We will remember Year 2013 with deep sadness as it is the year when the Philippines was pummeled by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the strongest typhoons that ever slammed Planet Earth. The typhoon’s unprecedented ferocity caused the death of at least 6,000 people and the total devastation of some towns in the Visayas regions.
For a long, long time, the graphic images of dead people sprawled on the roadsides or pinned under debris of wrecked houses in Tacloban City will linger in our mind. So will the images of hundreds of hungry typhoon victims lining up highways to wait for relief food. Never before had we seen such a miserable, pitiable sight!
But 2013 will also be remembered with profound feeling as it is the year when we, Filipinos, were the recipients of an unprecedented outpouring of support from kind-hearted people all over the world who responded spontaneously to the pitiful plight of the typhoon victims. Yes, for a long time, we will not forget the love shown by many people, including the poor, who chipped in even their hard-earned money in an effort to extend help to the victims.
We will not also forget the kindness shown by the so-called “boat people” (Vietnamese refugees who fled their country by boats at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975) to the grieving and suffering typhoon survivors. They donated a substantial amount for the relief efforts as they wanted to return the favor to us, Filipinos, for giving them sanctuary and assistance at the refugee centers in Palawan and Bataan when they had nowhere to go. The dramatic statement of one of their leaders is particularly memorable: “You showed us love when we were strangers in your country.” Love is paid with love!
Here in Michigan, we will remember 2013 as the year when the Filipino-American community set a new record in the amount of funds donated to victims of disasters in the Philippines. The record-breaking amount of more than $100,000 in funds raised for the “Yolanda” victims will be very difficult to equal or surpass in the future. It is a testament of the compassion of the Filipinos in Michigan for their suffering countrymen.
On the dark side, we will remember 2013 as the year when the biggest fund controversy, the P10-billion pork barrel scam, in the Philippines was exposed. But this scandal would be long remembered if the senators and congressmen linked to the scam are eventually ousted and put behind bars.
On the bright side, 2013 will be remembered as the period when the Philippine economy consistently achieved remarkable growth despite setbacks like the typhoon devastation. Its GDP growth, in fact, was among the highest in Asia.
In sports, 2013 will be remembered as the year when the Philippines won again the championship crown in the World Cup of Pool with the Filipino tandem of Dennis Orcollo and Lee Van Corteza emerging victorious in the finals, beating the Dutch team of Neils Feijen and Nick Van den Berg. The championship trophy in the same international pool tournament was won in the late 1990s by the tandem of Efren “Bata” Reyes and Django Bustamante.
Year 2013 will likewise be remembered with pride as it is the year when Filipina beauties shone in international beauty contests, the most recent of which were the Miss International pageant topped by Filipina Bea Rose Santiago and the Miss World beauty competition won by Filipina Megan Young. In other world beauty contests held this year, the Filipino candidates garnered runner-up or third-place honors.
Personally, though, I will remember 2013 with deep sorrow as it is the year when my beloved mother, Caridad, passed away at the age of 95. The image of her corpse placed inside the coffin is etched in my memory and will stay there for as long as I live. It seemed that half of myself died with her demise. I take consolation, though, from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi that “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
But life has to go on. And we pray to God that year 2014 will bring us blessings, peace and happiness.