Cebu as melting pot
ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - August 9, 2014 - 12:00am

Long before ASEAN integration, borderless Asia and global village, in the early 80's, I have seen Koreans in Cebu and presumably in other places of the Philippines. Their number has grown tremendously over the years. Their collective reason before still holds true until today, to learn the English language from us.

Also for the past years, and recently, Iranians, Nigerians, Papua New Guineans, and many others are ubiquitous in our streets, malls, public places, and schools. Their presence adds a newfangled dimension to ours. Recognizably of great consequence are the cultures they bring.

Specifically in academic institutions, either these foreign students are staying short-term or otherwise, they have one way or another created varied impressions, misinterpretations and generalizations among Filipino educators.

Notably for misinterpretations, it owes to lack of understanding of other cultures. School administrators are very critical in terms of coming up with programs that would bring about profound understanding for teachers of the kind of students they have. Students who are bringing with them unique cultures that may not generally shared with our very own culture.

A culture's influence, its importance, and its consequences are measured in centuries rather than years. That is why it is not easy for us as individuals to understand our own culture. It is even less easy to understand a different one, with customs and values that don't fit in with ours.

We are all living in cultures with different norms. As culture affects human behavior, the more we learn about other cultures, the better teachers, mentors, scholars and therapists and individuals we can be. And ultimately understanding different cultures makes us better people.

Learning to be sensitive to cultural differences will be critically important. When we cooperate, there is more productivity and benefits.

Today we have a different view. Close contact among the various peoples of the world and the capability of contemplating the earth as a whole help us to understand that cultures are interdependent. We also realize that if different visions of the world exist today, it is because none of them is integral. In order for a universal vision–one suited to all human beings–to evolve, each culture needs to consider not only its own interpretation of life, but also the interpretations of other cultures.

If we develop a deep respect for what seems different to us, it will be easier for us to broaden our vision and understand the function of each individual, group, people and culture in the whole of humankind. Fundamental to this is understanding what is truly ours that make us different from others.

My Korean brother-in-law, Mr. Yang, has been with us for almost a decade, living harmoniously in our midst. No single incident of conflict has so far been committed by him. To our delight, he's making himself available even in the late hours of the night to rescue us whenever we had a problem with our car, wherever and whenever it broke down.

But of course it's never perfect. There are reports of foreign individuals involved in overdrinking and fights, and to some extent, leading to ugly situations having them end up behind bars.

We are now facing a reality. And it's becoming clear to all of us, not because of their distinct color, facial attributes and language but their culture manifested by the way they interact with us, in a way making our lives more dynamic and challenging. Despite some differences, we likewise share some commonalities. Among Asians, for instance, the respect for elders, especially our parents, shows our close family ties.

We seem to have no choice. Their presence is bringing economic benefits. Thus, understanding the dynamics brought about by their presence becomes essential. It may take time for others to realize this. But since they are now part of our society therefore we just need to embrace the idea that in diversity there is beauty.

The world has reduced to a small global community. We may be barraged with a blend of various cultures, both shared and divergent, but we remain to be intact and distinct with our own, resolute and proud.

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