During the past week, I was deeply engrossed with two seemingly disparate activities. The first was the visit of the Young Turks—Adel (Tamano), Danton (Remoto), Erin (Tañada) and Gilbert (Remulla) to Silliman University, Dumaguete City, on July 10 and 11. The other activity was the “Magkaisa sa Awitan” choral festival commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United Church of the Good Shepherd (UGCS).
It is starting. The young are singing a different political tune. It is the music of New Politics. Young people are responding to the call for New Politics in talk shows, blogs and assemblies. They are moving away from apathy and are starting to march to a different drum. They are talking to the Young Turks.
Who are the Young Turks? During the first leg of their university tour in Silliman University, many asked this question. Are they similar to the young men of Turkey who started the Young Turks Revolution that brought down the monarchy? Or are they like the young Filipino politicians who defied their party elders?
Adel says it was the media who gave them the name, which was quickly picked up by young people who responded to their blog, the opposite of apathy.wordpress.com.
The call of the Young Turks is addressed to the young—not necessarily in age—but in terms of hope, fresh ideas, and relief from the cynicism and sense of hopelessness pervading the country. They call for the participation of all sectors, especially the marginalized, in the political process. They challenge the youth to engage the government on urgent national issues.
Coming from different political parties, the Young Turks cross political, ideological, religious and social boundaries imposed by the traditional political process.
For their visit to Silliman University, they got up at the crack of dawn to board the first flights to Dumaguete. Upon arrival, they gamely followed a strenuous schedule, which included three major fora with the political science and history majors, business and economics students and the all-university convocation held in Silliman Church.
In between, they walked from one part of the campus to another, talked with students, faculty and staff. The only thing they could not do was sleep.
The questions raised by the students in the three fora were both disturbing and inspiring. A recurrent theme was the disappointment and apathy of the youth. One student complained that their hopes had been raised and destroyed so often. What guarantee is there that they would not be disappointed again with New Politics?
Another student talked about his province, which is one of the poorest in the country even as their governor is wallowing in wealth. A son of a former mayor spoke passionately about how his father was impelled to change political parties in order to access funding for their poor municipality.
A student wanted to know why Gilbert proposed the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan even as Erin wanted it reformed and strengthened. More questions about gender equality, exploitation of natural resources and exclusion of minorities in politics. And always, the despairing query, “Is there hope?”
Gilbert kept repeating like the Lord of the Rings’ Arwen, “There is hope. The hope is in you.” Erin challenged the young to “reclaim the government!” Danton called for more inclusiveness in politics. Adel urged the youth repeatedly to continue engaging the government and the political system. He said everyone should have a place at the table.
A different kind of music, indeed!