"When you think about a Cebuana can hardly speak English and, of course, Tagalog so maybe she should answer in Bisaya." That was the comment of former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz which stirred negative reactions from most of the Cebuanos and even prompted some Cebuano lawmakers to draft a resolution condemning such banter from the former beauty queen and declaring her as persona non grata or an unwelcome person in Cebu. Such remark was given by Diaz when asked about her comments on having an interpreter for Filipina beauty queens joining in international beauty tilts. This was after the major major answer of the Philippine representative to Miss Universe 2010 Maria Venus Raj who landed fourth runner-up in the competition.
Instead of apologizing, Diaz went on defending herself against the rants on her belittling statement against the Cebuanos' ability to speak English. She said that such interview has been edited and that some statements were omitted and that she was only misunderstood.
Looking at how Diaz reacted on a Cebu Solon's demand for public apology, it could be said that Diaz even gave another accusation that Cebuanos are not only incapable of speaking English or Tagalog but in understanding the language as well. In my own point of view, Diaz was not misunderstood. Her statement was very clear and it's unquestionable that she ignited the undying issue of racism in the Philippines where some ethno-linguistic groups are being stereotyped as low-class individuals especially in their ability to speak another language like English. What is being misunderstood in the statement "A Cebuana could hardly speak English and Tagalog"? Yes, it might not be her intention to discriminate the Cebuanas' ability to speak English and Tagalog but the statement itself is a clear form of discrimination.
If a public figure like Gloria Diaz, a supposed to be advocate of beauty for unity, could arrogantly pose such ugly statement against ethnic groups in the Philippines and would even deny simple gesture of apology to the anguish Cebuanos, then how can we expect a greater scale of national peace and reconciliation? We all need to understand our cultural differences as a country and that involves understanding the different linguistic features of our spoken dialects. Not because there are Cebuanas who could hardly speak English or speak English with a very distinct variation, then Cebuanas would be stereotyped as incapable of speaking good English. Diaz has just polarized an issue which we supposed to work on for convergent perceptions towards national progress and unity.
Ms. Gloria Diaz, I believe, was not misunderstood by the Cebuanos. In way, I would have believed her if she said that she improperly conveyed her message of making everyone realize that each one has to speak in language he/she is comfortable with. And considering that such interview was meant to address a "gaffe" which happened in the recent Miss Universe, no one could avoid that citing Cebuanos as examples could be associated to some gaffes Cebuanos commit while speaking English which is a phony stereotype.