My Father and Duterte

(Photo source, Father and Son Wilderness Program,

By Wilfredo G. Villanueva

Disturbing, Duterte as father of the nation.

I speak only for myself and do not carry express authority, but like the boy in the movie who says, “I see dead people,” I also I have a special sense. I’ll call it simply as a magnet. A magnet for good things, especially good things in bad times. Good always comes with bad, so you can imagine the bad I see nowadays.

I see fathers who continue to labor for the good of family. That’s pretty solid. Hindi pwedeng tawaran. Pilipinong-Pilipino. I read that there are only two groups of people whose fathers pick up, cuddle, fuss over their babies. The first group are the Americans. The second group is us, Filipinos. Filipino fathers have a special affinity to growing babies, not just making them but raising them well. We get it here every time we come face-to-face with father-child bonding. One of my blessings is being born to a Filipino father, and mother. And mother.

Since we remember fathers especially on June 18th, this piece will exclude mothers for now, ubiquitous and all-pervading as they are.

I’ll carry the memory of my father, whom I called ‘Tay, till the end of my time. Not only because ‘Tay was a permanent fixture in our home but more so now, when his spirit keeps me on the right path, stopping my hand when I’m up to no good like giving in to road rage but urging me on in times when I swim against the current to manifest optimism such as in a time like this. Every word ‘Tay said from the time I could remember to before he died has stuck with me like the words in the Holy Bible, which in fact he lived even if I never saw him pore over the pages of the good book.

He died without warning when he was 60, a double whammy, simultaneous “massive heart failure and stroke,” the death certificate said. Must have died before he hit the floor of the kitchen where he found himself to fill an order from my mother after waking up from a nap midday. Saints die that way, I suppose. They lead a life of suffering like my father who had an asthma attack every day I thought it was normal. He died a soldier’s death, quick and almost painless I suppose because ‘Tay didn’t register any sound or twitch a muscle, according to my mother who was with him at that time. Quietly he lived, and quietly he died.

Thirty-three years after his death, his memory is still fresh, as if I had just visited him yesterday. His name is on my lips when I see a beautiful sight, (“I wish my ‘Tay had seen this,”) or when I eat something exquisite, (“If only I can share this with ‘Tay,”).

Good fathers are that way. They never leave even if they are mortal, assuming immortality because of their good works and their total devotion to family. I was my father’s only son, so you can imagine his appreciation of me, bordering on fanaticism, following my every move, from crushes to girlfriends, to running a marathon, fixing my car, and yes, finally to my wife, who he pronounced as the one.

And so here I am today, four years older now than the man whose genes I inherited, whose walk I try to copy especially at this time of great stress and demanding requirements to love the unlovable, as my father taught me to do. I am my father’s son, copying his love for family at the time when government which is supposed to follow the principles of fatherhood, is acting strangely enough like the very person our fathers wanted us to avoid.

“Don’t associate with that person, son, he won’t do you good,” my father would say.

Let’s get right down to it: Duterte is black to my father’s white. My father never cursed in his life. He loved my mother, his only wife, staying with my her without flinching through outrageous fortune, enjoying the good, accepting the bad. He had no mistress, never entertained the thought of having one. He respected women, never took advantage. I should know. He asked for advice on how to treat a lady admirer, because he knew I had experience and maybe wisdom. He talked little, preferring instead to lead by example. He was courageous in his sphere. One time we drilled on how we would fend off a possible attacker in our home. He never lost his temper, was consistent, didn’t have vices, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t make a spectacle of himself.

Flip all of my father’s virtues like you’re frying fish and you will get a picture of our president, the other side, the exact opposite. Which is why everything in me finds the man abhorrent, even repulsive. Why? In my father’s world, such a man didn’t count, didn’t matter, didn’t create a dent except mortal wounds on his enemies, walking like a drunk, a person to be avoided at all costs.

I am in a state of cognitive dissonance. Respect to authority was one of the virtues I learned from my father. Confused, I tried to consider Duterte as duly-elected president but my spirit resists the thought, recognizing it as a threat and inconsistent with my pagkatao (character).

The cognitive dissonance becomes more bothersome when I have to lead my own children by example. I was five when Ramon Magsaysay died, and I remember the people’s adulation of a beloved president in his burial ceremonies, the sight of the riderless horse entering Manila North Cemetery etched in memory. I was taught to love my leader. When Douglas MacArthur visited the Philippines in 1963, my father brought me along to watch the parade, the float with the giant aviator glasses and corncob pipe in the same proportion also burned in my subconscious. He hated (a strong word, but appropriate in this instance) Marcos. My father died in 1984, a year after Ninoy was executed and in the rare occasions when ‘Tay talked, it was about Marcos and his abuses and excesses. I was taught to love my leader and despise the pretenders to the seat of power.

So, you can imagine the kind of passion—suffering—I am going through, bearing my father’s teachings and values and yet having to give respect and love (?) to my leader.

When a child of mine sits down in the future to write about her memories of me as her father, I hope she will recall my principled stand against bad governance, against a leader who would destroy the values my father and his father before him encased in glass in the altar of fatherhood, flanked by burning incense. I hope I would have done my job as a father, as my own father has done.


33 Responses to “My Father and Duterte”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    Happy Father’s day Wil! Thanks for this write-up.

    • popoy says:

      WGV father and son and sons to their fathers have their own private world impenetrable by strange and alien culture trying to break their bond of love and goodness. If that is so ordinary for the larger majority, it is so awesome . If the father and son relationship is so rare and so bad, and out of the ordinary, so out of the Ten Commandments, so out of the Biblical Prodigal Son, then people must forewarned, write and read about them even here in TSOH.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Happy Father’s day Popoy and to all Dads here at TSOH!

        • popoy says:

          t.y. Karl. nobody uses that lazybones short cut nowadays, so I say Thanks a lot. If I may add a bit of a say: The secret of a father’s long life is for many decades of Father’s Day to find him Happy and healthy even if only it’s just a state of the mind.

        • sonny says:

          Thank you, neph! And a happy fathers’ day to you, too. I’m presuming and I hope I’m right. 🙂 And of course am passing your greeting forward to all of whom Wil refers happily about.

      • popoy says:

        Just finished watching two movies with remote connections to “father and son” things; and perhaps depending on the depth of analogy is so Philippines, then and now. Watch James Bond Craig (Archangel) and Ryan Gosling (All the Good Things) superb performance. GO FIGURE.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Happy Father’s Day to you, too, Karl. You’re welcome!

  2. Frohnie D. Cagalitan says:

    “Flip all of my father’s virtues like you’re frying fish and you will get a picture of our president, the other side, the exact opposite. Which is why everything in me finds the man abhorrent, even repulsive.” same here . . . although i see some goodness in him (and for all person for that matter) but when you are a President, you will be highly looked up to by the Filipinos and other countries … so one should be his best, and if possible, be a Model to everyone!

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Same here, Frohnie. No one is completely bad, or completely good. But we have to raise the standard, otherwise, over the brink we go.

  3. Thanks for this post, I also remember my father telling me not to tell a lie because when you tell a lie you’re lying to yourself first, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there,biological or not.

  4. edgar lores says:

    1. The honorific title of “Father of the Nation” is bestowed on whoever establishes the nation and is adored and revered as such. This could be one man or a group of men.

    1.1. We are familiar with the Founding Fathers of the U.S. While we may not know all the names of the seven men, the term itself invokes the glory and grandeur of a great nation conceived in Liberty.

    1.2. Unbeknownst to me, Australia also has Founding Fathers. We have a Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes, and there are Fathers of the Australian Constitution who are not well known. They are almost as anonymous as the convicts from which a full third of the population are descended.

    2. When I google the term “Father of the Nation,” I can see listed many familiar names, such as Gandhi, Mandela, and Ataturk. Of the 10 Asean nations, we have:

    o Brunei – Omar Ali Sifuddien III
    o Cambodia – None
    o Indonesia – Sukarno
    o Laos – None
    o Malaysia – Tunku Abdul Rahman
    o Myanmar – Aung San
    o Philippines – None
    o Singapore – Lee Kuan Yew
    o Thailand – The current reigning monarch
    o Vietnam – None

    2.1. Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, and Vietnam have no honored Father. The case of Thailand is interesting. Whoever is the current reigning monarch is called the Father of the Nation.

    3. For the Philippines, the Wikipedia entry names 3 prominent possibilities:

    o Emilio Aguinaldo – First President
    o Andres Bonifacio – Father of the Revolution
    o Jose Rizal – National Hero

    3.1. Who would you choose?

    3.2. Personally, I would choose none of them. If I had my druthers, I would nominate Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Commonwealth. He is known as Father of the National Language. And it was he who fought fiercely for our national independence.

    3.3. We now have a president who would forfeit that independence. Many call him — Tatay Digong.


    4. On a personal note, if the child is a reflection of the father, then Will’s ‘Tay is surely above and beyond reproach. 🙂

    • popoy says:

      Ah Yes, the ASEAN is microcosm special of the world’s hemispheres as archeology’s laboratory to dissect what’s good and what is evil in these select Fatherlands. I said up above here that good father and son existence is common, so ordinary almost phenomenal and largely beneficial to mankind while its opposite the bad and the ugly, so despised is rare, few and far between, rear its ugly head as evil. Sorry? Come again please.

      Stats-wise primarily for knowledge for knowledge sake, take father and son characteristics (FSC) as quantifiable and interchangeable independent or dependent variables and find their correlations with GOOD GOVERNANCE (GG). Of the three branches namely, executive, legislative and judicial; take just one e.g. the legislative. Their archives will provide the data on father and son members.

      To really flesh it out will mean another long blog. So the bones of the question should suffice to titillate curiousity for knowledge sake whether:

      POSITIVE — Increasing good father and son presence means increasing good governance or
      NEGATIVE — Increasing bad father and son presence means decreasing good governance

      The statistical lie as in objective surveys are in the names of the father and their sons and their contributions, good or bad to governance. The man in the street often times are judgmental to conclude: The surnames of father and son tell it all.

      Social Science like politics, sociology and psychology share the same Achilles heel: the quantification of subjective variables. Pero nakaka-curious eh, dito sa mga bansa ng ASEAN, sinu-sino ba, kung ililista ang mag-ama sa Parliament o Kongreso? Positivo ba ang kontribusyon nila sa kanilang bansa? Meron bang epekto? Masama ba o Maganda?

      Minsan hindi na kailangang banggitin o ilista, maisip lang ang pangalan alam na ng bayan.

      • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

        The values I know, I learned from my father, early on, in the formative years. Hi Popoy.

        • popoy says:

          A father and sons’ DECENCY is a positive aspect of political correctness. Political correctness loses its flavor and aroma when stripped of Decency. Nakedness (of strip teasers) becomes politically correct occupation of decent citizens compared to thieves and criminals.

          If I may ask those powerful, Son, you and your father by your occupations are prefixed honorable. But are you decent as citizens?

          You are good, helpful and successful but are your decent? Wrong righteousness is obscene INDECENCY.

          But what is DECENCY? It might be a stretch, but my grade one and grade two teachers taught me it is about good morals and right conduct which seems to be politically incorrect now.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:


  5. arlene says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your father.

  6. Beautiful piece. I recognize the ring of truth and I share the repulsion for a person so evil he has seduced even civilized people to become cannibalistic subhumans, in his image.

  7. Martin D Bautista says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a father we should all aspire to become, salamat Wilfredo.

  8. grammy2342 says:

    Your tribute to your father is so touching. I wish I could do the same, but my father was weak when it came to women, but I loved him and love him still after he died. However, I am glad that he did not have to witness the atrocity of this present leader (?) of our country. He would have suffered apoplexy. (as I sometimes feel, when I read anything, and I mean ANYTHING about Duterte. My Dad was principled and do not tolerate corruption in any aspect of life. So he is in a good place now.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      As someone in this thread said, we can’t achieve perfection. But we can see perfection in our love in this instance, for fathers. Thanks, Grammy.

  9. grammy2342 says:

    Your tribute is touching.

  10. I miss my Mom 😢 I would have described her the way you do with your Tay. I can see your Tay’s smile from above. Happy Fathers Day to you, too (if you are😉)!

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Thanks, Cyril! Yes, our parents never leave us. If we think about them, they will come.

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