2020 Year-End Review 

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Cordillera Administrative Region — Of the many and various 2020 occasions and events, December 31’s New Year’s Eve focuses the most important change, which is the last and final night of the aging year and entry of Year 2021.

All Cordillerans and lowlanders will stand in bidding farewell to 2020 and, at the same instance, welcoming Year 2021.

For those who stay in the highlands, lowlands, in the rest of the country and those out of the country, it’s always a historic turn when a year changes and a stirring reminder of the purpose we live by it.

The year that is passing has not been an easy one, starting as early as the first quarter when the first local transmission of Covid -19 in Manila was discovered in March. Then events spiraled fast as Covid-19, already having infiltrated other nations, infected all Philippine regions.

Amidst a continuing time of uncertainty and crisis throughout the world, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) including all other regions, presently live through one of the gravest crisis they have to face in over a decade. It speaks something of the enormity of health trials all Filipinos are facing in 2020’s last quarter period.

Throughout 2020’s  following quarters after the first,   CAR events   have shown  how people’s resolve seesawed  in their common resolve  to face up to the challenge that the pandemic  has brought.

But indigenous communities in CAR, for example, these set a different mode in restricting movements of their co-tribal members by implementing generations-old customs and traditions. These were done in CAR provinces.

Deterred by the direct prognosis of health authorities and other regional government officials propounded upon CAR, Cordilleran tribal communities  have shown their discipline and solidarity as a way in helping fight Covid-19 – showing the way to national recovery and strengthening, a fact  particularly noticed, admitted and   praised by the national body, the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

People living in CAR have proven themselves more united as a people than some had thought, and a more stable region than even some other regions believed.

But with the New Year now dawning, CAR and other regions, as well, know for a fact the worst is not over. Not until the national government stops its cacophony of discordant voice and settle into securing a vaccine that is truly effective and safe for use of all Filipinos, nationwide.

A vaccine that is free from “political or geopolitical reasons.” Because for now,  people are wondering why the national government is  considering getting a vaccine  which purportedly has only  50 per cent efficacy  yet is more expensive, compared to  other vaccines developed by western countries and   proven  highly effective and  can be bought at lower  expense.

At this time when a  new strain of  Covid-19  virus has emerged,  “Filipinos must be given the best protection  they deserve,”  Agusan del Norte senator Lawrence Fortun said, instead “ of the government giving in to overture, campaigning or pressure by the Chinese government.”

China has developed vaccine  but disclosed by the  Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as having only a 50 per cent efficacy, that forced Fortun to say, “Filipinos  need only common sense” to compare the choice of vaccines.

It is not of course to be imagined that CAR, including all regions, so gravely affected by Covid-19, and all in a situation where economic uncertainties continue to prevail,  can recover overnight.

CAR regional authorities, as well as the populace, know that that road still leads upward, and all must brace themselves for tasks and demands that will fully test the mettle of the region and the leaders.

CAR’s data for lives claimed by Covid-19 stands at 72, as per latest data.

Still, people who live in CAR but are non-Cordillerans, and Cordillerans are deeply appreciative and moved by the understanding and generosity of the highland farmers during this difficult time in our national history.

Highland farmers decided to give away all fruits of their labors when Covid-19 struck. And they spent more from their pockets to transport their thousand tons of vegetable donations to receiving points in CAR and other regions.

But no one, who truly understands the simple culture of the highland farmers in giving, should ever doubt that, with the blessings of the Maker, the rugged highland farmers will find success again in their labors, contributing to CAR’s regional building as well as progress of the country.

Let us also address, this time, all the men and women nationwide, who make up the army of “frontliners” against Covid-19. We wish them all the success in their collective effort to protect and promote the health of all Filipinos.

They are members of the health sector, personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), rank and file of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), workers in other government offices, government officials, volunteers, members of the private sector and civil organizations.

It is to them  we at least  owe  the homage of remembrance, for they are, to begin with,  part of the human constituency  of the departed ( the frontliners, particularly medical people and police officers who  died serving the people  and country),  the living  and the yet-to-be-born who will  strive to be frontliners in the future.

For the fallen frontliners, we speak within the context of the times, a time when the heroic gesture is measured against the needs of, the moment.

For the fallen, may we, the living, transform your legacy into a purpose, making your gallant stand against Covid-19 the inspiration of the given moment.

Still, this is not enough though. For the eloquent rhetoric of the day placed the fallen frontliners on the anvil of sacrifice for duty, for the people, for the country.

It had been said over and over that frontliners died so people may live. But for Christ’s sake, the sacrifice of the blood of frontliners cannot justify in terms the need for a growing economy, regionally or nationally. The fallen frontliners died, in the efficiency of public service.

And when people weren’t satisfied of that efficiency they gave, there was temptation for them to say they died in vain.  How hallow are we, for saying so.  And we, without understanding that the question of their heroic deed was meant to justify for us to live another day in this Covid-19 time.

For us, the living, it is not so much the frontliners are imploring us to follow strictly health protocols designed to protect us from Covid-19. No, they are not asking so much. Why some Filipinos still defy health rules by refusing to wear a simple face mask speaks of only of self-indulgence or not being disciplined.

Main reason why some stubborn Filipinos disregard face mask is their claim, “Saan da kanu maka-anges nga kusto.” (They can’t breathe   normally.) “That’s bull crap or bull s—-. If we can use face mask, why can’t they?” bluntly say those who follow rules.  In this fight against Covid-19, there is no success without sacrifice, they explain.

If, to speak in personal terms, since heroes belong to a collective memory and conscience, we must yet regard the frontliners in high esteem as heroes, according to the individuality and wisdom of their singular experiences.

Widows, sweethearts, relatives, friends and compatriots mourn the physical death of the fallen frontliners; we should mourn our spiritual demise for not giving them their due. Heroes in our time can cast long shadows in life of the living, inspiring the living for what is fine and selfless to do while still alive, which should be the characters of all Filipinos.

Rest you, again, fallen frontliner comrades and heroic brothers and sisters. We shall yet be true to your exemplary character, learning that what makes the Philippine stand is not so much the size and number of its economy but rather, the height and strength of its people.

To us, this memory of support will forever remain as a beacon of our faith in our regional world, of our confidence in the strength of common ideals and of the abiding ties that unite our people with the rest of the world.

And it will most surely help us in all the tasks and burdens of the coming New Year.

In closing, allow me, your columnist, a.k.a, Ah Kong, to say to you, in the words that through all the years have never lost their meaning:  MAY YOU HAVE A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!!