Role of Parents in Youth Development

8 August 2014


Dear parents, teachers, school administrators, inductees to the Parents-Teachers’ Associations (PTA) and their families, to all the students who are with us here today, esteemed guests and friends, a pleasant and good morning to all of you!

What first comes to mind is that this topic is rather self-explanatory, and cannot be elaborated any further. And a most basic rule in speech writing and delivery is for the speaker to avoid talking about truisms and platitudes, because the speaker runs the risk of his audience getting bored to death or staging a mass walkout in protest

But then again, you assigned me this topic and I will just be too glad to dwell on it based on my being a legislator and a father of 3 boys! Anyway, since many of us here are parents, we definitely can continue to learn from each other.

To speak on a topic as basic yet profound as this is always a challenge to the speaker. For in this case, the speaker has to be relevant, and should be able to inject new insights and reflections on this inarguable yet oft-revisited subject matter.

That is precisely what I want to do now, to talk about specific pressing issues that are relevant to the times and on a subject which I have distinct personal experience and knowledge of, particularly as your elected public servant in the Senate.

As I said, I am a parent too, just like most of the people here. I am a proud father of 3 wonderful boys, whom I consider as things of beauty in my eyes--perfect in all their imperfections, not to mention in all their kakulitan, their mischievousness and rambunctiousness!

Of course, perhaps just like you, I don’t claim to be a perfect father or a perfect parent. Admitting to my inadequacy, I constantly engage in conscious self-assessment about what my roles are in the lives of my children, and how I should effectively go about it. Perhaps you will share my view that we all need to be constantly reminded about this in our daily routine. I guess that just shows how much we love and care for our children. We don’t want to be caught napping in our duties, or to be called neglectful parents. Magigising na lang tayo minsan at magugulat na malalaki na pala ang ating mga anak; at ang masakit ay kapag maiisip natin na tayo pala ay nagkulang sa ating mga katungkulan sa kanila bilang kanilang magulang.

Alam ninyo siguro ang sikat at magandang awiting “Cats in the Cradle” ni Harry Chapin. Pakinggan ninyo at basahing maigi ang lyrics nito. It tells about a father who neglected his son. So when the son grew up, it was the son who then neglected the father. It ends with the father realizing that his son had turned out to be just like him, that is: a neglectful parent!

To get on with our topic at hand, let us start with these basic premises:

Una sa lahat, iba na ang ating mundo ngayon. It is no longer the one we used to live in when we were growing up. Our world has undergone not only substantial economic advancements, but also socio-cultural changes brought about by technological developments. As a result of the faster and instantaneous telecommunications and transfer of information made possible by our cellular phones and the internet, para bang ang mga ideya, produkto at mga mamamayan ng mga malalayong bansa ay parang napakalapit na lang sa atin.

My second premise is that the term “parents” has an expanded meaning under our laws, especially on the matter of authority and responsibility over minor children, education, protection and safety, as well as on the capacity to act. Thus, it can be correctly concluded that teachers, school administrators, relatives and guardians of minor children have their own special roles to be performed in the development of our young, in very much the same way as the real parents. And I believe that it is much more relevant to your event which concerns education and the dynamism of parent-teacher linkages.

My third premise, which is certainly unassailable, is that we are all unanimous in believing that we all have but one ultimate dream for our children and students: we all want to bring out the best in them and help them become self-sufficient, economically productive, as well as responsible and morally upright citizens, to be effective contributors to our task of nation-building.
Because of the changes in our society, the role of the “parents”, including the “substitute parents” and “special parents” under the law, in the guidance and development of the youth has become more challenging and, sometimes, considered even very overwhelming and unmanageable. Because of technological developments and globalization, now, when our children go out of the house, it seems that all of a sudden they find themselves out of our hands and totally and dangerously exposed to the entire world.

Ngayon, tila bang dapat nating protektahan ang ating mga anak mula sa mga panganib na dala ng buong mundo, at hindi lamang mula sa panganib sa loob ng ating bakuran, komunidad, bayan o bansa. Hindi na lamang grades ng ating mga anak ang dapat nating binabantayan. Ngayon, napakarami pang mga bagay na kailangan nating isipin!

Because of these growing challenges and greater demands of parenting, we, as parents, should now be ever more conscious, more serious and more sensitive about the leadership roles embedded in our parental duties, and not only that, we should also aim to raise our parenting standards by several notches.

Most importantly, we should be more proactive in our efforts. In this fast-paced and perilous period of our civilization, we cannot afford to just remain passive and unwitting, especially since the wellbeing and safety of our children are very much at stake.

Proactiveness demands that we all zealously guard our children with wary and watchful eyes, closely inspecting not just the physical areas under our watch but the entire community in which our homes and schools are situated, as well as closely monitoring the issues of daily civic life confronting our children and understanding the collective effects and repercussions on them.

If we do so, we will begin to realize how vulnerable our children can be in this world of consumerism and commercialization, instant information, even instant gratification, made possible by the internet or online presence and social media. In the same way that globalization has brought nations and cultures closer to one another, so too have our children been brought closer and more exposed to things—things our own parents used to prudently shield us from when we were young, on account of our then-perceived inadequate wisdom and insufficient moral understanding. And without the moral compass and guidance provided by the parents, complementing the beacon of education, our children could lose their way in the social abyss of our own doing—the society built and shaped by the children’s seniors and forebears, their own parents.

To illustrate my point, in the children’s own homes, schools and even outside, today’s youth are not only threatened to become commodified or become objects of lust of perverse individuals, but are themselves threatened of moral degeneration by social ills such as cyber-pedophilia and cyber-pornography. The popularity and irresistibility of the internet and social media among our youth immediately expose our young to these dangers on a daily basis, unnoticed and, more often than not, unwittingly tolerated by their parents.

Bullying, which used to happen in the earlier days during school hours on school grounds, is now prevalent more than ever because of social media. In fact, there is now what is known as “cyber-bullying”. The DepEd has reported 1,190 cases of bullying in the entire country for the past school year. And these are just the reported cases; certainly a lot of bullying victims are cowed into silence because of fear of further aggression from their bullies or even public ridicule, preferring instead to suffer the mental anguish alone. In the process, the psychological trauma could get repressed, and could lead to more serious psychiatric problems.

In the schools, frat- and gang-related violence and hazing continue to threaten to maim and kill our children, as early as during their elementary years. A false sense of brotherhood and superficial exclusivity is now being nurtured among our children, and breeds a vicious cycle of false indoctrination, and even more senseless violence within and outside of the so-called fraternal bonds. This skewed concept of brotherhood, they bring with them as they grow up—if in case they survive their own violent culture—and consequently breeding criminality in the streets.

Consider this: these problems of juvenile delinquency and deviant behavior and criminality are indirectly, if not directly, linked to our schools.

Your Philippine Congress has enacted recent laws addressing these new social problems negatively affecting our youth. We have laws such as the Anti-Hazing law, the Cybercrime law, the Anti-Child Pornography Act, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Anti-Child Abuse Law, Anti-Human Trafficking Act, and many others, but these are but one ingredient of the solution to these problems.

We may perhaps have not realized it, but even in the immediate vicinity of our homes and schools, the business and commercial establishments in the area and those involved in related economic activities, our children and students have become a “captive market”, and as such they are also constantly exposed to inconspicuous yet real threats to the positive and moral development of our youth.

Reports abound of our commuting public, especially students, getting injured— worse, getting killed—as a result of negligent driving and the road-unworthiness of our school buses and public utility vehicles. Remember that the buses, jeepneys and tricycles, vehicles that are frequently patronized by our school children, are not completely equipped with seatbelts and other safety features. In fact, they are effectively exempted from our Seatbelt Law (Republic Act No. 8750). Which is why there is a move in the Senate to require school bus services to be equipped with seatbelts and safety features.

In short, our commuting children’s only safeguard is the extraordinary diligence required of our common carriers. Sadly, even in this most basic legal requirement, we regularly catch our common carriers failing to live up to the standard.

We hear also about reports of food poisoning amongst our children in the schools or in their immediate environs. I am also reminded of this latest “uso” or campus craze—the “LOOM BANDS”—that just drive the children crazy these days. There is a resolution calling for the Senate to investigate some “loom bands” from questionable origins and of questionable quality that have been reported to contain noxious substances or that cause skin diseases to those wearing them. Kawawa naman ang ating kabataan! Kung hindi sila nalalason sa pagkain, nagkakaroon naman sila ng eczema at kurikong dahil sa mga binebenta sa kanilang mga palamuti sa katawan!

Certainly, the proprietors of businesses and services patronized by our youth are, in all likelihood, parents to young kids themselves. Now, do I not make sense in saying that we are all part of the overall system of the nurturing and developmental process of our youth?

Thus, the products and services offered to and patronized by our youth, including the business ethics, should be of such quality and standard that they should not endanger the health, safety and wellbeing of our students. More especially so, if these products and services are regularly used and patronized by them, on account of their being essential, or their attractiveness and their being “uso”.

I am a strong advocate of the move to prohibit the sale of tobacco and alcohol products by business establishments located within a reasonable radius around our schools. Casinos and gambling establishments should not be allowed to operate near educational institutions.

It should be a concern of our local governments to ensure that nearby internet shops do not encourage cutting-classes and delinquency among our studentry by regulating the patronage of students during school hours, except perhaps for essential school requirements. Perhaps there is also wisdom in not encouraging children of minor ages to play computer games that exhibit and promote violence, such as those simulating war or gun-shooting.

At this point, it may be timely to remind everybody that the tragic school shootings that happened in the United States have somehow been linked to the shooters’ addiction to violent computer games. Mag-“Candy Crush” na lang kaya ang mga kabataan, tulad ni Senator Enrile na paborito umano ang larong ito?!

And not to be forgotten, of course, prices of commodities consumed by schoolers should be maintained at child- and student-friendly levels, and not prohibitive, unreasonable or excessive.

Because of the internet and social media, our youth are now fast in catching up on the latest craze and “uso”. Perhaps we should learn to keep apace with them— hindi para tayo ay maging “cool” at “in” tulad ng mga kabataan ngayon—but to be on guard against products, activities or services that may be potentially dangerous or detrimental to them.

Let us not also forget the underground world of illegal drugs trade, which, despite government efforts, doesn’t seem to go away. Instead of being eradicated, it is observed to be getting worse. And our youth have become the most vulnerable target! New illegal drugs have now been developed. Move over, “Ecstasy”; now, we have “Fly High”, “Party”, “Superman”, and the latest, “Green Apples”, as the new drugs circulating in the local social clubs and party venues. Sino pa ba ang target market ng mga drogang ito kundi ang ating mga kabataan?

Kung makikita natin, tunay na napakalawak na ng saklaw ng responsibilidad ng mga magulang at mga tumatayong magulang ng ating kabataan. Kapag ating iisipin nang sabay-sabay, parang napakahirap at napakahina natin bilang magulang na mabigyang-lunas ang lahat ng mga ito.

Yes, we realize our helplessness in the more overwhelming concerns, but we can rely upon the government for support and succor. Remember, government is like a parent also; indeed, government is viewed as the “parent of the country”, as embodied in the doctrine of “Parens Patriae”.

We, parents, teachers and school administrators, have to develop strong and deep linkages with government, down from the barangay, to the pamahalaang bayan to the lalawigan, and all the way up to the national government. Both the national and local governments have appropriate agencies dedicated to the enforcement of laws on specific issues concerning the youth.

And let us not also forget the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), which is the local body created by law for youth affairs. It was envisioned to be a kind of leadership from the ground level, FOR the youth and BY the youth. Hand in hand with the National Youth Commission that serves as the policymaking body, the Sangguniang Kabataan serves as both the sounding board and the first line of defense when it comes to matters specifically focused on the youth. I know the value and importance of these. That is why I am very active in the establishment and reform of these institutions. I saw to the establishment of the Philippine Youth Commission as author of the bill that was enacted into law when I was in the House of Representatives. Now, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, I continue to actively lead the intensified efforts towards reforming the SK.

To wind up, ladies and gentlemen, all our efforts as parents, substitute parents and special parents, should aim to create a holistic community environment that is most conducive to the optimal and total development of our youth into economically productive, responsible and morally upright citizens, within the ambit of the present-day challenges and issues. To be able to do this, we must not leave the children to their own “devices” (like cellphones, computers, tablets, etc.), but we should also keep up with them so we can understand how they think and operate as social animals. For sure, our children are now discovering their primal instincts as social beings. Let us closely interact with them, so as not to unwittingly allow them to turn into prey or, worse, even predators.

And armed with our own personal knowledge in the past, we know what to do. I might be wrong to generalize, but I’m pretty sure, ginawa rin natin ‘yan sa ating mga magulang noong tayo ay mga bata pa! Mas high-tech lang ngayon! Baka nga mas magaling pa tayo sa ating mga anak pagdating sa mga istilo at mga istratehiya!

My fellow parents and our indefatigable mentors, let us all be authoritative and at the same time creative in getting into the world of our youths. Mahirap lang dahil karaniwan ay pinagbabawalan tayo ng ating mga anak na makialam sa kanilang Facebook. Minsan pa nga, hindi tayo ginagawang “friend” o, ang mas matindi pa ay, ina-“unfriend” tayo, o kaya dini-“dislike” ang ating mga comments. Maybe it is because we are perceived to be too intrusive and nosy. But as adults, we know what to do; we should know what to do. Gawain din natin ‘yan noong tayo rin ay mga bata.

It all starts in the family and in the school. Again, we have to be very committed and passionate about our leadership roles in this. Dapat lahat tayong mga magulang, mga guro, at pamunuan ng eskwelahan ay maging mapagmatiyag upang mapangalagaan at masiguro ang kaligtasan ng ating mga anak at mga estudyante.

Education coupled with hard work, as instilled by the parents and the schools, are the real solution to all our problems in the country, especially poverty. Parents and teachers are most instrumental in instilling that age-old wisdom and mantra, and in breaking the cycle of poverty in our community and country. Let us all fortify them with our good Filipino values and mores, made solid by our strong faith in God.

Lagi nating tandaan na obligasyon nating lahat ito sa ating mga anak at sa ating mga estudyante. Naaalala ko tuloy ang mga contestants ng “The Voice Kids” nang sila ay tanungin kung ano ang gagawin nila kapag sila ang matatanghal na kampeon. They were unanimous in saying that they wanted to win so that they could help their parents in improving the sad plight of their families. Nothing more could ever move the parents to tears than that. Imagine, the kids understanding and wanting to help their parents provide a better life to their families? These kids—these cute and innocent young ones who can sing well—clearly hit the mark!

And so should we, dear parents and educators. We are the ones who should be on the driver’s seat and not the other way around. Perhaps it may happen that out of sheer talent and luck, there can be a reversal of roles, wherein the kids will be the ones to rescue the family from the shackles of poverty. Pero tayong mga magulang ang dapat na pangunahing gagabay at tutulong sa ating mga anak at estudyante.

Uulitin ko po: Obligasyon nating lahat ito, at karapatan ng ating mga anak at estudyante! Sana’y naunawaan po ninyo ang mga mensaheng ito para sa inyo sa umagang ito. Ngunit kulang na tayo sa oras!

Kaya hanggang dito na lamang po. Sa dami ng ating mga natalakay sa paksang ito, palagay ko kailangan pa ng mas malawakang diyalogo sa buong bansa.

Maraming salamat po sa pagkumbida ninyo sa inyong lingkod!

Mabuhay ang Lungsod ng Balanga at ang lalawigan ng Bataan!

Mabuhay ang mga magulang sa buong Pilipinas!

Mabuhay ang mga guro at mga institusyon ng edukasyon!

Mabuhay ang ating mga kabataan at mga mag-aaral!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Muli po, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!