Writer’s Recap: Representing youth struggles with the 18th Lasallian Scholarum Awards

Last March 22, some of the country’s most prolific journalists and media practitioners gathered at the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall’s Multipurpose Hall to celebrate the 18th Lasallian Scholarum Awards (LSA). As with previous years, this year’s LSA honored the most compelling articles and video features highlighting today’s youth and the impact of education. 

DLSU President Br. Bernard Oca FSC expressed in his opening message that he was thrilled to see the awards return to the face-to-face setup. “During the time of the lockdown, we had very strong and inspiring stories about the way education tried to continue despite the many challenges for the poor and underprivileged,” he attested. Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, the opportunity to further this exploration for truth has intensified, which was reflected in this year’s winners. 

Exploring the lives in between

This year’s LSA was built on the theme Youth: Represent. What separated this year’s theme from previous years was the strong emphasis on putting the youth’s voices forward in times of political turmoil, structural changes, and transitions in societal norms—especially after experiencing the effects of the lockdown. “It’s really important for us media practitioners to write about [the youth] in a way that’s very caring, emphasizing, [and] accommodating,” Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter and LSA recipient Abby Boiser relayed. For her, understanding and engaging with these stories is the key to unearthing the youth’s struggles in times of adversity and “not just putting out your sentiments but really actively taking time to listen to them.”

For GMA Network journalist Atom Araullo, the awards hold the same weight and meaning. In an exclusive interview with The LaSallian, he shared how relevant the LSA is, relaying how the awards have helped uplift today’s youth. “I applaud the spirit of the awards,” he opined, “because in a wider perspective, it’s not just [for] the youth but also [for] the idea of having a free and working democracy.” 

Stories of struggle

All awardees of the LSA were brought together by a single cause: easing the youth’s struggles in pursuing their right to education and freedom. The awarding opened with the recognition of the first-ever LSA Outstanding Media Personality, Araullo, for serving as a role model to journalists-in-the-making. “Move forward with valor; it is only then we can help defend democracy,” Araullo proclaimed in his acceptance speech, calling the youth to choose paths that “align with shared humanitarian values.”

One challenge to the Filipino youth comes in the form of language barriers, and this is recognized in Rutang Filipino, Unang Hakbang sa Edukasyong Maka-Pilipino?, this year’s winner for the Outstanding Published Feature Story on Youth and Education in a School Organ. Written by Far Eastern University Advocate’s Arvene John Dela Cruz and Norwin Trilles, the article delves into the learning difficulties of Filipino students in a multilingual set-up and calls for the intellectualization of local languages. 

While the youth face problems of all kinds, some face tougher ones than most. This year’s awardee in the Outstanding Online Feature Article on Youth and Education category shed light on the educational roadblocks of learners with disabilities. In Zero budget for special education in 2023 makes SPED law ‘meaningless’, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Kurt Dela Peña highlights the recently implemented Inclusive Education Act that mandated schools to ensure equitable access for all learners, including those with disabilities. The law fell short, however, when the Department of Education did not appropriate a budget for special education in 2023—leaving learners with disabilities at the mercy of unassured funding through other initiatives.

A similarly tough challenge prevails for the children of the Manobo tribe, explored in this year’s Outstanding Video Feature Story on Youth and Education, Runaway Child Brides—Ang Kuwento ng mga Tumakas sa Buya ng mga Manobo by Lilian Tiburcio and Bryan Kristoffer Brazil of GMA News. Tiburcio and Brazil chart the difficult lives of Manobo children, especially young girls, as they are pulled into arranged marriages and away from the liberating power of education. While some manage to escape and study, the struggle persists for those they leave behind.

Meanwhile, this year’s Outstanding Published Feature Story on Youth and Education in a Nationally Circulated Publication brings another important struggle to light. In 1 of 5 young Filipinos have considered suicide – UP survey, Boiser dives deep into the Filipino youth’s silent struggle with suicide. “Mental health is not always the first thing you will read about in the newspaper,” Boiser explains in an interview with The LaSallian. “The initial target of this article is to invoke empathy among the public and among the youth…and, ultimately…action.”

The importance of mental health is also underscored in this year’s Outstanding Feature Story on De La Salle University. In Cancel Culture’ Has Become More Pronounced on Social Media – DLSU Study, Aytch dela Cruz of OneNews.PH stresses the increasing trend of bullying and harassment in cyberspace, holding that better community standards, open conversations, and parent-teacher partnerships are essential in protecting young minds.

Magnifying voices

Truly, the LSA crucially recognizes that supporting the youth is key to a good future. By awarding excellent pieces in youth and education, it also acknowledges that a lot of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of journalists. “I hope the LSA continues to recognize outstanding work in the future because it does serve as an inspiration for journalists to do better work,” Araullo noted. 

In a world plagued by crisis after crisis, it is only right to protect the youth who stand to inherit it. At the end of the day, the LSA is not just another award-giving body—it is also a means to empower the youth to represent themselves.

Magz Chin

By Magz Chin

Therese Genota

By Therese Genota

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