2021: Of Breakdowns and Breakthroughs

This year opened with continual restrictions and community quarantines that limit social gatherings in education, sports, religion, and workplaces. With the surge of COVID-19 cases in different cities, it is as if no one knew what could still happen in the coming days of our lives.

Feeling helpless in the situation, vaccines were swiftly produced in around 7-9 months which is a very short time compared to the standard development of 7-10 years. On February 28, Philippines received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines with the arrival of 600,000 doses of China-based drugmaker Sinovac Biotech vaccine which started its roll out on March 1 by the Department of Health (DOH) and National Task Force. A lot hesitated to be vaccinated despite the ‘herd immunity campaign’ of the President, because all these drugs were yet on a trial phase. Meanwhile, the virus keeps on mutating and showing variants of which some are insusceptible to the vaccines. This caused fright and hesitation to the public leading to a sluggish pace of herd immunity.

Another news knocked the economy down when President Duterte placed the Philippines under a state of calamity for a period of one year due to the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak. Poultry vendors had tremendous losses on their livestock while small businesses permanently closed their doors. Moreover, on July 4, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed in Patikul, Sulu, killing 53 people. The incident is the deadliest aviation accident involving the Philippine military. The national news brought these families to the most undeniable grief we could ever see.

Meanwhile, Christian churches and organizations had a difficult time sustaining their fellowships due to the restrictions. Personally, I felt the struggle on how we could minister to our students and lay. Nevertheless, the wisdom overrode as it gave us the means to transition to online ministerial operations. Why not? As education and marketing companies were shifting their gears, we also explored the benefits the digital platform could bring. While many Christian leaders are still hesitant, we cannot deny the fact that believers can still be blessed in virtual gatherings and events brought about by this pandemic. So in our district, we teach and encourage churches to harness technology in their activities because even though the methods change, the Message is still the same. It is the Spirit of God speaking into the hearts of men.

With this, different telecommunications and Internet providers also emerged with the changing demands and needs of the public. On March 8, Dito Telecommunity commenced commercial operations in selected cities in Visayas and Mindanao, entering the country’s telecommunications industry. DCTech Micro Services, Inc. advances its operations in key cities in the country. However, online activities in a long span of time also have disadvantages that can affect many people. In fact, the Department of Health (DOH) has shown that there are about 17 million Filipinos suffering from depression this year—as enumerated in a report of The PhilStar. So how can we cope with the many changes and arising problems we face everyday of this pandemic era?

If it were not with the Word of God, I can be one person who is terribly confused and hopeless in life. With the rich who are deprived of social affairs, one can be so discouraged. With the poor who are getting less income, one becomes poorer. The brands that have already established a name through the years are gone like the wind. The lives we see that smudge a hardwork have become a memory in the hospital. As the psalmist recalls in Psalm 39:4-7 how fleeting life is, so where do we put our hope? Surely it can never be found in whatever you have now, but in Christ alone. (v. 7)

It is by God’s grace that you can survive—earn another job, get healthy after being diagnosed with the virus, come back home after a work abroad, or not just acquire the virus at all. Hence, this grace was tested when typhoon Odette came on December 16 and scourged some parts of Visayas and Mindanao. It lashed out at properties and shelters leaving many Filipinos devastated during the Christmas season. However, t’was grace when it brought many the opportunity to help and to represent Christ’s compassion. T’was grace that should let us realize what is more to repent and to value. It must lead us to the truth that God is still good all the time.

It was not until the latter part of the year that new daily coronavirus cases were reported only in the hundreds, restrictions were eased, and mandatory face shield policies were dropped – finally giving some kind of sense that, perhaps, the Philippines was getting out of the jungle. No matter how tough this year may seem–of breakdowns and breakthroughs–know that what we see is just a small part of the bigger picture God prepares for us. In everything give thanks (1 Thes. 5:18), for everything works together for good to those that love God (Rom. 8:28). Together, let’s face the new year with a gleam of hope from our dear Savior!

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