Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in a nutshell

What a year 2013 turned out to be! Who would have thought that the year that shouldn't have been, if the Mayan calendar interpreters had been correct, was exciting? History was written right in front of my eyes as I watched the news or as I found myself where the history was happening.
  • Pope Benedict XVI resigns. Yes, he has. At first, I thought that the announcements via social media was bogus until I saw the news clips on TV. And because he had given up the leadership of the biggest and what may be the oldest Christian congregation in the world, he has put the Church in a more positive light after news upon news of unbecoming behaviors of priests. Benedict XVI's last day as Pope was covered by a lot of news agencies.
  • With the resignation of the Pope, the Church is in a state of Sede Vacante ("vacant seat"). The papal conclave began on March 12th in which one Filipino cardinal, Luis Antonio Tagle was considered a papabile (among other cardinals from different parts of the globe). Just like Pope Benedict XVI's last day in office, the first day of the conclave received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the favorable media coverage during these turbulent times for the Church renews Roman Catholics' devotion (and that includes me).
  • The Sultan of Sulu renewed his family's claim to Sabah, which is historically the property of the sultanate. Trust the colonizers to muck things up while drawing country borders. This is as good a time as any to see the significance of a people's past to its present.
  • President Noynoy Aquino dropped by IRRI for a "surprise" visit. On an election year, his short side trip to the Institute was remarkable (for me) because his entourage included important people in the agriculture and in the educational sectors. There were no politicians seeking reelection or running for different government posts among his group of visitors.
  • The sky was falling, literally. A meteorite crash landed somewhere in Russia. The advent of widespread internet, mobile phones with cameras, dashboard cameras, and social media allowed the news to travel far and wide a few minutes (or hours?) after the event.
  • New supervisor; new directions. Let's see how this goes.
  • For the first time, the Roman Catholic Church elected a Pope who hails from the Americas, from the southern hemisphere, and from the Jesuit order. The new Pope took on the name Francis (without the ordinal number 1 as a suffix).
  • Margaret Thatcher, known as the "iron lady" during her stint as Prime Minister of Great Britain, died of a stroke.
  • Explosions occurred near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people and injuring more than 100 people. On the same day, a strong earthquake hit Iran; the quake was felt as far as Doha.
  • There were relatives and people who are friends to my family who departed this year.
  • ... And then there were news that took less time to travel round the world than to get verified.
  • News about scams involving legislators' pork barrel funds in the Philippines have erupted, leading to rallies and protests.
  • Strong rains brought by the southwest monsoon flooded large parts of Metro Manila (again). Last year it was "Habagat", with the assumption that it's a one-off event. This year, it's "Habagat 2013". Would it happen again next year?!?
  • A strong earthquake (magnitude 7.2) rocked Cebu and Bohol in central Philippines, destroying a lot of buildings and even the world-famous Chocolate Hills. Ten centuries-old churches have been damaged severely, including the Sto Nino Church in Cebu City.
  • The strongest typhoon to ever hit land in recorded history landed in the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan (PAGASA: Yolanda) was said to make landfall at 195mph. Yes, miles not kilometers! Thousands of people have died and thousands more are living in unimaginable conditions in survival mode. I am happy that in my own little way, I've contributed to making the lives of those devastated a little bit more comfortable.