Christmas in the Philippines, 2009

So many stories you’ve heard and read about lately… stories about my country. In the past, we didn’t make it to the global news that much. CNN, BBC, NBC and Aljazeera would hardly have much time for a quiet, little poverty-stricken country like the Philippines. At best, we were famous only because of the famous showbiz and athletic personalities that either gave our country a good or a bad name. Sometimes, an abused domestic helper in Hong Kong, or a migrant worker caught cheating in Saudi Arabia would make it as a news sidebar. Nothing really major, and not even remotely close to being consistently on the headlines.

It seems this year changed that.

August 1st, 2009. The death of ex-President Cory Aquino. Known to the country as the mother of Philippine Democracy. The wife of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. They were both the ultimate symbol of peace and freedom in the Philippines. Loved by many in their lifetime; and mourned by millions upon their death – even by the International community. Cory’s death would also trigger many beginnings. While I can’t foretell the future, I know that hope and the fight for democracy and freedom were reignited by her death. Who knows what will happen in the coming months and years?

September 26, 2009. Tropical Depression Ondoy (International Code Name: Typhoon Ketsana) ravaged Metro Manila and parts of Northern and Central Luzon. One month’s worth of rainfall in just 6 hours, leaving thousands of commuters stranded and forcing them to swim through the streets of Metro Manila in a futile attempt to get home. It left thousands of homes submerged under flood water – some for weeks. It was the first time that rich and poor alike had to quickly scramble to the roofs of their homes just to escape drowning inside their own homes. And they stayed on their roofs for several hours. Days, even. It left thousands homeless and mourning for the loss of loved ones.

September 30, 2009. Typhoon Pepeng (International Code Name: Typhoon Parma) ravaged the parts of Northern Luzon that Ondoy spared. Landslides in the Mountain Province Region; severe flooding in provinces of Northern Luzon; and many other things in between. Its aftereffects rendered cities and provinces on mountaintops isolated for weeks. Cut off from the rest of the country, food and aid could not reach them. And to the rest of the country, crops and produce that fed millions of Filipinos each day could not get through, leaving prices of basic goods skyrocketing to beyond the affordable range of the average Filipino barely eking out a decent living. And this, a few days right after Ondoy’s wrath.

November 24, 2009. And just when we thought the country had started getting a real breather so we could start rebuilding lives again… the Maguindanao Massacre shocked the whole country, and the whole world with the brutal barbarism that was witnessed that day. Women and children were maimed, tortured, abused and killed – all because they were on their way to file for the Padre de Pamilia’s certificate of candidacy. Journalists had their lives snuffed from them in that one instant. These are democracy and humanity at their worst. This incident had the Philippines dubbed as the “most dangerous place for Journalists to work”, toppling even Iraq and other countries swarmed by terrorists.

December 15, 2009 (today). At 12 noon, car explodes in a high-end mall/ residential community in Taguig City. (photo courtesy of This was just at noon time today. No one knows for sure if this car was bombed, or a freak accident. But 1 person has been confirmed killed. While the number of deaths is nothing earth-shattering, this is the first incident that’s ever happened in broad daylight, in a relatively well-guarded community, and in a high-end community.

And if that’s not all, check this picture out.

That’s Mayon Volcano. Currently at Alert Level Number 3. Residents around surrounding villages and subdivisions have been asked to evacuate. Goodness, with a volcano spewing lava like that, it would take an idiot to not even start thinking about evacuating. Volcanologists say that the alert level is just 2 levels shy of a full-out eruption. Roughly 50,000 residents will be temporarily relocated to evacuation centers. Who knows what happens to their homes if this volcano really does erupt? And to think — it’s 10 days before Christmas.

This Christmas will be a little bit bleak for many. The sad stories to tell are those who will spend their first Christmas after all of these. The ones who will more potently feel the loss of loved ones in the season of family, love and togetherness.

But hope springs eternal for the Filipino heart. Never one to back down even in the midst of the toughest adversity. I wouldn’t be surprised to find news coverages of Filipino families spending Christmas in evacuation centers still laughing merrily and making the best of a bad situation. Much like the Filipinos madly waving and smiling at the cameras behind foreign on-camera correspondents who actively tracked the life stories of Pinoys on the days and weeks after the Ondoy tragedy.

I have sadness in my heart for all the things that are happening to my country, and my countrymen. I count myself as one of the few lucky ones who survived these events completely unscathed. But in the spirit of unity, compassion and oneness with my country, this Christmas is the first Christmas when I will share whatever blessings I have to give with those who need it more than I do. And I don’t mean my family and friends.

I urge you, dear readers, to do the same this Christmas. Let’s help rebuild the lives of our countrymen and make Christmas a little bit more merrier for those who need a tiny glimmer of hope and joy in this season of giving.

7 Responses to Christmas in the Philippines, 2009

  1. Pingback: Christmas in the Philippines, 2009 « Loves Stories- Typhoon Pepeng

  2. Darrel Ashby says:

    This is a top notch entry. If this is any indication of your future posts, then please count me as your fan. I’ll be back often.

  3. wifeinthecity says:

    hi darrel, thank you for this. and yes, i do hope you’ll drop by here more often. cheers!

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