As you look at the portraits, feel that hope

(Speech delivered at the opening of the photo exhibit, “Rody Duterte: Through the years,” at the second floor of the Abreeza Mall in Davao City on June 23, 2016. The exhibit runs until July 6).

Thank you for joining us. We came here to take a rare look at the man whose name has become a household staple yet remains enigmatic, puzzling, and unpredictable. Our curiosity has led us here, hoping that somehow we will find a certain relief from the questions that nag us. Who is Mayor Digong? Who is he really? Has he always been this way? How did he do it?

THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY PHOTOS. Photojournalist Rene B. Lumawag is the lone Dabawenyo photojournalist who has documented the rise of Rodrigo Roa Duterte from OIC Vice Mayor in 1986 to his election as Mayor for seven terms and now as President-elect. MinfsNred photo by KEITH BACONGCO
THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY PHOTOS. Photojournalist Rene B. Lumawag, shortly before the exhibit “Rody Duterte: Through thte years” opened on June 23, 2016 at the second floor of Abreeza Mall in Davao City. Lumawag  is the lone Dabawenyo photojournalist who has documented the rise of Rodrigo Roa Duterte from OIC Vice Mayor in 1986 to his election as Mayor for seven terms and now as President-elect. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

However, among us today are also those who have been with our President Mayor many years back – his friends, colleagues, and beloved. We want to reminisce the good ‘ol days. This event somewhat gives us the right to brag about how well we know Digong. “Kani o!, Halaka uy! Uban man mi ani! Kahinumdum gyud ko ba, kaniadto…” See the picture? Listen to yourself later or to the ones next to you.

Whatever reason you may have for being here, there is one thing that ties up all of them, and that is our loyal love for our President “Mayor” Digong. We are here to be amazed once again at how a Mindanawon, like you and I, has been placed by the Filipino people on the highest position of the land. Our presence here is our way of saying we believe in this man, Digong. We are here to tell the rest of our countrymen that we Filipinos, given the right leadership, can achieve great things if we work together.

Elizabeth Zimmerman, who was married to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte until 2001,  points to the young Sara and Paolo in a family photo taken by photojournalist Rene Lumawag in the 1990s. The family photo is one of 30 photos featured in "Rody Duterte: Through the years" exhibit at the 2nd floor of Abreeza Mall in Davao City.  Ms Zimmerman graced the June 23 oopening of the exhibit that will run until July 6. KEITH BACONGCO
Elizabeth Zimmerman, who was married to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte until 2001, points to the young Sara and Paolo in a family photo taken by photojournalist Rene Lumawag in the 1990s. The family photo is one of 30 photos featured in “Rody Duterte: Through the years” exhibit at the 2nd floor of Abreeza Mall in Davao City. Ms Zimmerman graced the June 23 oopening of the exhibit that will run until July 6. KEITH BACONGCO

Thirty years is a long time and a lot of pictures. But featured here today are the ones that will show us the iron clad fist of the man with a soft and tender heart. We will see the strong leadership that runs in his blood as a Duterte, as well as the servanthood that his Nanay Soling, a teacher, has impressed upon him.

Change is coming! You know what that means? That means hope. As you look at the portraits, feel that hope. Let it burn inside you. Put that hope not just in Digong, not just in yourself, but in God. In God we trust. (Rene B. Lumawag is a self-taught photographer. His first break at photojournalism was in 1985 when Reuters’ photo chief Willie Vicoy sent him on assignment to cover a landslide at the gold rush area in Diwalwal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley (then part of Davao del Norte). His photographs have been published in local, national and international newspapers in the last three decades and he is the lone Dabawenyo photojournalist who has documented Duterte’s rise from OIC Vice Mayor in 1986 to Mayor for seven terms and to President-elect in 2016. Lumawag will join Duterte in Malacanang as head of the Presidential Photographers Division).