Funfare with Ricky Lo

Get to know Bong Go, the Pambansang Photobomber

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Get to know Bong Go, the Pambansang Photobomber
Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, the man present in all (bar none) of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s activities — Photos from the Presidential Commission reprinted from Philippine National Police Journal

If ever Pres. DU30’s bioflick were made (which is not really far-fetched, his life story being as colorful as, if not more so than that of any showbiz star), there should be a side story about Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the man present in all (bar none) of the presidential activities. He’s just there, he doesn’t talk, he doesn’t do anything at all, he’s just being there, silent and stoic, and not expressing any emotion at all, neither smiling nor laughing nor reacting accordingly to whatever the situation is. He’s the shadow beside and behind DU30, like a statue that catches your attention even if he doesn’t intend, or perhaps want to.

Really now, the only time I had a close encounter with Bong was last year, four months into DU30’s administration, during The Philippine STAR editors’ audience with the newly-installed President of the Philippines. He was part of the welcome committee and we talked briefly. He seemed to be very shy, his voice so low, almost inaudible, that I thought I didn’t get what he was saying, if at all.

There’s a Pambansang This and Pambansang That, and because he’s always photographed with DU30 all the time, any time, Bong Go has been fondly called Pambansang Photobomber (PB) which is how he is identified in an article by Betina Reyes in the recent issue of the glossy Philippine National Police Journal (PNPJ) with PSSUPT. Gilberto DC Cruz who gave me a copy.

Thanks to Betina for giving me more than just a glimpse of the Pambansang Photobomber who is always seen (on TV, newspapers and social media) but never heard from, making some people suspect that he’s a bona fide member of, hehehe, the Silent Majority.

An AB Management graduate from De La Salle University, Bong, 42, is the Presidential Assistant to DU30, a position that doesn’t go to his head (as it did many of those who have held that position, according to Betina, remaining “as humble and down-to-earth as he was when he was still executive assistant to then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte,” comparing his role in Malacañang Palace to that of a utility man — “Taga-linis. All-around man. Yun lang yung role ko. Kaya nga utility man. Dalahin mo lahat. Buhatin mo lahat. Linisin mo yung naiwan. Nag-guide lang ako. Mayor, dito tayo dumaan.”

Of course, Bong is just downplaying himself, so humble of the man who is probably closer to DU30 than any or all of the four presidential children. Since he’s with DU30 24/7, I suppose Bong knows the President heart and soul, inside-out, “having been an assistant to Duterte since 1998 when, at age 24, he took over after Jimboy Halili died,” according to Betina’s story. “His grandfather, August Tesoro, was among the ninongs at Duterte and (former wife) Elizabeth Zimmerman’s wedding.”

His work as Presidential Assistant takes most of Bong’s time away from his wife and two children, getting a break only when DU30 goes on a holiday (like during the Christmas season). He snatches some time to play his favorite sport, basketball.

Excerpts from Betina’s story:

Thanks to his management skills, Go is able to attend to the President and to the people who would like to talk to his boss. He knows how to screen which matters need to go to the President, and which ones he can take charge of. He knows the President so well it seems as if he could read his mind.

Go is perhaps one of the best people to attest to the President’s character, having been an executive assistant to Duterte for almost two decades. He said Duterte may appear strict but, in fact, he is not when it comes to the people around him. “Hindi naman siya ganoon ka-istrikto sa mga tao niya. Hinahayaan niya ang lahat magtrabaho.” What matters for the President, said Go, is doing what is right. “Ang gusto lang niya, kung ano yung tama. Tuwid lang. Kung anong sinabi niya, sundin n’yo lang.”

Now, if ever DU30’s bioflick were made, it wouldn’t be complete without Bong Go not just as a Pambansang Photobomber but as a key character. And who would play the 71-year-old DU30? Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez? Hmmm, a bit young. Eddie Garcia? Hmmm, too old. Why not Ronaldo Valdez? Hmmm, more like it (the two are almost of the same age.) And who should play Bong Go? Yes, Richard Yap. Perfect, isn’t he?

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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