There are many Filipinos all over the world, but not every person out there has a multi-cultural background story as colorful as Roberta's. Roberta Ireton, also known online as "Robachan" or @robachan8 on Instagram, is a fun-loving Filipina-American-Japanese girl enjoying the now that involves a budding entertainment career in Japan. When you meet Roberta you mistakenly think she grew up in the US because of her American accent, but she grew up in Japan with Japanese as a first and only language until she switched to an international school. Now though, she is also learning Tagalog and other languages. "Robachan", as they fondly call her in Japan, just doesn't stop.
She's a genuine chill pill when you meet her but has the loudest smile, classiest speaking voice, and by the way, be warned, she dances in random public places. Roberta hosts for radio, TV, and does comedy stints with friends for both broadcast and online shows. She doesn't admit it but she also happens to be an exceedingly obvious fashionista groomed by Japan, with self-salon finished hair a lot of the time and her own red lip makeup look.
What is your ethnicity and where were you born and raised? "I am quarter Japanese, quarter American, and half Filipino and was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. My dad is half Irish-American and half Japanese and my mother is Spanish-Filipino."
Do you remember how you were raised to be bilingual? When and how did you learn Japanese and was English the main language at home? "Actually, my first language that I learnt was Japanese. I remember that until I switched from a Japanese public school to an International School in fourth grade, I only knew how to say 'Thank You' and 'Please' in English. My mom wanted us siblings (by the way, I have four brothers!) to learn Japanese before any other language because it's a hard language to acquire. So, at home my dad had to translate what we were saying at the dinner table when we were sharing stories of what happened in school that day for my mom."
What are your parents like, what were their career backgrounds and how did they meet? "My dad was the President of Warner Brothers Japan and ran the company for 26 years. As a child, I remember looking forward to my Dad coming home especially when he brought back posters and trailers for the latest movies. He would ask us siblings to give feedback and constructive criticism. Also hosting dinners for the movie stars that would come to promote their movies was a bonus!"
"Before he became the President of WB in Japan, he was a writer for a trade paper that my grandparents started. He went to cover the Manila International Film Festival and was staying at the Manila Hotel where he fell in love at first sight when he saw my mom working as an assistant manager. It so happened that they had a mutual friend, Johnny Litton, who introduced them to each other."
"As for my Mom, it must have been hard for her to leave everything behind and move to a foreign country where she did not know the language or the culture. But you would never see that struggle because she would always see everything with positivity, class, and joy. I felt like that was a quality she brought from the Philippines, which I love and admire very much."
Where did you go to school, what was your course, and what do you do now for a living? "After I graduated from an International School in Japan, I went to London for four years to study art. I was accepted to Chelsea College of Art and Design for my foundation course, which was for a year. I then I applied to Central Saint Martins where I studied Graphic Design and received Bachelor of Fine Arts with second honors. After graduating, I moved to Los Angeles, and then to the Philippines, and I am now living in Osaka hosting TV shows and appearing in comedy plays, TV dramas, and I also have my own radio show."
What's a typical busy day for you? "A typical busy day would be where I would host my weekly nationwide radio show from 1AM to 4AM, then hop on the first bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo, finish whatever job I have and hop back on the last bullet train back to Osaka!"
"I would say Japanese people in general when it comes to time and scheduling is detailed and precise. Being on time in Japan means that you are there 15 to 30 minutes early! Opposite of Pinoy time!"
What are your free windows during the week and how do you spend those? "My free time varies week to week depending on my work schedule. When I have free time, I love to write at cafes or go watch movies."
"But I have lots of interest and I am currently studying Chinese, French, and Tagalog. Also, I love ballroom dancing, I take cooking lessons, dance lessons, yoga, and Kung Fu lessons. Oh! And I also go to a circus school where I am currently learning aerial silk!"
Do you like to shop? What retail zones do you usually hit in Japan wen you have a little extra? "Shopping in Japan is the best. Of course in Tokyo I would recommend the Harajuku/ Shibuya/ Aoyama area. In Osaka, Shinsaibashi and Umeda are great places to shop and eat!"
You mentioned that you are a comedian and you have an online funny partner, are you guys together in the same agency and how does being booked happen? "My best friend Yuriyan Retriever is a very talented up and coming comedienne in Japan and is my frequent collaborator. As of booking jobs, we basically nag our managers to book us for whatever they can! Usually we would guest appear on each other's radio shows, which is always super fun. Besides our joint Instagram account, we are also planning to start a YouTube channel together."
What do you look forward to when coming home to the Philippines? "I would have to say hanging out with the Titas at Via Mare at Rockwell for merienda is what I look forward the most. I love listening to their conversations while sipping on hot water with lemon and eating Pancit Luglug and Adobo with rice."
Your Dad used to work at Warner Brothers, Japan, AND as a result you've met several Hollywood stars. Who have you met while growing up? "Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Robert Pattinson, George Clooney, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Jodie Foster, and the list goes on!"
Because of her career she's always quite made up when you first meet her, but don't be fooled by "formality" up front, Roberta's got a heavy dose of wacky in her being a young comedienne-host in Japan. As she said with a wry grin, "Isn't there one (comedian) in every family?"
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Photographs from Instagram.com/robachan8, some photography by the author, and others provided by Roberta Ireton