‘Poderoso,’ and why it still prevails | Inquirer Opinion

‘Poderoso,’ and why it still prevails

There is an Ilonggo term, “poderoso,” that comes from the Spanish word “poder,” which means power. Often, you can hear parents asserting, “Basta ara ka sa akon poder ako ang masunod (while you are under my authority, you have no choice but to follow me).”

Similarly, some people in authority will provide the assurance, “Wala ka guid problema basta ara ka sa akon poder (you will not encounter any problems while you are under my authority).” The term “authority” here can be translated as power. Thus, poder is the influence of someone in a powerful or influential position who can alter any event once you are under their protection.

Power is ubiquitous, as the philosopher Michel Foucault once stated, and is usually wielded by people in authority. Politicians are fond of using poder to influence decisions. Consequently, politicians and those around them become poderoso or powerful. This often leads to name-dropping, such as “sabi ni Mayor,” or “ito yung gusto ni Mayor.” This is not limited to government, but also extends to schools and uniformed personnel. As you may have noticed, we often hear reported speech like “ang sabi ni ma’am,” “gusto ni principal ng ganito,” “ito ang masusunod, sabi ni Presidente,” or “ito ang order ni General,” and so on.

This pattern of name-dropping can be interpreted as symbolic violence, as individuals leveraging connections or associations with prestigious names assert dominance and credibility in social interactions. This can also be a practice that reinforces existing power structures and emphasizes the hierarchical nature of social relations. That is why you can hear people saying “kilala ako ni Mayor,” or more recently, “pamangkin ako ni Major General.”


People in the margins are also fond of name-dropping the politicians they helped during elections. One of the reasons people sell their votes during elections is the connection they think they’ve made when that politician assumes power. Thus, people connected to politicians have an edge over others in terms of being accommodated for government positions. Similar to aspiring teachers who want to get a permanent post in the Department of Education, they seek the help of the mayor as the mayor has this “closeness” to the principal, and the principal can’t say “no” to someone who helped get the mayor elected.

When power is used to take advantage of a position or connection to circumvent the law, or gain favor, it is called “waslik poder,” which can be roughly translated as “power tripping.” Apollo Quiboloy used waslik poder because he has many connections in government; even the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation cannot find him, a puzzler answered by his connection to the former president.

At the height of the drug war under the previous government, the police justifying the killings as “utos ng Presidente,” can be viewed as waslik poder since they know someone in power has their back should they get in trouble. In the heyday of Red-taggers Lorraine Badoy-Partosa and Jeffrey Celiz, they were doing waslik poder since they were backed by the state.

This phenomenon creates a symbiotic relationship: the one who uses the name and the one whose name is used. Both can ask for favors. This system perpetuates social inequalities. But given the limited resources available, the problem will continue to prevail with no sign of abating.



Sensei M. Adorador is with the faculty of the College of Education at the Carlos Hilado Memorial State University in Negros Occidental. He is a member of the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy.

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TAGS: name dropping, Power

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