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A Timeline of the December 2020 Mai Pages-Plantation Bay Incident

Plantation Bay has drawn flak for their scathing response to a review from a mother with special needs child. Here’s the timeline of events.

Photo of Mai Pages' review
Source: Mai Pages' Facebook

The final month of 2020 proved to be a thematic ending to the clusterf*** last year has been. It was plagued with wildfires, trade wars, international protests, worsening climate change complications, multiple celebrity deaths, shambolic U.S. 2020 presidential elections, and of course, the COVID-19 global pandemic which opened a host of other evils like the economic recession, high unemployment rates, business closures, and a year-long quarantine that has carried over to 2021.

In Cebu, a posh resort sparked nationwide ire for their poignantly-worded response to a one-star review submitted by one of its guests who had a bad experience at the place along with her child with special needs. This was much talked about by and not only angered the Cebuanos, but the entire country as well.

For those who want a short and complete rundown of the series of events, here’s a timeline to the Mai Pages vs. Plantation Bay fiasco.

Mai Pages’ TripAdvisor review

In December 6, Mai Pages, a 45-year old mother of a 6-year old child with autism named Fin posted a review on TripAdvisor detailing the discrimination she and her son experienced at the resort. In the review, which she also posted on her Facebook account, she recounted how Fin was repeatedly shushed by the two lifeguards stationed by their pool until she was forced to extricate themselves from the area.

Plantation Bay’s response

Shortly after, Plantation Bay’s resident shareholder Manny Gonzalez, using the account of general manager Efren Belarmino, responded to the review and insinuated Pages to be lying and neglecting her child and the resort’s policies. He also suggested misdiagnosis and very condescendingly told her and other parents like her to look elsewhere since the resort has low tolerance for noise.

Resort draws strong social media flak

Many netizens took to Facebook and Twitter their dismay over the resort’s exacting feedback and their sympathy and commendation for Pages and her child. Gonzales very quickly became a trending topic on these social media platforms, and many celebrities including Karen Davila, Carlos Conde, Vickie Rushton, and Laila de Lima among others joined in on the discussion with equally scathing condemnation dedicated to him.

Several autism groups have also spoken up and denounced the actions of Plantation Bay, including National Autism Association and most notably the Autism Society Philippines who said that they may file a civil case in court for “violations of the RA 7277, the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability”.

The outrage also attracted the attention of national government agencies including the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, and the Department of Tourism who recently launched an investigation on the incident.

Manny Gonzales apologizes and resigns

On December 15, Manny Gonzales ‘resigned’ from his post after a weeklong national backlash. The resignation meant Gonzales has ‘ceded all responsibilities and tasks to the General Manager’.

This, after he apologized on December 8 saying they were only trying to “apply the policy even-handedly”. These actions still did not sit well with the general public, and the Department of Tourism (DOT) began to look into the situation more closely.

DOT’s slap on the wrist

After investigating the case, the DOT decided that “there was bad faith when Mr. Gonzalez responded to the guest’s review in TripAdvisor.com in a disrespectful manner, addressing TripAdvisor’s readers instead of the guest, alleging that the guest is lying, the child is misdiagnosed, the parent is neglectful, and ascribing detrimental acts to her and family.”

DOT Region VII Director Shalimar issued a stern warning and informed the resort in a letter dated December 30, 2020 of their verdict and decision to impose a Php10,000 fine against them for “acts detrimental to the tourism industry,” under the DOT’s Progressive Accreditation System. The fine was levied on the first week of January 2021.

Is Mai Pages suing?

The indignant mother has no plans of suing the resort, but she has a message to impart to the management: “Be kinder to families with a special needs child because it’s not easy”.

Pages wishes for the general public to care for and raise their awareness of people and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Moving forward

Plantation Bay released a statement on December 28 saying they would “continue to cooperate with the DOT in improving our services as part of the tourism industry.”

The luxury resort’s new General Manager Cherry Allego said that they have introduced “an initial series of enhancements designed to improve the handling, attention, and leisure experience for guests with special needs.” This includes inclusivity training for handling people with disabilities for both management and staff.

They have also done modifications to their booking and reservation procedures to “include a more focused interface allowing guests to provide advanced notice should any members of their group require special needs.”

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