One year ago I went to the Philippines for the first time. I am now headed back to the Philippines for volunteer work on behalf of Cuso International. If you were to ask me then what my plans would be for a return visit to the Philippines, volunteering would not have been at the top of my list. More likely my answer would have been to spend more time at the beach, eat more food, or spend more time at the beach while eating more food.
Now ever since I have seen some of the difficulties in the Philippines first hand, I have been looking for additional ways that I may be able to give back to the Filipino community. Not just the Filipino American community, but the International Filipino community. Some of my current efforts include a web project to create more jobs for Filipinos by connecting them to overseas employers and a second project helping to promote Filipino musicians. Additionally, I have joined a second organization as a volunteer in support of poverty alleviation – Gawad Kalinga USA. So when the opportunity for international volunteering presented itself, I felt that this is the opportunity that I may have been waiting for.
A quick example of cultural separation is this photo. Even though I understand the meaning of the phrases in this photo – Without ever visiting the Philippines, the comic relief is lost in translation. The message in yellow means that it is illegal to pee here, while the second message says ‘but here it’s ok’. I saw this sign often in the city, and I also saw people doing their business right under the sign. Giving it another meaning altogether. As a second generation Filipino, details like this, allow me to see my separation from the Filipino culture. I often wonder – How can I be of the most service, when I myself don’t fully understand?
Communication is one of the cornerstones for society, so to help preserve one’s culture, it is vital to pass along your native language from generation to generation. When I was very young, I was fortunate enough to have learned enough about the Tagalog language to be able to understand at a conversational level. My progression for learning was first how to say ‘i love you’ (mahal kita), then the word for water (tubig), immediately followed by all of the words that are generally banned from public radio.
The national language is Tagalog by the way, but imagine that in a country made up of over seven thousand islands – each island has their own dialect or spin on the Philippine language. This creates an interesting barrier since the local residents would be more comfortable speaking in their native dialect. Additionally, many of the languages share the same words but have entirely different meanings!
Anyway why do I feel this is important to understand? Since I am a second generation Filipino, that speaks very little Tagalog and only commands a conversational comprehension of the language – it is likely that my children will not be able to speak, write, or understand the language without having to go out of their way to learn it. Effectively putting them one step further from connecting with their heritage. As a parent that would like to keep their children connected to their heritage, it’s frustrating – now what to do about it?
If you are interested in meeting other individuals with similar concerns or passions, join our linkedin group. The goal for this group is to create another channel allowing individuals with similar passions or concerns to connect. I often post in the group sharing news regarding the Philippines, web marketing techniques, and concepts that can also be applied to other causes or organizations. Cheers! -> http://goo.gl/5Ds4r
~ThatGuy that umihi D2