The Philippines is divided into 81 provinces. English and the national language Tagalog are taught in all levels of education while Spanish is taught in high school and college. There are at least 14 major provincial languages and minor languages spoken by small communities in far flung areas which are not taught in school. The country might as well have been named Islands of Babel. Just as the story of the Tower of Babel says “Now all the earth continued to be of one language and of one set of words…” then “God had confused the language of all the earth, and had scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.” (Genesis 11: 1-9)
Colonizers used the language barrier and the subcultures of the provinces to divide and rule. Regions were encouraged to be prejudice against each other. Just as other nations have racial slurs, provinces and regions had invectives against each other. This resulted in bearing 300 years of atrocities under Spanish colonization before a revolution was even started.
The nation’s division has continued on down the years through American colonization, Japanese occupation and decades of democracy marred by corruption, nepotism and incompetence.
The recent calamity caused by typhoon Haiyan left Tacloban City littered with dead bodies among the debris of homes reduced to rubbles. Relief efforts to deliver food, water and medicine were hampered by the lack of cargo planes, the airport needed time to get cleaned and functional, the police and medical practitioners are themselves victims so that few have reported to work.
Bigger nations rallied to send help. The GMA Kapuso Foundation and The ABS-CBN Foundation held telethon and delivered goods to the storm victims. Help came from all over the Philippines. The language of tragedy has unified the country.
When bodies are piled up on a common grave it means loved ones are buried without time to be identified. There is no time to mourn. The Filipina storm victim continues on to save who and what she can. In the midst of the chaos are breastfeeding Filipinas who came to nurse babies in need of milk in the devastated areas.
When a country’s women population is as strong and as brave as their men that nation can stumble with adversity yet not be crippled by despair. When it finally finds its power the Philippines would be formidable and the Filipina, its moving force.