January 29, 2013
Last 2010, more than 100 youth from all over Northern Luzon gathered to build solidarity and synthesize the issues being confronted then by their sector as the national elections approach. The event, dubbed as Think Change, aimed to engage the youth in community-building and provide venues for their concretization of the clichéd “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan” statement.
This year, various organizations led by the Cordillera Youth Center, Anakbayan Cordillera, College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet, National Union of Students of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet and the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation Baguio City, Think Change 2013 was conducted at Teachers’ Camp on January 26 and 27, with nearly 200 delegates from the provinces of Pangasinan, Isabela, Cagayan Valley and the regions of Ilocos and Cordillera. In the two-day summit, the delegates listened to various discussions magnifying the issues they should confront as the emerging sector of the country, exchanged ideas on how to address these issues, paraded all the way from Teachers’ Camp down to Session Road and People’s Park, Malcolm Square where a Jam for Change was also held on the first night .
Participants of the Youth Summit during the Unity March
Delegates from Kalinga during the Unity Parade
Cultural performers during the Jam for Change at Malcolm, Square
Keynote: the condition of the youth is a condition for dissent
Einstein Recedes of Kabataan Partylist National delivered the Keynote Address where he elaborated on the various issues of the youth from their schools, to their communities and the workplace. As the perennial problem faced by the youth, most of which are studying in schools, Recedes emphasized the tuition and miscellaneous fees increases, along with the redundant fees in his speech. The rate of unemployment and its aggravation by the lack of jobs created that is suitable to the needs of the country also got attention in the keynote speech. Also, the violation of the human rights of the youth, already touched on the violation of their right to education and employment, is only more brutalized by the vilification of progressive youth organizations that justly advances the interests of the sector in their different areas of life.
Recedes’ booming conclusion includes the exhortation that given these existing conditions that are meant to stifle the energies of the youth, the youth has no better option than to keep on acting together and continue expanding their ranks in order to register a louder voice of dissent. In this venture, the youth should bear in mind the tripartite modes of engagement that they should follow as a more effective way of confronting their issues: arousing, organizing and mobilizing. Invoking and at the same time recasting Rizal’s hackneyed proposition on the youth as the hope of the nation, Recedes ended his speech with a stirring recommendation: kabataan, ‘wag nang hintayin ang kinabukasan, maging pag-asa ng bayan, ngayon!
Different workshops and the building of the North Luzon Agenda
In the afternoon session of the summit’s first day, the participants were divided into three workshop groups according to three identified issues: education, human rights and environment. The workshop groups initiated a sharing of experiences among the delegates in order to specify the issues of the youth in specific communities and ultimately to map systematic steps that can be taken to respond to the issues raised.
As the three groups gathered back together, they crafted what will later be called as the North Luzon Youth Agenda which is comprised of the particular demands of the youth to the candidates for the mid-term elections. As a major bloc in the population of the society, the youth agenda is underlined by the framework that the issues of the youth, crafted by members of the sectors themselves, should be a priority among the candidates. The youth should make use of their comprising more than half of the registered voters in order to call attention to their demands. As these demands were articulated after the thorough discussions and sharing of actual experiences of the delegates in the Summit, there is nothing but the collective interest of the youth hankering for a better nation and a better future.
Highlighting the North Luzon Youth agenda is the assertion of the right to education which includes the scrapping of the 300% ladderized tuition fee increase in the Cordillera State Universities and Colleges. This is extended as a critique of the government’s moves to commercialize education as manifested by the decreasing state subsidy and its encouragement of SUC’s to be self-sufficient and to welcome income-generating projects and private tie-ups. Also, the right to decent employment is raised. This includes the creation of jobs that square with the abilities and educational attainment of the youth and more vitally, jobs that attune with the conditions and the needs of the country. Implicitly lambasted is the burgeoning of labor migration which is only a result of the lack of jobs and the inhumane pay of workers in the country. The defense of human rights, including the right to a safe and healthful environment also got into the list of concerns of the youth. The vilification of legitimate youth organizations, the militarization of campuses and communities, the cutting of trees in Luneta Hill to give way to a parking space – all of these were condemned by the North Luzon youth and which they pledge to continue acting against.
Participants shared ides during the caucuses on the second day
Bringing back the 70s and the challenges ahead
The first day was culminated with a unity parade along Session Road and the City Market with the participating organizations bringing on their banners and their funky 70s attire. In fostering the spirit of the First Quarter Storm during the Marcos regime, the 70s theme was upheld to showcase the youth’s continuing commitment to be involved towards the betterment of the society. Several bands and cultural groups such as Salidummay, Kultura and Maxim performed along with the delegates from each province.
In the last day of the Summit, the delegates were grouped according to their province and then shared the specific issues in their communities. The entire Summit was capped by the formation of the alliance called FREEDOM (Fight for our Right to Education, Employment, Environment and Democratic Rights) which will serve as the coordinating body among the provinces and the various organizations as the collaborate in resolving all the issues brought up in the two-day activity. The individuals and member organizations of the alliance are also expected to broaden the network by propagating its ideals and garnering more members.
In conclusion, the 2013 Think Change North Luzon Youth Summit proved to be a success with the delegates it was able to convene in order to discuss the pressing issues the Northern Luzon youth faces and more importantly, set out concrete plans of actions as a response to these issues. This only evinces that today’s youth remain adamant in thinking about change and are even more strong-minded in acting specifically to foster every possible kind of change in their respective communities.