Farewell to 2021

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

This is the point when we pinch ourselves in disbelief.  Bizarre and surreal as it is, here we are at the end of another challenging and perhaps darker and painful year. Yes, we’re still here. Still here. Not quite kicking but alive; not quite thriving but surviving; down but not out.

In a few hours, another year begins and another chapter in our story unfolds – individually and collectively as a nation. Did we think we would make it to this point? Many did not and perhaps those of us who did, did not really expect to make it through the turbulence.

We have had to face numerous battles on so many fronts and it hasn’t been easy – new COVID variants, climate anxiety, job losses, lost lives and loves and endless fatigue.

And yet, and yet, we are still here. I can’t help but shake my head in bewilderment.  I am in awe of the fact that despite the headwinds the year brought our way –  and continue to bring as I write this – we are here about to celebrate the beginning of another year.

Perhaps, to many of us, what we’re really celebrating is the end, rather than the beginning – the end of a difficult 2021 on a personal level and otherwise – the end of hard lockdowns; of the mandatory yet useless face shields; the end of business shutdowns that caused many people their jobs; the end of hospitals being filled to the brim with COVID-19 patients; the end of annoying Zoom calls; the end of useless consumerism and many, many more challenging realities.

But I’m not going to pop the champagne bottles just yet. After all, there’s still no telling what the coming year will bring.

COVID-19 cases are climbing again

As I write this, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. It’s not surprising, really, because the efficacy of the vaccines we received six months ago has waned by now.

It’s a reminder to all of us to remain vigilant and to not let our guard down. We all should take that booster shot if we can and to continue practicing health protocols.

Election year

But here’s what I know for sure. 2022, uncertain as the pandemic may be, will certainly be a turning point for our country because of the presidential and national elections in May next year.

In six months, Rodrigo Duterte will be history and a new leader will be sworn into office. Will his successor be worse or better? Will we have more of the same elitist and morally superior politics we’ve always had since the Marcos era? Will the 50th anniversary of Martial Law see the return of the late dictator’s family back into the seat of power? Will those presidential aspirants who are unlikely to win withdraw from the race? Will the Left make another costly mistake?

Only time will tell.

What is certain is that the crucial decision that each and every Filipino voter will make next year will determine what happens next in this nation of 110 million – whether it’s good, bad or ugly.

Those of us fortunate and privileged enough to make it this far must help shape the future of this country by choosing leaders who will steer us toward a better place – leaders who aren’t bound by the interests of the class they belong to; leaders whose actions speak louder than words; even louder than their family name; leaders whose sincerity and track record speak for themselves; leaders who will uphold human rights and the rule of law  and leaders will at least give Filipinos the fighting chance to live better lives.

The task of rebuilding

As for the Duterte administration, it must use its remaining time in office to rebuild our fragile and heavily battered economy and more importantly, the morale of a very tired and weary nation.

The much-touted Dolomite Beach, now by-appointment only, is the perfect metaphor to this administration’s response to a crisis – it’s a palliative, not a cure; it’s messy and costly; it looks fun but it’s dangerous and most of all, it’s fake.

Against this backdrop, we need real and long-term solutions for recovery. The passage of the 2022 budget is a step in the right direction. We also need more jobs and more government support for small businesses and even big companies especially those imbued with public interest.

The task of rebuilding is important because it is not only from the onslaught of COVID-19 that we need to recover from but from the damage left by Super Typhoon Odette as well.

Epitaph to the year that was

Like most, I fervently hope the darkness of the year that was and the year before would one day come to light. We just need to keep on going as we face whatever challenges will come our way.

As Tasyo, the philosopher said – if I remember my Noli Me Tangere lessons correctly – we should be like roses in full bloom that bend with the wind, and when the wind passes, to not be afraid to bloom again. Indeed, as 2021 has taught us, we’re still here and we found a way to continue living and loving.

Here’s wishing you all stronger hearts, minds and bodies to bravely face the new year.



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


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