Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vale! Decadem horribilis et annus terribilis!

Some pundits are glad that we are about to say a big fat goodbye to the first decade of the 21st century which they consider as decadem horribilis or horrible decade tonight. T'was 10 years ago when we craned our necks so see those turn of the millennium fireworks and we hoped that everything will be good, an upbeat economy and technology that would empower everyone. In 1999, SMS messaging was in its infancy but the power of the medium was rearing its head. Someone sent a message that Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila was dead. This was taken seriously that the Vatican had already prepared condolences.

Less than a year later in 2001, September 11 to be exact, I was in hospital for a life threatening illness and I was in a dicey situation. The doctors won't tell me so. However what I saw on the TV is worse than facing death. The docs and nurses were transfixed as they saw live New York's WTC tower's collapse after being hit by terrorist piloted jets. It took me about one hour to realize that the whole episode is not a Hollywood dish of millennial hysteria but real. The horrible decade had really begun when then US President Dubya Bush was dumbfounded when he received the news at an elementary school.

The decade's travails is best captured in this blog and readers are encouraged to read it. But the blog post is from a US viewpoint. The Pinoy decadem horribilis started a wee bit earlier than the American one, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in as President under a constitutional cumulonimbus at the (in)famous EDSA shrine. The cumulonimbus exploded as EDSA Tres on May 1, 2001 and since then the Arroyo presidency's legitimacy is under question. The horrible decade for Filipinos is dominated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's presidency and its intended and unintended consequences and came to a high point in a cabinet crisis that precipitated from the Hello Garci scandal. Then came ZTE and the rest. For the first time since the Japanese occupation, Pinoys stood for hours to buy rice. A spate of natural disasters occurred. The neoliberal Arroyo economics opened the country to mining and other natural resource exploitation by foreign companies. This was staunchly opposed by the environmentalist movement and the Roman Church. The Arroyo administration managed to boost the economic fundamentals but the benefits never trickled down. Fuel prices skyrocketed due to speculation overseas. Then the banks went under and Obama was elected US President in November 2008.

2009, the environmental annus terribilis dealt the Philippines with an unusually long wet season. It seems that the climate cycles of wet and dry broke down. September 2009 could be considered as the month that turned Manila into a waterworld. The death toll from floods and flood borne diseases may reach more than a thousand. The TS Ondoy (Ketsana) deluge was a rude shocker for many Filipinos on how bad the state of the environment really is. In Northern Luzon this was followed by Pepeng a week later causing a much larger deluge that sank the rice crop.

Corazon Aquino, the President of the Philippines installed by the first EDSA revolt passed away on August 1. She received a privilege befitting a Queen Regnant as she was allowed to lie in state at the nation's primatial Catholic cathedral. This was not lost on both Arroyo's critics and defenders.

The year closed with the supposedly carbon neutral Copenhagen climate change conference which did not come up with legally binding emission targets. In the Philippines the massacre of at least 57 people (30 journalists) in pre-election violence in Ampatuan, Maguindanao shocked the world. The way the bodies were mangled by a back hoe seemed too Nazi for this supposedly more enlightened and inclusive 21st century. The horrible decade can be best remembered for this.

So what's there to look forward to? aside from the 2010 elections? The Pinoy is looking forward to similar disasters in 2010 and the election may precipitate a political one since the heavily flawed 1987 Constitution needs amendment on how the President may be elected. Also the incumbent has decided to run for Congress. Will this continue the horribilis? Her subordinates say she is really a terribilis!

BTW, I have really mangled the Latin. I should had it decas horribilis! But annus terribilis it really was!

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