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erlinda b. sialongo
erlina b sialongo WORKING IN a foreign country, or even just plain touring, entails responsibilities, responsibilities mostly self-imposed. I say self-imposed because there are no hard and fast rules imposed on anybody who is in a foreign country on one's own. What are these responsibilities? One is to be nice at all times, to anyone, anywhere. Another is to obey local laws, written or unwritten. Then there is the social law to do as the Romans do when in Rome. In my experience, the most important law to impose on oneself is the law to be the best of one's nationality. Thus, while working in Eastern Siberia, Russia, or touring abroad, I always made it a point to be the best of the Filipino.

There were a few reasons why I imposed this on myself. One, in Siberia I was most of the time the first Filipino people would meet. People might not remember my name but they would definitely remember the word Philippines. Two, people had had impressions of the Philippines based on their readings from the media. Some of these impressions I had to dispel. One impression that I once had to dispel was that Filipinos do not speak English well. Fortunately, this impression was not generally held. Another was that Filipinos know very little about Russia. While this was, and is, still true, I was able to dispel this by telling people I did my master's thesis on Leo Tolstoy and this both surprised and impressed many people. I even knew more about Tolstoy than they did. One impression, however, that I could not dispel was that Filipinas are tall and beautiful creatures. When I was asked at one Siberian school whether it was true that Filipinas are tall and beautiful, that's why they usually win in beauty contests, I answered, "I'm so sorry but that is not true, as you can see from this Filipina." Lastly, I imposed this law on myself because there are so many nice people everywhere. One good turn deserves another.

This self-imposed law always wrought wonders. Are Filipinos nice? This question was asked of me rhetorically because they noticed that I was "such a nice and hospitable person" and though this impression embarrassed me personally, I accepted it gracefully for all Filipinos. After meeting me, many people would say, "I want to visit the Philippines." Please. So far, ten of my Russian friends have visited the Philippines, including the mayor of the city where I worked.

[About the author. Erlinda "Linny" B. Sialongo has been teaching English and literature subjects for 33 years. She has a BSE in English from the Ateneo de Davao, an M.A.Ed degree, major in English, and a Ph.D in Educational Management from the Angeles University Foundation, Angeles City, and a certificate of special training (Family Planning and Responsible Parenthood, Public Administration, Production of Instructional Materials) from Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City. She also has special training on journalism. She taught English as a Foreign Language in Severobaikalsk, Russia, for seven years and authored a book, 'Personally Yours,' about her life in Russia. She is author of various articles and researches, and has co-authored and edited four textbooks. She has traveled to Mongolia, China, South Korea, Kazahkstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgistan, India, Vietnam, and has been to Hong Kong, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Amsterdam.]

-Posted: 1:35 PM 1/6/07 | More of this author on eK!