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Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte: The rebel surfer son of a president

Sebastian DuterteImage copyright Instagram: sebastian duterte
Image caption Sebastian ‘Baste’ is the youngest son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Sebastian “Baste” Duterte is the youngest son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a man widely criticised for his bloody crackdown on suspected drug dealers and abusers which has left thousands dead.

But while Baste’s older siblings are both influential state politicians in the family stronghold of Davao City, he has so far chosen a different path.

For starters, he’s a dedicated surfer. The sporty 29-year-old often posts pictures of himself on his much-followed social media accounts, riding waves or waxing down surfboards, much to the delight of his largely female fan base.

And this weekend sees the launch of his own reality travel show called Lakbai (loosely translated as “travel” in the Tagalog language).

Airing on a major Filipino network, the show’s producers promise “fun and adventure”.

Image copyright TV5
Image caption A reality travel show hosted by the young Duterte will air on 21 May

“It’s an adventure reality show for down-to-earth, outdoor-loving and daring personalities,” said Mellannie Yazon-Tolentino, head of content and programming at TV5.

She told BBC News that the young Duterte was chosen to host the eight-part series for his “appeal and embodiment” with the Philippine millennial market.

The reality show was produced with “local government assistance”, she said.

“He will immerse himself in different cultures and meet different people from less discovered places,” Ms Yazon-Tolentino said.

Not much was known about the president’s youngest son until a public spat broke out in February.

“My youngest son is a jerk,” the always outspoken President Duterte said, at an event promoting a government tax campaign.

He had called Sebastian out for his “lover boy” lifestyle and for not spending enough time with his two young children.

He added that he “never faced difficulty” when dealing with his other children.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionDuterte’s loyal supporters

President Duterte has three children with his first wife: son Paolo, 41, daughter Sara, 38, and Sebastian. He also has a 13-year-old daughter named Veronica – or Kitty – with his current partner, former beauty queen Cielito “Honeylet” Avancena.

The president has been defined by his tough-talking nature and iron-fisted rule. It’s an unconventional approach that, while alarming rights groups and foreign countries, has endeared him to voters.

Political observers say this has also been his approach to parenting – publicly scolding his children, calling his oldest daughter a “drama queen” for saying she was raped and saying he’d have no qualms in killing any of them if they ever got involved in drugs.

‘Great storytelling’

Joseph Franco, research fellow at the S Rajatnam School of International Studies described Mr Duterte’s parenting style as “Asian tiger mixed with macho Latino characteristics in place of filial piety”.

“Duterte and Sebastian’s relationship is more estranged compared to his siblings who went into politics,” he says but adds that it’s been “great storytelling” which has benefitted the strongman leader.

“Dad preaching good behaviour to a wayward son is great for optics. There’s nothing like a human interest narrative to humanise the brains of a war on drugs.”

Image copyright Facebook: Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte
Image caption The Duterte siblings – left to right Sara, Paolo and Sebastian – photobombed by their dad

Unlike his father and siblings who studied law, Sebastian pursued a degree in political science.

While he has expressed no interest in politics, he admitted to television host Luchi Cruz-Valdes that he “was not closing his doors” on a political career.

“He told me that he feels there is too much politics going on in his family right now,” she said with a laugh.

Ms Valdes, who interviewed him once on her show, also described him as “very charming and down-to-earth”.

“Everyone on set expected him to be quiet. But he turned out to be very candid and refreshing to interview so he caught us by surprise.”

“Frankly, the only reason Sebastian has become so popular is because he’s the son of our president,” she said.

Davao journalist Stella Estremera agreed, saying that Sebastian’s unwillingness to be a “presidential son” has endeared him to the public.

“Even when his father was the mayor of Davao, he still preferred to stay far away from the public eye,” she said.

“He just wants to be Sebastian.”

Image copyright Facebook: Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte
Image caption Baste’s social media accounts offer a rare glimpse into the Duterte family

Sebastian Duterte may not be headed in any political direction for now. But public interest in him meant a showbiz calling.

While he’s always been protective of his private life, his active profiles on Facebook and Instagram attract more than 463,000 fans. There are also dozens of fan clubs dedicated to the presidential son.

“Entertainment and politics in the Philippines are perpetually linked,” explained Dolly Anne Carvajal. “Many actors foray into politics and some politicians marry celebrities so Sebastian’s fame is hardly surprising.”

The Manila-based entertainment columnist told BBC News that local magazines which featured Sebastian Duterte on their covers also enjoyed “brisk sales”.

“Sebastian is definitely the most popular Duterte child. His bad boy image and rugged looks make him movie star material,” Ms Cruz said.

“He also loves women so he’s a lot like his dad in that sense.”

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