Philippine Representative to Taiwan Angelito Tan Banayo on Thursday e-mailed Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) expressing his “deep regret” over remarks Han made about hiring Filipinos as English teachers, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office said yesterday.
In the e-mail, which was made public by the office, Banayo said it was with deep regret that he noted Han’s remarks in connection with his efforts to transform Kaohsiung into a bilingual city.
“Aside from the fact that the Philippines is the fourth-largest English-speaking country in the world, with at least 92 percent of the population able to speak English as a second language, we particularly take exception to your use of the term ‘Marias’ in reference to our citizens,” said Banayo, who is chairman of the office.
Photo: Wu Chun-feng, Taipei Times
“Maria” carries negative undertones in Taiwan when used to refer to foreign workers, Banayo said.
Han on Wednesday told a meeting of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce in Taipei that he feared that hiring educated employees from the Philippines as English teachers “would cause a psychological shock for Taiwanese, as people might wonder: How has our Maria become a teacher?”
Han on Thursday said that his comments were not meant to discriminate against Filipinos, but rather to underline the need to mentally prepare parents if his city is to hire Filipinos as English teachers.
Banayo said in the letter that the Philippine government has strived to achieve the highest standards for its people who work overseas to provide for their families at home.
“It is incumbent upon us to uphold and protect their dignity, sacrifices and contributions to national development from impetuous and undeserved labeling,” he said.
Han in a statement yesterday issued an apology, saying that his statement was meant as a “joke” and to encourage Taiwanese to improve their language skills rather than looking outward for talent.
“However, Han Kuo-yu feels deeply sorry for causing misunderstanding and displeasure among the Philippine people,” the statement said.
He hopes to engage in more diversified cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation in the future, the statement said.
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