Taho onslaught

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

THE longest I’ve stayed in Metro Manila was ten hours. But despite my brief stay, I could already sense how suffocating and stressful living in the capital can get. And I haven’t even experienced EDSA traffic at its worst or stayed inside a sardine can we call a metro rail system. Even if you have lived in the grittiest parts of this place that author Dan Brown once called “the gates of hell,” the slightest inconvenience could easily trigger even the most placid nerd you know.

No doubt, things can get heated anywhere where there’s a queue. No matter how hard you control it, there’s always this urge to flip tables and punch a hole through the nearest wall if we feel as if our right to comfort and convenience is under attack. Who wouldn’t? Being productive citizens of this country, we reserve the right to throw a fit at even the slightest issues for the paltriest reasons.

For what it’s worth, though, we can only manage to mumble our way in disgust at the efficiencies of our public utilities and the laws that govern their use. This, somehow, puts us three or four levels above the Chinese student who threw a cup of soybean curd drink – or taho – at a person of authority just recently. Even to us, doing such an act is totally unimaginable, unless one has a death wish.

What transpired over the weekend at a Metro Rail Transit station was so bizarre as to cultivate extensive media attention and the ire of people online. First off, the lady is a citizen of a country that’s been described time and again as an East Asian hegemon. Second, of all people, why a uniformed policeman who was just following security protocols that were set in place due to the twin bombings in Jolo? Third, what was in that cup of taho that the good lady from the People’s Republic loved so much? And fourth, why would the Foreign Secretary butt in and suddenly call this a “non-issue”?

The student, later identified as Jiale Zhang, was later apprehended by police and was made to answer for her tantrum in front of the media and the National Capital Region Police Office Chief Director Guillermo Eleazar. Zhang, obviously looking hangdog in her police mugshots, repeatedly apologized to Eleazar, who had a lengthy talk with the student, telling her that Filipinos respect the rules of the countries they visit. The online lynch mobs, however, are having none of it, calling for her deportation and eventually branding her as an undesirable alien.

For his part, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde is calling on foreigners to respect local laws and ordinances no matter how inconvenient these may seem to them – and to Filipinos themselves. Sure enough, Zhang has undergone inquest proceedings and will face assault charges.

But what’s interesting to note from all this is that the Chinese embassy seems to be distancing itself from the issue. As of this writing, the embassy has yet to issue an official statement on the incident which involves one of its citizens who, it was later found out, has overstayed her visa and acted like a degenerate scumbag in a country that’s warming up to Beijing.

At least, most people were able to see the incident for what it really is: a metaphor of our current relationship with a still mercurial neighbor. If we are able to look past our rage over the taho onslaught in our own turf, then we’re pretty much in the same position to point out the utter unfairness and disrespect that our fishermen face within our own waters.

If only we can channel the rage from protecting our right to convenience to protecting our territory from a creeping takeover. And we all know it geopolitics has a lot more at stake than just taho.

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