During the 2013 Barangay Elections, the vote-casting for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) was postponed as an effort from our lawmakers to change the system in terms of youth governance. I was in college at that time and didn’t think much of it, as I passively agreed that, yes, the SK could be a breeding ground for corruption and political dynasty, so it must have been 100% a good legislative call. Come 2016, after three years in hiatus, the SK was revived through the enactment of Republic Act No. 10742, with reforms and new policies including an anti-dynasty clause.
Looking back, I wonder how much progress we’d went without, as our local government temporarily lost a major youth entity that had always been a vital part of nation-building as a whole since 1975. Contrary to critics (my 19-year-old self included,) the SK isn’t just composed of progenies who are being groomed for public office by their politically inclined elders and are only good for allocating their budget on building basketball courts. At present, this claim is more than evident in a certain youth council down south in the Bicol region, in the province of Catanduanes.
The SK of Barangay Caragñag briefly appeared on the news during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, and a scroll through their Facebook page will tell you exactly why they’re noteworthy. From conducting relief operations to responding to the challenges of the lockdown such as adapting Pasig City’s “mobile palengke” (all of which are well-documented on social media,) the youth of Brgy. Caragñag have gone above and beyond their call of duty with every possible effort that can protect and alleviate lives in their community.
According to Joal Cocjin, the chairman of the council, youth leadership is called upon now more than ever. “Ngayon kami mas kailangan ng aming kabataan. Ngayon kami mas kailangan ng aming barangay,” he shares with Chalk. “We are one with the barangay council and barangay health emergency response team to curtail the spread of the virus in our community.”
In line with this goal, they launched an umbrella campaign called Kabataan Kontra Corona which includes ten different initiatives that target specific needs of their community and requirement for public safety. Among the efforts are Sandata sa Sakuna, a project that provides households with a sanitary kit, and Project Tabang: Adopt A Family, a donation drive that sponsors residents who are most vulnerable, both of which respond to the major threats of the pandemic.
Another notable component of their campaign is the dissemination of information in the form of Talakayan sa COVID-19, a centralized public address system, and Karamay Mo Si SK, an SMS drive that provides real-time updates on the COVID-19 situation. This proves how the youth acknowledges the importance of being equipped with facts at a time of uncertainty.
In terms of livelihood and food sustenance, they are also doing their part in promoting local farmers through the SK Mobile Palengke and encouraging their community to adapt sustainability measures through their gardening contest Buhay Ko Bahay Kubo.
For young people who are in quarantine, finding ways to be entertained while following the stay-at-home policy also makes for quite a predicament, so the SK launched a TikTok challenge and games of bingo wherein winners will receive cellphone load to aid their online learning.
With such detailed, on-target, and well-executed efforts, the SK of Brgy. Caragñag seems to be way ahead in terms of responding to adverse situations; they’re insightful, resourceful, and driven which are true marks of leaders who will carry us through dark times and beyond.
And it’s not what other people may expect amidst a global crisis. “We are being stereotyped and judged as ‘walang ambag sa lipunan,’” Joal muses. “Maraming nagsasabi na, ‘Manatili na lang kayo sa bahay,’ ‘Matulog na lang kayo, at huwag na kayong makialam.’” But, it goes without saying that we all have the capacity to contribute. For Joal, doing their part, even when it seems to be a tall order, is the core of youth leadership. “It’s very challenging yet empowering and fulfilling. ‘Yung tipong you’re very tired all day for doing your duties and responsibilities, [pero] hindi mo alintana ‘yung pagod at sakripisyo.”
Shattering perceptions about our age-related inadequacy is something that we’re prolific at, especially once we step up as catalysts of change. “To my fellow Filipino youth, we are never too young to make a difference. In our own simple ways, we can be part of the solution,” Joal appeals. And, fortunately for this nation, it’s the kind of call that will never fall on deaf ears.
Story Produced by Madel Asuncion
Video Produced by Deiniel Cuvin
Video Edited by Play It Forward
Cover Art by Betsy Cola
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan