Voices of the youth

Over the last couple of weeks I attended two public speaking competitions, as a judge and as a member of the audience. The first was the Voice of Our Youth (VOY) National Impromptu Speaking Competition, and the other was the Volvo Voice of Leadership competition.

Snapshot 2009-02-15 17-48-01

The VOY contest is a well-established one, involving as it does, elimination rounds in the provinces conducted under the auspices of various Rotary Club districts. The students generally spoke very well, but what struck me were some observations made by fellow judge Butch Dalisay on the sidelines of the competition.

I asked him how the students compared to, say, his generation and the oratorical contests they participated in. He immediately brought up the Voice of Democracy competitions of his youth, and observed that the schoolchildren of today speak better. But he was troubled by what he felt to be a lack of curiosity about the world on the part of the kids, and said he couldn’t shake off the impression that the otherwise impressive rhetorical ability of the kids masked a lack of depth when it came to issues, and the real world.

For example, even as the kids generally bewailed the depressing lack of genuine service among today’s leaders, and condemned corruption, and violence and the degradation of the environment, Dalisay said he was constantly waiting for the kids to exhort their audience to take up a good book, or read the papers, or watch the news, so as to be better informed of the many issues swirling around them.

Snapshot 2009-02-15 17-46-58

The Volvo contest, on the other hand, is the first one ever, and included a camp activity. For my part let me suggest that the parameters of the contest betrayed excessive caution on the part of the sponsors. But then again, being a privately-sponsored contest one really can’t quibble with the overarching limitation of the contest’s definition of leadership:

It advocates the development of youth leaders who shall embody the character of true leadership ” that with both integrity of heart and excellent skills that is rooted in God-centeredness and exemplified by accountable and responsible stewardship ” and who shall articulate the voice of leadership that would move and inspire, innovate and instigate leadership transformation among the youth.

That overarching parameter, I suppose, doesn’t bother schools like the Ateneo de Manila in the least, though for people like me, who are trying to focus the public’s attention on the need for a more secular approach to national problems, chalk up another win for those who advocate religious supremacy in all things.


Contests like these help provide a glimpse into the minds of young people, how they process information, and to what extent they’re armed with the tools necessary to become not just reliable employees, but active citizens. For some time now, I’ve believed that an active civic sense is what needs to be fostered, because we’re paying the price for the manner in which nurturing that civic sense was effectively abandoned by educators.

For now, let me point you to The civic imperative: a reflection and the quote from Titus Livy that inspired it:

Here are the questions to which I should like every reader to give his close attention: what life and morals were like; through what men and what policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged. Then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to our present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.

A couple of years ago, at a forum in Jose Rizal University, former Senate President Salonga, asked by a student what would get the country out of the logjam it’s in, thundered, “what this country needs is not Charter Change but character change!” and received a tremendous ovation in response.

Every seems agreed on that point, but then seems stumped on how to accomplish that change. Organized religion seems to be moving more effectively towards a “God-centered” solution to all things. The best proof of this is the stir which the present Chief Justice himself caused, but that’s for another entry (for now, let me point you to another piece, The scientific imperative).

Anyway, here are the three winners of the Volvo competition, which have helpfully been uploaded to YouTube.

The winner of the competition, John Xavier Valdes of the Ateneo de Manila:

The first runner-up, Regina Isabelle Rananda of Miriam College:

And the second runner-up, Christian Earl Castañeda of LaSalle Greenhills:

They are remarkable performances, each and every one (and so were the rest, on the whole).


Hopefully, in the future, the VOY competition will also consider posting the performances of their winners on line. The winners of the Allied Bank-sponsored, Rotary-led competition, go on to represent the country in public speaking contests overseas.

For now, let me close with a look at the University of the Philippines.

Snapshot 2009-02-15 18-55-11

I’ve been following the campaign of one blogger I know, Brian “Bong” Ong, with interest. He and his group belong to one of the groups contesting control of student government. And while Bong and friends may be having colorful clashes with the Left and the Frats, two observations interest me. The first is that none of the competing groups seem particularly attuned to the “real” concerns based on the existing demographics of the student body, and the second is that, as Jester-in-Exile spent today venting on Plurk, the parties are all suspiciously silent on the issue of fraternity violence in U.P.

The run up to the campaign itself was the referendum on the Student Regent, where the Pros and Antis exchanged barbs on blogs (a side issue became one of racism; see Pampublikong Pagpuna kay Anton aka redstudentwill and A Bit of Advice for Activist Groups in General). The Ayes ended up victorious, and even if Blackshama thinks UP is leaving fossilized memes firmly buried in the past, one shouldn’t underestimate the durability of 1960s style sloganeering like Strengthen our Unity! Advance our Struggle for Greater Victories!

Anyway, I’ll leave it to Jester to focus on everyone tiptoeing around the question of fraternity violence, and point, instead, to the issue that apparently concerns most U.P. students at present, and that is the dilemma of the Jumping Jologs (see the bottom part of my July 17, 2007 entry for links concerning the etymology, etc. of Jologs). See Raeining and The Daily Inquibbler as well as bottled brain and rokirode and Eternal Dreams for details on the issue at hand, caught on video by thisiscoy.net:

The Construct I believe, said it best:

I believe it was a defining moment for the UP community. We have always regarded ourselves as the future leaders of the country, the advocates of democracy, and the protectors of our fellow Filipinos especially the masa. Last night was different though. It was clearly us versus them. The educated versus morons. The burgis versus the masa. This criticism shares the same play on semantics of labeling as the April-May 2001 protests with – EDSA  versus “the May 1 Siege”. It’s still the same rift between the middle and lower class.

This event, I think, will come under great scrutiny of the University officials. In the advent of crimes committed to members of the academic community by “outsiders (the Veteran’s Bank robbery, the rapes, the thefts and robberies), I think that they will be considering ‘closing’ the University and limiting its access to UP people. Sure, we’ll be like Ateneo or any other cono private campus, but check the demographics today. What’s the difference?

Must-reads are the entries of Smoke (who also delves on Orcs being another term for Jologs) and The Marocharim Experiment on the whole thing, from a more sociological perspective.

But as for my friend Bong Ong, his party -and all the parties on whom the Jester-in-Exile would rather wish a plague on all their houses- the finer points and the thrill of engaging in collegiate politics and the disputation of political dogmas, has been intruded upon by the outside world.

Addendum, 2/16/’09

From radicalchick comes  the following, explaining why The Construct has it wrong (and most commenters, beginning with the rambunctious being Punks, and why it was a matter of incompetence on the part of the organizers), and what sets apart U.P. from its neighboring schools:

the whole ‘close the university’ conclusion is dangerous. because we are under a U.P. administration that has consistently been trying to make the University more exclusive to “U.P. people” that is, only U.P. students and employees: imposing a no-i.d.-no-entry policy, putting up gates and closing many of the university’s entrances and exits. and while we presume that this makes things safer for us who own cellphones laptops and mp3 players, it glosses over the fact that in the process, the members of the bigger U.P. community are being disenfranchised. if you are part of any of the communities (Krus na Ligas, Areas 1 2 and 3, the Hardins, among others), if you’ve been allowed to build businesses in this area (the talyers along many of the minor roads, the Bonsai Garden, for example), if you’ve lived here all your life but are not enrolled or employed by the University, why must you be disenfranchised from the spaces of U.P.? this is as much yours as it is theirs who hold I.D.’s and form 5’s.

truth to tell, the blogsphere’s classist consensus can and will be used by the University admin to continue its project of oppressing its own in the name of security. and in the end, all it will do is highlight difference among U.P.’s many sectors, and allow for the U.P.’s ‘educated’ to deem their security as more important than the oppression of so many others who are part of the community.

this community is what makes U.P. different from Ateneo, demographics notwithstanding. it is this community that we learn to be mindful of, that we deal with everyday, that we do become dependent on. we live with them, we breathe the same air, we are in fact one and the same.

i don’t doubt that the punks could’ve started throwing stones at the people inside the Sunken Garden, and that they had the capacity to actually take down those walls. i do not question the truth that many of the people there - and i’m sure they weren’t ALL u.p. students - were scared shitless. but i also don’t doubt that this was the organizers’ fault as Thumbbook has said.

It is the dilemma, therefore, of the culture of the gated community, with all that it implies.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

39 thoughts on “Voices of the youth

  1. I would like to quote, sir, the following observations: “But he was troubled by what he felt to be a lack of curiosity about the world on the part of the kids, and said he couldn’t shake off the impression that the otherwise impressive rhetorical ability of the kids masked a lack of depth when it came to issues, and the real world.”

    —It’s really an eye opener for me. I am in my third year college studies now. I recall feeling the same thing when i was in high school. I kept writing about corruption without even knowing what corruption *really* is.

    This is indeed a problem of establishing AUTHORITY on young people, including me. At a young age, many struggle to achieve authority in writing, public speaking or even blogging. This is in order for the audience to believe in what one is trying to say. One concrete example is when a kid tries to explain a situation to a parent. Given that the parent assumes a role of high authority inside a household, it may turn out the the kid is unbelievable because of his lack on authority.

    Sir, it is inevitable for me to ask this: given this problem, how can we, young people, achieve AUTHORITY to avoid being devalued as unreliable or as a person who “lacks depth”?

    —- Adrian @ http://adrianmendizabal.blogspot.com/

  2. hi adrian, it’s not a question of authority because sometimes, authority isn’t based on anything really rational (seniority, for example, in and of itself, why should it be an organizing principle for anything?). perhaps the observation of butch, who himself was a young radical in his time, points to the advantage some have over others, which is information. you need information and it comes from reading widely, and keeping tabs on what’s going on, it what allows you to make sense of the world and challenge authority if need be.

  3. yes, ironic that kind of critique by butch d. who may have been a radical in his youth but is better known now for being apolitical, i.e., can’t be bothered with politics or taking any kind of stand on political issues, like most of his sosyal writer barkada.

  4. …one shouldn’t underestimate the durability of 1960s style sloganeering like Strengthen our Unity! Advance our Struggle for Greater Victories!

    It is still powerful because it is true.

  5. There is indeed a lack of curiosity in the youth today: they tend to think that knowledge and the veritable minefield of information available on the Internet as substitute for real learning. Lots of diversity in opinion (which can also be good) and creation of like-minded pseudo-communities (also good). However it makes me wonder if there is development of in-depth focus on what really matters especially the challenges facing the country that is going on with our younglings. Or are they like the rest of the generation before them always have that fall-back just in case: can or will migrate if things gets worse enough.

    But then again, why take the burden on the young? The fault should be squarely on the shoulders of leaders who have failed to provide a long-term vision that would unite and focus the whole country towards a better and prosperous Philippines.

    Is Butch Dalisay apolitical? Writers or artists of real caliber or who are genuine cannot be apolitical. LOL, not possible — i.e. they don’t have a choice on this.

  6. Mr. Butch Dalisay, being from an older generation, is clueless as to the nextgen’s seeming lack of curiosity.

    But of course, the new generation has information on demand because of the internet, web, You Tube, social networking, etc.

    These young fellas know more about the world than their parents did. Sadly, including such bad things as pornography.

  7. but having info at your fingertips is different from actually seeking out, accessing, and making sense of that information…

  8. Yah, but you could call it as extension of law of supply and demand. But you gotta believe it, these young kids know where to seek out and access information.

    As to making sense of the information, pop culture and underlying subsets are always different from each generation to the next. For the baby-boomers, making money, career success, and nice retirement were untrivial pursuits. With this newgen, social networking seems to be more important.

    The reality is from the song In Living Years: “each generation blames the one before.” Cheers.

  9. Manolo, cluelessness is not generational. My parents were clueless. Oddly, my grandfather wasn’t. Maybe Martial Law intimidated Filipinos of that generation to be stupid. Also, the way the elite conducts media, the lies, the obfuscation… the overall hypocrisy, of which many UP, Ateneo, etc. academics and intellectuals are guilty of–it makes people stupid.

  10. Secularization has taken a serious blow world-wide. The masses, and their governments, have become browbeaten by more determined and better-organized religious groups.

    Part of the reason why religious organizations have been able to flex their muscles is that politicians have coddled them in the hope of getting their support and votes. Marcos and subsequent Presidents pampered the INC. Opus Dei has managed to have some of its people appointed to important government positions from Marcos until the present. Not to be outdone, protestant and other Catholic organizations formed their own power blocs: El Shaddai, JIL, etc.

    It isn’t only in the Philippines that such a phenomenon exists. In the U.S., we have seen how the religious right has a strong symbiotic relationship with the Republican Party. In other pluralistic societies, religious groups, such as Islamic fundamentalists, are trying to exercise more influence in secular matters. And in some Islamic countries, there isn’t even a pretense of separation between church and State.

    I do not see opportunistic alliances between politicians and religious groups as healthy any country. It minimizes the value of individual thinking in favor of herd mentality and suppresses creativity and innovation in favor of uniformity.

    What is most insulting to the people is that religious institutions are being nurtured with people’s money. Governments and politicians indulge them with tax exemptions and grants. At the same time, they have tax power over their followers through tithes and donations. The material wealth they enjoy gives them even more resources to multiply their herd.

    The pluralistic principles of the French and American revolutions, which were the basis of democratic ideals, have been largely on the decline during the past few decades.

  11. Many points have been raised here. Though I cannot comment on them all, let me air my opinion on issues that interest me most.

    1. On youth – I agree that access to information is different from actually taking advantage of that privilege. The youth today has been bombarded with too many information ranging from sex, fashion, western culture, asian culture, religion, cult, new age movements, etc, that I fear the youth must be suffering from information overload. Too many information, too many access, much less time to digest and form their own decision.

    As I see it, and in a way I agree with Dalisay, the youth are good in FORM, but somewhat lacking (if not totally) in substance, feeling, conviction, focus and direction.

    You can hear the young people say “STOP THE CORRUPTION”, but do they know HOW? WHY? What made you think that it is indeed CORRUPTION and not merely an accusation? It’s like they’re just jumping to the bandwagon and it makes them feel convenient.

    No, I won’t generalize the youth today… but it’s an observation that most of the young people nowadays lack exuberance.

    2. On Religion – time and time again, people would point fingers to the church and would go as far as saying “It’s the church’s fault”. Damn the church. Tax the church. Let us all be secular.

    Though I have no problem with having a secular government, as long as it won’t curtail the rights of the people, including those in the government, to practice their religion, but doesn’t it sound merely like “Abolish Religion”? I don’t know, but it seems more like it… or am I just being OA about it? Haha.

    The church is an easy scapegoat for most people here.

    Stop pointing fingers and do whatever you think is good for the country.

    Oh btw. Nice blog MLQ3. I’ve just discovered it and I learn new interesting tidbits of information here. Cheers!

  12. Phil, I’m not convinced, if only because in interactions with students I always end up having to explain to them how to dig up information and they often have a hazy notion of how institutions work (though great aplomb in explaining how technology functions). But yes, a more productive way forward is to identify where Gen Yers and so forth are better at things than previous generations.

  13. “each generation blames the one before.”

    Being a parent myself I agree with Phil. Also, I think each generation feels superior to the one before, and to the one after.

    But I believe the youth of today is no different from the youth of yesterday, the cycle being constant except for the advent of newer technology in the passing of time. They will learn, as the old have learned. But judging them as lacking in depth is like saying, ‘the branch is not as hard as the trunk’. It’s just that the branch is part of the tree. In the passing of time the cycle repeat itself.

    It’s not like a sack, having been filled to the brim, can be compacted for more by force.

    The youth will come to aged.

  14. to Adrian: You actually have provided answer to your questions. You did ask :

    how can we, young people. . .avoid being devalued . . . . a person who “lacks depth”?

    An answer for your question and an action-item for you is — that you should build depth, to be followed by for you to communicate clearly so that your peers (or more importantly, parents and other adults) begin to sense that you have depth. That you have information; that you have well-thought out opinions; that you can express your values and understanding of problems clearly. Hey…. even the act of asking questions, when done well, begins to set the stage that you are a person of depth.
    Now here is another thing to understand. You already have depth — you know more about the movie MEMENTO, you have strong opinions about the movie MEMENTO, than The Equalizer above, or your parents. You have more knowledge of chemical engineering concepts than 80% of the visitors to this blogsite. Unfortunately for you, neither chemical engineering nor MEMENTO are discussed on MLQ3’s site, so your potential to contribute is nulled out.
    But lucky for you, this particular blogpost by MLQ3 offers you a chance to build a reputation as a college-student with depth. Among the topics about your school the University of the Philippines are — the referendum on the Student Regen, fraternity violence, and the “jumping jologs” invasion of Sunken Gardens. Content — the thoughts you share about one or all of these U-of-P/Diliman issues — help you earn a reputation as a college student of depth. How clearly you communicate your thoughts also help define you as a college student of depth.

    By the way, surely you would have noticed by now that many persons “in authority” do not communicate well at all. But what they have is responsibility — you know, your parents are responsible for earning the pesos to pay for the electricity and all those other things.

    So the more responsibilities that you take on, the faster you get to developing a reputation of being a young man with depth.

  15. Youth may have much much more information at their fingertips. Perhaps, as pointed out, they suffer from information overload. There is also creativity, but more on a technical level.

    Artistically, for example, the technology is impressive but the substance leaves much to be desired.

    Much of the music coming out is basically rehashed versions of old tunes. Lyrics aren’t too clever, either. Except for a few exceptions, like Jason Mraz.

    In the cinema, we keep getting sequels of older movies. Although I must say that the visuals keep getting better. But the story lines aren’t new, just repackaged with more bells and whistles.

    And, every year that I visit New York, I lament at the rubbish they’re churning out in Broadway. I don’t think there’s been anything new and significant that has been produced in Broadway over the past 10 years.

    It’s not the lack of creativity but, perhaps, the lack of passion. Some may call it cynicism. I think that, over the years, several factors have colluded so that people have been browbeaten into losing faith in mankind.

    Unlike the 1960’s, at the height of the space age, when there was so much optimism about the potential of what man can do, we now have lowered our hopes and expectations. Instead, we have turned to different opiates for relief. These run the range of things like religion (the opium of the masses) to the pursuit of riches and material things (which may likely become a casualty of the financial downturn).

  16. “So the more responsibilities that you take on, the faster you get to developing a reputation of being a young man with depth.”-UP n

    Adrian, by then you become a parent with depth, saying the same things of your kids, heheh.

  17. Honestly, past generations were sorry failures and worse, they wish ill of the younger ones. Are you proud that from one of the most advanced countries in SE Asia left by Americans, you’ve made the RP one of the weakest? We all need to visit the shrink.

  18. Mr. Quezon, I would like to comment on the part of this post which discussed the UP Fair. I think that the “us-versus-them” aspect of the UP fair is a false argument. Can you blame those who attended the UP fair for getting angry at the JJs (jumping jologs)? How would those JJs (for the lack of a better term, I shall use JJs) feel if they were the ones who happened to be inside the gates?

    This is not an issue of “rich-versus-poor.” I believe that if being rich is not an excuse to get away with wrongdoing, then neither is being poor an excuse to become a nuisance to society. Political correctness is not applicable in the issue of violence in the UP fair. It is a fact of life that there are some people who are more well-off than others. It’s not the fault of those who attended the UP fair that the JJs were not able to afford tickets. When you’re already surrounded with hooligans, the last thing that will come to your mind is how to avoid being “matapobre.”

    The safety of those who attended the UP fair was threatened. They’ll naturally get upset as a result. It doesn’t make them “matapobre” or avaricious as persons. It just shows that they are normal, rational human beings.

  19. “It’s not the fault of those who attended the UP fair that the JJs were not able to afford tickets.”-kristine0019


    Are you in a position to say that in fact those who rushed inside and started the mayhem were without tickets? I asked that because there were some bloggers who are claiming that those you yourself have called JJs were with tickets but were not able to enter the concert ground until they forced themselves in.

    This thing about ticket is important and has to be clarified since it might becloud our perspective of what actually happened at the UP fair.

  20. Hi kristine. katrina points out that the issue is not poor vs. rich or whatever, it was about the logistics of the event having been overwhelmed due to the huge crowd. she feels the issue should be limited to that and introducing the poor vs. rich debate is dangerous because if it becomes a question of us versus them (up community versus the outside world) it will lead to everyone having their freedom curtailed when that would be an entirely wrong solution.

    incidentally, however, katrina’s point was premised on the punks, as she calls them, also being legitimate ticket holders. are you saying the whole problem was one of gatecrashing, of the punks refusing to pay?

  21. to Bert: being holders of valid tickets does not sound like a good-enough reason for the jj’s to use hooligan-tactics to crash through the gates and onto the Sunken Gardens.

    “I have a valid driver’s license and I have a car…. ergo, I can go through a red light.” Did those jj’s at UP fair think they are government officials? 🙁

  22. UP n,

    How can I disagree with you on that. Still, I’m not sure you’ll agree with me if I say that having a legitimate ticket but prevented from entering the concert ground is a tad different from being barred without it, no?

    My point is, from the point of view of two commenters in this thread asserting contradictory statements re the ticket, and expressing strong opinions and perspectives about what had happened, I deemed it better for the commenters to ascertain first the facts about the ticket to be able to give justice to what they have to say about the incident. No justification there for hooliganism and gate-crashers, is there?

    Btw, I’m a pusong-mamon so would never condone vandalsm or unjustified violence against anyone save perhaps some government officials you are referring to, heheh.

  23. UP n,

    Being a UP-D insider yourself (my two daughters, one civil the other archi, are alumni too), can you say for certain those guys you call the jj’s not UPeans like you and my kids once were, and that in fact they don’t have tickets at the time? Just curious.

  24. The JJs rampage at the UP fair is not a class war in the surface, but it is a ‘proxy’ war between the haves inside the campus and the have-nots at the periphery. I believe things have gotten worse since those days when the jokes going around were:

    Bakit ka na-late?
    Mahirap mag-park sa AS.

    Di sana nag-ikot jeep ka na lang?
    I have no change.

    Could be just miscue by the organizers, but it could be a pot boiling. Shades of Yale University at New Haven Connecticut in the 1980s, if I may compare.

    Hmmm, Bert. ‘Mamon’. Beta Sigman?

  25. good question, Bert. So here is a re-write.

    being holders of valid tickets does not sound like a good-enough reason for the jj’s the jerks to use hooligan-tactics to crash through the gates and onto the Sunken Gardens.

    “I have a valid driver’s license and I have a car…. ergo, I can go through a red light.” Maybe those jj’s hooligans at UP fair thought they got promoted into a government-ranking official or something?

  26. UP n grad:

    “being holders of valid tickets does not sound like a good-enough reason for the (jerks) to use hooligan-tactics to crash through the gates and onto the Sunken Gardens.”

    “I have a valid driver’s license and I have a car…. ergo, I can go through a red light.” Maybe those (hooligans) at UP fair thought they got promoted into a government-ranking official or something?”

    —-> This is what I have been to point out. Given that those hooligans were legitimate ticket holders, is that an excuse for them to endanger the safety of everyone who attended the UP Fair? It just so happened that those punks came from the lower classes, that’s why they are being considered as the underdogs.

    Allow me to make my own re-write:

    “It’s not the fault of those who attended the UP Fair that the hooligans were denied entry into the concert ground.”

  27. The young today are the products of the every increasing specialized division of labor. Mostly narrow and focused on the technical aspects of their so called career choices made by them or by their parents for them.

    I am stunned by the ignorance of several so called bright graduates from the best schools trained for their particular disciplines but mostly oblivious to the framework around them. The lure of money is the all encompassing drive.

  28. “It just so happened that those punks came from the lower classes, that’s why they are being considered as the underdogs.”

    Ah, here speaks the daughter of a Brahmin, the loathing for the Untouchables.

  29. to kristine: This a tendency to blame the victim is a trait common to many Filipinos. Your pockets got picked while riding a jeepney and one of the comments will be “…. ikaw kasi, nag-dyip ka kasi.”

    To reinforce the point you make, had it been mga bakla — or worse, Ateneans!!!! — who threw stones and ruined the UP Fair, then fault would be shifted to those hooligans, not to the victims. [ Maybe there will not be a single soul who will say “… kung hindi sila nag perya-perya, hindi nagkagulo!!! Sa bahay sila dapat pag-dilim para mag-aral o mag-rosaryo”.

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