Even before President Rodrigo Duterte had been sworn into office, his likeness has already invaded homes. Blame countless TV interviews and feature stories. Pretty soon, his image will be the part of toy collections around the country.

Dennis Mendoza was invited to the Malacanang Palace last August 3. This happened amidst storms kicked up by the President’s restless war against drugs. But Mendoza was not paying a visit to clear his name from any accusation. Far from it, Mendoza was there to share a few light moments with the President.

Mendoza is a toy maker, who moved to the limelight as the maker of the famous “Duterte Dolls”. According to him, the dolls were first conceived when a friend asked Mendoza to create one. This was to show support to the newly-elected leader. Photos of the doll were posted online, just for fun. There was no intention of selling it at first.

But the picture made its rounds and many people decided they wanted one of these “Duterte Dolls”. Mendoza realized he could turn a profit by selling each handmade doll to those interested.

Now, Mendoza attracted the attention of the most important client of all — the President himself. His visit to the Palace was covered by local press, and the cameras showed Duterte quite far from his usual stern self. Instead, the President was smiling happily as he held the toys in his hands, admiring the handiwork.

Duterte was so pleased with the dolls that he proactively approached Mendoza as the latter entered the Malacanang. The President recognized the toy maker from a previous TV interview. This shows the more congenial side of Duterte, who ended up posing like a teen while cradling one of the dolls in his arm.

The President was given his very own copies of the Duterte Dolls. One was wearing a barong while sitting down. The other was standing upright and wearing the signature red checkered polo. This is the bestseller, and is priced around Php 800 each. Duterte was also shown the larger version (12 inches) of the checkered polo model, as well as the “Punisher Duterte”. The latter was wielding a .50-cal machine gun in the style of movie action heroes. It is a highly detailed work, and fetches a Php 1,000 selling price.

There are 12 versions of the Duterte Dolls. The first copies had been in existence since the elections, but they only garnered public attention recently. As Duterte’s popularity continues to go up, so do the demand for his likeness. Mendoza has also reported plans of making dolls based on the PNP Chief, the Vice President, and the other members of the Duterte Family.

The President has been pegged as an action-driven man. He is also the bane of all crime and corruption. However, that does not stop him from enjoying the small pleasures that these creations afford. He also does not forget to show appreciation for the people who help him in his endless campaigns, even if it’s as much a novelty as a doll in his likeness.

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