Billy Crawford’s Foot in Mouth Moment

A FEW days ago, Billy Crawford was under fire for his “Foot in Mouth Disease”. It’s not a medical malady nor is it life threatening. He just happened to place his foot in his mouth—which is an idiom for uttering something which you’re not supposed to say that causes great embarrassment.

He critiqued the performance of a contestant in his show, Tawag ng Tanghalan, and said: “Yung diction naman hindi sooobrang importante sa competition na ‘to. Eh naiinitindihan namin na taga-Mindanao kayo so alam namin na talagang mahihirapan ka sa diction.”

Face palm!

Billy, dear, you say it’s not important but then you just lump millions of people living in one giant island to drive your point. Ah di nga sobrang important (cough, sarcasm, cough). The contestant’s voice was amazing and you’re right that she did struggle enunciating some words. And you could have left it at that! No need to mention Mindanao at all.

This sweeping generalization—which alludes that “matigas ang dila” ng mga Bisaya or people who live in the region don’t speak English well at all—caused furor in social media and Crawford was indeed embarrassed enough to ask for an apology. Mayna lang dong, noh!

On the flipside, some people say that those who are disappointed with Billy are too sensitive and emotional. They assert that he is just giving the contestant an honest critique, and she ought to have thick skin if she wants to be a professional singer. Moreover, he is merely doing his job, which is to give his opinion as a judge on the show. He did not mean to be derogatory and offend Mindanaoans.

But the things is—his seemingly harmless comment did offend A LOT of people...and not just Mindanaoans but those who belong to other regions that speak Visayan. There’s a vast difference between a constructive criticism and a thoughtless comment that perpetuates stereotyping.

Billy Crawford is a celebrity, who has a lot of followers. Many kids watch his shows and they emulate him, so he is held to a much higher standard. Perhaps, if this had been some random chika, we can all let the comment slide. However, he has the power to influence people and should be accountable. Like what Spiderman’s uncle said: With great power comes great responsibility.

Although it was classy of Billy to apologize, words once uttered cannot be undone. Words cut even deeper than knives because these hurtful words cannot be pulled-out and unheard. This should be a lesson for everyone, especially those in power, to be keener in their choice of words and actions. Think before speaking and acting! It is never a nice feeling to swallow thy own words or regret anything.

On top of that, this incident proves that regionalism is not dead at all. Let’s not deny it, some people from Imperial Manila have this mindset that anyone who’s promdi is subpar. I myself was guilty of this when I resided in Manila and watched sitcoms that portray Bisaya speaking provincianos in a silly, funny manner.

I have no province—my parents are both Manilenos. When I moved to the US, I had their full support. When I told them I was moving to CDO from Jersey, the reaction was—“Mindanao? Magiging promdi ka na? May Abusayyaf doon? May putukan!” Because of the derogatory images seen in media, this beautiful island is deemed as dangerous akin to a no man’s land.

And that is utterly wrong!

Let’s also face it—Filipinos are “likas na mapintas”. We like to critique people and we can’t deny that many laugh when a fellow Pinoy mispronounces words. Ah barok, jeje, or jologs! But when a foreigner does it, we think they’re cute. The irony!

We laugh at, mimic, and/or make a parody of fellow Pinoy’s English foibles. Eh bakit nga ba? English is not the true measure of intelligence and more importantly, it is not the true gauge of a person’s character. So what if some Pinoys struggle with English? It is our second language!!!

And here’s something to ponder on...majority of the people who speak Bisaya understand Tagalog! However, to the majority of Luzon Tagalog speakers, may we ask: do you understand Bisaya? Nga-nga! Kinsa diay bogo karon?! Promdi and proud na kaayo ko karon, dili na mailad, malibak, ug mabaligya. Kasabot? [Google translate]

See the whole point of the aforementioned switch in language is to illustrate how it doesn’t feel good to be at the receiving end of thoughtless jokes and commentary. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes that widens the gap between regions, we have to build bridges to connect with our fellow Pinoys. We are one nation and we are all citizens of this world. We just have to accept each other's differences. We all share the common vision of wanting to live our lives happily, with bright dreams for the future. Let’s not be caught up with prejudice and negativity. End divisiveness and spread #lovelovelove!

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