Athletes and officials from the Philippines march during the opening ceremony of the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan province, north of Manila on November 30, 2019.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
'Manila' for SEA Games opening not meant to exclude anyone — Floy Quintos
Franco Luna ( - December 3, 2019 - 2:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — The creative director of the 30th SEA Games opening ceremony defended the controversial song choice that has had netizens up in arms over the past week. 

Contrary to the public outcry that the song misrepresented the vast majority of Filipinos who did not come from the country's capital, playwright Floy Quintos said that the song was actually the most inclusive option. 

"There's nothing political or exclusionist about it. We just really needed a song everyone could sing. That was the whole point. The objective was really for the whole arena to be singing," the Palanca awardee said in an interview Tuesday with ANC's "Early Edition". 

"I was very firm from the beginning when we first started working in November. As creative director I managed and curated the content, [and] I wanted to be inclusive of as many Filipino people as possible. I wanted it to be representative of as many Filipino subcultures as possible."

He was referring to the usage of the song "Manila" by Filipino band Hotdog, whose lyrics depict a Filipino longing to go back home to Manila from a foreign land, which he says pales in comparison to his home country. 

Quintos also pointed out that the song's writers, who don't hail from Manila themselves, did not intend for the song to be seen as a Manila-centric anthem. 

"The creators of the song did say that they didn't write it as Ilocanos or Bisayans," he explained. "They wrote it as Filipinos when they were abroad and far from home. It has that sentiment."

'Criticism is valid'

In the same interview, Quintos also bared that "there was no other option" in choosing the song for the ceremonies. The creative director, though, acknowledged that the criticisms are valid as public art is always subject to the public's opinion. 

"[I]t's a public art. You put it out there, and you get ready for everything," he said. "It's a show. There's a general impression and a central message that you leave behind."

Quintos' defense of the Manila Sound classic came amid a tumult of online backlash over the song choice. Even Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president's daughter, sounded off on her Instagram account, saying the Manila-centric song was not representative of the Philippines as a nation. 

Her criticisms came despite footage showing President Rodrigo Duterte swaying in enjoyment as the song played at the opening. Presidential mouthpiece Salvador Panelo also agreed with this sentiment, calling on songwriters to compose a song that would better reflect the country as a whole. 

The performances during the festivities also depicted the culture of indigenous peoples to go with presentations on colonial culture and pop culture. For Quintos, this too was intentionally done so as to be as representative as possible. 

"I said that I wanted the opening number to [pay] homage to the vitality, the strength, the spirit of competitiveness of the Filipino," he said. 

"[So] you kind of have a spectrum there of the different ways we express our [Filipino spirit.] After all, we think of the SEA Games in terms of Western sports. So why not open the show with a different way of looking at sports?"

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