It was a cold Monday morning in Lanzhou, Gansu when Bambi, her mom and I were waiting for Marco’s torch relay. He was number 207 and would passed by in our area by 1052am. We took off from our hotel at 430am armed with a stick, stools, snacks, water, camera and video camera. We were quietly waiting for Marco to arrive when the police came and ask us to move back from behind the barricade. We didn’t have a choice as we don’t want to be sent back to the hotel. So, we moved back and tried the camera and video camera again from a higher ground. After half an hour waiting in that area, we were asked by the police to open our bags. In Marco’s mom’s bag was a Philippine flag. The policeman who searched her bag looked like he won a million dollars. You can see his eye lit up as if bagging the ultimate prize. A mob of policemen then drag us and ask us to stand near the wall. After checking all our bags, they lead us to a mini-van and asked us to go inside of it. The policeman asked me to hand in Marco’s camera and I was trying to show him there was nothing in it that’s damaging or incriminating. However, he just motioned to me to give it to him and go inside the van.
All of us were scared. We didn’t even get a word in and we were herded like cattle to be slaughtered. There was already a policewoman inside who was resting. She remembered us as she was the one who asked us to move. So, we sat there at the back, tensed and scared when Bambi whispered to her mom “Ma, umiyak ka. (Ma, cry)”. They both cried and the police were alarmed. I was trying to explain to them that the flag was the Philippine flag and they were the sister and mother of the #207 torchbearer. I then remembered seeing the flag in our money and asked Bambi if she has any. We were lucky she had the Php500 bill as the flag is clearly shown there. I showed this money to the lady and pointed out the flag. They were having discussions about it. Bambi then remembered her driver’s license and showed it to them as well. Only at that time when they asked us to show our passports. They didn’t even bother looking at my passport even if I was offering it.
After all the flag problems were solved, we were asked to relax and stay were we are. The policewoman then asked “Why are you crying?” Bambi and her mom told them that it was there first time to be held like that in public, surrounded by 20 police and feeling helpless not knowing what will happen to us. The policewoman then said “It was a misunderstanding.” Her boss asked us not to bring out the flag anymore, and we said they can even keep it. They declined and just said to just wave the Olympic flags or Chinese flags.
Around 930am, the foreign affairs personnel arrived and talked to us. We told them again our backgrounds and showed them our passports. I gave her a copy which I always carry and she wrote down Bambi and Tita Lyn’s details. We also told them that we were staying at Xi Hu Yin Feng Hotel. They then told us that they’re going to return to escort us to take pictures of Marco. We said ok and went back to the van.
Around 1040am, they arrived and informed us that the torchbearers are coming. We took our cameras and ready ourselves. At that time, the crowd behind the police ticker tape were 4 men deep. We were getting frustrated as we won’t have a clear view. The foreign affairs personnel and the policewomen, parted the crowd and let us through to reach our original positions behind the barricade. We waved and called Marco and in a clear voice he said “Wo De Mama (My mom)”. We were able to get good shots of his relay and was able to share the excitement of all the people who were supporting it.
All’s well that ends well. It was a scary event but there was a reason for everything. To the police and foreign affairs personnel of Lanzhou, we would like to thank you for your hospitality. We understand that it was your job to secure the place and you were only doing your job.