Saturday , June 23, 2018

Seares: Laughing out loud over ‘l*l*’

WHAT may remind people this year and the years to come regarding the second Sona of President Duterte last Monday, July 24 was the obscene Cebuano-Bisaya word people least expected at a state-of-the-nation address, even by Duterte standards.

“L*l*” is a home-grown cuss word, referring to masturbation, which many insist sounds more gross than the president’s usual staple of “p***ng ina mo” or “gago.”

Even the president must have seen that: in an aside heard all over the Batasan hall, he told the interpreter not to translate it “for the visitors,” notably the foreign diplomats who didn’t understand the Visayan variety of a serious cuss.

But he didn’t have to worry. Something is usually lost in the translation. Besides, the word was more stunning to Bisaya listeners than, say, the Tagalog audience. Had Duterte said “sa*sa*” and not “l*l*,” both of which mean the same thing, the Tagalogs would’ve been more shaken up than the Bisaya groups.

Fury over Joma

What angered the president so much that he couldn’t keep the curse in that dark depth where obscenities must lie, at least tethered during such an important ritual as the Sona before a joint session of Congress?

It was about Joma Sison, self-exiled chief of the National Democratic Front (NDF), who with his colleagues, Duterte said, made so many demands on the government as pre-conditions for the peace talks. The president was fed up, “too much,” he said. “L*l* mo.” And this: “Sabi ko talaga, buang ka.”

Entertainer’s urge

What must strike the foreign diplomats and other guests not used to Duterte’s Sonas is (1) why he had to use coarse language when he could still be a powerful speaker without it, and (2) why the audience -- mostly important and highly educated people, not the “masa” watching a political rally -- roared in laughter.

The president apparently cannot resist the entertainer’s urge to connect with the audience by stories and jokes. He has shown that “propensity” (a word he used about a congressman’s absences) in meetings with ordinary people and in talks with groups of business and civic leaders and, clearly, even in a formal report to Congress.

One cue

A year after he assumed office, we should know by now how to take the various facets of his persona on stage: the angry Duterte or the entertaining Duterte and both.

One cue is when he departs from the prepared text and begins to ad-lib. The unscripted talk needs to be filtered by the Sona audience: which to believe and which to regard as entertainment only.

His audience might learn not to laugh at everything he dishes out. Small chance though. They laughed out loud over “l*l*”: an invitation for more of the same.