Monday, May 08, 2006

Of Spoons, Forks and Protests

Filipino table etiquette punished at local school (excerpt from The Chronicle)

A Roxboro woman has filed a formal complaint with a local school board after her son was disciplined by a lunch program monitor at Ecole Lalande for eating in what she says is a customary Filipino manner. Luc Cagadoc’s table behaviour is traditionally Filipino; he fills his spoon by pushing the food on his plate with a fork, his mother, Maria Theresa Gallardo, says.

But after being punished by his school’s lunch program monitor more than 10 times this year for his mealtime conduct—including his technique—the seven-year-old told Gallardo said last week that he was too embarrassed to eat his dinner.

“Mommy, I don’t want to eat anymore,” Gallardo says Luc told her at the kitchen table April 11. “My teacher is telling me that eating with a spoon and fork is yucky and disgusting.” When he eats with both spoon and fork, instead of only one utensil, the Grade 2 student said the lunch monitor moves him to a table to sit by himself.

Upset over Luc’s story, Gallardo confronted the lunchtime caregiver the next day and on April 13, she telephoned the school’s principal, Normand Bergeron. His reaction brought her to tears, she says. “His response was shocking to me,” Gallardo, who moved to Montreal from the Philippines in 1999, told The Chronicle. “He said, ‘Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.’

“I find it very prejudiced and it’s racist. He’s supposed to be acting like a professional. This is supposed to be a free country with free expressions of culture and religion. This is how we eat; we eat with a fork and spoon.”

Gallardo, who operates a day care out of her Roxboro home and is close to completing her studies in early childhood education, wrote a letter last week and lodged a formal complaint to the Commission scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys (CSMB) yesterday. She disagrees with the lunch monitor’s approach to teaching children how to eat and says it is emotionally abusive to Luc. When she questioned Bergeron about punishing students for their table habits, she says he replied that, “If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time.”

But Bergeron says it was Luc’s eating technique combined with his behaviour at the table that was inappropriate that day, which is why he was moved. “Luc can be turbulent,” he said yesterday. “Like other children, he is frequently in situations where we have to intervene. It’s normal, he’s a child. He is in a period of learning.”

The principal of the 387-student Roxboro school said he explained his position on using two utensils to Gallardo during their telephone conversation. “I said, ‘Here, this is not the manner in which we eat.’ I don’t necessarily want students to eat with one hand or with only one instrument, I want them to eat intelligently at the table,” he said. “I want them to eat correctly with respect for others who are eating with them. That’s all I ask. Personally, I don’t have any problems with it, but it is not the way you see people eat every day. I have never seen somebody eat with a spoon and a fork at the same time.”

* * * * *

So of course when this story came out, protesters here in Manila last Friday started picketing the Canadian embassy which happened to be the same building as ours. I was oblivious to all this, until my officemate told me about it this afternoon.

“Really?” I asked. “They were picketing outside our building?”

“Yeah,” my officemate said.

I decided to make fun of it. “Maybe instead of placards they should have brought along those huge spoon-&-fork carvings that are found in almost all Filipino dining rooms or kitchens, hahaha!”

My officemate looked me in the eye and said, in all seriousness, “Actually they did.”

Wow, surreal.

OH my gulay. As in??? May nagdala ng GIGANTIC wooden spoon and fork??? Hahaha.
This is cultural imperialism! Actually, every now and then, I would use the edge of my spoon to cut the meat on my plate, just for shock value, to see if others (foreigners) would respond, he he. Subukan lang nilang patalsikin ako sa table...
I didn't mind using a fork and a knife while eating my meals anywhere here, because I already assumed it's their way of eating [walang kamatayang steak and potatoes]

But when I'm eating rice, I would ask for a spoon. People still use forks. I told them it doesn't make sense to use a fork in eating rice because it will just fall apart.

Natememe sila dun whehehehe ;-)

Anyway that principal was wrong in humiliating the boy with his table manners. It is not a question of adapting to Canadian mannerisms, but rather being sensitive to one's cultural identity--and the principal failed miserably with that....

Next time pakainin mo ng kainin yun, using a fork. Tignan mo kung hindi maghagilap ng kutsara. ;-)
NELZ: Dapat dalihin ang principal sa Pinas at ipakita sa kanya na halos lahat ng bahay may giant wooden spoon-and-fork na nakasabit sa may dining room o kitchen. Tapos sabihin sa kanya, "O ayan! May nakikita ka bang giant KNIFE-and-fork, ha?!"

follow: I had dinner at a Greek resto with some of the members of the tenor section of my choir, and I had calamari on rice pilaf.

Naturally, gamit naming lahat tinidor at kutsilyo.

Di na ako nanghingi ng kutchara at gutom na ako hahahahah!
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