Recently, Ivy Villaflores, bubbly Filipino-American publicist and former journalism student, had an experience in Target that went viral for her quick thinking and sharp wit.
Villaflores was in the checkout line of an Arizona Target, speaking to her mother on the phone in Bisaya, a Filipino dialect. She was approached by the woman behind her who asked her what language she was speaking. When she informed the woman that she was speaking a Filipino dialect, the woman instantly connected her heritage with that of Marilou Danley
, the girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter. Noticing the negative implications the woman was insinuating, Villaflores turned the tables back on her, pointing out that she shared the same ethnic heritage as the actual shooter — the man who killed 58 people and wounded 489 before turning the gun on himself
. The awkward conversation quickly ended, but Villaflores was still upset by the exchange so she took to Facebook to voice her frustrations.
The next morning, Villaflores received a message from a former coworker about the incident.
The woman, who Villaflores confirmed was also Caucasian, rushed to her friend’s defense:
“Hi Ivy. If you were at the Target off Warner, then I believe that was my friend you had an interaction with. I’m sorry if you felt offended but I think we can agree that times are scary and she probably wanted to be aware of her surroundings, no one can trust anyone anymore and we still do not know who this girlfriend from the Phillippines was to this man. Perhaps your response was a bit harsh and not worthy of blasting her on social media. I know immigrants have it tough these days but we need to put America first., we all have a right to feel safe.”
Villaflores responded to her:
“Hi <name has been redacted>…yes, that was the Target, what a small world. I didn’t realize having a conversation with my mom in English/Bisaya about sting cheese & yogurt was cause for alarm. Quick fact for you: I was born in Salt Lake City. That’s in Utah. Which is in the United States. Also, it’s spelled Philippines, one L. One day I’m going to have an epic Gangsta Puppy Party. I won’t be inviting you. Have a great day, xoxo!”
Villaflores told NextShark that the friend of the woman reached out to her after the other woman posted her side of the story on her own Facebook.
“I guess the lady at Target was a friend of hers who posted about her interaction with me at Target. World is small, Arizona is smaller. Bleh!”
Although her original post caught the attention of many, it wasn’t until another person, Alex Allan, posted the exchange to his FaceBook that it truly went viral.
While the post received a lot of praise from netizens, Villaflores was upset that Allan changed some of the details — specifically, that he said she was speaking Tagalog and not Bisaya. Finding this edit “super disheartening, especially because it’s Filipino American History Month”, she took to Allan’s now-viral FaceBook post in protest of the changes.
Allan defended his writing, saying he found the original comment from another person, Alex Siegel. Siegel, it seems, did not change the wording of the story and instead published a screenshot of Villaflores’ post.
Villaflores took to FaceBook to explain why this small change was so upsetting:
She also spoke with NextShark about her frustrations with Allan changing the wording to reflect a different dialect:
“I was never looking to be credited. I am just surprised why a journalist would take something he wasn’t sure was true or not, and then change my dialect. Especially a fellow Filipino. I thought we were respectful of each other, including celebrating different dialects. I was taught to be accurate in journalism school myself, and to make a correction if something was wrong. Social media is still media.
“I’ll still invite the journalist to my gangsta puppy party, though. He can try some Bisaya-style lechon, it’s really good.”
Although some people have been sending Villaflores kind messages agreeing with the problematic erasure of a minority culture, many have questioned the importance of her stance on the matter — still, that hasn’t deterred her from finding the positive in this situation.
“I’ve made some really cool connections with people of all dialects/backgrounds reaching out who get why changing the dialect was wrong. Yay!”