JANUARY felt like a year with all the bad news that came with it. But like what it should be in any bad news, we learn or that we should have learned.
When Trump killed Iran’s top general, we not only became familiar with the name General Qassem Soleimani but was also reminded of the fragility of the decades-long shadow war between US and Iran. National media reported an estimate of 7,000 Filipino workers in Iran who needed to be evacuated. Much more astounding is the total estimate of 2.3 million Filipinos working in the Middle East and highlighted the age-old fact that our greatest import are our OFWs.
Of course, Iran retaliated and US allowed Iranian missiles to strike US positions. Though that seemed to temporarily diffuse the situation, it still does not end the tension. I could not imagine how the Philippines can pull off evacuating 7,000 citizens and not create a national economic crater or how half of that can be convinced to start moving out of Iran and seek employment elsewhere.
Then Taal Volcano erupted in the afternoon of January 12, 2020 eclipsing the tension in the Middle East. Because the news bulletins and updates were fraught with scientific terms (like phreatic eruption), we had to brush up on geology. My friend, Yas was admiring how Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) parried the antagonizing questions of the press during the live updates and interviews.
Bornas calmly gave evidence-based replies to questions that bordered on accusations of why Philvolcs did not warn when the live volcano would erupt. Read that again: live volcano. Not even a country like New Zealand was able to predict the eruption of the volcano on White Island so how much more can poorly equipped Phivolcs? Unlike White Island, 4,000 Filipinos have been allowed to reside in the Taal Island Volcano despite its being, again, a live, active volcano.
Then Kobe Bryant died and Facebook exploded with all the sad, grieving emojis. I am not really a basketball fan so I had to quickly brush up on who he really was and learned he skipped college to be the youngest draft to the NBA. A friend dropped the phrase “mamba mentality” and I know the most venomous snake but still could not connect it to basketball. When I read that it was also related to a character in “Kill Bill” I sort of understood what it meant because it’s one of the movies I love watching on a rewind.
But what I loved from the crash course on Kobe Bryant was his repeated admission that he was not a gifted athlete and worked doubly hard on what he became. Some revived the rape case and I found myself arguing about redemption -- that he eventually worked on saving his marriage and did not repeat the same mistake over and over again and became a better version thereafter. That should be enough mantra this February.