WHEN I was ordained a priest in 1967 at 24, youthful idealism made me print this motto in my souvenir card: “Youth is not made for pleasure but for heroism.” Little did I know that I would soon be challenged to live it almost to the hilt.
Social unrest marked the years preceding Martial Law. Student activism which was dominated by communist-inspired organizations like Kabataang Makabayan was surging to a peak that it reached at what student activists called the first quarter storm of 1969.
In Cebu I found myself engaged with young people whose commitment to social justice shamed me into walking the talk of my motto. KASK (Kalihukan Alang sa Katarungan) were mostly students from the University of San Carlos (USC) and St. Theresa’s College (STC) who dared do something about the injustices to small people without advocating for the armed revolution of the extreme left but were instead unabashedly faith-based in their approach to social change.
(KASK will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sept. 7-9. Core celebratory events will be reunions with groups (sugar-workers of Bais and Mabinay, farmers in Valladolid, Carcar and Cabcaban, Barili) they helped acquire farm lots and OPRRA (Old Philippine Railway Residents Association) that they helped secure their current relocation site in Kalunasan.)
Also, as chaplain of the Federation of Free Workers, I was greatly aided by Young Christian Workers (YCW), another faith-based and non violent group consisting of young Christian professionals mentored by the late Msgr. Oscar Villamor.
When Martial Law was declared, no KASK or Young Christian Worker went to the hills. Still, some of us got into serious trouble because the Marcos military tagged all youth activists then as communists. I myself survived nightmarish days of grilling by the military in an undisclosed “safe house.”
I am reminiscing this in reaction to the College Editors Guild’s essay on “why the youth are turning to social activism.” That to me is not the question as idealistic youth have always been the social activists of any era. The more critical question is why the youth of today are going for social activism with violent extremist groups like the CPP-NPA.
Like where are today’s faith-based youth activists? Have they all gone to violent extreme groups for lack of an alternative? Why are bishops doing all the talking but singing the same tune as Joma Sison in opposing Duterte whereas before they timidly sang the same tune with Marcos in fighting Joma Sison’s communists?
Why the youth are opting for activism is not the question. Why they are opting for extremist violent activism is. Have the salt of the earth, Christ’s followers, perhaps lost their flavor?