A Christmas message
To the three college students who distributed relief goods to Taal Volcano evacuees, only to die in a fateful car crash on their way home: Wherever you are, I hope you can see how, throughout what turned out to be a terrible year, the volunteerism you exemplified has inspired and sustained our people.
To the scientists who warned about the looming pandemic; the scientists who offered their data and expertise all year—but refused to support plans that are not evidence-based; the scientists who pointed out the social determinants and dimensions of COVID-19: Despite attempts to vilify or defund you, despite efforts to disparage the value of research, may your tribe increase.
To the frontliners, from the ER nurses and the residents-on-duty to the barangay health workers and the doctors to the barrio: Thanks for your service and heroism. To the medics who gave up their lives battling a poorly understood virus: Like Dr. Kharen Abat-Senen who sang beautiful songs, your voices will be missed and your legacy remembered.
To the vendors and laborers, farmers and fishers, employees and entrepreneurs who walked farther, worked harder, woke up earlier—and went online—just to make ends meet: You deserve better. Our country deserves better, and we should demand more from our leaders.
To the parents who bought the best laptop they could afford so that their children could enroll in the virtual semester; to the students who climbed physical and emotional rooftops so they could attend online classes; to the teachers who scrambled to learn how to teach in front of computer screens: May your efforts bear fruit not just in terms of diplomas and degrees, but to a critical mass of critical thinking.
To the broadcasters whose network was shut down, the journalists who face numerous charges, the writers and editors who refuse to compromise their integrity: Amid fake news and relentless attempts to stifle press freedom, thank you for holding the line.
To the women and men behind bars because of their conscience; the environmental, human rights, and indigenous advocates; the activists accused of crimes they did not commit; the families of victims of EJKs: You are not alone in your struggle. May we never forget those who enabled your suffering. And may we work together for the truth and justice that will set you and our country free.
To the mayors, barangay captains, and LGU officials who have worked all year, and to the good people in all our government agencies: May you outnumber those who think of their positions as a birthright, using them to rob us and lord over us.
To the creative minds and performers behind the movies, TV shows, and social media posts that made us smile, laugh, and cry while transcending barriers of race, class, gender, and generation: Thank you for giving us reasons to stay home. And thank you for speaking out when your voices were needed.
To the musicians who comforted us with their songs by assuring us, “Di ka sayang,” leading us to the doors of our memories and encouraging us to believe in a future where life goes on: Thank you for the music.
To the riders who carried our needs and wants, the drivers who agonized while waiting for the next trip or the next passenger, the pilots who wondered when they could fly again: May your compensation be just, your trips productive, and your journeys safe.
To the people who biked to work, encouraged others to bike, and shared bikes to others: Keep cycling, and pedaling the bike revolution forward. To those who defended the importance of wellness and of the outdoors: Keep walking and running.
To our senior citizens—including my parents who both turned 60 this year—may there be more years to life, and may you live to see our country become a better place. To our children, including the babies born this year: May you never experience crises like the ones we and our leaders have brought upon ourselves. Unlike Baby River, who would have been your classmate or friend, may you all grow up in a kinder world and a less precarious planet.
To everyone in this beautiful country, a land that I will always be grateful to call home, and our brothers and sisters around the world: I send you my solidarity and goodwill as we enter a season, if not of rejoicing, then at least of relief, reflection, and rest.
Today may not be as merry as the ones we had before. There will be empty chairs, empty rooms, and empty homes. But may our faith in our convictions, our most resolute hopes, and our love for one another keep us going, until we meet again.
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