April 22, 2024

It is common knowledge that older individuals hold considerable influence in Philippine politics. 

Frankly, I always thought that there was no place for people my age in the seat of my barangay’s payroll. Politics is simply adults sitting at a round table having mature conversations while I stand in the corner and listen. However, I realized that this is precisely what I and the voters around me lack—the determination to give a seat to the right young individuals on that very table, introducing the true definition of youth leadership.

While it is important to acknowledge that it is part of Filipino culture to entrust authority to those who are more advanced in years than someone who utters po and opo repeatedly as if their life depended on it, surface-level standards and ethics when characterizing youth leaders still exist. More often than not, we equate these to their capacities to navigate public service without reasonable belief, a state of mind that takes away the true definition of youth leadership.

Growing up, I can always tell that class elections are like popularity contests, where those who are older and those who mostly live up to society’s physical and social standings are often appointed to positions of power. It struck me as unjustified that people were willing to look past other people’s capabilities to lead just because they didn’t fit those standards. These occurrences missed multiple opportunities to recognize exemplary talent and perspectives from individuals who are far more adept to contribute to effective leadership.  It’s high time that we re-evaluate these criteria and focus on recognizing true leadership potential.

The significance of understanding the wide depths that a young mind can contribute to communities all over the country is vital.   Hence, it is important for us Filipinos to set clear standards for our leaders,  to fix misplaced authority and shed light on productive nation-building.

 

Beyond social media

Associated with age is its own culture which sets apart each generation. In our time, technology and digital communication are the key elements that define youth. Through this, we influence our fellow youths and even elders through different social media platforms. For this reason, youth leaders who are digitally adept with no deep desire for change are unacceptable. Although utilizing social media to spread announcements, news, etc. is a reflection of today’s politics, it can be misleading when information morphs simply into propaganda. Through the Sangguniang Kabataan, we can inspire a healthier usage of social media platforms by understanding what our leaders should adhere tocommon good.

The youth has attempted such movements toward positive change such as Greta Thunberg’s advocacy for climate change mitigation through numerous social media platforms, specifically X, formerly known as Twitter, and more, where online critics and trolls even went further as to blindly look past what she’s fighting for because of her age. Bearing this in mind, acquiring such political power requires a heavy amount of dedication for youth leaders to live up to their responsibilities, one where they are required to look beyond their social media reputation.

Similar to the practices of Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace in the Philippines, youth leaders can harness digital platforms to promote transparency and relay valuable information rather than focusing solely on advertising campaigns and showcasing their achievements, a common practice exhibited by most administrations. This organization’s attempts to educate communities by creating Tiyakap Kawagib, a blog dedicated to shedding light on preventing abuse and advancing human rights has showcased to the public that positive change in the society through digital means is possible.

As prime users of technology, we have access to far greater opportunities for effective communication. This way, actual progress in motion influences people rather than affirmations under the guise of likes, comments, and shares. It can be a heavy task to dispose of one’s vanity, but it is the moral duty of an ideal youth leader to serve the people at the expense of personal publicity.

 

Behind no curtains

As I have high expectations of myself, I am quite pretentious. In the past, I shouldered most of my group’s work for a school project because I convinced myself that it would make me a good classmate. By doing so, I sacrificed the quality of our output because I was too focused on living up to the idealizations of what a model student should be. I have not yet opened my eyes to my unsolved resolutions. 

This, however, was a defining moment of awakening about the government for me; that leadership is not performative, but it is rather an act that is upheld with notable changes in the community. 

Considering this, we should understand that temporary remedies cannot satisfy people’s problems in the long run, for it only creates a cycle of repetition, which will be passed on from one administration to another. 

I have always admired the intricate strategies that student leaders execute in many institutions today, more specifically their creative ideas in reaching their audiences. They use flexible approaches through the internet such as posting media bits and broadcasting information through their respective social media pages in order to provide high-quality services and easier access to information to their fellow students. 

As the smallest administrative division, this practice should be a reference point for youth leaders in barangays today because it will be easier for the people to raise their concerns and become acquainted with their leaders, as compared to national statistics, where the population is more localized and not as widespread. 

The mere absence of such technological movement would weaken this connection as virtual innovation develops with each passing generation. By having a strong connection with the people, youth leaders can determine the most pressing issues that exist in our communities and will be able to address them comprehensively and apply the proper countermeasures for them.

Youth leaders should utilize their power to expand into different courses of action. Not only do they create effective differences for the people’s benefit, but this also shows that the youth is proficient in many aspects of management skills, especially in critical thinking when facing long-term adversities.  

Hence, the abilities, characteristics, and intellect to properly allocate resources to matters that impede community development are necessary for every youth leader to possess. It is the deep understanding of every corner that inhibits community regression through which actual change is driven, for this sense of awareness leads toward collective prosperity. 

 

Above self-service

Before I started college, there was a time where I was simply a highschool graduate. Not enrolled in any schools yet, just waiting for what’s ahead of me. As I look back on my situation then, I wish I had participated in more extracurriculars just so I can add a few words into my college application. Maybe, I could have had better opportunities for myself. 

Politics is no different. Although it is unquestionable that being identified as a youth leader fosters different avenues into one’s career in the future, establishing this as the main motivating factor for political involvement breaks the foundation of youth leadership. When youth leadership is seen solely as a means to acquire power, it can unintentionally undermine the genuine meaning of youth leadership. 

Earlier this year, I read an essay written by Vico Sotto, Pasig City mayor, in 2019. In his piece, he emphasized the importance of having clear intentions in entering the political world because of the institutionalized system present in our government. He further mentioned that his principles to not lose sight of his beliefs, to be a medium of positive change, are built upon the people that surround him and have the same initiatives as him—us. 

This intrigued me because I came to terms with the importance of serving the people, not just with intellect, but also with a heart and a sincere will to advocate for the life of others rather than just ourselves.

Empathy, integrity, and desire to improve society should all be the guiding principles of youth leadership. It puts the welfare of the people at the forefront over the pursuit of self-interest. Through this, youth leadership becomes a strong force for positive change and social progress. It is the willingness to uphold the needs of the people that the lens of public service is illuminated, for leadership becomes clearer when it rises above personal gratification. 

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Youth leadership is a responsibility and a commitment to the utmost flourishment of the community. It is a nexus for the youth to raise innovative ideas that surpass the notion of age powerplay. 

As the new year greets us with newly elected youth leaders, we must provide them a part to play in leading the nation towards productive growth, where aspiring candidates are given a chance to further unravel the true meaning of youth leadership, as each young individual is capable of becoming an agent of change. It is only a matter of the choices we make to transform the lives of many. 

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