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Uniquely Filipino
« on: October 17, 2016, 07:13:13 PM »
Uniquely Filipino
By Atty. Gee Biliran
Published on Sept 3, 2006 - The Bohol Standard

When I attended an international human rights seminar in Hawaii in the year 2000, the participants who had never been to the Philippines were shocked to know that Filipinos speak different regional languages. I was the only Filipino delegate then and I had the monopoly (and the challenge) of sharing with them the unique qualities of the Philippines and its people. As simply as possible, I explained to them that owing to our country’s being an archipelago or a group of islands, each region has its own peculiar language, culture and trait (according to language experts and sociologists, what we call “dialects” are actually “languages” because they are independent of each other).

I explained to the awe-struck participants that we have as many languages are there are regions – we have the Cebuano language, the Tagalog language, the Waray language, the Ilocano language, etc…. I further arduously elucidated that we have a supposedly common “Filipino” language formally taught in school, which is the Tagalog language adulterated with the English language (or is it the other way around?) – but which is actually not the most widely spoken language in the country.

I had the time of my life as I told them that I was a linguist because I spoke Cebuano, Tagalog, “Filipino”, and English.

They found it incomprehensible that while I spoke Cebuano, I neither understood nor spoke the other regional languages, and for me to communicate to a Filipino of another region, we would have to speak Tagalog or English for us to understand each other, the latter being preferred.

What else is uniquely Filipino?

One time, my family was watching a Filipino movie with a foreign visitor. I remember it was the scene of the young Gretchen Baretto crying over a dying person. Expecting to hear the moviegoers’ sniffle, the foreigner was shocked to hear their laughter instead. We had to explain to him that as a coping mechanism, Filipinos tend to cover up an embarrassment or sadness by laughing. That is why we rarely have suicides or serial killings, we proudly pointed out. Or perhaps, I later wondered, had it something to do with the lack of acting prowess of the supposed actress?

Filipinos are also hospitable to a fault wherever they are in the globe. Don’t we offer the best bedroom to our visitors, even if it means having to sleep on the sofa?

When I attended a human rights seminar in Strasbourg, France in 2002, I extended my stay and was privileged to spend a week with a Filipina/Ilongga named Jeanette, her French husband Jeanne Marie Haberkorn and son Kevin. Much to my embarrassment, Jeanette insisted that I sleep in the master’s bedroom, while she slept in her son’s room and her good husband, in the sala!

Boholanos are no exception. Carving our own place in history, we proudly lay our claim to the first international treaty, the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna and Legaspi. The boost in our tourism is attributable not only to our rich natural resources but also to the hospitality of the Boholanos. Thus, we attract local and foreign tourists, some of whom even decide to live here permanently.

Such decision is highly welcome to our government because it could easily be translated into more dollar earnings for our coffers. It is welcome to the local community because the slightest indication of affluence is claimed as reflective of the affluence of the community. It is welcome to the barangay officials because financial contributions for some projects are received now and then. It is welcome to parents because their children are invited to the new resident’s house and return home with food and money.

Anything that would threaten this comfortable arrangement is highly denounced, and the new resident is defended at all cost. Never mind if the new resident is an escaped convict. Never mind if the community’s children and women are abused. Never mind if the locals become second class citizens in their own land. What is important is that the dollars are coming in. Tourism always has its social costs, they would argue, and such costs, they are willing to take.

Sadly, we forget that we, too, had a Dagohoy. We forget that we fought the longest revolt in the country. We forget that we refused to surrender our identity, our integrity, our self-respect and our pride for thirty pieces of silver.

What has brought us to the level where we eat up our pride as fast as we eat up the apples and hamburgers brought by our children from the new resident’s house?

Why are we willing to throw our children into the lion’s den for some fleeting moment of gastronomic satisfaction which is inevitably convertible into mere organic matter?

Before it’s too late, let us look into ourselves and rethink where we are leading our children. What values are we teaching them? Is poverty an excuse for such a debasement? Why is it that before this new resident came, we were content with living simple lives? We fed our children with simple but nutritious food. We sent them to school. We taught them the value of work, honesty and self-respect. Where have all these values gone?

What has become of us? Can we still hold our head up and proudly declare that we are uniquely Filipino?

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Romans 10:9-10
"If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

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