Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Racism In The Philippines

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.


Anonymous said...

bwahhhh..makes me cry

Anonymous said...

My friend, the thing you brand "racism" is not an unfounded fear. Yes, wrong things may have been done to you but so are to others who do not share your faith. You cannot blame them for feeling threatened. Know also, that in communities where the majority belongs to your affiliations, they too, are subjected to "racism" as you define it. Just my two cents. Ma'asalam!

Anonymous said...

hey the states already have a black president, guess we can have our muslim president now right?:P

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
xxx said...

good one there !

xxx said...

hello i come from singapore.
And im an agnostic from a moderate muslim background.

i like the part of how u say the media always go into a frenzy whenever muslims commits a crime but they will never report or headline christians or jews when they make crimes in the papers.
fucken media///

Miru Tamano Dianalan said...

Wow, I didn't know that the same thing happens in Singapore...I thought otherwise, since Singapore has large Muslim population.

Anonymous said...

I'm Filipino and the stigma that is placed over Filipino Muslims will never change, I find it wrong and don't agree. But many people including some of my Family have been wronged by Muslim Filipinos. e.g. Stolen land, killed etc. Muslim Filipinos have a real bad reputation when it comes to asking a Filipino resident. The media everywhere has a big part in branding muslim's everywhere as bad people, when in fact most, if not the majority of muslims are all respectful people.

Anonymous said...

Muslims collectively have only themselves to blame for the reaction of the people against their arrogant 'claims' of splitting up the Philippines. Nobody is interested in being a muslim. christian religion pre-dates islam. Who the hell wants stupid things as face veils and sharia law etc..?
Racism in the Philippines is there but not exclusively against muslims.
It is demonstrated in public by chants of 'hey joe' amongst others.
Walking down the streets of Amsterdam, Paris or London and been called 'hey Osama' or hey Juan does not happen.
People in these societies have more respect for cultural diversity. The Filipinos seem to be living in the middle ages when it comes to tolerance.

Miru Tamano Dianalan said...

Sir, please get your facts straight before you comment. And if you truly believe what you said, why don't you name yourself? You should be proud to stand by your convictions if you truly believe what you said.

Are you saying that non-Muslim Filipinos naturally hate Muslim Filipinos because of our "arrogant 'claims' of splitting up the Philippines"? The reason why some Filipino Muslims want to separate is because of the treatment that we are getting. We do not even have a representative in the national seat. It has been over 18 years since a Filipino Muslim sat on a senate seat.

"Nobody is interested in being a Muslim" - do you even read? Do you know that Muslims now outnumber Roman Catholics? Do you know that by 2020, 1/5 of the population in Russia will be Muslim? (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2007/01/2008525144630794963.html) Do you know that Islam is on the rise even in developed countries like the UK & US? (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5621482.ece)

Read up on Sharia law, it's actually more just and compassionate than our justice system. As for the veil, it's optional. It's up to the woman if she wants to wear it.

I hope that you brush up on Islam and Islamic culture before you criticize the religion. This is the type of ignorance that must be corrected for Muslims to be accepted in our society.

Traveler said...

To Amiruddin Dianalan

If you want to understand why many countries including Philippines
hate Islam and don't like Muslims then you should look at how people in those Muslims behave and treat Christian people. Muslims treat Christians worse. So why should we Christians treat you nice? Did you hear about that a british couple have been jailed for 30 days because they were kissing? And don't tell me its because that's its how their culture is. Guess what, this is 21st century and making excuses on behalf of muslim culture is not acceptable.

The way I have seen how badly Christians are treated in Muslims countries will only make me feel proud to say that I am in favor in making Islam illegal in my country and any other Christian county. I don't believe in human rights for muslims and religious freedom for islam.

Miru Tamano Dianalan said...


This is the last time I will entertain an unintelligent comment.

You, sir, are the reason why there is so much hate in this world. You have so much anger against something that you don't even bother to understand. You even contradict yourself by saying "this is the 21st century" so Muslim culture is unacceptable. I think we should all say: This is the 21st century. We should be more tolerant of others' beliefs, values, and religions.

Anonymous said...

Theres a black pres now lol. As much I hate racism, the Philippines will never have muslim president.

Its predominately Catholic, and catholics in the Philippines are pretty much not for Islam, pains me to say it.

I dont hate islam, just need to wake up to fact Islam in the Philippines wont ever be accepted. The Filipino people are brainwashed.

Xandra said...

Tolerance for religious, racial or even physical differences are not emphasized anymore. I used to work for a company where our clients are a combination of people from different backgrounds here in Mindanao. Then some of my co-workers would say to me "Ingat dyan Muslim yan. Matapang yan." I was like "Ok, what the heck does that mean?" Muslim is defined as if it were a race or a tribe. Majority of Mindanaons are Muslims but they are of different tribes, Maranaos, Tausugs, etc and each one has their unique identity and traditions.

My ex-boyfriend is a Muslim and an Arab. Our relationship did not last long NOT because he is a Muslim but he's so freaking good looking that girls chase him all the time and he loved it. (Ok, nuf said about my personal life.)

I've met many Muslims in my life, my best buddy is a Muslim and he never drank alcohol in his entire life (We actually rely on him to drive us home in case we got too wasted.)

I think we should look at each other as human beings rather than religious affiliations, race or nationality because all human beings have their flaws whether you are a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic, Atheist, Wiccan, etc.

Maybe we should teach our kids about religious tolerance. We can start by reading "The 99" comics.


Zeph Agayo said...

The "Christians" who unjustifiably make trouble with other people are not true Christians as Jesus Christ never taught such things. The "Muslims" who unjustifiably make trouble are not true Muslims as Muhammad never taught such things. I think the following article would really be interesting to you (copy it and paste it on your web address if it isn't clickable like a link):


Happy reading!

Miru Tamano Dianalan said...

I'm happy to see so many people commenting on this issue.

I'm also happy to say that people are a lot more tolerant now about beliefs, faith, and religion. In all the companies that I've worked for, they are sensitive about my requirements. For example, I'm given a day off or at least an emergency leave for the end of Ramadan.

@Anonymous - never say never! i believe that even if the philippines is predominantly catholic, there will come a time when religion will no longer matter when it comes to choosing our leaders.

Paul said...

The Philippines is the most Racist country I have been to.
Filipino think it is fine to charge you more because of the colour of your skin. It is pretty normal for them to put the prices up just because you are white. This happens in shops, at the market, in jeeps and taxis.
Next are the Shouts of HEY JOE or Hey f**k you man in stupid put on American accents. I have had so many Filipinos try to tell me that shouting Hey Joe is not racist, but I have never heard a Filipino shout Hey Joe at another Filipino so it is shouted because of race that makes it racist. It also makes Filipinos look stupid as they presume every white man is American when the truth is only about 1 out of 10 whites are American most are from Europe.

The sad thing is the amount of money Filipino’s that shout insults are costing the Philippines
I estimate it is 4,500,000,000,000 peso a year that’s $93billion US Dollars a year in lost tourist and lost investment.
I have spoke to many people that have visited the Philippines that say they will never return.
People don’t want to spend their holidays or invest in a country where they get names shouted at them, or get ripped off just because of the colour of their skin.

This is 4.5 trillion peso works out at 64,285 peso a year for every person in the Philippines that could provide free schools and college for every child and free hospitals for every person in your country.
No one would die because they can’t afford treatment no one would need to be homeless or hungry.

Joe said...

Hey Joe!

Anonymous said...

"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"?
this is so true...i hope there will come a time that the media in the philippines will be more mature minus the prejudice..
it is so funny also when many filipinos would complain about the way they are treated when they are in another country saying that they are being discriminated but they don't even bother to look at themselves when they are in the philippine. They themselves are more racist and always think negatively about the Muslims.

Muslim Hater said...

Haaay pumunta kayo dun sa quiapo at malalaman nyo yun mga muslim laging gumagawa ng gulo dun. Pinagtutulungan yun mga kristyano bugbugin. Ako dati wala ako galit sa muslim. Pero ngayon meron na. Kasi sa araw araw na nakikita ko dun sa quiapo padagdag lang ng padagdag galit ko sa kanila. Ang nakakainis pa dun painagtatakpan pa ng kapwa muslim nila yun krimen na nangyayari. I hate Muslim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Conifer said...

Asalam Alaykum!

Miru, I really appreciated this article.
I am not a Muslim myself, but I study at a university where I come into contact with them everyday.
People who have Islam as their religion are not generally evil as the media portrays, it's the other way around.
My Muslim classmates are more modest, responsible & are committed to their religion than their Christian counterparts who only attend on KBL (Kasal-Binyag-Libing).
But then, I would also like to point out, that in Marawi ( a place whose population is mostly composed of Muslims), we are the ones who are discriminated, like, they tell their children, 'Stay away from them, their Christians' or the like.
It is just a two-way cycle.

Conifer said...

Oops. . . Typo,
'Their Christians'
should be,
'They're Christians.'

Anonymous said...

I pray for the day where everyone can get along. Maybe it will take an alien invasion for all mankind to realize we are the same.

Anonymous said...

Minority Christians are discriminated in Muslim countries, and minority Muslims are discriminated in Christian countries. Filipinos should know that Islam reached their country way before Christianity. Yes the majority of Filipinos are Catholic but the Muslim Filipinos are Filipino as well. As for Muslims want to be independent from the Philippines, I don't see the problem with that, since the rest of the country does not want them anyway!, might as well let them be. Filipinos feel inferior to most other races and they take it back on their fellow muslims.

Anonymous said...

I am from Mindanao but I'm not a Muslim.I do have a lot of Muslim friends though and yes, they are really nice people. But I agree with some of the comments here. We can't really blame those people if they are afraid of Muslims.Yes, it may be because of the media but it's also because of what they see.I have experienced what it feels like to live in fear because of the raging war between the military troops and the rebels.We would sleep at night dressed not with PJs but of jogging pants and long sleeve shirts just in case the war would reach us and we need to flee.Bags are ready and full with important things so we could just grab it and run just in case.Distant noise from a cannon is normal and we can hear the sound of the fighter planes as it prepares to fire.A lot of houses are burned down and people are killed by rebels.

Honestly, some of the Muslims here in Mindanao are arrogant.They act like they own the streets.They sometimes don't follow traffic rules.People will just say "No wonder.Muslim kasi".

But I hope people will realize that not all Muslims are violent.Some just want be accepted and live a normal life.There was one time when I received a text message from a Muslim friend telling me to be careful because they received an information that rebels are planning to plant a bomb in the only Shell depot in the city (which is near our place,btw.)Now I know you prolly think "See? They plant bombs and blah blah" but I hope you noticed too that my friend was kind enough to text me and told me & my family that we should be more careful.He also added, by the way, that they too are scared.Some of our neighbors are Muslims too but no problems with them so far.They would even give us food and would ask us to check on their house when they're not home.I guess, what I'm trying to say is, we can't blame them if they have strong negative feelings toward the Muslims.It is, in fact, some of the Muslims fault why others perceive them that way.But we should also remember that not all of them are violent & rebels.Some are also scared just like us.I am thankful that I have a lot of Muslim friends because without them, I wouldn't be able to realize these things and I would become close minded too.

Anonymous said...

There are bad muslims. Thats true. But there are also bad Christians. I am a Christian and Im from mindanao. I have Muslim friends and they are so nice, they are not violent, unlike what most people think of. All we need is respect for each others beliefs and culture... I think the Philippines is a very racist country.... Most people mock those with bisayan or provincial acccent. Some calls people with dark skin as "mukhang katulong". Racism happens everywhere in our country.

Anonymous said...

I blame the media, extremist groups of religion(any group) and ignorant people who have their minds closed.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that the countrymen of my mother dont bend over for the muslims and their warmongering religion created by a pedophile desert warlord. Even tho the catholic church aint much better. You can thank your religions for still being one of the worlds poorest country when you have all the resources to be opposite.

pcessy said...

I feel the same way too. That's the reason why I am not wearing the headscarf because I don't want to be discriminated. But when I start to practice Islam everything follows, I am now proud to be identified as a muslim, I wanted to be more kind than before so that people will see that not all muslims are like what they think, I am wearing the hijab and it makes me more confident. Whenever i read or hear negative comments from people about my religion it only makes me want to become a better muslim and prove to them that they are wrong. Thank you Miru Tamano Dianalan for this article :)
From The Hijabers Index

ReikaLee said...

This piece is very interesting. Great!

Muslims aside, racism is just as bad here in the Philippines. Muslims aside, racism is just as nefarious here in the Philippines. The white man is called "Joe," the black man "negro," the Chinese "Intsik" or "Chekwa," the Indians "Payb-siks" or "Baho kilikili."

The worse part is it's prevalent even among Filipinos. We laugh at the Bisaya accent, we make fun of Aetas for their appearances.

Filipinos are racist too, ika nga.

Anonymous said...

Quran is full of shit! What kind of a prophet who would have many wives (inclyding a 9 yrs old girl)? Tell his people to kill the infidels? Ishhh!!!!