SO MUCH have been said about the extravagant photo shoot of the 17-year old granddaughter (some say she is actually 15 years old as her true birthdate shows) of President Rodrigo Duterte inside the presidential palace for her upcoming 18th birthday and we are not surprised why we can’t help from not joining in the fray. Photos posted on social media show the presidential granddaughter posing inside the Palace in different gowns, including a voluminous, off-shoulder red one by a Dubai-based designer with the presidential seal as backdrop.
Isabelle Lovelie Duterte, whose father is Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte and the President’s elder son, hired the country’s top designers, stylists and make-up artists for the controversial photo shoot that has roused memories of opulent presidential residence during the time of then First Lady Imelda Marcos whose notoriety on fashion taste and extravagant lifestyle have put the word “Imeldific” as a new word in the dictionary. Now, there’s another word upcoming by a much younger lady whose grandfather by the way purports to be the ultimate architect of change and simplicity (that he looks like not wanting to have his clothes pressed or ironed even in state functions).
The Debut (/dɛˈbuː/) for which Isabelle is madly preparing for is ironically a traditional Filipino coming-of-age event that celebrates a young woman’s 18th birthday, the age of maturity in the Philippines.
The latest twist in this unfolding drama is a radio announcer in Davao City getting death threats after she criticized the controversial photo shoot. A text message from CP No. 0946-700-2090 wanted the lady broadcaster to “slow down on her criticisms.” The radio announcer, like the other ordinary mortals, had supposedly compared the pre-debut photo shoot of Isabelle to the lavish lifestyle of the Marcos family.
Like the lady announcer, not a few spoke against the photoshoot as inappropriate and a violation of Executive Order No. 310 issued by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on April 20, 2004 which states clearly that the Coats-of-Arms and Seals of the President and the Vice President are exclusively meant for the use of the President and Vice President of the Philippines and no other officials.
With the photo shoot and the Seal of the President of the Philippines in the background, critics reminded Isabelle that she is not the president and that her upcoming debut is not an official state function. A reader from Naga City who is now based in the US but is very much aware of what’s happening here exclaims: “What a vulgar display of wealth and disregard for the law!” A Ms. Agile also shared her own take in the controversy: “If the money [spent for the photo shoot and the gowns] is legit I couldn’t care less. But if it’s stolen, oh well … shades of the Marcoses. Somewhere out there Imee is turning as green as a she-hulk in envy.”
The Straits Times of Singapore in its article on the issue noted that acclaimed novelist and New York Times opinion writer Miguel Syjuco speculated on the costs of the photo shoot: a gown from local designer Rosenthal Tee costs between P25,000 and P200,000, while the one from Dubai-based designer Garimon Roferos could run up to P686,350.
A Twitter user was also quoted to have lamented: “The Dictator’s granddaughter lives a lavish life while the poor can barely survive. Just like the Marcoses, they are detached from reality.”
The same Singapore-based online newspaper further noted that Isabelle is no stranger to controversy, having stirred a hornet’s nest earlier this year when she posted on Instagram photos of herself in expensive, designer garb from Celine and Chanel as her father Paolo was being investigated over P6.4 billion worth of smuggled shabu. But what adds insult to the injury was how the president, who is supposedly known for his no-frills habit described the controversy as “a small matter.” As the president sarcastically blurted: “What’s the fuss? She is part of my family.”
Now, we are tempted to ask once more this oft-repeated question: “Why is the Philippines, and for that matter majority of the Filipinos, so poor?” And the answer is: “Because many of our political leaders are rich, filthy and corruptibly rich, who, without conscience, steal from the poor and mock them in wild abandon by raising taxes or killing their young children in bloody as a red gown anti-drug operations.”