A Glance at the Past and Hope for the Future

by Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.

“Happy New Year [Day 1]” | Photo by Alex France via Creative Commons SA 2.0

Throughout the world, people of all races who are using and following the Gregorian calendar will celebrate the New Year’s onset as the clock strikes midnight on December 31. The year 2020 will be a memory. Welcome year 2021!

Celebrations will be in ways endemic to the location. Celebrations are expected to be tempered and controlled because of the ongoing pandemic and the economic difficulties afflicting many countries and the general population.
The “ball” will drop in New York City’s Times Square, as in previous years, but the usual big crowds will not be there to assemble. Greetings of “Happy New Year” will be extended and heard in multiple languages.

Manigong Bagong Taon will be repeated in the Philippines and anywhere else where Filipinos reside. And this means in most parts of the world. In the English-speaking world, people will sing the “Auld Lang Syne” to bid farewell to 2020.

“To many of us, the onset of the New Year signifies a new beginning. A rebirth. As the English essayist and poet Charles Lamb said: “New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” To others, New Year is just another year. A new chapter in life, like the year before it.”

To many of us, the onset of the New Year signifies a new beginning. A rebirth. As the English essayist and poet Charles Lamb said: “New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” To others, New Year is just another year. A new chapter in life, like the year before it. I like to think of the New Year as another opportunity to make things better, to make things happen, a determined resolve to right the wrong, be it for individuals, organizations, nations, or countries. To many, it is the time of the year to close a real estate deal for a house to symbolize a new life as a homeowner.

It is a time to reflect on what happened in the past and think of the coming year’s promises.

A limited glance at history reveals that significant events occurred in the couple or so days before the end of the year and the New Year’s beginning. It could have been by design or coincidences, but these events affected the present and will continue to define the future.

Significant real estate acquisitions by the United States occurred during these periods. On December 29, 1845, the then Republic of Texas joined the United States of America, becoming the 28th state of the Union. On December 30, 1853, the United States bought the southern part of Arizona and New Mexico from the Republic of Mexico for $10 million. Alaska, purchased by the United States from Russia on March 30, 1867, became a Union state on January 3, 1959.

The Philippines formally became a United States colony on December 10, 1898, when Spain ceded it in exchange for $20 million under the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American war. On that date, the United States became a colonial power in the Pacific Region.

It is perhaps symbolic of the desire for a brighter future. The inventor Thomas Alva Edison made the first public demonstration in New Jersey of his new incandescent bulb on December 31, 1879. The bulb has since brightened the nights and brought light in the darkness.

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery and declaring that all men are free.

That year was indeed a “new “year for those freed from the shackles of forced labor. The civil rights movement in the 1950s to the 1960s was merely a continuation of that proclamation. Our continuing struggle for racial equality flows from it.

Did you know that Brooklyn and Staten Island was a separate city? The City of Brooklyn and Staten Island became a part of greater New York City on January 1, 1898.

“The coming year, 2021, will be full of hopes and promises. We experienced four years of an administration that history will associate with the COVID-19 pandemic, policies that changed world views of the U.S. as an international leader, immigration policies perceived by many as anti-immigrants, charges of alleged widespread frauds in the presidential election.”

In Philippines history, one of the most significant occurrences happened on December 30, 1896. Dr. Jose P. Rizal, who is now considered the foremost national hero of the Philippines, was executed by the Spanish colonizers at Bagumbayan field (now Luneta Park or Rizal Park). More than anything else, this singular event served to unify the previously divisive forces in the Philippines who wanted independence from Spain. There was no turning back. The events in the following year were the result or continuation of those of the prior year. The Filipinos turned revolutionaries and declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. The freedom was short-lived, for the Americans formally annexed the Philippines on December 10, 1898, but it showed the awakening of the people of the various islands as Filipinos.

The coming year, 2021, will be full of hopes and promises. We experienced four years of an administration that history will associate with the COVID-19 pandemic, policies that changed world views of the U.S. as an international leader, immigration policies perceived by many as anti-immigrants, charges of alleged widespread frauds in the presidential election. Also, delayed coordination to a transition to the new administration and the new president’s day assumes on January 20, 2021, to usher in positive expectations.

However, let us remember to be modest and rational with our expectations to temper the impact of any possible frustrations. Not everything we expect happens.

With the approval of several vaccines against COVID-19, the year 2021 promises a better life for all of us — free from unusual health restrictions, improvement of the economy, and lesser limitations on the freedom of movement and travel, opening schools, businesses, among others.

“For the Filipino Americans as a distinct group of people, we express our continuing wish that we reflect on what we have accomplished and not accomplished because we disagreed, and how we should do things to make us better in the coming year.”

For the Filipino Americans as a distinct group of people, we express our continuing wish that we reflect on what we have accomplished and not accomplished because we disagreed, and how we should do things to make us better in the coming year.

For the Philippines, we hope for better policies and implementation to alleviate the life of the people. We hope for an administration of justice beyond suspicion of injustice. May its leaders lead the way towards a better Philippines.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.

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