Author: charisseadair

Law/Media and Communication Studies Student. Dog-Enthusiast. Pad Thai Lover.

‘Duterte Harry’: An Analysis of Epiphanies

Upon embarkation of analysing the propaganda of the Duterte administration in my previous autoethnographical post, I have been immediately taken back to many conversations and realisations of how his election campaign and presidency have affected me personally within my own social and cultural framework.

Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview’ describes autoethnography as ‘an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Thus, in order to assist insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) in understanding the political culture of the Philippines, I must analyse my own experiences (epiphanies) and consider the way others may experience similar epiphanies.

One of my most impactful moments trying to understand the excitement around President Duterte was on a deserted island in the Philippines at 3am after an 18th birthday debut. We had just swum to shore from accidentally hijacking a sailboat, and may or may not have had a little mix of tequila, Tanduay, and San Miguel beer (sorry mum). With this liquid courage, I was able to instigate a political discourse with young Filipinos that I would not normally feel comfortable talking about due to potential differences in ideology stemming from geographical upbringing and education. From what I had already witnessed in glimpses in international media, I pondered how a person in such a position of power could speak so casually with profanities, unapologetic rape jokes, and profess themself as a mass murderer, whilst still maintaining such strong public support. Surprisingly, some of these students agreed with my distaste of the President’s language, indicating that they preferred the representative of their country in the global sphere to possess eloquence and higher respect. The majority, however, saw him as the embodiment of the unfiltered, anti-corruption ideals that many of the marginalised did not have the voice to express themselves.

‘He backed the extra-judicial killings of drug dealers, alleged that journalists were killed because they were corrupt and called Philippines bishops critical of him “sons of whores”, among other crude comments’ (Desker, 2016).

Historically, with the country’s struggles of presidential corruption (Ferdinand Marcos, Ninoy Aquino, Jejomar Binay, etc.), celebrity (Joseph Estrada and Manny Pacquiao) and nepotism (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), it can be argued that Duterte’s attitude of populism (that is, the support for the concerns of the ordinary people) secured him as a front-running candidate in the election.

Sociologist, Nicole Curato, and editor of ‘A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency’ describes this portrayal as ‘Dutertismo’ – ‘a brand of leadership that [scholars agree] has elements that the country has never seen before’. Howie Severino discusses this further by appreciating Duterte’s role as an ‘underdog outsider’, and I think this perfectly reflects the thoughts of the young Filipinos I spoke with around the beach bonfire. For them and the majority of the country (as indicated by the 2016 election being the highest electoral turnout in decades at 81.62% and Duterte’s overwhelmingly high Trust rate of 91%), the President represents an appeal to the people, to the provinces, and to the anti-elite. Duterte speaks like the people in a ‘gutter language [that] lends credibility to the urgency of saving the republic. By rendering the visceral rejection of the status quo visible, he gives voice to the people’s frustration’ (Curato, 2016). Further, his determination to speak in English, his roots in the South (Visayan), and refusal to live in the Presidential Malacañang Palace heightens his position in populism, demonstrating a dismissal of the traditional, Manila-political-elite lifestyle associated with past corruption.

It cannot be denied that Duterte has changed the nature of public political discussion. I have in my research realised – why is it that this particular presidency has caused so much international debate and uproar amongst citizens and foreigners? Curato in ‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, attributes Duterte’s success in contemporary populism to ‘an age of communicative abundance’ with ‘a reality that politics today is predominantly conducted in televised and digital media’ and in a time when 94% of Filipinos have access to these platforms.

In turn, this rise of dialogic outlets has made it so ‘the issue is no longer the lack of information but the deficit of attention among audiences saturated with various messages’ (Curato, 2016). Thus, for Duterte, the media has become his stage, and his theatrical performance has been dubbed the #DuterteSerye. Due to this communicative abundance, I have found through my personal interactions, that there is an obvious tension in his supporters between justifying his policies as necessary measures to ensure strong domestic stability, and straight-up denying the existence of these policies. These students on the beach, normal citizens, were becoming increasingly heated in the conversation of Duterte’s presidency arguing that outsider news outlets were “twisting words” and “did not understand the country we live in”. And honestly, sometimes this discussion scares me. I have read examples of online thuggery where people have received death threats for expressing their concerns with Duterte’s administration. This discourse has driven normal, everyday people to make comments defending rape jokes saying, ‘better a bad joke than a bad government’, or ignoring the statistics of record-high murder rates in favour of believing claims of safer streets.

This discussion of President Duterte’s political propaganda and context has always been a heavy topic, with scholars only now really emerging to publish strong expressions of discontent and critique. And as much as I would love to continue this post’s analysis of Duterte’s power, I will save myself for my next post.


Severino, H (2017), ‘Scholars weigh in on a disruptive presidency’, GMA News Online Available at:

Curato. N (2016) ‘‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Volume 47, Issue 1). Available at:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at:

Desker, B. (2016). President Duterte: A Different Philippine Leader. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 145). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at:

Heydarian, R. J. (2016). What Duterte Portends for Philippine Foreign Policy. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 123). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at:



Dirty DU30?: Analysing Presidential Propaganda

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, is undisputedly one of the most controversial political leaders in the modern world. Although attaining heavy criticism from multiple other world leaders, especially relating to his stance on “the war on drugs”, why is it that he is still preserving such strong public acceptance from his people within the country and those abroad?

I have found it very hard to begin writing this post, struggling to find my standpoint on the issue of whether or not President “DU30” Duterte is the right candidate to lead a third-world country in our contemporary world. I find it a very heavy topic to write about for a number of reasons:

  1. With my mother being Filipino, and my father being Irish, although I have grown up in the Philippines for months at a time every other year, I feel like maybe I may not be sufficiently immersed in the culture to form a concrete political opinion on the matter, considering the social and cultural climate. This realisation has been quite morally problematic for me, considering that as a dual citizen, I was required to vote in the Presidential campaign of 2016.
  2. I have the political consciousness of your average University student in the Australian political climate. And one that is very much below average in the Filipino political climate.
  3. Although not well-versed in Filipino politics, I can have very strong opinions on what needs to be changed in the society to cater for those not in positions of privilege. These opinions have been formed from witnessing first-hand the endurance of the lower class.
  4. I fear the opinions I create may not rest well with those who do not completely understand the nature of Filipino society. Inversely, I fear that some opinions may offend Filipino citizens, and be dismissive of their political conscience.

So, with the knowledge that I do have as a dual citizen of the Philippines, I will explore digital sources of Duterte’s political propaganda and attempt to decipher how it affects me, and how it would possibly affect the people of the Philippines.

I will define ‘propaganda’ as ‘information intended to persuade or convince people’ (as per the Oxford University Press Dictionary, 2nd edition), and I will be looking mainly towards his speech videos or podcasts.

Duterte was inaugurated as the 16th Presidente ng Pilipinas on 30 June 2016 at the age of 71, making him the oldest person ever elected into Presidency. He received a trust rating of 91%, the highest rating since former President Marcos’ dictatorship. The former Mayor of Davao promised policies of poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, the reclamation of territory, greater transport and infrastructure, and a strong anti-drug campaign.

My mother is a strong advocate for Duterte, to the point where if we ever see a photo of him, we jestingly exclaim, “mum, look it’s your boyfriend!”. Last year, whilst staying in the Philippines for three months, my mother would regularly read or watch news of President Duterte on her phone, so when she ran out of mobile internet data towards the end, I was beyond relieved. Until she decided to invest in a radio. So, I am not foreign to the support behind President Duterte, but endeavour to look deeper into the reasons why this is so.

The first source I looked to analyse was President Duterte’s Inaugural Speech of June 29 2016.

One of the first things I notice about this speech is the almost entire use of English throughout the whole speech. Of course, this is beneficial to me, as although I can understand Tagalog and Bisaya, I can grasp a deeper understanding of the speech’s content through English. This makes me wonder, however, how big the language barrier may be for the people of the Philippines, because even though English is very well understood by most, they frequently use the term “nosebleed” to describe a lack of comprehension when English is used above a conversational tone.

I think what Duterte does well here is address the need to overcome corruption “in the high and low echelons of government”, and how the erosion of faith and trust in government, the judicial system, and public servants is a problem that needs to be confronted. The Philippines has historically been a nation of heavy official corruption, as the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2016 identifies the country as ranking 101 of 176 countries measured from ‘very clean’ to ‘highly corrupt’ with number 176 being the most corrupt. Duterte also uses a lot of emotive language to humanise policy considerations, and appears very grounded by reflecting on all classes of people in society; rich and poor.

I admire Duterte’s career accomplishments, but as a law student I am not sure if I agree with his notion for those to mind their own work and he will mind his own. He advocates for transparency in government, but how can accountability exist if critical thought is not encouraged? Further, he emphasises his adherence to due process and the rule of law as uncompromising, and I will definitely focus on these elements of jurisprudence when analysing more political propaganda of his administration.

Another thing that I noticed was Duterte’s almost utilitarian, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, Aristotle’s natural law approach to government, saying that love of country and the subordination of personal interests is important to ensure the common good. From what I have heard of the anti-drug campaign in the international sphere, this statement could be the backbone underlying his battle in the war on drugs.

I look forward to analysing more of President Duterte’s political texts, gaining further knowledge of the operations of the Filipino government, understanding the level of domestic and international support for his administration, and developing my political conscience of a country that has played a huge role in my upbringing.

Auto|Ethno|Graphy: Me|Myself|(and) I

Being accelerated in English in high school, it was constantly drilled into me to critically reflect on material without divulging too much into my own personal, cultural and social persona; that is, without using the terms ‘me’, ‘myself’, and ‘I’. And now to be studying a subject that encourages self-reflexivity through autoethnography, I was initially feeling overwhelmed to go against everything I had been taught in school.

Autoethnography, according to Ellis et al, is a non-traditional approach to research and writing that ‘seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Essentially, it is to consciously regard your personal and social experiences in order to create a deeper cultural understanding. This creates more meaningful research and production, and as Ellis et al notes, ‘acknowledges subjectivity and emotionality’.

It is arguable that most people already use their own narratives to find familiarities in texts, with their subconscious conducting methods of autoethnography. For example, when watching Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 Japanese anime, Akira, this week, I often found myself looking to the cultural dynamics of the girls in the film; namely, their depiction, treatment, and relationships. From my own social and personal understanding and values, I felt like these young girls were in deeply toxic environments and this portrayal went unquestioned within the film’s universe. I was then able to reflect on and critique aspects of this treatment in our modern society. By making these connections and analysing them, we are able to further question the subject matter that we consume and create.



This hybridity of autobiography and ethnography further breaks the limitations of traditional research as a method of overcoming adversity and giving a voice to the experiences of those who may not usually share a mainstream research platform. This is because by opening up our research pools, we are able to draw in multiple insights; a multitude of researchers, values, beliefs, experiences, traditions and backgrounds.

All autoethnographic research, however, stems from personal epiphanies. Analysing these epiphanies brings the researcher closer to creating content for others so they may experience similar epiphanies. For example, one of my own personal epiphanies flourished when I was seventeen years old. Being half-Filipina, half-Irish, I struggled all my life to find a culture to completely fit into, with elements of both cultures not being completely accepting of mixed-race individuals. During one of my trips to the Philippines I met other half-Filipino people and watched the content that they created on social media, and this encouraged my own self-acceptance and desire to create a platform that embraced the intersectionality of both Western and Asian cultures; thus creating my Youtube channel, Tagalog Tuesdays.

I look forward to delving deeper into this new research approach, and treating the narcissist in me, whilst also finding the capability to allow others to consider their own experiences.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, <>.

Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self ReflexiveAuto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3. <>.

Up Your Game: Professional Gaming (And Me)

As a technologically-inept girl, I never thought I would feel such intrigue, fascination and heartache following the world of professional gaming and E-Sports. In fact, the whole concept of stadium video-gaming was so foreign to me, as my gaming ability extends only so far as the virtual realms of the Sims, Neopets, and the exhilaratingly wild universe of Shrek 2 on Playstation (severely underrated).

My perception of the professional gaming industry quickly widened after watching filmmaker Steven Dhoedt’s 2013 documentary, State of Play, which followed the lives of three Starcraft players engaging in their ambition to live as expert gamers in South Korea.

The documentary itself did not have much information on the actual technicalities of the game, which made it easier for myself to follow and enjoy whilst also setting up the premise that the focus of the story is not so much on the strategies of the video game, but the social and cultural dynamics surrounding the world of E-Sports.

Being a young Eurasian girl, the themes of sacrifice, age, family, gender and tradition resonated greatly with me, and I can honestly say I did not think I would find any level of relatability in a documentary such as this.

Coming from a Filipina-Irish background with much older parents, and a heavily Catholic mother, I can strongly understand the familial significance placed on religion and tradition. The documentary explored the duties the players felt they owed to their roots and signified the cost of ambition in the digital 21st Century and how this can clash with the paradigms of older generations.

One of the things that surprised me was how much this film spoke volumes on masculinity and femininity issues in South Korea, and I really enjoyed how Dhoedt explored this. With my family being made up largely by strong-minded women and almost all Filipino families being headed by a matriarch, I think the demonstration of Asian gender roles was stereotypical of women carrying the emotional labour (the young, emotional fangirls in the stadium) and the men having trouble engaging with emotion in public settings. There was, however, this strong bond within the team of players where they displayed a good sense of platonic physical affection, noticeable in a lot of team sports, and I thought this was interestingly similar to a lot of Western sports as well; possibly noting that team sports are a universal outlet men use to explore affection and vulnerability, although I am not familiar enough to make that assumption.

giphy (1)

I have found it particularly interesting to apply self-reflexivity in this context, and did not think I would actually find any resonation by comparing and contrasting my own life with those of a discipline such as professional Starcraft gaming. Overall, I look forward to exploring domains outside my usual interests, but also, at the risk of sounding like a meme, I would love to see Shrek 2 in the sphere of professional gaming if it does not yet exist.



Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, <>.

Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self ReflexiveAuto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3. <>.