2017, what a year
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 2, 2018 - 12:00am

ITOGON — The sun glistened like streaks of gold on the summit of the colossal Mt. Pulag, slicing majestically through the sea of lofty clouds above it. The fabled mountain is larger than life, casting shadows on the world below.

It is a breathtaking view and even for a split second, it’s a respite for the weary and forlorn, whether you’re a war photographer dealing with post- traumatic stress disorder, a grandmother missing a son or one fed-up soul simply trying to escape the pangs of grief.

It’s a dharma of sorts, far from bustling Manila and the chaos of the daily grind.

This picturesque sight welcomed me after a four-hour drive from Manila. I left Manila after midnight to drive all the way here, one of my favorite childhood places.

My gang and I thought it would be good to cap a busy and crazy year in a place where one can still hear the cacophony of crickets, where the air is still crisp and time is just a bit slower.

But arriving here over the weekend and reading the papers, I realized that there’s no escaping the craziness of the year that was.

The STAR’s Dec. 30 headline was shocking: “Cops, tanods shoot wrong van; 2 killed.”

I’ve always thought that life has become cheaper in this land of mayhem, especially this year, with the Marawi siege and the relentless bloody war on drugs.

But I also thought that as the year came to a close, it would finally get a respite from all the craziness, at least during the holidays.

It has indeed been a crazy year and we all know why. The land of mayhem has outdone itself and there’s a long list of the most bizarre situations we’ve found ourselves in. We were unwitting participants, if not appalled spectators in this ongoing Netflix-like series.

There’s a long list of reasons why I think 2017 was one crazy year but I’ll just mention a few – poverty, the Marawi siege, fake news, trolls, too much hatred, nastiness, the P6.4 billion drug haul, among others.

The list can go on and on but of course, this is not to say, it was a bad year. There are pockets of hope and on the economic front, there’s a lot to celebrate.

The Philippine economy has remained resilient and is likely to stay on track next year. Some believe the economy likely hit the government’s 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent full-year target for 2017 and could even grow faster next year.

The Department of Finance (DOF) is optimistic that with the recent passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, revenues would indeed increase and would enable the government to finally achieve inclusive growth.

The first package of TRAIN lowers personal income tax rates and will raise excise taxes on numerous products. It is projected to contribute a net amount of P82.3 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to the DOF.

The point of all this is to achieve an inclusive economy – that is the vision of the Duterte administration for the Philippines. The administration believes this can happen with a massive infrastructure program that would spur economic growth and address the country’s needs.

At the very least, the passage of the TRAIN shows the willpower of the administration.

Whether or not this would actually translate to better lives for most Filipinos remains to be seen because while it would increase the take-home pay of workers, it will also increase prices of fuel and other basic goods.

But I’m hoping that the much touted infrastructure program, which would require up to P9 trillion in investments, will indeed happen.

Almost every administration has vowed to achieve an inclusive economy. I truly hope it can happen because many of the country’s ills are caused by poverty — rampant drug use especially among the poor, is just one.

If the administration can truly make the economy inclusive, then this country can perhaps be a notch less crazy.

Yes despite the craziness of 2017, I share the belief of majority of Filipinos that 2018 will be filled with hope.

According to the latest Social Weather Stations, about 96 percent of Filipinos will welcome 2018 with hope instead of fear.

Hope for the new year rose in all socio-economic classes rose to 97 percent among the upper classes and 96 percent among Class D and 97 percent among class E.

Indeed, may 2018 be kinder to all of us.

May we all have a better and more meaningful new year that is filled with hope because in the end, while this land of mayhem is as crazy as it can be, it’s still the only one we have.

I wish everyone a happy 2018!

Iris Gonzales email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com

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