Every cloud has a silver lining, even for September 2021

Photo courtesy of Nino Jesus/Inquirer

It’s the first month of Christmas, yet we’re too far from feeling the Christmas spirit. With our nights starting to get longer and the cool breeze approaching our windows, we can’t help but expect hope and positivity to come along the way — only for the reality of September 2021 to slap us really hard.

As the ‘ber’ months greet us with the same old stories of typhoons, politics, and the pandemic, how are we still keeping our hopes up?

1. USTAR is used for the second time due to pandemic uncertainty

Aliah Danseco/TomasinoWeb

Who would have thought that for the second straight time, the University of Santo Tomas Admission Rating (USTAR) will be used again due to the government’s inadequate pandemic response?

To start off the month, the UST Office of Admissions has opened the applications for the AY 2022–2023. But since health risks and quarantine restrictions are still in sight, the usual University of Santo Tomas Entrance Test is yet to be administered again. Instead, admissions will still follow the USTAR system, wherein acceptance to the University is based on the academic performance of applicants.

Aspiring Thomasians can submit their applications until Dec. 15, 2021.

2. Typhoons devastate PH amidst the continued health crisis

Photo courtesy of Ali Vicoy

As if the ceaseless challenges of the pandemic were not bad enough already, Filipinos had to endure the trail of destruction carved by two subsequent tropical storms, Typhoon Jolina and Typhoon Kiko.

With sustained winds that moved at speeds ranging from 120 to 260 km/h, these typhoons first wreaked havoc on the eastern and northern regions of the country before rapidly intensifying towards other regions, including Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, and Western Visayas. About 324,518 people were in the path of the typhoons, which led to at least 17 deaths, 24 injuries, and countless power interruptions around the aforementioned areas.

The aftermath of these typhoons left not only fatalities and outages, but also obstacles to recuperation, as damage on infrastructure and agriculture now exceeds P1B. With the country already hobbled by poverty and the threats of COVID-19, it is certainly tough for Filipinos to deal with such immense damage.

3. Harry Roque blasts at a group of doctors during an IATF meeting

Photo courtesy of Edmond So

At this point, Duterte spokesperson Harry Roque is nearly done digging up his grave.

When Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians , asked for reconsiderations to ease quarantine curbs, Roque ranted on how Limpin’s group has “never said anything good about the government response”. Unfortunately for him, the video was leaked on social media. Soon afterward, groups of medical frontliners called for his resignation. Unsurprisingly, he denied the calls because “only the president can fire him.”

It can also be remembered that Roque once resigned from his post to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, but later returned. After further revealing his loyalty to the president, Roque surprised everyone with his ambition to become a member of the International Law Commission.

4. EJ Obiena sets new Asian record

Photo courtesy of 2021 Getty Images

Two weeks after eclipsing another national record, Thomasian pole vaulter EJ Obiena continued his stunning post-Olympic performance by setting a new continental record.

Reaching past the 9.53 m clearance, the current No. 5 in the pole vault world rankings finally broke the 23-year old record held by Kazakhstan’s Igor Potapovich. Obiena also captured the gold medal at the 2021 Golden Roof Challenge in Austria.

Currently, he is awaiting a P1.5 million reward from the Philippine Sports Commission, which is based on the Republic Act 10699 or the expanded National Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001.

Although he was able to make the country proud numerous times this year alone, Obiena had to end his run due to the lack of government funds.

5. Toni Gonzaga interviews Bongbong Marcos

Screengrab from YouTube/Toni Gonzaga Studio

Just days before the 49th anniversary of martial law, TV personality Toni Gonzaga uploaded on her Youtube segment, Toni Talks, an interview with Bongbong Marcos.

As the title suggests, the dictator’s son attempted to humanize his father’s name, even depicting him as a “martyr” who spent his whole life defending Filipinos. But such claims of gallantry and greatness have been disproven. In return, many netizens expressed their disappointment. Some implicitly shared iconic Gonzaga movie quotes and talked about her neutrality.

In an objective manner, it is undeniable that she also interviewed other politicians such as Vice President Leni Robredo, senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and even Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who recently declared his ambition to run for the presidency in 2022. But to interview a person whose family has countlessly denied their human rights violations in an attempt to whitewash history is not a matter of neutrality anymore, rather if it’s right or wrong.

Let us always remember what truly transpired during the dark era of martial law. At the end of the day, what matters most are the stories of the victims. #NeverForget.

6. 2021 back in fashion with the iconic return of Met Gala

Photo courtesy of Toronto Star

Last year, the pandemic robbed us of the chance to witness our favorite star-studded prom-like event, the Met Gala. With the absence of the biggest fashion night, it felt like our world was going out of fashion.

Thankfully, the Met Gala made a triumphant return this Sept. 13. With expectations as high as the hopes of its return, this fancy night surely lived up to its hype.

After themes like punk, technology, and Catholicism, this year’s theme is one closer to home, which is honoring American independence. Celebrities didn’t fail to impress, as they lit the red carpet with a variety of eye-popping looks, flaunting the ingenuity of American fashion.

Among these are homages to famous icons like Billie Eilish’s Marilyn Monroe-esque gown, scene-stealers such as Lil Nas X’s three-in-one look, or Kim Kardashian’s meme-worthy incognito dress, and some striking political statements from those who rebelled in style. These all showed how fashion can embody the beauty and identity of America in the most creative ways ever.

Clearly, these celebrities understood the assignment. And that’s what makes this year’s Met Gala one of the most unforgettable yet. From the memorable outfits that sparked headlines to the hilarious memes that stormed the Internet, the Met Gala 2021 is just the definition of “iconic.”

7. Duterte approves limited face-to-face classes in 120 schools

Photo courtesy of Rappler

After more than a year of schools resorting to online classes to continue education, up to 120 schools in the Philippines will now be reopened to conduct limited face-to-face classes for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, 100 public schools and 20 private schools with low-risk for COVID-19 are set to join a two-month pilot reopening run. The classes will be limited to 12 learners per classroom in Kindergarten, 16 in Grades 1–3, and 20 at the senior high school level.

In addition to this, degree programs that necessitate hands-on experience, including Engineering and Technology, Hospitality/Hotel and Restaurant Management, Tourism/Travel Management, Marine Engineering, and Marine Transportation, have also been allowed to resume in-person classes during the reopening run.

The Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education have yet to disclose the list of schools that would be participating and further details about the pilot run itself.

8. NEVER AGAIN, NEVER FORGET: UST remembers what happened 49 years ago

Audrey Janelle Fontilla/TomasinoWeb

“Our forgetfulness is their license.” That’s what the official UST page posted on social media at exactly midnight of Sept. 21, the 49th anniversary of martial law. Clearly, this was a reminder for all of us that there are things that should never be forgotten.

But prior to that, on the evening of Sept. 20, the UST Central Student Council (CSC) changed their profile picture. In unison, they were soon followed by local student councils, telling all Thomasians to remember the human rights violations then and now.

Afterward, CSC published a statement calling for the ouster and resignation of the Duterte administration, which was also signed by the presidents of local student councils.

9. Comelec finally extends voter registration

Photo courtesy of Rappler

As voter registration was coming to a close, qualified Filipino voters rushed to the crowded registration sites, where they were met with long lines and limited slots. Having to endure several hours of waiting and deal with the extraordinary circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic, this tiresome procedure of registration left many Filipinos unregistered.

Consequently, the Senate called on Comelec to extend the period of voter registration, in the hopes that voters would not be disenfranchised for the upcoming 2022 elections. Adopting Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s proposed resolutions (SRN 851 and S. Ct. Res. 17), the senators crafted the Senate Bill 2408, which sought to extend the deadline of voter registration from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30.

After unanimous approvals from the House and Senate, Comelec finally extended the voter registration from Oct. 9 to 30. The poll body was previously reluctant to make changes to the period of voter registration due to the conflicts it may cause with other important deadlines, such as the preparation of voting precincts and the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs). But with constant pressures and threats from lawmakers, they were urged to heed the clamors at the last minute.

10. Who’s running for the 2022 elections?

Photo from Isko Moreno Damagoso’s Facebook Page

For the presidential candidates, Sen. Ping Lacson is taking another chance in the presidential election after losing against Gloria Arroyo in 2004. He was the first one to announce his candidacy in tandem with Senate President Tito Sotto for the top two posts in the country.

Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao also declared his ambition for the highest office in the country. As Duterte and Pacquiao became political rivals, political analyst Armand Dean Nocum said that this move could split Mindanaon votes. And a “dark-horse” candidate might emerge and benefit from this rift.

On Sept. 22, Manila mayor and Aksyon president Isko Moreno also officially launched his bid for presidency with Doc Willie Ong as his running mate. Observed as a seemingly strong contender, Moreno battles numerous fake news under his name.

Labor leader Leody De Guzman isn’t backing down from the challenge either. Despite losing in the 2019 senatorial elections, he is determined to run for presidency this 2022. Clearly, he is disadvantaged, but that won’t stop him from pursuing a “system change” for the country.

1Sambayan also endorsed Vice President Leni Robredo as their presidential bet on Sept. 30. However, Robredo has yet to formally declare her decision on running for presidency.

For the senatorial candidates, some senators are seeking reelections while others are vying for another shot. Although detained, Sen. Leila de Lima plans to fight for her seat at the senate. Joining her are opposition senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros. After losing in the 2019 midterm senatorial elections, human rights lawyers Chel Diokno and Neri Colmenares, as well as civic leader Samira Gutoc, all announced their candidacies this month.

The filing of COCs will start on Oct. 1 until Oct. 8.

At the beginning of the last quarter of 2021, we were greeted not with hope, but the fact that we are still facing the same crisis as last year. It is as if nothing’s happening, at all.

Though a lot of ‘disappointed but not surprised’ events happened, the silver lining amid this messy, crazy month is that we still remember, which is why many are eager for people to register to vote. And perhaps, the only difference between today and yesterday is that we are still on the run. But we are getting there.

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The Premier Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas