At Large

Our poor ‘angkol’ Digong

We all have a “tito” (uncle) who always ends up dominating family gatherings with his loud voice, rough manner, endless tales and uncanny ability to spot the sensitivities of his relatives, especially those younger than him.

Indeed, his influence lasts well beyond and reaches much further than the occasion itself. From this “tito” usually emanates pet names that last well into adulthood: from “taba” (made cutesy with “tabaching”) or fatso; “Boy Baho” or Smelly Guy; Miss Punggok or Shorty; and even “Nog-nog” or Dark-skinned.


Everybody laughs or pretends to laugh at his jokes, especially the off-color jests. He takes offense when a relative or visitor takes offense. And he insists on boring his captive audience well beyond the limits of tolerance or politeness.

In this way did President Digong remind us of a loud-mouthed uncle at his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona). He started out toeing the line of his speechwriter, but as is his wont, strayed from script often, though to his credit he managed to keep his potty mouth largely in check.


Like a loud uncle, he called out his friends and Cabinet members for recognition, praise and marching orders. It was obvious who his favorites were, especially his former assistant (now senator) Bong Go whom he singled out so many times it seemed he was still caught in campaign mode. He defended his programs and policies, reserving the most robust encomiums for his Chinese patrons. He even spent precious minutes explaining the legal complexities of the West Philippine Sea issue and justifying his decision to allow Chinese fishers to poach on our territorial waters. He berated officials who he said were failing on the job. He also promised largesse for many, including public school teachers who he said may not get everything they asked for and may have to wait a while.

Then there were his attempts at humor, smiling slyly while referring to the women tourists sunning on the beach in Boracay (the rehabilitation of which he took full credit for), no doubt referring to the Westerners’ penchant for sunbathing topless.

Puzzling, however, was the relatively deafening silence. No longer was his diatribe punctuated often by laughter from the audience, unlike in his three previous Sona and other public appearances, especially when he cussed or referred to people’s genitals. Even the applause sounded lackluster and hollow. Maybe the worthies gathered at the Batasan had grown weary of the rough language over the years.

After the speeches and selfies were over, the “family affair” ended as usual in the Filipino manner. “Uncle” Digong began singing. Spotting the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) at the Batasan lobby, he congratulated the musicians and then “gave in” to urgings to contribute his singing voice to the proceedings.

The President obliged with two songs: the love song “Ikaw” and his apparent favorite, “Moon River.” How Pinoy indeed! After all the pomp and circumstance, the entire affair closed with a karaoke session, albeit with a full orchestra and the wavering voice of the leader of the nation.

Conversing with the musicians, “Uncle” Digong returned to what had by then been a theme of his. “I am so lonely at the Palace,” he confessed. “I am like a prisoner, I cannot even step outside.” He then invited the PPO members to visit Malacañang in the future for dinner and a bit of music to enliven his days. Earlier inside the session hall, he spoke out about how “tired” he had become, how he couldn’t wait for his term to be over, and even goaded the military leaders in the audience to act on their alleged plans to mount a coup.

Indeed, our poor “angkol”! Maybe it is time he takes his rightful rest and leaves the policymaking, the governance, the wheeling-and-dealing to the moist-eyed underlings running underfoot. Because no matter how annoying, how irritating, how oppressive drunken uncles can be, in hindsight we remember them with a measure of fondness and relief, mainly because he is no longer around to put a damper on the high spirits of an otherwise friendly family occasion.


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TAGS: At Large, rina jimenez david, Rodrigo Duterte, soda, SONA 2019
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