The men impersonating Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un caused a frenzy at Filipino fast-food restaurant Jollibee and at a church in Hong Kong on Sunday.
The impersonators visited areas packed with hundreds of Filipino domestic workers on their day off.
Dressed in a crisp, white traditional barong
Less than a year after the real president made an unofficial visit to Hong Kong and dined at popular Filipino fast-food restaurant Jollibee, his doppelgänger spent his first Sunday in the city attending a sermon at St. Joseph’s Church and eating a fried-chicken lunch at the chain’s Central branch.
Onlookers cheered as the fake president, who goes by Cresencio Extreme, polished off a leg of meat and recited some of Duterte’s profanity-laden, anti-drug rhetoric, which has seen the President draw both controversy and praise in the Philippines.
As a crowd pressed in tightly, Cresencio stood up for a signature Duterte soapbox speech: “When I arrived at Hong Kong airport, I didn’t see any beautiful ladies, but now I realise that Jollibee is where they are all hidden.”
He added: “If any drug lords are listening, I might look like him, but I’m not the president. So I will kill you, but don’t kill me.”
Accompanied by Hong Kong-born Kim Jong-un impersonator (also known as Howard X), who is currently acting as Cresencio’s agent, the lookalike then took to the streets to pose for selfies in scenes that resembled fan mobs of the Beatlemania era.
“We got word on Facebook that he was coming,” said a 22-year-old man from the Philippines who gave his name as Joel and expressed his support for the real Duterte. “People go on about him killing people and call him a dictator, but he has my respect because he’s honest.ADVERTISING
“He’s not like politicians here in Hong Kong, who give out lies to make us feel better. I know he’s done this and that, but he’s still charismatic and a man of the people – he has fried chicken just like us.”
Fame is a new phenomenon for the father-of-five from the Manticao area in the southern Philippines, who until last week had never travelled outside his home country.
He is wary of sharing what he does for a living in case he becomes a target for those who oppose the real Duterte’s gung ho, populist approach to politics, which has included dismissing human rights concerns towards his anti-drug agenda and bragging that he personally killed criminal suspects while serving as the long-term mayor of Davao.
Cresencio gained widespread attention in the Philippines early last year after appearing on the reality show Pilipinas Got Talent. Flanked by four bodyguards, the lookalike gave an address on the show in the style of Duterte – even mimicking the President’s characteristic facial scratching.
“I used to be afraid of the fact I looked like Duterte until the TV manager told me to just enjoy it because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says.
“I never could have anticipated people’s reactions,” Cresencio continued. “One of Duterte’s goals is to kill all the drug lords and get rid of corruption, so when people discovered I looked like him, I was scared that the drug lords would think I was the President and kill me.”
Although he claims he is no longer afraid, he takes extra precautions by requesting security when he makes television appearances and goes outside wearing a mask at times when he would rather not be recognised.
Taking advice from Howard, who has made a career out of appearing as the North Korean leader at promotional events, Cresencio tightened his privacy settings on Facebook and took down online photos of his family to protect them from the attention surrounding him.
“I told him, ‘I’ve been doing this since 2012 and I’m still alive’, so there’s a good chance he’ll stay alive, too,” said Howard in a somewhat dubious attempt at reassurance. “This is a nice Duterte – he’s polite and thoughtful, but the other Duterte is very in your face.
“We’ve been practising some phrases; I had to push him to say things like, ‘Those fools don’t think; they are sons of b****es’, ‘If it involves human rights, I don’t give a s**t’, and ‘Death to drug lords’, which he’s uncomfortable saying at the moment.”
The Hong Kong-born Australian, who has held photo ops around the world with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin lookalikes, says he is now on the hunt for a fake Xi Jinping, a Jair Bolsonaro and a Nicolas Maduro to complete a cadre of performers he terms “The Tyrants”.
“If anyone out there looks like these presidents, please give me a call because I’ll be able to get you some well-paid work. The guys who play Obama or Clinton have to be very proper, but the tyrants can do anything,” he said, declaring: “When you look like an arsehole, you attract other arseholes.”