(This is an oratorical piece I wrote for my nursing students at the Trinity University of Asia. It is now also being used in speech classes in other universities and colleges in Metro Manila. I am sharing this with you because by all accounts, the election fever has begun, and the youth should play spectator no more.)
ERAP RESIGN! ERAP RESIGN!
Eight years ago, in the year 2001, our voices were heard, loud and clear for the world to know that after all, we, the youth, have enormous power to change the course of history.
Yes, sometimes, you may see us, young people, who compose over 40% of this country’s population, getting engrossed with mundane and trivial pursuits, like malling, Friendster or online computer games, but, in my short talk today, allow me to show you what many don’t see.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my countrymen:
How many times have we heard people say, “Kahit sinong maupo diyan, wala namang mangyayari.” Whoever is elevated to power, nothing will change, it will be as inept, corrupt, and abominable as ever.
Where and how do we, young people, stand amidst this scenario of political apathy and pathetic resignation to this nation’s dim tomorrow?
Here are three important insights:
First, the realization that the youth is the now. Second, that the youth, in order to make a difference, must be brave, uncompromising, and eternally watchful. And third, that this nation’s citizens always get the kind of government they deserve.
On to my first point. We, the youth, are the here and now. I feel uncomfortable whenever they refer to us, the youth, as the future. The youth is the hope of the fatherland, so the great Filipino Jose Rizal said. “The youth is the hope of the Fatherland… The youth is the hope of the Fatherland.” I have heard this over and over… more than a hundred times, it has become a cliché, a cliché that, to me, begins to sound nauseating. People always say that we are the future. I say that we are the present.
The choices we make, the paths we take can be of immediate significance and impact to our current state of affairs.
How can I, as a young man, do my share in attaining good governance?
We begin by clean, honest, and enlightened elections. The youth are the antidote to traditional politicians who suck this nation’s blood dry. And who are these traditional politicians? These are the people who use the five Gs to pursue their own selfish and mindless ends. Guns, goons, gold, girls, and even God. Add to this those candidates who kiss babies in public, and who use young people in cheap political propaganda.
We must urge politicians to present their platforms of government. We must listen to what they say, and, more importantly, to what they do not say.
Let us join volunteer groups that aim to protect the integrity of the ballot. Let us proclaim the gospel of responsible voting.
But elections are only the start, and this leads me to my second point, that the youth, in order to make a difference, must be brave, uncompromising, and eternally watchful. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing,” said Edmund Burke. Putting this statement in the Philippine political context, we ask: Who is evil? And who are the good men? Truth is, you do not need to be a politician to be evil, and your veering away from politics never guarantees your being a good man.
We must constantly remind our politicians and government servants that a public office is a public trust. We ought to remind them of the very nature of sovereignty—that power emanates from the people. Let us hold them accountable for everything that they do or not do.
For my third point I argue that we only get the government we deserve.
Too bad, almost every Filipino demands good governance but few are willing to pay for the price.
Sociologist Randy David observes: The foreign master is gone; yet the government continues to be treated like an alien power. We still regard the public sphere as if it were not our own collective responsibility. We treat our country as if it were not our own. We remain minimalists in everything that we do, especially when it concerns our duty to the community. We tolerate shoddiness and incompetence in government or in the market, wrongly believing this is all that we can purchase with our citizenship or money. We regard as fools those who work at perfecting their craft in order to give pleasure to others, instead of making this available only to those who can pay.
Many people continue to paint a bleak scenario for the Philippines, and not a few embrace an escapist attitude. How else can you explain the phenomenal increase in the number of nursing students in the country today? How else can you account for the growing number of Filipinos leaving the country by the hour? They leave the country and intend to come back if, and only if, the mess that they so abhor, is fixed by those who are left behind. It is as if they say: the Philippines is in a sick state, government is a disaster, I better leave. Fix it, and maybe I’ll come back.
And yet, this country, which has some distorted sense of values label those who leave “as modern day heroes.” I protest! We admire the courage of Overseas Filipino Workers, but they are not heroes. If at all, they are victims of circumstance. Yes, they resuscitate the economy with their dollar remittances, but it is only incidental that they do. An OFW goes abroad for personal reasons, and not for the national interest. Heroes are those who are brave enough to stay, and make a difference.
I am a nursing student. When I get my license, I will stay, go to the remotest of barangays and offer my services to those who need it most. I will do my share in making my government work. You say that I am just one. I say that I am one. One who can make a difference.
Young people of this great land, unite! We have nothing to lose but the tyranny of our own selfish ends!
In the last six minutes of my speech, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have articulated that we, the youth, are the here and now; brave, uncompromising, and eternally watchful; moved by the spirit of responsible citizenship to attain the government we deserve.
I am Filipino. I love my country. And I am fully aware that such love, as with any kind of love that is noble and true, demands sacrifices. I am willing to pay the price. I decide to pay the price.
Good day and a meaningful season of hearts to everyone.