Chinese ships try to block Navy supply vessel anew

From an exclusive report by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2015 10:15 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2015 06:26 AM

Soldiers guarding Ayungin Shoal get guitar, food

MANILA - Chinese Coast Guard ships chased again a Philippine military vessel that was on its way to Ayungin Shoal.

But while the voyage to Ayungin started out tense, the day ended happily for the Filipino soldiers, all because of a gift they received from a famous musician.

Like most Filipinos, Joey Ayala has never been to the Spratly islands and only sees on television what conditions Philippine soldiers are made to endure out there.

But even if he lives a life so different from the Spratlys, Ayala has found a way to help out the troops.

"Ito pong limang gitara ay para sa 'Art' Forces of the Philippines. Your mission is to turn the nation into a work of art," he said.

Ayala, his friends, and other artists pitched in to donate guitars that will help soldiers pass the time while guarding the Kalayaan island group.

A guitar was picked for the Ayungin Shoal, along with a shipful of food for the waiting soldiers.

As expected by the soldiers who always ply these routes, they were met by the much larger ships of the Chinese Coast Guard -- now a constant presence in this part of the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese chased the Philippine ship down, and circled it, with sirens blaring to drive the Filipinos away.

But unlike last year's tense standoff, the Chinese made no move to block the Filipinos' path this time around.

They steered closer and closer to the Philippine ship but pulled back when the waters got too shallow.

Only then were the Filipinos able to link up with the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre, as a disheveled group of soldiers pulled them in.

Everyone wore their uniforms before saluting the Philippine flag.

Afterwards, the guitar was handed over.

Even as the Chinese ships encircled Ayungin, the men of the BRP Sierra Madre broke into song.

A simple guitar that has no capability to win a war but has the power to fight sadness and desolation -- it's a small gesture but a big help to these men guarding Ayungin Shoal, soldiers who fight loneliness more often than they fight other nations. -- With ANC