On organizing the youth of Sarangani

   On February 27, 2016, on the highlights of the GenSan’s Kalilangan Festival, some youth of Sarangani decided to meet for a common goal – to uplift the condition of our province. We have the same vision of empowering our fellow youth, help them spot the right opportunities, to help them grow and involve them in nation building. This idea is not new. I am not the only person who thinks of this idea. Some privileged youth in Sarangani have already thought of it. It is just a matter of Who, Where, When and How to initiate it. 

   This is the perfect time to execute the idea. If we do not act now, we would regret it. A friend asked me on what’s my motivation in initiating this act. That time I just smiled and became reserved. I diverted the topic to avoid the question. I knew the reason but it seems that I did not have the guts to share it. But now I made a conscious decision to execute the idea for two main reasons – the hapless condition of Sarangani Province and the aftermath of my deep contemplation. 

   Last December 2015, I experienced a mild depression. It affects my whole well-being. I became sad, bored, lazy, unmotivated and in some cases had an (mild) anxiety attacks. I had (mild) death anxiety which really bothered me. I felt strange because I was not acting myself. The optimism seems lost; my mind was filled with fears and worries. I cannot think clearly for some time. I was alarmed by my condition. That time I disconnected to the society. I turned down projects. I temporarily abandoned my creativity. 

   As I probe the root cause of my condition, I realized so many things. At first, I thought it was just a quarter life crisis. I also blamed the toxic personalities that I have socialized last year. But as a dig deeper, I rediscover myself. The philosopher in me started to reappear and started to question my existence. 

   I contemplated on the things that I have done on earth. I asked myself – “What’s the meaning of my life? What’s my purpose? Do I live a fulfilling life? What are my contributions in the society? What are my contributions in my own community? Do I really know the needs of my own community? Is there career advancement in the past 5 years? If I die tomorrow, would the people celebrate my contributions?” I question my life, my existence, my faith, my purpose, the meaning of my life. I felt like a philosopher trying to understand the complexity of life. I asked myself – “Why I felt this way? Why I did not asked those questions in the past?” It was a life altering moment in which I felt weird, funny and nostalgic. 

   I gradually accepted it and focus on finding the right solutions for this unusual dilemma. I meditate, I travel, I socialize again, I read inspiring books, I watch and listen to motivational speakers, and I reconnect to my old friends. I did lots of research to understand it. It is a rough process. I am thankful that it was not severe to the point that I need to consult a Psychologist or try synthetic medicine. It was not easy but I am thankful that I recovered. 

   The current condition of our beloved province also help sparked the humanity in me. According to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Sarangani Province is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. Although there are efforts made to remove Sarangani Province on the list but it still remains on the top ten. Furthermore, the youth sector in Sarangani is not yet empowered and united. In relation, the National Youth Commission (NYC) in partnership with the Provincial Government of Sarangani conducted the 2014 Youth Development Index Validation Workshop on April 29, 2014. The said activity presented the results of the Philippine Youth Development Index Study. As presented in the meeting, problems like Out-of-School youth, unemployment & underemployment, and the youth’s risky behavior (e.g. premarital sex and teenage pregnancy) are still rampant in the province. There were recommendations presented during the discussions. But until now there are no concrete actions to materialize those recommendations. 

   It is important to convene the youth of Sarangani because they (we) are the hope of this nation. It may sound cliché but it is a fact. This idea has been implanted on us since we get acquainted with the writings of Jose Rizal and other notable heroes of the past (whether be local, national or international). Like them, we need to be brave and act the necessary things to make it happened. 

   I feel fortunate in the sense that I already immerse myself on many issues in Sarangani Province (or in Region XII in general). My experiences in community immersion with different groups help me witness the real situation far from the media’s sensationalizing of poverty, conflict and Indigenous People. It is depressing to see their condition. But if we remain feeling depressed, we would end up like a whining pessimist blaming the gods for the fate he/she have stumbled on. It is sad reality but it is not too late to change it.

   I contacted my friends who are active youth leaders. They positively responded to my communication since we have the same desire to help our province especially our fellow youth. It was just an initial meeting trying to get to know each other. We discussed about the problems of the youth in Sarangani and their experiences as a youth leaders. We have this conscious belief that youth empowerment is the key to nation building. It would be wonderful to see all the youth become pro-active and responsible citizens of this country. 

   As I put it in a clearer context, we want to improve enabling conditions for youth participation in governance, society and development; Increase the contribution of and benefit for the youth in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (and other goals); and improve access to basic quality services and social protection through enabling policies. Although these were not overtly stated in our discussions, these key points are in line with the Philippine Youth Development Plan (PYDP). These concepts are already in our minds since most of us are exposed to youth summit and programs, leadership trainings and community development. 

   This initiative is not only beneficial to the province and its youth but also for us. This is the right time to share what we have learned. This would help us grow as individuals who are willing to participate in nation building. I know it is a long process and it takes a lot of commitment to materialize our vision. But we are positive that it would soon become reality. We believe it is possible for as long as we are willing to take the right action and remain united for the common goal. 

   Even though not all responded to my invitation, I am still thankful that some gave their time to attend the meeting. I know they have the same feeling of discontent about the status quo. Their attendance signifies that they are willing to change it. They are willing to contribute for a change that we all have longed for. And we are just getting started. 

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Thank you