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Senator Pimentel slams 'ethnic slur' in Juday movie

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- It is supposed to be a joke but the Visayans are not laughing.

A Mindanao senator denounced on Thursday a scene in the Judy Ann Santos starrer "Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo" that suggested Filipinos who spoke the Visayan dialect were second-class citizens to the Tagalog.

The movie, written and directed by Jose Javier Reyes and produced by Star Cinema, is one of the top grossing movies in the ongoing 33rd Metro Manila Film Festival.

Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. said the scene "smacks of an ethnic slur" and "offends the sensibilities of the Visayans and other non-Tagalog speaking citizens."

In the movie, a character played by Gloria Diaz, scolds the nanny of her four-year-old grandchild by saying: "Bakit pinapalaki ninyong Bisaya ang apo ko? (Why are you bringing up my grandchild as a Bisaya?)."

The child's mother, played by Santos, butts in and tells the nanny: "Speak to the kid in Tagalog. Para Pinoy. (So he grows up Filipino)."

Pimentel said the conversation was "insensitive' ' and "arrogant" and called on the Lopez-owned Star Cinema, to apologize and delete the scene from the movie.

Reyes, the director of "Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo," said he was thankful Pimentel went "out of his way to watch 'SSS' and for being supportive of the movie industry."

"I wish he would also watch the movies of Senators (Ramon) Revilla Jr. and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, his peers in the Senate," Reyes, who also wrote the movie script, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday, "After that, magpahinga na siya (he should rest). With the country's many problems, I'm sure he'd be really busy after the holidays."

Pimentel, who was acting on numerous complaints from viewers offended by the slur, said: "The film is conveying a wrong message to Filipinos by denigrating the use of the Visayan language, which is most widely spoken in the Visayas and large parts of Mindanao. It offends the sensibilities of the Visayans and other non-Tagalog speaking citizens by making them feel they are less Filipino than the Tagalogs. It creates useless hatred in the nation."

He added: "The Tagalog [always] joke about how the Bisaya speak Filipino and English with a funny accent. That's fine, we can live with that but to come out in the open and say that the only real Pinoys are those who speak Tagalog is wrong."

Pimentel said Filipinos, both Tagalog and Bisaya, should be outraged at the film's ethnic slur. "It should elicit the same, if not a louder howl of protest [than the one brought against] American television series 'Desperate Housewives' wherein one of the characters made remarks maligning Filipino health professionals. "

In the said episode, aired in the United States on Sept. 30, character Susan Mayer, played by actress Teri Hatcher, told her doctor: "OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines. "

MalacaƱang said the remarks were tantamount to a racial slur and asked the show's producers to apologize to Filipino medical professionals for putting them down.

Pimentel also slammed the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for failing to spot the derogatory remark while reviewing the film. With a report from Marinel Cruz