Commentaries

2016 Year In Review: Too Many Deaths

David Bowie. Glenn Frey. Prince. Phife Dawg. Prince. Leonard Cohen. George Michael. They are just some of the pop stars that we have lost this year. And they are not just the celebrities. We also lost actor Alan Rickman (known to Harry Potter fans as Severus Snape), novelist Harper Lee (known for To Kill a Mockingbird”), legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, and also promising young stars like Anton Yelchin known as Chekov in Star Trek movies.

The world also lost Miriam Defensor Santiago, known as the Iron Lady of Asia, Shimon Perez of Israel, Nancy Reagan, former United States First Lady, Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary leader, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the unifying monarch in Thailand.

And do not forget the great scientists we have lost, like Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, and Dr. Donald Henderson, whose initiative helped eradicate smallpox throughout the world.

The Philippines has lost directors Wenn DeramasFrancis Xavier Pasion and Uro dela Cruz, actress Lilia Cuntapay, famous for her witches and aswang roles in movies, former action star Dick Israel, rapper and comedian Blakdyak, former actress Lolita Rodriguez, and most especially German Moreno, one of the pillars of the Philippine entertainment industry.

In the past twenty-seven years, I haven’t seen so much death like this. Even in the age of social media that started in the late 2000s.

Also this year, many of my friends lost a loved one or a friend, and they are more in this year than in any of the previous years. And it is more shocking that many of those who died are still at their youth. And take note, I haven’t heard any of them being gunned down in the so-called extrajudicial killing or drug-related deaths since Rodrigo Duterte took office as President of the Philippines last June.

The already deadly 2016 has even became deadlier since June 30, when there had been a surge of drug-related deaths and vigilante killings all over the country. So far the body count has already breached 6,000, and it’s expected to go higher.  However, many of these killings are somewhat ‘unintended’ – those who had been identified by mistake as the targets and were liquidated, and some were felled by the bullets not intended for them. Many honor students, scholars and promising youths had died because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And should Duterte did not became President for some reason, the death rate for the Philippines would still be in an all-time high. There are so many unrelated-to-each other deaths, not just the celebrities, but among my friends in social media. Some, I don’t know if they would still be celebrating Christmas after their loved ones died on the Christmas eve. Well, we are still celebrating the New Year with joy, but we devote a couple of minutes of silence for a relative who passed away on the second day of the new year.

While bulk deaths involving an entire group, team, choir or any collective people are not unheard of, it is strangely uncommon that two groups were wiped out in two separate plane crashes in just a month. On the last day of November, a chartered plane carrying the fledging Chapecoense football team crashed in Colombia, and according to latest investigation it is due to human error. The Brazillian football team is due to have a match in Colombia. And on the Christmas Day, sixty members of the Alexandrov Ensemble aka the Red Army Choir perished in a plane crash, and as of writing the cause is still being investigated. The choir is due to have a Christmas concert in Syria where a sizable number of Russian soldiers are staying. Seems, the Grim Reaper is enjoying combo meals.

The death streak has actually started since December, when the T.S.C. was concerned on the rising death toll on Christmas time. Indeed, a number of celebrities has died in that month, including Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, who died on Christmas Eve, and one of the figures of the alternative press that culminated ouster of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. We thought that the death streak would end as the new year comes, we were wrong.

In short, the summary for this year is death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death. Literally, lots of deaths. And one word to describe this year: “Abominable”.

This year is so deadly that people wonder if this would stop. As early as April, effectively just after the first quarter, the BBC has already noticed the trend, given the numerous celebrity deaths, and ran an article about it. Journalist Nick Serpell also said on that date that he was granted permission to produce a yearender obituary that is one hour long; normally the compilation would take just half an hour.

CNN has also ran an article as the second quarter just ended, following the death of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. It questioned whether 2016 would be remembered as the “Year of the celebrity death”. The article concluded with a quote from an article in Gizmodo hoping that the “rest of the year doesn’t continue like it began”.

But what happened is very the opposite of what they hoped for. Celebrity deaths continue. Effectively, in the Philippine context, 2016 is tokhang in itself. Netizens are already revolting since the second quarter, and the hashtag #fuck2016 has a sizable trend. Even comedian John Oliver in his season-ender of his show This Week Tonight ran a “tribute” for 2016, noting the seemingly endless celebrity deaths as one of the reasons, and wrapping it up by literally blasting off the number 2016.

As early as November, the Sawyerean Language Institute has decided that “kiramyo” – meaning condolence – be the word of the year.

While the TIME Person of the Year is decided to be Donald Trump, netizens have another idea: Why not make Grim Reaper as the Person or something of the year? Indeed, this year has effectively became the “Year of the Reaper”.

yearofthereaper

And take note, while the wars and plagues are deadly in itself, the deaths today are totally unrelated-to-each-other, aside from the combo deaths decimating an entire team due to plane crashes. The year 2016, will be remembered, as the Year of the Death, the Year of the Reaper.

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