Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Tribalism and a Pinch of Etiquette

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?


  1. "A minus factor if aiming for a strong and cohesive country."

    This post reminds me of the enormous Tower of Babel, when the people (who spoke the same language) that exist after the Flood built it and planned to reach the 'heavens' for their personal glory and NOT to praise and worship the Lord. the Lord confused them by making them speak different languages!

    (I know it is difficult, but) everything we do, we should do it for the good of all mankind and at the same time for His glory.

  2. it happens always here in france.
    People of same nation speak their own language, so the french would ask, hey can you speak french like everyone ?

    If I met polite people, they would ask me first if they can speak french to someone else, so that i would not think that she is gossiping to one or the other in french.

    But, merong but.
    Meron talagang bato, walang delikadesa, sige daldal, language than no one understands, kaya naiinis ang iba.

    In this world, we are surrounded by all sorts

  3. RJ, your comment reminds of the saying - "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God". Definitely, this post pertains to Julius.

    Francesca, sa france pa! sa dami ng ethnic groups dyan. But I believe they should speak french if they are in public.

  4. I am thankful that at the workplace, my colleagues speak English most of the time, even the locals. And if they do, it helps that I am taking Arabic lessons (which they enrolled me in).

    I agree with the indirect tribal hiring. Still so prevalent here. It also happens in other form in the Philippines. Not only that, like in some organizations, it's not only about the race, but with University identification, too.

  5. There are times that even in our own country, that happens. We are surrounded by Ilonggos here, and most understand Bisaya, but there's this two ladies who could'nt understand delicadeza, and they keep gossiping (in Ilocano) in front of the person concerned thinking that the latter does not have a hint what they are talking about, annoying no? but like what francesca said, this world is full of all sorts... you're right, we may not achieve world peace because of our languages, but we must be conscious of people surrounding us in order to behave properly and pratice etiquette.

  6. Ms.Jo, your company enrolled you in an arabic speaking course? Hmmmm... baka susunod nyan, they'll ask you to change your name to Jamila. : )

    sheng, that's what I'm trying to point out. When two persons speak in a vernacular not understood by many, the tendency to think negatively by the rest, escalates.

  7. Despite our existence in today's modern civilization, I feel as though tribalism is akin to being anti civilization. We still band into tribal units for self interest rather than the common good. Pinoys abroad cannot resist to organize social regional organization resulting to unnecessary competitions instead of building a strong foundation of friendship. This practice results to subjective and biased judgment favoring more on persons within the same tribal/regional group like job hiring, election, etc.

  8. tama ka dyan, totoo yan...
    as far as i know, discrimination was started by the spaniards, o mas matanda pa kesa sa mga spaniards?
    my grandma was being kicked out from their clan dahil nainlove sa isang indyo.
    yung BFF kong chinese,na ang family ay nasa bacolod, itinakwil ng pamilya dahil tumangging magpakasal dun sa kalahi nila at nagpakasal sa pinoy.
    pero tinamaan din ako dito ah hahaha sory sory,minsan dun sa comment section nagrereply ako ng local dialect(ilokano) siguro dahil excited akong matutong mag ilokano kaya nagrereply minsan ng ilokano (dahil di naman ako ilokano,pero titigilan ko na hahaha)
    pero pag harapan na naman na lalo na dito abroad, we are not allowed to speak our local dialects kasi mixed nationality ang mga kasama.
    ehem, thanx for the reminder,
    dina ko sasagot ng ilokano dun sa nagcocoment sakin ng ilokano lol.

  9. Pope, very true. This "tayo-tayo", "sila-sila" mentality is so ingrained among us. Just look what they are doing in TFC. They compete with one another on who has the biggest donation or has the more projects. Kung sabagay pabor yan sa recipient, pero kailangan pa bang ibandera kung anong grupo ka?

    Lee, when you comment in Ilokano, you're replying to someone who asked you in Ilokano. It's a one-one basis and there is nothing wrong with that. Ang masagwa eh kung nasa isang grupo kayo at nag-uusap kayong dalawa sa salitang hindi alam ng nakakarami.

  10. you know, i find that impolite, too. when there's someone who doesn't understand the language, we should shift to one that is understood by everyone in the room.

  11. regionalism in my opinion is divise and harmful to the progress of a country. Case in point - the Marcoses, disgraced and convicted of felony beyond reasonable doubt would still win in any election in the Ilocos region. What is important to the people is they are Ilocanos period.

  12. We can never think as one. We are a nation of diverse people, dialects, culture, traits, beliefs.

    I think yung pagkakaiba natin ang nagpapayaman sa atin.

    Tolerance. I think that's they keyword.

    Whenever I hear someone speaks a different dialect, I just listen. I don't take offense. In fact, I ask what were they conversing about.

    In Saudi, there are groups of Batanguenos, Hiligaynon, Ilocanos and Ilonggos. If there's a competition among them, I think it's good because it brings out the best from everyone.

    Our diversity shouldn't divide us.

  13. Oh well.. sad but true... marami pa ring ganyan sa mundo

  14. atticus, yes. it's a matter of common sense and simple courtesy.

    bw, marcos personify this regionalistic mentality. during his time, people who are sitting in "juicy" position in government are mostly from the north. he maybe hated by the majority of filipinos, but he was very generous to his "kababayans". that's why they love him, no matter what he did to the rest.

  15. Nebz, true, diversity won't unite us and competition as long as its healthy is good. But there's a downside to this and its akin to nepotism.

    If you don't take offense when you're talking to somebody and someone butt in and they start talking in a different language, then good for you. You have a broad perspective in life.

    AliNe, yes, it's a universal malady.

  16. that's sad. kababayan na nga lang naghihiwalay pa sa usapan.

  17. Uhmn, Hahaha! Wala po ba sa topic ang comment ko?! Whew! o",)

    Kasi naman napansin ko ang mga ito:

    1. "A minus factor if aiming for a strong and cohesive country."

    2. "How could we move forward progressively when we don’t think as one..."

    Nahiya po ako sa inyo. Hindi yata gumana ang utak ko that time. Ingat nalang AKO next time.

    Merry Christmas, Kuya Blogusvox! o",)

  18. donG, meron din akong alam na kung minsan ang kababayan mo pa ang nagpapahamak sayo. : (

    RJ, hehe, wala yun. Merry Xmas din, RJ!