue my career in urban development and management. But since I using a dependent visa, I am restricted to not more than 20 hours of work per week. This gave me a lot of free time. I had been a busy bee for more than 10 years of my life, and staying at home without anything to do is something that I am not used to.

To fill in my free time, I started learning Japanese in our community centre. I made new friends especially the wife of my husband’s colleague. It was her who introduced me to Ikebana. She gave me some pointers about the Ikebana class she is attending in the same community centre like the schedule and fees. And since it costs JPY5,000 for three lessons a month including the flowers, I thought that I will just attend a few lessons, buy the books, and then study on my own. I did not expect that I will enjoy attending the classes every week and would even have special classes at home.  Three weeks from now, I will be finished with my training as an Ikebana student and from then on, I will start to train as a teacher or sensei.

Ikebana is a traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement. As a disciplined art form, it thought me how to create lines, shapes, and harmony in my arrangements. I though that with more than 10 years in the flower industry, I can consider myself as an expert. But with Ikebana, it humbled me and made me realise that I still have a lot of things to learn.

When I first joined an Ikebana exhibition, there was a different high when people look at my work for more than five minutes and then started to interpret its meaning. This lead me to a new goal in life - to join and have my own Ikebana exhibitions in the future!

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My work together with the other arrangements done by my colleagues
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My first exhibition arrangement

Aside from flowers, I also learned how to make arrangements using stems, leaves, fruits, and vegetables. Before I was very conventional when choosing my materials but now, I am no longer scared to try different materials one can imagine.

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Morimono: Ikebana using fruits and vegetables

Who could have imagined that a passion I lost once would give me new goals to look forward to?!