The Year 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, I am not referring to the Charles Dickens masterpiece but to 2009 and the country. If this were a kind of travel, this was one hell of a trip for us. Who would have thought that events that happened in the past 12 months would include those that straddled two extremes?

Interestingly, 2009 is in the end part of the first decade of the Third Millennium. I remember us a decade ago welcoming the entry of the new century with all the hoopla and hope attached to major milestones. By the time we reached 2009, however, it became increasingly apparent that we are into more of the same, especially in a country living in a continuing past.

So we may have to accept the reality that the past year and the coming one is not really about the old and the new but is merely, for our country, a continuation of the process of being. But I may have waxed philosophical for several sentences already, so back to the “best of times, worst of times” thing.

Two points stand out in 2009, and I am not talking about the constant, which is the unfortunate way President Arroyo has been handling this country’s affairs and the allegations of corruption hounding her administration. The first point that I may have to start off with is about the worst events of 2009, or should we say events that are worse than the usual “worsts” of past years.

Here, the Maguindanao massacre stands out. The murder of 57 people by members of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao is considered the worst election-related violence in the country in decades for several reasons, among them being the brutality of its execution and the number and the kind of personalities executed.

The suspects also included high-ranking officials of local government units, policemen and members of civilian volunteer organizations. The weapons used in the killing and the equipment used in the attempt to hide the crime included government procured firearms and a Maguindanao government-owned back hoe. The victims were women members of a rival clan, two lawyers and 30 journalists.

The worst climate-brought tragedy in decades was the the flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon in 2009 brought about by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Ondoy brought six-feet floods in Metro Manila in only thirty minutes while Pepeng brought about killer landslides in Northern Luzon. Scenes of families huddled in rooftops surrounded by brownish water will remain for long.

Lest I be accused of mentioning only the “worse worsts,” 2009 also provided us with the “better bests.” There was Manny Pacquiao with his masterful performance in defeating some of the world’s renowned boxers in Ricky Hatton of Britain and Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico. In the process he won an unprecedented seven world titles in seven divisions and became the toast of the boxing world.

And we did produce other heroes that caught international attention, like Efren Peñaflorida, awarded by the international media giant CNN as its Hero of the Year for 2009. Construction worker Muelmar Magallanes, who died while saving 30 people at the height of typhoon Ondoy, was among Time Magazine’s Top 10 Heroes of the year.

We don’t know what 2010 and the new decade will bring us. Elections will be held in May of that year and the hope is that governance will change for the better with the Arroyo administration finally out. The economy? Peace and order? Climate? Let’s just hope for the best.

(I wrote this for my January 1, 2010 “Candid Thoughts” column for Sun.Star Cebu)

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