Friends, Filipinos, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears

rodrigo_duterte_sona_2016

Those of us who were expecting flaming oratory during President Duterte’s first major speech were a bit disappointed for sure. For me, it was the disappointment of what might have been. Especially since there was no absence of moving lines and quotable quotes in the text of the speech. For example, “And the Filipino, disciplined, informed and involved, shall rise from rubbles of sorrow and pain.”  

Duterte’s delivery was also very good in the first few minutes. It was Duterte the prosecutor. His voice was forceful and authoritative. His speaking cadence was even and measured for dramatic effect. Before it started to shudder and shake under the weight of Murphy’s Law, Duterte’s SONA indeed gave us a glimpse of a hitherto dismissed possibility–that Duterte actually has the capacity to move and inspire us with traditional oratory, if only he saw the merit in such cajoling, and if only he and his staff were willing to commit the time to rehearse.

The rest of the SONA was pretty much trademark Duterte. Making a nod to convention, he initially did some of the flowery, soft stuff, but soon tossed it aside as if in disdain, and went off script. In this regard, Duterte actually reminds me of the Fonz from the old tv show Happy Days (millenials look it up on YouTube). Fonzie is the gangster-image toughie with the heart of gold. He would have sneered at the script and done adlib too.  

We all know Duterte is not one to stand on ceremony. Clearly, the man has the impatience of the executive. Instead of dwelling on the appetizers, he would just rather go straight to the main course. He does not care much for the frivolities or even conventions of his office. He has told people to stop calling him “Your excellency”, and instead call him “Rody”. Not even President Rody? 

The man who eschews form over substance delivered substance in spades. It is as if the chef said, forget the appetizer, the soup, the anti-pasti. Here is meat, meat, meat! It was a veritable Brazilian Churrascaria. (For a complete list of substanive pronouncements look at the Presidential Communications Group’s FB page.) Even on a personal level, how can one not appreciate the extended validity of drivers licenses and passports? The promise of universal health insurance for all Filipinos? The lower corporate and income tax?

Still, my shallow self wonders at missed opportunities. The power of well-timed oratory cannot be dismissed. It is not, by far, the end all and be all of leadership, but there is no questioning the President, by virtue of his office, has an excellent pulpit by which to address and convince the people. He can rally people to patriotism, convince people to support his plans and agenda, and further increase his already high popularity.

None of the recent Philippine presidents were great orators. They all had lousy speaking voices that tended to put you to sleep. Pnoy had a great voice but he insisted on speaking in Tagalog, the dialect of so-called “imperial Manila”. Furthermore, in contrast to Duterte, his idea of a SONA was blaming the previous administration and lifting his own bench. Full of flourish but lacking in eloquence, Pnoy’s SONA was appetizer and dessert with no main course.

I tell you, after witnessing those first few minutes of the Duterte SONA, I do think we can be witness to a truly great SONA within these next five years. Possibly even the kind that will stand out in history and get quoted by future generations. All it takes is Duterte to buckle down and appreciate the occasion as a golden opportunity to remind the Filipino people that they can have it all.

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About Charles Englund

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13 Comments on “Friends, Filipinos, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears”

  1. This is a very well written version of what I just wrote about Duterte’s delivery of his SONA!
    Anyway, tapos na at last and delivery nya. And yes, there was substance in his SONA, in the sense that there were things there that I could identify with. Although I am still most glad that I voted for MDS and not him, I can now at least sleep at night and not worry about my country anymore. I can console myself that finally I have a president who loves my country.

  2. ‘human rights should not be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy your country, my country’. that phrase is the SONA.

  3. Words are nothing. I can make the best oratory speeches, but, I can also scam you !

    The results of a President’s works are what I am looking for…no his words, but his deeds…

    We have many pressing problems…all waiting for a good solution. The Drug Trafficking problem, alone, needs immediate solution.

    So, I just wait and see…

  4. I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.

  5. How about…
    “Two score and ten years ago our citizenry brought forth on this archipelago a new opportunity, conceived in liberalism and dedicated to the imposition that all Feelipinose are emotionally equal. Now we are engaged in a great purging war, testing whether these drug lords,users or any protectors so deceitful and so dedicated can long endure. We are probe by the media and political critics of these war……… But we are highly resolve that these dead should not have died in vain if they had only realize that being drugged or selling drugs will give them a new birth of freedom encouraged by those past governments that put off the people, buy the people, fool the people because more shall perish from the wicked fruits planted by the adversary on this pearly eastern part of the earth.”

      1. @Charles Englund
        Sorry for the delayed response. I am not a professional writer but I love writing.
        I also hope to share more of my views that may somehow awaken the slumbering patriotism of my countrymen.
        Thanks for liking my short diluted version of the Gettysburg address by Abe Lincoln.

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