Brain freeze and a bowl of pho | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Brain freeze and a bowl of pho

President Duterte may have no problem making the Philippines a pariah in the international community — with the exception perhaps of “friends” like China — but his recent diatribe against the signatory governments asking for an investigation on the human rights situation here is fast turning us into outcasts of the democratic world.

His sneering remarks about Iceland, which initiated the resolution by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations in relation to the war on drugs, were particularly cutting—and amusing. Iceland, he said, is made up mostly of ice, with the people having nothing to eat but ice, thus their failure to understand the issues behind the summary killings.

The latest news is that the President is “seriously considering” cutting ties with the Nordic country. Apparently, Mr. Duterte thinks so little of Iceland (and the other signatory countries) that he doesn’t mind offending its government and people. Maybe he thinks nothing of consequence would happen, believing too that the UN system is likewise helpless in the face of his intransigence.


Well, as commentators have pointed out, there are many consequences from thumbing one’s nose at the United Nations. The United Nations, upon the vote of the assembly or the Security Council, could send a multinational force for either peacekeeping or responding to humanitarian disasters to any member country. The Philippines also depends on UN agencies, as well as other governments, for humanitarian aid during such disasters as “Yolanda” as well as for ongoing crises like drought and famine. Emergency food aid, medical and health interventions, even postdisaster support have also been provided by UN agencies.


“Nothing to eat but ice?” Mr. Duterte, it’s time you cured yourself of brain freeze.

* * *

There were many ways for one to react to the recent imbroglio and attempted revisionism of the events leading up to and following the ramming of the Filipino fishing boat FB Gem-Ver 1 last month.

There were the usual and expected protest rallies, many of them in front of the Chinese Embassy, for it had been a Chinese vessel that hit the Gem-Ver and proceeded to flee the site, leaving the 22 Filipino crewmen to flounder in the dark seas. And there were memes aplenty and countless snarky comments on social media that pro-Duterte trolls attempted to counter with falsities heaping blame on the fishermen.

One did not expect, however, to partake of a bowl of pho, the iconic Vietnamese noodle soup, as a way of registering one’s protest at the boat ramming incident; thanking the Vietnamese government and people for coming to the Filipino fishers’ aid; and offering practical help to the fisherfolk and their families who had lost their main source of livelihood.

This was through “Salamat Pho,” a play on the Filipino term for gratitude and the name of the Vietnamese noodle soup that managed at the same time to be a witty come-on to a fund-raising event while emphasizing the friendship between our two peoples. The name of the event also harkened back to the simple statement of the Vietnamese vessel’s captain when asked why they rescued the fishermen: “Filipinos. Vietnamese. Friends.”


“Salamat Pho” took place on July 12 at Ba Noi’s Restaurant in Legazpi Village, Makati. For a donation of P500 per bowl of pho, patrons got a chance to savor the flavors of Philippine-Vietnamese friendship while helping raise funds for the fishermen and their families.

The event was organized by Team Pilipinas, a group of volunteers for Otso Diretso in the last senatorial campaign who decided to continue their work with civic involvement like “Salamat Pho.”

When my family and I arrived at Ba Noi’s (the Vietnamese term for grandfather), the tables inside and outside were filled with pho lovers and we had to wait quite a bit before a table was freed up. But when we were finally seated, we found ourselves in genial warm company, enjoying a dinner that also happened to mark Philippine-Vietnam Friendship Day. It was, all in all, a heartwarming belly-filling way of expressing outrage at our government’s cowardly (non)action, while expressing solidarity with those at the margins of our society and with our friendly neighbors.

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TAGS: At Large, Iceland resolution, PH-Vietnam relations, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte, Salamat Pho

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