Thursday, February 6, 2020

FALSE Stereotypes

by Regin Reyno

There are many FALSE stereotypes or misconceptions out there. We often have false perception about places or people, and are usually debunked upon visiting a country/place and seeing and experiencing what's it really like.

Here are my top 7 FALSE stereotypes that I've debunked upon visiting and experiencing the place.

Grand Mosque
Cotabato City, Maguindanao, Philippines
Biggest mosques in the Philippines

1. Mindanao, Philippines is dangerous.

A lot of tourists, both foreign and locals are scared of Mindanao. You can’t blame them. News about Mindanao is usually always about rebels and wars. But, I’m here to tell you that those places which are always on the news are just a tiny part of Mindanao. Mindanao is huge. Most parts are very safe. It’s even a lot better to travel in Mindanao than most parts of Luzon and Visayas, because the highways of Mindanao, nowadays, are paved and wide: at least 4 lanes, some even 6. It started when Duterte became president in 2016. (Thank you, president Duterte for developing the roads of Mindanao). 

Mindanao is called ‘The Land of Promise’ for a reason. It has many things to offer; tropical fruits, mountains, forests, Muslim culture, friendly locals, waterfalls, and beaches. You’re missing a lot when you skip Mindanao in your Philippine travel.

2. Chinese people eat exotic animals.

Majority of Chinese people don't eat dogs and other exotic animals. Period. 

I was at Metrobank Valencia the other day opening a bank account. When they learned I worked in China, they asked in Visayan language, “Sir, tinood na na ang mga Chinese ga-kaon lang bisag unsa; kanang mga exotic animals?” (Sir, is it true that Chinese people eat anything; like exotic animals?”)

I asked them how did they get this idea. And they told me, they saw a video of a woman on Facebook eating bat soup. I didn’t know how to respond for a second. I felt slightly irritated by their ignorance.

I immediately explained to them in a nice way that I was living in China for 5 years, and have been to numerous provinces and major cities in China. Exotic animals; like dogs, rats, bats, etc. is not part of their diet. In general, Chinese people are also disgusted in eating those, just like you and me. Yes, there are some who actually eat those. But they are a very tiny, minuscule part of the population, and it’s unfair to tag them as exotic animal-eaters just because a few of them, especially in the villages eat those. And, guess what? Some of our countrymen eat frogs, rats, monitor lizards, dogs, and snakes, too. But because it’s only a small fraction of our population, it’s incorrect to tag Filipinos as rat and dog-eaters, isn’t it? 

(By the way, the video circulating on Facebook regarding bat eating was taken in Palau in 2016. Not China.) Fake news eh. 

3. Muslims are bad people.

What the media; news and Hollywood movies injected in our minds is that Muslims=terrorists. I visited many Muslim places. Just recently, I was in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao, a Muslim area. I’ve been to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Morocco. They are just like you and me. They have dreams, ambitions, problems, and concern about family. 

I remember when we befriended Muslims during a blogger festival in Solo City, Indonesia. They took care of us, guided us in touring the wonderful island of Central Java. Until now, we’re still friends. And also, their cuisine is delicious. 

4. Singapore is expensive.

One of the reasons Singapore is one of the last countries I’ve visited in Southeast Asia is because it’s reputation of being expensive kept me on delaying my visit. But when I finally visited in December 2019, I found out it’s not that bad. You can have a meal for 2-7 Singapore Dollar. You just need to know where to eat. Hawkers are advisable, as they are inexpensive and more authentic. 

And here’s the thing, transportation there is cheaper than in some cities, like Manila and other developing countries; because in those countries, you are forced to take taxis or Grab/Uber because the public transportation system is shitty. But in Singapore, you can save money by just taking their public transpo and avoiding taxis, as their public transpo is efficient, convenient, fast, and inexpensive. Airport transfers? No problem. There's a train going to and from the airport, so no need to take those shady taxis/scammers, common in some countries. 

5. Japanese people are cruel.

World War II stories: from our teachers, our parents, and grandparents; stories of how cruel Japanese soldiers were; piercing our babies’ stomach by throwing them in the air then catching them with their bayonets; the atrocities of war.

Hollywood movies, where usually, they’re the villains. Yakuzas, evil ninjas, Japanese syndicates, sadists bosses, etc. They all contributed to the stereotype that Japanese people are cruel.

But when I visited Japan in 2015 and then again, in 2020, I found out that that’s quite the opposite. The Japanese are very kind, helpful, and for me, the most polite group of people in the world. 

6. Palestine is dangerous.

Media again will tell you that Palestine is a war torn land that is dangerous to visit. When I got an invitation from a Palestinian friend to visit his home in Nablus, West Bank part of Palestine, some of my friends who are working in Israel discouraged me to go. But good thing, I still pushed through for my visit, which allowed me to have one of my most eye-opening travel experiences of my life. 

Nablus is a booming city. Many beautiful buildings and shops, delicious cuisine, a historical old city, and the people are very kind and welcoming. The house of my friend is a huge wonderful villa located in a suburb overlooking the city. It’s nowhere near the war-torn Palestine that I imagined. 

Going there I took the bus from Jerusalem. I was a bit scared. But when I started talking to people, I found out that they are actually helpful and friendly.

There are instances when we eat at restaurants and when locals found out that I’m a visitor, they won’t accept our money, giving the food for free. I felt really welcome when I was there. 

(For the record, this visit was in the West Bank part of Palestine, not Gaza Strip. I don’t recommend traveling to Gaza Strip as of this moment.)

7. You don't have freedom in China.

The last one: one of the most common false stereotypes about China. Hey, we are now in the 21st century. Some people’s idea of China is still the China of Mao Zedong during the 1950’s-1970’s. I’ve been living in China for 5 years. Never have I felt a restriction in freedom. We can go wherever we want anytime of the day, we walk at 3:00 am on the streets, withdraw large amounts of cash anywhere, anytime-safely. You can you go, literally, anywhere, do whatever you want as long as you’re not breaking the law. People can open up businesses.

And for worship? There are lots of churches in China. Religion is not prohibited, even Bibles, as the long as the church is registered. I myself, go to this church in Wangjing, Beijing where we worship freely. Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is banned, but they’re not important, I think. We can live without those. (And, there's always VPN if you can't really control your social media addiction.) 

Myth Busted!

"To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries."--Aldous Huxley

Do you have any FALSE stereotypes/travel myths to add to the list?

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