Making sense of 2020

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - November 30, 2020 - 12:00am

This one is definitely a year for the books. It is the fire-spewing dragon wreaking havoc; it is the four horsemen of the Apocalypse bringing bloodshed; it is Thanos continuously snapping his fingers; it is Haiyan all over again; it is the Spanish-flu era redefined. It is all these and more.

There are worse years, so say historians, but in our lifetime, 2020 is a year like no other, as we have had to face seemingly insurmountable challenges — personal and otherwise.

I lost my best friend this year, a friend since grade school, the one I ran to for every heartbreak, for every trouble I find myself in, and the one I shared every victory in my life. He was a joker; could beat any stand-up comedian. He gave me belly-aching laughs and for his last joke, he died on April Fool’s Day 2020. He was my person and I lost him.

There are other losses, not quite as personal, but tragic just the same. I weep for the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption, the typhoons, the massive floods, the millions who lost their jobs, those who succumbed to COVID-19 and the tireless frontliners who did their best to fight the pandemic.

I weep for my fellow Filipinos who struggle to survive during difficult times; for those still waiting for their ayuda or those who need to line up for hours in remittance centers to get the few thousands of pesos worth of ayuda; for hapless jeepney drivers who have to beg on the streets to survive; for countless media workers who lost their jobs because this administration wanted to shut down ABS-CBN; for Filipinos fooled by the dolomite, and for tens of thousands whose homes were buried in mud.

The list can go on and on.

Astrologers had warned us of 2020, saying “it would deliver a number of rare, intense, and life-altering planetary moments that are shaking our foundations personally, politically, and societally, and forcing us to adapt to an entirely new sense of ‘normal.’”

As we ponder on the year that this is, and the losses that we all felt, let’s also look at the lessons, brutal, and difficult as they are.

Wise old man

Maybe 2020 isn’t really the fire-spewing dragon. Instead, it’s the wise old man who adamantly decided it’s time for us to learn some hard lessons, a sage we’ve long been ignoring, but has now decided it’s time to put some sense in our hearts and heads. He is Yoda showing us that it’s high time to change our old ways.

Perhaps, the year wanted to teach us that it can’t be business as usual anymore; that we can’t go on doing things the way we’ve been doing them; that as employees, we’ve neglected our work and we’ve become complacent; that as businessmen, we’ve been too focused on profits, no longer questioning the way we make money; that we have neglected far too long our employees, the society we move in, the communities where we work; and as individuals, we’ve forgotten to care for our environment, our planet,  friends, lovers, and loved ones we thought would always be there.

We’ve become too consumed by material things, social media, image, fame, glory, and luxury that we have forgotten what really matters most in life. 2020 taught us that the real luxury is to love and be loved, and to be healthy, safe, and alive.

Who would have thought there would ever come a day when all we ever want for Christmas is a vaccine against a virus?

In ophthalmology, 20-20 means clarity of vision and let this be the most important lesson of the year — to see what or who really matters most. It’s not a year of getting what we wanted. It’s a year of appreciating life and how to make it more meaningful.

Little did we know before 2020 happened that in the grand scheme of things, in the final analysis, there are actually very few things that really matter in life.

To be with loved ones, most of all, is the real joy and they are truly what matters most because they provide the safe spaces by which we can build and mold our dreams on.

It is also by being with those who really matter to us and pondering on how else we can make ourselves, our society, and the country we live in better than before, that we will be able to truly make sense of the year.

Today, on Bonifacio Day, let us remember to always choose not to be villains but heroes in our own little ways. Let us remember that the world is always better with more goodness than bad.

The year isn’t over, and as we approach the final stretch, some fear that there might be more to come — a brutal, grand finale perhaps.

The darkness around us runs deep, but remember it is always darkest before dawn. And on the other side of this dark and uncertain night, we shall yet again see the beautiful light of the morning.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at

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