Totoro is a magical spirit of the forest, a protector and a friend.
Everybody knows this–and no one knows it more than Sammy Magsino, who has more than welcomed Totoro all 50+ of him into her home.
Her life, just like ours, has been changed forever by his spirit!
Let’s get to know our neighbor, Sammy!
I’m Sammy from the Philippines. I love Totoro and Studio Ghibli movies. I dream of traveling the world. I love film photography and experimenting with toy cameras. I enjoy the thrill of running the extra mile and drinking earl grey milk tea. I am a firm believer of love, joy and peace and go with whatever the weather may bring.
The Not-So-Secret World Studio Ghibli x Sammy
I was fortunate to visit the Land of the Rising Sun back in 2005 and it felt like I was walking through a completely different world. I visited places such as Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara and Takayama which were all incredible and memorable. I can clearly say that I left my kokoro (heart) in Japan and, from my experiences, was just in awe with how people were genuinely polite and accommodating.
I actually got lost! But one kind local I encountered was just gracious enough to assist me by buying me a ticket and accompanying me to my train despite the language barrier. Their values are deeply rooted in their culture and it’s something I hope my country can learn from. When arrived home, after my trip, I did not hesitate to sign up for Nihonggo classes and did my best to learn as much as I could.
Unlike most people who grew up with Studio Ghibli, I was only introduced to its films in college. Who says it’s too late to redeem your childhood? A friend of mine who was about to leave for Japan shared with me his love for Hayao Mizayaki’s films and the first one he showed me was My Neighbor Totoro.
Totoro is a very light-hearted movie and I instantly fell in love with it—from the breathtaking art, the endearing characters of Mei and Satsuki, the creepy-cute Catbus and of course, everyone’s favorite neighbor, Totoro. Aside from finding him adorable, I always felt delighted and at ease whenever the gigantic fluffy critter appeared.
Other movies that I also enjoyed were Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, which is something I can watch forever! Hayao Mizayaki is someone I would like to meet so I can personally thank him for making his creations come to life and lighting up this dull world.
Studio Ghibli’s Magic Spell
I remember visiting a local cosplay convention, stumbling upon a blue Totoro plushie and being surprised that they existed here. From that moment, I made it my goal to collect as many Ghibli plushies. The characters that I truly enjoy from the films are the eccentric critters both big and small. They’re elements that add more life to the story and I guess my collection also brings out my inner child.
Totoro, to me, represents a creature of peace and makes me feel at home because he lives in a forest and the environment of my hometown is somewhat similar to the setting of the movie. There’s just something about him that always leaves my heart smiling.
Each Totoro plushie I have collected has a story behind it: whether I found it randomly on a stormy day in Baguio or it was given to me as a gift from my friends…it always makes my day to see one.
The character that had a personal impact on me was Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. Even with her ill-fated situation, she didn’t limit herself from seeing the beauty of things. I also love the other simple messages in the films, like the love for environment, hope for adventure and faith in your loved ones. The films speak a lot about what we go through in our lives and how we can apply it in reality.
Without a doubt, Studio Ghibli is like the Disney of Japan but is still appreciated by people from all around the world. The traditional art style blows my mind from the intense scenes of Princess Mononoke to that award-winning moment of Ponyo surfing through those monstrous waves. The characters may be drawn simply but are rich and make you want to dig deeper into their development. Eventually, you end up getting attached to them.
Aside from Studio Ghibli plushies and related merchandise, I take the opportunity to document my travels using film cameras. I love to travel anywhere from our local islands to other countries when given the chance. As my mom says, “To not travel is a sin.” because I believe God allows you to travel to distant lands for many reasons. There are so many adventures you should not miss, and each photo I snap is marked with a dear memory. I do have a number of Japanese relics I’ve collected from my previous trip but I would really love to get a hold of analogue photos of quirky things there when I visit again soon.
I can share my love for Japan with friends who have helped me organize a big event a few months ago in our hometown. We were able to incorporate the themes: Cultural Japanese Day and a Maid & Butler Café. The weekend event was a fun experience for all who took part in the many contests we held and the workshops we shared about Cosplay 101 and the art of wearing a yukata.
If there’s a certain series that I enjoy, I take time to invest my time and resources to bring the character to life by cosplaying it. In that same event, I was fortunate enough to dress up as Totoro together with my Ghibli-lovin’ friend, Katz, who dressed as Catbus in the outfits that she designed for us.
A Message to Fellow JapanLovers:
As much as we enjoy staying in our comfort zones, you all must be willing to step out in faith to pursue your goals in life. If it is your calling, dreams will be revealed for you to run after.
Your fantasies can transcend into realities as long as you know your priorities in life. Also, no matter what you experience in this race, don’t hesitate to pause and realize which direction you are running to so you don’t get off track. There will be many obstacles that you will encounter but believe that these are the things worth fighting for when you reach the finish line.
Sammy’s Next Step
Well, speaking of Japan, I would love to share a dream come true of mine. I was appointed by our local chapter of an NGO called CISV to lead a delegation of children to an international camp in Kansai Japan this coming July 20. I have waited more than 10 years for this opportunity to happen and of all countries they chose us to go to Japan. I am excited to experience again what this beautiful country has to offer in hosting us for this camp and opening the minds and hearts of children to many cultures and sharing ours as well. :) I also look forward to documenting this trip in film and sharing it with you all soon.