Immigrants and migrant workers took part in a talent show yesterday, performing songs in their native languages, but there was a twist to the competition -- every act was required to contain at least one native Taiwanese participant.
"We are trying to encourage interaction between cultures," said Tsen Chao-yuan (曾昭媛) of the Awakening Foundation. "We need to break free from the assumption that it's the foreign brides and workers' responsibility to learn Chinese and conform to our culture, but that we don't need to learn anything of their culture in return."
Acts from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines participated in the event. The first prize in the overall competition went to a group of Vietnamese women who danced with fans while their Taiwanese geography teacher, Chen Mei-ju (
Chen admitted she didn't know any Vietnamese prior to the competition: "I learned the song phonetically in about 10 days."
Chen teaches for a diploma program for foreign brides at Taipei Municipal Shilin Junior High School. She explained that although many brides had already graduated from high school in their country of origin, they still wanted a diploma "that is accepted here."
The program is in its second year.
The winner of the family group was Edec del Rosario and Li Li-hua (
"Now that I had to sing in Tagalog, I know how Edec feels when he tries to learn Chinese," Li said.
According to Li, although her family was very accepting of Del Rosario, society at large still treats foreign spouses as outsiders:
"It's not as bad when the spouse is a white foreigner, but when they are like Edec, they are still considered second-class citizens," she said.
When asked about what he found the hardest to get used to in Taiwan, however, del Rosario cites the quick pace of life here.
"Everybody is always trying to rush," he said.
The event was co-sponsored by Radio Taiwan International (RTI), the Migrant Forum in Asia and Trees Music and Art. Many of the competitors said they heard about the event through listening to RTI's programs in Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian.
Vietnamese-language RTI host Vu Thu Huong said: "For our Vietnamese broadcasts in Taiwan, we try to serve the needs of the growing Vietnamese community here by providing informative content about life in Taiwan as well as news and music from home."
Vu, who studied and worked in Taiwan before she got married to a Taiwanese man, said that there is too much negative coverage of the "Vietnamese brides" phenomenon.
"The press needs to emphasize more positive stories. After all, in the future, we are going to be a part of Taiwan," she said.
In addition to foreign spouses, migrant workers also took part in the competition. Newme Flores of the Philippines took second place in the competition along with two other Filipinos and a Taiwanese friend.
"I'm here for my family. They are the source of my strength," Flores said.
Despite the fact that she felt she had been mistreated by her previous employer, who withheld her salary for long periods of time, Flores said that she is fond of Taiwan and wants to stay.