Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Because it is New Year’s Eve, I don’t want to end 2011 with a heavy piece. I want to start 2012 in high spirits.
The year 2011 has not been an easy year for many. I cannot wait for it to end.
Politically, 2011 is full of issues and scandals many of which still hound us today. Economically, while the outlook has been good, results of Social Weather Stations surveys on poverty and hunger have not been encouraging despite the huge efforts (with huge budgets!) to curb these. To top it all, Sendong came and killed more than 2,100 (as of the last count) of our people in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan; devastated whole communities totally destroying homes, infrastructures, and livelihoods. We were all shocked to witness what Sendong (not without help from negligent and irresponsible authorities, unscrupulous business entities, and careless citizens) brought us.
It was difficult to celebrate Christmas with the immensity of the destruction. It felt inappropriate to greet people (especially those in affected areas) a merry Christmas. Instead, we called on fellow Filipinos to help.
Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, were maximized to help Sendong victims and survivors. We called on people to spend what they intended for parties and gifts on things that can help Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cope, and hopefully, LIVE again.
And again, as a people, Filipinos did not disappoint. Outside of government efforts, organizations, schools, corporations, artists, and private citizens immediately set up campaigns to help CDO and Iligan. Everybody wanted to give.
We bleed but we fight.
Our own group’s small initiative received amazing response and hastily I’d like to add, mostly from people and groups we first knew in social media, particularly Twitter. The feeling of trust in one another has never been stronger.
Thousands of clothing items came pouring in, sacks of rice, containers of water by the hundreds, food items, even money was deposited to my organization’s account. When I called out for used tarpaulins that may be used as temporary shelter, mats, etc., it literally rained tarps!
In our case, Twitter was a most useful way to disseminate information and also solicit help. Ours was a small effort compared with others. But small as it may be, the overwhelming response that continues to this day inspires me. Indeed, the “bayanihan” spirit is alive.
In my book, those who do things for our people in CDO and Iligan are heroes.
Another inspiring thing is how affected citizens are handling the situation. We can only imagine how difficult it is to lose loved ones and everything else. I cannot even say that I empathize because the feeling is alien to me.
These people’s grit and resilience is truly admirable. We do not hear about fighting among the survivors even at the time when they were fully dependent on government and private assistance.
Instead, we hear stories of courage, of trying to survive in the face of devastation. We hear about how they are helping each other get back on their feet.
We bleed but we fight.
In my book, the Cagayanons and Iliganons are heroes.
If we continue the “bayanihan” spirit, there is no doubt that recovery will be faster. 2012 should be a better year.
It may be coincidental that our national hero, Jose Rizal’s death anniversary is just a day before New Year’s Eve but for me, this is symbolic.
We welcome every new year to be able to leave behind difficulties encountered the previous year. We always hope that things will be better during the coming year.
Rizal’s martyrdom on December 30, 1896, one of the highlights of the 1896 revolution, was one of the biggest wake-up calls in our history. It was the breaking of dawn of a new era—the era of renewed patriotism and passion towards the country’s independence from Spain’s more than 300-year-old rule.
To be fair, Rizal was not alone. The 1890s was a decade of heroes. The revolution has been in the works years before Rizal died. Andres Bonifacio, another hero, organized the Katipunan in 1892 and the revolution was launched in August, 1896, while Rizal was still exiled in Dapitan.
However, Rizal’s execution was perhaps Spain’s most blatant display of arrogance and power. And the rest is history.
Thus, Rizal’s death anniversary and celebrating the new year are both new beginnings.
Another thing that kept me awake the past few weeks is following on Twitter the conversations between accounts using heroes’ names. Suddenly, from @tweetnirizal, @SupremoBonfacio, @PacianoRizal, @apoliomabini, and @AngKatipunan, Rizal’s last days were “re-enacted.”
At first I got fascinated because of the humour in the conversations which also included Rizal’s sweethearts, @Leonornirizal and @realjobracken as well as the fictional character @BishopDamaso. Some lines made me really laugh.
However, I got hooked when the conversations turned serious. Led by @tweetnirizal, it was like reliving the national hero’s last days replete with little known details of what happened and what he did until his death.
The retelling of the story was so vivid, it felt like I was there as Rizal was brought to court, sentenced, imprisoned, writing letters, arguing with friars, having his meals. Others who also followed the Twitter conversations reacted similarly.
This particular use of Twitter is new. It’s amazing that this medium is able to awaken people’s sense of patriotism in some ways. I hope the people behind these accounts will continue. If you are also on Twitter, I strongly recommend for you to follow these “heroes.”
But hey, in my book, they are also heroes.
So you see, we are not short of heroes. Heroism is in all of us. We just have to decide to use it. And 2012 will be a better year if we all do as heroes should.
A happy and better year to all!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter