Image above via ivoteduterte.com

We all saw president-elect Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte break down at his parents’ grave a few hours after the partial unofficial election results showed him getting a comfortable lead ahead of the other presidentiables. Everyone was heartbroken, touched, and inspired by the tough-talking mayor, who broke down in tears from what we can infer as getting overwhelmed by the news that he is indeed, rising to be the next president of the Philippines.

“Tabangi ko ma,” he calls to his mother in Cebuano, which means “Help me, mother.”

His baring his softer side proved the relationship he had with his mother, especially since he has been very vocal about him being a mama’s boy.

Asian Dragon - Rody Duterte cries at parents tomb

Photo courtesy of Edith Ging Z. Caduaya via Facebook

But who is this mother we never really got to know about?

Rody Duterte’s mother is Soledad Roa Duterte, fondly called by the Davaoeños Nanay Soleng. She has spent her life as a teacher in Davao City and was constantly involved in various socio-civic projects within the city, alongside his husband and former Governor Vicente Duterte.

One can see where Duterte got his militant and tough nature, as well as his immense love for Davao City and for the country. Nanay Soleng led the Yellow Friday Movement of Davao, which was crucial to the Edsa Revolution’s success. Duterte adds, in a recent interview, that his mother is the proof that he will not be bringing back Martial Law. “Ang nanay ko led the Yellow Friday sa Davao. I will dishonor the memory of my mother, following the persons she helped put down,” he said.

Gabriela’s Luz Ilagan also tells Inquirer how Nanay Soleng was “already a woman activist long before the term was coined.” She was already there at the early years of women organizing in Davao during the Martial Law years.

Some of her most important contributions to Davao City includes the Soledad Duterte Foundation, which conducts livelihood and skills training, organic farming, and responsible agriculture for the indigenous people and the less fortunate. She also inspired the creation of Museo Dabawenyo, which currently houses Davao’s colorful and meaningful history, and was one of the key people who helped push Bagong Buhay, a 36-hectare nature refuge for drug dependents seeking rehabilitation, the elderly, and women in distress.

Nanay Soleng passed away at 95, on February 4, 2012, after being hospitalized for age-related illnesses. A speech delivered by Councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabiling during a tribute held for Nanay Soleng on February 7, 2012 recounts how important she was in the creation of the Davao City that we know today, and how she will remain alive in the hearts of every Davaoeño. An excerpt from the speech reads:

“The Dabawenyos, too, have lost a great woman, who offered her lifetime in the service of the people. Nanay Soleng was not at the center of governance but her contribution to the political, educational, social, religious and cultural life of Davao city is a colorful story of a brave, courageous and tireless woman dedicated to the welfare of the people.

“As the woman behind the family who, for decades, steered the political engine of local governance, Nanay Soleng was the soul and inspiration for good governance and public service. Nanay Soleng was the epitome of a complete woman: makadiyos for her dedication to God, makabayan for fighting a dictatorship and helping Filipinos regain freedom and democracy, makatao for her love of humankind, and makakalikasan for her defense of nature and environment. And yet, this dear woman bade her beloved city goodbye without the honors befit heroes.

“Nanay Soleng came and passed this earth in the manner of every mortal as dictated in Eccleciastes: there is a time to be born. There is a time to die. But in between, she lived a colorful life that made impact on the lives of many. The line in Dust in the wind of the famous band Kansas, moans about the fate of mortals: ‘We are nothing but dust in the wind. Everything is dust in the wind. Nothing lives forever but the earth and sky.’

“Nanay Soleng was another dust in the wind, a dust in this earth who came and passed away. But there is something in her that should live forever, like the earth and the sky. She was different. She was a woman who made an impact on people and society. She was a woman who touched our lives and helped shape our future. She is a dust that should live forever—in the heart, mind and soul of the Dabawenyos.”

Watch the interview with Nanay Soleng from Padayon Dabaw: 70th Araw ng Dabaw Special Coverage as she talks about how we should live and contribute in making our own cities a place we can call a heaven on earth.

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