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Lessons from the rear view mirror

12:28 AM December 21, 2015

THE YEAR approaching its final days brings reminiscences. It’s like looking at the rear view mirror. Sometimes I look at it to retrieve an image I missed along the way, knowing that everything is fleeting from that perspective. And then I refocus my attention on the road in front of me, because this is more important. We have to believe that our destination, the place we are headed for, is a much better place than where we came from, that the future waiting for us will be brighter and more beautiful than the past. That’s why we are leaving the past behind, or there would be no point in moving on.

On hindsight, it should be tempting to find fault with society and our imperfect world, especially since all that fault and imperfection were on full display this year. The people we entrusted with the power to lead this country faltered miserably at even the simplest tasks, like addressing the urgent need for an efficient transport system for the toiling masses. Things have become so bad that the daily traffic on Edsa will bring you to your destination with swollen buns, while the jam-packed MRT might have you wearing another passenger’s face when you exit the train.

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But it is also our choice to remember 2015 for the right reasons, and by simply looking at the brighter side of life. Today, I choose to do that.

Two important events, happening months apart, at the beginning and near the end of 2015, deserve to be mentioned if we are looking to restore our faith that tomorrow everything will be all right. Pope Francis visited in January and the Philippines hosted the Apec summit in November—two international events that showcased the hospitality and resiliency that define the Filipino character.

The Pope came to commiserate with what he probably expected to be a downcast nation. There was a massive destruction and loss of life brought by “Yolanda,” true. The signs were everywhere in Leyte. But I think the biggest revelation during his visit was this: While the people may have been pushed deeper into poverty, they managed by some miracle to get back on their feet. Crowds gathered in the rain to cheer his arrival and roll out the red carpet for him despite the fact that it was a difficult time for everyone, especially for those caught in Yolanda’s path who barely had enough food to eat. If this is not faith, I don’t know what it is.

Everything that was lost in terms of material possessions because of Yolanda was more than compensated by what was gained spiritually with that powerful demonstration of faith, which no less than the Pope witnessed. This is why we should not lose hope or become so jaded as to doubt him when he said that he always mentions the Philippines in his prayers. We should keep believing that our life mission is to live our lives well. If we cannot have it our way in this short mortal existence, the spiritual treasures that we would have amassed in the eyes of God should guarantee that we have secured for ourselves a good place in the divine plan.

Surely, God must be listening to every prayer of every overseas Filipino worker who leaves home to be able to feed the extended family and send the children to school. God listens to the cries for help from millions of poor people who try to survive on the barest minimum a day. God hears the voices of the construction worker, the jobless father, the single mother, the orphaned children, all who know how it feels when you’re down on your luck and there’s no one else to turn to but God.

By year’s end we did not see another storm with the fury of Yolanda, and 2015 is playing out as one of the rare times in recent memory when there were fewer typhoons to hit the country over a 12-month period. Pagasa predicted that Typhoon “Marilyn,” which came in November, would probably be the last of its kind for 2015. (This was written before Typhoon “Nona” hit.—ED.) It’s quite rare for a year to go by without exhausting the letters in the alphabet to identify typhoons. Remember 2013, when Yolanda came. This year we stopped halfway into the alphabet.

I am not religious, and I don’t expect people to believe what I am saying here, but I think God must have something to do with it. In fact, I would even say the same thing if I were asked my opinion why the Apec summit should be hailed a success. For me, it’s enough proof that we defied the terrorist threat and somewhat silenced the naysayers who were quick to count the money spent to stoke the fire of discontent.

At the end of the day, even the worst critic must concede, even if grudgingly, that the Apec activities went well, and restored the national pride in the face of China’s relentless arrogance. I must say there is so much more to appreciate about the year when it’s finally over, and it definitely should be worth my time and effort to recall through the rear view mirror of my memory.

How I wish I have the same profound thoughts to share about the present state of Philippine politics or the politicians running for president in next year’s election. But oh, wait, I actually have something good to say to them: Merry Christmas!

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Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.” He obtained his law and prelaw degrees from Manuel L. Quezon University and the University of Santo Tomas, respectively.

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