As soon as I step afoot the tube that separates the “medium” between sky and ground, I know this is the Philippines. It was last year, summer time, and 11 o’clock in the evening, the humid and hot weather immediately engulfed my body, as if a long lost sweetheart was hugging my very-soul. But I still have to head to the domestic terminal for another flight at four o’clock early dawn. I was going back to Davao back then.
As I hurried back to check-in my plane ticket, a young man suddenly approached me and asked, “are you headed for Singapore?” I said, “no, I just came back from there.” He asked me how to pass through the immigration officer, check-in his ticket, and pay the terminal fee. I was in an awe-difficult situation how to respond to him. I just found out that it was his first ever “flight in the sky.” His first was international; never been to anywhere with this type of transportation in the Philippines. I said, “You are high-spirited, my friend. That’s great, I guess! Just be calm and confident. I’m sure everything’s going to be fine with all your papers in order.” His face started to look worrisome. I later knew that he was headed for Singapore as a tourist and was planning to overstay his visa/permit to work as nurse. I said, “really?” But I was preoccupied with the “ticket counter” thingy and had no time to ask more about his plans. I immediately handed him my business card in case he got “entangled” with his fraught emigration plans. I told him keep his calm, “since you’re already headed there, and everything is set, just try to deal with it light-headedly and be careful though.” I was not sure if he was just pretending but I can feel that he was telling the truth and all the more I believe in his sincerity when his family started hugging him before he went onto the immigration section. And then, he just disappeared from my sight; into the abyss of unknown – the world of the irregulars or TNT. How many of the young population today are leaving the Philippines? What are the major factors they are considering that rationalizes their decisions to desperately emigrate from our country? Are the youth now tired of this nation? Are we all just merely leaving the Philippines to find a greener pasture or more economic opportunities abroad?
Is the Philippines losing its one last hope – the youth? Last June 19, 2017 was the 156th birth anniversary of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. In 1879, at age 18, Rizal wrote a poem “A La Juventud Filipino” (To the Filipino Youth), calling on the Filipino youth as the “fair hope of my motherland.” The rigorous heroes and revolutionaries during his time were largely composed of young people too, including Emilio Jacinto. What have we become after a century and a half from that very moment our national hero conceived this “last mission” for us? The so-called Republic of the Philippines (RP) was colonized for centuries under Spain. The British also briefly occupied RP during the Spanish rule. The Americans came and the decades of colonial rule was abruptly disrupted by Japan’s conquest of Asia. We declared independence on July 4, 1946 from American rule but we are celebrating June 12, 1898 as the real Independence Day (from Spanish rule). We had the 119th anniversary a few months ago, and nobody, if not a few, even bothered about it. Whatever is the date of the celebrations, the truth is we are not truly independent. In the era of obsolete global capitalism, there is no such thing as “genuine” independence when trade, politics and the culture of “having fun all the time” permeates one country to another – distorting the hearts and minds of our young Filipinos. It’s disheartening to say it, talks about social issues within and among the youth sector is less pervasive nowadays. Most, if not many, of them are “opium-ed” by the consumerist, online, western-sort of lifestyle, coupled with local “shenanigans”, a scholarly-colleague of mine tells me so. Or perhaps lost in the shadows of drug abuse and the war on drugs of the current administration.
Fast forward to the future, an ever increasing number of Filipinos can be seen almost from every corner of the world’s major continents. It is as if a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ when in almost all natural calamities or even in man-made disasters, in news headlines you may hear a Filipino migrant either dead or a survivor from it. Yet, why do we have to “force” ourselves, if not with great convictions to go out in search of something? Are we just lost; looking endlessly for our lost identity? Who are we then? Is leaving cause by economic reasons alone? A dear friend of mine who is now in Europe once shared to me that most of her online young friends back home just chatted with her to ask for her help to get out of the country. She confides her infuriation to these compatriots of ours as she exclaimed that most of our fellow Filipinos abroad are having a hard time; they are not there because they are having fun. They have to make both ends meet. In fact, at the first instance of their arrival in a foreign land, while trying to cope with the loneliness and major adjustments in life, most of them have to contend with their debts back home. In Japan, the case is more or less similar with some familial and personal reasons. Young women even left the Philippines in search of great opportunities and greener pastures. But still, many others noted that it is with the prestige, fame and sense of personal fulfillment that matters, generally ascribed to “having gone abroad.”
And so, the reasons behind this “leaving phenomenon” is multi-faceted than simply expected. A century and half later, a rather million of “happy-go-lucky” events, platonic romantic movies, westernized publications, lost revolutions and uprisings, among others have overshadowed Rizal’s “moment of calling” the youth to “make things happen” for our country. Yet, the young people have far greater potential as our “dearest Jose” had earlier described it. We have lost many of them because of failing to engage them in mainstreaming advocacy for change. The Youth Council (SK) has been corrupted as well. In the end, when Philippines fail as a nation, it is not the youth to blame. Consequently, it is the old populace, the predecessor of the defeat of the young men’s idealism. Looking back, how come we have not substantially moved on from all sorts of external control and internal corrupt practices? The youth who advocated for social change, calling for the country’s renewal of commitment for a genuine independence – what have we done to them? The old, obsolete structures, “monster-institutions” silenced them, incarcerated, if not murdered their very-existence before they can even start to sprout. Yet, we always ask, what have we done? Ask yourself again. The time of the youth has come – the time is ripe for change; for a new, alternative politics. Let us join together, but how? Start something; just do anything – now or never. (davaotoday.com)
Andi, owing to the Japanese Romaji version of his Katakana nicknameアンディ, is a loving husband to a wife, a teacher, researcher, political analyst, and a community development specialist. He finished his PhD in Japan and has travelled extensively around East and Southeast Asia.