A timely holiday reminder
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2018 - 12:00am

There are so many reasons to enjoy the holiday season. Here in the Philippines we celebrate for so many reasons. As a pre-dominantly Catholic nation, Christmas is an important religious holiday to so many of us and religion aside for those who aren’t Catholic it is still a perfect time to be with our families and friends. We love the holidays so much here that we celebrate an extended Christmas – which includes taking time off to be with relatives and taking a break from the stress of work and every day life, even just for a few days. In that aspect, I think we are quite lucky and we should make the most of this time with those closest to our hearts to really reflect and recharge.

To say that 2018 has been a challenging year is an understatement. While there are good things that happened – overall, it has been quite a difficult one for the country and for many Filipinos. There have been problems we’ve faced that we were sorely unprepared for and we know that a lot of them – corruption, soaring inflation, and the rising cost of goods are only slated to get worse in the months to come.

But we can’t let that deter us. The holiday is such a timely reminder to all of us not to get bogged down by the difficulties we face in life. It’s very easy to drown in all of the uncertainty or fear of the future but all we can really do is try our best, work hard, and pray things will improve. I am hopeful that we can finally start to see some positive changes in the year ahead if we work together.

I pray that the Christmas holiday opens our hearts and reminds us, once more, that divisiveness is not the way to progress. Over the past year (couple of years actually) we have seen the world get more divided than ever. What seemed like an improvement in unity in years past got completely dismantled with scare-tactic politics and those in power telling us we should be fearful of one another. I am quite sad seeing how close-minded people have become to those who are different once again. How long is it going to take for us to realize that we are all in this together and we can’t succeed without helping one another?

On a small, but equally important scale, we were all exposed to a perfect example of fear mongering, divisiveness, and abuse of “power” by the viral video of the Ateneo student who was caught on film bullying and beating down another student in the restroom. The power in this situation being that the bully was an advanced martial arts student and used his skills to scare and hurt those who are weaker than him. It was painful to watch and as a parent and as a human being I was quite upset at the situation, at the bully, and at the school.

Fortunately the viral status the video achieved caused a social media storm and everyone demanded that the school take concrete actions not just to punish the bully but to also ensure that this stops happening. As of this writing the student bully has been dismissed from Ateneo and hopefully will get the help he needs from family and even a therapist or professional to curb these violent tendencies.

I’m sure this is not an isolated incident either. Bullying happens all the time – much more than we care to admit – and not just in school either. This is what I mean about people focusing more on themselves and what they want or what “power” they can exert over others and less time being open-minded, empathetic, and compassionate. We need to start fostering an environment of caring once again.

I hope that the holiday serves as a good reminder to open our hearts and try compassion and empathy instead of stubbornness and pride. There is just too much hate and anger in the world right now I think we are all due for a change of pace and if we can’t make these positive steps toward unity during Christmas, than when can we make them?

As our current Miss Universe Catriona Gray said – we need to see the silver linings. Her genuine and heartfelt answer during the recently concluded Miss Universe pageant was fitting in reminding us all that despite the hardships there are always reasons to be grateful and there are always blessings to embrace and to share with others. We were all so proud of her as she gracefully navigated the pageant, competed with heart, and brought home the fourth Miss U crown to the country.

She is a shining example of the best in all of us and another great way to remember that we all need to work with one another instead of against each other. We can only achieve great things if we work together.

This holiday season I hope we can all open our hearts a little more again. It’s never too late to do the right thing. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy it with those closest to your hearts.

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