HALO-HALO: Welcome to my Gossip Column
By Raïssa Robles
The South China Morning Post Beijing correspondent Teddy Ng was able to talk to its village chief Xu Bingsheng, who promised to engage PNoy in “a casual chat”, which would not include the following conversation –
Yo, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Xu Shangzhi, alias Co Yu Hwan, why are you so stubborn about claiming the Spratlys for your adopted country, the Philippines? Your ancestors sailed through there over a hundred years ago on their way to the Philippines. That belongs to us, you know.
No, I’m just kidding. Really. I’m just kidding.
The village chief never said that to my fellow correspondent Teddy Ng. I’m sure it’s not even a thought balloon for the village chief who, as a young man, witnessed President Cory Aquino’s visit there 23 years ago.
But he did say he won’t breathe a word of the Spratlys. He won’t embarrass PNoy.
The village chief, also surnamed Xu, is after all related by blood to PNoy. They are cousins many, many times removed.
Xu Bingsheng excitedly recalled in an interview with another Chinese newspaper these memorable words that Cory Aquino uttered on that historic day:
Although I am a head of state…I (am) also the daughter of the village.
Xu Bingsheng has an ear for the uttered word. After all, he worked as a movie projectionist then and must have watched many, many movies.
He said the village is honoring the late president with a “Mrs. Aquino Memorial Hall” which is being rushed to completion by next month. The village buzz is that the good son is coming with a precious gift – some of his mother’s treasured possessions to display inside her memorial hall.
In preparation for the visit of the honored son, school children, teachers and village officials have been rehearsing all of last week the playing of drums, the chanting of songs and of course a lion dance.
PNoy will plant another tree beside the now towering Nanyang fir tree planted by his mom in 1988.
PNoy will also “honor his ancestors at the clan temple,” Teddy Ng said.
All in all, it will be a very heart-tugging occasion to see all those smiling photos of his mom displayed in a remote village in China – home to some 3,000 people, a third of whom are abroad. Which is why the village is often called by another name – Luzon Village. By that name, you can guess where most of their “OCWs” are located abroad.
The tale does not end there, though.
A decade after Cory Aquino’s visit, a large delegation from the Xu clan went on vacation to the Philippines. They had hoped to see their cousin, Citizen Cory.
As they were disappointedly riding enroute back to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, someone messaged them that Cory wanted to see them. And what a group hug they all had.
Now PNoy is faced with the task of making the South China Sea not as a flashpoint for a deadly regional squabble, but simply a source of and route to happiness and glory – just the way his Chinese ancestors found it to be.
Guess who’s making a separate bongga visit to China
You guessed it. Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, the woman who once boasted that unlike Jiang Qing, the actress-wife of Mao Zedong, she would make sure to move very swiftly and outwit her political enemies when the time comes.
She was partly right. Although Imelda Marcos never got to succeed her husband, she has more than outlasted Jiang Qing who got arrested, jailed for 10 years and who died in there.
Imelda Marcos rose from the ashes of defeat and shame and managed to reestablish herself as the doyenne of art and culture and a prominent political figure.
Yesterday, she stole a march on PNoy by flying hours ahead of him to Beijing. As a congresswoman, she said she was invited by the Metro Millennium Consolidated Building Consultants, Inc and the China Trend investments Ltd. to pay a visit at the same time as PNoy’s state visit.
Will she gatecrash his banquet at the Great Hall of the People’s Heroes, do you think?
Imelda Marcos considers flirting with Mao Zedong as one of her greatest accomplishment. I her book, it helped establish relations between Beijing and Manila.
I remember at the time of Imelda Marcos’ visit to China, our newspapers all oohed and aaahed over how she had lost one high heeled shoe while walking in a fab gown on the street of Beijing. So she tiptoed on one stockinged foot all the way to the reception with a smile.
I recall trying to tiptoe myself on one stockinged foot while wearing one of my mother’s (quite modest) high heeled shoe. It WAS HARD. And so I admired Imelda Marcos.
But that was long, long before I learned that Imelda Marcos and her husband separately opened secret Swiss bank accounts in the name Jane Ryan and William Saunders and robbed the nation blind.
The Philippines and China: The Elephant in the Room
On the eve of PNoy’s state visit to China, the very conservative American think tank Heritage Foundation published a think piece by Robert Warshaw entitled “The Philippines and China: The Elephant in the Room.
I thought the elephant was the United States.
I was wrong. It was, Warshaw said, “the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea.”
Unexpectedly, he praised PNoy’s engagement with China. He said:
To his credit, President Aquino has reaffirmed that he will raise the South China Sea issue with Chinese leaders. However, as with most presidential meetings, every effort will be made by interlocutors to prevent an embarrassing confrontation…..This is an important lesson for U.S. policymakers. China continues to represent both challenge and opportunity for Southeast Asia. Despite growing security concerns in the Philippines, President Aquino and the country’s business leaders simply cannot ignore the enormous opportunity that China’s rapid economic expansion provides.
He even said:
U.S. leaders must realize that U.S. treaty allies like Thailand and the Philippines can simultaneously pursue policies of building closer security relations with the U.S. while making the most of the Chinese market. If that approach is good for the U.S., it is certainly good for China’s neighbors.
Then he recalled something few Filipinos remember –
On this day (of August 30), 60 years ago, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a mutual defense treaty; not since the Cold War has that treaty been so relevant.
And he urged a more solid US display of mutual defense in the Pacific:
The U.S. must continue to uphold the alliance by helping the Philippines develop a credible maritime defense capability—by including (but expanding well beyond) the provision of refurbished Coast Guard cutters; by maintaining its legal commitment to the defense of the Philippines; and by doing what is necessary to maintain U.S. naval leadership in the Western Pacific.
He recommended that President Barack Obama invite PNoy to his Oval Office:
Finally, President Obama should extend an invitation to President Aquino for a state visit to Washington, D.C. America’s oldest treaty ally in Asia deserves this kind of respect and commitment.
As President Aquino will discover during his trip to Beijing, China is in this game for good. Washington must step to the plate and demonstrate that we are, too.
Hmmm. Can PNoy help Obama get reelected, you think?