Even for a country that has grown used to disasters, the events of 2013 have tested the mettle of Filipinos. Internal conflict, super typhoons, and a destructive earthquake have thrust us into the world’s spotlight, highlighting both our vulnerability and strength in the face of adversity. Despite all these calamities – man-made or natural – Filipinos never fail to shine. In the midst of this year’s glum headlines, our kababayans have managed to bring our country honor in many different fields. After two consecutive losses in 2012, the boxing world seemed to have lost its confidence in athlete-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao. The faltering performance of the eight-division world champion was threatening to undermine the Philippines’ status as a boxing powerhouse. However, Pacman’s unanimous win on November 24 against American boxer Brandon Rios served as a redeemer for the pound-for-pound fighter. He also dedicated his win to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). “This is not about my comeback. My victory is a symbol of my people’s comeback from a natural disaster and a national tragedy,” he said in one of his interviews. Nonito Donaire’s November 9 knockout victory against Armenian Vic Darchinyan also proved that Filipinos still have it inside the ring. Donaire demolished Darchinyan during their rematch bout in Corpus Christi, Texas, amounting to a repeat of the Armenian’s earlier defeat at the hands of the Filipino puncher in 2007.
Filipinos also exhibited their skills at the basketball court. Gilas Pilipinas, getting a boost from the home-court advantage, seized second place in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in Manila last August. Their win qualifies the national hoops team for the FIBA World Championship in Spain next year. The men of Gilas were able to beat their counterparts from South Korea, 86-79, in a triumph Filipino ballers have not been able to achieve since the 1985 Asian Basketball Championship.
Meanwhile, our most gorgeous Filipinas bagged top spots in four major international beauty pageants. In September, twenty-three year-old Megan Young was crowned as Miss World 2013 in Bali, Indonesia, becoming only the first Filipina to win the title in its 62-year history.
On the other hand, Mutya Datul bested 20 contestants and was the first Asian that rose as Miss Supranational at the Minsk Sports Palace, Belarus last September 6.
Miss Philippines Ariella Arida brought home third runner-up on November 9 in the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, Russia. The only Asian beauty among the top 5, Arida also upheld the Top 5 streak of Filipinas for four consecutive years.
And just in time for the holiday season, Masbate native Bea Rose Santiago won Miss International 2013 in Tokyo, earning for the Philippines its fifth crown in that particular beauty pageant.
But aside from these high-profile wins, there are also Filipinos who were recognized for the fields of fighting for human rights and preventing harm here and abroad. Franz Ontal, a Negrense, is part of the Netherlands-based global chemical watchdog that won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Ontal is the head for inspector training of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that made “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. OPCW implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that “aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction” that haunted the world since Hitler’s time up to the Syrian warfield. According to the convention, “development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons” will be prohibited by the 184 State Parties and they will destroy any stock of such arms. Ontal is from Victorias City, Negros Occidental. He finished Biology in La Salle-Bacolod and migrated to US in the 1980s. He entered OPCW in 2005 as medic for chemical weapons inspector and disposal team. Maria Susana Ople, on the other hand, was hailed a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero by US Secretary of State John Kerry on June 19 in Washington, D.C. for her efforts in fighting human trafficking concerning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Ople was given the recognition in the annual event by the Department of State to honor individuals who dedicate their lives to fight human trafficking, which has been labeled as “modern day slavery” by human rights groups and the international media.
“Human slavery affects everyone, not just the victims, because its very existence reminds us that not all are created equal,” she said upon receiving the award. Ople is the head of Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-profit organization handling OFWs concerns about labor and migration and create programs empowering their families. She also has a weekly column in Panorama Magazine and Tempo, while promoting her advocacy to help OFWs in co-anchoring a daily radio show “Bantay OFW” and Saturday radio program, “Global Pinoy.”
The Filipino gay community stood out abroad when the “Filipinos and Friends in Chicago” or FINC float won Best All Around Float for Chicago’s Pride Parade last June 30. The theme of the float was “FINC Fiesta: 365 days of being out and proud” inspired by the “sarimanok”, the legendary bird of the Maranao people. The event was for the celebration of pride and equality following a court decision that granted federal benefits to same sex couples. However, FINC choreographer Chip Payos said they will still fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois, also known as the Land of Lincoln. This is a campaign raised after the State House of Representatives’ regular session ended without voting for the bill passed in the Illinois senate last February 14 that will make way for same-sex marriage legal. Residents of Illinois are now hoping for the victory of the bill that would make their place the next state to authorize gay marriage. Filipinos excel and rise among others when it comes to talents and skills. Our countrymen have made names for themselves in ways that bring pride for the rest of our nation. In a year that may well be an annushoribilis (horrible year) for the Philippines, the good news Filipino achievers bring is a welcome diversion.