A new blank page
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2019 - 12:00am

I can say with some certainty that 2019 was a challenging year for all at least for most everyone. The news was peppered with challenges, prices increased, salaries didn’t, and in general, there was a lot of struggle. Is it me or does it seem like almost every year is turning out this way? I rarely see people celebrating the year that was for its ups rather than its downs.

Perhaps that’s because things have been getting progressively harder as the years go by. I remember several years ago people complained of getting caught in traffic jams that lasted two hours. That was already the height of it. Now, three-, four-, even five-hour trips aren’t unheard of when traversing the metro. Instead of getting better, it just got worse. And the same can be said for so many things – traffic, salaries, prices, etc.

It seems that these days just making it to the end of the year is already an achievement. Never mind any real achievements other than that. I’ve seen so many memes on social media with the pop culture phrase from the Hangover movie “… but did you die?” on them and people laughing because yes, despite the challenges of 2019 they did not, in fact, perish.

While I agree that not dying is indeed something to celebrate, every time the New Year rolls in, one cannot help but feel slightly hopeful. Hopeful that, at the very least, this year will be better than the last. Honestly, there is no scientific evidence or clues that point to that direction, but we remain hopeful.

That’s the magic of this time of year. If you think about it, it’s just one day passing into another. No magic says once December 31st becomes January 1 that all our troubles will magically disappear. However, despite that, we still feel excited thinking that perhaps 2020 is going to be the year it all comes together. That hope is what makes celebrating New Year’s Eve so exciting and it’s one that helps you rise above the troubles.

I think we could all use a little hope in our lives. That’s not to say we dismiss the challenges blindly, but that we learn from them and move on. I just recently watched The Two Popes and it was incredibly timely alongside Pope Francis’ holiday message of God loving us despite our brokenness and of being kind above all else. The movie and actors were excellent, but the real message for me was that things are never meant to stay stagnant. Not religion, not habits, not practices, and definitely not hardships. If we want to stay afloat we all require movement. We need to look past what is and work toward what could happen in the future.

I heard someone once liken each year to a book with 365 pages. We are on the last page of 2019 and it’s time to say goodbye. Tomorrow, Jan. 1st, we are on the first blank page of a new 365 volume. Let’s make it a good one!

*      *      *

I can’t help but sigh watching the US and the Philippines bicker like children. This started due to the “rider” included in the 2020 budget law signed by President Trump (who is facing his own set of troubles) effectively banning Philippine officials involved in the alleged unlawful detention of Senator Leila de Lima entry into the United States.

Essentially this would allow US immigration officials to deny entry into any US territory any person involved with the perceived wrongful detention of De Lima. This could include Senators Dick Gordon, Bong Go, and Ronald Dela Rosa to name a few. There could be more but off the top of my head, those are the names that come to mind.

Do I think it’s a bit overboard? Definitely. But it’s their country and they can open and close their doors as they see fit. Let’s be honest, I’m sure there are even Pinoys feeling a sense of schadenfreude in the situation as these officials are usually the ones at the front of the lynch mob and now find themselves on the other end.

However, while some righteous indignation would not be uncalled for, I can’t help but think that our response is equally ludicrous. So because our officials were offended by this action, the presidential spokesperson decided that the proper response would be to threaten to require US citizens visas to come to the Philippines.

This hardly seems like a well thought out rational response but instead more of a playground eye for an eye situation. And honestly, in this playground battle, we have more to lose. As we strive to invite more tourism and foreign investment this kneejerk reaction immediately disregards the many American multinational companies that operate in the Philippines and the investments and jobs these bring in as well as the multitude of American tourists.  

There are better ways to resolve this conflict that doesn’t involve yelling at each other from across the sandpit. Hopefully, calmer minds prevail and the US and the Philippines resolve our conflicts through rational and intentional international relations.


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