Youth Policy and Action – the name of the program. But what does this actually mean and stand for in the Philippines? How does a local mayor’s office focus on the youth in their respective municipality, city, barangay, etc. if they put focus on them at all? How do they implement young people, their needs and interests in politics? Are there any young people taking actively part in the local politics?
I was hoping to find answers to these questions while staying in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, being assigned to Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina and his staff at the mayor’s office to observe. And I did get answers to these questions. But not only did I get answers, I got the chance to actually meet young people in Vigan and the people of the local government who work with them. Sir Carlo did not just sit down with us, took one hour off of his packed schedule and let us ask some of our questions. What he did was much more thoughtful – he let us visit every department of the local government so we could observe the processes and ask whatever questions that came to our mind while getting to know the departments. This way we had the chance to get a broad insight in every department and ask detailed questions in regards of our field of research.
We went to the Women and Child Protection Desk and learned more about the issues concerning child protection in Vigan City and the steps that the local government takes to prevent issues such as domestic and drug abuse. We also had the chance to follow the Department of Health officers on their regular home visits to families with children in need, e.g. mal nourished children and teenage mothers.
One of the most interesting meetings (in respect of our field of research) we had the chance to attend was the Council for the Protection of Children meeting. School leaders aged 10 to 17 had the chance to address issues that they face at their school directly to the mayor and staff of the different departments who were attending this meeting. It was amazing to see that every attendant was well prepared and that the stated issues and concerns were taken serious. Directly after the meeting we had the chance to interview two of these school leaders. The interview with these two young people was the highlight of my experience in the Philippines so far. I was amazed by the way they were able to express their opinions. I have rarely met young people that are as well informed about their local city government, the educational opportunities as well as the social issues in their hometown as these two students. The passion with which they fulfil their responsibilities as student leaders is remarkable and I feel honoured of having had the opportunity to get to know these ambitious individuals. They see themselves as the future of the country and as one of the interviewees put it: It is their task to be the eye-opener to those young people who feel they are not being heard by local politicians and to improve things when needed.
Conclusively, I would like to thank Sir Carlo and his team for their warm hospitality, for being open to all of our questions and suggestions and especially for introducing us to all these ambitious people in the City of Vigan.