By Ces Noble | Contributor

Filipinos are well-known for their welcome smiles and sincere hospitality. A family or community can be dirt poor but they can treat their guests like royalties. Let’s explore Filipino hospitality vis-à-vis the visit of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) of Mindanao Visit in the US. We covered their first stop in New York and followed them in California. Before we share their farewell story in Washington, DC, let us explore views on Filipino-American hospitality.

First, let’s start where everybody nowadays starts – the Google buzz about Filipino hospitality? “Hospitality is a trait displayed by every Filipino, characterized by heart-warming generosity and friendliness exhibited to foreigners and locals like. Filipinos receive guests, even strangers, in a warm and pleasant way, often going out of their way to make the visitor comfortable.”

In year 2012, Forbes magazine published a listicle on its website claiming that the Philippines is the eighth friendliest country in the world. Pinoys are intrinsically kind-hearted and warm. Not saying here that all Filipinos possess the above traits, but stating that these are the known Pinoy cultural characteristics, and these are expected if you claim Filipino identity.

Daghang Salamat (Thank you)
The IP US Delegation of 2019 headed by Datu Jake Llanes extends their heartfelt gratitude to Filamstar for welcoming them in California. “Thank you for hosting the most delicious Pinoy feast that we have been missing so much since we arrived in the US. Rene’s Fine Dining was more than fine, it’s the best. Daghang salamat, says Datu Jake.

“Filamstar showed as genuine Filam hospitality. They even covered our visit to Senator Manny Pacquiao’s house. They were there for us iyakan man or kasiyahan, says Bai Chiary.

US Department of State Officials and Solons Vowed to Take Action
Meeting with the Philippine Embassy officials in Washington DC (Photo by M Villarin)

Before the IP elders and leaders bid farewell on July 24, they went to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, who also arranged for the meetings with US Department of State officials and a select group of US Congressmen.

The US State Department officials expressed appreciation to the IP leaders for bravely standing up for their ribes and clarifying that the attacks against indigenous people are not carried out by the government, but are actually perpetrated by NPA forces.

Meanwhile, three members of the US House of Representatives, in a separate meeting with the IP leaders at the US Congress building, expressed concern to the IP leaders plight back home against the communists.

According to US Congressman Robert Cortez Scott, Representative for Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, “It’s the first time it’s been brought to my attention. And so, we have some work to do,” said Scott, who admitted he has Filipino blood from her maternal grandfather who is from Benguet.

Datu Bawan Jake Lanes (right) shares a light moment with US Congressman Steven Joseph Chabot after a meeting with the latter and US Rep. Robert Cortez Scott at the US House of Representatives on July 17. (Photo by M Villarino)

He said he needs to do some research on the legal front groups of the CPP-NPA based in the US, and find out exactly what’s going on in terms of the international questions.

Congressman Steven Joseph Chabot, Representative for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, echoed Scott’s sentiment saying the first step is to talk to the State Department including the American Embassy in Manila.

“We appreciate the folks coming all this way to educate us and bring us up to speed as to what’s happening right now and we’ll work with the State Department,” said Chabot, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Another US solon whose mother is a Filipina, Terrance John (TJ) Cox, Representative from California’s 21st Congressional District, thanked the IPs for sharing their stories and their dream of peace, prosperity, and dignity as he promised to do the best he can to help them.

It can be recalled that then US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in August 2002 the designation of the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization, as defined under US law, after an “exhaustive review of the group’s violent activities.”

Overall, the US Congress and State Department, Chabot said, work together in these types of matters and hopefully will come to some solution to, at least, assist the IP leaders.

Datu Jake of the Mandaya Manobo tribe said, it took them years to plan this trip. “I believe our prayers have been answered, despite the hostilities and protests in all of the stops. We declare victory, and that we have conquered the US.”

Mahirap itong ginagawa naming pero it’s worth the blood of our tribes, added Datu Jake.

As far as IPs are concerned, what has happened to us is a defining moment for Filipino-Americans. The real Filipinos are by default hospitable and not hostile, they exude Filipino culture and values – mabait sa bisita, magalang sa nakatatanda at mapagmalasakit sa kababayan, concludes Bai Christine, the tribal chieftain of a Mandaya Tribe in Davao del Norte.