‘Gago’ | Inquirer Opinion


/ 04:07 AM January 14, 2020

Yet again we see how puny, how insignificant, how risible even, a man truly is, when confronted by an act of nature. “A” man, because I mean one man specifically: Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who acted disgracefully in his unnecessary confrontation with Migrante and Bayan Muna protesters last Friday. In the face of the street protest, which is a natural feature of the Philippine political landscape, he lost his cool, then he lost his marbles, then finally he lost the last stained, tattered shred of his remaining dignity.

If there is still any doubt that Locsin is “gago” — as we use the word these days, not only to mean a stupid person but a jerk — his public meltdown outside the gate of the storied ministry he heads and his dishonest post-tantrum tweets after it should settle the question.


The protesters were agitating against the plan to deploy two battalions of soldiers to the Middle East to help evacuate Filipinos caught in the crisis. Locsin saw the protesters, and promptly lost his temper. He approached the protesters as if to lecture them, and motioned several times to the protest leader, Arman Hernando, to hand him the microphone. When Hernando refused (saying, “Programa po namin ito — This is our program”), Locsin stalked back to the gate. Hernando then addressed him directly, accusing him of inaction. “Kayo po, palagi na lang kayo nagsasalita sa TV, wala po kayong hinahandang programa para sa OFWs natin — You, you are always talking on TV, but you have not prepared any programs for our overseas Filipino workers.” This was, to be completely fair, a cheap shot, but what an already angry Locsin did in response was so disproportionate, so bizarre, we can confidently assert that he had lost his reason. He charged back into the “little affray” (his words, in a later tweet), and then, unaccountably, challenged the protesters to a fight. But his grasp of Filipino is weak, so he actually said: “Bugbugin mo ako — Beat me up!”

(In a later tweet, he said he used “Bugbugin niyo ako,” meaning he was addressing the collective. But while the challenge as he chose to remember it is more idiomatic, it remains logically incoherent.)


“Bugbugin mo ako,” he said to Hernando, and then repeatedly motioned to the other protesters to come at him. “Come on,” he said. Then he took a microphone offered by a reporter and said his piece, even as the protest was continuing. Later, he waddled off back to the gate. Perhaps he meant it as a heroic turn-your-back-on-the-mob moment, but he is a physically small man, and he has gained a lot of weight, so the effect was unintentionally hilarious: a puffed-up man, waddling.

I do not agree with some of the criticism directed at Locsin, because they have the unintended effect of normalizing his outrageous conduct. No, his outburst was not the result of a failure to take his medicine, or because of his age. He acted that way, because he is that way. Those of us who used to put him on a pedestal, for his elegant writing, have been disabused of our fanciful notions. (If even the devil can quote scripture, disgraceful men can write graceful prose. Such is life.) Locsin betrayed the high ideals of his office because he has a violent streak, a thin skin, and an inflated sense of self. In other words: A jerk.

Interesting aside: Merriam-Webster’s first two definitions of “jerk” as noun coincide with what I understand to be the current understanding of “gago” — “an annoyingly stupid or foolish person” corresponds to the original sense of “gago” as a stupid person, one lacking in judgment; “an unlikeable person, especially: one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded” corresponds to the contemporary sense of “gago” as one who engages in a-holic behavior.

Last week was a high-water-mark in the annals of the Filipino gago. On Thursday morning, during the “traslacion” of the Black Nazarene, the police manhandled many of the devotees. (This matter requires a thorough investigation.) One such incident was caught on video by intrepid GMA reporter Jun Veneracion. Police Brig. Gen. Nolasco Bathan then approached Veneracion, seized his cell phone, and then fled — not realizing that the cell phone was still recording. Veneracion protested, and eventually his phone was returned to him, with the video in the recently deleted folder. But gago does not only mean acting like a jerk; it also means acting stupid. Bathan had caused the video to be deleted — but the video could still be recovered. And in it, despite Bathan’s assertions that he did not know it was Veneracion, a voice could be heard, saying: “Burahin mo, burahin mo kuha ni Jun Veneracion — Erase it, erase what Jun Veneracion recorded.”

Par for the course, for an administration whose approach to governance can be summed up in a word. “Gaguhan.”

[On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand, email: [email protected]]

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TAGS: gago, John Nery, Newsstand, Nolasco Bathan, Teodoro Locsin Jr.
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