I wrote this essay for my application to a youth program. Try to guess if my application got through. Haha. BTW, "Marami" means "many" or "a lot" in Filipino.

***


Marami.

This is how most Filipinos would respond when asked about the problems they face. Not minding the uncanny way Filipinos respond to questions, there is a kernel of truth hidden within this brow-raising answer.

Load. Girlfriend. Boyfriend. Grades. Allowance. Break-ups. Professors. Tuition. School. Family. Traffic. Stress. Thesis. Quizzes. Exams. Papers. The list goes on so why bother asking? Literally, marami. The same holds true with our government: marami. Unceasingly, the issues that we and our government have to face are stacking exponentially.

While it is true that these problems are unavoidable and they come bundled even with the positive changes every society has to go through, it is not true that we cannot do anything to at least decrease the rate at which these problems emerge. We have to set priorities. The problem is that we find problems in even the smallest of things, and we forget to ask what really matters to us.  

I have spent quite some time thinking about the question, “What youth issue should be given priority by the government today?” Again, marami. I managed to fill half a coupon bond with my list, yet I can’t seem to pick one which I could write about without the others being jealous.

Just how do we set priorities? How could any government set aside one and focus on another? Let us compare the government with a typical teenager. Both end up having a gargantuan list of issues, but in the end, both remain without any impetus unless priorities are made. Thus, a grown-up remains stuck in a teen-aged world and a free government remains bound to chains created by indecisiveness.

The late Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that activities can be classified into a time management matrix using two factors- urgency and importance. Since we have already been comparing the government with a teenager, we might as well borrow a principle from a self-help book to get us out of our dilemma.

Using these two factors, we can classify issues into four quadrants: quadrant I (urgent and important), quadrant II (not urgent but important), quadrant III (urgent but not important) and quadrant IV (not urgent and not important). To draw the line between these two factors, urgent means something that “requires immediate attention” while important means something which contributes to one’s mission, values and goals. Both are not dichotomies; an issue or activity can be placed in a continuum with important or urgent on one side and not important or not urgent on another.

I would demonstrate how this paradigm can be applied to government issues. Consider the following examples. A quadrant I activity would be preventing the increase in the death toll due to the Sabah stand-off. To most youth, quadrant I would be cramming over a major exam. Covey describes such activities as “crises” and people (or governments) that are fond of reacting to them as “problem-minded” or “deadline-driven.”

On the other hand, quadrant II would be a careful study of the Sultan of Sulu’s claim to Sabah by the government (which, if done years ago, could have prevented our tragic quadrant I example) or doing something with how our countrymen are able to cross the Philippine-Malaysia border without much effort (if not freely). To most youth, quadrant II would be advance reading or outlining notes. People (or governments) that deal with such issues are “opportunity-minded.” They feed quadrant II activities in an effort to prevent crises.

Quadrant III would be the brouhaha happening months before the elections (being time-bound delineates it from quadrant IV), while quadrant IV could be represented by the mudslinging between politicians (which happens come election or not). The line is somewhat blurred between these two. What matters is that these two quadrants deserve to have the money and labor dedicated to them diverted towards quadrant I and more importantly, quadrant II.

Just how important are quadrant II issues? Dealing with these issues is like investing money in a bank. I strongly believe that these are the issues which our government should prioritize. Quadrant I cannot be prevented nor ignored, but much like in school, those who are fond of cramming soon gets burned out with stress. Often, the government’s popular answer to oil price hikes are memorandums stopping the companies from doing so. Soon, the bubble bursts and the government cannot do anything but to allow them. If only we could invest more in gas explorations or in harnessing natural energy, then we could at least decrease oil demand and eventually, keep the prices at bay.

To cut it short, I have managed to narrow down my choices into three using Covey’s quadrant II paradigm: education, health and the environment.

Let us deal with the environment first. As a resource-rich country, a lot of our countrymen depend on jobs like mining and logging to earn their living. Other countries depend on us to supply their manufacturing needs. Such activities come with their toll. It is evident that our environment is suffering much from abuse. Even the day-to-day activities of man contribute to nature’s burden. Here in Baguio City, smoke spewed by cars and jeepneys are ruining my hometown’s once awe-inspiring ambience. Mountain sides are being cleared because of uncontrolled urban development. Designed to accommodate a population of 25000, Baguio is now jam-packed with 250000 residents and counting, contributing further to the destruction of the city’s environment.

We cannot stop development. We can only start developing in a sustainable manner. We cannot immediately stop using lumber for our homes, but we can start developing technology that utilizes alternatives. We cannot shove away all cars from the streets, but we can start using cleaner and greener fuel. The environment becomes an issue of the youth since it is us and our children who would suffer most if the status quo continues.

Health issues distinguish themselves with the same magnitude as environmental issues. Productivity is directly tied to the health of a person. For the youth, being healthy means better schooling, having higher chances of good employment and making most of our time as youngsters. With less people getting sick, there would be more funds available for other issues, such as education and the environment.

Our times are changing, and new health issues are emerging. Decades ago, man was plagued by infectious diseases, such as polio and smallpox. With the advent of vaccines, these diseases began to be a thing of the past. However, other diseases have started to take over. To make it worse, the notion that cancer, heart diseases and obesity were just diseases of the old is now proving to be false. Adding to these emerging health problems, Filipinos are still plagued by tropical diseases, such as dengue and malaria. We cannot stop bacteria, viruses or other pathogens in evolving. We can only evolve faster in terms of preparedness. Our dreams of having universal health care in the Philippines should also be realized sooner or later for us to cope up with heath issues.

Last but not the least is education. If the government is an investor, then education is the strongest and highest-paying currency to which any investor could stake all his money in. Education shapes the youth and prepares them for the future. Yes, we have already started with the K-to-12 system. Still, people scratch their heads when they think of whether our country is already prepared for such. Unless we upgrade our teaching facilities and train more competent teachers, the more years that students have to deal with in school might all just go down the drain. 

These three youth issues are intertwined. For example, if we invest on upgrading health facilities, we improve health care, decreasing hospital stay and decreasing the days a child needs to be absent in school due to dengue. If we invest on cleaner emissions, we reduce air pollution and decrease the cases of pulmonary diseases. If we invest on free tuition, there would be an increase in the number of professionals in the country who could bolster our healthcare industry.

If we ask our kin the question posed by this essay, again most would answer you back with another question: “May magagawa ba ang gobyerno natin? (Can our government do something?)

Needless to say, a lot of us have lost faith in our government for the past years. I believe that this is a perception that we need to change. The government can still do something about the issues we now face as the youth! The government just needs our help. It needs a fresh start, and the driving force to deliver such change can only come from us. I am hoping that someday, when all the Filipino youth are asked of what they do and can do for the Philippines, the resounding answer would also be:

Marami.

 
 
Imagine yourself in the year 2050. As you hear the alarms being sounded, your mouth waters because that siren means brunch for you and everyone. The society you now live in allows only two meals per day. After the man before you got his ration, you step into a rusting machine that measures your vital statistics to determine the calories you need to survive. The machine makes it computations for a few seconds then you hear the mechanical wheezing of a shelf. Alas! Your lifeless master has spoken. You get a cup of bland instant noodles to satisfy your hunger. 

To many, the obvious solution to the growing problem of food security is to limit human consumption. As the world population nears the 8 billion mark, the challenge of balancing supply with demand is becoming a lot harder. A disciplined future like what I have revealed here might soon be realized if we do not mobilize fast enough. 

Reinforcing Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0, the article Another Inconvenient Truth: The World’s Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma by David Biello reminds us of how population growth can become humanity’s next pitfall in terms of food security. Interestingly, it also warns us about another obvious (but definitely unsustainable) solution-clearing lands to increase the number of farms. Biello then connects the dot from this unwise solution to the multiple dots leading to growing environmental concerns.

The constant increase in the rate of population growth can easily be connected to the environmental issues we now face. Humans reproduce daily, but the world we live on is not expanding. Demand for food increases, but supply (if business as usual continues) will soon be chasing behind. Corporations practicing unsustainable practices such as mono-cropping will falter. 

One of the most important things that I have learned in Hawai'i and in Colorado is the importance of the small. One of our visits in Boulder included a visit to the Cure Organic Farm. Despite being just 10 acres, the farm has more than a 100 variety of produce, more than 60 flower varieties, and 6 animal species being grown in the area. The farm also does community-supported agriculture (CSA), which currently has about 150 members. Paul and Anne Cure, the owners of the farms, occasionally run camps for kids in the farm. This unconventional way of running a farm means income for the whole year for their family. 

Seasonal change for farmers all over the world means that crops can't be grown all year round. Come winter, only a few, if not none, varieties can be grown. A result of this is unstable living. Reports say that the average farm household in the US earns 90% of its income from external sources. This means that only a tenth is derived from farming! We can then correlate this with the decrease of people pursuing farming as their job. Why not just sit in a cozy chair in the middle of a corporate office? The dilemma of having less workers in the world's most important job continues.

What then needs to be done? Sustainable development, as we have called it, remains a big challenge for the entire global community.





 
 
Boulder is one of those places you have to see to believe. As I browsed through the material, I cannot help but admire how much the community has put up to preserve its natural beauty. From its Open Space programs to its green transit projects, Boulder is a haven for anyone who wishes to live in harmony with nature.

  I have seen the ups and downs of having a city located atop mountains. The cool climate, lush forests, and the fresh air are just some of the few things that we enjoy in Baguio City. To millions of local and foreign tourists, this is a recipe for a high-altitude resort where people may flock during the scorching days of summer. I have to admit that I was also in awe when my family first moved to the city back in my childhood days. The pine-scented breeze, the tall stalks of sunflowers during the dry season, and the springs flowing downhill were a sight to behold.

Gone are these great days now. In a short span of time, our beloved city has decayed due to indiscriminate urbanization and fast population growth. Improper waste management has left us with the unwelcoming miasma of an abandoned dumpsite, which continues to menace the health of nearby residents. The majestic pine trees that gave Baguio City its moniker as the “City of Pines” are facing the threats of being earth-balled by a corporate giant just to give way for a parking lot. The uncontrolled population growth of the city has increased the demands for housing and transportation, which worsen the city’s problems on air, land and noise pollution.

I cannot help but compare Boulder with my city. If the residents of Boulder can tax themselves to purchase open lands, why can’t local officials in Baguio City unite to create policies to protect Baguio’s remaining green lands? If the residents of Boulder can sustain the legacy of their green history, how can a lot of Baguio residents slumber at the midst of the environmental issues which plague us? The list goes on and on.

Despite the comparisons, I still see hope that Baguio City will soon reclaim its glory as the Philippines’ greenest city. These past days, Baguio has witnessed the biggest ‘green’ protests, which drew crowds made up of a majority of students. At last! Residents have mustered enough strength to say no to those who threaten to destroy Baguio. This overwhelming cry has come to the point of being echoed all over the country.

I see the beginning of a great story- a story of redemption that may equal the legend of Boulder someday.

A GLIMPSE AT BAGUIO

 

    Mabuhay!

    I'm Gab from the Philippines. I'm a Bachelor in Medical Laboratory Science student from Saint Louis University. I write sports articles for the White & Blue, SLU's official student publication. During my free time, I enjoy playing the guitar, reading and playing a lot of sports such as basketball and chess. 

    I am also an environmentalist and a health advocate. I am an alumnus of the 2012 Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Global Environmental issues. I also led a social marketing program which aimed to improve the health behaviors of schoolchildren in a rural community in the northern part of the Philippines.

    Feel free to add me in Facebook: gabriellepascual2@yahoo.com

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