Estremera: Digong unchanged

THE last time I was face to face with the President was when he was on the winning run evening of May 9, 2016 to dawn of May 10, 2016 9and will forever be known as the one who videoed him weeping at his mother's urn). I've attended two press conferences after at the Panacan Depot, but that wasn't really a face to face thing. I mean, it was him facing all of us, a face to faces.

Thus, there was a moment of trepidation while I waited for the President to emerge from his house in Dona Luisa Subdivision last week, more than a year since I sat down with him and listen to his ramble as he would in those years past.

I was on a mission on that day. The young lady I have taken under my wing had been bugging me about her Ninong Digong and Chingkay is apparently decided on bugging me till the end of time. I was getting desperate.

A few nights after her 23rd birthday, while Chingkay and I were visiting my friend she happened to mention that she needed some advice about what to do with her records and so the first person to pop up in my mind was her other ninong, sir Wendel (Boys Scouts of the Philippines president Wendel Avisado, the President's long-time associate and former city administrator), who is always kind enough to reply to any of my queries. In that message I also mentioned that his inaanak wishes to have a photo with the President. Sir Wendel had the answer to her question about documents but brushed off the photo request saying, "si Stella na bahala diyan."

I was like, who me? I'm not the ninang here!

But then I realized, I'm the one who's not gonna hear the end of it, so okay... why not?

I ventured a request to Honeylet since I couldn't think of any other way to sneak in an appointment with the President of the Philippines regarding a concern of a long-unknown if not forgotten 'inaanak'. I was not expecting a quick reply though, I was ready to wait for days... maybe even months. But way before I even had time to ponder on my audacity, we were there in the President's green house, waiting for him. (That I had to have the waitress wrap up my steaming Korean lunch even before I could sip more than ten spoonfuls of the hot, piping fish roe and vegetable soup called Altang for my Sunday lunch was no bother at all. I mean, who would not give up her steaming hot Korean lunch for a selfie with the most popular President?)

"Would he exude the same aura as all those Presidents I have covered exuded?" I wondered as Honeylet made her appearance first and engaged us in idle chatter and a few stories of how she's coping. A few minutes later, in came the President dressed in a black polo shirt, black slacks, and chinelas. And he exuded the aura of... 'meyor', the same old Rody, the man we knew all this time, and I was awash with relief.

I have to admit that while I watched him from a distance after he was sworn in as President over a year ago, there was this nagging fear that the system that has corrupted so many could also get at him. But at that moment, when he entered and welcomed us, immediately granting the photo request asked of him by Chingkay, I realized my fear was unfounded. "Thank you very much for granting my request, Mayor," I said after the photos and the greetings.

"Of course," he said, "we are friends." I wanted to melt at that moment and just say, "Aaaaawwwwww."

We mingled on for an hour. He was waiting for his helicopter to bring him to the airport so he can report early for work the following day, it being the National Heroes Day. He went on in that rambling talk we had several times through all those years when I'd schedule a one-on-one interview with him and my request for a few minutes would drag on for an hour or two.

In that one hour, he was the 'meyor', unhurried and in his elements, with a good grasp of the things happening around him, and the courage of a man who is confident that he can call out the giant media outfits that have been at him since Day One because there is nothing that can be exposed about him that hasn't been exposed already. That was him in the living room of his green house, all right. No one else but Digong, and I'm glad. The country is indeed in good hands.

*****

saestremera@gmail.com
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