At Puerto de San Juan Beach Resort in La Union, we made our way to a table at the restaurant for lunch. I called the attention of a waiter, who signaled for me to wait as he took the orders of another group at another table. After writing down that group’s preference, he proceeded to give the list to the kitchen before making his way to our table with menus.
We already knew what we wanted, and as I was giving him our orders, a Caucasian male with his girlfriend entered the restaurant and while I was in midsentence, the waiter took off to seat the foreigner and his girlfriend, gave them menus, and with a huge patronizing smile on his face, took their orders. He passed our table on his way to the kitchen, and I called his attention once again to tell him that we weren’t done yet, and he grudgingly stopped to get the rest of our orders.
Racism in this country is puzzling – we are biased against ourselves.
I wanted to tell the waiter that we’re not under colonial rule anymore, but of course his attitude could’ve been motivated by the prospect of a tip in green bucks.
I was cast in a movie produced by a Dutch production outfit years back, and I experienced the same odd case of racism – I arrived at the set one morning, the location was up in the mountains and quite far away from the nearest available restroom, and the site of a portable toilet greeted me with a huge sign that said “For Foreign Cast” only. Of course I explained to the local crew that we Filipino actors experience calls of nature too, and when I didn’t get an explanation, I brought my case to the Dutch producer – I told him how they can probably make their racist biases more discreet, and I was bowled over by his reply: having the portable toilets exclusively for the use of their kind was not their idea and that they were as taken aback as I was.
In Baguio, a look at the Sunday classifieds would reveal several ads for houses for rent with this qualifier at the end: “Preferably Foreigners.” Or if the ad came with a description of the house saying how beautiful it is, chances are it would be concluded with “Ideal For Foreigners,” as if Filipinos have no business living in a house with a fireplace and a dirty kitchen. And no, the Baguio Country Club’s decision to ban Koreans hardly makes things any better.
In Malou Jacob’s play, “Pepe,” a line goes: “Noon, ang mga Kastila’y kinamuhian naming. Ngayon, ang mga banyagang nagsasamantala sa inyo’y tinitingala, pinagsisilbihan, minamahal.”
More than a hundred years after the Spaniards left, and more than fifty years after the Americans gave us our independence (or dumped us, depending on which historical author you patronize), we’re still slaves.
Ay, kawawang bayan. Gising!