Here's something I wrote which got published in Inquirer's Youngblood column. I wrote this about five years ago. It's been such a long time since I last posted here 'coz I don't have time to write new stuff, so I thought I'd start the year with a retrospect.
Racism in the Philippines
By Amiruddin Dianalan
YES, it's true. Most Filipinos hate Muslims, even if they don't know they do. Ever since I was a kid, I have seen and experienced the prejudice against Muslims. I guess I'm just lucky that I'm spared most of the discrimination that other Muslims are subjected to. I guess I'm lucky that I grew up in Manila, so I don't have that funny accent. I guess I'm lucky that I'm tall, light-skinned and that I have a face that's easy on the eyes. In the words of others, I don't look like a Muslim. That remark offends me. Just what is a Muslim supposed to look like? I always ask them. I never felt myself to be lucky because I "don't look like a Muslim." In fact, I feel what the other Muslims are going through. What if I looked like them? How would I feel? I have always felt that the racism here is analogous to what's going on in the US, where Muslims are the black people and the rest of the Filipinos are the white people.
Sometimes when I go out and I wear my tutub (Muslim skullcap), I feel that racism. Nobody could look me in the eye, and I could feel their eyes looking at me behind my back. I could feel them squirming in their seats, tension so thick in the air, as if I were a terrorist with a bomb. Most people are afraid to sit beside me. In the MRT, guards double-check my bag, and nobody wants to sit beside me. But minus the tutub and beard, the same guards just wave me through, and people make an opening in the seats so I could squeeze in. It's so sad.
I noticed the racism even when I was young. I was five years old, in first grade, and already I could feel the bigotry of my classmates. At that age, I couldn't help but feel bothered. Good thing it didn't have a traumatic effect on me, but it helped me understand why most Filipino Muslims suffer from an inferiority complex. Many a times, I would hear my classmates say to their friends, "Uy, 'wag ka makipaglaro d'yan, Muslim 'yan! Pupugutan ka n'yan!" (Hey, don't play with him, he's a Muslim. He'll cut your head off!)
When my sister was in third grade in her exclusive all-girl private Catholic school, her pencil rolled off her desk and she couldn't reach it. None of her classmates wanted to get it, or even touch her other things, for that matter. Why? Because she was Muslim. How would nine-year-old girls know how to hate Muslims if no one taught them? I guess education in racism starts early.
How about those taxi drivers who refuse to ferry women with headdresses? They don't even stop if those women flag them.
I think the media is largely at fault here. Why do the headlines always read "Muslim kills, steals, etc." when a Muslim commits a crime? But when people of other religions or sects commit a crime, it is never indicated. Have you ever seen a headline that said "Christian robs bank" or "Iglesia ni Cristo member kills wife" or "Born-again arrested for estafa"?
Filipinos brag to the world about their diverse culture, but are actually ashamed of it. Many will find it hard to admit, but deep down, they know. Like I've always said: The only time that the Philippines will have a Muslim president is the time that America will have a black president.