Thursday, June 16, 2011

Change Is In The Hands Of The Youth by Matikas Santos

And so on and so on until the bell rang putting an end to the class, and two hundred and thirty-four students, after saying the closing prayer, left the room as ignorant as when they entered it but sighing as if they had been relieved of an immense burden. Each of them had lost one more hour of his life and with it a measure of his dignity and self-respect, an hour which, on the other hand, had added to the discouragement, resentment and aversion to study in his heart. After that, who could ask them for a grater love of science, more dignity, more gratitude! After that, what a somber judgment upon us all!

That is the second to the last paragraph of chapter 13 entitled "A Class in Physics" of the novel El Filibusterismo by Jose Rizal. In the chapter, Rizal depicts the students dislike and apathy for classes due to the way they were conducted; they were made to recite the lessons from the book word per word and three mistakes would be an automatic failure. It is strange that the dislike for study among students is still evident today.

Why? Why is it that even after many centuries, some things seem to have not changed. Today most of the students, or more appropriately, most of the youth, do not know what they really want to do with their life. Is it their fault? Maybe yes maybe no. Maybe it is the system that causes this to them; our transplanted educational system which came from the oh-so-glorious United States of America, like many other things here in our country. Maybe it’s the traditions and customs that have been introduced by the Spaniards; which we took up as our own without thinking of the consequences to our OWN native culture and passed on until eventually it is assimilated and mistaken as part of our own. Whether it is the system of education or the values of the youth, one thing is for certain: we need to change. We cannot keep on going about our lives blindly, lest we repeat and continue what young people centuries ago have done. We need to look at the bigger picture as Rizal did. We need to see the factors that matter in life. We need to look at the traditions and custom that we have today and see if they are beneficial or malignant. We need to look again at what the older generations have been passing down generation after generation; are they right or wrong? And the most important of all, we need to look at ourselves. Are the things that we do and take for granted in our everyday life beneficial to our fellow Filipinos? When you buy in a fast food restaurant; when you watch a movie; when you are with others; when you watch television and especially when you are in school, do you do what is good for our country as well as our culture?

We need to change our culture. And the best way to do this is through us, the youth. We are not the ones who will shape the future, we ARE the future. If we go on continuing the bad practices of generations before, which they have unknowingly passed on and on and on, then we will forever be a backward country. We are the only ones who can break this cycle. Those who have passed before were not able to do so hence it is up to us to do what they failed to do. We should undo tradition, break away from the norm, resist the convention, defy the status quo, raise the bar, or in simplest terms, change. But change that is for the better will be achieved when we cut away the wrong within ourselves first, then we must propagate the right to others.

I am telling you that if you change yourself you will have changed the future of our country. You’re probably thinking “Its impossible! One man can’t change an entire country simply by changing himself!” Well, I can only give you names: Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander the Great, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, Ninoy Aquino and Jesus Christ. One man is more than enough to change a country. We are still young and any one of you could change the Philippines

Better yet, why don’t ALL of us change the country? Or what if the youth of centuries ago decided to take change into their hands; where would we be today? It may have taken long, but we are not too late.

In the final pages of Chapter 39, The Last Chapter, of the El Filibusterismo, Father Florentino, who is of considerable age, says to himself beside the dying body of Simoun, formerly the young Crisostomo Ibarra.

Where are the youths who will dedicate their innocence, their idealism, their enthusiasm to the good of the country? Where are they who will give generously of their blood to wash away so much shame, crime and abomination? Pure and immaculate must the victim be for the sacrifice to be acceptable. Where are you, young men and young women, who are to embody in yourselves the life-force that has been drained from our veins, the pure ideals that have grown stained in our minds, the fiery enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await you, come for we await you!

The El Filibusterismo was written over a hundred years ago. And Father Florentino is still waiting. Are we going to have him wait a little longer? Will we not take the duty of change and let it pass on AGAIN to the next generation?

The youth is the future of the country. Look at the future, here in the classroom, out there in the lobby and also just outside the school. Do you like what the future looks like?

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This work by Matikas Santos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Philippines License.

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