Igniting Tomorrow’s Candles

Ad Majorem dei Gloriam

Originally written on August 12, 2009 as an entry for the Youthink Essay Writing Contest organized by worldbank.org.

It is already dark. Electricity is down. I had to light the candle left at the container. I did not know how to use a match properly and only three sticks were left. I tried to light the candle. I did not make it the first time. Then I did it again. Still, nothing happened. Then all I had was one match stick left. I needed light. I know I needed light. So I risked the last chance. Alas! Fire was burning. There was light.

I had been sitting, thinking, and squeezing the whole of my mind for the past five hours of my Sunday afternoon. In front of me were History books about Philippines, entries about the life of Jose Rizal: our national hero, an English-Filipino dictionary, and a thesaurus. I thought I had everything ready for me to start my essay. I know I had to study for my Communication Theories long exam tomorrow and make my assignment in Radio Scriptwriting due the next day but I decided against it. I know I wanted to write this essay. I had prepared everything that I needed. And so I thought.

Yes, one simple piece was missing in this picture. Yes, I had light, I had references, I had pens and papers. But, I did not have the very essential thing for me to write—inspiration.

Two hours had passed. After tying one bag full of used papers, I started doing my mannerism—holding my hair. I was trying so hard to squeeze my brain even just for one tiny concept to guide me for this essay. But nothing came out. I started playing with the candle with a strand of dead hair. Then, it started to get burned. I pulled the strand away from the candle and wove it in mid air. But still, it was burning…until it reached my fingers. It felt hot. But that was when a magnificent notion came to mind—fire burning. Yes, a fire burning.

In a way or another, Filipinos have this Ningas Kugon attitude or the manner of starting something and having the tendency of not finishing it. Thus, sustainability is a struggle.

But Filipino youth is an exception. Jose Rizal once said that “Ang kabataan ay ang pag-asa ng ating  bayan. (The youth is the hope of our nation.)” I could say that we are fulfilling that eight-word saying.

Youth organizations with various orientations—business, environment, peace, etc…—emerged across the country, especially now that the National Elections is less than a year away. These clubs may have various titles, attractive logos, and remarkable vision and missions, but they all have one end: to provide adequate grounds for the youth’s active involvement. According to Young Public Servants (YPS), the Filipino populace is comprised of 57% youth and young professionals. Now, we are starting to connect the chains engraved in every young Filipino heart for we know that we can do something to have better governance for our beloved country.

The active participation of the Filipino youth had become more remarkable when Philippines sent shockwaves across the globe as democracy was restored from Martial Law, under the dictatorial President Ferdinand Marcos, through the People Power Revolution. The revolt was led by Corazon “Cory” Aquino—Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino’s beloved wife, a strong iconic woman, and often referred to as the “Ina ng Bayan”. The movement was flared up by an unexpected sector in society—the youth. There were many student activists. Teenagers were not found at disco clubs or computer cafes. At that time, they were on the streets—holding placards, shouting chants, and lighting candles. Freedom was again felt by the Filipino people because the youth had kept the fire burning.

Then, another astounding news spread the media forms in the country last August 01, 2009. That iconic woman in yellow, known for her ‘L’ (Laban) sign, known as ‘Tita Cory’, the “Ina ng Bayan”, has passed away. She led a very good example for the Filipino youth. She has lightened the last stick that produced fire in every Filipino’s heart. And more than twenty years after, like his husband, she was able to keep that fire burning.

Yes, to have the flames, we recognize an excellent model and continue to follow her example. Another is by being active in various youth organizations and make our voices be heard. But it is not just about the emergence of those flames. It is also about keeping the fire burning. And there is one way to keep this conflagration upbeat: to have the will and push coming from our very own hearts. It has to come from within us. The match sticks are given, the candles are provided. All you need now is to acknowledge that driving force within you, the strong will of having a better nation, a better future. Then acquire that match stick, take the risk, light up the candle, and keep the fire burning.

But it does not end there.

To keep the fire burning, you must pass your lightened candle forward as the movie “Pay it Forward” tried to portray. Inspire and encourage others, at least one everyday, to grab a match stick and light their own candles. Give your fellow youth the push that they need.

How? Well, you do not need to recruit for the country’s top youth organization or be like Cory Aquino. As a cliché would say, ‘you can do great things by starting small.’

It is as simple as posting an inspiring shoutout in Facebook of uploading good compositions at Multiply. It is as simple as Group Messaging your cell phone list and inviting them for a Peace Concert or a socio-civic theatrical performance.

We, teenagers, have thousands of innovative ways in making a difference in this world using our strengths and capabilities. Be it as a blogger, photographer, public speaker, writer, and many more. These, in fact, are the match sticks that we can use in igniting tomorrow’s candles.

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