The COVID-19 pandemic has brought heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, physical and mental health. During these difficult times, accountants across the country took up the challenge of continuing to be the guardians of our economy amidst the "new normal," and RISING up in solidarity to participate and update their accounting knowledge and skills during the first ever virtual 2020 Accountancy Week Celebration (AWC) that was held from 12 to 18 July 2020.

This year's theme, “Filipino CPAs RISING in Solidarity Amidst Challenging Times," focuses on solidarity within the profession as the impact of the pandemic greatly affects not only the accounting practice but also other professions as well as the economy of the country.

During the virtual opening program of the AWC, Commissioner Roland C. Pondoc said that the week-long event highlights the value and contribution of Filipino CPAs in nation-building. He said the activities set for the week aims to show support of solidarity to the continuing commitment of the accounting professionals in both government and private sectors to be more relevant during the changing and challenging times. The Commissioner said that CPAs should attend the programs and webinars scheduled for the AWC to be updated and informed of what will be the proper approaches to face the challenges that the new normal brings to the accountancy profession.

"Remember that as long as we have that HOPE in our hearts, we can RISE above these challenging times and be able to continue our mission as a professional organization, because together as one, we shall all prevail," Commissioner Pondoc declared.

The AWC continued with the Government Association of Certified Public Accountants (GACPA) Day program and webinar that was held virtually through Zoom and Facebook Live on 16 July 2020.

In his inspirational message, Hon. Noe G. Quiñanola, Chairperson, PR Board of Accountancy said he is surprised and happy to know that many CPAs from other sectors joined the GACPA event which is a manifestation that accountants value the accounting profession. He encouraged everyone to guard the accounting profession against threats or elements and challenged all CPAs to subscribe to the tagline: "A strong accountancy profession begins with me."

"True enough, if all of us in our individual capacity will be true to the oath that we swore to when we became CPAs, we'll surely have a profession with unparalleled strength. Unfortunately, no matter how we try, the ride will never be smooth. Along the way, we'll encounter roadblocks that may prevent us from realizing our goals too soon. But with steadfast dedication to the ideals of the profession, I am very sure that nothing can go wrong," Quiñanola said.

After discussing the importance and relevance of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) law, Mr. Quiñanola also gave updates on the request to repeal RA 10912 or "CPD law." He said that he joined and attended the virtual congressional hearing on the repeal of the CPD law where after hours of deliberation, it ended with the decision of the majority of the sponsoring congressmen agreeing to amend the law instead of repealing it. According to Quiñanola, this is a little victory on the part of the accounting profession as the only weapon an accountant could have to stand out in the crowd is their competencies which could be enhanced by involving themselves in continuous learning.

Meanwhile, resource speaker Marivic A. Galban from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) talked about the system of filing and payment of taxes under the new normal. She said that because of the pandemic, taxpayers are now required to go through the process of filing and paying electronically. She discussed topics such as the registration with the BIR, issuance of ORs/Sales invoices authorized by BIR for every income received, keeping and maintaining books of account, withholding, and remittance of withholding taxes, filing of required tax returns, payment of taxes due, and submission of the required information and returns to the BIR.

According to Ms. Galban, BIR is expanding more electronic payments because it wanted the safety and convenience on the part of the taxpayer in the new normal. "No need to go to the BIR to have your ITR/AFS stamped after using the eAFS. Compliance of BIR requirement is now very easy as there is eFPS, eBIRForms, and you have eAFS. Ibig sabihin kahit di na kayo magkita ni BIR kasi everything that you do, you're doing it electronically. Lahat ng registration at pagbabayad na kailangan mo, pwedeng sa online lahat," she advised.

The Accountancy Week celebration ended with the virtual closing and fellowship ceremonies on 18 July 2020.

2020-2021 PICPA National President Lope L. Bato, Jr said that he is confident that CPAs will all be rising together to deliver the mandates of the accounting profession despite these challenging times. "My heart is full of gratitude, appreciation, and admiration to all the men and women behind the very successful, most attended, and probably more effective, and more productive first-ever virtual accountancy week," he sincerely said.

Chairperson of the AWC, Mr. Aphat C. Martinez said that the AWC Committee is overwhelmed with delight and gratitude of the enormous support and active participation of PICPA's nation-wide. "Because of you, the 2020 National Accountancy celebration will go down to the annals of PICPA as another successful Accountancy Week celebration that has indisputably achieved the objectives that such event was conceived for," he said proudly.

As the resource speaker during the virtual closing ceremony, Most Reverend Pablo Virgilio S. David, Roman Catholic Bishop of Caloocan delivered a touching and inspiring message on how to deal with external and internal crisis that a person is going through and on how to go about keeping the faith and rising amidst challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think what is much worse than the external crisis of facing the challenging times related to the COVID pandemic is really the internal crisis: the crisis of faith, when people lose faith, when people lose heart, when people are so discouraged, and we know that a lot of people today are suffering from all kinds of mental health issues like anxieties and depression and hopelessness amid this pandemic. And so, the big challenge rally is the internal, the internal struggle, how to keep the faith," Bishop David said.

The AWC came to an end with the fellowship activities where virtual games like 4 pictures, 1 word, and charades were played by the members, and the participants and the winners are given cash prizes that were deposited to their GCash or bank accounts. In between the games, were song numbers, Tiktok dances, and the raffle of six P2,000 cash prizes for the participants.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Consuelo Cadelina, Vice-Chairperson, AWC congratulated everyone and said that the success of the first virtual celebration of the Accountancy Week exemplifies the CPAs RISING in solidarity.

"With the takeaway learning we gained from our speakers, we can continue to be the guardians of our economy, help rebuild and sustain businesses, be relevant to our clients, employers, and fulfill our duties to our profession. Again, thank you for making this AWC an unforgettable one," Ms. Cadelina said as she ended the program.

COA demonstrated its solidarity and support to the AWC when Director Fidela M. Tan, President of the GACPA, is joined by fellow COA Directors Maria S. Sarmiento, Lynn SF. Sicangco, and Eugenio R. Dizon as officials of the GACPA Board of Directors who attended the program. Former Assistant Commissioners Lourdes M. Castillo and Wilfredo A. Agito, and Directors Sheila U. Villa and Lito Q. Martin, who serve as members of the Advisory Council of GACPA, as well as other COA officials and employees, who serve as GACPA Chapter Presidents, also attended the virtual closing and fellowship ceremonies.