Open Letter Filipino Youth

“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their
enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land?” Such were the words of Jose Rizal, in the
persona of the patriotic priest Padre Florentino, in his novel El Filibusterismo.
Over 100 years have passed since these words were written, and yet the challenge to us, the
Filipino youth, is as relevant as ever. As young adults on the quest of discovering who we are
and who we are meant to be, the role of nation building has been firmly placed in our hands.
Mentors from generations before have done their part in shaping the nation and are grooming
us, the Filipino youth, to be the next change agents.
In our short stay here, we have witnessed the tragic effects of our nation’s most lamentable
social ills: the orchestrated misuse of government funds, the systemic violation of basic human
rights, and the continuous loss of life and property due to abandonment and greed.
Through all of these, it has become more and more apparent that our nation needs more
Filipinos than citizens.
It is easy to imbibe “Filipino Pride” in our moments of triumph – with every win of Manny
Pacquiao, every article on the Philippines as the projected thriving economy of the next decade,
and every tourist video espousing the natural beauty of our motherland.
But being Filipino is much more than a celebration of our collective successes; it is also an
inheritance of the not-so-beautiful aspects of this country: its culture of impunity, widespread
poverty, and institutional corruption, among others.
As indigenous peoples' rights advocate Lourie Victor says, “Being Filipino means accepting the
beauty and the madness of this nation.” But more than just accepting its flaws, we are
challenged to be the change we want to see in this nation, because we are indeed the future.
‘We are the future’
We are the future of this nation because, in the most literal sense, we will one day become the
generation that leads this country. But we are also the future of this nation because our actions
today will shape the course of tomorrow.
And although this has been said to us countless times by our parents, professors, and mentors
(who were once also told this very same adage in their youth), allow me to emphasize that
never has there been a more exciting time to be a member of the youth sector.
It has been said time and time again that there is something different with the circumstances
surrounding our generation. We live in an era where our social impact is accelerated by the
wealth of resources we have at our disposal.
In the age of the New Media and exponential technological advancements, we have the
capacity to do more, reach more people, and act earlier – but the caveat is that we must use
these resources responsibly.
And it is not only in the use of our resources that we must be responsible, but also in the
expression of our idealism. Although our youth is marked by our idealism, let us temper our
idealism with humility – in accepting the fact that we can only do so much, and that we cannot
solve all the problems of our nation overnight.
Once we accept that we are individually limited, it will be much easier to move forward, with
the understanding that in order to serve the nation, it is enough to do well in whatever we do,
and trust that our fellow youth will do the same.And once we accept that progress takes time, it
will be much easier to move forward, with the understanding that nation building is a lifelong
commitment, with its own ups and downs, that we share with like-minded fellows.On leaving,
There will be times that it may indeed be tempting to simply leave and explore greener
pastures overseas, but please stay because our nation needs us. Our nation needs our talents
and skills, infectious idealism and irreverent refusal to accept social ills as all that is and all that
will ever be.
But if we must go, wherever we go, let us take the dreams of our people with us and hold them
with reverence.
After all, we are all allies in nation building. As an archipelagic country, it is easy to make the
mistake of detaching ourselves from the people beyond our line of sight, and even easier, to
relegate the experiences of our countrymen to something that is foreign to us because we were
born under different circumstances.
But it is important to remember that we are all part of the same nation. And once we come to
terms with this and really understand it, it becomes easier to act in ways that mirror the depth
of human dignity, to deal with each other with empathy and compassion.
Let us do away with crab mentality, an approach that is not at all underlying in our native
culture, but something we have acquired from our colonizers.
Let us foster, instead, our endemic sense of community, the spirit of bayanihan, in celebrating
the successes of our countrymen. At the end of the day, the success of one, is the success of
everyone. And we need all the good people that we can in order to change this nation for the
Perhaps out of equal parts frustration and hope, Jose Rizal asked: “Where are the youth who
will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their
native land?”
Fast forward over 100 years later, we, the Filipino youth of today, cry out: We are right here, on
the cusp of greatness, brimming with idealism, and poised to make the Philippines a better
Mabuhay tayong lahat! –
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