Tuesday, May 9, 2006


No issue has so outraged Filipinos all over the world than the
treatment by Canadian school authorities of the 7-year old Filipino
boy, Luc Gallardo, who was reprimanded 10 times for what the school
principal said was his “disgusting” practice of using a spoon along
with his fork to eat in the traditional Filipino manner.

The uproar over the spoon incident derives perhaps from the fact that
eating with a spoon and fork is a practice common to all Filipinos,
regardless of wherever they may be. It was handed down from previous
generations and will be handed down to future generations of Filipinos,
wherever they may be.

Think about it. Filipinos are divided on GMA, charter change, Erap,
federalism, and virtually everything else but at the end of the day, as
well as at the beginning and in the middle, every Filipino (who has
food to eat) will eat with a spoon and fork.

The Canadian incident came to light when Luc’s mother, Maria Theresa
Gallardo, filed a complaint with the local school board in Quebec to
protest her son’s treatment by the school lunch monitor. The local
press covered the complaint and reported her comments. “I find it very
prejudiced and it’s racist,” she said. “He’s supposed to be acting like
a professional. This is supposed to be a free country with free
expressions of culture and religion.”

My column last week about this issue ((“Global Filipino Village”)
elicited an unusually high level of response about what one reader
called “the unfortunate Luc”.

That reader, an Englishman (PGH) who lives in the Philippines with his
Filipina wife, had the decidedly minority view on the issue.

“My private suspicion is Luc eats like a slob by anyone’s standards,
and is thus drawing unflattering attention to himself. If he were a
tidy eater, less fuss would have been made. He needs to learn the
ropes. That's what school's for, and his mother's doing him a
disservice by supporting him against the group he needs to join.
However, let's give the little lad the benefit of the doubt.”

“Does or doesn't culture matter? The argument that the reaction to
Luc's table manners is 'racist' says, in effect. "Your culture is
important to you - but my culture is important to me! Both are equally
important! It is racist to put your culture ahead of mine on the same
issue." By using the 'r' word, she is also surely implying that table
manners are like skin color -- unchangeable. Although this is an
untenable proposition, it puts Canada on the defensive.”

I responded to his email by sending him the comments of a Canadian
columnist who was "gobsmacked” when he read about Luc Gallardo’s

“That Canadian is extremely stupid and a downright bully (I’m saying
this not because he berated a Filipino child). If he’s never seen
anybody eating with a spoon and fork at the same time, it’s probably
because he’s never traveled, never been outside of the four corners of
his town in Canada and therefore helplessly ignorant. Furthermore, the
principal proved that he was terribly parochial because I can assure
you that I know Canadian Indians (the true, genuine Canadians) who eat
with their hands too, and if ever they use cutlery, they like to use
spoons and forks. What’s wrong with that?”

"This principal must be told that in Thailand, one of the more
civilized countries in the world, people eat with spoon and fork
introduced no less by the British East India Company some 150 years
ago. And if we are to believe that it was nanny Anna (Anna and the
King), an Englishwoman of prim and proper Victorian era, who taught
the princes and princesses of Thailand to eat properly with a spoon and
a fork, who is he to say that a child eats like a pig just because he
eats with a spoon and fork?"

With regards to the issue of “this 'racist' epithet”, the Englishman in the Philippines wrote:

“The charge of 'racism' is being used way too much; to the point that
one suspects it's become a way of winning a cross-cultural argument
without having to argue. It blindsides people. They seem not to have
any adequate defence against it.”

”My distinct recollection is that 'racism' is shorthand for 'racial
discrimination' which means treating someone differently on account of
their skin color (or other physical characteristic associated with
race). The prime example -- which ignited the whole issue in the US in
the '60s -- was seating Blacks in the backs of buses.”

“Now here comes this Filipina lady in Canada complaining that -- what?
-- her son is being required to be the same as everyone else? Will
someone please explain to me how this got to be 'racism'?”

I agreed with the reader. It isn’t racism, it’s cultural chauvinism, a
belief that one’s culture is superior and should be the dominant norm.

Stand-up comedian Rex Navarette has a routine where he talks about his
childhood friend, Brian, who, when he ate at their home, was surprised
to see Rex’s mother eating her food with her fingers. He told Rex that
his mother was “Third World”. Rex’s mother overheard the comment and
asked Brian how he eats his French fries. With his fingers, he replied.
“Then you’re Third World too”, she said.

Anyway, if you’re keeping a list, put this down as Difference # 79.
Americans (and Canadians) are forked-up while Filipinos are spoon-fed.