Today’s youth are facing a variety of challenges brought about by the rise of social media and the rapid changes in the Philippines’ political and social landscape as we recover from a three-year global pandemic.
In view of this, local youth development offices (LYDOs), effectively, have evolved into becoming a vital tool in guiding and encouraging their brood to be the harbingers of change and get actively involved in their communities.
“Naniniwala ako na kapag pinagsama-sama ang tinig ng kabataan, pwede tayong maging isang boses na pwedeng mapakinggan, so kung hindi organisado ang pagkilos ng sektor ng kabataan ay hindi ito basta mapapakinggan,” was how Alfred Suarez, head of the Biñan City Youth and Sports Development Office (YASDO) put it in an interview with OpinYon Laguna.
For Suarez, one proof that its officials had done a good job in mobilizing their members to become active contributors in Biñan City’s continuing progress is the Most Outstanding LYDO Award YASDO received at the recent Philippine Sangguniang Kabataan Awards (PSKA) in Iloilo City last June 12.
The PSKA, a national award organized by the Positive Youth Development Network with other civic organizations, recognizes outstanding youth councils and local youth development organizations in the country.
The Biñan YASDO is the only youth development office in Laguna province to make it among Top 25 LGUs in the Philippines to receive the award. For city officials, this is no mean feat.
“Natutuwa po kami – actually, ako po kinikilabutan dahil ang mga top partners po ng PSKA ay mga malalaking organizations gaya ng Unilab Foundation at Galing Pook Foundation,” Suarez related. (It should be noted that the Biñan City LGU also received an award from the Galing Pook Foundation last year for its “best practices” at reviving its tourism industry.)
Suarez told OpinYon Laguna, the main reason for the success of the Biñan City YASDO is the full support its “Big Three” leaders – Mayor Arman Dimaguila, Vice Mayor Gel Alonte, and Representative Len Alonte – provide them.
It was Mayor Dimaguila, in fact, who pushed for the creation of the YASDO through Executive Order No. 2 issued during his first term in office in 2016 and later institutionalized by the Sangguniang Panglungsod in 2020.
Not only that, Rep. Len Alonte and Vice Mayor Gel Alonte also give full support to YASDO’s programs through scholarships and trainings.
“For instance, Vice Gel spends time and energy sa mga atletang Biñanense, even trainings, lahat ng sports activities natin, habang si Cong. Len naman ay nagpaabot ng scholarship program para sa mga volunteer ng YASDO,” Suarez related. “And when it comes to budgeting, makikita mo naman talaga na prayoridad ni mayor ang YASDO, nilalagyan niya ng sapat na pondo under the city government.”
“Kung wala po ang tulong ni Mayor, ni Cong. Len, Vice Gel, at ng buong Sanggunian ay hindi natin magagawa ito,” he also emphasized.
When one speaks of youth development offices or youth councils in the Philippines, these are commonly stereotyped as holding nothing but sports leagues or beauty pageants.
But for Suarez and the YASDO staff, their job involves fulfilling the nine centers of youth participation as defined by the United Nations: Health, Education, Economic Empowerment, Social Inclusion and Equity, Security, Governance, Active Citizenship, Environment, and Global Mobility.
To fulfill their mandate, YASDO officials had branched out to different sectors where Biñan City’s youth could excel, such as holding talent workshops for the arts; organizing the city’s young journalists (which gave birth to the Biñan City Youth Journalists’ Club), and leading the city’s “Junior Officials” where the city’s youth can actually participate in local governance.
“Not only that, may mga programa po tayo para sa ating out-of-school youth in partnership with of course the livelihood office natin saka cooperative natin so ayun po siguro yung kinakailangan, ang mabigyan ng oportunidad yung sektor na mas ma-accomodate ng city, hindi man lahat pero lumalawak dapat yung bilang ng nagkakaroon ng engagement pagdating sa youth development,” Suarez shared.
As regards their future programs, Suarez said the YASDO is proposing to put up a “Biñan Youth Hub” which will provide peer counseling sessions for the city’s youth, as well as a “Biñan Teen Center” that aims to address the issues of teen pregnancies and sex education.
“Balak nating ibaba sa local level yung ginagawang ‘National Mental Health Youth Hub’ ng National Youth Commission. Ang kailangan lang natin ay ang tamang impormasyon, at siyempre yung tamang tao na magiging gabay sa atin, lalo na’t hindi pa well-versed ang ating mga kabataan sa peer counseling,” the YASDO head shared.
At a time when the youth is seen as “more isolated” not only due to social media but also due to the recent restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Suarez believes this is a program that the city’s outstanding youths can actively participate in.
“For example, yung mga student leader, campus journalist, yung ating club officers, at least alam naman muna nila paano magkaroon ng first aid pagka ito ang problema kasi alam naman naitn ang unang pinagsasabihan naman talaga yung ka-edad nila,” he explained.
For now, Suarez believes YASDO’s biggest challenge is to (re)inculcate the positive Filipino values to a youth that is slowly becoming disillusioned and apathetic about their country and community.
“Ang problema ng kultura ng Pilipino, particularly sa sektor ng kabataan, is nasasanay tayo na ang mga bagay na nakikita ng mga bata sa matanda na akala nila ay tama,” the local official lamented.
“Naniniwala ako na may challenge ngayon sa foundation ng Philippine values – hinahamon tayo ng social media, hinahamon tayo ng cyberbullying, hinahamon tayo sa kakulangan ng sexuality education at ang kailangan natin ay pagtibayin ang pundasyon sa pamamagitan ng disiplina.”