Pinay scholar stranded 2 days at Malaysian airport after 'discrimination'
Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2013 - 10:25am

MANILA, Philippines - An 18-year-old Filipina delegate to the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was reportedly denied boarding her onward flight by an airline company in Malaysia.

Arjean Marie Belco of the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon, is an international travel scholar of the organization, which has been raising funds to cover enrollment, airfare and other expenses for the young Filipina's "experiential learning" trip.

Belco went through immigration in Malaysia without incident, according to

But to everyone's dismay, Belco was denied boarding her connecting flight to Brazil last July 20 after an employee of the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines allegedly discriminated her.

"A KLM employee, Mr. Shawa, and his co-workers informed Arjean of their decision not to process her check-in," said on its official Facebook page.

It said that based on Shawa’s assessment, Belco was “not ready to travel” and “that he was doubtful” even if she had a folder with full documentation proving her trip to Brazil.

Shawa, who seem to doubt the legitimacy of Belco's trip, allegedly threw series of questions to the Filipina such as “Why is your passport so new?", “Your ticket is too cheap and purchased yesterday,” “Why [are you] flying through Malaysia if there are flights from the Philippines?” and “How much money [do] you have?”

Belco explained and answered the employee's questions and even showed a folder of documents proving the legitimacy of her trip. But none of that was enough, said.

"Arjean was denied her right to travel," the organization said.

"This could also be perceived as a possible case of discrimination based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status," it added.

Shawa also allegedly told on the phone that there was nothing he could do and that they should “just buy another ticket."

"He was even laughing while listening to our side. We believe this is unacceptable," the organization said.

Brazil, finally said no immediate solution was offered by KLM, leaving Belco stranded for two nights.

In a post on its Facebook page on Tuesday, KLM Airline said Belco has left Kuala Lumpur and is on her way to Brazil.

"We appreciate your support for the GoodX project, and acknowledge your concerns about Arjean's flight with us...We have been in touch with Goodxorg representatives regarding the situation, and have made all arrangements needed to bring this to a good end," KLM said. confirmed that Belco finally boarded her flight bound for Amsterdam en route to Rio on the late evening of July 22.

Luis Petzhold of had to fly from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, according to the organization's Facebook post, not just to make sure that Belco gets to fly out but for her to get the proper treatment this time. said they are sending Belco to the World Youth Day to "broaden her horizons through experiential learning."

The organization said Belco's dream in life is to be a successful professional teacher someday.

"Because I want to rise up my community and family from poverty, not totally in financial problem but in a right way on how to live with courage and to discover the true values of life," Belco said on the organization's website.

"On the other hand, I want also to be a good inspiration towards my co-Talaandigs on how to protect, to care and most of all is how to be proud of being a Talaandig," she added.

Airline denies discrimination; netizens react

KLM Airlines also denied committing discrimination, saying it "values all of its passengers" and that there are no distinctions between age, gender, race, religion or lifestyle.

"We accept passengers in possession of valid travel documents. It is up to the authorities of the destination country to determine what travel documents are needed and what rules apply to them," KLM explained on Facebook.

Facebook users, however, seem to dislike the company's statement and alleged discrimination.

"I hope they paid all of the cost incurred by the girl while she was stranded and also I hope they put her on a first class seat for all the trouble you have caused to her," Francis Flores said in a Facebook comment.

"No apologies from KLM, it shows arrogance, KLM just dont care what the world thinks about the feelings of poor, brown and unsophisticated travellers. They dont need our patronage," said Edwin Trompeta.

"Racists .. You owe that girl a free first class ticket and an apology. Bastards," said popular tourist guide Carlos Celdran.

"And this is why I prefer Philippine Airlines. Thank GOD we now have another alternative flight to Europe aside from these racists. Lets spend our peso where it's appreciated," he added.

"I sincerely hope that Mr. Shawa is not inflicted on any of your future passengers. He is a disgrace to himself and to KLM as its representative! Remember, you are your employees!" commented Brian Overmeyer.

"It would be more appreciated if you could terminate Mr. Shawa. if he's done it once, it's possible that he's going to do it again. what he did was so unacceptable," said Cheng Jaramillo.

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