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EDITORIAL: Iisang Dagat or Naisahan sa Dagat

Camarines Sur Vice Governor Imelda Papin, who is considered as the country’s “Juke Box Queen” before she became a politician, is in the vortex of a maelstrom after a music video produced by the Chinese Embassy in Manila showed her singing a song titled “Iisang Dagat.” The song, written by Chinse Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, is sung by Papin, along with Chinese diplomat Xia Wenxin, Filipino-Chinese singer Jhonvid Bangayan, and Chinese actor Yu Bin of the popular Chinese drama The Untamed.

According to Papin, the song is originally intended as a tribute to the team of Chinese doctors who are in the country to help our government fight the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The singer, famous for “Isang Linggong Pag-ibig,” said she was invited to sing the song and was assured by the Chinese Embassy that it is all about standing together amid the pandemic.

True enough, part of the lyric of “Iisang Dagat” reads:

“Dahil sa iyong pagmamahal na umaagos na parang alon 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 Maaliwalas na kinabukasan Ating masisilayan”

The music video uploaded on Youtube on April 23 with the title “IIsang Dagat Official Music Video – A COVID-19 Tribute” has as of April 24, 2020 generated over 520,000 views, 2,100 likes, over 21,200 comments, and 150,000 dislikes.

Verily, this China-made video is widely disliked by Filipinos and nationals of other countries, aside from the thousands of scathing comments, which are mostly negative and hostile to China. This is so because for Filipinos, the reality is it is not “Iisang Dagat” but “Naisahan Tayo Sa Dagat.”

For her part, Papin as a Filipino, received a tsunami of criticisms for participating in what many believed as China’s propaganda, the worst of which was being called a traitor to her own country.

The backlash against Papin stemmed from the deeply rooted resentment of the Filipino people against China’s occupation of several islands in the West Philippine Sea ( formerly South China Sea), despite the July 2016 ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague against China’s expansive nine-dash line claim of the entire South China Sea. The same ruling also declared the Spratly Islands, as well as the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are all within the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

China’s continuing aggressive actions in the disputed sea have fueled the increasing sinophobia among Filipinos. The day before the music video’s Youtube debut, the Philippine government filed two diplomatic protests against China for violating international law as well as the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

Specifically, the protests were over a February incident where a Chinese warship targeted a Philippine Navy ship, and Beijing›s recent declaration of the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal as part of Chinese territory.

Faced with a deluge of flaks, Papin has apologized to her fellow Filipinos. “If many misunderstood my intentions by participating in this song, that I just wanted to use my voice to inspire frontliners, I’m sorry.” She also said she would not betray her country. “I’m a true Filipino, I will fight for my country. I love the Philippines, I love the Filipino people, that’s why I’m putting my head down.”

Papin, who is also a public official, is now surely painfully aware of the nation’s sentiment on the country’s stake in the West Philippine Sea. Let her case be a lesson and her apology a precedent for other government officials, starting from the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, to rethink his avowed bias towards China.

Our country’s history tells us of tales of betrayal and treason. It would be wise for our leaders today to remember that history is cruel to those who are considered traitors to their country.

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