THIS week, I struck a conversation with the vendor who regularly comes around our neighborhood in the morning on his sidecar with fresh fish. I asked him how he was doing with this kind of work.
Things have changed, he said. He used to sell balut along Roxas Night Market, but this stopped when the curfew and quarantine started in March. "Buhi-buhi lang gyud ta ani (We have to survive this)," he said. But until when, I asked.
"Daghan man gyud gahig ulo ba (There's many people who are hard-headed)." Then a brief pause. Then he said, "Kung dili si Duterte ang president karon, ambot unsa na ta (If Duterte is not the president, I don't know how worse will we be)."
From telling his life story, he now tells his view. But I gave him my response, "Tan-awa ra gyud unsa na may ginahimo sa mga tawo niya? (Why don't you look at what his people are doing)?" His reply was a little nod as he laughed gently. Bitaw (actually), he said. Back to reality, he had to go ahead to finish his round.
I half expected that ending, but I also remember what a sociology professor from UP Mindanao said, that we project ourselves on what we think Duterte is.
And I reminded myself this is the city where Duterte established his role, his style of leadership, his name. You can't change the constituents' mind about that overnight. People still want to find hope and solutions to this pandemic.
But that's the problem between a vendor who has hope on the presidency, while a vendor in Manila gets arrested, beaten up or harassed by police for the slightest infraction.
Perhaps latest SWS mobile survey conducted in early May gives a bit of concrete opinion of the public. Nine out of ten are stressed by the pandemic. Eight of ten persons are affected by the shutdown of businesses and stores. 83 percent of respondents feel things got worse, and 43 percent feel the worse is still to come. And 3 out of 4 people believe ABS-CBN shouldn't be shutdown.
And what does Duterte say of these things as he is heading to his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) this Monday?
My previous column pointed out that he likes to project against enemies. He flicks words to fuel the imagination of fanatics. But this time, the pandemic is an enemy he can't seem to beat, and can't either draw the support and mechanisms to do so.
Prior to the SONA, we have seen the projection of the president in his weekly late-night reports of the pandemic turning into rants against the Left and opposition, while back-slapping a "hurt" health secretary.
Is this the leader we want to take the stage to tell us the state of the nation where Filipinos are trudging in hardship brought by the pandemic, with the toll of hard lockdown, harassment, hand me down cash?
There's a common feeling among us that we seem to be left on our own to fight and survive. Whether we are tuning out or he is out of tune, we see the need to project our own politics to live another day.