Pres. Rodrigo Duterte really represented the Philippines well during his Japan visit. By that, we mean made everyone here and abroad facepalm after claiming he “cured” himself of being gay and kissing female OFWS on stage (AGAIN).
What really took the cake for this embarrassment was when a Japanese aide handed him a note to conclude his speech at Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Duterte went off-script during his speech to express his frustration over the South China Sea tension between the Philippines and China.
Nikkei reported that Duterte was only able to deliver half of his prepared speech before he was given a note to cut it short. He even read it out loud: “If you are doing business, why should you go there? And—’Please conclude speech.'” Duterte later said that it was because he still had a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I’ll leave you with just a smile. Arigatou,” he said before stepping down the stage.
If you’re not aware of Japanese etiquette, this could be seen as a simple gesture to tell Duterte that he still has prior engagements. But really, this is a big deal.
Japan is known for upholding social etiquette and manners in any setting, and the Japanese are non-confrontational in nature. In a Harvard Business Review study in 2015, author Erin Meyer cited that the Japanese are “emotionally unexpressive” and “avoids confrontation.”
One example she gave was that some Japanese, and even those from Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, would often give affirmative answers, but you’d feel some hesitation from their end as well. This implies they don’t want to straight-up turn down people, but would also give verbal cues that the task would be difficult yet possible. “[T]he deal is probably not sealed. You may well have more negotiations in front of you,” she wrote.
There are also certain Japanese words and phrases that can be considered rude. Some of them are variations of “shut up” or just telling someone to keep quiet. As Rock Ed founder Gang Badoy-Capati said in a tweet, “For the Japanese (who bow with every hello or thank you or sorry or goodbye)—to hand him (Duterte) a note that basically asks him to shut it—is massive.”
For the Japanese (who bow with every hello or thank you or sorry or goodbye) – to hand him a note that basically asks him to shut it- is massive. https://t.co/VBjsBrQyoG
— Gang Capati (@gangbadoy) June 1, 2019
Some netizens also theorized that Duterte’s speech was cut short because “they didn’t want to hear a rape joke from Duterte.”
— WhatAWasteofAdMoney (@wawam) June 1, 2019
But this is also not farfetched considering that Duterte made his “cured myself of being gay” comment and kissed OFWs prior to the conference. Days before flying to Japan, he made a rape joke during the Philippine Military Academy’s graduation rites where he told cadets he’ll pardon them of rape.
The Japanese government probably saw these incidents and thought, “We need to cut this rambling now.” We’d do the same, to be perfectly honest.
But one could only speculate whether this was the case or not. For now, the reason that was reported is Duterte would be late for his meeting with PM Abe. After all, Japan values punctuality—meaning you should be there before your agreed time. If you arrive on the dot, that can already be considered late.
Bottomline: Respect Japanese culture, follow etiquette rules, and just don’t piss people off since you’re a foreigner in their country.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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