by Harvey S. Keh
1.) Stay informed and updated about what is happening in our country. It’s so easy to stay in our comfort zones and just turn a blind eye to what is happening to our country, especially if we aren’t directly affected by these problems. Find time to read the newspaper, watch the news on TV, surf the Internet or listen to the radio. Attend forums and discussion groups on the national situation.
2.) Organize discussion groups among your friends and peers to discuss current issues in our country. Don’t be apathetic and also encourage your friends to know more about what is happening to our country. By talking about these issues, you can make more people aware and ultimately be made more vigilant against rampant corruption in our government. The government is just waiting for us to stop talking about these major scandals such as the corruption-laden ZTE Broadband Deal, Hello Garci and the P780-million fertilizer scam. Let us not allow them to get away with it by ensuring that these issues are very much in the minds and consciousness of the general public.
3.) Share your thoughts and opinions to the public by writing blogs on what you think about these current events and national issues. Many young Filipinos maintain Livejournal, Blogger, Friendster, Multiply and Facebook accounts and these can be used to make many other young Filipinos aware of what is happening to our country. Use these Internet tools to post and promote statements by credible institutions and individuals on the current state of our country. You can even make a video blog expressing how you feel, thus sharing your thoughts with others. Whether you are pro-GMA or anti-GMA, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are able to take time out to think critically and share your thoughts with others. Visit my blog and read my thoughts at http://filipinochangemaker.blogspot.com
4.) Take a stand and join activities that will promote greater truth, accountability, and reform in our government. A good friend of mine once told me that even if we replace our President, nothing will change in our country unless we put into place policies and mechanisms that will ensure truth, accountability, and reform in our government and its leaders. Examples of such are the lifting of E.O. 464 which bans any Cabinet member from appearing before Senate hearing without the President’s consent and revising the Government Procurement Act to ensure greater transparency in the use of taxpayer’s money. Billions of pesos are lost to corruption every year and that money can be used to send more students to school, build homes for the homeless and provide quality healthcare to every Filipino. Will we just allow this to happen?
5.) If you can, don’t leave the country. Many of our best minds like our teachers are leaving the country in search of better opportunities and the effects are already showing in our public schools where there is a lack of highly skilled English, Math and Science teachers. I totally understand and don’t blame those who come from very poor families who decide to work abroad to provide a better quality of life for their families. Some of them may have no other choice than to leave. But for those who have a choice and live a relatively comfortable life here, then I hope you can consider staying and working here to contribute towards moving our country forward. For those who decide to leave, I hope you don’t forget to give back to the Philippines by helping send a poor but deserving student to school or sending books that our public-school students can still use.
6.) Register and vote. In my conversations with my students, they told me that many of them failed to register for the last elections. Their reasons varied from being too lazy to stand in line to not being interested at all to vote. Our right and duty to select our leaders is one of the main pillars of our democracy and if many of us fail to exercise this right properly or exercise it at all then we have no right to complain about how bad our leaders are. By voting, we are given the opportunity and power to select the right leaders that will help solve our country’s most pressing social problems in the fields of education, health, shelter and employment.
7.) Write letters to your Congressmen and local officials. Many of my friends always complain about the services that our government provides and yet when I ask them have you brought these complaints to the proper authorities, they just shrug and say “no.” If we want something to change with how our country is being run, then we have to tell our leaders what we think they should do. Remember the reason that they are there right now is because we voted for them and at the same time, they are spending money from the taxes that we pay. Thus, I think we have the right to engage them by informing them about our stands on certain issues.
8.) Volunteer your time and share your skills for causes that are bigger than yourself. According to studies on what makes people genuinely happy, being able to help and take part in causes that are bigger than yourself is one of the most fulfilling and happiest experiences. There are so many non-profit organizations and foundations that are currently doing their own share in helping change the Philippines. But for them to reach more people and do more good work, they often need volunteers who can commit time to help in their activities. For example, Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines needs volunteer tutors who can commit 2-3 hours a week to help poor but deserving public high-school students gain access to quality higher education. Another example is Museo Pambata, which looks for volunteer tour guides and storytellers who can help in entertaining and educating children who visit the Museum. You can visit the Pathways website at http://www.pathwaysphilippines.org or call them at (02) 4266001 local 4048.
9.) Pray, reflect, and act. Take time every day to pray for our country and ask God to lead you towards what you can best do to help our country. The challenge here is that we just don’t end with prayer and reflection, but rather, our prayer and reflection should lead us towards doing something concrete in helping our country. I have always believed a faith that does not do justice for the poor and powerless is nothing, since for us to be truly called Christians, we need to follow the example of Jesus Christ who not only preached social justice but more importantly, lived this out in His way of life.
10.) Pass this on to your friends. If you think this can help many other young Filipinos to actively take part in nation-building, then I hope you can pass this on to your family and friends.
*Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and a Lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila-Loyola Schools’ Development Studies Program and Department of Theology. Aside from this, Harvey is also the Executive Director of AHON Foundation (http://ahonfoundation.blogspot.com), a corporate foundation of Filway Marketing, Inc. that helps build public elementary-school libraries.