this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on January 1, 2017.
Another orbit of our planet around the sun tells us that it is not yet oblivion, that somehow the magnetic field holding the Earth together managed to survive despite speculations about its extinction. The year 2016 just came to a close, and this is the time that we look back on what we have accomplished and how it would impact the year that shines brightly ahead of us.
Every year history piles up and up, and during my brief existence I have witnessed how the triumphs and downfalls of this country made their mark on the lives of the Filipino people. Three events in 2016 marked themselves deeply and remain fresh in my memory bank: Rodrigo Duterte’s election to the presidency, former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s passing, and Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Do not get me wrong. I am neither politicized nor enslaved by the oligarchy. As a student writing for the campus publication, I have as a regular routine reading newspapers and watching the news on TV after school. But politics and the activities related to it fuel my curiosity just the same, and I can say they have a direct impact on the status quo and the future of the country.
The year 2016 indeed made history, as the 16th leader of our nation, the first one from Mindanao, claimed his post in Malacañang and continues to surprise his people with a new and “revolutionary” approach.
Mr. Duterte, or Digong to the common folk, won the race with the magic number of 6.6 million more votes than his closest rival Mar Roxas. Daily we read and hear news about the rising body count in his war on drugs, or his actions and statements on the international stage, but it was only recently that I have dwelt upon the question “What is the reason behind his success in the presidential race?” And I am surprised to have been given the answer by a four-year-old child.
The child, my cousin, was complaining that afternoon about the fact that we could not take her to see the lights in the park because her father, my uncle, had been drinking all day and there would be no one to drive us. I watched her sitting miserably in a corner and heard her mumbling words to this effect: “I told Papa not to drink but he still did. He did not learn anything, and now we can’t leave.”
It was then that I comprehended two words—“learn” and “change.” It is a roller-coaster ride when it comes to the Philippines. And I have watched and wondered, along with other Filipinos, what the country’s tomorrow will be. It was change that the people wanted. And there has been change, so that even the stock market is going downhill, alleged criminals are being killed without due process, and advocates are beginning preparations for a shift to a federal type of government. Could this be the start of the learning and transformation of our nation?
This year also took away the life of a great woman who left an indelible legacy on our government: former senator Santiago, who fought bravely in exposing rotten politics and politicians during her lifetime. As a writer and public speaker, she was someone I looked up to. As a woman, she could not have made me more proud.
Despite her formidable intellect and long experience in politics, Santiago was denied the presidency three times. But that did not hinder her from being the public servant that the country needed. Last Sept. 29 she closed her eyes for the last time and joined her Creator. When I read about her passing on social media, tears streamed down my cheeks. She may have lost her battle against cancer, but the war against corruption and mediocrity that she waged for her fellow Filipinos will always be remembered.
A wound takes time to heal, and what martial law dealt our country was not a mere scratch but a deep wound that pierced skin, flesh and bone. Who can forget Proclamation 1081 that put the nation under a dark cloud of terror that included arrests, disappearances, torture, murder, and various other human rights violations? Even more, who can forget the day last November when the remains of Marcos, who imposed martial law and one-man rule until his ouster in February 1986, were buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which, as its name indicates, is reserved for the heroes and protectors of the motherland?
The body, or what’s left of it, may be six feet under, but never the crimes that Marcos committed against this nation. The deep, unhealed wound was soaked in blood again as the Filipino people recalled the living nightmare that was martial law. It is never a simple matter to “move on” or to “let go of the past,” especially now that the remains of the dictator are resting in a place that he does not deserve.
One day is all it takes to make the impossible happen, and now that a new year is unfolding ahead of us, there is new hope. May the events of the past year as well as long-held memories teach us to gain wisdom in identifying our mistakes. May our New Year’s resolution be not mere words on paper, but an effective re-solution to mend our shortcomings.