The Philippines is faced with an uncertain future. Today’s pressing societal issues such as education disparity, economic inequality, food insecurity, and a strained healthcare system have negatively affected our quality of life—lives of countless Filipinos are compromised. In retrospect, they have accumulated into a bigger and seemingly unsolvable problem. With its citizens slowly losing hope during these unprecedented times, the Filipino youth bears the burden of uplifting a dispirited nation.
Why Youth Participation Matters
The governance sector holds power to create and change policies that will shape their constituent’s way of life. It is highly important to oversee those in the governance sector as they greatly influence the consciousness and free will of the people.
Policies play a crucial role in society’s development. It is a rigorously crafted framework to address the perceived issues of society. In essence, its main purpose is to achieve goals in the interest of the whole nation.
It is not omniscient. Participation is necessary to achieve the interests of the state, and this is part of the citizens’ social responsibility as the collective action of people dictates the present and future state of the society. Without the insights of its constituents, policies become ill-fated—it will inevitably fail to serve its very purpose.
“As cliche as it sounds, the reason why [youth] participation in governance is extremely significant is because we are the future of this nation,” Rhon Ducos, a sophomore International Relations Student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, expressed.
Surpassing What Deters
“Pre-pandemic, I was [actively] participating in governance. I am a member of WeTheFuture PH that pushes for rights-based governance. During the pandemic, I am torn in between participating and keeping myself sane. I became disengaged,” Rhon shared.
Rhon is just one of the many who currently suffers from social isolation due to the ongoing crisis. This pervasive feeling of powerlessness ultimately led to demotivation and depression. It poses a threat to a nation’s state of governance, leaving citizens disinterested and uninvolved in making decisions for the present and future generations to come.
“When people are busy trying to deal with the challenges that come with life, especially during these unprecedented times, participating becomes more of a luxury than it is a responsibility, and that is what impedes youth participation,” Gracelle Tungbaban, a sociology major at the University of Santo Tomas said.
Additionally, one of the driving forces behind active and collaborative engagement is camaraderie among those who share the same standpoint. Unfortunately, because of lockdown restrictions, everyone was forced to shift to digital participation.
“Technology is there for us to connect, but it feels so indifferent,” Rhon said.
Divisive Nature of the Cyber World
One of the biggest challenges that impede their participation is the polarizing nature of social media platforms. Despite its accessibility and capacity to reach wider audiences, the culture of intolerance limits the potentiality of digital platforms to fully impact policy discourses.
“Instead of being allies, these platforms have divided us,” he added.
To address this, practicing radical empathy is one of the key ways to be unified in this time of alienation. Doing so will help us be more compassionate to those outside of their social circle. Being receptive is a step to authentically connect and relate with others.
Living in a society filled with diverse perspectives, radical empathy is an indispensable skill to look beyond what meets the eye.
Although distressed by these hindrances, the youth continues to actively engage in governance amid this adversity.
“The step I am currently taking to participate is giving pieces of advice on voter’s registration and good governance,” Mherlo Mahinay, a freshman at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, said.
Mherlo believes that through his simple efforts, Filipinos will be equipped with the knowledge to decide what is best for their nation.
“I have been opening virtual discussions regarding what is happening in the Philippines to my circle of friends, engaging them to examine certain societal problems and encouraging them to re-examine their biases in some issues,” Gracelle shared.
Like Mherlo, Gracelle is taking advantage of the convenience of social media platforms by joining seminars that will enrich her knowledge, as well as confronting her own biased assumptions on certain issues.
“It is not much compared to the extent other youth[s] have contributed during these trying times, but it is a contribution nonetheless,” she added.
Uplifting the Disheartened
The Filipino youth of today are caught in between their social responsibility and persevering through this difficult situation. In a time where engagement in governance has become emotionally and mentally demanding, many fall into the pit of hopelessness.
For Rhon and Gracelle, acknowledging one’s limitations is essential to actively participate during this crisis.
“Everyone is having a hard time right now, and we should learn how to acknowledge our limitations and be kind to ourselves,” Rhon shared.
“Learn [to] acknowledge that sometimes in order to participate – one must take a step back,” Gracelle affirmed.
Now that it is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless, Rhon stressed the importance of balancing idealism and being pragmatic.
“Our idealism should be balanced. We should remind ourselves that we cannot automatically change the system, but we can contribute something for the betterment of this system,” Rhon expressed.
Hope is needed now more than ever. The youth must draw strength from one another and make the most out of what is at hand. Now that engagement has become more of a privilege; the youth hold the responsibility of cultivating a more productive and sustainable society.
We must not forget that our unwavering efforts, as diminutive as it may seem, influences discourses that concern the society as a whole.
Small efforts lead to big changes; and participation is participation no matter how small it [is],” Gracelle asserted.