A Ukrainian-themed restaurant in El Nido, which has adopted a no-Russian patron policy at their establishment since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has complained of harassment by trolls they claim to be Russians.
Klaidel Concepcion, who represents the Ukrainian owners of Odessa Mama Street Cafe and Boodmo Brewery, said their staff have faced verbal abuse and threats from Russians and their reviews on Google and Tripadvisor have suffered as a result of Russian trolling.
“Our Google and Tripadvisor reviews are also testament na wala silang magawang matino sa oras nila (that they have nothing better to do), terrorizing a local Ukrainian establishment while they’re on vacation in El Nido,” she said.
The restaurant currently has a policy of not serving Russian taxpayers, which has been in place since February 2022.
“As of this moment and until further notice, Odessa Mama Street Cafe and Boodmo Brewery (part of U.B. Odessa Corp.; duly registered in the Philippines), in support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, hereby suspends serving the subjects of the lying, vile, aggressive, and criminal state – citizens of the Russian Federation.
We express our regrets to the holders of the said citizenship, who have nothing to do with the recent events. Any provocations about this will be duly punished and acted upon by the Laws of the Republic of the Philippines. Reason for this decision is: There is a Latin saying which states ‘Pecunia non olet,’ but it is not true. Money stinks anyway, with blood and death. On the other hand, freedom and dignity are priceless.”
“We put up the policy only when the war started, of course. We would entertain some Russians, but very few exceptions. Some come crying, some put thousands and thousands in the donation boxes,” added Concepcion.
In contrast, Ukrainians are responding by giving the restaurant higher ratings on the same online platforms. Supporters from the Philippines, Czech Republic, and Poland have also begun to voice their opinions and express their solidarity on social media.
The harassment issue escalated when a direct message threat was allegedly sent to the restaurant’s official Facebook page by a Russian national named Dmitry on April 21, 2023, at about 11 p.m.
Translated from Russian to English, Dmitry reportedly said, “So, Ukrainian fa**ots, do you like to discriminate Russians? Wait for it! Soon you’ll b**n, you Bandera mot**rf**kers. There’s nowhere to hide, you bi***es!”
Odessa Mama Street Cafe and Boodmo Brewery’ policy, she said, was the trigger for the negative reaction.
Concepcion alleged that Russians have verbally abused the café and brewery’s all-Filipino staff and personnel on multiple occasions, despite calmly communicating the policy to them. In fact, a Russian guy videotaped its cook, Jen, and urged her to restate the restaurant’s policy, “We don’t serve Russian taxpayers.”
The Ukrainian family that co-owns the restaurant, Eugene, Tamara, and their son Max, and their long-time Filipino partners Beth and Kat, reported the serious threat to the municipal police through a blotter, Concepcion explained.
They believe that their business serves to create jobs in El Nido and delivers high-quality meals for residents and visitors, thus they are seeking aid to protect themselves.
“This has been reported to the El Nido Municipal Police Station. There’s also a case where a Russian tourist tore our poster,” she said.
“We’re not prohibiting them to eat or drink in El Nido, just not in our place,” Concepcion further said.
Proper legal actions are actively being pursued by the Honorary Consulate of Ukraine, she said. The Consulate is also sending letters to Mayor Edna Lim and the police chief, as soon as it can.
The family and the partners also hope that the Philippines can protect the local business scene in El Nido and show solidarity with Ukraine by using the hashtag #StandWithUkraine.