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The Davao HoldTheLine Collective

/ 05:22 AM December 25, 2018

To last week’s column on “8 ways to protect Filipinos from Duterte,” a reader based in Davao City responded in unusual fashion: with a song. Literally.

“As a form to inspire one another (your #4), and to not fall silent (your #1), we are writing, composing, promoting appropriate cultural expressions such as the following. Feel free to use and share it,” he wrote.

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The good reader was referring to the following suggestions I made to “protect ourselves, our countrymen, our nation” from Dutertismo’s active undermining of the most basic rules of a modern society. “Your #4” referred to this: “Inspire one another. Resisting the new normal can be exhausting; reminders of solidarity and the need for self-care are vital.” And “your #1,” in its entirety, reads: “Call out every abuse, or every attempted abuse, of power. Do not fall silent.”

The reader said he represented the “Davao HoldTheLine Collective.” In a further exchange of messages, he described the Collective as a small but growing community of writers and artists “who want to make a difference in a politically dormant cultural scene.” He told me of the Davao group’s “big dream” — which will be truly something, if they and like-minded partners can pull it off. And he added: “The name ‘HoldTheLine’ was inspired by Maria Ressa’s persistent appeals in interviews ‘not to let government cross the line’ and ‘to define a line you will not cross.’”

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What was the “appropriate cultural expression,” the song, that the Davao HoldTheLine Collective wanted more people to use and share? Their political parody of one of President Duterte’s favorite songs — “You Raise Me Up,” the song popularized by the singer Josh Groban, and which was used as the Duterte campaign song.

The original starts this way:

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary

When troubles come, and my heart burdened be

Then, I am still and wait here in the silence

Until you come and sit a while with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains

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You raise me up to walk on stormy seas

I am strong when I am on your shoulders

You raise me up to more than I can be

The Collective’s version is titled “You Let Us Down.” The revised lyrics are a lamentation, a sustained sigh of frustration, but also a declaration of resolve.

You let us down and made our souls so weary

“Tokhang” cops came and our hearts burdened be

Then scores were killed and laid there in the silence

You didn’t come and sit a while with me

You give up on our seas and ocean waters

You let go of the West Philippine Sea

We can’t be strong when we are on your shoulders

You let us down with full impunity

You set us back with super high inflation

Leading to greater inequality

This can’t go on, to suffer the whole nation

We’ve had enough of no capacity

You lie and swear and you think that is funny

You curse and joke in base vulgarity

For heaven’s sake stop acting like a bully

We are fed up with crude barbarity (or misogyny)

Lawmakers and judges they do your bidding

You jail and fine who hold critical views

So let’s be clear and ask whom are you kidding

What does shine through is the despotic you

You bend and break our laws and Constitution

You trample on our people’s human rights

We’re sick and tired of this persecution

We’re standing up, and together hold the line

You let us down and made our souls so weary

“Tokhang” cops came and our hearts burdened be

Then scores were killed and laid there in the silence

You didn’t come and sit a while with me

You give up on our seas and ocean waters

You let go of the West Philippine Sea

We can’t be strong when we are on your shoulders

You let us down with full impunity

You bend and break our laws and Constitution

You trample on our people’s human rights

We’re sick and tired of this persecution

We’re standing up, and together hold the line.

We’re standing up, and together hold the line.

The Davao HoldTheLine Collective is by no means the only group in Davao City, the Duterte family stronghold, that pushes back against the brutality, the misogyny, the impunity, of the administration. Konsensya Dabaw has been active for many years in the defense of democracy and the promotion of human rights.

Yes, these and other groups are small, outnumbered by the mass of Duterte supporters in Davao. But they exist, they fight back, and they remind us of the advantages of a strategic minority. One way to read the 2016 election results, for instance, is to recognize that a small minority of Leni Robredo voters in the Marcos family’s old bailiwick, the so-called Solid North, effectively denied victory nationwide to the late dictator’s son and namesake.

In a difficult Christmas season, the very existence of these groups is a gift, an inspiration, an encouragement.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand.

E-mail:jnery@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: Davao HoldTheLine Collective, Dutertismo, john Nery, Newsstand, Rodrigo Duterte
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