Among Filipinos, defiance mixed with outrage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am

'China is swapang,' said taxi driver Steve Escoro, 38, using the Tagalog word for 'greedy'.

'They don't own it [Scarborough Shoal]; it's closer to our country than theirs, and they're trying to grab it.'

Escoro is not alone in his sentiments. Many Filipinos who have been following the Scarborough Shoal story - which has received a lot of play in the local media - are angry, worried and anxious.

'I feel violated, I feel like I was raped,' said an ophthalmologist who asked not to be named. He said the contested shoal 'is ours - the next time I attend a meeting with our Chinese counterpart, I will tell him, 'Scarborough Shoal is ours.''

For his part, stock market analyst Astro del Castillo said: 'I am very angry - we are not asking for extra land from China. We are protecting what is logically ours; Scarborough Shoal is within our economic zone.

'I wouldn't be surprised if China will then say the Philippines was previously a province of theirs.'

Chinese Filipino tour guide Ivan Man Dy was worried the spat could cause a backlash against the Philippines' ethnic Chinese community. So far, 'it's good that demonstrators have been able to differentiate' between China and the local community, but, 'as a Chinoy [vernacular for Chinese Filipino] I worry that for those who don't know any better it will become an anti-Chinese issue.'

Asked what he felt about the competing claims to the shoal, Dy replied: 'Honestly, I would want it to be with us, because it's very close, but we can't disregard China's claims - it's really a tough issue.'

Lorraine Badoy, a medical doctor and a mother, is clear on her stand: 'We should fight back. This is our country. We can't just give it away a little at a time, piecemeal.'

She said 'it really makes me depressed, it's very, very wrong, we're being bullied. What are we going to do? Just lie down?' According to Badoy, her friends feel the same way: 'We have to fight back, it's like getting raped. What will you do - let them have their way with you?'

As for how the Philippine government was dealing with the issue, she said: 'From what I've heard, I think [President Benigno] Aquino has been handling it well - he means what he says and he's doing the right things.'

She said the demonstrations organised against China were not enough. 'It's not that huge yet. We should be more collective about it.' Badoy said she planned to join more protests.

For his part, Del Castillo said he was willing to sign up for military service, if that was necessary. 'I am a reservist, I'm prepared to resign [my job] and protect my country. We were colonised by the Spaniards and the Americans and yet we were able to eventually free ourselves from the shackles of those two countries.'

Badoy did not think it would come to a fight.

'I think China will back off. Bullies are like that,' she said. Still, she had forebodings about the future. 'I'm not in love with the US, but there's something very scary about China taking the place of the US as the most powerful country in the world.'

Escoro said it was 'only right' Philippine authorities had arrested Chinese fishermen fishing in the shoal and was not worried it would come to a war. 'They can't fight us, the Americans are on our side.'

But according to Dy, 'we should handle it [the controversy] by ourselves - we should solve this without pinning our hopes on the US. Right now we're being perceived as being too pro-American; we need to do more research, we should stop playing macho - we don't even have an ambassador in Beijing.'