MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III offered a toast to all the Filipinos who showed resilience amid the calamities that hit the country last year, and also the international community who helped the nation get back on its feet during the traditional New Year Vin D'Honneur in Malacañang on Friday.
Aquino led the traditional toast, which was joined by Vice President Jejomar Binay, members of the Cabinet, lawmakers, and members of the diplomatic community.
In his speech, Aquino praised the Filipino people for their "unbreakable spirit" as they faced both natural calamities and man-made challenges in 2013.
Last September, strong rains brought about by the enhanced southwest monsoon or "habagat" battered Metro Manila and nearby areas in Luzon, causing massive flooding in the streets.
It was also in September when members of the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) laid siege to Zamboanga City. The conflict claimed the lives of over a hundred people, and left many families homeless.
A month after that, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao, killing over 200 people and damaging several structures including historic churches.
The most recent disaster to hit the country was super typhoon "Yolanda," which slammed into Eastern Visayas last November 8, leaving over 6,000 people dead, scores missing and wiping out houses.
"Just as all these incidents tested our capability to prepare for and respond to the crises that came one after the other, each one also demonstrated our individual and collective abilities to help the many affected Filipinos get back on their feet. But just when we thought we had overcome so much, Yolanda, a tragedy of unprecedented scale, occurred. It tested the determination of our people. Despite the magnitude and devastation of this single event, the Filipino people came through," Aquino said.
"Some of you have marveled at the resilience of our nation, a people whose faith, though challenged, remained constant and only deepened. Our unbreakable spirit and ability to recover find root in our firm belief in a benevolent God who has the perfect plan for all of us. These tragedies tell us that, despite all our efforts, we are indeed powerless without God," he added.
'Utang na loob'
Addressing the international community, the President then expressed his gratitude for their immediate assistance to the Philippines after Yolanda ravaged the country.
He said the Filipino people never forget "utang na loob."
"It is with a sincere sense of gratitude that I tell you: the Filipino people remember who their friends are. Filipinos never forget an instance of kindness, and will constantly look for ways to repay those who stood by them in the most difficult times. In our language, we call this 'utang ng loob,'" he said.
He also noted how the foreign countries' assistance to the Philippines has "opened a new chapter in our relations."
"The generosity you have shown serves as our firm foundation as we work to expand ever-widening horizons of our relationships. To our old allies, your commitment to helping our nation underscores the deep friendship and cooperation built over generations," he said.
As he proposed a toast, Aquino also urged his countrymen and the international community to continue rendering help to those who are in need, wherever they may be.
He added: "To all those who suffered but showed a resilience that inspired all of us, may you continue to serve as beacons of hope and strength for everyone. And to all our partners and friends from the world over: May we continue to strengthen the bonds that link us as one community, sharing a single world."