Somewhat trivial, perhaps, but I hasten to share some observations I took away from President Duterte’s first Vin d’honneur Wednesday, January 11.
This is absolutely not an attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill. Admittedly, it might be trivial but nonetheless the occasion evinces the profound and incorrigible ethos of the man, our President. And, how he publicly looks down upon the second highest official of the land, his Vice President.
That indeed is of public interest. The occasion could have been a “best foot forward” moment. Unfortunately, Mr. Duterte’s trademark absence of polite breeding and of social graces is noticeably still lurking, and rather overtly, too!
The phrase is French (vin pronounced van…..’van da ner’…. something such sounding!) which stands for “Wine of Honor.” In official Philippines, Vin d’honneur is an annual government reception tendered by the President to honor the heads of diplomatic corps, welcoming the New Year. It is also an opportunity for the President to pronounce something sober, (of which he is in consistent arrears) as well as to display polite behavior, a charm offensive, as it were. Well, it was not.
Malacanang protocol, heretofore, always included the Vice President in such official rituals. In past administrations, the Vice President was also the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. This time around, the Vice President is without portfolio. She was earlier ‘defrocked.’ In fact she was booted out of her Cabinet position upon orders of the President, clumsily carried out by clumsier surrogates because the President did not possess the manly fortitude to do it himself, personally.
As it turned out, the presidential pique was based upon and occasioned by false information. But not to worry, humility has never been his strong suit, anyway. In this regard, PDuts, like the fabled Emperor, may find himself stark naked!
Vice President Leni Robredo was initially invited (on Dec. 28), as protocol required. A few days thereafter (Jan. 4), she was disinvited! On second thought, it seems to appear, bad manners and political fright necessitated that she be absented by way of an invitation withdrawn.
The Malacanang spokesman explained the faux pas thus: “It is the prerogative of the Palace to invite who they feel is needed to be there.” It was an in-your-face arrogant pronouncement, to my mind. Dismissal of basic GMRC (good manners and right conduct) from official comportment is now a ‘prerogative’ of the Palace!
By the way, the video stream scanning the diplomatic soiree showed some faces that ordinarily need not have been present in Vin d’honneurs. Such individuals’ presence was obviously favored by the circumstance of ‘prerogative!” But of course, none of the non-diplomatic guests outranked a Vice President!
The 9-minute speech of the President was carefully read. It is of course ghost-written and the very first time, it is to be noted, that he did not stray from the speechwriter’s script. A rarity. That is, without uncouth expletives, innuendoes and ad libs. But there was nothing new to impart, no revelation of heretofore unknown import. An inconsequential appearance. Except for the toast that followed to cap the affair..
There was an attempt at levity and a stab at being cute. The President raised a particular toast, usual only for drinking/dining gaieties. “Kampai!” Both in Mandarin and Cantonese, ‘kampai’ literally means “dry the cup,” hence the English “Bottoms Up!” Such a toast has never been used in a Malacanang Vin d’honneur before. This skeptical correspondent surmises that, the ghostwriter backed by the President’s bent of mind and by his acquiescence, the use of the Chinese “Kampai” was a subliminal suck up to Beijing!
President Duterte’s first Vin d’honneur, an otherwise formal affair that is attended to by long practiced diplomatic tact, decorum and proprieties, was still unable to convince and exact compliance from the President to dress properly, observing dress codes, in the very least out of respect for his guests, who uniformly observe dress decorum. Even assuming that to do so might have been a personal physical inconvenience, which of course it is most definitely not, PDuts still appeared with the sleeves of his Barong Filipino (the national formal shirt for men) rolled up to mid-forearm. That is an accepted desecration of formality.
His Corpulence, the Honorable Executive Secretary, Salvador Medialdea, also in attendance, on the other hand, had his sleeves formally down to his cuffs. That is what polite society expects and routinely does. Medialdea knows, observes and conforms to the norm. Could “Bingbong” (that is his nickname!) Medialdea not have had the caring fortitude to beg his President to similarly do so?
PDuts’ rabid and ever-angry band of idolaters and fanatics decry and savagely attack critics, regardless of the sincerity and concern expressed through constructive/cooperative commentaries.
Counting myself among the vast majority of those who did not vote for Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, I am still an optimist wishing for a redeeming epiphany to descend upon Mr.Dutete. But let me nail this one down as my optimism begins to vanish.
Being monumentally boneheaded is not being ‘authentic.’ That Vin d’honneur is the latest manifestation that our President is an incorrigibly chauvinistic non-conformist bereft of good manners. We all must realize that even in the face of the Filipino underclass’s insufferable poverty, good manners remains an ineradicable mark of their abject humanity.
The high and mighty Duterte’s populism is hypocritical for its inability to empathize with the downtrodden. His is populism gone awry. It is misguided popularity perilously wearing thin and the day of shredding will come, before too long!
Meryl Streep: Was she addressing President Duterte, too?
Let me re-emphasize the impact of her statement and join the long line of admirers who have quoted and requoted the celebrated American actress, Ms.Meryl Streep. She certainly wowed the world with her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards Night last Sunday, upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
For those asleep and the unconcerned uncaring, the Golden Globe Award is an American event conducted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which counts upon the membership of an LA-based Filipino journalist, Mr. Ruben V. Nepales, who served as HFPA chair in 2012.
HFPA/Golden Globe recognizes excellence in film and television, domestic and foreign, bestowing coveted honors to the deserving, yearly. The recent event was its 74th Awards Night anniversary. Billing-wise, Golden Globe is second to the OSCARS in fame and adulation.
Here are Ms. Streep’s most notable quotables:
“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.” (Think Dress code and Extra Judicial Killings)
“When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” (Think Sen. De Lima and VP Leni Robredo)
“We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.” (Think the massive disinformation barrage of Mocha, Sasot and the mercenary horde of cyber trolls and the attempt to intimidate and silence the conscientious “principled press” such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, aside from certain individual journalists.)
Folks, I leave you to ponder upon the significance and impact of Ms. Streep’s thoughts as they relate to Philippine society in the dark age of a darker Duterte.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.