by Liling Magtolis-Briones
"Are you willing to talk in a church building"? This was my anxious question to Adel (Tamano) and Danton (Remoto) when we discussed the scheduled visit of the Young Turks to Silliman University on July 10, 2008. The dialogue with the Political Science and History majors was scheduled to be held in the Udarbe Memory Chapel. The All-University Convocation/Town Hall Meeting would be held in the Silliman Church. Adel, a Muslim, replied that he did not have a problem with speaking in a Christian sanctuary. Danton assured me he "is a good Christian soldier." Erin (Tanada) and Gilbert (Remulla) did not mind either.
This is what the Young Turks are all about. They belong to different parties, faiths, and "lifestyle" preferences. Nonetheless, they respect and celebrate each other’s differences. They are united in their advocacy for New Politics and their eagerness to engage the youth and invite them to be active in the movement for reforms and political activism.
On the other hand Silliman University, all of 107 years old, is steeped in Christian tradition. The conduct of university convocations always include opening and closing prayers led by the university pastor. Nonetheless, the organizers agreed to dispense with the other features associated with convocations. The talk show format was adopted instead. Dr. Cicile Genove acted as talk show host and moderated, with the Student Government president Stacy Alcantara assisting.
Full support was provided by President Ben Malayang III, Vice-President Betsy Joy Tan, Dean Carlos Magtolis, Jr. of the College of Arts and Sciences and Dean Tabitha Tinagan of the College of Business Administration.
Two other events were handled directly by the Student Government. These were the forum with political science and history majors and the symposium with business and economics students. Both were packed with students.
Most nearly everything was discussed: GMA, corruption at all levels starting with the Sangguniang Kabataan to the highest levels, exploitation of the environment, gender equality, the role of media, governance problems with national and local leaders, and yes, alternatives. The oft repeated concern was about loss of trust in the present leaders and lack of hope for the future.
Those who believe that the students from the provinces are different from those in Manila are in for a surprise. The questions were just as intense and well informed . And the depth of despair just as disturbing.
The sharing of hopes for change was touching. Even with his political disappointments, Gilbert urged the young not to lose hope. Erin who is now carrying the torch for his grandfather and father, called for a redefinition of nationalism. Danton urged inclusion of the marginalized. Adel called for a place for everyone at the national table. He advised the young to be part of the political process.
Pres. Malayang commented admiringly, "They are so different from their fathers!" Yes, they are different in a wonderful, contemporary way. But they are also the same in that they honor the trails blazed by their fathers.