Like clothes on fire, we just couldn’t wait to shed 2011 fast enough. That was the year of major quakes, unbelievable tsunamis, fast-rising floods and rainfalls so voluminous that the earth could no longer absorb every drop. That was the year when the peso grew stronger diminishing the buying capacity of every dollar remitted from abroad. That was also the year when President Aquino better defined himself as a leader who means business when running after those who in his mind and heart have long betrayed the public’s trust. 2011 was the year when the Liberal Party as the administration party showed real muscle even when public opinion stood divided as to how it was flexed.
December 2011 was the year when Christmas became a sad and mute witness to entire villages swept away, to families shrunk by the cold, wet, muddy floods that woke them up to a living nightmare. The cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro would never greet December with the same kind of enthusiasm as before. Never, never again would a Christmas tree be but just a tree adorned with lights and ornaments in the flood victims’ eyes. December in 2012 will mark the first death anniversary of over a thousand dead and several more missing in these calamity-stricken areas.
2011 also bore witness to the execution of four Filipino drug mules in China and thousands more trafficked to other parts of the world. Let’s hope that 2012 will not produce more of the same death row cases. Let’s pray that 2012 will be remembered for the creation of a record-breaking number of jobs here at home because of unstoppable foray of investments and tourist arrivals into our shores.
For certain individuals, 2011 was a golden year. Congressman Manny Pacquiao ended the year that was with a new yacht, symbolic of his winning streak and marketing savvy. Beauty queens Venus Raj and Gwendolyn Ruais proved to the world the beauty-and-brains combination that resides in the Filipina. Filipino-American Robin Lim became CNN Hero of the Year for starting birthing clinics in Indonesia. Vice-President and presidential adviser on OFW affairs Jejomar Binay soared high in popularity and trust ratings as did the President himself. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has moved up in the public’s esteem as a senatorial choice in 2013, and as a Cabinet Secretary with guts.
On the overseas employment front, as I write this, several OFW groups are up in arms because of a PhilHealth circular raising the premiums of almost all workers particularly migrant workers who would soon be paying 150% more than the 2011 rate of Php 900. Workers employed in Libya have slowly been returning with the partial lifting of the deployment ban while those in Syria are caught in the whirlwind of political protests and the abrupt raising of alert levels by the Department of Foreign Affairs. 2011 was the year when 41 countries were slated to be banned as labor-receiving countries on the basis of Republic Act no. 10022 had it not been for too many adverse reactions that led the DFA to reconsider its recommendations.
It would be hard to describe everything that happened in 2011. Suffice it to say that it had been a tough year that saw the world economy in shambles, despots removed through regime changes spurred on by social media, the passing of a creative technology genius by the name of Steve Jobs, earthquake after earthquake, flood after flood, and a nuclear incident that spooked the world. And those are just the events that transpired in front of news media.
We look forward to 2012 and pray that it would be the exact opposite of the Mayan prophecy: boom, not doom; new beginnings, and not the end of the world. But if there was anything that 2011 taught us, it was all about resiliency. That what we experienced in the year that was could only make us stronger, fitter, and more prepared for the year that has yet to unfold. Our biggest folly would be to shrug off all the lessons that 2011 wanted to teach us because we are simply too smug for our own good.
On a personal note, the Blas F. Ople Center and Our Times would like to thank all the people who have reacted to our advocacy for OFWs, and to our column; those who bothered to send e-mails and who read our articles on quiet Sundays. Special thanks to the management and editorial staff of Manila Bulletin Group of Publications. I wish also to thank my staff at the Ople Center: Jenny, Jolly, Jeff, Mark, Rayza, Dennis, Loloy and Fort, of course. A special thanks also to those who supported our recent Happy OFW Christmas event: Pag-IBIG Fund, Philam Life, Pagcor, SSS, PhilHealth, DBP, I-Remit, MG Forex Corporation, NYK-Fil Ship Management, Sun West and Century Properties, Inc. To WhiteBoard, you know who you are. Thanks to all and happy New Year everyone!