President-Elect Duterte and Don Quixote
by Wilfredo G. Villanueva
For President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte
For now we are still equals, or you are not hard-to-reach anyway, because you haven’t assumed, so please indulge me.
Don Quixote is mankind’s best novel, written by Miguel de Cervantes. It speaks of a world (Spain) that was in transition. Chivalry was about to be shown the door, the Crusades was in tatters, and Western civilization could go either way: progress or decline.
It is a laborious read. Don Quixote had a lady love, Dulcinea, to whom he dedicated every thrust of his lance, every world-weary trot of his steed Rocinante which has seen better days, every fevered word he exchanged with his man Friday, Sancho Panza.
He jousts with windmills, water mills, a flock of sheep, a cloud of dust, anything that his mind fancied to be enemy. His world was banal, ho-hum, but all he could see were opportunities for his knighthood, battling all kinds of enemies in his mind, but through it all, when his jousting was done, he would return to his Dulcinea, wonder of wonders, the most beautiful woman any man could lay his eyes on.
In reality, Dulcinea was fat. She tended pigs, had a pugnacious vocabulary, yellowed teeth, and she was every inch nightmarish in appearance. But to the day of his death, Don Quixote insisted on her innate beauty, and when he breathed his last, thoughts of her flooded his addled brain and he was well departed.
Why do I share this story with you, Sir? It’s because you seem to be the opposite of Don Quixote. You see the world as it actually is, with no noble implications or rosy embellishments. That could be your magic. Your supporters see the world as a brutal beast that has to be tamed with equal brutality, niceties kept as far as possible from bloody battlefield. But you reserve your choicest put-downs for women. I will not go through the litany of your sins against womanhood, for they are many, instead I will try to pry you open, for sometimes I can see through men and women, their dreams, their loves, what drives them, what makes them great.
Let me say it outright: you are, or you will be a great person. Sixteen million six hundred thousand voters, even if they comprise a mere 16 per cent of the country’s population of 100 million couldn’t be all that wrong. No, Sir, they cannot be that wrong.
They can see what you have in Davao. My jaw dropped when I saw photos of you in a taxicab cruising the streets of your beloved Davao to take care of your people in the dead of night when most of them are asleep and when bad people tend to be awake. My jaw dropped when I saw the array of patrol jeeps, ambulances, your own version of 911. Some of my friends reasoned with me, incredulous as to why I am against you when in fact they have been to or lived in Davao, and will place their hands on the Holy Bible to testify that you are the real deal. I was of course unimpressed because you are not yellow, and yellow is my political color of choice since 1983 when Ninoy Aquino was gunned down.
But I have an aha moment with you, and this is where Don Quixote comes in. You gave us a clue of the Duterte soul, tormented with your battles with the devil for the last 20 years as hands-on mayor of what was once Wild, Wild Davao. On the night unofficial tallies showed that you were miles away from your nearest opponent, you hied off to your parents’ graves and said in between sobs, “Mother, please help me.” Aha! Got you! You are human after all. In a sense, you may appear like a devil but a part of you is still connected to the mother who birthed you, that you have a streak of nobility after all, a Don Quixote fighting battles to redeem mankind, rushing headlong to your enemy of choice. And you do not think lowly of women, no Sir. You do have a heart because it beats for the first woman of your life.
My heart melts as I reflect on what you have done in the cemetery. I can see that you have several modes or an armory of personalities to combat evil in our midst. But one thing remains: you are a dutiful son, yes, and sorry for this term, you may be a mama’s boy (just like me).
But sir, when you metamorphose noontime of June 30th, could you shed already one particular trait of yours which I think may get in the way of governance? What is that particular trait? It is this: You are afraid of what to you may be unmanly traits of compassion, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, yes, love, because your enemies may see the chink in your armor and they may defeat you, our champion for the next six years. Am I still on the right track, Sir?
All I want to say is that love still works. I shouldn’t be lecturing you on this because I know you are that kind of a person. I just read an article, about your helping out a boy who had cancer, something like that. I salute you, Sir. You are after all one of us.
This is not to say that we are to surrender to our being mama’s boys. No, Sir. But I urge you to please retrofit your armor. Everyone has a chink, a weak spot, and for a president like you, what have you got to prove?
Coming to terms with your compassion, your innate kindness could perhaps finally exorcise you of the ghosts of the kanto. No more foul language. No more being ahead of the pack in gang rape. No more bluster. Why? You don’t have to be cruel to be kind. You don’t have to swing your manliness like a club, hitting anyone indiscriminately. You have your title zipped up, you are in charge now, and you deserve to be where you are.
But for now, embrace your mother. Embrace your mother’s compassion for it is not a sign of weakness. You are our president, and you can be who you are. Show us some love. Show us the Don Quixote in you, a man whose head soars on eagle’s wings with thoughts of chivalry, idealism, a never-say-die stance against all enemies imagined or real. You have it in you. In doses. Your tears in your mother’s grave betrayed the very best of what is inside you. Love us then as your mother loved you and as you loved her, and let the world drop its collective jaw.
“I never believed for a moment that President Duterte is as bad as he projected himself to be. It was just war paint, calculated to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies,” the world would say with a collective sigh.
Here’s wishing you success in both your private and public life, soon-to-be Your Excellency.