"What interesting times we live in."
The Metal Year of the Rat is upon us, coming after a tumultuous end for the reign of the Pig, where we saw several calamities, from strong typhoons to strong earthquakes with eerie frequency, to ASF that affected pigs of all creatures, and now the novel coronavirus that continues to plague the world, identified as having started at Wuhan, the capital of Hubei in central China, with initial investigations showing the contagion may have been started by rodents, a.k.a., rats.
What a way to introduce the Year of the Rat!
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The political fate of Donald the Trump is still on tenterhooks. As I write this piece, the US Senate will yet vote on whether to accept new evidence that have sprung like spring in the dead of American winter, evidence that would prove beyond even the most reasonable of doubt that he is unfit to lead the land of the brave and the free, let alone act as constable of the world.
If the Republicans vote as a whole and none would cross party lines to ferret out the truth and nothing but, the whole impeachment saga will come to unceremonious end, with the most unfit continuing to reign in the Year of the Rat.
Trump, who was born in the Year of the Fire Dog, is supposed to be lucky, or so the feng shui masters say of the dogs in this rodent year. And indeed, as we write, his lawyers are now unveiling sordid details about Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who became a member of the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian firm that was investigated for corruption. While this apparent scandal that happened before may be relevant to the November 2020 elections if Joe Biden becomes the Democratic candidate against re-electionist Trump, it is a separate matter that does not absolve the president from the impeachment charges. But an impeachment trial is political, not judicial.
Is Trump the Dog indeed quite lucky? We shall know in due time.
The rooster Duterte is not as lucky as the dog this year, again if we are to believe these purveyors of geomancy. But then again, the Philippines which he leads was born in the Year of the Dog (1898) and re-born after four decades of colonial rule in 1946, again in the Year of the Dog.
My first initiation into the arcane “science” of feng shui was when a kind old master with his temple beside the Tondo church, showed me the map of the Philippines, and described the country as like a canine, with its mouth wide open (the Lingayen Gulf) and head in the Ilocano-speaking regions. Its body and stomach are in the rest of Luzon, where most of the wealth of the country lies. Palawan are its hind legs with Mindanao its butt, and the Visayan islands its ribs.
Ferdinand Marcos would consult the old feng shui master, called to the palace beside the stinking river in their prime. Look closely at how the provinces of Apayao and Kalinga in the map were plucked out of the provinces comprising the Cagayan Valley and the former Mountain Province during the time of Marcos.
Notice the striking resemblance to the Marcos mane and forehead with the face gazing upon his beloved Ilocos in the resulting re-arrangement of provincial boundaries. Feng shui, or mere vanity?
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Will the doggedness of the Philippines conquer the many threats to its economy in the Year of the Rat?
There is the novel coronavirus, sure to take its toll upon the number of tourists visiting the country in the first half of the year at the very least.
Already it has created panic and disturbed the otherwise happy traipsing of the Chinese in the Golden Week of the auspicious Lunar New Year. And as the virus remains uncontrolled, travel will be affected.
Notice how airlines are offering extremely low ticket prices for the entire 2020, in anticipation of a lean year for travel, but hoping low prices will stem the expected decline in revenues.
1.63-million Chinese visited the country last year, besting the number of Japanese and North Americans (mostly balikbayans with US or Canadian passports) who come to the country. How many will visit in this Year of the Rat?
Already, the Tourism Congress of the Philippines is proposing a temporary travel ban for visitors from mainland China. Wuhan is a transportation hub in central China, used by China Southern whose annual passenger volume within the country and all over the world runs into the millions.
A lot will depend on how Sec. Pingkoy Duque and his DOH, as well as the Bureau of Immigration as well as airport authorities, could successfully contain the spread of the disease into our shores, and how medical science could conquer the malady with an instant and appropriate remedy.
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Thankfully, the volcanic tantrums of Taal have somehow abated. By this weekend, PHIVOLCS might allow residents to go back to their affected towns and life may return to normal. Imagine the economic consequences of a prolonged Alert Level 4 or 5, with hundreds of thousands cramped up in evacuation sites or relatives’ homes, unable to work, unable to pursue their means of livelihood.
In such respect, and keeping our fingers crossed, the Year of the Rat is an “auspicious” development for Batangueños and Caviteños. Tagaytay City’s domestic tourism business will rebound, and one of our major food supply centers for NCR will be back in harness, normalizing the prices of food.
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But I worry about rice trends for the rest of 2020. Oryza, the worldwide rice data chronicler, tells us that both Thailand and Vietnam face problems in sustaining their levels of production. Since these two countries supply 95 percent of the Philippines’ rice imports, we may face a perilous price situation in the middle to latter parts of the year.
As of this writing, we have no data on the volume of our summer crop, which should be harvested in April and May. The onslaughts of two strong typhoons in December upon rice-producing Panay, the Mindoros and Eastern Visayas affected newly planted palay crop, and though the Department of Agriculture has assisted these parts so they could replant, harvests should suffer delays. At a time when the international market is acting up.
Fortunately, we have an infinitely more competent man at the helm of the DA, whose quick and systematic handling of the ASF problem even when he was just appointed should be appreciated. It gives us confidence that things will be under control, and rice will not spike inflation as it did in 2018.
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But the feng shui masters assure us that the Year of the Metal Rat is going to be better in most respects than the Year of the Pig that just ended. Hopefully so.
The dog Trump is supposed to be luckier this year than the snake Xi Jinping. And so is the monkey just as lucky, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen was born in the Year of the Monkey. But the snake is a wise and wily reptile, ready to strike at a moment’s notice, catching its prey flatfooted.
How will these players act on the world stage in the Year of the Rat? And how will their actions or inaction affect the Philippines, a dog country led by one born in the Year of the Rooster?
Wo men huo zai chong man tiao zhan de shi dai.
We live in interesting times.