The year that was!
By Mariano “Anong” Santos
Thousands turn out in Rome to greet Pope Francis during his biweekly audiences at St. Peter's Square. (TIME Photo by F. Zizola)
2013 is a historic and a record-breaking year.
For starters, the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI last Spring—the first in modern times—paved the way for the selection of the first Jesuit and first Latin American to shepherd the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic flock.
Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first non-European pontiff in 1200 years after he was elected the 266th pope on March 13, 2013. He took on the name Pope Francis, the first to honor the venerable 13th century monk, St. Francis of Assisi.
While his immediate predecessors—Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, were both theology professors, Pope Francis had been a janitor, a night club bouncer, a chemist and a literature teacher. In his native Buenos Aires, he focused on pasturing slum-dwellers around the dreaded street named Mariano Acosta where other pastors feared to tread.
He did his ministry by riding subway trains. He traveled to the Vatican on economy class. The day after he was chosen pope, he personally went to his hotel to pay his bill. During his 8-months in the papacy, he washed the feet of women-prisoners on Holy Week and kissed the face of a badly disfigured man, among his acts of compassion. By December, TIME named him "Person of the Year."
TIME wrote: He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, "Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?" Of gay people: "If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge." To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite "is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."
POPE Francis is the third Roman Pontiff to be named "Man of the Year" since TIME started the annual ritual in 1927 when it picked aviator Charles Lindberg.
The first to get the title in 1962 was Pope John XXIII who convened the Vatican II –the ecumenical council that brought the conservative church to recognize finally the validity of non-catholic congregations in the work of Christian evangelization.
The missionary Pope John Paul II –the first Polish pope who brought the seat of the papacy around the world was the second to be named in 1994—calling him "a clerical superstar in perpetual motion."
Both popes will be elevated to sainthood in April—presided by Pope Francis himself. Filipino faithful found it significant that their own Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 56, was seriously considered as one of the papabelis, speculated as "the first Asian pope." Like Pope Francis, Cardinal Tagle's clerical work is firmly anchored with the church's concern for the poor and the weak. Tagle leads those who serve as voices of conscience in the midst of corruption and destitution. His intellect has gained the respect of those who look for theological guidance in the challenging issues facing the Catholic Church especially the role of women and the struggle being waged by the homosexual community.
Women show the right way
Last year, despite the second term granted by the U.S. electorate to President Barack Obama, the far-right ideologues in Congress caused a crippling gridlock that shut down the government. Thanks to the 20 U.S. women-senators in Congress, their bi-partisan work showed their men-counterparts the way to work productively for the sake of the people.
Their initiative and their temperament proved that they possessed leadership qualities that are beneficial to the nation. Incidentally, a Filipina American, Donna Mercado Kim is the State Senate President of the Hawaii legislature. That should enhance our ethnic pride. She recently has announced her candidacy for the U.S. Congressional seat of the Hawaii 1st District. She definitely is very qualified to move up to Capitol Hill.
Back home, Grace Poe, the daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., topped the senatorial polls last May. She has since been one of the most outspoken critics of the pork barrel system that spawned wide-spread corruption that caught the ire of the nation.
Fathers and Sons
Unfortunately, it is also a woman—Janet Lim-Napoles—who is accused of presiding a P10-billion scam that outraged the Filipinos who are demanding to jail all those involved including former senate head Juan Ponce Enrile, actor-senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla and Ferdinand "Bong-Bong" Marcos, Jr.
The involvement of Jinggoy in the scam made the victory of his dad, Erap Estrada, in the Manila mayoral election pyrrhic. The former president, who was convicted of plunder, sought redemption but now under the cloud of his son's case. And Bong-Bong? Have we forgotten how his parents, the Conjugal Dictators looted the country to the brink of bankruptcy? And how about Johnny and Jackie Enrile? Ah, like fathers, like sons!
Yes, Enrile's nemesis, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is making sure that the aging senator is continually exposed in the court of public opinion. As if the resounding defeat of his son, Jackie Enrile, in the senatorial derby was not enough--despite the enormous amount of money that the Enriles sunk in Jack's bid-- Sen. Santiago never let up of her attacks of the former senate head.
Feisty Miriam linked the oldest senator as the financier of the Zamboanga Muslim conflict led by the troublesome, Nur Misuari, in September; as the top smuggler in the northern ports of Cagayan and Isabela; as the mastermind of the kickback-takers in the much talked about pork barrel scam; and as a top perpetrator of the abuses under the Marcos martial law regime. It was, indeed, ironic for the man who led the senator-judges that found Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona guilty of betraying public trust in 2012.
True, Corona's conviction gave credence to President Noynoy Aquino's campaign to rid the political system of corruption that makes the majority of the Filipinos mired in poverty. But the expose of the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" of the pork barrel scam showed that even the president's allies are recipients of public funds that cannot be properly accounted for and found himself on the defense.
Again, the woman-members of the president's cabinet emerged as his saving grace. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares consistently are following up on the prosecution of the accused public officials and individuals implicated in scams or those who failed in their basic obligations like paying the correct amount of taxes.
His Secretary of Social Welfare, Dinky Soliman also quietly pre-empted the criticisms of the alleged slow flow of relief goods during the early days of the aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda. She effectively orchestrated the massive distribution of aids to the two dozen provinces affected by the storm.
Speaking of Father-Son shenanigans, Vice President Jojo Binay who got thumbs-down for his politicized brand of relief goods to the typhoon victims was joined by his son, Jun-Jun, (Erwin Jejomar, Jr.) and his daughter, Senator Nancy, in landing in the bad news column with their abusive behavior in dealing with the security guards in Dasmarinas Village in Makati City where the Binays are considered the feudal lords. President Binay? Scary, to say the least.
Accused scammer Janet Napoles and alleged tax-evader Manny Pacquiao are outstanding names on the list that these cabinet members are pursuing to be brought to justice. Aquino's appointee to the top seat in the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Sereno is also doing her part to assist in resolving cases involving corruption. Congressman Pacquiao, despite his victory over Rios, finds himself in a losing battle against the taxmen.
On the lighter side of the news, Filipinas are also making big news.
After coming on top in three beauty pageants, the Philippines made its mark as the "country of the year," besting constant frontrunner Venezuela. The year 2013 saw Filipina beauties conquer the Miss World (with Megan Young as the first Filipina to win the title), Miss Supranational (Mutya Datul) and Miss International (Bea Rose Santiago—the 5th Pinay to win the title) pageants:
Aside from the top winners, other beauty queens from the Philippines also did well in various beauty pageants. Ariella Arida is 3rd runner up in the Miss Universe pageant. Angelee delos Reyes is among Miss Earth's top 8. Cindy Miranda landed among the top 10 for Miss Tourism Queen International and Koreen Medina is Miss InterContinental's 3rd runner up.
Many considered Bea Rose Santiago's win in Miss International was clinched by her comment in the final round, saying: "The whole world saw how my country, the Philippines, suffered. The agony of my people was felt. But one by one, country to country came to help. I would like to thank all the nations that helped my country. In our darkest hours, you have opened my eyes and my heart to how important it is to support each other. If I become Miss International, I will uphold international camaraderie to sustain the spirit of sympathy and to continually share the message of hope. I believe that whatever calamity may come to us, as long as we have each other, there will be hope."
A guy also figured in the nation's winning circle, not in a beauty pageant but Jonathan Yabut won the Asian version of "The Apprentice" and now works as the apprentice of Air Asia's CEO Tony Fernandes and will earn a 7-figure salary.
The super typhoon that hit Central Philippines Nov. 8--just a month after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the area is on the Associated Press top 10 news of 2013. But the world watched in amazement on the resiliency of the people. The presence of Filipinos everywhere made it easy for people of many nations to get relief and support to the victims. Certainly that emanated from the positive traits of the Filipinos—especially their spirit of bayanihan.