Revitalizing this country with Moringa is my way of giving back to Japan!



Interview by Isao Tokuhashi
Edited by Jennifer A. Hoff


Florsan Bolando Kondo (Philippines)
Moringa Cultivator and Enthusiast

Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

The “Multicultural One Family Festival” was held in Tokyo on November 23 last year (2022). At the festival, where people of various backgrounds living in Japan gather to share their culture and traditions through shows and stalls, we met an interesting group of people.

A group called “ATE Moringa” grows the “Moringa” plants in Yokoshiba-Hikari, Chiba Prefecture, about 70 kilometers from central Tokyo. It is a highly nutritious plant with origins in Northern India which is now eaten worldwide. Moringa is often called a “miracle tree” because it is considered effective in combating global warming due to its growth and ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and its seeds are said by some to have water purification properties. In Japan, it is cultivated mainly in Okinawa and Kyushu, but due to its short history here, only very few people know about its benefits in Japan.

With Yolanda Tasico, an enka singer from the Philippines, and Pozo Rodríguez Miguel Angel from Bolivia
Multicultural One Family Festival (November 2022)
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

We interviewed Ms. Florsan Bolando Kondo, a representative of ATE Moringa, who is trying to spread the “miracle” from Chiba Prefecture to the rest of Japan, about the origins of her activities.

*Interview at Noda, Chiba Prefecture


There is a vast untapped market in Japan

Moringa is something that everyone in the Philippines eats daily, but in Japan, it is almost unknown. However, I believe there is a big opportunity here.

I have proven through trial and error that the moringa plant can be cultivated in Japan. This poses a benefit towards Japanese agriculture, since it adds to the choice of crops to grow, so that there will be no need to import moringa from overseas. The moringa products that come through Japan’s high caliber of technology and strict quality control will not only be distributed within Japan but will also be exported overseas. Moreover, by growing moringa throughout Japan, which grows at a rapid rate and is said to absorb carbon dioxide 50 times more than cedar, we will also contribute to the prevention of global warming. Moringa is called the “miracle tree”, but to me, it is a “global tree” that has the potential to solve the problems facing our planet.

In June of last year, I launched the “ATE Moringa Project” to spread the use of moringa in Japan. The Japanese word “ATAERU (与える, give)” came to my mind because Moringa gives various benefits to the Earth. This overlapped with the Tagalog word “ATE,” meaning “sister,” and its initials “A: Aid from nature,” “T: Tree of life and peace,” and “E: Environmental Friendly” represent the characteristics of Moringa. I couldn’t think of a more fitting name, so I dubbed it the “ATE Moringa Project”.

Moringa had always captured my attention, but it soon turned into a project that I bet my life on, and started me on a 40 year journey that I’m still on to this day.


Is Japan a “terrible country”?

I first came to Japan in 1986. I was originally studying to become a midwife. While in college, I received my midwife’s license from the government. Then a classmate from junior high school said to me, “Why don’t you come to Japan? It’s fun!”

She had already been to Japan and was working as an entertainer. I was already working as a midwife at the time, but the summer of the year I graduated from college, my mother encouraged me to start studying nursing. It was my mother’s dream for me. However, I could not suppress my interest in Japan, knowing that I had enjoyed traditional Filipino dancing since elementary school and that my experience alone could take me abroad. Some elderly people had bad impressions of Japan due to past wars, but I wanted to see if this was true with my own eyes. So, without telling my mother, I joined an entertainment production company in the Philippines and practiced singing and dancing so that I could work in Japan as a professional entertainer like my friend. My grandmother warmly supported me, but my mother, who expected me to become a nurse, did not allow it. However, because a contract had already been signed with a Japanese company, I would have to pay a penalty if I refused to go to Japan. My mother reluctantly accepted the situation and I came to Japan in April 1986 with five other Filipinas.

I belonged to a restaurant, and I went there as an entertainer when its shopkeeper threw a party for the presidents of companies she knew. At the time, I barely understood Japanese, so I studied it in my spare time at work. Every six months my contract expired and I returned to the Philippines to sign another contract and went back to Japan. Then I got married in 1991 to a Japanese man who had come to see my shows. I quit my job and became a full-time housewife. I raised two children despite the misfortune of a fire at my husband’s parents’ house and the death of my brother-in-law.


An entertainer became a company owner in a foreign country

There are many Filipinos living in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, where I lived with my husband’s family. A Filipina woman who became good friends with me there wanted to give me ownership of a grocery shop she was running. I was not particularly interested in running the store, but I wanted to help her. My husband thought that if I ran my own business instead of working for a company, I would be able to balance my work with raising my children, and he encouraged me to do so.

My shop eventually became a kind of “consultation desk” for the Filipino community. Many of them came to me for help with visas and other problems. One day, someone who had heard about this situation called me. He was a Japanese person who was running a temporary staffing business in Noda. He said, “I need 30 people by tomorrow who can work at a warehouse. Can you gather them?” I called my friends to meet his request and gathered 30 people in one day. Similar requests came to me after that, and I continued to collect people. I built up a reputation for myself, and I eventually gained the trust of the father of the staffing businessman. He was Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, a businessperson who owned several companies in the Noda area and was a member of the Chiba Prefectural Assembly at the time.

One day Mr. Tanaka took me to a meeting held by the Filipino community in Ota-ku, Tokyo, to expand my network. Then one of the attendants told me about Filipino supplements. They were popular among Filipinos living in Japan, but he said, “it is difficult to buy them because they are too expensive to import individually.” Hearing this, Mr. Tanaka suggested to me, “Why don’t you set up a Japanese branch of that company?” I was looking for healthy foods and supplements for my mother, so I took him up on the offer and we set up its Japanese branch in Kita-Senju, Tokyo.


Starting over as a part-time employee

Until then, I had only had the experience of managing a small store. Although the Japan office had only three employees, one Japanese and two Filipinos, it was necessary to manage the company properly. I met many different people and learned about management little by little through all kinds of experiences. At the time we established the Japan office, there were no other companies in Japan that sold Filipino supplements, so sales were strong. However, Japanese law and other obstacles prevented us from responding to requests from our head office in the Philippines, and people began to buy other companies’ products because they became easily available online and at low prices. For these reasons, we decided to close our Japanese branch.

As I was thinking about the future, a friend of mine introduced me to a job at a chocolate factory in Saitama Prefecture. At first, I worked on a contract for only 3 months, but as the term expired, the company’s HR department offered me a contract extension. I ended up working at that factory for three years. During that time, I not only did the work that was assigned to me, I also learned the process of chocolate making while working there. Also at the semi-annual performance reports that the company held for all employees, I listened with rapt attention, even though many people found them tedious. I think it was because I had had my own experience with running a small store and a small company. Eventually, I also started a weekly job making beds at a prestigious hotel, where I interacted with many VIPs. I was learning a lot now because of the mistakes I made in business. To me, failure was a learning opportunity to grow.


The “Miracle Tree” led by the pandemic

In February 2020, the coronavirus struck Japan. My work was severely affected, with zero orders to chocolate factories for days on end and fewer guests in hotels, but most of all I worried about was my health.

Then I remembered moringa. In the Philippines, moringa is a health food available everywhere, and I encourage people with weak bodies to eat a lot of it.

Just around that time, I received a phone call from an entrepreneurial farmer named Mr. Ishii, who I had met when I was running the supplement company. He said, “I’m starting a farming business in Chiba Prefecture. Would you like to come?” I got interested in it so much and visited his farm in Yachimata, Chiba Prefecture. He was thinking of growing ginseng, but I suggested growing moringa instead. I purchased Moringa seedlings from Kumamoto Prefecture and tried to grow them in a flowerpot in my own house, but failed. So in April 2020, I purchased about 1,000 Moringa seeds and went to Ishii’s greenhouse. I took good care of them and succeeded in growing them.

The first Moringa seedlings planted on Ishii’s farm that were successfully cultivated
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

I thought I would continue growing moringa in his greenhouse, but by chance, I found an announcement on the Internet that the Chiba Prefectural Agricultural College was recruiting students. When I contacted them, I was told that the deadline for application was the next day. As I happened to be driving through Chiba Prefecture, I rushed to the college to obtain an application form. However, no one at the college could teach moringa cultivation. Still, I wanted to learn the basics of agriculture, including how to make soil, so I filled out the application form and submitted it. After an examination and some interviews, I passed the entrance exam. Meanwhile, the chocolate factory where I had been working despite a decrease in orders sent me off with a warm message, saying, “Please come back to work after you graduate from college.” Thus, in September 2020, I entered Chiba Prefectural Agricultural College.


Encountering my mission

“What would you like to grow?” An instructor asked me. I immediately replied, “Moringa”. At the time, no instructors at the college knew about moringa, but when I saw that instructor again the following week, he said, “I looked it up. It’s fascinating.” He even began to recommend it to my classmates who were having trouble growing mini tomatoes, saying, “Why don’t you switch to moringa?”. I was so pleased that I started to focus on researching moringa cultivation. I went to college while staying at Ishii’s house.

Ishii had lost his elder brother. Not only he, but also his father, who was almost 100 years old, had lost his energy. So I talked with his father every day and fed him moringa. Soon after, his father’s face became full of life. His bent waist became straight, and he even went on long trips by train, even though he had rarely gone out before.

Ishii’s father participating in moringa cultivation
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

He told me, “You have a mission to spread moringa in Japan”. His words convinced me of the path I should take, and after completing the six-month course, I went on to a one-year practical training course to further my research. I consulted with instructors and asked for their advice on growing moringa on the school grounds. I also visited a moringa farm in Kagoshima Prefecture to learn about soil preparation because I knew that the soil in Kagoshima is the same as in Chiba Prefecture. I also participated in an online Moringa Ambassador Program and continued the In-person Training Course at Moringa For Life in California, a moringa grower training institute in the U.S.

Successfully growing Moringa in college!
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo At the “Moringa For Life” In-person training in California, United States. Kondo is sitting in the front row, far left.
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

Last May, to show people in Japan how important moringa can be to Japan and Japanese people, I held the first “Moringa Festival” at a cafe in Togane, Chiba Prefecture, which supported my activities.

The first “Moringa Festival” attracted many people. Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, who has long supported the project, and Yolanda Tasico, an enka singer from the Philippines, attended the event.

Then the following month, after completing a year and a half of research at Chiba Prefectural Agricultural College, I met a person who was thinking of closing his farm through an introduction by a classmate at college. With the help of Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, I purchased the land in Yokoshiba-Hikari that the person owned. I launched my brand, ATE Moringa, and began a full-fledged moringa cultivation business.

Successful cultivation of moringa in the fields of Yokoshiba-hikari, Chiba Prefecture!
*Photo provided by Florsan Bolando Kondo

Later last October, the second “Moringa Festival” was held in my own field in Yokoshiba-Hikari, Chiba Prefecture. I harvested moringa with many people who came not only from within Chiba Prefecture but also from outside the prefecture.

Many people enjoyed harvesting and having moringa dishes at the second “Moringa Festival”. Continuing from the first event, Yoshio Tanaka and Yolanda Tasico also participated, and she presented some songs to her.


Moringa is something I want to give back to Japan

There is one thing I am most excited about right now. That is the brightening of Japanese children’s personalities by giving them moringa. Look at the children in the Philippines. They all have bright faces, don’t they? Statistics show that the suicide rate in the Philippines is very low by global standards. On the other hand, the opposite is happening in Japan, and as a mother who has raised two children here, I feel very sad about this. But by spreading moringa in Japan, I believe that I may be able to help change this situation.

Moringa is my way of giving back to Japan for supporting me as a foreigner and allowing me to raise my children here. I have just taken my first small step toward my mission of “spreading Moringa in Japan.”

With Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, who has supported her businesses


What is Japan to you?

It is a country of tradition and innovation. I believe there are many things that I can do here.

Making moringa so ingrained in Japanese life that it will become a tradition in Japan

Creating moringa products with the innovation that Japan prides itself on

Contributing to the prevention of global warming by growing moringa throughout Japan

Purifying water throughout Japan with moringa seeds, which have water-purifying properties…

I would like to give back to Japan through “tradition” and “innovation”, the values that Japan has given to the world.


Bolando’s Links

ATE Moringa on Facebook:
Healthy Life Japan (YouTube):