By Ana Catalina Paje
Yahoo Philippines looks back on the events and personalities that made the headlines and kept Filipinos talking in 2020.
Taal Volcano eruption
The year began with a natural disaster of historic proportions. Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, more than four decades after its last eruption in 1977. The eruption left a trail of destruction in its path. Thousands of displaced residents were forced to grapple with the dangers of living within the vicinity of the majestic Taal Lake, as they lost both their homes and livelihoods to volcanic debris. The accumulated damage in agriculture, property and infrastructure was estimated to be worth billions. The demand for N95 masks for protection against dust particulates caused an artificial shortage, with prices at some stores soaring to P200 from originally P25-40.
A state of calamity was declared in the entire Calabarzon region to help affected families recover from their loss.
News of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s unexpected and tragic death rocked the local basketball scene. Bryant died in a helicopter crash on January 26 that took the lives of nine people including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Among those who died were members, parents and coaches of Gianna's basketball team, as well as the plane's pilot.
Fans took to social media to show their grief and express their condolences for Bryant’s family. Filipino artists also paid tribute to the late basketball legend, with some painting enormous murals to honor Kobe and Gianna, who was also a rising basketball star in her own right.
United States presidential election
The US presidential race has piqued the interest of Filipinos. Democrat Joe Biden secured enough electors to beat incumbent Republican Donald Trump. However, Trump refuses to concede, accusing the Democratic Party of election fraud. The media have already declared Biden the winner, but protests in support of Trump continue to erupt across the United States.
Trump remains hesitant to relinquish power, but with Biden already building his own Cabinet, time is running out for the incumbent president to overturn the election results.
The strongman president of the Philippines has gained quite a reputation for himself. Whether it’s his controversial quips, his unexplained absences or his questionable policies, he always manages to keep himself in the headlines.
There is no doubt that his governance is polarizing. While he has his fair share of critics, his devil-may-care style of leadership also appeals to a certain demographic. His administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to recent typhoons have put him under criticism anew, but his supporters were quick to defend him, pointing out that these unprecedented events are beyond the president’s control.
Bayanihan to Heal as One Act
The Philippines has one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Southeast Asia with more than 443,000 cases and 8,670 deaths, as of this writing. However, millions more are affected by the pandemic. As the number of infections surge, the economy continues to plummet. The enhanced community quarantine forced the closure of businesses, as well as the suspension of public transport. The shutdown of factories slowed down production, while quarantine measures disrupted supply chains and trade linkages. Consumer spending has also been affected by social distancing protocols.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act aims to curb the spread of the virus, while at the same time restimulating the economy through subsidies. One of its most controversial provisions, however, grants “emergency powers” to the president. Critics raised that this “power” can be easily abused by the administration.
The President of the United States is also an enigma who remains in the spotlight for his curious antics. The businessman mogul turned reality TV star, turned politician is known for his immigration policies against Muslim-majority and Latin countries. Under his leadership, the US saw a surge in police brutality against African-Americans which caused the rise in popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump was also criticized for actively downplaying the COVID-19 threat, contradicting recommendations from health officials, and promoting false information about its treatment. The United States now tops the list of countries with the most number of cases, with roughly 15 million infections and 284,000 deaths.
Francis Leo Marcos
Francis Leo Marcos (believed to be Norman Mangusin in real life) is known for his online “Mayaman Challenge” where he urges wealthy people to help others affected by the pandemic. Mangusin was arrested in May for the alleged distribution of unauthorized eyeglasses in Baguio City without prior approval and permission from professional associations.
Mangusin’s arrest fueled a deeper look into the background of the online personality. In 2013, he was tagged as a nuisance candidate for attempting to run under his alias, Francis Leo Marcos. While he claims to be CEO of the Marcos Group of Companies, DTI has no record of the said company ever existing. The family of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos has already denied having any ties with Mangusin.
George Floyd’s tragic and unjust death sparked a national outcry in the United States that echoed across the globe – Black Lives Matter.
Floyd was a victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The 48-year old Minnesota man was accused of paying counterfeit money worth $20 at a local grocery store. Derek Chauvin, one of the officers who apprehended him, kneeled on Floyd’s neck while he was pinned to the floor. Floyd, who had told the police he could not breathe more than twenty times, died soon after. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder.
Floyd’s death became symbolic of the Black Lives Matter movement, advocating for non-violent civil disobedience to protest incidents of police brutality and racially motivated violence against African-Americans.
Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un’s three-week absence from public events in April prompted rumors of the North Korean leader’s death. In May, some major news outlets reported that he was already in his deathbed. In the following month, however, the North Korean state media released footage of Kim Jong Un alive and well. As it turns out, Kim Jong Un’s grasp to power is stronger than most think. Since he took over following the death of father Kim Jong-il in 2011, he has ordered the execution of his uncle and the assassination of his half-brother.
Despite his age, Kenny Rogers’ death still came as a shock to many. The 81-year old country and pop singer, known for enduring hits such as “Through the Years,” “Island in the Stream” and “Lucille” passed away in March due to natural causes. Kenny Rogers and his music will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Filipinos.
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