Strengthening Cultural Identities in a Multicultural Context

Logo design by Oliver Kuy, Translators Association of the Philippines

From July 31 to August 2, a group of educators, government officials, university researchers and development practitioners gathered in Cebu City, Philippines for the third Philippine Community of Practice (CoP), focused around the theme: Strengthening Cultural Identities in a Multilingual Context. As they come together they share and create knowledge that in turn helps them do their work better as they interact regularly with one another.

Guided by several different facilitators, participants considered the complexities of multilingualism and urbanization in the Philippines and their impact on education, well-being, and development for ethnolinguistic minorities and indigenous people (IP) groups. Participants also spent a half-day immersed in two cultural communities in Cebu, where people are grappling with these issues and have found a path to maintain and celebrate their own culture and language, while pursuing multilingualism and engaging with the wider, multilingual society in beneficial ways.

One participant, a teacher in an IP community, said the discussions on multilingualism made her realize how her teaching was affected by a ‘colonial’ mentality (forbidding students to speak their own language, etc.) and she was now convinced that her students would learn better if their own culture and language were integrated into the learning process. She was motivated to continue writing culture-based instructional materials and developed an idea for a type of pre-service training that would be useful for teachers like herself who would be working cross-culturally.   

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Activities provided opportunities for attendees to participate, sharing and generating knowledge | Participants visited a rural community in Danao | Participants talked with parents at a school in a Sama community in Cebu City| Photographer: Kate Schell

Other participants reported that attending the CoP helped them develop a greater appreciation for the diversity of languages and cultures in the Philippines and a more positive attitude towards the strengths and opportunities that multilingualism presents. Some participants said the CoP pushed them to think more deeply about how to be sensitive to those dynamics when working with communities. Many participants planned to integrate what they had learned during the CoP into their work, whether that was implementing multilingual education or pursuing research into questions that were raised during the CoP. Many participants were making plans to share what they had learned with their colleagues and students or to lead groups of colleagues through some of the same activities and discussions.  

Having formed new relationships and strengthened existing ones, members of the CoP are continuing to share experiences and resources over social media, which they will hopefully continue to do, perhaps even finding opportunities for collaboration and partnership as they work in a variety of contexts across the Philippines.  

Five partner organizations, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Ateneo de Davao University, University of San Jose-Recoletos (who hosted this event), Environmental Science for Social Change and SIL Philippines organized the activities of the Philippine CoP.