I was used to seeing the table number, the name of the cashier or waiter, the date and other pertinent details on receipts wherever I dined out. In the hotels I stayed in, it’d be my name on the receipt and my name would also appear on the reservation book. And so the feeling went from dumbfounded straight into indignant when I read my nationality, which was written incorrectly – “Philipine” – on the bill. Were the people profiling us? That was the thought that crossed my mind after reading the bill from the Piscator Seafood buffet located at Epicentrum Walk.

Questions were zipping through my mind. How on Earth did they find that out? What gave us away? Did they have a dossier on Filipino diners? I was stunned at how they arrived at the conclusion that we, the four of us, were Filipinos. No one talked to us after ushering us to our table and waited for us to order our drinks. Not a single person asked for our names and certainly not our nationalities.  Asking the waiter who gave us our bill was of no help either. He added fuel to the fire, saying that it was for their survey of diners who came to the restaurant. The questions remained: How did they know? How could they presume the nationality of their diners? What survey was it?

I’ve never asked people their nationality because I deemed the person’s name more important than that.  One’s nationality comes into play during the long conversations when the friendship or whatnot deepens. But to ask about it at the beginning is downright offensive. It’s pigeonholing people into a category of behaviour, language etc that set them apart from the others, making them “different”. It reminded me of this encounter with a colleague who blurted out, “You Filipino huh?” after I’ve explained that that day was my session with the class he said he was going to teach. Seriously, what has my nationality have to do with the students we were discussing?

Neither did I ask about religion unless the topic was about eating out as people might have dietary constraints based on religion like Muslims don’t consume pork or drink wine while Adventists, in addition to not eating pork, don’t eat crustaceans and catfish. I don’t even inquire about one’s love life because it’s a private matter unless they’re willing to share it with me. And so you understand how galled I was about reading my nationality on the tab. Re-writing the lyrics of Tina Turner’s song, “What has my nationality got to do with my bill?”

I wasn’t going to let it slide off my back like water on a duck’s tail. I was hell-bent on finding out how they came to that conclusion. The cocky manager, an exasperated look plastered on his face, tried explaining it, saying, at first, it was for the restaurant’s survey of diners, which didn’t answer the question how they came to the conclusion. He backtracked and changed his answer that it was practice that they did to all the diners. Again – how did they come to the conclusion of the nationality of their diners? Finally, after several minutes of circuitous twaddle, he said: “Oh, I recognized two of your friends who were with one of our regular clients, Mr. H, on one occasion.”

I was far from appeased. Whatever reasons the manager said, I saw it as racial profiling, which isn’t as innocent as others believe it to be. For the last time, what does my nationality have to do with my bill? If the restaurant wanted to find out the demographics of their diners, a survey handed at the end of the meal would have sufficed. That’s what they do at Asia buffet at The Ritz-Carlton, Jakarta, and they ask for your name, birthday, address, e-mail and hand phone, not your nationality.


7 responses to this post.

  1. I should post this on my other blog. Hehehe. You get that alot here in Dubai – though, I’ve never seen it on a bill.


    • Posted by rgarcellano on February 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      It’s atavistic! Quite shocked really – a bill with
      my nationality on it. What’s next? Marital status?!


  2. Reblogged this on The Bigot's Guide To Equality and commented:
    How’s About Some Racial Profiling in Jakarta?


  3. You have a picture?


  4. Posted by ako_si_aoi on February 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    magsend ka ng ibang tao, and tingnan mo kung lalagyan nila ng label 😛


    • Posted by rgarcellano on March 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      That’s a good idea. 😉 Or maybe just forget about going back to that restaurant altogether.


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