And suddenly it’s 2017. It doesn’t seem like much, emerging bleary-eyed as we are from a year of disaster and misfortune into a grim landscape. Grim but marked by a measure of hope, and only because Filipinos are generally predisposed to it. Predisposed to new beginnings, as when residents of the fire-stricken NIA Road in Quezon City pull themselves together and pick through the rubble to salvage anything that could still be of use as they resume their lives.
The fire broke out Tuesday night and raged for six hours, requiring the use of 74 fire trucks to finally get it in control. In all, some 500 informal-settler homes were razed, leaving 1,000 families homeless. A 74-year-old woman was killed and there were minor injuries to others. How painful it is to lose everything, a woman said as she waited to receive donated clothing from barangay personnel. “I think we will welcome the new year in this covered court,” she said. Another survivor said she and her family had nowhere to go and thus would spend New Year’s Eve under the tree at the corner, or on the roadside.
“At least,” she added, “we are together.”
To seek the dark cloud’s silver lining is difficult and admirable, more so when, although in straitened circumstances, one still finds room and reason to give. In Camarines Sur, residents of Barangay Pagas pooled meager resources to buy food packs for families in the town of Milaor. Typhoon “Nina” had devastated Camarines Sur, and the Milaor folk were homeless and helpless. But the Pagas residents gathered their funds intended for noche buena so that the displaced families could have a semblance of a meal. They sent 320 packs, each with five kilos of rice, sardines, noodles and coffee. “That was all we could afford to send but it came from our hearts,” said Barangay Pagas captain Christopher Lee.
From the heart.
Some of us might be hard-pressed to find silver linings in our current state, but we can take lessons from a sad ending, such as the death of American writer and actor Carrie Fisher—our “Princess Leia,” bold, courageous and funny, who never let franchise or society define her.
The child of Hollywood royalty, she made a living in Hollywood as screenwriter, novelist and essayist, and fought for greater awareness of mental illness, openly discussing her struggles with bipolar disorder. She found the light in the darkness, addressing her drinking and depression in her writing, and serving as a source of inspiration and illumination up to the end. In a year of profound losses, her passing shocked as it was so unexpected. Perhaps even more shocking was the death the very next day of her mother, the performer Debbie Reynolds, whose heart was broken by her death.
But there’s an unlikely source of jubilation in these parts: The OFW documentary “Sunday Beauty Queen” beat all the odds to be named Best Picture at the controversial Metro Manila Film Festival. It was an ending that no one saw coming. “No more mainstream, no more indies, we are one,” said director Baby Ruth Villarama of a festival that, previously surrendered to box-office behemoths only, embraced small, well-crafted independent films this year. Every award given on that festival night was a pleasant surprise, and could serve as the beginning of a new history for the MMFF.
It has become commonplace to believe that a new year will be a better one, and surely, after a devastating 2016, there is no way to go but up. Whether in a makeshift shelter on NIA Road, in an evacuation center in Camarines Sur, in grieving Hollywood, or on MMFF awards night, we can look to the new year in the warm embrace of those we love, with grit, hope and renewed determination, and believe that the Force is with us. That should be enough not only to find silver linings but also, and most importantly, to get our act together.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.