[OPINION] Thanks for all the (inedible) fish

Anna Gamboa

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[OPINION] Thanks for all the (inedible) fish
'Right now it feels like someone declared open house for strangers to make this country their home – without ground rules,' asserts Chinese-Filipino Anna Gamboa

Some weeks ago, some colleagues invited me to have lunch with them. People were jovially joking with one another, spooning rice on plates with vegetables and pork from a selection of viands, until someone started to complain about a certain ethnic group. The blanket statement made that moment was,“Dapat paalisin lahat ng Instik (All Chinese should be kicked out)! It was enthusiastically seconded by another eater with more pork than brains in his head that very minute.  

I work with people who think I’m from mainland China, despite my surname. One former co-worker actually asked that. And despite the influence of Hokkien words on the Filipino language, and whatever contributions have been made to commerce by generations of Chinese-Filipino businessmen, we are still considered outsiders. 

Since the influx of undocumented workers from the mainland (and the occasional horror story involving uncouth behavior), and the shops with their almost-unreadable signs sprouting to cater to palates homesick and craving for dishes of another province – it feels different walking and interacting with people in the central business district.

I speak to people in English or Filipino so they can tell I’m not TDK (a Chinese-Filipino nickname for mainlanders) – because with the diversity of China’s population, you really cannot tell unless someone tells you so. Kulang na lang magsusuot ako ng Team Manila shirt proclaiming “West Philippine Sea” (I’m this close to just wearing a Team Manila shirt proclaiming “West Philippine Sea”).  

Since the Recto Bank incident, the looks from fellow commuters can get nastier, only softening sheepishly when they hear me say, “Bayad ho (Here’s my fare),” as only someone who has commuted for years in Manila can say it – occasionally with the subtext of “and how’s YOUR shitty day?” when I make eye contact with someone.  

I was born in the Philippines, and am an introvert (so intrusions into my time and personal space need managing), and right now it feels like someone declared open house for strangers to make this country their home – without ground rules. Previously, generations of Chinese-Filipino people (often through family associations, some of which still exist today) would help mainlanders assimilate into society, but this influx of people (and their talent for being in the spotlight in a bad way) and the manner in which the Recto Bank incident has been downplayed by the current government is distressing.

Yes, it is superior to teach a man to fish than to just give him a fish, but if the Philippines’ resources are overfished, what will be left for Filipinos if the country’s marine resources are available for one country to pillage? And if they’re turned into inedible wares by someone else, isn’t that food waste? Wouldn’t ramming a Filipino vessel in Philippine waters constitute being a bad “guest” (if it can be called that)?

It’s time for this spree to stop, drunken or otherwise, and reword the invitation if you can’t rescind it. Don’t alienate a Filipino nation for the benefit of foreign guests who either don’t want to or fundamentally cannot understand the house rules.  – Rappler.com

Anna Gamboa works in Makati and believes in equal opportunity. So it doesn’t matter what nationality you are; if you stand on the wrong side of the escalator, she will gently but firmly move you while saying “excuse me.”

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