President Rodrigo Duterte took a break from his political commitments — and his habit of spewing angry rhetoric — when he visited a hospital in Davao City on Christmas eve.
At the Southern Philippines Medical Center and House of Hope in his hometown, Duterte posed for selfies, made small talk with staff and patients, handed out gifts and even carried babies during the more than hour-long visit.
"OK ka, pare? Good boy ka?" he asked one sick boy.
(Are you OK? Are you a good boy?)
Duterte hugged young patients, patted the back of some or rubbed their heads. To the people at the hospital, he appeared to embody hope, a jarring departure from a presidency characterized by his tough talk and a combative demeanor.
"Mangyari na mangyari sa mundo, basta laban ka. Basta laban," he told another patient.
(Whatever happens to the world will happen, but you just fight. Just fight.)
The president also reportedly expressed his interest in improving the cancer institute with two linear accelerators, which are used for radiotherapy and in replacing broken air-conditioning units in the hospital.
The show of sympathy went beyond words. Duterte distributed toys and gadgets such as dvd players to 57 children, and red envelopes presumably containing cash to their guardians.
"As always he would always say na susuportahan kita in whatever endeavors that you would like to have and propose kasi always he would emphasize you (are) all working for government and we are here to prove that government works," said Dr. Leopoldo Vega, the chief of hospital.
It has been Duterte's tradition to visit and distribute Christmas gifts to cancer-stricken children when he was still Davao City mayor.
He has been a regular donor of the facility.