A resort in Cebu, Philippines has issued an apology following a backlash where one of its customers accused the establishment of discriminating against her special needs child.
What happened: A Filipino mother, Mai Pages, left a one-star review on Plantation Bay Resort and Spa’s TripAdvisor page over the weekend, detailing how their staff handled the situation with her special needs child.
- In her review, which she titles “Not an ideal place for a child with special needs,” Pages explained that her special needs child expresses joy “by squealing with delight.”
- “I thought that was okay until we were told from afar (a lifeguard),” Pages said in her review. “As a mother, your initial action would be directed to your child. So I told him not to squeal because it wasn’t allowed. Quite frankly it was a difficult moment. Another lifeguard came and told us the same thing. I had to explain that he is a child with needs.”
- Pages said she hushed her son whenever he jumped into the pool, and at one point, she even tried to cover his mouth to prevent him from making loud noises. She eventually reached the point where she realized what she was doing was wrong.
- “It’s a discriminating experience,” Pages said in her review posted on Facebook. “We often get this a lot. When normal people who are ignorant of people with special needs, give us that stare of please control your child.”
- Instead of apologizing for what happened, Manny Gonzalez, a resident shareholder of the resort, attacked Pages’ review by misdiagnosing her son.
- “For your information, uncontrolled shouting is not a symptom of autism. On the contrary, autistic children tend to be silent, non-verbal, and overwhelmed and withdrawn when faced with strangers,” Gonzalez wrote in the now-deleted part of his response via Autism Society Philippines. “In fact, it is regrettably true that an autistic child will not be happy in any public situation where they are faced with many unfamiliar people and surroundings. Google ‘Autism’ and verify this for yourself. Therefore this parent is most likely deliberately lying, or has been given an incorrect diagnosis of autism, when what the child more likely has is a lack of discipline due to simple parental neglect.”
Letter of apology: After the severe backlash from his comment, Gonzalez issued a statement on Tuesday where he “apologized” for the way he handled the review, GMA Network reported.
- “This is in response to my poor handling of a guest complaint a couple of days ago,” Gonzalez wrote in the opening of his statement. “I was wrong to question the mother’s motives, and deeply regret leaving the impression that we are not supportive of the community of parents with children who have special needs.”
- He also repeated how the resort “even-handedly” applied their policies in terms of noise levels that were “geared towards safety and relaxation for all guests.”
- “As a result of that policy, in almost 25 years we have never had a child die here,” he added. “A mother’s pride is important, but more important are the lives of the children who come here.”
The aftermath: After the incident went viral, many criticized Gonzalez’s insensitive response and apology to Pages.
He just said “I’m sorry I got caught, but look at our safety record. We don’t care about our customers with special needs but our reputation.” https://t.co/KeQWevOLEm
— russdolph 🎄 (@russellchengku) December 9, 2020
the parents must sue him and the hotel for this one. This is incredulous! I am outraged. 😡😡😠😠
— James Romer Velina (@JamesVelinaLXIX) December 9, 2020
- In response, the Autism Society Philippines said the resort has “a long way to go” after reading Gonzalez’s apologies.
- The Department of Tourism has launched an investigation on the matter, according to the Philippine Star.
- “The DOT has already launched an investigation into the matter, and after due notice and hearing, will mete the proper administrative sanctions to the resort,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said. “The DOT will also coordinate with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its proper action under the Disability Law, under which the aggrieved party may also file the complaint.”
Featured Image Screenshot via Finding Paradise