Young Star

Let’s get political

Christopher De Venecia - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A lot has been said about millennials — that we are the death of the present generation. Because of disillusionment and apathy, we’ve resorted to DIY-ing our own spaces in which to create, collaborate and build a better world, away from government. But in anticipation of this weekend’s presidential debate hosted by The Philippine STAR, we thought we’d round up a bunch of millennials willing to sound off on what a lot of us have been feeling of late and prescribe what could possibly be, for us, a better tomorrow.


Nicky Daez, 30

Director and content creator for Seabiscuit Films

Civic engagement: 6.5

Happy Feraren, 29

Good governance advocate and improviser

Civic engagement: 10

Jam Pascual, 22

Musician and editorial assistant, Rogue magazine, Young STAR columnist

Civic engagement: 5

Marc Duque, 20

Student leader, Ateneo Task Force for National Elections

Civic engagement: 8

Saab Magalona–Bacarro, 27

Musician and blogger
Civic engagement: 6

BP Valenzuela, 20

Student and musician

Civic engagement: 5

Mara Chua, 26

Fashion designer

Civic engagement: 7





What are you passionate about at the moment?

Nicky: Sustainability. It’s so inspiring to meet so many young people having farms, pushing solar power, alternative medicine, plant-based diets, thinking differently.

Happy: Equal access to basic government service. Every time you see a politician promise big things, and you go inside a government office, there’s a big disconnect.

Marc: There is a need to advance the plight of each sector like agriculture, OFWs.

Saab: Anti-apathy. I want my peers to be more involved in social issues — not just talk out of their *sses, but be informed.

BP: Women and the LGBT. Our high school would make us join anti-RH, anti-divorce rallies. And I’d tell my friends not to attend even if their teachers get mad at them. Like a certain candidate said that a certain women’s group should just line up and kiss him. Is that the kind of language we expect from our leaders?

Saab: That’s sexual harassment.          

Is politics something you enjoy talking about?

Jam: One person’s idea of politics is slightly different from another’s. My idea of politics doesn’t involve government as much.

Marc: Politics equals power, but more often it’s power in place of service. Sometimes in Ateneo, we have recurrent failure of elections. But you see students involved in their organizations with different advocacies.

BP: People have to care. If people don’t care, there will be no spotlight on issues.

Saab: When I turned 18, I registered to vote. But I can’t say the same for my peers. They didn’t care, they were partying at Embassy. But I lined up for two hours just to register to vote.

Happy: There’s this perception that anything politically inclined is dirty. That’s why I always say I’m not into politics, I’m into governance. Imagine if you could mainstream an idea, if government was used as a vehicle for public service.

Nicky: The worst thing about it is people put up with sh*t. People think it’s normal to be stuck in traffic for three hours. It’s ridiculous. It’s inhuman. You see people in the streets lining up for the MRT. Minimum wage is so low.
Happy: That’s what I hate about corruption. When you’re in power, all it takes is one decision to benefit everyone. And then you choose not to?

Saab: Why wouldn’t you want to leave a good legacy?

BP: Have you seen the video where the guy is laughing because the LRT door was open?

Nicky: Or that picture of a guy who was surfing in the baha, and it was captioned “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” It’s funny but it’s pretty sad.

Saab: We’re the country of nakasanayan na. My husband went to Caloocan to buy a secondhand aircon. And our driver got beat up. Tapos ang sabi sa amin, ganyan talaga sa Caloocan. Well, sh*t, we didn’t know. Is that okay?

Are the youth as disengaged in the province?

Happy: When you go to any place in the Philippines, people have the same perception of government. The only different is in the experiences. Let’s say somebody from the province will experience vote buying because his scholarship is reliant on a certain politician. When you talk about private schools in Manila, bribery is when parents give money to teachers to pass their kids. You realize that, though we share the same truths, it’s experienced in different ways.

A recent Time article said millennials have become divested from politics.

Happy: We inherited a bad system and this is a response to that. I think what’s good about this generation is the idea of shared space. It’s this concept of common good, what belongs to us and not just me.

Nicky: In our industries, personal lives, you see it, you feel it. You enter the airport, the line is so long. And you go to Singapore, and it’s efficient. It makes you think, it makes you ask, it makes you question, “Why isn’t it happening here?” People say our economy is booming, but why don’t we feel it?

Saab: But I think we still need to be involved in government. I feel like we need to help the people who aren’t as educated as we are.

They say millennials have a distorted sense of history. Were we really better off under martial law?

Saab: It’s easy to believe that it’s about telling bad people to go to hell. “Let’s just do martial law because we’re so sick of this f**king mess.” But it goes beyond that. People were killed. Journalists were killed.

Jam: I have a friend who’s 23 years old. She hates Bongbong. She knows martial law was a sh*tty period in Philippine history. She debates regularly with her lola who loves Marcos. Imagine this disconnect among generations.

BP: I really want to understand how people could be open to martial law.

Happy: That’s how good Marcos was in selling that lie — that it was the Golden Age.

Marc: I’m thinking right now na tama ba yung ginawa ng Ateneo? After ‘nun, may lumabas kasi na article na just because Ateneo is anti-Marcos, they’re pro-Aquino. It’s a fallacy. Maybe these people are the same people who the administration has failed, and they’ll believe anything. My lola told me that the Marcos dictatorship was a failed project.

Happy: Project? Ano ‘to, Cartolina? Collage?

Marc: Is it cyclical? Dictatorship then, democracy now, dictatorship tomorrow? 

Mara: We live in a society where information is everywhere. But in this country, we’re heavily dependent on one source of information: Facebook. And Facebook has algorithms. Algorithms help you develop your worldview by the things that you like. So for these people, this seems to be their truth. And at the same time, what’s tangible is what’s happening around us right now. So they blame the administration.

How do you react to that issue of UE students being expelled for using the Philippine flag as a mop?

Saab: You know what’s sad? They probably didn’t know that it’s illegal. The irony. Alam kaya ni Madonna na bawal gamitin nang ganun yung Philippine flag?

Happy: What’s a crime is propagating a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. Even that girl who was expelled because she wore a bikini so she wasn’t allowed to graduate, that’s stupid. Why do you get riled up over the stupidest things but when it’s time to care, you don’t care? Kasi ganyan talaga eh. Pero pag-bikini, ay nako! That’s just as bad as murder.

BP: Shrug emoji.

Nicky: There seems to be a certain sense of boredom. I think we need to reach that breaking point. It sounds terrible but if we need to crash and burn, then so be it. Make us burn so we’ll learn.

Jam: When martial law was declared, there was no outrage. They waited for it to get really, really bad for some kind of action to happen.

Marc: That’s the advantage of people living in that era. They had a common enemy. Personal lives gave way to a society. That generation 30 years ago had an identity. I can’t help but think that we’ve become individualized because we don’t have a common enemy. We don’t have a general hugot. Sino ba si Marcos ngayon? That’s one way of defining or starting a movement.

Saab: Parang ngayon nga, everyone wants to protest everything. Parang nakailang revolution na tayo. We can’t always just revolt.

Nicky: You guys recently heard about directors dying? One director who’s super young got a heart attack. In my industry, everyone’s talking about it. We work 16-hour days. And this has been going on for the past decades. We have to start telling ad agencies, clients, “You know what, it’s not human!” It took people dying for the industry to wake up.

Saab: Yolanda was a big tragedy.

Nicky: But that’s the problem, people forget so easily.

Happy: And because it’s so removed from our reality.

BP: For a lot of people, Yolanda was like, “I gave a plastic bag of goods. I’m done.”

Is that the problem? Reaction rather than proaction?

Happy: How do you even begin to solve the problem of corruption? People call out people for being corrupt but they’re the same people who pay bribes. You want accountability? Practice accountability.

Is taking to social media action or inaction?

Mara: It’s a step towards action. You have an audience. Getting from BGC to Rockwell, I couldn’t enter Bel-Air because I don’t have a gate pass. There are hardly any cars there but there are a million cars outside. And they’re not even one percent. Access to roads is divided by the amount of money you have in your bank account.

Jam: There are some people who are less concerned about social change and are more concerned about feeling that they have clean consciences.

Mara: Like the case of Top Gear, it used to be a TV show that became an online platform and then a traffic judge. How many errant taxi drivers have been caught?

Saab: And it tells you not to be a jerk because “Ay baka ma-Top Gear ako.

Happy: It does help. But it’s more of, why do I have to post on social media when law enforcers should just be doing their job? Why can’t I rely on government to take action instead of relying on Facebook? There’s online activism but there’s also offline activism.

The next presidential debate is coming. What do you want to hear?

Saab: That sex education shouldn’t have to be taboo.

Nicky: Wellness. I get affected when you give canned goods and Lucky Me to kids. You’re basically feeding them poison. It’s a basic human right — to eat well. You see people walking around with Mini-Stop chicken and I can’t help but wonder, shouldn’t people have cheaper access to healthy food?

BP: Divorce. It took 10 years for my parents to get annulled, imagine if you’re from a lower class, and you have an abusive husband. It will cost so much money and social stigma to be freed from that. It’s such a Catholic thing. And politicians pander so much to the Church.

Marc: How they plan to develop the regions. Everyone wants to work in major urban cities. Yung provinces, nagsisilbing uwian nalang. I want the regions to have their own sense of development, and not make it Manila-centric.

Mara: A concrete program on micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) because we have a young population with a lot of creativity. Imagine the possibilities if they could develop their ideas. I lived in Thailand and I can see the difference between the fashion industry there and here. The young designers get front row exposure in Siam Paragon. How can they afford that if not for government? In our industry, we are also lagging behind technology-wise. I have friends who tried getting help from the Philippine Textile Research Institute and sabi sa kanila, it’s easier to import.

Happy: The government, instead of being the enabler, gets in the way. You have to register in so many offices. Paperwork here and there. I want to hear how the next administration will make life easier and enable citizen participation. How can we get involved so that calling the shots is not reliant on one person?

Nicky: We’re all freelancers in our industry. You need to issue an OR. If a freelancer makes P20,000, if they declare their taxes, they’ll probably get about P17,000. Freelancer na nga sila, babawasan pa sila ng pera, and they don’t get anything. We consult with accountants and they tell us, “The government does not support your industry. There is no way around it.”

Happy: I will gladly pay my taxes if I get something in return.

Saab: Like can I ride the MRT please? And sana the doors are closed.

Mara: Make government accessible to the people.

Nicky: We need more spaces in which we can talk.

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