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November 2020: When it rains, it pours in

Continuing on with questionable decisions and problematic actions dashed with a glimmer of hope, here’s a look back at what November 2020 had in store for us.

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(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

Just when we thought 2020 could not be tougher with the myriad of issues we faced throughout the year, November showed that there are other things that can get worse. That said, the end of this month also gave us a sliver of hope after numerous difficult events that could have easily made us quit. 

Continuing on with questionable decisions and problematic actions dashed with a glimmer of hope, here’s a look back at what November 2020 had in store for us.

1. Typhoon triad wreaks havoc in the Philippines

(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

Barely recovered from the onslaught brought about by the strongest typhoon recorded in the world, Filipinos had to deal with two subsequent typhoons in Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses, the latter causing almost equal damage to the super typhoon. At the end of October, Super Typhoon Rolly ravaged Luzon with strong winds, affecting the region of Bicol the most. 

While the National Capital Region (NCR) did not suffer as severely as the Bicol region, strong winds and thunderstorms were felt even in the metro. This left countless families without homes and exposed to the continued risk of COVID-19. Typhoon Siony placed a roadblock on possible relief efforts, which further lengthened the calvary that Filipinos had to endure in the aftermath of the super typhoon. Agriculture was also severely affected, causing major loss of livelihood for those who lived in the areas most damaged by the typhoon.

The worst was yet to come, however, as Typhoon Ulysses brought strong winds and flooding to Metro Manila and Cagayan. Major outages in communication, electricity, and water also occurred which further strained rescue and relief operations by government and non-government organizations. 

To this day, the effects of the typhoon continue to be felt as public and private companies try to restore the infrastructures that were severely damaged by the winds and the floods.

2. As typhoons batter the Philippines, Filipinos look for Duterte

Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net

President Duterte received major criticisms from Filipinos online following his lack of presence in the midst of Typhoon Ulysses. In a later statement, his office said that he was currently delivering a speech to the 37th ASEAN Summit, which was held virtually during the time of the typhoon. This statement left citizens dissatisfied with the president’s response in the face of a raging storm which left many in grave danger.

Public outrage also caused the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo to trend nationwide during the typhoon. Netizens expressed their displeasure at the lack of leadership and communication from the national government as many families cried for help looking for rescue as their situations worsened. Even local governments tried to reach out to the national government as their own response teams have become severely overwhelmed with the damage that the typhoons have caused.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque then addressed this concern during the press briefing after the typhoon. He urged netizens to disregard the hashtag as the president was always with the Filipino people even in his silence during the calamity. This did not appease the netizens however as many expressed further disappointment with this remark with some even ridiculing the spokesperson for his statement.

3. President Duterte did not mince words for Vice President Robredo

(Photo by Toto Lazano/Manila Bulletin)

After being largely mum during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, President Duterte addressed the nation and immediately went on a fiery tirade against the efforts of Vice President Leni Robredo. He claimed that the Vice President’s actions were simply showboating or grandstanding after she contacted the rescue teams regarding the situation in Cagayan and other areas severely affected by Typhoon Ulysses. The president also warned her that he will expose her on the national stage should she decide to run for the presidency in 2022.

After the scathing tirade of the president, he went on to threaten the students of the University of the Philippines stating that he will defund the university should they continue to protest against his administration. This was after college students all over the country went on strike to not comply with their academic requirements until the government had properly addressed the situation in the country. The presidential spokesperson clarified in an interview later on that the president may have been misinformed regarding the protest.

Later on, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo issued an apology to Vice President Robredo regarding the accusations that the president had made, stating that the information was incorrectly given to the president. The President and the Palace, however, did not issue an apology to the vice president regarding the matter.

4. Body-shaming example in an educational material

Photo courtesy of the Philippine News Agency

What was believed to be a part of a DepEd module made its rounds on social media after an example was seen body-shaming actress Angel Locsin. The example in question was found as part of a learning material for a MAPEH class where the actress  was described as an obese woman who had an unhealthy lifestyle that must not be emulated by the students.

Netizens on social media were also quick to point out the poor grammar shown in the example. It was later found out to be a module specific only to a certain teacher and was not found in other materials made by DepEd. The module was part of a learning material in Occidental Mindoro with the teacher in question due to face sanction for the oversight. 

DepEd was quick to issue an apology for the scenario. While Angel Locsin shrugged off the insensitive example, she commented that teachers should be more mindful of the contents they place in their modules as this can greatly influence the behavior of the students when they’re older.

5. NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas appointed as new PNP Chief

Photo courtesy of the National Capital Region Police Office

Last November 6, now-PNP Chief Debold Sinas was appointed into his new position after it had been vacated. This came as a surprise after Sinas found himself caught in a controversy in May as he was part of a “mañanita” despite quarantine restrictions.

Criticisms quickly came after this decision. But prior to it, President Duterte had come to Sinas’ defense after the public demanded for his termination due to his violation. The president was adamant to have him stay in his post as he declared him to be a “good officer” and a “honest man”. Sinas also pleaded with the public to forget the entire incident after social media posts about his “mañanita” rose again with the news of his appointment.

Sinas’ appointment was also controversial as he was a large contributor to the human rights violations committed under the administration’s war on drugs. This article even notes that it was under his leadership where an increase in violence was observed. 

6. Cries for an academic break

(Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler)

In light of the recent calamities that struck the country, calls for an academic break were demanded by student activists. This is due to families of students and teachers alike needing time to recover physically, emotionally, financially, and mentally with all the stresses given not just by the typhoons that battered the country, but also by the persisting pandemic. 

Student activists also demanded for accountability from the government regarding the shortcomings in handling the calamities that have happened and the current pandemic. Academic institutions, including the University of Santo Tomas, eventually agreed to suspend classes for a week to help university staff and students recover and prepare themselves to face the challenges of online learning.

Ultimately, the Commission on Higher Education and the national government rejected the idea of a unilateral suspension with the former stating that these decisions are better suited for local government units and the administrators of the universities.

7. Youth take action to aid typhoon victims

Photo grabbed from the official page of UST Central Student Council

With the serious effects of the calamity, students and other individuals have taken it upon themselves to conduct their own efforts in helping those severely affected. As the damage caused by the typhoons became more and more apparent, social media pages became flooded with donation drives intended to assist the relief operations conducted by the government and private organizations.

Students worked in tandem with organizations and government offices, such the Office of the Vice President, in collecting monetary and in-kind donations. Some even exercised their creativity and resourcefulness by using different approaches such as raffles, exchanging services such as art commissions, and selling pre-loved items. All the proceeds were directed to the relief efforts for the communities in need. 

Transparency reports behind these efforts have shown how successful they were, exhibiting the essence of bayanihan amidst the pandemic where social distancing measures have limited interactions. However, it also shows the unfortunate reality of Filipinos having to rely largely on themselves to survive the neverending flurry of natural calamities our country is known to have.

8. COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon

Photo by Dado Ruvic from Reuters via Interaksyon

It’s been 8 months since the world was placed in some form of lockdown to protect it against the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccine development at a historically rapid pace, the light at the end of the tunnel has never been brighter as stated by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom. Efficacy reports have come out from numerous pharmaceutical companies with the success rate being between 70% and 90%.

With these findings, the Philippine government had been busy trying to secure doses to be administered to those at highest risk. The Philippine vaccine czar has recently secured a deal with AstroZeneca for 2 million doses of their vaccine once it completes further trials. The national government aims to vaccinate 20 million Filipinos to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and achieve herd immunity, which they aim to achieve by December of this year.

These developments in vaccination paints a hopeful picture of a better 2021 with a higher sense of normalcy than the one we’ve had this year. If all goes to plan, the Filipino people and the world will hopefully be able to wake up from the bad dreams that are 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

November, much like previous months of the year, has been a roller-coaster of emotions. While we sit at home trying to make the most of this 8-month quarantine, we’ve had  a front-seat view of the problems that have plagued our country for decades. Government shortcomings and unfortunate circumstances continue to be at the forefront of news headlines making it that much easier to be cynical and apathetic with what’s going on around us. 

Nonetheless, if this month ever taught us anything, it’s that we continue to look out for one another no matter the hardships we go through. November showed us that we have the ability to still support each other while still demanding accountability for the things our government owes us. Only time will tell if the last month of 2020 will continue to give us hope for the next year or if we’ll be expecting much of the same come January.

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How ‘Attack on Titan’ revolves around the compromise of freedom and revolution

‘Attack on Titan’ is not your typical zombie apocalyptic genre. It’s an experience, and it has changed.

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Screengrab from ‘Attack on Titan’

‘Attack on Titan’ is not your typical zombie apocalyptic genre. It’s an experience, and it has changed. 

Through one of my major classes, I grasped the role of diplomacy and foreign relations as I slowly began to outgrow prejudices I’ve had with my own country and other countries. When we see our coexistence with the world, we see how we’re not different from the rest. How catastrophic would that be if we chose to resist openness and turn a blind eye to see both the good and ugly realities of the world?

Questioning morality and freedom is perfectly contextualized in the immaculate storytelling of Isayama Hajime’s ‘Attack on Titan’. First released in 2009, the highly-acclaimed fantasy-action shounen manga and anime has drawn many fans on an international scale, living to its hype and success through its consistency in fusing elements of action, fantasy, horror, and thrill. The plot circulates over Eren Yeager, who vowed to save humanity by killing all the Titans, the gigantic humanoid antagonists that have devoured humans, and his mother. However, as the story progresses, its archetypal shounen narrative of simply defeating the Titans shifts towards significant themes of politics, war, philosophy, and history intertwined. 

It tactfully combines emotionally-driven arcs paired with music that enforces ferocity, nationalism, tragedy, and despair. Each frame and panel is gracefully animated with precision, reflecting the artistry and dedication of the creators in cultivating the series’ magnificent world-building. The abundance of subtexts and relevant themes is portrayed through allegories, symbolism, and critiques of humanity’s adverse upbringing. Fair warning: anime spoilers ahead!

*Trigger warning: Mention of violence, human experimentation, and trauma

Historical Revisionism, Racism, and Fascism: The Tragedy of Reiner Braun 

Screengrab from ‘Attack on Titan’

As we perceived the world through the universe of Paradis, we’ve rooted for the Eldian protagonists left to save the last of humanity within their walls. We were introduced to the Marleyans, who presented themselves as a larger enemy than the Titans. Unbeknownst to the Eldian protagonists, the entire world ostracized them as the “devils of the Earth” after their ancestor, Ymir Fritz, gained the power of the Titan through a deal with the Devil and propagated the grim Titan war. Oppressing nations through the Titans’ blood lineage and ethnic cleansing for decades, the Eldian upheaval was successful when the Marleyans finally conquered the world by obtaining 7 out of 9 Titan shifters the ability to transform into a Titan and a human. 

Due to indoctrination and Marley imperialism, relentless hate and discrimination were spewed primarily against the Eldians within the walls of Paradis. Weaponizing the Titans for world domination, human experimentation, and slavery was a pervasive punishment for the Eldian refugees to atone for their ancestors’ sins. 

Screengrab from ‘Attack on Titan’

Reiner Braun was an Eldian Titan child soldier that was a victim of the Marleyan propagandistic mission that sent off candidates to infiltrate the Eldians of Paradis (they deemed as the Evil Eldians) to obtain the Founding Titan, the supreme ability to take control over the Titans. In a horrifying betrayal, it was revealed that Reiner and Bertholdt Hoover were the traitorous Titan shifters that nearly annihilated humanity years ago when they breached Wall Maria. Being disguised as a Survey Corps comrade has resulted in Reiner’s split personality, causing him to be torn with guilt between his soldier and warrior persona. After realizing that the Eldians are just normal as them who faced the same human conflict, and not the ‘devils’ the Marleyans made them be, he struggled with being a double-agent. He was just another victim of the fascist propaganda that brainwashed children to bring victory to their nation. Regardless, you want someone to be held accountable after they have slaughtered bloodshed and exterminated irreplaceable lives. If the Eldians would have won the war, would they have made themselves the heroes that have slain the evil as well? If so, which historical narrative is right? Who do we side with? 

As it highlights the damage of the glorification of military and fascism, ‘Attack on Titan’ performs a penetrating and coherent approach in alluding to the complexity of prejudice and war, the importance of history, and understanding different perspectives through Reiner’s narrative. 

Military Censorship, Class Struggle, and Corruption: Levi Ackerman and Erwin Smith’s Enigma

Screengrab from Attack on Titan

As the Marleyans thrived in power, domination, and technological advancement, our protagonists faced boundless struggles of gloom and melancholy due to endless casualties and issues within Paradis. The three walls, Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina, divided the lower class, upper class, and royalty. While the Survey Corps zealously dedicated their life to saving humanity and protecting the royalty, the Royal Government put a premium on protecting their positions in the class hierarchy while being apathetic towards the lower class and refugees. Here, corruption was rampant as they were gatekeepers of true information on the outside world and resources. Their misuse of funding has resulted in class struggles and the impoverished seeking refuge in the Underground City, a crime-ridden district where Levi Ackerman was initially from. After his mother passed away, his uncle Kenny raised and taught him the essential defense and knife skills. Though he was groomed as a notorious heist member, his skills were put to good use when Commander Erwin Smith recruited him in the Scout Regiment. Levi and Erwin helped overthrow the corrupt regime through a coup d’état and emancipated progressive change with recrowned Queen Historia Reiss when they created an orphanage for the Underground citizens with proper allocation of the Royal Family’s budget. 

Despite their quintessential role as revolutionary soldiers and leaders, the series never fails to humanize their characters, representing their emotional state in the face of powerlessness and helplessness. In Levi’s troubled background, his misdemeanor has transformed into one of the most significant developments of someone who replaces apathy with care and respect by defending the collective masses, pulling the destitute from the rear end of the class hierarchy, and placing his comrades before himself. Even on the brink of death, Erwin zealously places his life on the line in upholding utmost leadership, eradicating military censorship, and practicing dignity in fighting for humanity relentlessly. 

Morality and Freedom: Eren Yeager and the Axiom for Freedom

Screengrab from ‘Attack on Titan’

“If we kill our enemies on the other side, will we finally be free?” He asks, aimlessly staring at the ocean. 

The one-dimensional persona of Eren Yeager as the main character was continually challenged from his linear ideals of attaining freedom and revenge to learning the complexity of the world on the other side of the walls. From tormenting events of betrayal, trauma, and dehumanization, his aphorisms of vowing to kill the Titans to save humanity and using the Titans for his extremist ultimatums of freedom have displayed his development as the protagonist and antagonist of the story. His moral ambiguity allows him to accept that he is only special and significant because he has Titan powers. Disappointed by the existence of other humans and civilizations beyond, all he could think about was the enemies on the other side as he reached the ocean he once longed for. The innocent look of a simple boy that gleamed with a hunger for discovery and justice is now a cyclical, manipulative, and mass-murdering enemy, with all the hatred the world has thrown upon him. 

I find it dramatically complex and beautiful when the disruption of loyalties and ideologies are placed on a threshold when former enemies and friends turned their back on him to save the world, while he turned his back on the world to save them. 

Either way, it risks someone’s life and ends in pain, which can be similarly contextualized with the philosophical dilemma of the Trolley problem. Will you push the lever, saving the five and killing the one? Or will you simply watch the train continue on its path, hence killing the five?

Illustration by Jesse Prinz on subcortex.com

Before it surfaced as a meme, Philippa Foot sparked this influential question in 1976 and was commonly raised in moral ethics and psychology. While the majority chose the “greater good”, professors made each prompt more personal and emotion-driven by exemplifying someone we were close to on the tracks. In this sense, Eren chooses to save who he is closest to, in order to be truly free and end the curse of endless chaos, rendering the death of millions. But can we blame him after the whole world celebrated while the Paradis Eldians endured monsters and hell inside the walls and were denounced as the enemies? 

The fallibility of identifying the true heroes and villains leaves the audience with an overwhelmed sense of uncertainty, as different perspectives and layers are presented.  But maybe, that is Isayama’s genius discernment — to make us think. The character’s different upbringings, environments, and ideologies show that there is neither a good nor bad guy. Every act is justifiably done for what they see as the common good in their eyes like two sides of the same coin with a different definition of justice. However, is it too late to change and find the midpoint? 

Although humorous yet unfortunate, the ongoing pandemic made several people compare the Titan serums to the contention of the elite getting the cream of the crop of the COVID-19 vaccines exclusively while the underprivileged get the short end of the stick. Even in the face of the most abhorring adversity, plague, or monsters unleashed from hell, it is the frailty and corruption of our human nature that turns us into our own enemies, winding in a repetitive cycle of chaos — to keep moving forward until our means meet the end. 

From the Game of Thrones to the Walking Dead, we hope that ‘Attack on Titan’ won’t fall into the same hole of critically-acclaimed series that eventually slump into a dissatisfying finale. As anime watchers howl in excitement for every action scene, manga readers anticipate for things to fall into place. Watch Eren’s Declaration of War against the Marleyans and the world in the ongoing season finale! Will he finally achieve freedom or be a slave to the pursuit of freedom?

See you, when this sublime and unmatched tale is engraved in history, 2000 years from now. Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro

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Why new year’s resolutions don’t always work out

If your resolutions made it to this week, congrats. If not, here are some reasons why you chose to ditch them. 

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Whenever ancient Babylonians crowned or asserted their loyalty to their king, they promised to the gods that they would pay their debts or return things they borrowed. If they keep their end of the bargain, favor would be bestowed upon them. This pagan ritual is said to be the precedent of our annual New Year’s resolutions.

A new year calls for new beginnings. With everything we’ve gone through last year, it’s no strange fact that we all badly want to turn over a new leaf. At this point, our social media feeds are most likely filled with ‘New Year, New Me’ posts along with dozens of resolutions that claim to be effective and easy. But no matter how realistic we set them to be, we still end up bouncing back on old habits. 

If your resolutions made it to this week, congrats. If not, here are some reasons why you chose to ditch them. 

1. Your goals overwhelm you

We all want to be the best versions of ourselves this year. Not only do we set the bar too high, but we also set too much for ourselves. By the time we attempt to begin some resolutions, we tend to give up after a few tries because we have too much on our plate. We have so many things we want to accomplish, yet we have so little time, which can be stressful rather than rewarding.

Your goals don’t have to be as many as that of a grocery list. Prioritize setting resolutions that are sustainable despite how few it may seem. These can include waking up early, cleaning your room once a week, or having a 20-minute study break. Also, instead of carrying out your resolutions all at once, try to divide them into weekly or monthly goals. Just because you wrote them on the first day of the year, it doesn’t mean you have to start them right away. Working at your own pace would greatly help in escaping the stress of having to do so much in one day to the point that it feels like a chore. Remember, quality over quantity. 

2. Your resolutions are too restrictive

Whether it’s trying out a fad diet or limiting your shopping expenses, they are both goals that bar you from things that satisfy your inner psyche. Sure, you may end up sticking to it for a few days or weeks. But once you begin to feel that void of serotonin, the next thing you know, you’re checking out items from your cart in Shopee or Lazada’s monthly sale. 

Restrictive goals tend to be unsustainable because they alter our normal behavior, which is why we inevitably break them. Instead of imposing limits on your habits, try to make them more inclusive. Having trouble maintaining your weight? Take the healthy route and choose foods that are rich in nutrients and minerals. Losing weight doesn’t have to be quick and easy. Feeling guilty about your purchases? Splurge on items that will actually benefit your daily lifestyle such as space organizers and home essentials, not those decors that will only end up gathering dust in your room. Believe me, you don’t need a mini statue of an astronaut cat. 

3. You do it alone

Most resolutions tend to fail because we lack motivation or commitment in achieving them. It can also be difficult when you try to change habits on your own and the people around you have lifestyles that work against it. One way to prevent your goals from going down the drain is having someone to share those goals with. As they say, two are better than one. 

Changing for the better with others promotes a mutualistic relationship where both parties equally benefit from each other. Together, you can keep track of your goals and make sure that you don’t end up cheating your way out of it. Having that boost of encouragement from others would definitely increase your chances of success and make activities even more fun. So if you’re still crafting your resolutions for this year, reach out to a friend or two. If not, try joining support groups on Facebook. Who knows? You might find people who share the same goals as you do. 

4. You are not the problem, your resolutions are

When writing down our resolutions for this year, we tend to focus on goals that would help enhance our physique such as exercising everyday or sticking to a strict diet. These will surely appease all the fitness gods, but in reality, we still find ourselves eating junk food while watching Netflix or cooking pancit canton at three in the morning. 

More often than not, we find ourselves setting goals that focus on what we should be doing rather than what we want to do. We tend to set our resolutions based on other people’s expectations like getting that post-quarantine body or having that aesthetic lifestyle for the sake of bragging about it on Instagram and TikTok. So, instead of being better versions of ourselves, we only end up creating another manufactured persona for everyone’s liking on social media. Talk about real-life ‘Nosedive’, huh? 

If you know exercising at the crack of dawn is not your cup of tea and you’d rather want to spend those hours bundled up in your bed, then go ahead and don’t do it. The only thing stopping you is your own urge to conform to other people’s standards. 

5. You only focus on one side of the coin

Typical resolutions focusing on finance and fitness are materialistic. Some may argue that having tangible goals is better because seeing it unfold before their eyes leads to greater satisfaction. However, they merely encapsulate our attempts to pursue happiness indirectly. 

Cliché as it may sound, gaining happiness directly through simple actions outweighs all the taxing and tedious goals we try to set up. 

Start by being more grateful. Remind yourself to say thank you for the simple things and to the people you meet. To the security guard who opened the door for you, say thank you. To your friends who made an effort to reply to your messages, say thank you. Better yet, take time out from your busy schedule everyday to write a few things you are grateful for. It can indeed be difficult to stay optimistic considering the situation we are in right now, but a simple gesture goes a long way in benefiting your mental health for the better.

Resolve your worries by forgiving. In the past year, we’ve all had things or people that really tested our limits as a person. Carrying that grudge throughout this year would not only be burdensome, but would also take a great toll on your well-being. It may seem difficult to do but it can go two ways: forgiveness towards those who wronged you and forgiveness towards yourself. While working out enhances your physique, forgiving improves your self-esteem and relationship with yourself and others. We’ve already had our fair share of toxicity last year and the last thing we want is for it to persist and make us feel worse than we already are. 

We all have high hopes for the new year and our resolutions are a reflection of that. As we gather in prayer circles, we manifest that 2021 would finally free us from the desolation and anxiety that the past year held us with. With that said, I think that one of the best resolutions we can write for ourselves is to get through this year safely and healthily. May this, along with all the resolutions we wrote or are about to write, allow us to step out as improved individuals for the better. 

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New Year’s Eve Playlist: House Party

It’s time to bust out your dance moves.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

It is finally time to bid adieu to 2020. Our current circumstances may have put our usual new year traditions to a halt. But being able to conquer all the ups and downs we’ve been through this year is enough reason to still celebrate.

Whether you’re leaping into the new year with your loved ones or cuddled alone in your room, you’ll need a soundtrack to close this year. Release all your worries and wishes as we welcome 2021 with hope and positivity.

It’s time to bust out your dance moves.

From all of us at TomasinoWeb, happy new year!

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