The Decade in Review: Highlights, Lowlights, and Things We Should Just Leave Behind

Can you believe we lived through these?

This decade was a long one. It’s kind of hard to believe that we’re still here after all the stuff that happened. It’s also really hard to believe that all of these happened in one decade, you know?

Regardless, this was our decade. We made it. We managed to live through it. Let’s just hope the next one is better.


Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration was winding down and Noynoy Aquino was coming in hot, buoyed by the passing of his mother, Corazon Aquino, the year before.

One of the biggest news of the year was probably when Ronaldo Mendoza took a tour bus full of foreigners hostage after his frustrations over being dismissed from the PNP boiled over. The standoff ended after 10 hours with a bungled assault, Mendoza dead, and nine hostages dead with him. Not exactly a good start.

This was also the year Carlos Celdran pulled off his “Damaso” stunt and got arrested on the most archaic offense of all: “offending religious feelings.” 

In better news, the Morong 43—43 health workers who were wrongfully arrested on suspicions of having links to the CPP-NPAwere released. 

No doubt about it: 2010 was quite a year.


If you were hoping 2011 was better, it wasn’t. Forty people died because of floods in the Visayas region and former chief of staff Angelo Reyes commits suicide after allegations of corruption come to light—both events happened in the first two months of the year.

The rest of the year was relatively quiet. So quiet, that the inaction from the administration got its own name: Noynoying


By November, GMA was arrested on charges of electoral sabotage. The year ended with the House of Representatives moving to impeach former chief justice Renato Corona, making sure 2012 would be fun.


It was an interesting year for the Senate and House of Representatives, with figures such as Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Defensor-Santiago conducting a trial alongside Tito Sotto and Ferdinand Topacio, but they somehow managed to wring a conviction based on Corona failing to procure his SALN. 

Speaking of Sotto, 2012 was also the year when he plagiarized a speech from Robert Kennedy, of all people. In his defense, he claimed that he… translated it? So it’s okay? 

In sadder news, this was the year Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash. One could only imagine what would have happened had he survived.

As a Christmas gift, the RH Bill was signed in 2012, finally propelling the Philippines somewhere closer to the present when it comes to sex and reproductive health.


On April 20, a Chinese fishing vessel ran aground the Tubbataha Reef, almost around the same time a U.S. naval ship ran aground there, too. The fishermen were arrested on charges of illegal poaching, while the American navy got a slap in the wrist for almost destroying a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was also the year when the government tried to justify spending 7.8 million pesos on a flagpole in Rizal Park. But that’s nothing compared to Janet Lim-Napoles.

On November 7, Napoles faced the Senate for allegations tied to the pork barrel fund, then labeled as the “Priority Development Assistance Fund.” The case, which involved 10 billion pesos lost due to corruption, implicated senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. 

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The next day, Typhoon Yolanda came and hit Leyte hard—so hard that international relief efforts were coordinated. Yolanda killed almost 6,300 people, and the streets of Tacloban were literally awash with bodies. But perhaps the worst part was how politics got in the way of relief, with accusations of local officials not giving relief to people who didn’t vote for them or allegations of corruption within the DSWD.

To cap it off, Christmas 2013 had us talking about the Martilyo Gang, who used… hammers to rob an SM store. The year also tallied the death of 12 journalists, the highest since 2009.


It started quiet, with politics focusing on the Bangsamoro Deal. It was also the year Glenda went through Manila and killed 97 people, proving that we learned absolutely nothing from Yolanda. But hey, the Filipino spirit is waterproof, right?

In July, Noynoy received three impeachment complaints in one week. He weathered it out.

In April, the Philippines and the United States signed the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, promising closer relations between the two countries. But Jennifer Laude was murdered by a U.S. serviceman six months later. 


It was rough. January saw the death of 44 SAF police officers in a bungled clash against members of the MILF and BIFF. It became known as the Mamasapano Massacre.

In May, the Kentex Manufacturing factory caught on fire, killing 74 people.

In lighter news, the Philippines began its arbitration battle against China over the latter’s claims to the South China Sea. This was when we all started saying “West Philippine Sea” for patriotism.


As the year wound down, people began filing their candidacies for the coming elections. Rodrigo Duterte flip-flopped over whether to run or not, before doing what we all expected him to do. Miriam Defensor-Santiago surprised everybody by running with Bongbong Marcos, of all people. And who could forget Allan Carreon, the intergalactic ambassador who promised us all Gundam?


Sadly, Carreon didn’t win. 

Duterte became President in June. 

The Philippines won its arbitration case against China, asserting its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. The Supreme Court acquitted GMA of plunder. Duterte accused Leila de Lima, one of the few opposition senators, of links to the illegal drug trade, sparking an entire media circus that landed her in jail. 

This year, Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, making us ask ourselves what the word “hero” meant.


It was undoubtedly Mocha Uson’s year. Coming from humble gogo dancer beginnings, she eventually reached the top of the food chain as PCOO assistant secretary and queen of fake news.

Oplan Tokhang was in full swing, killing more “addicts” than solving the actual drug problem. One of the victims was Kian delos Santos. His last words before he was shot by police were, “Kuya, may exam pa po ako bukas.”

Duterte unilaterally ended peace talks between the government and the NDFP, despite saying, “Mabuhay ang NPA,” in 2015 and proclaiming himself as a “socialist candidate” during the elections. 

This was also the year martial law was declared in Mindanao, following attacks by the Maute group in Marawi. The fighting lasted from July to October, but until now martial law hasn’t been lifted.



If you thought 2017 was bad, then get ready for 2018.

The year started with the TRAIN Law taking effect, increasing the price of consumer goods while effectively doing nothing for most lower- and middle-class Filipinos. 

The Dengvaxia scare happened, which saw the rise of anti-vaxxers like Persida Acosta; drug lords like Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim were cleared of charges; Duterte announced the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC.

It was the year when chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was removed via a quo warranto decision. It was the year NutriAsia workers first went on strike. It was the year Jollibee workers went on strike. 

More events: The “Red October” plot was unveiled. Nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental were killed, a few months after Negros was placed under pseudo-martial lawThe Balangiga bells were returned to the Philippines after over a hundred years. Bong Revilla was acquitted from the PDAF scam.

And just before the year ended, an explosive detonated in Cotabato, killing 11.


Which brings us to the current year. What was 2019?

In a way, 2019 was more of what we’ve come to expect. The “Red October” plot turned into an “ouster matrix,” which included people like Gretchen Ho and Hidilyn Diaz, of all people. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was arrested multiple times on different charges. A Chinese vessel rammed Filipino fishermen on independence day. NutriAsia workers went on strike a second time.

There were also a lot of new things, too: We hosted the SEA Games and, if there was one bit of good news this year, the Ampatuan Massacre finally got a verdict after 10 years. Twenty-eight people were convicted on 57 counts of murder.


It’s been quite a decade and certainly, not everything was good. But we take in the good with the bad. We learn from our experiences and face the new decade, ready to shape it for the better.

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Justin Umali
Justin is left-handed, left-leaning, and best left in a cool, damp place. He listens to Vampire Weekend when he's down and Car Seat Headrest when he's not. He usually writes about Philippine history and politics, and believes that you cannot change the world without understanding it first.
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