ESKWELAHANG PINOY! Philippine Cultures & Languages

by Fred C. Wilson III

July 30, 2010
-Filipino proverb-

“Ang taong matalio mahirap maloko.”

It took African-American historian Alex Haley’s bestselling book ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’ to spawn a renewed interest by Americans of all ethnicities to find out who their ancestors were. With Haley’s groundbreaking epic we wanted to know where our forbearers came from, what were their accomplishments, their failures, hopes, dreams, and desires. ‘Eskwelahang Pinoy sa Konsulado 2010’ is an attempt by Chicago’s Filipino-American community to reconnect with the languages, customs and cultures of the Philippines.


Class started with a welcoming speech by Mr. Leo M. Herrera-Lim newly appointed Philippine Consul General for Chicago. When Mr. Herrera-Lim ended Willi R. Buhay gave a talk on Philippine History and Heroes. Some time ago this writer shared the podium/ group art show at the now defunct North Lakeside Cultural Center with Willi. The event as I remember was held in conjunction with Chicago’s annual May Asian/Pacific Heritage Month celebrations.Willi displayed his paintings. Mine was ceramics though I now draw. At that event Mr. Buhay talked on topics pertaining to Philippine art. Minewas on my adventures back home. From my lecture ‘Philippine Adventures’ was born that evening. The lecture on Philippine languages was conducted by Ms. Rizalina V. Richmond who was my Tagalog teacher ‘back in the day (past).’ Sally as people affectionately call her, still teaches Philippine cultures and languages.

When I studied under her she would devote the first part of her three hour course teaching basic Philippine grammar. The second hour she taught written and conversational Tagalog. It was the final hour when she lectured on Philippine history that left me spellbound. I remember Sally and how she would teach history with such enthusiasm. She has that rare didactic ability to project listeners into whatever historical event she’s describing.

During my 32 years of teaching I rarely encountered an educator who could deliver as Sally Richmond does. The intellectual debates among her students were the stuff of legends. Our class was divided in two sections: one for young children the other for older kids and adults. Ms. Richmond taught the older children and adults, Ms. Fe B. Mendoza taught the little ones. Fe’s a woman who’s pure energy. Her superb use of visuals combined with her extensive knowledge of her subject matter enabled her class of about 25-30 little ones to focus on her every word. Before refreshments were served the attendees were given a lecture on the music of the Philippines by Ms. Ester Hana. Philippine music is saturated with sounds you could only hear in Latin American countries.

The first time I saw traditional Filipino dancing and singing was at the Singing Waiters Restaurant in Manila in 1997 during my first trip to the Islands. Outside of the delicious miniature crabs, icy bottles of delicious San Miguel Beer, and feasting on larger crabs smothered in a creamy coconut sauce was my bad case of ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ aka ‘the ****s. Though the meal was superb I don’t remember sitting still all that much since I was running back and forth to the washroom.


History has always enthralled me. Ever since I was in grade school I’ve always enjoyed movies and books that dealt with historical events and larger than life figures. My first drawing (I still have it!) was of an infamous person who lived and died during the World War II era. I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade
when I drew it. The late Walter Cronkite’s documentary ‘20th Century’ was right up there w i t h Route 66, Ernie Kovacs, I Love Lucy, and
Flash Gordon as my favorite TV shows .

Listening to my former teacher Sally Rich – mond , Willi Buhay, and FeB. Mendoza talk about those great ones of long ago brought out the kid in me. I sat listening in rapt attention as they spun stories of the brave exploits of those long dead bygone giants.

The three person ‘tag team’ of Ms. Soledad ‘Sol’ K. Anderson, Ms. Olola Ann Zamora, and Dr. Marietta Luayon lectures on the culture and traditions of the Philippines explained many things I didn’t know about the culturally/linguistically diverse Philippine archipelago. The unique ‘cradle to grave’ culture that make Filipino culture unique unlike the modern Western ‘gimme’ mine’ mind set. What captured my imagination most was how similar the Filipino mind set is to the Latin. Their lectures left me with a nagging question I still have difficulty answering: are Filipinos truly Asian, Western (Latin), or a mixture of the two? Who are Filipinos? After the last talk I didn’t hang around for the dancing or Merienda (afternoon ‘brunch’). I had pressing business elsewhere.

Reader ‘Eskwelahang Pinoy…’ is an on-going series of 3 hour classes (July17, 24, 31, August 7) that meets four consecutive Saturdays at 2 PM at the Philippine Consulate located near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Downtown Chicago. It’s on the 21st floor. At the time of this writing the class is still open to all Fil-Ams and interested others who want to learn about Philippine language and heritage. Reader that’s it for this week’s Mega Scene’s Philippine Adventures. Stick around next week for part two of ‘Knowing the Philippines.’ Until then remember to drive carefully because the ‘a** you save may be your own’ to paraphrase the then popular 1950’s era TV show (Highway Patrol). GOD bless you and stay cool.

“A smart person is hard to be fooled.” *

above translation (

Leave a Reply

Most Popular