An open letter to Jackie Chan

The last time I saw you, you were telling some kid, “jacket on, jacket off”. It seemed silly at first but then even the kid in me saw that the silly repetitive exercise was value-laden. And yes, that was in a movie.

In real life, you are the single most famous and recognizable Hong Kong resident that I do know. And so, here I am writing to you to say “thanks!” and “I’m deeply sorry.”

Thanks for the Tweets where you tried, in less than 30 words, to sum up the dilemma faced by the Manila police. “If they killed the guy sooner, they will say, ‘Why not negotiate first?’ If they negotiate first, they ask, ‘Why not kill the guy sooner?’ So sad.”

You also said that Hong Kong is a “nation built by a lot of different people. Don’t worry! We do not hate!” Then you added:

“I remember the day before in Korea we talked about how people should love each other. We already have so many natural disasters, typhoon, tsunami, everything. Humans should be united and not kill or hate each other.”

Your Tweets drew criticisms from some of your compatriots but I know that it also sent a message that overwhelming grief has made difficult to absorb – hatred is at the root of all violence, including the taking over of a bus filled with strangers. The hostage-taker was filled with hate over the outcome of a specific case and a legal process that 99.9%f Filipinos were not even aware of, nor had a hand in. So yes, thank you for trying to take a few steps back and looking at what happened from a different perspective.

Having said that, allow me to extend my sincere apology. I, and a lot of Filipinos who feel the same way, am so sorry that eight people were killed and others were injured during the hostage-taking incident in Manila. I am also deeply ashamed over the apparent mishandling of the incident by our police, and the Philippine government as a whole. This is a national burden that our generation will bear for the rest of our lives. We are also at a loss for words to describe how pained and embarrassed we all are for seeing this tragic crime unfold right before our eyes, and the eyes of the entire world, in our country’s historic city.

The Chinese people demand justice. Believe me, Jackie, so do we. The people of Hong Kong are angry and bereft with grief. Believe me, Jackie, so are the great majority of peace-loving and law-abiding Filipinos including those working and living in Hong Kong.

It is unfortunate that this message of collective grief was not articulated early and clearly enough, by our government. But please remember that our leaders are new, like children they have many lessons to learn. They need to learn the importance of communication and leadership on the ground, in the field, and between nations. They also need to be more humble especially when at fault, to be quicker with apologies and sympathies, and not just to wait by the phone but to be in a hurry to lift it, when no less than human lives are at stake. We, the people, will make sure that they who sit in power including the cops who should have known better, shall learn from the errors of judgment that led to the violent end of a ten-hour hostage incident.

Like the Chinese people, Filipinos do not hate. We adapt to situations as global workers precisely because our hearts and minds are always open. We have gone through enough tragedies to know that love is sublime and respect for every living being is sacred. Believe me that if time had a delete key, you would have had 90 million Filipinos racing against each other to press it so that the 10-hour tourist bus tragedy could have been prevented before it began.

The relationship between the Chinese and Filipino peoples is deeply rooted in history. Filipinos of Chinese origin take part in the weaving of our national fabric every single day. The same is true for Filipinos working in Hong Kong. Let us do our best to recover from this extremely sad incident as brothers and sisters with a future to share, with nations to build, with generations to nurture. I have always treasured every trip to Hong Kong as one of life’s greatest rewards. I have always felt safe there. In time, I know that changes will be made so that every tourist will be just as secured in our country. For now, there is much healing to be done and forgiveness to be extended. With remorse, comes retribution for the victims, and reforms to ensure the safety of all citizens and visitors in our country.

Dear Jackie, I have always appreciated your movies. I will be there to line up for your next one, not just as a fan, but as an admirer of the man behind the actor. Once again, thank you and I’m really, truly, sorry. (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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