University University Feature

Role of the youth in nation building discussed at Youth Engagement Session

Last March 18, a Youth Engagement Session (YES) was held at the fourth floor of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall. The session featured youth leaders, namely Kabataan Partylist National Deputy Secretary General Angelica Reyes, Youth for Human Rights and Democracy chairperson Christian Gultia, and Voice of the Youth Network founder Pocholo Gonzales.

The talk covered topics on how to understand youth engagement with the current political and social situation in the Philippines and how to motivate youth to contribute positively to national development.



Apathy among the youth?

For the first part of the talk, the guests were asked about the claims of apathy among the youth today when it comes to social issues. Reyes and Gultia argued that these are untrue, as social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have served as avenues for the youth to become more aware and engaged. “I think [the claims of apathy among the youth is] a hasty generalization. We are one of the noisiest generations, especially regarding this set up of the government,” Reyes explained.

The three agreed, however, that in terms of the current state, most youth involve themselves in issues that directly affect them, but when it comes to overall active participation, they claimed that this is insufficient. Gonzales argued, “The youth is apathetic only when the issues don’t directly affect them.”



Leveraging the youth’s advantage

The speakers also emphasized the opportunity of the youth to play a powerful role in shaping the future of society. According to Reyes, almost a fifth of the voting population today come from the youth. In order to maximize this advantage, the actions of the youth cannot be selective in how they engage as individuals.

“The youth must work towards building a movement,” Reyes advised. She further stated that the youth do not have as much resources as socio-political groups and political parties, stressing the importance of using their numbers and collective voice to their advantage.

However, in spite of the need for unity, the guests emphasized the importance for each individual to find their role in these issues and to prioritize which issues they wish to focus on.


Active citizenship for a better tomorrow

The guests were then asked what it meant to be an active citizen today. Gonzales drew from his own experience when he highlighted the need for “participation in nation building.’’ He asked the audience to peruse online for his previous efforts to better understand “what he has done for the country.”

Reyes then added that being an active citizen is “thinking past oneself. We have to ask, ‘Who are we doing this for?’, ‘Why are we studying?’, [and] ‘Why should we get a job?’” She further explained, “People usually think of getting a job so that we could be successful, buy a house, and then send our future kids to prestigious schools.”

She then provided the life of Jose Rizal as an example of living a life in service to others. “Rizal led a short life, but what mattered was not the material possessions [he owned], but what he was able to do for his countrymen,” she emphasized

Gultia, meanwhile, said in Filipino, “You have to find your purpose. Sometimes, this path can be full of trial and errors. You can also live a privileged path in life, or you can choose the other path: [a path] where you serve other people.”



Dealing with trolls and smart-shaming

Toward the end of the session, an open forum was held and one of the questions raised by the audience was on the problem of the youth in dealing with trolls and smart shamers.

Gultia advised that the youth should be able to filter out these kinds of criticisms and instead focus on “constructive criticisms” as points of improvements. He believed that these trolls and smart shamers are coming from their “fixed perspective” and are not trying to help improve the situation. Instead, Gulita pointed out, the goal of trolls is to ensure that people are divided on competing views.

Reyes echoed Gultia’s sentiment, adding that trolls and the like have organized efforts to restrain the growing voice of the youth. She argued that this is because the government recognizes the youth as a group to be “feared” for their ability to influence national issues. Because of this, she believed that the youth should be aware of this and refuse to remain silent despite the effort to silence them.

Ryan Lim

By Ryan Lim

Miguel Angelo Rabago

By Miguel Angelo Rabago

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