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The cup from which we drink

/ 12:11 AM December 04, 2015

I am sipping a toffee nut latte as I write this. I can sense the celebratory familiarity of many with the beloved toffee nut, and on the other hand I can feel the snide remarks over its hype. But the reality is this: For many of us, this is what the Yuletide season seems to feel like—commercialized and familiar flavors exploding in our taste buds. It’s that time of the year. Except that this year, something is different. Something is missing. In your rush to collect stickers, you may have overlooked it. But in other parts of the world, there is quite a stir.

The Starbucks red cup is empty. No snowflakes, no snowman, no reindeer. Nothing. Just a red cup, devoid of any mark associated with the holiday season. And to many, this is offensive, contemptible, and ridiculous. So much is the offense that it garnered the attention of millions in social media, the world news, and Donald Trump himself, who even suggested a boycott of Starbucks. The coffee chain has waged war against the holidays, and now it allegedly also “hates Jesus.”

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But that was a month ago, when the cups were first released and attention started to spark. A lot has happened since then. As I stare at this supremely controversial red cup, devoid of anything Christmas—no snowflakes, no snowman, no reindeer—its curves and blank spaces slowly start to fill, but with stories we may not have wanted to see.

This year marked the second year since “Yolanda” slammed into our shores, claiming the lives of thousands of people, the livelihoods of thousands of families, and billions of pesos in infrastructure and agriculture. Two years after the deluge, there is yet a lot of work to be done: survivors still waiting for safer areas to live, houses to be built, and only a vague idea of where the funds allocated to rebuilding the disaster-stricken areas had gone. Clearly it will take more years to truly recover from the damage etched by what is deemed to be the worst typhoon in recorded history. The distance we have traversed in the past two years is a distance covered by a crippled government. Yolanda may no longer be in the form of fiery winds, tumultuous rains and raging floods. Those are long gone. But Yolanda has not left; her pain still stings this country, like steaming hot espresso stings the tongue in the morning.

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On an unlikely Friday night, beneath its dreamy stars and velvet skies, Paris was attacked in six separate sites—the deadliest such attack on France since World War II. The world mourned the wounding of such a beautiful city, which showed the masses how much closer this war is to their homes than they thought. It feels like a chill, this tragedy inflicted on humanity. Some of the victims of the attacks were as young as me, still budding in their twenties and in their unassuming youth.

Humanity is on the brink of caving in on itself, when humans have killed more humans than natural disasters ever have. But this crisis transcends France. It even transcends the sectarian war in the Middle East, which predates many of the terrorist threats we know today. American President Barack Obama, in an interview with VICE News earlier this year, said the Islamic State is an “unintended consequence” of the US invasion of Iraq. It seems the war on extremism transcends religion and its sectoral wars. This also means taking a closer look at the economic and sociopolitical moves that the West is making in the Middle East, both important and yet dubious, like pitch-dark afternoon latte.

Amid all that, Ronda Rousey had her first loss to Holly Holm, her defeat an unprecedented event leaving the world in utter disbelief. Katy Perry was played at full volume to pacify protesters during the Apec summit in Manila, attracting global media attention because, well, it’s so Hollywood. The nation and its netizens have found a new punch line with “in full or with reservations,” witnessing how a candidate for national office was pushed to run by prayers, just prayers. And a candidate for the presidency expressed his love for women in excessive detail. He is leading the race in the Metro, if a survey is to be believed.

And then there’s you. And me. There’s still us. The year has played out and is being steadily ushered toward its end; its highs and lows were both insomnia-inducing and sweet and creamy… Very much, strangely, like a late-night cappuccino.

True enough, the new Starbucks cup is empty and void, stripped of anything resembling the holiday season as we know it. But my red cup has started to fill. But not with snowflakes or snowmen or reindeer. Nowhere near those. Its curves are marked by the forceful winds that brought our nation to its knees. Its smooth surface is lined with stars that blink on the nights of shootings and explosions in both peaceful and wretched cities. Its base is dotted by the stories that have come to haunt us and tickle us—comedic but real, subtle yet unnerving, sweet at times but altogether bitter. It stares back at us simply with its haunting red, its surface so dull and heartless.

I have realized that this is the cup we have to deal with, the cup from which we drink. If it can please be taken away, we pray. But not our will be done. In a world that is changing the way we have always viewed it, even the littlest things like a red cup would be altered as well.

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TAGS: Apec 2015, Barack Obama, Christmas, Donald Trump, Islamic State, paris attacks, red cups, Ronda Rousey, Starbucks, supertyphoon ‘yolanda’
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