The Youth Need a Voice

By Monica Bains, June 2001

The Filipino Youth Forum met a mixed response from participants on Saturday the 9th June.

The forum took place at the Salvation Army Hall in Oxford Street, London. Mr Jay Ibot organised the event with the support and assistance of the Filipino Embassy and the Philippines Department of Tourism. The forum tried to address the concerns and interests of second and third generation Filipinos living abroad. A major theme was the preservation of national identity and culture. The event attracted Filipinos from as far a field as Canada, USA, Italy and France to make contributions about their experiences.

There was a one-hour delay and a low turnout, which resulted in one big group discussion after the break rather than the planned smaller group discussions.

Father Emile from Rome began the proceedings with a prayer marking the religious nature of Filipino culture. Ambassador Cesar Bautista then gave a talk on the importance of encouraging the community to preserve its culture. It was then followed by speeches made by the various group leaders representing Filipino youth from different countries.

Ambassador Bautista said he was very pleased with the seminar: "I think we had a good selection of participants here, not only from the UK but from the rest of the world."

The Ambassador said he believed the younger participants in the forum would make an active contribution and would bring up the most important issues.

He stressed that the Filipino youth must embrace its culture and values to succeed. He said: "I think that it is clear that they all share the need to improve their role in the society they live in. They need the values of Filipino culture and there is no need to be ashamed about it. They can aspire to be anything that they want if they are proud of their culture."

Mr Bautista said that it was the job of the community to help Filipino youth find their culture: "We have been trying to support them but this is not something we can initiate on our own. This must be initiated by the people themselves and we are here to support them."

A Canadian Filipino Youth Group member called Hose said: "It was interesting – we contributed a lot of things, especially about our culture."

However some said they were not pleased with the seminar. A source that did not want to be named said: "I was very disappointed. I don’t think that they addressed the right questions and basically as part organisers we were told that the structure would be different. What happened when we came here today it all changed. We prepared for this maybe two three months ago and soon as we came here it was out of our control there was a pretence that it was in our control but it wasn’t. The thing is that it’s a youth conference controlled by the older generations and who else is going to know things apart from us."

Retired nurse Mrs Lewes Bing Makado was one of many to make a speech. She discussed the experiences of Filipino youth in Germany.

Among the many solutions discussed she said youngsters needed to take more pride in being Filipino. She said: "The message of how to solve this problem of the youth in the world is that they themselves must know what it is to be a Filipino. They must learn to love being Filipino."

She said the erosion of national identity came about because the first generation Filipinos did not enforce traditional values on to their children. She said: "It happened because most Filipino’s who came abroad were workers. So most of them had no time for their children as they were too busy working."

Another speaker at the forum was Sales Manager Mark Villarosa. Mark said he was born in the Philippines, and came to the UK when he was 15 years of age.

He claimed that to succeed in Western society he had to compromise his Filipino identity:
"I had to take on the persona of a British person I have had to act the mode of what a Londoner is like – aggressive, ambitious. I think right now the level of success I have achieved is down to the fact that I was able to absorb a lot of this culture and become a part of it".

"The problem now is that I have had to let go of quite a few things. In the Philippines there is a strong cohesion of family you meet with them a lot. There is a lot of physical touch in terms of being with them that’s lost in a way here because its not in their culture."

As a solution for the future Mark said that young Filipinos should look to new technology as a way forward: "We are not only young and mobile but we are educated. We also don’t fit into the standard mode of what is traditionally Filipino. So I think that a good way to draw young Filipinos back into a sense of who they are is attract them in a way they understand and that’s why I mentioned technology."

"Posting information about youth movements is what’s needed. I think that is a good way in which we could galvanise the Filipino youth in London."

Mark said he was impressed with the Forum but felt that there was not enough attention placed on the youth: "I think it was the first one, which tried to discuss important issues concerning youth. I think there could have been a bit more emphasis on the young and our own experiences. What we need is to bring our youth together."


[Note: Bold text added for easier readability on the web.]

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