In the ‘80s, the government here built condo like housings for their citizens who wants to settle in cities and urban areas. But these buildings were uninhabited for decades because no national wants to live in it. The “condo” concept doesn’t sits well on their psyche where the only thing that separates each unit is a wall. Perhaps they don’t feel secure to have strangers as neighbors. And perhaps this suspicion is a natural reaction whose roots maybe traced back in the old days when tribal raids were common, looting provisions and kidnapping women from one another.
This distrust manifests also in government agencies. If a department head is from a particular region, people under him are likely also from that area. A recruit won’t be accepted to the king’s special guard unless he could prove his lineage down to the generation of the first monarch; probable to know if their ancestors were along side the king during their country’s formative years. And certain businesses that are present in one region are not allowed or don’t exist in another region of the kingdom and vise-versa, a practice born out of centuries of mistrust. A minus factor if aiming for a strong and cohesive country.
But this mindset also exists in the Philippines in the form of regionalism and social group. It may not be as obvious as India’s caste system, but to think the Philippines has a “classless” society, one should look again. It exists in some Spanish “mestizos” and Chinese-Filipinos. It’s visible in someone who claims to have “maharlikan” pedigree, as if they are above “timawas” and former “alipins”. And this “discrimination” is brought to the next level by our two Muslim brothers from the south. I don’t know what started the animosity but I witnessed how Maranaws and Taosugs hate each others guts.
One also sees intolerance in the diverse languages spoken in different regions. I speak our vernacular when I talk to someone from my hometown but I speak Pilipino when I’m with other “kabayans”. And I speak English when a “foreigner” happens to be with us. In a subtle way, I want to emphasize that it’s not polite if someone can’t understand our conversation. But some people just couldn’t take a hint.
A pinoy officemate speaks in his native tongue when he sees a town's mate, even if the two are with a group of other “kababayans”. They talk as if they’re alone; oblivious that some seems annoyed while the rest look amused. This peculiarity is evident everywhere. Some even insist that their language should be the “lingua franca” on the basis of number of speakers. Others reason out that they take pride on their local language (who doesn’t) that they slip into it any chance they get. But sometimes protocol and common courtesy also dictates otherwise.
It’s sad to think that this mundane issue is a factor that holds us back. How could we move forward progressively when we don’t think as one, always divided by linguistic pride and regional self-importance?