Discrimination against Muslims in the Philippines

I told somebody today that I miss teaching. With the unprecedented Media Bias against Ron Paul in the current US Republican primaries, I could show the students the Media Studies theories in action – like Agenda-Setting, Gate-keeping, Propaganda Model, etc. I doubt if there is any Filipino Communication / Media Studies teacher in the country who is doing such a thing.

She asked, isn’t there a Muslim school where you can teach?

Huh? Muslim school? But I don’t have a degree in Islamic Theology. My degree is M.A. Media Studies – the first Filipino to get such degree from UP-Diliman. I have a 1.0 (equivalent to 4.0 in the US) GPA which qualified me for membership to at least 2 international Honor Societies like the Phi Kappa Phi. I also had the College’s Best Master’s thesis. At the same time, I was President of the Graduate Students’ Association. I lectured at UP and Kalayaan College. I have been writing for various publications since 1998 and even won a Journalism Award. I also have a peer-reviewed academic article published.

All these qualifications are good ONLY for a MUSLIM school?!?!

Since my father was a judge, I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a child. My father was the first Muslim lawyer in the Philippines as well as first Muslim fiscal and Judge of the Court of First Instance. He died when I was but 5 and a half years old.

When I went to college, the Philippines was under Martial Law. What would a lawyer do under Martial Law? So, I changed my mind and took up instead Petroleum Engineering at the top engineering school in the Middle East at that time – the University of Petroleum & Minerals (later renamed King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals) at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Being the First and only Filipino petroleum engineer, with on-the-job training at ARAMCO, practicum at the Technische Universitat Clausthal in Germany and study tours in Germany, Mexico and Algeria, I thought that I could do something for the fledgling oil and gas industry of the Philippines. I thus went home to work instead of working abroad even though petroleum engineers were in demand everywhere in the 1980s.

To my shock, oil companies in the country did not want to touch me with a ten-foot pole. I thought it was because my family was opposed to the Marcos regime. But even when President Marcos has already been deposed, I still could not find work as a petroleum engineer.

So, I tried my hand in other fields – from Sales to Real Estate brokering (I took and passed the real estate licensure exams) to capital markets to management consultancy.

Later, I took the top-level Strategic Business Economics Program (SBEP) of University of Asia & the Pacific, one of the top economic research centers of the country.

Since I love writing, I started writing for a newspaper and later, for magazines and other publications. I even won a Journalism Award. But then, it was not easy for me to find a writing job when people learn that I am an engineer. For some reasons, people generalize that engineers cannot be good writers.

To remedy the situation, I enrolled at the University of the Philippines for the degree of M.A. in Communication, Journalism major. After finishing practically all the academic requirements except for the comprehensive exam and thesis, the College of Mass Communication opened its M.A. Media Studies – Film specialization program.

The Dean, at that time, knew that I was very interested in Films. She invited me to be one of the first students of the program. I asked if I could have a double degree because I was nearly finished with my M.A. Comm (Journalism) requirements. Unfortunately, she said that “there was no such animal” (referring to double degrees) in the College. At any rate, she said that all my units were to be credited but I had to take additional ones for Film and Media Studies. And so I did.

And so, I was not only the first Filipino to graduate with an M.A. Media Studies from UP , I was also the first Filipino to graduate with an M.A. Media Studies (Film) from the UP Film Institute. If I am not mistaken, the second Filipino to graduate with that degree from the UP Film Institute did so only in 2010, at the earliest – six years after I graduated.

When the UP Film Institute announced its vacancies for regular teaching posts (I was then teaching there as a Lecturer), I was invited to apply. (At UP, one has to be invited in order to have a chance of being accepted.) Unfortunately, instead of hiring me, they chose two Filipinos WITHOUT M.A. degrees and had NO academic or work experience in Media or Film Studies. They also got a FOREIGNER.

In our very Constitution, I think it is clearly stipulated that NO FOREIGNER should be hired if a FILIPINO is qualified for the job. Yet, whether as a Petroleum Engineer or as a professor of Media Studies and Film Studies, Filipinos prefer to hire a foreigner over me. Perhaps they did not consider me a Filipino? I am a Moro, after all.

It appears that being the first Filipino to earn a degree in a particular field doesn’t mean much in the country. I wonder if it is because I am a Moro (indigenous Muslim in the Philippines). Perhaps I should take a PhD in say, exobiology (study of life BEYOND Earth)? Maybe then, I can find a job in the Philippines? If Filipinos won’t hire me, perhaps I can apply in Mars?

2 thoughts on “Discrimination against Muslims in the Philippines

  1. We empathize with you brother… I was able to read an article in the UP Collegian featuring your being the first in many ways—on top of your being the only student at that time to have an average of 1.0. Excellent, indeed!

    Generally, Muslims seem to have no place in the Philippine society—even if you excel in your field of specialization. This is mainly because of the fact that Filipinos even in the turn of the 21st Century did not graduate from their divisive Colonial Spanish-inspired mentality of classifying the people in the Philippines into three: the Indios, the Infieles, and the Moros—the Filipinos, the Lumads, and the Muslims; respectively.

    With this colonial mentality engraved and nurtured in the consciousness of the majority of the Filipino people—as seen in reading materials including textbooks used in schools,—it really will not easy to be practicing the Islamic way of life in the Philippines, most especially in Metro Manila and media influenced urban centers in the countryside. Notwithstanding your extra-ordinary achievement, you will not be hired even in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

    A Muslim professional of your stature need not go to ARMM nor Mars, because a planet that was named after a Filipino is now recruiting a scholar of your genre. We’ll just hope that there will be no more discrimination against Muslims there…

  2. Did you ask why you were not hired? I would especially if I have reason to believe I was not hired based on religion. Even if it’s a losing battle (because they can always make up an excuse that seems valid), you let them know you’re not going to take it just like that. Cheers!

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