By Coleen Ramos. Illustration by Maureen Gonzales
I was born years after former President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. I wasn’t part of the 1986 People Power Revolution, nor was I a witness of Davao’s ascension as one of the safest cities in the Philippines.
I was born at a time when information is viewed and analyzed at face value, when our judgment is heavily influenced by tweets, blogs, and social media. A time when most of our knowledge is limited by Wikipedia pages and “biased” news articles online.
So when some millennials prefer to commend Marcos’ administrative efforts and view martial law in a positive way, we’re blamed for rendering the 1986 Revolution irrelevant.
Yes, our generation lacks the hardship that was experienced by the Filipinos during the regime of Marcos and the variation of experiencing different administrations. We don’t know what it’s like to be deprived of our rights and freedom, to be detained with no due process, and to live with a dictator’s noose around our necks. We can’t possibly empathize with those who have lived through those days of dictatorship—and if we do try, we’ll be fooling no one.
In conclusion: Generation Y, the Millennials, have been deemed apathetic digital natives, too young and inexperienced, disillusioned by the peace that was reaped by the sacrifices of our seniors.
Millennials learn and adapt. We don’t regress to what was, but progress to what will be. We’re pressured to move forward and be innovative in our ways, but that doesn’t mean we forget. There is a saying that goes, “those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it,” and yet we do know, and we have acted on our part to do what we can to respect the past. Some may say it’s only but a fragment of what our predecessors have done, but really, what good will it to do to generalize and blame an entire generation?
The persistent past blames us for not being born early enough to know how we should handle the future they will eventually entrust to us. But apparently, we do know; we can potentially know everything with the aid of technology. The fault doesn’t lie on our generation’s upbringing, but the society we were raised in. This country has to admit that we’re experiencing what we call a “people power fatigue,” and it triggers our nationalistic nature to throw it back when we currently don’t have to.
Millennials learn and adapt. We don’t regress to what was, but progress to what will be. We’re pressured to move forward and be innovative in our ways, but that doesn’t mean we forget.
The Philippines is now experiencing a change in administration and honestly, online impressions pretty much say that Filipinos are still pretty unsure with the nation’s incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte. Moreover, days after endorsing vigilantism, waging war with both criminals and journalists, and catcalling, people want no part of the president-elect anywhere near the presidency.
Is this what democracy is supposed to be? The democracy that the millennials will inherit? After years of submitting to the principles of democracy, considering the country’s welfare in the past and the present, is it still the most appropriate form of government for the Philippines?
According to Larry Diamond, a leading scholar in the field of democracy studies, democracy creates a sense of solidarity within a nation brought by freedom or autonomy. Democracy is the only form of government that can unite the people towards an objective of self-governance, and give importance to the power they possess.
As a millennial, here’s what I have to say. Democracy provides an opportunity for the citizens to involve themselves in politics and assess the next leaders of the country—an opportunity to change the tide. This happened during the 1986 People Power Revolution, where civilian participation had reached its highest form. It’s a phenomenon that is still remembered today.
But in an article written by Richard Javad Heydarian titled “The End of Philippine Democracy?” he said, “For the past three decades, the Filipino people have been promised freedom, prosperity and peace—but to no avail.” We still have widespread poverty rather than effective economic growth, corruption rather than development, rampant crime rather than security and safety and conception of unending political dynasties. It’s an understatement to say that the Philippines is in disarray.
Thus, the democratic fatigue.
Democracy is not the best form of government, but it gives us the right to choose and the consequences to fail. It is said that it’s the most acceptable form of fair and transparent governance, but if we continue to doubt the outcomes of the elections, the one thing that makes people commit to democratic governance, then we diminish its legitimacy and the commitment of the masses that our current political system is worth obeying and defending.
And we, the Millennials, question this because we have lived in democracy our whole lives. We are desperate, hungry and hopeful because the elections give us another opportunity to bring about that evasive change.
The way I see it, Duterte is far from an ideal leader. But the way he presents himself, the courage to break away from the margins and the grit to stand his ground amidst every controversy makes the Filipinos believe that that’s how our next leader should be.
But as our country stays fragmented in its archipelagic state, so is our unity as a nation. We’ve let democracy take its course, and yet we’re still dissociated and doubtful of the man whom 16 million people have voted to lead us. I don’t know what will happen to our country in the next three to six months. I don’t know if Duterte will be able to realize everything he had promised. But one thing’s for sure: if by this time we’re still stuck in our current situation ravaged by poverty, unemployment, crime, and corruption with no signs of improvement, then we might as well question democracy and review our other options.
But what democracy gives us is the chance to try again, avoid past mistakes, and focus on situations that heed attention, none of which can be provided by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. It’s simply hope that keeps this system functional and promises that can either be bad or good. But that still offers possibilities, rather than nothing at all.
Democracy has, in a sense, become trial and error for the Filipinos and our government. It helps both parties decide and prepare better for the future. But what democracy gives us is the chance to try again, avoid past mistakes, and focus on situations that heed attention, none of which can be provided by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. It’s simply hope that keeps this system functional and promises that can either be bad or good. But that still offers possibilities, rather than nothing at all.
Choosing the next president, vice president, senators, congressmen, and all other officials is not a matter of man vs. man, but man vs. society. There will never be a state contented with its governance. There can never be a consensus—or contentment—after the elections end but we are free to hope, free to fight, and free to give up. It’s a matter of how willing we are to give ourselves and this country a leap of faith, with or without a new form of government.
And as we submit to the new administration brought by democracy, we are once again hopeful for anything, really, but cautious of how our nation will move on from here once again.