By Danton Remoto
Remote Control | 12/10/2008 10:08 AM
Views and Analysis Section
The Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils takes credit for the conference whose papers have been collected in a book called Youth in Transition: The Challenges of Generational Change in Asia.
Joseph H. Puyat of UP Diliman’s Department of Psychology draws a sketch of the Filipino youth in the 21st century. Philippine laws say that youth ends at age 21, when a citizen can already get married. The Department Health, meanwhile, stretches youth into the age of 24 while the Department of Education and Culture says it ends at 30. Likewise, the National Youth Council agrees youth ends at 30, while the United Nations Educational, Scientific Organization (UNESCO) says youth starts with the teen years and ends at age 44. Bless the United Nations, then, for including us in this category.
But whether youth ends at 21, 24, 30, or 44, the facts exist. The youth vote is the biggest in the country, pegged at 70 percent. Maybe that is why, as some quarters insist, inadequate info was given about voter registration last year because the Filipino youth vote is a thinking vote. As this school of thought suggested, if the thinking vote gets to vote, indeed, they might choose the young and the bright and the candidates whose faces are not too oily with corruption and greed.
A 2003 study by Raymundo and Puyat also shows that the Filipino youth value high self-esteem. “About 7 to 10 Filipino youth are quite satisfied with them selves or feel they are capable of doing many good things or take a positive attitude towards the self.” What is the importance of this? Aside from having lesser pimples because one doesn’t worry too often and having a better posture because one stands up straight and tall, having a good self-esteem has its other bonuses. “Young people who feel good about themselves tend to be less vulnerable to pressures from various sources to engage in high-risk behavior.”
All those books we read in college and graduate school about Philippine history and colonialism seemed to suggest that the pervasive effect of colonialism was completely negative. But in the postmodern and postcolonial age, and certainly in this new century, we have seen otherwise. Our collective and racial experiences with different colonial masters and authority figures have shaped us to be more malleable. We could shift shapes and mould ourselves into different phases and faces depending on the situation and the person we are dealing with.
An additional study by Miralao in 2003 suggests that the Filipino youth are comfortable with being individualistic and unique. That thumb mark of individuality is not a sign of weakness but of strength. “Likewise, the Filipino youth of today are able to continually fuse diverse and distinct roles and expectations into a coherent whole that defines who they are in their everyday interaction (Pena, 1998). A typical Filipino youth tends to have a well-rounded personality and is able to seamlessly shift from one role to another (i.e., brother/sister, son/daughter, friend, student, leader, athlete, musician) depending on the demands of the situation.”
What about God?
This reminds me of that long, famous poem “Like the Molave” of Rafael Zulueta da Costa that won the Commonwealth Literary Prize in 1940. Strong, sturdy and stubborn, the Filipino youth will stand tall and proud in the 21st century. Aside from individual strength, whence comes nourishment?
From spirituality and from the family. Admit it, many of us would rather go malling on a Sunday than sit it out in Mass with a priest droning on and on about Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippines (Philippians, please, Phillipians). But fully 99.6 percent of the respondents believe in God or a Supreme Being. “Though many of them are less familiar with the teachings of their church compared to their parents, most of them still believe that how they conduct their lives today would have a bearing on what would happen to them in the hereafter, in heaven or in hell.” (Raymundo, 2003)
And would one be a Filipino without the family? What accounts for the popularity (still) of Big Brother is the sight of grown-up men and women bawling at the sound of their parents’ voices on the phone, or the sight of their siblings on the screen telling them they are much missed. In spite of the negative social costs of migration and the OFW phenomenon, 83.2 percent of those surveyed were raised by both parents living together.
“Even in families that have only the mother or the father (due to economic reasons) to supervise the household, adverse effects on the youth’s socialization have not been reliaby established. In many cases, the reason for a parent’s absence and not the absence itself is more determinative of whatever behavioral problem the youth may develop (Philippine Social Sciences Council, 2003).”
But in this postmodern age, we now know that strengths are also weaknesses. Faith and family might be fortresses, but they do not offer enough windows of opportunity to discuss the important issues of sex and sexuality. Until now, a coherent sex-education program is not in place in the schools. I still remember, with vividness enough to make me blush even today, the sight of my Religion teacher in high school, the spinsterish Miss Zamora, bravely talking about masturbation to a class of high-schoolers. Although we had galloping gonads and all, we could not look at Miss Zamora talking about something that we would not even discuss among ourselves in Practical Arts class.
Fast forward to 2008 Philippines. My nephew’s mother is working abroad, like a million others, and his dad is dead. He stays with my parents in the sunny suburbs. He turned 12 this year and one day last summer, I wanted to talk to him about the birds and the bees and the silent trees. I tentatively began with, “Hijo, uhhmm, let us talk about, uhmmm, sex.”
He looked at me with his big, wondering eyes lit with innocence. I looked at him, at that face wreathed with sunlight, and I high-tailed. “Ay, ahhh, I will just buy you the book, Boys and Sex.” End of the sex-education lesson. For, really, it is difficult to talk about sex to young people who are like your children. I was the one who carried this infant from the hospital to the house (his mother too scared to carry him because he looked so red and so frail). I would leave my classes and run to the hospital when he would have convulsions. And now, now he is 12 and I have to talk to him about sex?