Dear Prudence

This article appeared on The Purveyor (the Official Publication of the Masscom Coordinates) last October.

I am re-posting this that you may also get to read. This is an unedited version.

Dear prudence…

More than being the title of one of the songs of the Beatles, this is actually an address to Miss Prudence, who, I believe has always been MIA when persons tend to address comments without taking extra precautions.

In my meandering with Miss Prudence, I am reminded that the tongue is a very potent tool in making or breaking a person.

The tongue can build walls and tear down barriers, can bring life and destroy it. Such a relatively small part of the body can bring the entire body to its death.

It can appease an angry mob, or make a placid crowd go rowdy.

While making this realization, it appears that a lot of tongue-lashing incidents have surfaced, especially those that have angered quite a number of Cebuanos already.

Gloria Diaz’s statements regarding the incompetence, or should I say, incapability of Cebuanos to speak English and Tagalog (or Filipino) has angered Cebuano pride. I should say then, that one woman’s tongue has brought almost all Cebuano speakers up in arms against this mortal sin on cultural pride.

The statement “Kasi when you think about a Cebuana who can hardly speak English…and of course, in Tagalog, I think she should answer in…in…in…uhm, Bisaya” caught a lot of flak from Cebuanos who believe Diaz tripped their egos with what they label a bigoted statement.

This is where prudence comes in. Remember that in one statement, several meanings may be attached to it. To some it may not be offensive; to others it may leave some bad taste.

If you would ask me, her pronouncement lacked prudence. I do not know why she had to mention the word “Cebuana” or at least make Cebuanos appear incompetent with their language skills. If she has a Cebuano boyfriend (whom Senator Serge Osmeña acknowledged on television as his nephew) then she should have known how Cebuanos would have reacted on such statements.

The truth is not about her boyfriend of 12 years being a Cebuano himself. It is about the imprudent use of the word that made almost every Cebuano’s ears as hot as the concoction of the tuslob-buwa that one may find in the corners of Pasil.

While she is accused of belittling the Cebuanos’ competence in English and Filipino, she made herself clear by saying that she never meant her first statements to be insults against Cebuanos. But that interview with Mario Dumaual of ABS-CBN News was clear. Clear as crystal. What is there to deny?

At one point, Diaz asserted once more that she has not meant any harm in giving out those statements. She even said the Cebuanos owe her an apology. The truth is, her imprudence has once more irked even our politicians here. Cebu City North District Representative Rachel del Mar gave out a privilege speech condemning her statements. The Cebu chapter of the Vice-Mayors’ League of the Philippines declared her persona non grata (unwanted visitor) here in Cebu. The Cebu City Council is inviting Diaz to their session to explain her statements. Cebu Provincial Board member Agnes Magpale also said “the remarks pierce our hearts as Cebuanos” whether malice is either present or not.

Her imprudence has led her to pride (or I should say her pride led her to imprudence). She never admitted the ethnic slur. Even if Mario Dumaual’s interview with the former Miss Universe winner was clear enough, she never just said sorry. Her sorry would have been enough for the Cebuanos and all others whose capabilities are attacked by those crabs out there waiting to pin you down.

Dumaual also came to the rescue to defend Diaz’s statements. He could have shown us the entire tape (or perhaps the transcript) of the interview so that we would not doubt his integrity as well.

If her intention was to relate that those who may not speak in English may get interpreters, she should have said it that way. No more, no less.

Perhaps what Diaz should do now is to come out in the open, admit it was a slur and say sorry.

Our future jobs as communicators require prudence. Tact. Care and wisdom in choosing our words are important to maintain integrity.

Now my meandering with Miss Prudence has allowed me to prove my point: One woman’s tongue is now up against three million or more people disgruntled at one imprudent and tactless statement.

Dear prudence, would you come out to play?


About Luigi Flores
Brother Luigi Flores: Writer/Editor. Mass Communication Instructor. Voice-over Artist. Upcoming Radio Host. Youth Minister. Lector/Psalmist.

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