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Theres The Rub
‘Mindanao Republic’

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:50:00 01/14/2008

Filed Under: Language, Social Issues

That was quite a letter from Gerald Misa last Saturday in the Letters section. I?ve heard the concept of an independent Mindanao or Mindanao Republic before but never put forward this aggressively.

Misa says Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. should have gone beyond merely complaining about the movie, ?Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo? making fun of Visayans, he should have thundered forth against the general predilection of Tagalogs to taunt, mock and show prejudice against Visayans.

?Having been born in Marawi City and raised up, studied, and finished my education in Cebuano-speaking, predominantly Christian Iligan City, I have never considered myself a ?Filipino.? I am known as a ?Filipino? only because of an imposed citizenship, but by heart and by choice I am a proud Mindanaoan who longs to have a separate republic for my fellow Cebuano or Bisaya-speaking Mindanaoans, who would be better off governing themselves than the subject of the imperialist North.?

I leave the reader to see the examples he cites of the denigration by Tagalogs of Visayans. The last though is too rich to pass. He accuses Tagalogs of being hypocrites or ?plastic? in applauding Manny Pacquiao every time he wins while laughing at him ?because of his Bisaya accent.?

I personally am not unsympathetic to the plight of the provinces relative to the capital, and I join Pimentel and others who are campaigning to decentralize power by federalism or otherwise. Though not by Cha-cha, and certainly not before 2010, federalism being the last thing it will accomplish. I am not unsympathetic to the plight of the provinces relative to the capital, but I don?t know that that is the product of Tagalogs discriminating against Visayans or of Manila wielding imperial rule over the countryside.

To begin with, I don?t know that the language discrimination is there at all, or if so if it is the vicious variety. Let me hasten to say that I am myself not a Tagalog, I am a Bicolano, notwithstanding that I was born in Manila and have lived in Manila for most of my life. My cradle language is Bicol, and I continue to speak it fluently. I speak Tagalog just as well. I can understand Waray and a bit of Cebuano. Having said that, let me say also that I?ve heard more jokes about Visayans talking in English than about Visayans talking in Tagalog. You hear the same jokes just as well about Ilocanos talking in English, as well indeed as of Tagalogs doing so, as in ?Pipol op da Pilipins.?

It?s true that sitcoms try to elicit laughter with characters talking with an exaggerated Visayan accent, but a great deal of it is more playful than denigrating. You hear the same thing elsewhere, Londoners poking fun at Cockney or northern accents (which are as thick as they come) and New Yorkers and Californians poking fun at Midwestern ones. Very little of it is mean-spirited. A lot of Visayan has already crept into Tagalog, courtesy of migration (?ambot? is universally understood) and I do know some people who cultivate a Visayan accent to sound chic without intending to patronize.

Beyond language, frankly I don?t know what ?Manila imperialism? means. If that means ?Tagalog imperialism,? then I don?t see what?s there to support it. It?s easily refuted by one of the first things you ask someone you meet in Metro Manila: ?Taga saang probinsya kayo?? [?What province are you from??] The assumption being that the fellow?s family at least, if not he himself, came from somewhere other than in Manila. Which is the case of most Metro Manila residents: The original Tagalogs are the minority, not the majority. And very probably a tiny majority at that today. I noted that Misa himself puts his address as Sampaloc, Manila.

The only Tagalog Filipino president since Independence was Joseph Estrada. Manuel Roxas was from Capiz, Elpidio Quirino was from Ilocos, Ramon Magsaysay from Zambales, Carlos Garcia from Bohol, Diosdado Macapagal from Pampanga, Ferdinand Marcos from Ilocos, Corazon Aquino from Tarlac, Fidel Ramos from Pangasinan, and Gloria Macapagla-Arroyo is from Pampanga. Of course, many of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s ?kababayan? [province-mates] say she?s not really Kapampangan but Tagalog, and many more of her kababayans say she?s not really the president. Estrada, the lone Tagalog from San Juan, in Metro Manila, never even finished his term.

Most of the senators and congressmen are not Tagalogs. Certainly, the most important committees are not in the hands of Tagalogs. You do find a ?Batangas Mafia? headed by Eduardo Ermita in the Cabinet, but they are also the minority. So what does ?Manila imperialism? really mean? Surely it can?t mean the imperialism of the Tagalogs?

The notion of an independent Bisaya-speaking Mindanao Republic is an exercise in self-parody. If the problem is that Tagalog-speaking Manila is tyrannizing the Bisaya-speaking peoples of Mindanao, then the Bisaya-speaking Mindanao Republic will be tyrannizing the non-Bisaya-speaking peoples of Mindanao as well. Why shouldn?t they secede from that republic and form their own fiefdoms, too?

In the end, well, all this just brings us back to colonial times when the colonizing power found it the easiest thing to rule this country by encouraging its inhabitants to divide themselves with their petty feuds. I do not particularly care that Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio were Tagalogs, the first coming from Calamba, Laguna, and the second from Tondo, Manila. What they did they did not just do for the Tagalogs but for all the inhabitants of their country. They were the ones who gave meaning to the word, ?Filipino,? an identity I personally am proud to carry.

I am a Filipino first and a Bicolano second. Heaven forbid a Bicol Republic ever gets to be proposed. It can only have Luis Villafuerte as president and Edcel Lagman as vice president.

More Inquirer columns

Previous columns:
Still, a tale of two cities? 01/14/08
Sci-fi? 01/09/08
Comedy, tragedy? 01/08/08
Tails and dogs? 01/02/08
?Bagong bayan? ? 01/02/08
Milestones ? 12/31/07
Driving demons away ? 12/31/07

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