Saturday, May 25, 2019

Youth’s call: A responsive, progressive and safe Cebu City

(SunStar file photo)

THE ANNUAL commemoration of our beloved city’s Charter Day often inspires reminiscences of its eminent past. After all, Cebu City has been blessed with an abundance of successes in the 82 years since it was inaugurated as a city. This nostalgia, however, paints a sepia-toned picture of the Charter, something stuck in the recesses of history, and not the living document that has allowed Cebu City to thrive to this day.

The author of the Cebu City Charter, Don Vicente Rama, envisioned a self-sufficient city, free from the constraints of national bureaucracy, fiscally autonomous and efficiently decentralized. The great legacy of the Cebu City Charter is the independence that it granted Cebuanos—not merely political independence but also the freedom to dream and innovate, to continue to build upon our rich heritage.

The youth of Cebu City has not taken their inheritance lightly. A sampling of opinions from young Cebuanos reveals visions of Cebu City that are both thoughtful in their insight and ambitious in their scope.

Many, like Gerard, an AB-PoSc graduate, Paralegal, and Law student, point out the links between the past and the present while recognizing the unique challenges of the current generation:

“[Our parents] will tell you that they faced insurmountable obstacles like lack of information growing up. Yet, no matter what timeline in history you put the youth, the degree of challenge and difficulty remain the same. Only now, instead of worrying where to find information, the challenge is to discern which information is correct. Back then the challenge was which authority figure to trust, now the challenge is which authority figure should we avoid being fanatical about. We live in the information era, yet we are the most ill-informed.”

Billy, a crisis counselor & entrepreneur, describes a more specific kind of generational challenge he experienced firsthand: “I’ve been working with a generous number of urban poor co-ops and calamity-stricken communities with parents whose solution to their financial problem is either to deny or displace this stress unto the next generation.”

“To improve their circumstances in life they must already have the resources to do so,” he continues, “Most marginalized communities study rigorously in hopes of financial gain and career advancement only to be pushed back by job requirements that require significantly more experience and financial support to sustain. The same is much more difficult for budding business people as loan requirements are impossible to meet without a business that hasn’t existed for at least 2 years.”

Given these circumstances, Billy believes that local government officials need to originate and support micro-businesses through permanent bipartisan projects. Jed, a USC Law student, echoes the need for dialogue and cooperation across party lines, saying “The government must heed not only the praises in support of its position but also the criticisms that are forwarded by the opposition.”

A united government would be better able to adequately provide social services to those who are underserved. Rachel of Mental Health Hour Cebu points out: "Mental health must be given importance when much of our decision-making starts with the mind. We need free and more accessible mental health services especially for the marginalized sector."

Another priority for the City Government is sustainable development, described by Monabelle as “ A smarter Cebu paving the way for efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable living.”

While these young Cebuanos are adamant in holding government and society accountable for their share in the development of the city, they do not intend to simply sit back and reap the benefits. It is heartening to note that the youth of Cebu recognize their various roles and responsibilities in building the city they envision.

Gerard sees the youth as guardians and promoters of critical thinking and discourse:

“Perhaps if we remember our role, as youths of this nation, to not only contribute to discourse, but to actually contribute correctly, reasonably, and impartially then the irony becomes sincerity. In reading news in social media, always assume that nothing is true, everything is permitted; therefore you must never settle for an answer to the issue you have never read both sides before.”

Billy calls for a return to the Cebuano value of ‘kaikog,' as a means “to always promote empathy.”

Danica proposes that the youth contribute directly to the governance of the city: “My vision for Cebu, especially the youth of Cebu kay unta mu continue ang active involvement sa youth sa decision and policy-making sa city. SK was a good start for these youth leaders to move beyond campus initiatives. [My vision is] that the youth will be given more voice sa konseho.”

Jed’s stance highlights the value of this kind of direct participation: “A nation does not prosper through silence and apathy. It is born out of active stakeholder participation that goes beyond political color.”

It is this commitment to active participation that gives life to the aspirations of the youth for Cebu. These are not the mere wishful thoughts of a disaffected generation, but rather indicate a collective movement towards progress, and a crystal clear vision of the future.

Lester of Akbayan Youth - Cebu sums this up as “Cebu City as a responsive, progressive and safe community, where individuals and families can perform and function as what a healthy city should be.”

It is a statement that would resonate with our forebears when our city was first established in 1937; it is a statement that all Cebuanos should take to heart as we look forward to all the Charter Days yet to come.

(Micheline Rama is the great-granddaughter of Don Vicente Rama.)


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