By Perry Diaz
Recently, a seven-year old Filipino boy found himself in hot water — and in the limelight — over an incident at a Roxboro, Quebec, Canada elementary school. The “incident” is his habit of using spoon and fork when he’s eating his lunch, a habit that the school’s lunch monitor termed as “disgusting.”
This year, second-grader Luc Cagadoc had been punished more than ten times for eating the “Filipino way” — spoon and fork — instead of the European style of eating with fork and knife. Luc told his mother on April 11, “My teacher is telling me that eating with a spoon and fork is yucky and disgusting.” He told his mother that he was too embarrassed to eat his dinner.
The apparent harassment on her child upset Maria Theresa Gallardo and she confronted the lunchtime monitor the following day. On April 13, Maria Theresa called the principal, Normand Bergeron. What Bergeron said shocked her: “Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.” Bergeron further stated, “If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time.” His condescending — and asinine –reply was in reference to the punishment that Luc got from the lunch monitor every time he uses a spoon and fork instead of just a fork — the lunch monitor moves Luc to a table by himself.
Bergeron — a goateed man in his late 30’s or early 40’s — told Maria Theresa, “I have never seen somebody eat with a spoon and a fork at the same time…” Not only is Bergeron prickly arrogant, he is a babbling ignoramus, a combination ill-suited for the job of a school principal. Regardless of whether he has seen it done or not, a seemingly educated person of his stature should be broadminded enough to realize that Luc’s eating habit is a matter of cultural tradition. All he had to do was ask Luc in a polite way why he was using a spoon and a fork. I am sure that the bespectacled Luc should be able to tell this bozo why Filipinos use spoon and fork. However, instead of doing the right thing, Bergeron maltreated — nay, abused! — the poor child.
But when the press got hold of the story, Bergeron took a different direction. He told the press that Luc “sometimes acts up during the lunch hour and has been known to make a mess at the table.” He claimed that “misbehaving” children are moved to another table to sit by themselves and that in Luc’s situation, it has nothing to do with the child’s nationality. Makes me wonder if spilling a few bits of rice on the table would constitute “misbehaving.” Heck, we do that all the time, don’t we? Isn’t that why people use a place mat?
On April 18, Luc’s parents filed a complaint with the school board; however, the school board’s reaction was not sympathetic. Adding insult to injury, the school board spokesperson, Brigitte Gauvreau, said, “The story at the school’s level is that it’s a disciplinary problem… We will continue to discuss with everybody so that everyone has a good understanding of what happened.” It sounds like the school officials are now washing their hands of any act of racial discrimination. Suddenly, Luc’s case is now a “disciplinary” issue. What a cop out! How would Bergeron explain his use of the word “pig” in describing the way Luc eats? A Filipina, Perla Casundo, posted online: “Do pigs eat with spoon and fork?” I think Bergeron has found himself wallowing in a pigsty with no way out.
What is appalling is that here is a school principal who has a militaristic mindset on how his students should eat. Would he force Oriental children not to use chopsticks with their lunch? How about left-handed children? Would he deem it inappropriate for left-handed children to eat with their left hand?
Luc’s parents have demanded a public apology from Bergeron. However, at press time, Bergeron has not responded to their demand. Meanwhile, public outcry against Bergeron is mounting. Letters and emails from Filipinos from all over the world demanding for Bergeron to apologize are snowballing. A large number are demanding for his termination from his position as school principal. Indeed, he is a disgrace to his profession. Educators are expected to be the epitome of wisdom, not the model of ignorance and prejudice.
Melanie Luriz said it succinctly with her online posting: “In the Philippines, we never tell someone ‘you’re in the Philippines… you should act the way we do.’ I don’t take it against the school but against the school principal himself, so I think the school management should impose disciplinary actions on that principal… not Luc. Luc is an innocent child. Mr. Bergeron did not realize the effect of his words to the child.”
I agree with Melanie. What Bergeron has done to Luc has irreparably wounded Luc’s psyche. This is child abuse of the worst kind. Only an insensitive, imbalanced, and unconscionable individual would do such a thing.
Maribel Arcena posted a challenge to all Filipinos: “So what are you going to do about this? This is the question I am asking of you Filipinos in Canada. For us Filipinos living here in New Zealand and Australia, we will definitely rise up in arms to this kind of racism, ignorance and intolerance to other cultures.”
Yes, the Global Filipinos need to stand up to Maribel’s challenge. Send an email to the school principal Normand Bergeron and tell him how you feel about his despicable treatment of Luc. Luc deserves respect, no less. Bergeron’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.