Instilling Comfortable Respect in the Philippines

Nov 4, 2016

By Marcel del Rosario

2016-07-08-06-57-09-1-300x300Instilling Comfortable Respect in the Philippines

The chorus of cascading waters was music to my ears as it dropped down from varying heights into an aquamarine pool. The sound mimics the sound of rain. The rhythm complements the magnificent and unadulterated view of water streaming onto rock walls and plants, giving off a thin cloud of droplets at the base of the waterfalls. This is Tinago Falls in Iligan City, Philippines. Its beauty is well hidden within the rainforest of the province hence the name “tinago”, a Filipino word that means hidden. As I stood there mesmerized by its beauty, I heaved a sigh of relief. I have finally conquered it but, unlike Tinago Falls, I need not hide because I am free.

Living in a country of diverse cultures, these diversity creates gaps in understanding that eventually leads to misconceptions. These questions in faith and beliefs, often fueled by ignorance, give birth to generalizations and bigotry. The news of tragic events happening in different parts of the world, often associated with our Muslim brothers, do not help in easing out these tensions. The Philippines, being predominantly of Christian faith, is not free from this imbalance. As most of our Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters are concentrated in Mindanao, the island is still a subject that sometimes instills fear among many Filipinos. There are places that are “off-limits” in the minds of most Filipinos because it is tagged as “dangerous”.

A recent unplanned visit to Iligan City gave me the opportunity to open the mind of my 8 year old daughter on the importance of accepting diversity. It was our first time in the city and our plan was to visit the 3 of its 24 waterfalls. As we only had a couple of hours to go around, we had to hire a “habal-habal”, a motorcycle where we had to squeeze in three people and the driver, to get us around faster. It was another first for us. I had to explain to my daughter that this was the mode of public transportation in most Philippine provinces.

She was quick to notice that there were a lot of Muslims during our quick tour. She was able to identify them because of the way they dressed. She was used to the city where people dressed in a certain fashion and she saw how different this was in Iligan City. At one point, she asked me why people dressed that way.

I saw this as an opportunity to explain to her the rich and diverse culture of the Philippines. I explained to her that they were our Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters. They believe in Allah and they practice their Islam faith so they have their own culture that they are proud of, and that includes the way they dress. I had to make her understand that despite these differences we were all Filipinos and should respect each other. She will meet a lot of Filipino Muslims as she grows up and will have a deeper understanding of their culture, both in our travels and in school. What is important was for her to open her mind and accept these differences just like the way she does with her friends in school. At that point, a young Muslim lady walked past our table and smiled at her to which she my daughter returned the favor.

At that point, I knew that she was on her way to understanding the lessons of cultural diversity.

As our world gets smaller with technology, it is very important to keep in mind that it will open us to the cultural exchanges from the different regions of the world. Most of these beliefs and practices may be similar and there will be a few that may contradict our very own. These exchanges will also open us to preconceived ideas and branding that can result to indifferences and, in some cases, can even lead to hate. We cannot allow these notions to affect the way we think about others because of their cultural background, their faith, the color of their skin, or the way they dress.

I find my freedom when I travel. Each destination is a new learning experience. Traveling introduced me to the different cultures and practices that makes the Philippines unique. It gave me the opportunity to help others understand the uniqueness of each culture paving the way for acceptance, just like what happened between me and my daughter during our trip in Mindanao. Traveling freed me from clutches of ignorance and taught me to respect the diversity that is present among us.

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About the Author

Marcel del Rosario

Marcel del Rosario, fondly called Marc, is passionate about traveling around the Philippines. His goal is to promote the amazing tourist destinations in his country and it is his way of helping in generating opportunities for his fellow Filipinos. His love for travel encouraged him to blog about it at marc7travels.com. He is also one of the founders of the Philippine Travel Instagram group @viajerongpinoy.

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