SONA a report, not a performance. Filipinos remind Joyce Bernal amid her ‘very Pinoy’ vision

July 24, 2020 - 6:40 PM
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Joyce Bernal and Duterte
Bb. Joyce Bernal being interviewed in a video uploaded by PTV-4 on Facebook on July 24, 2020 (left) and President Rodrigo Duterte holding a meeting with the IATF at the Malacañan Palace on March 9, 2020 in this presidential photo by Robinson Niñal Jr (right).

Some Filipinos reminded blockbuster film director Joyce Bernal that a State of the Nation Address is an official report and not “reality television” as she teased that President Rodrigo Duterte‘s fifth address would have a “very Pinoy” flavor.

On Thursday, Bernal, who has been directing the chief executive’s SONA since 2018, told reporters that the address will be simpler in appearance but “complicated” in technical terms given the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parang sumimple siya pero naging complicated siya technically because hindi ko alam kung nalimit ‘yung mga tao dito sa loob pero merong mga remote areas na kailangan kong kunan,” she said.

Bernal added that she has an IT team that would handle the part of the video conference since there is only a limited number of lawmakers allowed to attend. Others will have to stream Duterte’s address from their respective areas.

The director said that the usual parts of the program have been pre-recorded sans the president’s speech.

She also mentioned that this year’s SONA would have a “very Pinoy” taste and reiterated that it’s “for the people.”

“Para sa mga tao naman (ito) so ibang flavor naman. Pinoy na Pinoy. Mas maiintindihan, mas magaan,” Bernal said.

She is known for directing Filipino comedy films mostly shown at the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Bernal was previously denied by the local government units of Banaue in Ifugao and Sagada in the Mountain Province for attempting to shoot video footage in their provinces for the SONA.

Both municipalities cited stringent health protocols in light of the pandemic, wherein arrivals of individuals from the densely populated metro have been attributed to higher cases of COVID-19.

Duterte’s fifth SONA is expected to cover the country’s recovery plan from the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that this includes a “roadmap” by his economic team.

‘Substance’ over ‘flavor’ 

Bernal’s remarks about SONA, meanwhile, earned flak from some Filipinos who reminded the film-television director that they prefer “substance” over “flavor” in terms of the public address.

“Direk wala na po kami pakialam sa flavor na sinasabi mo, importante kasi ang SUSTANSYA ng sasabihin at plano ng Pangulo sa bansa. Kung meron man,” wrote a Twitter user with a series of eyeroll emojis.

“Need we remind you that the SONA is a report on the status of the country, not a theater performance!” commented another online user in response to Bernal’s remarks on “flavor.”

“We don’t need different ‘flavors’ or theatrics! This is an official report, not reality TV. What we need is better leadership, accountability, transparency, and none of his usual bullsh*t,” said another Filipino.

A Twitter user quoted a report on Bernal’s remarks and recalled her team’s attempt to shoot in provinces, the government’s foreign loans amounting to billions in US dollars and the high number of people infected with COVID-19.

Film critic Philbert Dy likewise disagreed with the concept of SONA having directors and said that the information should’ve just been relayed to the public.

“Very cold take: the SONA doesn’t need a director. It doesn’t even really need visuals. We could probably even just do with a transcript. Just give us the information, you drama queens,” he tweeted.

Dy added that the supposed amount for its production budget could’ve been given to “feed” people instead.

Bernal in 2018 revealed that she had directed Duterte’s third SONA for free.

RELATED: How filmmakers like Joyce Bernal contribute to SONA

A SONA is a constitutional obligation and yearly tradition in which chief executives report “on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures,” according to the Official Gazette.

Arjan Aguirre, an instructor at the political science department of the Ateneo de Manila University, said that a SONA is about the president delivering a speech about “the state of the nation during the opening of the sessions of the national legislature.”

“As a political practice, the SONA should be understood as a brief moment where symbolism, pageantry, and grandeur converge with the formalities, rigidities, and scrupulousness of institutions of power. The event is an annual performative display of both excesses of power and its deficiencies — including its suspensions and activations, by a functioning government,” he wrote in 2019.

“The activations that come from a SONA pertains to that moment where a government is set to institutionalize its vision for the country through the declaration of its priority bills,” Aguirre added.