LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -- The Bicolano audience comprising the local chief executives, soldiers, students, professionals and the simple folk, who listened in earnest to President Rodrigo Duterte as he delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon, reacted with avid hopes as they remembered the President’s “quotable lines” and gave him the “thumbs up,” after he uttered his last lines, exhorting the Filipino people “to help each other. For then and only then can we truly prevail.”
“The no-nonsense but wisecracking new President was able to give his best shot, speaking in concrete terms, sans the heady statistics, on how he could uplift the lives of the majority of the people in his speech,” observed Professor Anacito Dematera, chair of the Print and Broadcast Department of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) of the Bicol University, the premier state university in the region which hosts a student population of around 25,000.
He noted how a student had asked for permission to open the television monitor, one of around a dozen scattered in his college schoolbuilding, as early as noontime just so he could view the address that was to start at 4 p.m.
Dematera said a fellow faculty member, whose husband is an Overseas Filipino Worker, was generous with praise when she heard the President vowing to provide a one-stop shop for the processing of documents needed by those currently applying in queues for their passports.
He said there were around 150 students, faculty and non-teaching staff who listened attentively broke into amused laughter as the unabashed “probinsyano” (from the province) President veered away from the script in the teleprompter and engaged in his trademark impromptu remarks.
Dematera said whether he is a congressman seated at the Batasan or the local chief executive watching TV at the municipal hall, if not simply a commuter taking the van, that plies the routes across the region, or a top military official listening at the Army division headquarters, they understood the message of the new President who hails from Davao City.
He said the President was able to speak to the hearts of the people, from wherever part of the country they came from.
At the Batasan, Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the lone district of Catanduanes, in an interview, said he relished the special moment he had when he told Mr. Duterte he is “a fellow Bedan and a brother of peace panel member Rene Sarmiento.”
He remembered the President remarking: “Ganun pala, kaya pala kamukha ka niya. (that is why you seem to resemble each other)”
Rep. Jose Salceda of Albay’s second district, in another interview, said he managed to greet the President as the latter sped past him on his way out of the Batasan hall after the speech.
“I told him ‘God Bless You,’” said Salceda.
“He was at first not looking when he grasped my hands but then he lingered and grabbed my hands some more, smiling as I told him: ‘At your service, Sir,’” added the Albay solon.
Ako Bikol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin (also interviewed) said the speech was lengthy but “inclusive enough” to address the present circumstances of the Filipino people.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, in a text message, said he was glad about the plans to augment the runways at the Manila airports and the President’s mention of pursuing the “South Luzon Railways project.”
Salceda said the “south line” is the “most ready to go, finally it was mentioned.”
Major Virgilio Perez, spokesperson of the 9th Infantry
Division (ID) of the Philippine Army, based in Camp Gen. Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur, said he was glad about the mention of “strengthening of the Reserved Officers Training Course program to instill love of country and good citizenship.”
“Kasi yan na ang nawawala ngayon sa kabataan, (that is what is already lost in the Filipino youth)...that of instilling nationalism among the youth and college students,” he said in a text message.
Perez said the Philippine Army will give their full support to the President's desire to give an end to the decades-long insurgency problem and in helping put a stop to the drug menace in the country.
"On the unilateral ceasefire, we support the effort of the government for the resumption of the peace talks with the New People’s Army and even the problem with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front,” he said.
Perez said the 9th ID is for resolving the armed conflicts and for “promoting peace for the safety and well-being of the people and the attainment of a quality and progressive life for the Filipino people."
Alvin Ravalo, a doctor from Albay who is practising in Catanduanes, an island town across mainland Bicol that is frequently at the eye of ferocious storms, said he loved hearing from Mr. Duterte “that he will not dwell on the sins” of his predecessors.
“I bow down before you Digong,” he added in a text message.
Ravalo said it is no longer election campaign period and the President has already proven himself by winning over his rivals.
“He is now our President..and I hope he will be so for the next six years,” he said.
Ravalo said at the end of the day, the real gauge of a presidency is how it could “better our lives after his six-year (term), not after an hour and a half of watching TV.”
Rhondon Ricafort, a law student from Daraga, Albay who posts his advocacy for the youth in his Facebook account, said that since the three major posts of the land are now in the hands of the Mindanaons, referring to Mr. Duterte, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Ricafort said he is “hoping for peace and progress not just for Mindanao but for the entire Philippines.”
Leonardo Balsarza III, marketing officer of the 66-year-old “Mayon Times” in Legazpi City, a pioneering tabloid-size publication being circulated in Albay province, however, believes that the President “should have mentioned that the franchises given to transport operators be reviewed” as one of the measures needed to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis.
Marlon Arteta, a service technician of an auto service shop in this city, recalled how on a trip from Daet, capital town of Camarines Norte, while at a terminal for a UV express van that was waiting for the 16-seat vehicle to be filled up, he noticed the van’s radio tuned in to the SONA.
“Most everyone was attentively listening, but they broke into wide grins and laughter when the President spoke in his native Visayan dialect,” he said.
Arteta said it seemed the language gap notwithstanding the commuters were more focused on the “apparent sincerity” of the President as he spoke.
He added another van driver even sidled close to the door of the vehicle, explaining “makikinig (ako) sa sinasabi ni Presidente (I will listen to what the President is saying.)
The time was 5 p.m. and the van was waiting for four more commuters before it could make its way for the one-hour drive to Naga City, from where Arteta would take another passenger van that would take him to an estimated two-hour drive back to Legazpi City where the auto shop is located.
Alexis Bruce, a nurse from Barangay Marinawa, Bato town in Catanduanes, in a text message, said what she remembered most about the SONA was that part of the speech in which she quoted the President saying, “we cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back". (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/EPS/JH/