Milk tea was, and still is, the craze in the Philippines because of the sweet and addictive blend of tea, milk, and chewy tapioca pearls. Different milk tea shops, with others seemingly battling it out on who can have the wittiest use of the word “tea”, have spread nationwide to cater to the growing milk tea cravings of Filipinos. Today, there is still a growing number of milk tea shops, each with their own extensive menus, to make sure that there is the perfect drink for everyone.
It was Serenitea that got the ball rolling in 2008 when it first opened its branch in San Juan. Happy Lemon, one who eventually became a famous brand in the university areas, opened its first franchise in the Philippines in 2010. The following year, Taiwanese milk tea giants, Chatime and Gong Cha, also opened their first Philippine branches. In between those years and after, a lot more milk tea shops opened their doors to serve more people.
This drink is truly to die for, with a lot of people turning to it as their go-to drink especially when their cravings hit. But did you know that people have died because of the sweet, delectable drink?
In 2015, two people were killed and another was hospitalized after drinking milk tea at a shop in Sampaloc, Manila. Suzanne Dagohoy and Arnold Aydalla bought their drinks at Ergo Cha, a milk tea shop in Bustillos, Sampaloc. It was Arnold that pointed out the unpleasant taste in his drink, and made Suzanne taste it, before bringing it up to the shop owner, William Abrigo, the one who prepared the couple’s order. After hearing about the complaint, William replaced the straw to taste the drink himself.
Minutes later, Suzanne was the first to collapse, her mouth frothing, as they left the store. Arnold also experienced the same thing, as well as William. Both Arnold and Suzanne experienced chills minutes after drinking the milk tea. Drivers in the area helped in bringing the couple to the hospital. Minutes later, after the store owner, William, tasted the same milk tea, he also collapsed and his mouth was frothing; similar to Suzanne.
Suzanne and William died due to the ingestion of the toxic substance, oxalic acid, in the milk tea. Arnold remained hospitalized after drinking some of the milk tea.
Investigators believed that it was more than just the case of a spoiled drink. A worker at the milk tea shop told investigators that even before, there have been complaints about how their drink tasted.
Authorities eventually confirmed that the couple tested positive for oxalic acid, a poisonous, colorless substance that is not easily determined when dissolved in water or beverages. About 10 micrograms per milliliter of oxalic acid is a dangerous amount, and about 40mg of oxalic acid can potentially lead to a person’s death.
A highly lethal dose was found to be ingested by Suzanne and Arnold, which led to their deaths. William, the store owner, also tested positive for oxalic acid. Exposure to this substance would cause severe damage to the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, or airway, and may occur and quickly cause death if not treated.
The incident happened after the son of the store owner, Lloyd Abrigo, brought a clear, foul-smelling liquid to the shop. Lloyd would wear gloves when handling the said liquid. The pitcher that was used to mix Suzanne and Arnold’s drinks smelled of that foul liquid.
Lloyd did not deny that he left the hospital while his father was in critical condition, went back to the store with the store employee to turn off the CCTV camera, washed the pitcher that contained the foul-smelling substance, and threw away the contents outside the store.
However, citing insufficiency of evidence, a prosecutor has dismissed the murder and frustrated murder charges filed against Lloyd as it is hardly believable that he had a motive to injure and kill the couple as he did not know them nor did he had ill feelings against them.
Do you think the suspect had nothing to do with it? What do you think really happened?
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