Brillante Mendoza on directing SONA: I’ll capture the true Duterte

Mara Cepeda

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Brillante Mendoza on directing SONA: I’ll capture the true Duterte
Internationally-acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza explains why there is a need to 'direct' the first State of the Nation Address of President Duterte

DIREK FOR DUTERTE'S SONA. Award-winning director Brillante Mendoza inspects the Batasang Pambansa plenary hall, where President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his first State of the Nation Address. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Why does the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) need a film director?

World-renowned director Brillante Mendoza and Palace Communications Office (PCO) chief Martin Andanar on Monday, July 18, did an ocular visit at the plenary hall of the Batasang Pambansa, where Duterte is set to deliver his first SONA next Monday, July 25.

Mendoza, who received international acclaim for his films like Kinatay and Thy Womb, accepted Andanar’s offer to direct the President’s SONA pro bono. (READ: Director Brillante Mendoza urges Duterte to ‘change’ Philippines)

Director Brillante Mendoza conducts an ocular visit at Batasang Pambansa for Presidente Rody Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). #SONA2016

Posted by Rappler on Sunday, July 17, 2016

So in terms of mga direction, kasi baka nagtataka ‘yung iba, ‘Bakit may direktor sa SONA?’ Gusto lang natin i-clear ‘yun. Ang gagawin ng director para mas ma-reach natin ‘yung order ng mga shots and just to make sure also na ‘yung gusto nating ma-capture natin kung anong klaseng presidente siya,” Mendoza told reporters after touring the SONA venue.

(People might be wondering, ‘Why is there a director for the SONA?’ I just want to clear that up. I’m here as a director so we can reach the proper order of the shots and just to make sure also that we would be able to capture what kind of president he truly is.)

Pagdating sa SONA, hindi lang siya ‘yung formal na nagsasalita coming from his point of view, but what we want to capture is being able to communicate and connect with the people. And the people would be able to understand him, kung anong gusto niyang mangyari, gusto niyang sabihin,” he added.

(For the SONA, I just don’t want to show the President speaking from his point of view. We also want to capture how he is able to communicate and connect with the people. And the people would be able to understand him, what he wants to achieve, what he wants to say.) 

INSPECTION. Mendoza (right) is joined by PCO chief Martin Andanar (center) and Department of Finance spokesperson Paola Alvarez, daughter of presumptive House Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Bebot Alvarez. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

The filmmaker said he does not plan to hold any sessions with Duterte prior to the SONA so he can “capture ‘yung spontaneity.” 

Walang session. Dapat ‘di nire-rehearse dahil ‘di naman ganun ang president. Ika-capture talaga ‘yung moment na nagsasalita siya,” explained Mendoza. 

(No sessions. There should be no rehearsals because the President’s not like that. We will capture the moment that he will be speaking.)

Mendoza said that the PCO already approached him to do some information campaigns for the government. He confirmed that he would be more involved in doing projects for the Duterte administration. 

Ang maganda nun, in line din siya sa mga advocacy ko, sa mga ginagawa ko. If you notice, ‘yung mga pelikula ko in the past 10 years, tungkol lahat sa mga social issues. Recent film ko, alam natin tungkol sa drugs and corruption,” said Mendoza. 

(What’s good is that these are also in line with my advocacies. If you notice, the films I’ve made in the past 10 years were all about social issues. My recent film was about drugs and corruption.) 

He is referring to Ma’ Rosa, which was shown recently at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Jaclyn Jose, who won as Best Actress, played the role of a mother forced to sell drugs to survive.

Duterte is known for his tough stance against crime and illegal drugs, vowing to suppress these within 3 to 6 months. He’s been criticized for allowing extrajudicial killings to achieve this goal. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.