Watching a President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) has never been this intense, especially for members of the UP Teachers Village Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (UPTV-TODA). In fact, it was even a wonder that the tricycle drivers even bothered to watch a President give a lengthy speech before the assembled members of Congress.

Yet, the drivers stood transfixed at their terminal along Maharlika street in Quezon City, watching the President on a battered old color television set hanging from the ceiling of their covered terminal. Some appeared rooted on the spot in wonder, with mouths agape, hanging on to every word. Sometimes, they had to be reminded that there were already passengers waiting for a ride: “Hoy, pasahero!”

At various times, they cheered, clapped, and howled as the President spoke with the clarity of the language of the “every man” about the issues that his government now faced.

When the President castigated MWSS officials for building houses inside the La Mesa Watershed and called for their resignation, several drivers clapped loudly.

“Kung mayroon pa silang kahit kaunting hiya na natitira, sana kusa na lang silang magbitiw sa pwesto,” the President said.

“Tama yun! Tama yun!,” shouted one driver.

“Tanggalin ang mga kawatan!” shouted another.

One could hardly get this much emotion from watching a soap opera. But this was one soap opera that they were watching from the street, over the roar of passing trucks and the rattle of badly maintained motorcycle engines.

When President Aquino started spouting huge numbers and talking about the billions lost to corruption, eyes started glazing over. After all, these were people who would fight each other to earn a seven peso fare. The figures were too breathtaking to comprehend. But still, the rhetoric was clear because they were issues that everyone could relate to: debt, excesses, one-upmanship, and plain and simple corruption.

“Kaya hindi umattend si Gloria, kasi patama kay Gloria lahat iyan eh,” one driver said.

“Hindi ko magawang pakinggan lahat,” one driver said of the President’s speech. “Masyado akong kinilabutan. Umalis ako dahil sobra ang dami, sobra ang ano kay Gloria, sobra ang gigil!”

The President won a lot of points with this crowd, not just for his message, which rang with clarity, but with his medium, which to them resonated with sincerity. After all, he chose to deliver his entire speech in Filipino, the language of the common tao. To them, this was a man who stood in front of the coiffed and perfumed, but chose to address his message to the sweaty and dirty.

One driver could not hide his glee: “Ang mga mangmang kagaya ko, gustong maintindihan iyan. Puro tagalog ang speech nya eh, maliwanag sa akin! Nasa Pilipinas tayo, hindi sa Amerika.”

He seemed like one of them, even though everyone knew he was not. When President Aquino coughed and reached out for a glass of water, several drivers laughed. “Hindi kasi pwede ang yosi, tubig nalang!”

“Mukhang sinsero naman,” one driver said.

“Sana ang mga sinabi nya, magkatutuo para yung mga kabataan, hindi gaya naming matatanda na. Sana may pakinabang pa.”

But one driver said something that seemed to speak for everyone.

“Maganda ang speech niya. Ngayon, sana maging totoo iyan. Huwag lang yung, ika nga, props.”

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