It’s often been said that one of the sectors most affected by the two-year Covid-19 pandemic has been the youth.
Confined to their homes for two years, faced with growing uncertainties about the future of the world and of their country, and isolated from their peers, today’s youth are seen to be on a perilous path towards skepticism and loss of faith in their society.
This trend is what the city government of Biñan City now wants to overcome, as it celebrates the Linggo ng Kabataan, celebrated every August 12 to 20.
Institutionalized through Republic Act No. 10742 (Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law of 2015), the “Linggo ng Kabataan” aims to realize one key aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals: solidarity across generations.
This is one of the reasons the main theme for the 2022 celebration of the International Youth Day and Linggo ng Kabataan is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages,” McLarnel Aliluran, Youth Development Division Chief of the Biñan City Youth and Sports Development Office (YASDO), said.
“Ang aim po namin ngayong taon ay ma-defeat ang ageism [stereotyping or discriminating people based on their age or generation],” Aliluran explained to OpinYon Laguna in an interview.
"Lalo na po ngayong bumabangon tayo mula sa isang global pandemic – ang gusto po nating i-highlight ay ito: ikaw man ay 'Gen Z,' 'Gen X,' 'Gen Y' o 'millennial', lahat po ay may contribution.”
Covering all bases
The celebration of this year’s Linggo ng Kabataan also revolves around the so-called “nine sectors” of youth participation, namely Health; Education; Economic Empowerment; Social Inclusion and Equity; Security; Governance; Active Citizenship; Environment and Global Mobility.
"Ang aim po namin is, lahat ng nine centers of youth participation, malagyan po namin ng event," Aliluran told OpinYon Laguna.
For instance, in the Biñan Youth Forum series conducted over the week, the YASDO decided to invite representatives of three "generations" (Gens X, Y and Z) as guest speakers.
“Ang naging main topic po nila ay kung ano po ang pwedeng maging contribution ng kanilang generation,” he said.
Another aspect the Biñan City YASDO highlighted during the Youth Forum is global mobility, considering the restrictions on travel brought by the global pandemic.
To this end, the office also invited five citizens from foreign countries who shared their culture and traditions with the Biñanense youth in their seminar series.
“Mahirap po na gumawa ng isang local event na may international exposure,” he revealed.
The good thing now, the YASDO official added, is that most of the events that cover these sectors, such as youth forums; sports activities such as the 1st Vice Mayor Gel Alonte Inter-Barangay 3x3 Basketball Challenge and the 1st Cong. Len Alonte Youth Week Volleyball League; and the Atty. Arman Dimaguila Debate Championship, are now allowed to be conducted “in-person” after two years of restrictions brought by the pandemic.
The city government also took the opportunity to honor various Biñanense youth who have excelled in their fields, as well as outstanding youth organizations and members of the city's youth councils.
And this year, Aliluran reported that most of the activities, particularly the debates, showed renewed participation and interest among the city’s youth.
“Sa debate nga po, naging maalab po ang mga opinyon ng ating mga kabataan,” he noted.
“Si Mayor [Arman Dimaguila] nga po ay natuwa kasi ito ang mga magagandang platform para ang ating mga kabataan ay mabuksan ang kanilang mga damdamin tungkol sa mga issues, partikular na po sa edukasyon, na kinakaharap po nila ngayon.”
Aliluran added that the city’s public and private schools, which had just resumed in-person classes after two years of distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are “very supportive” of the YASDO’s activities during the Linggo ng Kabataan.
“Natuwa po kami sa idea na kahit wala pa pong klase noong nagsimula kaming magpadala ng sulat sa mga eskwelahan, yung mga school ay nagte-train na po ng mga estudyante nila.”
Cooperation with national agencies
Considering the national scope of the Linggo ng Kabataan festivities, the Biñan City YASDO also decided to involve national government agencies in their activities.
“In fact po, ang instruction po sa amin ni Sir Alfred [Alfred Suarez, the current head of YASDO] ay mag-invite po kami ng national agencies sa ating mga aktibidad,” Aliluran said.
Among the national agencies tapped by the YASDO for their activities include the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG); the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB); the Philippine National Police (PNP); and the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).
“We wanted to bring our youth on a national platform para mas lumawak ang kanilang horizon, saka po yung ating mga youth organizations ay maka-connect na rin po sa national government for their advocacies,” Aliluran noted.
“For instance, after po ng ating seminar on cooperatives [the Usapang KKK: Kabataan, Kabuhayan, at Kooperatiba Youth Entrepreneurship and Cooperative Seminar], na-inspire po ang ating mga kabataan na magtayo ng sari-sariling mga kooperatiba dito sa Biñan City,” the YASDO official added.
“At iyon naman po ang pakay namin, na magkaroon ng mga kooperatiba ang ating mga youth organization para magkaroon sila ng sustainability at self-sufficiency para mapondohan ang kani-kanilang mga programa.”
Aliluran said the YASDO hopes that this push for cooperative-building among the city’s youth organizations will also eliminate the stigma associated with the Sangguniang Kabataan of being “solicitors general,” or always asking for funds for their projects and programs.
Expressions of support
Amid all the challenges the YASDO faced in organizing activities for the Linggo ng Kabataan, Aliluran said their office was encouraged by the support the city’s “Big Three” leaders – Mayor Arman Dimaguila, Vice Mayor Gel Alonte, and Representative Len Alonte – gave to the organization.
“I remember yung sinabi ni Cong. Len noong awards ng mga outstanding Biñanense youth sa mga kabataan at sa mga organizations to work closely with YASDO,” he recounted.
“Sa amin, malaking bagay po na manggaling iyon sa mga leader ng lungsod natin na sabihin sa mga kabataan na makipag-coordinate sa YASDO, kasi ang mga opportunities po ay binubuksan po para sa ating mga kabataan. We believe that our city’s ‘Big Three’ is sending a strong message sa ating mga youth organizations, sa ating mga SK, na kami po ay hindi threat sa kanila kundi tulong na rin po sa kanila.”
Aliluran added that the YASDO leadership under its head Alfred Benedict Suarez also guided them through the challenges of holding in-person events after two years of restrictions due to the pandemic.
"Lagi pong sinasabi ni Sir Alfred sa amin, 'Work with your heart and with your mind.' Para po kasi sa kanya, tingnan raw po natin ang ating mga kabataan bilang ating mga 'boss' na kung saan kailangang ibigay natin sa kanila yung highest standard ng paglilingkod," he explained.