For sure, nobody’s singing this song anytime soon in any karaoke bar even after the ECQ.
“Iisang Dagat” (One Sea), that ludicrous song “dedicated to those (who) contributed to the fight against COVID-19, with special thanks to the China Medical Expert Team,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, may now have dislodged “My Way” as the ditty most likely to provoke a brawl anywhere it is sung.
The song, featured in a four-minute video, was written by Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian and performed by Chinese diplomat Xia Wenxin, Camarines Sur Vice Governor and early ’80s jukebox queen Imelda Papin, Filipino-Chinese singer Jhonvid Bangayan, and Chinese actor Yu Bin. By Monday, the video had racked up 146,000 “dislikes” on YouTube, and only 2,000 likes. Most of the 20,000 comments scored the video as “Chinese propaganda.”
What were these Chinese officials thinking? That Filipinos would get instant amnesia after hearing this siren song?
Just two days before the song’s release, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. disclosed that the country had filed two diplomatic protests against China. The first one was for a Chinese warship having pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship on a sovereignty patrol mission near the Malampaya gas field in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in February — an incident described by former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio as “pure and simple bullying.”
The other protest was over China’s attempt to boost its disputed claims over the entire South China Sea by naming 80 maritime geographical features in the area and dividing the territory into two districts under the control of Sansha City, in effect “declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province,” said Locsin in a tweet. Both incidents are “violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty,” he added.
Glaringly, Beijing had made its latest provocations while the rest of the world was distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic that had originated from Wuhan in central China.
Days after the song’s release, China was again in the local news, this time for the discovery that Chinese workers were running an illegal health facility in Parañaque exclusive for Chinese nationals, where unregistered medicines for COVID-19, HIV, dengue, and sexually transmitted diseases were found.
Before this, police had also raided an illegal Pogo operation inside a house in Parañaque despite the Luzon-wide quarantine that shut down nonessential businesses. Arrested were 44 Chinese and nine Filipino nationals who were managing the Pogo site; seized from them were pistols, cellular phones, computers, and cash. Even as a harsh lockdown has been imposed on millions of ordinary Filipinos, many Chinese workers in the country apparently feel fearless enough to continue to transgress Philippine laws.
“Iisang Dagat’s” discordant note and disconnect to reality notwithstanding, Malacañang was quick to dismiss the public’s revulsion at the transparent bid to paper over China’s problematic behavior toward the Philippines. The video is covered by freedom of speech, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. Of course—except that his invocation of that freedom on behalf of Chinese propaganda came on the same week that labor officials in Taiwan made an outrageous bid to deport a Filipino caregiver for her alleged “nasty and malevolent” comments against the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic.
The song’s fervent avowals to friendship, solidarity, and furthering Filipino-Chinese relations, in any case, flies in the face of China’s brazen disregard and aggressive lockout of the country’s territorial rights over the WPS, despite the July 2016 international arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines’ position and rejected Beijing’s expansionist nine-dash line over the entire area. “Iisang dagat” (one sea) is itself an offensive claim; China is encroaching on waters that belong to the Philippines and other countries in the region. And even as the Chinese ambassador was penning treacly lyrics about how, translated to Filipino, “Hawak kamay tayo’y patungo sa maliwanag na kinabukasan, Ikaw at ako’y nasa iisang dagat, Ang iyong pagmamahal aking kasama, Ang iyong kamay ay hindi ko bibitawan,” his country’s ships were meanwhile harassing Filipino fishermen and the Philippine Navy, and Beijing has relentlessly militarized the region with artificial islands, outposts, harbors, airstrips, and communication facilities built on seized islands.
It may be time for the government to start singing a different tune when it comes to its “BFF”—best friends forever, which was how Roque unabashedly described China. Or it may well go down in history as the administration that, well, sold the country for a song.
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