This is how I remember my first lesson about the Philippines when I was a first grader. The first lesson is to describe a picture of small fragments of islands and islets being grouped under what are called Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Coming to know of the country, which I have to be proud of, is home for a more than a thousand of species many of which are endemic to the country’s abounding wealth and beauty of various forms of natural resources.
These descriptions show how vast are the forms of life living in the Philippines, not only those we can find in nature but most especially are the people in-charge of these possessions as a nation.
Baguio, Benguet has been my home since I started college. I am not a native of Benguet or in any part of the Cordillera, but I had a chance to make a dwelling at a small community at Longlong, La Trinidad. Through a relative from my hometown at Marikina, I found an opportunity to explore living on a different place. The first time I stayed in the community I was welcomed by the rural setting of the area. I got the impression that the people there knew that our family were visitors and not a local of the community. When I ride the jeep I felt that a common spirit exist among each person in the vehicle I am in. It is just like riding the jeep from the city of Manila, but the difference is that everyone talks with each other. It seemed that everyone knew everybody.
The culture is different. I felt different. It was the time that I felt that I am a total stranger. However, there was a warm sensation I get every time that the people would notice this stranger is with them and they will just smile. I really did not understand when they initiated talking to me through their local dialect, nevertheless I felt welcomed and at home.
More days had passed and more about the identity of this community was revealed. I noticed that it was only my relative’s house that had a gate built around it. Most of the houses of the community were open. There were no fences. It reflected a value among the people in that area shares. Sharing and co-existence is part of their way of life. The community consists of Ifugaos, Ibalois, and some have their roots in Bontoc. Others are Kalunguya. They live together. Some are subsistent farmers and they share resources to each other when possible.
The country is a home to diverse cultures. The environment shaped and influenced the people’s identity in many different ways. There is diversity in how people on this island practice their way of life according to their geographic locations. The form of living people create is also a way to adapt to the natural phenomena of their environment. There are those who live on the mountains. People here must acquire skills to be able to go up and down the hills to work. Those who are living on the seaside developed knowledge on building boats to live with the waves in the ocean. Go to the south there are the Bagobos, Maranaos, Yakans; these are some popular ethnolinguistic groups found in the south. Set off further to its western and eastern parts you will hear of the Lumads. On the east side of the Philippine map, you will find the Mangyans. Go further up the North, and be introduced with the indigenous groups of the Cordillera like the Ifugao, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, and Kalanguya, just to name some of them, and many others which if we will mention all we could reach to hundreds. Countless like the fragmented islands we see when we look at the map of the Philippines. These fragments scattered formed the Philippines. It had created the diversity among people and their way of life.
Though being through with my elementary years, these lessons from History and Geography subjects are more than just chapters of information from a grade school textbook. I realized that it is how I was introduced to Culture. Pursuing now a college degree, I find these past lessons very significant to being a Development Communication student. Culture is one of the important issues about people that need to be communicated.
Culture for me, is not just a field of study or a section in a magazine or a newspaper, but it is an aspect of human life where we can give our lives to devote for learning and deeper understanding about the Indigenous people who are in the society.
Cultural diversity sets a barrier to each Filipino that instead of seeing one nation, it was hard to form unity. Culture must not be a reason for conflicts, discrimination, and divisions. Through the differences, we can live with one another.
Communicate differences and pursue living towards peace and harmony. These issues can be address if we communicate with each other. The fragments need to connect.
Communication involves a process where it allows two ends, the “speaker” and the “receiver”, connect with each other. It does not focus to one side of a story only. Our communication would be more effective if we understand one another to the fullest. Relate with one another. Listen as others speak. Share your values to one another. Do not pre-judge that another person will not understand you.
Break the barrier of language. If you found yourself going to another region or even a country, learn the language. When we spend time with other people it also involves spending time learning how they speak and what they speak. It would definitely take time. It would take years. However, it is an effective means to connect to another person. In return, people who are different from your culture will allow themselves to connect with you. We have the ability to learn how to speak during childhood so we can continue learning another language when we are grownups.
The generation we are in today allows people to migrate to other places and change addresses. Break the barriers of pre-judgments when an idea is different from what you know and when an appearance of something is far from what you commonly see. Learn and let these differences teach you. Have an open mind, and with an open mind, open your heart too.
*(originally published on ZigZag Weekly. Young Thoughts of the Valley.November 2013. “Breaking Barriers Connecting Fragments, original title)