A journey to 2010

Who could have thought that time machine does exist? I didn’t but it did happen to me.

The year 2009 may be a fruitful year for me and my family, yet for most of my fellow countrymen, it was a year of sorrow and loss. As the new year is gradually unfolding to the eyes of the people, it would be rather good to leave all the nightmares in the time machine.

Media is not even exempted with the holiday season. In fact, I still have to work hours before the New Year revelry officially started. After work, I went directly to our church to attend the year-end service. I was delighted to see outside as it rains, thinking probably firecracker explosions would be lessened.

Right after the service our church mates decided to visit a member’s house, who would be celebrating the season alone and without family members. Well, it was worth going anyway since the house is located in a hill subdivision overlooking the entire Cebu City and parts of Mandaue and Mactan island. Flashes of tiny lights welcomed us as we watched the city prepare for a new beginning–a chance to resolve issues and relationships.

As we head towards the member’s house, huge houses worth millions of pesos struck us– me the most. Thousands of Filipinos have lost their homes and relatives because of the several incidents that hit the country in the year 2009.

Just when we thought everything was fine, the outbreak of Influenza A(H1N1) or the mutated swine flu has shattered the Philippines.  Since April 2009 until August of the same year, A(H1N1) has caused the suspension of classes in many educational institutions, stricter monitoring in airports, and has threatened individuals to get close with those who only have a slight flu case.

I was sitting in the front seat during the entire trip. The rain made it even harder for the driver to see the road plus the slippery way made us all pissed off. In September, super typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng have hit the northern part of this country. Luzon in particular became a “waterworld” as the city is covered mostly with water. Hundreds even thousands died in the calamity. Rich and poor lost their houses and properties. The typhoons also damaged the major rice and crop fields in the country.

A slight rain didn’t harm us as much as it did to the other part of the country. I could remember a friend telling me that they were stuck in the car as water rose during the typhoon. Blessedly they were saved.

We finally reached the house of a church’s member. It was a fairytale-like building with several tiny lights covering the entrance door hanging on plastic grapes. The fresh air overwhelmed our breasts as the feel of entering a different country overshadowed our imagination. But in between those homey feeling is a memory of the families who suffered from breathing because of the ashfalls produced by the active Mayon volcano in Albay.

The Department of Health in a series of reports said that the evacuees are experiencing colds and other pulmonary-related diseases because of the consistent release of ashfalls from the volcano. The same people were forced to leave their abode in order to save their lives from being killed by the volcano’s lava and ashfalls, and even preventing them from a probable big eruption.

Working as a journalist we in our office were praying that somehow the eruption will not pursue on new year’s day because we want to spend it with our families and not in the office. Selfish? maybe, but it was a great thing that we prayed about it, hours after volcanologists announced the lowering of the alert level in the area because of the negative explosion the volcano is showing.

I once again inhaled the fragrance of the night air as I mingle with friends and eating delightful sweets prepared only for us, enjoying every single moment  left for 2009.  Picturesque figures and designs filled the interior of the house. I as a striving photojournalist tried to capture images that addresses social issues, see below.

I did capture a show of fireworks display an hour before the year 2010 enters. Noise and countless explosions were heard even in the most remote area in the city. Lights in the city became brighter and the dim skies filled with man-made stars. Perhaps my hopes of lesser firecraker use because of the rain did not succeed even. Nothing can ever stop human beings from using this dangerous explosives,they described as  “entertaining”.

Trying to beat a deadline and avoiding pyrotechnic explosions on the street, our team decided to go home 30 minutes before the clock would strike at 12:00. On our way, as anticipated, roads were already useless to pass on as residents put up their firecrackers in preparation for the end of the countdown. The smog plus the rain made it hardest to drive through the crowded and dangerous way.  Most of us were shouting as sudden blasts from the side or even in front of the car would appear.

November 23, 2009 made the Philippines front-page worthy in the worldwide newspapers. A convoy of more than 50 individuals were on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) when a group of armed men stopped them.

I was covering the breaking news that day when ANC’s Twinkie Macaraig got a call from Vice Mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu. Mangudadatu in his statement said his wife, along with media practitioners, lawyers, and relatives were on their way to the Comelec office to file his certificate of candidacy (COC) when a group of men stopped them and brought them to the highlands.

Mangudadatu further said his wife called him saying that they were abducted by the rival clan, Ampatuan, and have threatened to kill them.

Days after several bodies were found in an empty lot in the Ampatuan town where a backhoe was parked as well. Found are 57 bodies with 30 of them are members of the media. That was the worst massacre that hit the country as an election-related crime. CNN, CBS, and other international media have featured the country as the most dangerous place for journalists to live. Also, the gruesome incident had violated the international human rights act, with the Philippines as one of the major signees. In addition, on the same week the celebration on human rights was held, ironic to what has happened.

It was my first time to be outside the house on New Year’s Day. Usually I refrain from going out knowing that stray bullets and unsafe firecrackers may injure or worst kill me. My heart pumped so fast as we drive through the smoggy streets. I closed my eyes and ears thinking it would be the best thing to do to avoid my fears.

Putting my life in the shoes of those murdered, I could imagine them hearing a series of gunshots as they were nearing the checkpoint where the enemy awaited them. I could imagine being one of them covering their eyes and ears while the rebels kill the rest of my companions. I could imagine fearing for my life.

Soon people were shouting, my friends inside the car were starting the countdown. Then it was finally New Year, and we were still inside the car, making our way back to our individual homes.

Being inside the car as the year evolved to another is like taking a trip in a time machine.

According to the Meriam dictionary website, time machine is  a hypothetical device that permits travel into the past and future.  Hypothetically the time machine has enabled me to see the past as I move on to the future.

Like a car that moves forward, people should also move on. From a short trip inside a time machine, which brought me from 2009 to 2010, one thing has remained in my thought as I closed my eyes. Reminded from the dark incidents and tragedies (natural or manmade) God has always encouraged us to learn from the past so we could live in the future. God is the only hope we have for a brighter tomorrow.

I drew a big smile when I saw us approaching towards our house. It has given me hope that if I just endure a little bit, I would be able to reach home and be safe inside. The same with our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not wealth or any thing in this world that could satisfy us, only God’s overflowing love could.

After every incidents that came crashing the nation, people would always brim with hopes in their hearts, looking for a better year ahead. After deaths brought by the typhoon, massacre, volcanic eruption, I could still see the joy in people even if they have lost lives and properties. I have seen contentment and love amid nature and human beings’ attack. I have seen peace in people’s eyes amid grief and chaos. Definitely it is not about money because it is because of the hope they put in their hearts that they continue to live.

In Jeremiah 29:11 of the New International Version (NIV) it says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I have left everything in the time machine. I went out of the car assured that God is driving my life to the heavenly road.

Four months to go and the national election, first ever poll automation, will take place. What else could happen in the Philippines,especially that on January 5, 2010 the trial against Maguindanao massacre prime suspect Andal Ampatuan, Jr. would start. Could there be more deaths? More tragedies? Calamities? Diseases?

Jesus Christ is my living vest. No matter what would come this year 2010, I know my God would protect His people. Amid social and political issues, God has taught me that only prayer could make a very big difference. Prayer results to immediate action as a manifestation of faith.

This year 2010 let us start making SOLUTIONS and not only resolutions. Happy New Year!


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