Considering that we're in the midst of a pandemic that we haven't fully gotten to grips with almost a year and a half in, weirdly, we were either looking back to the past, or looking forward to a hypothetical future.

On the streets outside the Batasang Pambansa, progressive groups were, as you'd expect, protesting, railing against the atrocities of the Duterte regime. But at the same time, the air was somewhat festive. This is the president's last State of the Nation Address, which means he'll be out of power soon, at least under ideal circumstances. Just a little more, and it's goodbye to the tyrant, goodbye to the dictator who squashed down rights and swiped away freedoms, all for the sake of saying things have changed.

Inside the Batasang Pambansa, as both houses of the legislature gathered for a joint session, the president was feeling sentimental. On what is - again, ideally - his last State of the Nation Address, he was in a mood to look back at just how successful he was. Look at all the reforms he managed to implement. Look at all the radical changes he brought forth, never mind if they were unpopular, never mind if he had to put his political capital on the line. Look, no more drugs, no more criminality, no more corruption. Am I great or what?

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It might be obvious, but I write my columns days before they are published. They appear every two weeks, so that means roughly a week and a half trying to put things together in my head, followed by one hour of cramming it all before sending it off to my editor on the Friday before publication.

I'd like to say I submit that close to deadline so that what I'm writing remains timely, unless I made extra sure what I wrote about is evergreen. (That doesn't always happen.)

Yesterday my latest column was published, and once again, I find myself writing about something just days before it hits the headlines.

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...is still on the line

My sister and I had this roundabout way of remind me of things I shouldn't forget.

"Kim, remind me," I would say, before telling her whatever it is that I should be reminded of. And then, at the end, there's a qualifier. "This is that kind of reminder," I'd tell her.

That means I don't really want her to remind me. It's really more so I would remember it myself. The act of telling someone else would, should, imprint things deeper in my head, help my recall, that sort of thing. It isn't perfect, but it's worked most of the time. And when it doesn't, she would remember. Should remember.

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Lingering still

I don't remember who said it, or where I read it, but it's been said that we, as a country, woefully lack an academic, objective retelling of the Marcos years. It's why, whenever the topic comes up - and it always comes up - we can't seem to agree on what really happened. One side says one thing. Another side says another. Nobody trusts the intentions of the other side. (Yes, I know there are more than two sides to this, but it's a convenient narrative tool, splitting everything down the middle.) It leads to a lot of loopholes, particularly of how key players can revise and rearrange the narrative to suit their interests, to make themselves look better, to make us question what we've long held as true.

I remembered all this when I heard of the sudden death of Noynoy Aquino this morning. He just had to die less than a year before the next presidential elections, one that he still manages to shape the contours of, even if he has kept mostly quiet in the five years since he stepped down from the presidency. Apparently his silence is because all this time he was very sick. That must explain all the breathlessness, all the coughing. I'll admit I forgot about all that. They were minor details compared to the accomplishments and atrocities he managed in his six years as president, but still, for someone who wrote so passionately about him so often, these details should stick with me.

Now is not the time to dryly assess the things he did. Everybody's got to pay respects somehow, begrudgingly or otherwise. Even his harshest of critics, his fiercest of political opponents, will have to make face and prove that underneath all the vitriol they are human, too, and can sympathize with a loss like this. In the words of satirist Andrew Hansen, "even arseholes turn into top blokes after death." Yes, I stand by using that quote, and you'll just have to look at what his supporters are saying now. Suddenly Noynoy's this great leader who had nothing but the country's interests at heart. Sure, he's flawed, but nobody's perfect. But compared to the president we have now?

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Because he said so

After two weeks of noise, in the end, we're still required to wear these fucking face shields.

Never mind that this supposed second level of protection hasn't prevented a spike of cases a few months ago here in Manila, and a spike of cases currently happening in some major provincial capitals. Never mind that the requirement only exists to remove one more responsibility from the national government, who can freely blame us if cases go up instead of actually working on proper testing, tracing and isolation policies. Nope. We're still wearing these fucking face shields.

It was a weird two weeks, though, because it felt like the requirement was going to be lifted. The noise - particularly from some popular politicians, those with a definite eye towards higher office next year - was loud enough to move things on its own accord. Arguably it was an increasingly rare glimmer of hope for Filipinos who've frankly had enough of this aimlessness. At least removing these fucking face shields would tell us that we're making some progress.

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