2017: The year Duterte burned

Burning of effigies has become a common practice during major protests in the Philippines, dating back to Marcos’ pre-Martial Law period. These gigantic figures are symbols of visual resistance, reflecting the issues and social ills prevailing over society and the common enemy the people face.

In 2016, there were no Duterte effigies burned because the newly-elected President was given a chance to enact on campaign and peace talks promises.

The political climate is much different now because President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed fascist policies and actions against the people in his all-out war in the countryside, the war on drugs and the shelling of Marawi and Martial Law in Mindanao.

Gone also are the promises of change. He willingly chose to the take the same path his predecessors travelled, which is to implement policies that will benefit local oligarchs and foreign big business, with the pro-rich, anti-poor tax reform, the failure to end contractualization, the jeepney phaseout, the return of open pit mining, etc. Duterte cancelled the peace talks and imposed Martial Law in Mindanao for another year, putting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in limbo, threatening the expansion of Martial Law nationwide and exposing the swift to federalism as another scheme of the power-hungry.

That which we protest vehemently, we burned in the past. And so Duterte burned in 2017.

SONA Effigy

This would have been the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) effigy to be burned during Duterte’s term. The effigy is an image of Duterte with a bloodied iron fist, clad in military uniform. Behind him is Uncle Sam, fashioned after the movie Mad Max antagonist Immortan’ Joe.  Riding on top of a tank along with Uncle Sam are Philippine government officials Finance secretary Cesar Dominguez III and Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana. These two cabinet members represent the political and economic repression under Duterte.

President Duterte arrived suddenly on the rally grounds and gave a rambling speech.

The effigy was later destroyed by the Lumad after the rally.

US-Duterte Bomb

The effigy was the first effigy by UGATLahi thatwas successfully burned. On September 15 last year, the national minorities marched towards the US Embassy in Manila to protest against American involvement in Marawi as well as the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao. Duterte was shaped as a bomb with American President Donald Trump riding on top.

The once majestic city of Marawi lay in ruins because of nonstop aerial bombings by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It took more or less seven months to quell the Maute group, and yet Martial Law was still extended for another year, this time around, to go after the New People’s Army.

Rody’s Cube

September 21 is remembered as a dark day in Philippine history.  It was the day Martial Law was declared by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The inspiration behind the Rudy’s Cube effigy came from the “Marcos, hitler, diktador, tuta!” slogan chanted by activists during the 70’s. The 8-foot effigy had the faces of dictators Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte, Hitler, and a lapdog corresponding to each side of the cube. The faces are subdivided into three and could be interchanged with one another, creating variations of each face.

This effigy also marked a departure from the traditional 3D papier-mache effigy UGATLahi has been accustomed to doing for over a decade.

Trump Fascist Spinner

This effigy was made in time for US President Donald Trump’s trip to the Philippines. America’s head honcho visited the country to attend the ASEAN Summit. The warmest way to welcome the most reviled political figure on the planet is by burning his image. The effigy was quite simple, a figure of Trump with arms shaped into a swastika. The four hands symbolize economic plunder and militarism. The hands were constantly spinning like a fidget spinner. Duterte could be seen clinging on Trump’s legs.

The effigy was featured briefly at the Jimmy Kimmel Show and NERD’s music video 1000 which has garnered 2 million views as of this writing.

Trump was assured that the foul-mouthed Duterte will not go against the American empire. In return, Duterte received financial support for his bloody war on drugs.

After Trump left, Duterte went full swing on attacking the revolutionary movement and declared the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations.


Duterte was depicted as a tyrannical dinosaur with blood-smeared pistols on both hands. The effigy was set on fire by the urban poor group Kadamay to protest the anti-poor policies of the government. There remained no solution to the housing woes of the poor, even as demolitions continue. Under the Duterte administration, tax reforms were implemented that benefit the wealthy. The brutal war on drugs clamed the lives of around 16,000 in impoverished communities. Demolition of urban poor dwellings continue unabated to pave the way for big business.

Unfolding Duterte the Devil

This was the last effigy UGATLahi made for 2017. It sums up the complete unfolding of Duterte which transpired in a span of one year. The outer image is that of a seemingly benign Rodrigo Duterte. It opens up to reveal the Duterte we now know: a despotic President with an unquenchable thirst for power albeit unleashing violence against the people; and a rabid puppet of US imperialism.

There is an ever pressing need to create more protest art because of the threat of open fascist rule. At a time when our basic rights are being trampled upon, when impunity reigns supreme, to rebel is very much justified.

Positive images were also crafted in the past year.

Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya standees

In 2017, national minorities from all over the Philippines travel to Metro Manila to make the public aware of their plight. UGATLahi created six lightweight wooden standees representing the various IPs. Each of the standees has their fist raised to symbolize continuing resistance.  These were used during protest rallies and as stage design during cultural presentations at the campsite of the IPs in UP Diliman. Strictly speaking, these are not effigies because they portray positive images and are meant to be preserved. Unfortunately, the standees were left behind during the September 21 protest rally. Two were found in bad shape and the rest are still missing.

Due the ever-pressing need to represent the ideals and aspirations of the people, as well as identify the people’s main enemies and problems, UGATLahi is bound by principle to keep on creating.

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