The Durian and Duterte


‘Pisting yawa’


Davao City is famous for two things: Durian and Rodrigo Duterte

Thorny and dangerous-looking, offensive, with a presence at times intolerable, sometimes even banned from some establishments, the image of the mayor of Davao is an acquired taste at best, and a divisive topic that illicits both passionate support and utter revulsion on the dinner table (walkouts are not uncommon). His sulphuric presence has been made even more prominent now that the Presidency seems ripe for his taking.

And yet those who love durian call it the King of Fruits, attributing to it the taste of custard and heaven, worshiping even its characteristically foul odour. It is touted as a remedy for arthritis, an aphrodisiac, even a cure for low platelet count and dengue. Whenever asked why I’m intelligent (apparently I am) my mom answers that she ate lots of durian while she was pregnant with me. It is as miraculous as the mayor of the city where it is grown most, a mayor who drops from the tree on the head of criminals and wipe out crime in half a year.

I’ve abhorred durian since my father force-fed the stuff to me when I was young. But only when Rodrigo Duterte ran for president did I see why so many people found my dislike for my city’s emblematic fruit sacrilegious. Finally, this was what it felt like to be ardently for something that others find utterly unacceptable and still be so sure of my own convictions that the stuff I like is good stuff. The amazing qualities of the thing you like are highlighted by its sheer contrast with its flaws, and it is frustrating when someone dismisses it simply because their experience with it is limited. ‘Eew, mabaho si Duterte. How barbaric.’

But I also learned that I did not hate durian because of its putrid smell or its demonic appearance. I might have even grown to like the stuff. But the sheer obnoxiousness of my father and brother, who at best mocked me by threatening to spread the stuff on my face and who at worst forced me to eat it against my tears – it was enough for me to see the hellish side of the divide more than any good the stuff could have had.

Duterte may be the president of the Federalists and the subaltern Mindawons and the Environmentalists, but he has become more overwhelmingly the president of the foul-mouthed Twitter mobs wishing gang rape and child murder on critics and opponents. Durian was not the medicinal king of fruits that tasted like custard heaven to me, it was Satan’s thorny testicle, receptacle of his rotting shit-cum with onions that my bully of a brother smeared on my cheek and that my father stuffed down my unwilling throat. In later years it became the fruit that embodied the rottenness of promdi backwardness, the bad breath of the bigoted old man in the bilyaran or the burp of the fat old elementary teacher with bad grammar who told me I was not being a proper Kidapaweño (they grow Durian in Kidapawan a lot too) because I did not eat their shit.

Durian did not deserve this image.

Now Digong is portrayed as a philandering, genocidal hypocrite who condones rape and discrimination against the LGBT and the disabled. No Davao economic miracle. No safest city in the world. No decades of proper law enforcement with smoking and firecracker ban and liquor curfew. To those who didn’t know his track record he now seems like just some little brown demagogue from the uncivilized south. His deceptively unpalatable facade is being reinforced by the hoard of rabid retards following him and calling for gang rapes and muggings and releasing dirty videos and ruining businesses with boycotts, all against Duterte infidels.

Duterte does not deserve this image either.


‘Do I look like durian to you!?’

Had my family known better that one needed patience, gentleness, and respect when trying to introduce an acquired taste to someone hesitant, I probably wouldn’t have come to abhor the durian as religiously as I did. Now that I’m a more sober atheist I can process the trauma calmly, but I suspect the Duterte-haters will take years before they stop seeing him as the anti-Christ.

I am still ardently for Duterte (I’m a Federalist after all), and I do not shun anyone who eats durian anymore. But I distance myself from all Duterte followers who in spite of their genuinely good belief in him go to such intolerable extremes as issuing threats, wishing ill, and hurling insults. I distance myself from these people like I still distance myself from obnoxious durian eaters.

And in the distance I just hope the Duterte followers don’t think of even starting at throwing durian during KathNiel concerts.


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