Sunday, December 26, 2004

The morning after

The morning after

Updated 09:33pm (Mla time) Dec 25, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A10 of the December 26, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CHRISTMAS is over but not the Yuletide. We still expect the coming of the New Year and, for those who would prolong the season of good cheer, the Feast of the Three Kings. Many of us must have risen late this morning because of the pleasures of the night before in celebration of the birthday of the Lord. This is one occasion when hangovers, and not necessarily from spirits of the other kind, are justified.

Despite the problems besetting the nation, we observed Christmas with the usual goodwill that the day inspired. Even those of other faiths joined in the common feeling of fellowship and, yes, also charity. Charity was especially needed this year because of the thousands of Filipinos victimized by the cupidity of those illegal loggers who denuded the forests that could have prevented the killing floods.

No less culpable is the government for its failure to avoid the tragic disasters.

Whether from deliberate connivance or stupid neglect, the responsible officials are equally guilty. The authorities should have taken the necessary measures to prevent the repetition of similar calamities that have happened before for the same greedy reasons. Instead, the irresponsible officials dallied or conspired, and thousands more have suffered because of their malfeasance.

Many Christmas parties were marked with frugality rather than the usual extravagance. Even presents were sparing and not excessive as before except where they came from thoughtless givers. There was a general resolution to economize on the celebration in sympathy for the stricken families that lost loved ones, fragile houses and meager belongings to the angry waters. The savings derived from such prudence and given to the casualties made their ordeal a little more bearable.

Everywhere in Metro Manila, and also in the rest of the country, people paused in their merrymaking to perform their works of mercy. They were not limited to the wealthy with plenty to spare but included the middle income earners and even the poor with little to share. They extended their generosity quietly, without fanfare or publicity or expectation of merited praise. Except for some companies that announced their goodness and so commercialized it, most of the people made their donations anonymous.

It is one of the virtues of our race that we spontaneously rise as one to help others when tragedy or misfortune strikes. We showed this selflessness again this year to soften the cruel fate inflicted on the typhoon victims. They could not celebrate Christmas yesterday with the usual cheer as the rest of the country did albeit without the customary flair. But the "better angels of our nature" made their misfortune less pathetic with acts of comfort and concern.

Let us hope that this extraordinary trait of generosity and compassion will never cease to adorn our nation's character. Many of the high values we nourished in the genteel past have deserted us in these more sophisticated times, like simple courtesy, respect for elders, modesty in style and attire, and even integrity. If we should also lose our innate kindness for our fellow human beings, and for animals too, then our people will be truly lost as well.

The inertia of happiness is still brightening the rest of the Yuletide, and we should enjoy it with the still blinking Christmas lights. Considering the care and artistry with which they were strung up to welcome the coming of the Infant Lord, it will be an unwilling effort to dismantle them when the joyous season ends. Until that prosaic moment comes, let us continue to savor the fantasy of Santa Claus, of his elves creating toys beyond imagination and belief, of children whose greatest gift of innocence must in time end with the coming of age and reality.

We now joyfully await the coming of the New Year next week for this is still another event that calls for continued celebration. Meanwhile, we may take the opportunity to revive discarded loves, renew forgotten friendships, heal wounds that have festered, and, yes, still send greeting cards that may have been unintentionally omitted. Christmas comes but once a year but not only for a day like yesterday. It will continue until the last colorful lantern is unhooked, the left-over feast from the noche buena is consumed, and we settle down at last to face the real word again.

In our jubilation over the birth of the Infant Lord, did we forget to greet him on his birthday and to thank him for his many blessings on our beloved land and its people? I hope not. Confronted by our current difficulties, we should continue to keep strong our faith in his goodness, remembering that, as Albert Einstein says, "God is subtle, but he is not malicious."


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