Kin explains Duterte’s flip-flopping on “poor guy, rich guy claim”: Talking about one’s wealth considered taboo and crass among Cebuanos!

After Duterte’s latest statement that he received P3-million inheritance, contradicting earlier claim that he was poor man, critics wasted no time in attacking him on social media.

When sought for his reaction on PRRD’s P3-million inheritance by reporers, Trillanes couldn’t help but take a swipe at the President with the question below.

[Link here]

Apparently hurt by Trillanes’ jab at President Duterte, Mike Acebedo Lopez, a distant relative of the President Duterte and a Cebuano himself, took to Facebook writing a long post explaining the President’s flip-flopping regarding his wealth.

The critics of the President are now fussing about supposed inconsistencies in his previous statements claiming he grew up poor and his current pronouncement that he actually inherited some money from his father who was former Davao governor and cabinet secretary.

Let me expand my comment thread with RG San Luis here so you may understand two basic issues.

First of all, before the Duterte family (the President’s line) settled in Davao, they were in Maasin, Southern Leyte. Before that they were in Danao, Cebu. But before a line of the family settled in Danao and other lines in different parts of Cebu (like Western Cebu and even Carcar, I believe), the Dutertes were originally from Cebu City and were one of Cebu City’s oldest, wealthiest families, according to historical records.

(And no, the President is not related to Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale and former Cabinet Secretary Rene Alemendras as some claim. The Almendrases are related to the Durano/patriarch side of the Durano clan; the one who’s a Duterte is the family matriarch, Beatriz Duterte, who married the patriarch and Danao kingpin Ramon Durano.)

Now I am not the expert on Duterte family history but I am very conversant on the matter because my grandmother herself was a Duterte. And since I am my generation’s keeper of family documents, secrets, and mementos, these are things I know.

The Duterte family is among the oldest families of Cebu City, originally classified as ME (Mestizo Español) during the old gremio system. And they are included in the expanded list of residents of the Old Parian put together by esteemed American historian Michael Cullinane who is an expert on Cebu history.

The family is not part of the original list covering 28 families (which also included my grandmother’s Del Mar family, as well as the Sansons, Regises, Singsons, etc.) detailed in the book, Life in the Old Parian, but the Dutertes are definitely among the first 50, after transferring from the old Spanish quarters of the cuidad, as updated by Cullinane and as seen in the same book.

And what is the Old Parian if not the first genteel district of Cebu, located in the northernmost tip of Colon, the country’s oldest street. And since Cebu is both the oldest city and province in the Philippines, Cebu’s Parian was arguably the oldest enclave of the elite in the country. And the Duterte family was part of that. Elite but not oligarchic, there is a huge difference of course.

My Duterte great-grandmother and our other forebears are even buried in the crypt beside the main altar of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the country’s oldest church. They would not have been laid to rest there if the Dutertes did not occupy important positions in old Cebu society.

Furthermore, and I believe it’s worth noting here, that the original Duterte matriarch of the President’s line and our line was Doña Dionisia Francisca Duterte who bore children by Don Maximo Veloso who belonged to the Veloso clan, the wealthiest family in Cebu throughout the 19th century. (Please distinguish the Veloso and Chiong Veloso clans, as both are distinct from each other, and it’s a common mistake to think they are one and the same, although the Chiong Velosos were also the wealthiest family in Cebu at some point).

For some reason, her children carried her Duterte surname and not Maximo Veloso’s. If they didn’t, the President would’ve been called President Rodrigo Roa Veloso. At any rate, the Duterte and Veloso families were both prominent and came from money.

Now, about the President’s “self-rated poverty.” You must understand that modesty and simplicity are traditionally prized Cebuano traits, something the President might get from family culture or remember from genetic memory, or both, being an ethnic Cebuano.

I’m talking about pre-Maria Luisa Cebu, okay. The wealthiest Cebuanos lived in beautiful but practical homes, and they shunned like the plague ostentatious displays of wealth, so unlike the Ilonggos who built mansions they would soon not be able to sustain.

Cebuanos are industrious and modest and even talking about one’s wealth was considered taboo and crass back in the day (even until now). And this is perhaps why Cebu stands out as a thriving metropolis despite not having fertile soil, always seemingly immune to the changing political tides that slow the rest of the country down.

When the Villalon Mansion was finished sometime after the turn of the century, it raised brows among Cebu’s original elite from the Parian District. The beautiful white mansion (it’s still there, by the way) sitting atop the hill behind what is now the Cebu Provincial Capitol attracted too much attention, was seen as immodest, and was too much for the Cebuano taste. And this was coming from Cebu’s oldest, wealthiest families. That was simply not the culture.

So it comes as no surprise now that a President with Cebuano roots, who is actually very typically Cebuano (especially in his outlandish humor and sarcasm), would also downplay his wealth or his family’s provenance. And so he lives simply and modestly. That is culture more than anything else.

This modest life is what makes him a man of the people, someone who knows what they go through, despite his illustrious roots.

***
If you want to read more about the Duterte family history before Davao, here’s an Inquirer article about the family from last year. That woman in the foreground is my grandmother, Caridad Duterte Del Mar-Lopez. Taken in 1962, she is beside her husband’s cousin Imelda Romualdez Marcos who was still the senate president’s wife at the time.

As of this writing, Lopezes Facebook post has gathered 338 shares, 1,459 reactions and 43 comments.

Blaire Ejercito commented: “This is the first time that Manila people got to know a Bisaya , culture and all. Because this is the only Bisaya president that really acts like one. As far as my knowledge is concern.”

Meanwhile, Myles Arches Alonzo remarked: “Hay sinong inuto mo!’n isang daang salita nang mga Dutertards mahirap paniwala-an kung ako sa iyo doon ka magpaliwanag 16 m niyong Dutertards not us!!!”

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