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Why is she here?

I think it was 2006 or 2007, somewhere in that neighborhood. I was tutoring a child in the intermediate elementary level or early high school. (Oh, man! My memory’s too fuzzy.) But what I do remember is that in one of his assignments, he was asked to give a problem of the Philippines which is thought to be least significant. Why the teacher would give such assignment question and what learning competency was hoped to be achieved in that is beyond me. So, the kid turned to me as his tutor. As a response, I asked him if he was familiar about the Spratlys. Honestly, during that time, I thought that those contested islands were the least of the nation’s problems. What did we worry about some 15 years ago? Amid typhoons that cause hundreds of casualties, volcanoes erupting here and there, bombings here and there, political instability in attempted impeachment and coup and constitutional amendments, U.S. service man raping a Filipina, and so much more, many Filipinos would have probably agreed with me than that Indonesia or Vietnam or any other country claiming those islands can suck those masses of land up their guts. Those were little islets anyway. Yes, they’re ours. But we got more problems to worry about. (Hey, wait, China was not even a prominent claimant back then.) Even then, the neighboring Southeast Asian nations claimed the islands but we weren’t really at each other’s throats for it. It was like a couple of people expressing interest to buy a phone displayed in the mall, but no one’s really grabbing it for himself and running home. Fast forward to today, China has long since stretched military muscle not just on the islands but across the entire sea.

Sometime in January or February 2020, one of my pupils in class expressed fear for that virus in Wuhan to come to the Philippines. I naively and honestly thought it would not come to anything close to that. I assured that the virus won’t find its way here. I told him that it would probably stay within China. (Yeah, right. Sometimes, it’s not so good to be too optimistic.) I wasn’t alone in that perception. I remember the Mayor say, in a speech that there’s no need to worry and wear masks because the virus was then in China and had very low probability of making its way here. Yes, we all know what happened next. That pupil who was afraid of the virus would not meet me face-to-face for more than two years after that. When in-person classes resumed, he was about to graduate. Besides that, a great number of people got sick and died. The world economy weakened like a severe Covid-19 patient. A year before its explosion, the idea of the world going on lockdown would be dismissed as a conspiracy theory or a plot of a science fiction Hollywood movie.

At one time, my sister lamented that “It’s 2022. Why are nations still going to war?”. I see her point there. We think of wars as historical events. The present is marked by United Nations, colonies gaining independence, eastern European countries becoming democracies, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Then, why do we have Russia invading Ukraine like Germany invaded Poland in 1939? Yeah, a couple of decades ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the US invaded Iraq, but this is a World War 2 scale atrocity. I guess the world should have seen it when Chechnya was invaded and Crimea was annexed, but this is unprecedented senseless ruthlessness. Nations shouldn’t be doing this to other nations in the new millennium. But it is happening. Scenic cities have been bombed to the ground. Innocent people have been killed.

Just a decade ago, no Filipino or foreigner would have expected that the same people who flocked in the funeral of former President Corazon Aquino and elected the seating President Noynoy Aquino would more or less similarly elect the incumbent president who is the son of the dictator which President Cory helped to depose. That’s a total flip of a coin. We went from one end of a pole to its far end. Statistically, a big chunk of the population all condoled with Cory’s death, voted for Noynoy and voted for BBM. What’s the deal?

What I’m saying is that life in this world is not just full of surprises, it is full of shocks. There may be things and events that we may deem as improbable today, but could explode in our faces in days. US Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting the Philippines, but is not staying in Manila, but in Palawan which is about as close as the major Philippine island could get to the South China Sea across those contested islands which crawls with Chinese Navy to the Bashi Channel and the Taiwan Strait. Let’s brace ourselves.

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” -Proverbs 24:27

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