Nationalism in the eyes of our youth

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago - Visaya - The Freeman

"Ako ay Pilipino," a virtual district essay writing and interview contest for students last November 6, 2021, gave me the opportunity to be the chair of the board of judges. Three schools, two from Cebu City and one from Lapu-lapu City, participated in the stated competition. The theme of the competition was how proud a Filipino may be. The three contestants are student leaders who have helped in the change of their respective schools in some way.

The Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines Incorporated, District 386 organized the contest to find brilliant and promising young Filipinos, both male and female, whose leadership potential and apparent love for our nation and its people should be cultivated so that the winners can be effective community development participants.

Because, while we know how idealistic our youth are, they also acknowledge the enormous influence of other cultures. They exhibit great respect for other cultures, but the problem is on how to stay grounded and grateful for who they are and what they have. We can't prevent them from appreciating something fresh and different from what they're used to. What's disturbing is when they forget and are less grateful for what they have.

The situation of our culture being forgotten or regarded as less essential is due to our youth's shallow understanding and exposure to what is genuinely ours. When people's perceptions of the world around them and foreign influence in social institutions are so powerful, starting from the family that has been exposed to anything and something foreign, through an educational system that favors internalization and other institutions that support anything and everything not related to our national identity.

Sure, there may be huge financial advantages to becoming a citizen of another country, but what good would it do us to obtain the world while losing our soul? What we do have, in equal amount to every Filipino, is the intrinsic dignity that comes with being human. We are neither better nor worse than anyone else.

Despite being prone to humanity's frailties, we certainly prefer to think so. We, like everyone else, battle to overcome these weaknesses—envy, fear of the other, greed, and delight at having power—knowing that being a decent person means having both the presence of mind to identify them as flaws and the drive to be better than we are.

While we can't argue with that, it does make us wonder if it's being said to convince ourselves, more than anyone else—the way a person might stand in front of a mirror and whisper "you got this" over and over again. The Philippines is a beautiful and bountiful country, but the truth is, we haven't been the best stewards of it, have we?

Yes, we still fall short on occasion, but that doesn't negate the fact that we are Filipinos, with one country, one spirit, and one goal. We are confident that we are not alone in this.

This is why, despite the fact that it might be exceedingly tough at times, we do the work we do. Giving up on the country out of fear and despair is the least patriotic thing a Filipino can do. It's not something a true Filipino should even banter about lightly.

We imagine of having children who are nourished on stories of nationalism and patriotism rather than television, Wild West sagas or Squid Game episodes. By the hour, they'd be sitting at their mother's feet, soaking up these thrilling tales of our beloved country's liberation fighters.

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