Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz has been declared as “persona non grata” (“personally unacceptable or unwelcome”) and is now banned in the province of Cebu as stated in a resolution issued by the Vice Mayors League of The Philippines-Cebu.
The league condemned Diaz’s comment in a TV interview allegedly belittling the Cebuanos’ capability in speaking in English, said a report on Bombo Radyo Philippines on September 1.
In light of the so-called “major blunder” of Miss Universe 2010 Fourth Runner-Up Maria Venus Raj during the Question and Answer portion, Diaz told “TV Patrol” in an interview last week that there might be a need for the country to hire an interpreter for the candidates in the pageant.
“That’s a good idea. Especially that Filipinos all over the world can interpret anything. I think she (Raj) thinks in Tagalog and speaks in English. But I can relate to that because I used to think in English and answer in Tagalog, and it was very difficult for me,” she said.
She then followed it up with the controversial statement: “Kasi when you think about [it], a Cebuana can hardly speak English and of course Tagalog. So maybe she should answer in Bisaya.”
The said statement earned the condemnation particularly of Cebuanos, who felt slighted by Diaz’s remark. The league’s resolution then includes a demand for a public apology from the beauty queen-actress.
In another interview with ABS-CBN last August 28, Diaz clarified her statement.
“This is what I said, 'People should have the right to say or to answer, not people, beauty contestants, to answer in whatever language they want to say it in. If they’re Cebuanos, they can say it in Cebuano.’ I did not say that they (Cebuanos) can’t speak English.
“If you're Ilocano, say it in Ilocano. But if you're Ilocano who speaks good English, say it in English. If you're Cebuano who can speak Spanish, if you're comfortable with Spanish, say it in Spanish. That's what I said and that's what I meant,” she said.
Other politicians from Cebu also denounced Diaz’s statement. Rep. Rachel "Cutie" del Mar and Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia both demand an apology from Diaz. Del Mar, during her privilege speech last August 31, also also took note of Cebu’s edge when it comes to business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
“Government data showed that its strong pool of qualified personnel suited for the BPO field has become Cebu’s edge in attracting leading call centers. Cebu also has the most number of special economic zone and IT Centers outside the National Capital Region,” del Mar maintained, adding that tourism has also ballooned in the province, thanks to the Cebuanos’ excellent communication skills especially when dealing with foreign tourists.
Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, meanwhile, plans to file a resolution denouncing Diaz’s “ethnic slur against the Cebuanos.”
“Whether clothed in malice or not, Diaz's remarks pierce our hearts as Cebuanos who consider our native tongue as a sacred heritage and we deeply feel that such arrogant remark insinuates that Cebuanos are inferior breed of Filipinos,” Magpale stated.
Diaz, in the same ABS-CBN interview on August 28, was shocked with how people reacted to her statement.
“Everybody was so angry... I thought they're gonna stone me to death,” she said, laughing. “I want to just make people realize it is just, you know, say it with whatever you're comfortable with.”