CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines —“Saan ba dapat manggagaling ang hugot para umaksyon ang kabataan?” (Where should the youth draw the passion to act?)
This question was posed as a major challenge to the youth during CDO’s #TheLeaderIWant forum at Xavier University (XU), Ateneo de Cagayan on December 10 organized by social news network Rappler, in partnership with XU’s Development Communication (DevCom) department.
The term hugot had recently gained prominence on social media and in daily slang to mean a realization that results from harking back to a memorable, often melancholic, experience.
But in youth activism on social and political issues, hugot has a slew of other meanings. (READ: #PHVote CDO: More youth getting involved with election issues)
Looking for ‘hugot’
“There’s a certain type of complacency among our youth today,” DevCom professor Dr Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Rivera said.
“I’m saying this to challenge you because you live in a world where there is no urgency or no pressure, unlike what we had during the ‘70s with Martial Law, which put us under repression,” she told an audience consisting mostly of XU students.
A graduate of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, and a teacher for over 30 years, Rivera observed that “too much democracy” has resulted in a lack of hugot among students to allow them to act collectively in resolving social woes and bringing about inclusive change.
Rivera emphasized the need to cultivate the consciousness to appreciate the role of youth activism in the restoration of freedom – one of the foundations of the First People Power Revolution of 1986 – and to use free speech to contribute answers to our nation’s struggles.
“What I’m saying is that kulang tayo sa hugot. Saan ba dapat manggaling ang hugot para umaksyon tayo doon sa mga sinasabi nating problema ng lipunan? Kailan ba dapat natin sabihin ‘yung kailangan natin sabihin?”
(We lack the spirit to act. Where should the youth draw the passion to act on our social problems? When should we say the things we need to say?)
Rivera added that the youth now have a lot of tools and spaces to express themselves so why not use them to give voice to the marginalized and to put their energies to good social use?
On a positive note, Rivera imparted local experiences where the millennials showed the new media can make a difference – such as in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong when Ateneans served as volunteers during the relief and rehabilitation efforts, as well as in building the Sendong website where monetary and in-kind donations were closely monitored.
“For over 30 years I have been teaching students. I argue with them as to why they are not putting their energies into ‘proper platforms.’ You go to Facebook, to social media, to the Internet where you can share your voice,” she said.
“I don’t know what it takes para magising ang mga kabataan (for the youth to wake up) but I’m just putting it as a constant challenge,” she added.
In a contemporary setting, XU Economics instructor Jhon Louie Sabal argued that it is difficult to generalize the source of hugot among the youth to be involved in current issues.
“I think what we lack here is not the hugot, but the platform where we can express our energies as the young generation of this society,” said Joseph Roldan Tagalog, president of the Central Student Government of XU.
Sabal said, “Hugot is something we have to discover; it’s not something that (one finds) upon waking up in the morning,” he said. “There is no finite model that would tell us where to find hugot. I’d like to emphasize the importance of social media and the role of the academe in making the students participate in (resolving our social issues).”
Voices of the youth
The youth have an important role to play in determining the country’s future especially as the national and local elections draw near.
During the open forum of #TheLeaderIWant, XU students expressed how they are able to translate their awareness of different issues into action through social media. They have also showed the qualities they look for in those who are gunning for political seats in the May 2016 polls.
Other participants added that social media plays a crucial role in improving engagements with other communities, in exacting accountability and better social services, and in determining the leaders they want to put in government posts.
Nor-Jamal Bantugan, president of the sole Islam religious organization at XU called Sira’j, said that he turns to online portals to scrutinize the platforms of the politicians whom he thinks can push for the peace process in the Bangsamoro’s quest for self-determination and economic inclusiveness.
In a leader, Bantugan looks for someone who is yearning for peace, “Considering the life of the Maranaos, they live every day seeing killings, kidnappings. All I want is for them to enjoy the same peace and order that I experience here in Cagayan de Oro.”
Agreeing with Bantugan’s “peace” model of a leader, Ernesto Neri, a fourth year Xavier Law student and chairman of the Oro Youth Development Council (OYCD), said that the country’s leadership requires someone “who can inspire people” and knows how to reach out to the people with his development agenda, especially in grassroot communities.
Reaching CHAMP elections
In May 2016, there will be more than 18,000 positions to be filled, and according to Comelec figures, close to 20% of the 52 million registered voters are from the youth sector.
Based on the October 2013 barangay elections, there were some 285,645 voters who registered in CDO, the capital of Misamis Oriental, and as of July 2015, the province has 800,000 registered voters. (READ: #PHVote challenge: CDO’s #TheLeaderIWant)
Having monikers like “Gateway to Mindanao” and “City of Golden Friendship,” CDO serves as the central business hub of Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), and is the second most vote-rich region in Mindanao with 2.46 million registered voters.
But Rappler’s investigative desk head Chay Hofileña said, “Elections are not just about numbers. They are about issues – issues that will determine where our country is headed.”
The youth votes can make a huge difference in the victory of a political aspirant especially in the local election’s tight races. Hofileña underscored six major issues, which can be used by the young voters to evaluate their bets for different public offices: fight against corruption, climate change, alleviating poverty, peace in Mindanao, overseas Filipino workers, and foreign policy.
Rappler and XU speak the same language when it comes to the urgency of discussing and unravelling the said pivotal and intertwined development issues as part of the university’s Research and Social Outreach thematics.
“We would really like to go into real discussions on the many serious issues and challenges that our country faces,” XU president Fr Roberto “Bobby” Yap SJ said in his message to the social media-savvy audience.
Yap told students to be prudent with their decisions come elections: “We should choose our leaders wisely, the leaders that we want and hopefully, the leaders who can really address these serious concerns our country faces, our city faces.” (READ: CDO youth asked: Who will you vote for in 2016?)
“For the first-time voters, I hope you find these upcoming elections interesting and you’re excited to exercise your right and your responsibility to vote as citizens,” he added.
As a non-partisan university, XU forms part of the Lambigit Igsoon para sa Hiniusang Pag-uswag sa atong Katilingban 2016 (LIHUK), a multisectoral network of concerned and active electoral advocates in CDO, with members coming from the church, civil society organizations, academic institutions and neutral government agencies.
LIHUK, which also means “act” or “move” in Bisaya, calls for “Barug Kagay-anon alang sa tiunay nga piniliay” (Stand up, Kagay-anon, for truthful elections).
CDO is also set to host the first presidential debate on February 21, 2016 but the exact venue is yet to be announced.
“Xavier supports this particular project that Rappler is doing because we have declared that it is following the advocacy of Archbishop Tony Ledesma who would like (various sectors) to come together to work for CHAMP elections: clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful,” Yap continued.
#TheLeaderIWant forum in CDO encouraged the audience to take the #PHvote challenge of being informed and of cascading substantial bits of information to virtual or personal circles so we will have CHAMP polls. – Rappler.com
A former intern of Rappler, Stephen J. Pedroza now works at Xavier University as a researcher/writer. He is a graduate of Development Communication at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.