21 March 2013

Jollibee, Discrimination and Singapore

Jollibee Singapore
Are Singaporeans becoming more xenophobic? Singapore economy has relied mainly on foreign workers to fill in the manpower gap that the locals don't want to do or are not qualified to do. However, this norm of doing things has influenced the local psyche to react strongly to the influx of cheaper laborers in the last ten years.

It could be one of the reasons why the popular Filipino food chain, Jollibee, received so many negative reactions in the social media when it opened a branch in Singapore. Some of the first comments were "roaches roaches everywhere !!! (sic)" and one poster chimed, "My wife and me told our maid we will ship her home if she patronizes this place".

Despite the racial comments and threats of boycott, hundreds turn out and waited in a snaking queue that started at around 7:40 A.M on the 6th floor of Lucky Plaza along Orchard Road.

Ms. Marites Obien, the first customer in the queue, said: "I waited five years for them to come to Singapore. The fried chicken is very Filipino. The flavor is different from the other fast food joints."

"Jollibee is part of every Filipino's childhood. 'Be good and we'll go to Jollibee. Study hard and we'll eat Chickenjoy.' That's what every Filipino mum will tell her kids," said Mr. Ian Kristoffer, another early bird at the store.

Despite the successful opening, a few nationalistic and intolerant individuals just can’t help themselves by starting a campaign to boycott the restaurant. In the website of The Real Singapore (Voices of average Singaporeans), for instance, a post urged Singaporeans to boycott the Jollibee there “to send a message that foreign businesses which hire foreigners first are not welcome in Singapore”.

The boycott was really an attempt to stir nationalistic fervor by spreading lies that says Jollibee is only hiring Singapore-based Filipinos.

"Unlike other multi-national fastfood restaurants like Macdonalds (sic) and KFC which hire mainly Singaporeans and even the disabled and elderly, Jollibee Singapore intends to hire their fellow Pinoys to fill up jobs in their latest Singapore venture," the post on The Real Singapore said.

However, a quick check on the Facebook wall of Jollibee Singapore showed that no discriminating announcement was made and it is clear that hiring was opened to everyone in that country.

Maybe what we need is to learn how to reach out to other races. Isolationist ideology died a long time ago. Integration of races into a common nationalistic objective is the only way forward. Fortunately, there are still few Singaporeans who are aware of this and are too level-headed to be affected by the negative vibes surrounding foreign workers in that country.

"I am sorry for the rudeness of my fellow Singaporeans. When you understand the amount of repression that people face here, you will understand why we learn to treat others unfairly, because of how unfairly we are treated," wrote Roy Yi Ling Sexiespider on Yahoo Singapore's Facebook page.