Davao-based American's open letter to Robredo on the Chinese woman’s taho-throwing incident remarks

Vice President Leni Robredo said the behavior of the Chinese woman who threw taho at a police officer is not only an insult towards authorities but also towards the Philippines and Filipinos.
Jonathan Watson and VP Leni Robredo / Composite photos from Facebook and ABS-CBN

Hindi lang pambabastos sa pulis, pero pambabastos ito sa bansa natin,” she said in her weekly radio show on Sunday.

[W]ake-up call iyon sa ating lahat. Ano ba talaga? Maraming reklamo na iyong mga trabahong dapat sana sa Pilipino, nabibigay pa sa Instik. Tapos ito pa, parang kinakalinga natin sila tapos binabastos nila tayo,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Davao-based American Jonathan Watson wrote an open letter to Robredo regarding her statements on the Chinese woman who threw taho at a police officer.

Read his full open letter below:

"Dear Leni Robredo,

I understand you're not in favor with Duterte's policies concerning the Chinese government. I even have pro-Admin friends who are uneasy about the policies as well (I differ though, seeing it more as a diplomatic strategy). However, regardless of your opinion on that issue and whether or not you're right, that's no excuse to link a foreign student's misbehavior to the policies of both the Chinese government and current Administration. While you could argue that her behavior is similar to that of the Chinese government's, this similarity shouldn't be mistaken for causation. That's fallacious reasoning.
Photo from Pau Mesias

To politicize the issue, and reason in such a manner, is to also indirectly imply that this behavior is found in essence within the race itself due to racial affiliation. But we both know that this is an argument based in the false notion of racial essentialism; the same root that helped back the racist ideology of Hitler during WWII, as well as the pro-Slavery sentiments of white Americans in the 1800s.

The Chinese student's residency in the Philippines is a migrant (non-immigrant) privilege bestowed upon ANY foreigner seeking to obtain higher education within the country. This privilege has been offered for decades, way before the current administration, and it plays no favor with which type of foreigner gets to have it. Therefore, taho girl's stay here has nothing to do with Duterte's dealings with China.

And her behavior? It's a choice made out of her own will reflecting her own personality as an individual. What she does shows who she is as a person, not as a race, nor the government of the country where that race supposedly resides (as if she's a racial/government representative). If you're mad at Duterte, go about arguing it in a different manner than fixating on one person because of their race.

This whole media circus around taho girl is a sensationalized joke. Where were you when your own party made neo-colonial dealings with imperial USA, whilst many dirty old American men went around the country (under Noynoy's admin!) yelling arrogantly at Filipinos, bragging about "saving Filipinos from WW2", making racist and sexist remarks against the women (the whole disgusting "exotic submissive Filipina" stereotype), and even participating in sexual abuses against pre-pubescent youth? Of course, there's no connection there, unless we talk about the arrogant misbehaviors of some (not all) American soldiers residing here under the lopsided VFA. But seriously, if you want to argue that way, I'll just throw all of that in.

Don't think I am saying this because of my political opinion. I say this as a foreign student residing here too, tired of the whole us vs them mob mentality that arises when a foreigner does something stupid (or is perceived as doing something stupid, in cases of misunderstanding). I say this because, while I believe taho girl's behavior should be condemned, it doesn't condone indirect xenophobic remarks.

Years ago (before Duterte), I once had a Chinese classmate who did nothing wrong, but was harassed by Filipino students because of the island dispute. She said nothing about it, yet when she struggled to adjust or even asked the instructor to clarify the lesson in English (which was taught in Bisaya)- provoking annoyance from those around her (especially those who hate English instruction)- she ended up mocked by some of the students (even sometimes the instructor!) on the premise of the island dispute. Familiar?

Even I know this feeling. I left Ateneo de Davao in 2013 partially because of racial stereotyping. Anytime the US government was criticized by instructors, the teacher would laughingly say 'sorry' to me (while students stared me down), whereas I didn't care because I too hold views that some find "anti-American" (even having Americans call me 'traitor'). Similarly, a Leftist student group there got mad at me when I criticized both the US and NPA for abuses, which led one of the students to say "Speak for your own kind!" while issuing me a death threat. Then another time, in a new class on the first day (I barely knew anyone, so I remained silent mostly cause I'm shy), a random student walked up to me and said "Why don't you go back to your own country?". I asked her "Why?" She then started angrily ranting at me saying "Because I heard you're American. Americans believe in abortion. You're immoral! I don't want that here! You'll just try to force your views on Filipinos." In anger, I told her I was offended she would judge me without knowing me, as I am against abortion, and to automatically assume my views based on my looks was wrong. The final issue, after many issues, that pushed me to leave was when a classmate (whom I didn't know) started backbiting me for no good reason, so I told him to "say it to my face", which led his classmates to rage against me with them randomly spreading the rumor that "He thinks he's better because he's American" (which was weird cause race had nothing to do with it, nor do I believe any race/nationality is better than another).

But regardless of nationality, this mentality would bleed onto foreign students as a whole. One time in our bio class, a halfie girl chewed gum while reporting, and the teacher angrily ranted at her saying "This is the Philippines. Don't do that here. Spit it out." Afterward, she came up to me and then to a Mestizo looking Filipino and told us to "Get out of the country" if we do that, whereas we had nothing to do with that girl chewing gum (like, what's the connection)? Lastly, one of the other many things like this that happened, a halfie was brought to the Office of Student Affairs and interrogated because they saw the halfie Filipinos grouping together, hence they accused them of possibly starting some sort of 'foreign gang' on campus, whereas the truth was the halfies were just shy and scared to talk to the locals (not knowing how to relate because they grew up in the Middle East, US, Canada, etc.)

I was glad when, after graduating in Butuan, I returned to Ateneo for grad school to see that they have a service now catering to foreign student needs. During one of the forums, we all clapped when a Korean student opened up about feelings of stereotyping and discrimination, which was a narrative of our real experiences that had long been denied before by the past leaders of the school.

Seeing your statement, Leni, reminds me of the mindset that drove these experiences we foreign students encountered. Go ahead and be mad at taho girl. Sure, I don't know her whole story, but I am not happy either that she chose to throw taho at an official. I am with you, and everyone else, against her actions. Perhaps she's an arrogant type of person- and even if she did it after having a bad day, that's still no excuse either. HOWEVER, this doesn't reflect her race and has nothing to do with the government of the citizenship she holds. Blame her as an individual.

This is no different than the issue of Mocha Uson and slut-shaming. While you may not like Mocha, that's not an excuse to shame her for her past. The issue would be her style of communication and encoded content, not morally ambiguous actions of a past which she claims she's over.

A foreign student annoyed by what I saw you say in the media"

Davao-based American's open letter to Robredo on the Chinese woman’s taho-throwing incident remarks Davao-based American's open letter to Robredo on the Chinese woman’s taho-throwing incident remarks Reviewed by Nathan Singson on February 11, 2019 Rating: 5

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