What went right in the Philippines in 2018

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This year, over 25,000 people went to the annual Metro Manila Pride March, making it the oldest Pride demonstration (it started in 1994) as well as the biggest march in the region. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Our media diet is frequently filled with bad news — a tragedy, a natural disaster, or a series of disconcerting quotes from people in power. The nature of how news stories are covered and shared often center around the traditional “where it bleeds, it leads” type of journalism. It’s not news if you cross the road safely; it’s news if a car cracks your head open as you cross the road.

There are people who tune out news altogether as the slew of traumatic stories can ultimately affect their mental health. A report suggests that in order to live with this reality without being consumed by it, people could limit the time they spend watching news on T.V. or social media. Terry Osborne, a professor at Dartmouth College, said in the same report: “The challenge is carrying the pain but not letting it bury you.”

There are also those who recommend having a more balanced media diet, which means reading good news as much as bad news. However, it is indeed difficult to expect a behavioral change in a culture so accustomed to how news is presented. The news will always and should always hold power to account; it should report all the bad and the ugly, but maybe it’s also time for the news to incorporate some good without compromising the basic tenets of news gathering.

Good news shouldn’t only be about victories in beauty pageants and boxing matches; good news, accompanied with the rigor of journalistic processes, can be stories of innovation, of solutions to social issues that can ultimately provide readers agency and possibility. As journalist Mark Rice-Oxley said, “Not everything we cover will necessarily change the world for the better, but it will offer the promise of doing so.”

To end the year on a hopeful note, here are some good news stories in the Philippines that are worth toasting to, at least for the remainder of 2018.

Metro Manila Pride March becomes oldest and biggest march in Southeast Asia

This year, over 25,000 people went to the annual Metro Manila Pride March with the theme #RiseUpTogether. It seems that people did rise up together specifically in breaking the record of most number of attendees for any LGBTQ+ march in Southeast Asia. Now, the Metro Manila Pride March boasts itself as the oldest Pride demonstration (it started in 1994) as well as the biggest march in the region. In the MMPM’s website, Mikhail Quijano, co-head of the organization said: “Pride March and Festival is not only a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people to celebrate themselves. At its core, it’s a platform to protest and bring attention to the issues that matter to the community.”

Photo by JL JAVIER

Mental Health Law passed

President Duterte signed Republic Act 11036, also known as the Philippine Mental Health Law. The bill promises to provide an improved access to mental health care in the country. It also seeks to create better health care facilities and programs for Filipinos. Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senator Sonny Angara were the proponents of this new law. “No longer shall Filipinos suffer silently in the dark. Mental health issues will now cease to be seen as an invisible sickness spoken only in whispers,” said Senator Hontiveros.

Imelda Marcos convicted for graft

Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos was found guilty of seven counts of graft this year. From 1991 to 1995, the Office of the Ombudsman filed 10 cases of graft after she allegedly funneled funds to organizations in Switzerland during her time as a public official under her husband Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule. She was sentenced to a total jail time of a minimum 42 years and 7 months and a maximum of 77 years. However, she did post a ₱300,000 bail to “avail of legal remedies.”

The return of Balangiga bells to the Philippines

The Balangiga bells returned to the Philippines after 117 years of being in the United States. The bells were displayed as trophies of war in Wyoming for more than a century, and now, they are in their original home in Samar. During the handover ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, said: “The return of the bells of Balangiga lets us reflect on the U.S.-Philippine relationship — where we have been, where we are, where we are going.”

New transport terminal seen to ease Metro Manila congestion

The Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) is expected to alleviate traffic congestion in Metro Manila, specifically the Taft Avenue-Pasay area. The terminal can accommodate up to 100,000 passengers every day and is forecasted to have around 1,000 arrivals and over 900 departures daily. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokesperson Celine Pialago said that the new transport terminal will help decongest the metropolis as provincial terminals will be out of EDSA. However, criticisms also surround this project as it seems that for the PITX to work, terminals at Baclaran, MOA, and Pasay should be eliminated.

United States pledged ₱1.35 B aid for Marawi

To help displaced residents of Marawi, the U.S. government pledged an additional ₱1.35 billion funding which amounts to ₱3.2 billion in total funding from the U.S. The extra funding will go the a new program called the Marawi Response Project, which is a three-year U.S. AID scheme that aims to improve the economic and social circumstances in Marawi. “Through the Marawi Response Project, the U.S. government, in partnership with the Philippine government, will expand livelihood opportunities and help restart local businesses,” U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sun Kim said.

House passes 100-day maternity leave

On September, the House of Representatives passed a bill that extended maternity leave to 100 days. The present law only allows 60 days of paid maternity leave and in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has one of the shortest maternity leaves. Vietnam provides 120 to 180 days of maternity leave, Singapore gives 122 days, and Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand offer 90 days. Even the International Labour Organization’s standard maternity leave is at 98 days. While both houses have proposed an extended maternity leave, President Duterte has yet to sign the bill into law.

Photo by JL JAVIER

Boracay reopens after six-month closure

On April 26, President Duterte ordered to close Boracay island as it had turned into, in his words, “a cesspool.” Naturally, residents of Boracay who have relied on businesses in the area suddenly lost a substantial amount of their income. After six months of cleaning, inspection, setting up of proper sewage systems, destruction of illegal structures, and building of new infrastructure, Boracay reopened, to the delight of people who will once again have proper livelihoods in the island.

Illustration by JL JAVIER

Anti-discrimination ordinances signed in various cities Iloilo City, Malabon, Mandaluyong, and Taguig

Iloilo City, Malabon, Mandaluyong, and Taguig now have anti-discrimination ordinances that could help uphold the rights of those that may experience SOGIE-based discrimination. Because of the absence of a national law that could protect LGBTQ+ from harm, these ordinances have played an important role in safeguarding the lives and well-being of every Filipino.

Minors are now allowed to test for HIV without parents’ consent

Filipinos who are 15 and under 18 years of age can now get an HIV test without having the approval of a parent or a legal guardian. According to the Department of Health, those around the age of 15 to 24 comprise 29 percent of the 1,072 cases that were recorded in October of 2018. “There have been too many cases of children and teens getting HIV. Government must protect and care for the young especially so because they are vulnerable to the public health dangers,” Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo said in a statement.