Where you will find Catholic church ruins, Ramadan-observing Chinese merchants, Fookien-speaking Indians, a mix of Malay and Chinese cuisine called Nonya/Peranakan, Hainanese chicken, Indian curry, Indonesian Satay, a Portuguese settlement, a Dutch square, Hindu temples, mosques, a long list of noodle dishes, Taiwanese fried chicken, Portuguese egg tarts, Chinese popiah, and cendol and ice kacang, which is probably one of the roots of Filipino halo-halo.
And those are just the locals.
Now I’m no political nor historical expert, and I’m sure Malaysia has it’s own skeletons in its closet, and they probably have cases of regionalism and intolerance. But compared to them, we have a long way to go.
Unfortunately, we’re not culturally diverse, only culturally divided. And our country being an archipelago didn’t help.
We are crabs. We diss anything that’s not ‘ours’. We laugh at ‘weird’ bisaya accents but praise the Brit and Cali schwa, not realizing that all micro-cultures have accents and nuances of their own. We make fun of dialects, because the Visayan househelp said ‘libog’. And speaking of househelp, us Cebuanos can never hire a Manileña maid, because maids only come from the island provinces. And we won’t trust anyone from Mindanao, because they’re all terrorists.
We look down on food that we don’t understand, like how they beat up a chicken in North Luzon to the point of hemorrhage and call it Pinikpikan. Bicol? Puro maanghang. Ilocano? Puro pinakbet. Cebu? Patis ang tawag nila sa toyo tapos pochero ang tawag nila sa bulalo. Davao? Eew, durian. You Instagram that fancy ‘authentic’ satay you’re devouring in that artisan food market, clueless that it’s typical barbecue in some parts of Mindanao. Satti, look it up. Look up kulma and pianggang while you’re at it, and realize that a version of Beef Rendang and Ayam Panggang is actually a daily carinderia item in Mindanao. And that Mindanao cuisine actually have more dimension, and have a better chance at going global, because Adobo is just salty and Kare-kare is bland.
And then we raise our placards saying we are one with (insert city here). Well bad news, we are not. We haven’t been ‘one’ in a long time and it’s sad. We are lost. Very lost. And days like these sometimes make me feel we are beyond repair.
We can never be one with all this imperialsm. We can never be one if we think our region is better than the next. We can never be one with all the intolerance and stereotyping. We can never be one until we see each other as equals.
We have a long way to go.