PUBLISHER’S NOTES | The younger Rodrigo Duterte (an excerpt from my e-book “I WALKED WITH PRESIDENTS”, which continues to be to be printed)


I attended the Holy Cross of Digos, Boys Dept. sometime in 1961 or 1962. studied when I first saw and met Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte. His father, Vicente Duterte, was then the sole governor of the undivided province of Davao (today consisting of Davao City, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro and the newly created Davao Occidental).

One morning I spotted Governor Duterte’s vehicle entering the Holy Cross campus. He got out with a boy who apparently wasn’t ready to leave the vehicle. I later learned that he was studying at Ateneo de Davao in the city and that his father, affectionately known as “Governor Tete”, wanted to bring him under the care of the Canadian Sacred Heart Brothers, since the mayor of Digos at the time was Nonito “Noning” Llanos Sr. was., the relative of the Dutertes, who both came from the city of Sibonga in Cebu in the Visayas. They emigrated to Mindanao and settled in Davao, which was then known as the “Land of Promises”. (Today I hear many say under a President named Rodrigo Duterte that Mindanao can now be called the “Land of Fulfillment”.)

EXPELLED? – I was later informed that young Rody was actually “evicted” from Ateneo in Davao City. The news spread in muffled tones that he had been expelled after he had squirted his fountain pen ink into the “soutana” of a Jesuit priest. But I had no way of verifying whether this rumor was true or not. Your guess is as good as mine!

NANAY SOLING – His mother, SOLEDAD ROA DUTERTE, whom we affectionately called “Nanay Soling”, was a caring and loving mother with a mestizo appearance, but also strict and disciplined towards her family. I remember the story early on in which Rody was quoted as being “no stranger” to Jesus Christ because his Nanay Soling occasionally punished him by kneeling him with a crucifix right in front of the wall. He must have spent hours confronting Jesus Christ, hence his alleged “familiarity” with the crucified Christ.

Nanay Soling was known for her active civic engagement in civil society and in church groups.

BEDROOM – Young Rody lived in a small house at the back of the Brothers House where cook “Manong” Floro lived. I was a “working student” and a band member, so I was a “free boarder”. Rody shared a room as a “bed spacer” with co-boarder Ferdinand “Tikboy” Centeno, son of a well-known doctor in the nearby neighboring town of Bansalan, also known as “Miral”.

SECRET, PLS – I remember Rody once told us from his fellow boarding schools to be careful with Manong Floro, the brothers’ cook. He told how he woke up one night with Manong Floro, who was already lying next to him in bed under his mosquito net, and “massaged” him. “Bayot diay sya,” he whispered. (“He’s gay!”) Ssssshh!

YOUNG ADVENTURE – Tikboy, his roommate and also an “exile” from Ateneo had some good memories. During rest and boring times, Rody asked him to start a fistfight with some local boys, with some bets on the sides. The first to get a bucol or bruise lost the bet. Rody would raise the money and Tikboy had to suffer the “bucols”. Lol!

Rody later moved to a guesthouse on Hauptstrasse on the second floor of the Digos Theater, where he always sat at the ledge at night and watched passers-by below. Eventually he moved into the home of Mayor Llanos, a strict, matter-of-fact disciplinarian and relative of the Dutertes.

GUN LOVER – He loved guns from a young age. I always remember him with a .38 revolver on his waist or in a paper bag called “Supot” that he carried casually as if the “Supot” contained “Pan de Sal”.

STUDENT PILOT – I can’t forget that one episode among many memorable about him. Rody would sometimes travel back to town on weekends. He took flying lessons at Davao Airport to learn how to fly small airplanes, then known as the Piper Cubs, single-engine Cessnas.


One Saturday while practicing with the school band on the school grounds (playing the trumpet), I spotted a low-flying little plane making a couple of passes overhead. I knew he was flying alone. When Monday came, he asked me to accompany him to the school canteen. The canteen girl was a chubby and pretty girl named “Pilang”. Rody was always playful with her. When she saw us approach, she stepped back from the counter and knew that Rody would always playfully reach for her chest when he handed her the 10 centavo payment for a bottle of Coke. When Rody saw her trying to stay away from the canteen counter, she said:

“Inday Pilang, did you see the plane on Saturday? It’s me! “(” My dear Pilang, did you see the plane last Saturday? It was me. “)

SOME: “Hey is that you?” (Wow that was you?)

RODY: Basta timan-e ni ha. Pag dili ko nimo sugton karon, e crash ko ang eroplano diri sa canteen para uban tang duha adto sa langit. “(” Remember, if you don’t say ‘yes’ to me now, I’ll crash the plane in the canteen so we can both get to heaven together. “) Hahaha! That was how playful he was. I knew he had no serious intentions with “Pilang”, but that’s how he was with “Gurls in Skirts” – and still is!

In fact, many years later, I was already a Congressman of Davao City and he was Mayor of Davao City when he suddenly said in a quiet conversation:

“Where is Pilang now? Let’s be honest, her other breasts are bigger, because I can always achieve that!” (“Where is Pilang now? I bet one of her” breasts “is bigger than the other because I have this one could always reach these times. “)

He never stopped amusing and surprising everyone!

“FRIENDS FOREVER” – I remember he was in the next upper class, but he was my classmate in a subject after leaving Ateneo. He had a “background subject” that he had to take in order to graduate. He was a year ahead of us. He was just an ordinary guy to us while he was in Digos. (He even ate with his bare hands minus the usual spoon.) Although many of us “Probinsyanos” were hesitant to familiarize themselves with him as the governor’s son, he tried himself to make friends with all of us. In fact, he brought some of his Digos classmates to Davao City later in life and employed them as his closest associates while he was Davao City’s mayor. His natural tendency to trust only those he previously knew and was familiar with continued as the Philippine president.

BAD GUYS – I remember another memorable incident that defined his character as someone who could not tolerate hooliganism by troublemakers and was even willing to take action against the “bad guys” even though he wasn’t directly or in any way affected by them.

Late one evening when he was staying at our boarding house on the Holy Cross grounds, he asked me to accompany him off campus. We climbed the fence when the gates were closed and no one was allowed to leave. We both walked through the coconut field until we reached the main street where we entered a local bar. I saw a group of teenagers drinking beer. I couldn’t forget that: Rody suddenly approached someone who was sitting at the bar stool and hit him without warning and said:

“Putang ina, ayaw sige ug samok ha!” (“Son of a bitch! Stop causing trouble!”) The guy fell off his chair when he slapped his face. His gang members were also surprised. Rody and I hurried outside and made our way back safely into the school grounds. I was surprised what just happened. When I asked him what it was about, all he said was that the guy who was the leader of the gang who was causing trouble outside. During this time we had heard “gang wars” outside in the Poblacion area, even though we were not involved or affected at all. But he intervened personally and took a personal hand to confront those who were causing trouble.

I suspected he was like that and yes it always will be!

By the way, I have a few more anecdotes about him, mostly “naughty” ones, but I’ll keep them for another day so I can’t lose him as a friend – unless he gives me permission, of course! And when he does, it will surely cover another whole book! And it costs everyone a fortune to get just one copy! Any early takers?

This is the Rodrigo Duterte that I knew, the same Rodrigo Duterte that everyone knows today!

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