President Rodrigo Duterte gets an emotional reaction from an Overseas Filipino Worker based in the United Kingdom, after signing his autograph on the sidelines of the Lex Talionis Fraternitas, Inc. (LTFI) National Convention at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City on August 18, 2018. Joining the President is Sec. Bong Go of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.
Photo: PCOO (PCOO).
The cheering crowd that gathered when he visited his fellow Filipinos in Singapore was unprecedented for any Philippine leader. The reception he got from locals in Jakarta was unlike any a Filipino ever received. And the reported release of 160 Filipino "runaways" in Saudi Arabia is one for the books.
The sheer euphoria that fills the homesick compatriots he visits only mirrors the strength of their turnout last May. For the the first time, Overseas Filipino Workers came out in large numbers to vote for a man many of them believed would rid their home country of the ills that forced them to seek the proverbial greener pastures.
We can easily understand where this optimism comes from. In the years that have gone away from their families to be employed overseas, they have often sat helpless, watching their home country with frustration and pity, far from the more sophisticated economies from which their incomes were drawn.
Often, they worry that their children left at home may misuse the precious money they send, or fall victim to the drug gangs that often prey on them.
Now comes a president who echoes their own hopes and desires, who speaks their language and can empathize with them, a leader who they feel can run their home country almost like the foreign countries they work in.
The hope they exude in this President feels real enough for them and the 8 in 10 people at home who feel that the drug menace has finally ebbed in their communities.
Over the last several months, many among them have passionately defended him against the negative international press and the brickbats thrown against him by a belligerent set of oppositors.
Moreover, they express joy that in spite of the political noise, opinion polls in their country reveal a steady trust and satisfaction rate over his 10-month-old regime.
Unlike in past years, they now seem to exude pride in the Philippine tricolor, as they nod in agreement to every kind word that locals and their employers utter about their tough-talking President who has captured the world's imagination.
As they welcome what looks like a third generation of Filipino migrant workers seeking livelihoods their own economy cannot provide, their trust rests with this man who says that the days of such migrant work will eventually end.
To them, this frank and truthful music to their ears, many of them say, is far from the fake platitudes they would often get from past leaders extolling them as "new heroes" yet allowing them to be milked dry by their unscrupulous underlings at their airports of entry and exit.
Understandable all this enthusiasm is, since many feel that working abroad is no cup of tea to begin with, and that if given the chance, they would rather live and work back at home.
This president bears that same hope.