View it as noblesse oblige from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, along with all the connotations of a noblesse oblige gesture.
Few newspapers carried the list of offenses for which the Filipinos were jailed in the first place, with the major papers merely saying that they were light offenses. What constitutes a light offense in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, anyway? Some papers said it ranged from theft to prostitution. A Sun.Star article had this to say:
The "minor offenses" are usually violations against Saudi Arabia's conservative religious laws such as talking in public with a person of the opposite sex with whom one is not married.
Isn't that a little extreme? But it's the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after all, and visitors must abide by their rules, medieval and oppressive as they might be. Culturally, it's not in our place to judge.
But wait! How different is that from being forced to eat the way Canadians eat, as opposed to eating the way Filipinos eat, i.e., with spoon and fork, when in Canada? (Granted, that isn't the issue anymore, but we are talking about Filipino perceptions following the incident.)
Following the logic that we used in the spoon-and-fork incident, shouldn't Filipinos assert their cultural right to speak with a person of the opposite sex with whom one is not married? After all, we do that on a daily basis here in the Philippines.
Why is it racist cultural repression when a school punishes a boy uses the wrong utensils, but it's not when a country punishes for talking? Granting that the latter is indeed racist cultural repression worthy of condemnation, why has no one raised his voice to condemn it?
Maybe it's because Canada is a western country and Saudi Arabia is an Islamic regime. After all, charges of racism apply only in the west, right? And we non-western cultures have got to stick together.
Maybe it's because they call a person a 'pig' in Canada but in Saudi Arabia they throw them to jail. After all, name-calling is much much worse than several months in prison, right?
Maybe it's because in Canada they have a free press to play up a mother's complaint, whereas in Saudi Arabia, they don't.
Maybe it's because this is the first time the spoon incident happened in Canada, whereas in Saudi Arabia jailing people for talking has been happening for years and years.
Maybe it's because in Canada it had something to do with a spoon....
Maybe...maybe...maybe.... I don't know. Di ko ma-gets kung bakit. Kayo, baka alam niyo.