Dear Isabelle Duterte, You Can Do Better Than That

First, I would like to greet you, Ms. Isabelle, a happy birthday. You are now 18 years old. Such an exciting age in an exciting time like this. You are so blessed to be surrounded by people who seem to adore you so much that they are willing to give you whatever your heart desires. I have observed from afar how grand your debut has been — from the photoshoots to the actual celebration. Everything has been magical for you, I could say. I would like to be happy for you because I know how ecstatic you were with a party that one could only dream of.

However, a big part of me wishes that you would have a change of heart about your priorities.

Carrying your grandfather’s surname is an extremely rare privilege. You hold great power in your hands. You can say whatever you want, and people could only wish they could talk to you about how inappropriate your actions become.

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It’s a privilege that you are a Duterte. But, with that magnitude of privilege comes a great deal of responsibility. Being popular and influential, you can actually lead a social movement towards the betterment of the country if you ask for it. People will listen to you because you are in the position. But when you speak, be mindful of your words. People listen and they want to hear something beneficial that will come from you. APAC New APAC New Zealand

We are neither sad nor mad just because you had a royal debut. That’s nonsense jealousy. We are angered because you are living beyond the means of a government official. How can a provincial vice mayor afford such great party? Let’s say your family saved for it. But it’s still not sufficient an explanation. As part of a family whose livelihood depends on serving the people , it actually betrays the principle of living in modesty. A principle that is lawfully required of your family.

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You are the irony of your grandfather, to be honest. President Duterte, as I would like to believe it, won the presidency because of his undeniable mass appeal. He was the exact opposite of previous administrations that were so elitist they have already become alienating. President Duterte was a breath of fresh air for the masses. He was somebody attainable; somebody the people could rely to.

But times have changed and the change he promised is yet to be felt.

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You are one of the ironies of his mass-oriented aspirations when he first declared his ambition, Ms. Isabelle. If he still is the humble president the people have elected, he would not have allowed you to spend so much for a birthday celebration.

Just recently, news broke about a student from Cagayan State University named Rodolfo Urmanita who committed suicide because of mental health issues. You know what triggered him to commit suicide? He could not afford to pay his matriculation fees. He could not enrol. For a state university, the fee ranges between 3,000 to 5,000 pesos at the very least. It saddens me that a student has to end his dreams because of an amount that is too low compared to what you have spent in your debut.

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Unfortunately, the case of Urmanita is not isolated. There was Rosanna Sanfuego of the same university, and Kristel Tejada who both committed suicide for the same reason. I know, people might think what’s the connection of your birthday celebration to the case of these students.

Countless connections, if I may assert. I am just saying that the Filipino people are suffering and you are part of a political family that is supposedly serving the interests of the people. See the connection? You could have empathized with the people, to say the least.

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I met 10 year olds in Isabela who are helping their families till the land they do not own so that they could have something to eat. Unfortunately, drought destroyed everything for them and these farmers do not even have rice to cook. What an irony! Farmers do not own their lands.

Farmers who plant rice but do not even have rice to feed their families. One young girl from that place even said that the best food she has ever tasted is rat. That’s the most abundant food they could easily catch when the going gets tough in the farmlands. That girl has not even tasted something better than a rat. Nothing wrong with that, but atleast you could picture out the extent of poverty in the country.

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You distributed Hermes prizes on your party. The amount spent for those luxury items could have sustained some people’s lifetime, in one way or the other. It could even feed hundreds of families who are perenially starving, or devastated by natural calamities.

The Filipino people are in a desperate situation right now, Ms. Isabelle. Impoverished people getting poorer. People killing each other just to survive. People who are not sure if they can live another day given the lack of basic social services to support them. Families getting separated because of the bloody war on drugs. Indigenous peoples being displaced from their lands.

We have too many problems, Ms. Isabelle, that needs attention. A little empathy will surely go a long way.

We are a poor nation, Ms. Isabelle. We are so poor that poverty already desensitized us. We work so hard but only the rich becomes richer. The poor? They become poorer. I hope you realize where the backlash about your debut is coming from. It comes from the cries of the marginalized, and from the hopelessness of the displaced.

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You seem like a nice young woman, Ms. Isabelle. I hope you start changing your priorities and learn to live with and for the masses. Don’t be an airheaded rich brat who are so detached from the realities of everyday life, and constant sufferings of the people.

With your power and influence, you can do better than this. You could project yourself into being a role model; a hope for the youth. You can be the voice of the voiceless. I hope it’s not yet too late. I surely hope the flickering lights of fame and fortune has not blinded you yet.

Lastly, Ms. Isabelle, I hope you have watched the movie Frozen. It’s one of my favorite movies. Prince Hans said something relatable to Elsa.

Don’t be the monster they fear you are. I hope you can contemplate on that.

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Crazy about popular culture, pre-colonial, and Spanish-era studies. Fan of Christina Aguilera and Katrina Halili.