by the Weekly Sillimanian | February 26, 2022
Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, once said, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan. [The youth is the hope for the nation.]” As a youth, he already witnessed the deplorable conditions of his country, which stemmed from his own childhood experiences. When he was roughly eleven years old, he saw his mother being rounded up by the Spanish civil guards and making her walk a hundred kilometers to her prison cell. He experienced discrimination in a Catholic school that was supposed to teach them how to live according to the laws of morality.
At the age of 35, he faced the firing squad, dignified and calm, for his ideals that made him the Jose Rizal we knew today. Pepe, as he was nicknamed, could only mumble his frustrations towards the discrimination by the Spanish when he was still very young, due to the circumstances surrounding the Philippines, then a Spanish colony. But his enduring crusade to amplify the voices of men in his own skin made him the “greatest Malayan who ever lived.”
The Young “Juans” of today are more privileged to have the liberty of expressing themselves. One can easily post their thoughts on social media. Pepe wrote his memoirs through pen and paper and was preserved by history. The Filipino youth today, meanwhile, found themselves living in a time where everything is made real-time. It would only take a click before stories are made.
The media we are enjoying today makes these stories instantly available to the masses. We need these stories to formulate a public opinion, especially in this election season. But let’s go back to Pepe. He chronicled the stories of abuses by the Spanish authorities even at a young age. History heralded these pieces and became the basis of libertarian movements that gave us the independence we enjoy right now. Right now, our political climate has boiled to the brim, reaching the point where misinformation and propaganda are already infiltrating social media. Young people, being in their formative years, are especially vulnerable to these kinds of deceit.
Given these circumstances, should young people take the podium and be vocal in expressing their minds out, especially with regards to public interests?
The Weekly Sillimanian believes that these young “Juans” have the right to express their thoughts. But there should be a prerequisite to this privilege. Politics, as a subject that deals with the public interest, is not a pen and paper concept wherein we form our own gospel truth based on the information being fed to us. Young people, particularly those under the voting age, are still in the process of forming their own self-identity, as well as formulating some basic insights in life. While educating them with political concepts is a great undertaking for them to be aware of contemporary issues, they should first be able to study first what is on the surface, before going deeper. Young people should know the facts first before formulating their opinions, especially if it involves public welfare and critical topics.
Children should also put into their minds that they are still students. While fighting for what they believe is right can be a great demonstration of their ability to take a stand, they should not also do it at the expense of their academic undertakings. A child walking out of school just because of political reasons should be a subject of disciplinary actions, not because of him standing up for his ideals, but because he violated the rules of the school, and of his lack of courtesy in doing so. Young people should also be taught some basic right manners and conduct, too. When we inculcate that balance of attitude and intellect in their heart and mind, they will be able to bring them as they transition into adulthood and they would know when and when not to express their dissent.
To put matters into perspective, some students who held demonstrations in Hong Kong made the headlines back in 2014 because they stood up against the intrusion of the Chinese government in their political affairs. They were able to close down the roads and brave the presence of police forces. But it’s not just these things that deserve admiration. These young people did not forget their responsibilities as students. Despite being on the streets all night, they were bringing their handouts, studying, and doing their homework under street lights.
Our young “Juans” can take the podium, to express themselves, to make an impact for holistic change, and to create a safe space for their fellows to express their opinions and perspectives. But they should remember that they are doing these things for the good of all, not for theirs or for toppling down other people which we may deem as undesirable. This can only be made possible if they are being taught the basic good manners and right conduct, as well as fundamental concepts which will help them create a comprehensive standpoint especially when they will grow older.