In an attempt to stay somewhat up-to-date with what’s happening in my country, I follow a handful of news accounts on Twitter. I find this to be a fast, simple, and efficient way to keep track of the never-ending reality show that is Philippine politics. These days, all I see are tidbits about Senator Jinggoy Estrada requesting for cable TV in his jail cell or Senator Bong Revilla insisting that his arrest won’t deter his election agenda in 2016.
There are quite a number of people who believe that arresting two high-profile politicians is a remarkable step towards achieving more transparency in Philippine politics. There’s logic in this argument, true, but excuse me now for saying that it just isn’t enough. What does it say about the state of our bureaucracy when incarcerating a famous senator already seems like an unexpected call for celebration? It’s like we’re impressed our justice system has dug deep enough to garner tangible results instead of calling press conference after press conference to deliver the same findings sans the warrants to back them up. Sue me if I seem less inclined to shed tears of joy.
As a kid, I remember wanting to be in the government so I could make a difference. I swam in idealism until I practically drowned from it. The plan was to graduate college, earn a law degree, run for office, and change the political landscape. In hindsight, I guess I’ve left some (gaping) holes regarding the execution, but you get the point: I wanted to be hero. I wanted to be imprinted on someone’s history book years after I’d already died. I wanted my name to have list of Google autocomplete suggestions, the first of which would direct everyone to my personal Wikipedia page. However, as I inevitably grew out of my Messianic complex, things changed.
Or have they?
I know I opened up this blog post with a seemingly jaded view of Philippine politics, but maybe that reflects more on me than anything else. It’s true that things appear hopeless from a lot of vantage points. It’s true that there are a great deal more stories of corruption that are lurking beneath the surface but will probably never emerge in time for public scrutiny. If someone asked me to offer up my skills towards public service, I could easily say no and cite “hopelessness” as an excuse. Why waste my future on something doomed to careen into a dead end? I could just get a degree in business and be set for life.
See the key word there though – I’m just using hopelessness as an excuse.
Truth is, I’m not actually that despondent. A sliver of that youthful idealism still exists, but I’m afraid of where it will lead me. I’m afraid of working for the government and being seen as a stuck-up rich kid who’s never stood in the shoes of the masses she’s representing. I’m afraid of struggling to support myself while my friends pursue executive careers in Forbes Top 500 companies. Most importantly, I’m afraid of failing and facing “I told you so’s” from my family and “We trusted you’s” from my countrymen.
As I go through my final year of high school, reflecting on a career path has never been so essential. So far, it’s still a battle between calculated pragmatism and idealistic self-destruction. Deep inside, I know what the right choice is. Making it, however, is a whole different matter.
Is this a case of selfishness masked under hopelessness?
But what if I stopped thinking about changing the entire landscape of the Philippines, and instead, start by changing what I can change, myself and my views. And this is why I will hope, and do what I can as a high school senior.
Erika Hao is a Chinese-Filipino high school senior at the Immaculate Conception Academy, Philippines. She is a prolific writer, and editor-in chief of her high school newspaper “Icalettes.” Moreover, she is extremely passionate about social change, and involving herself in causes she believes in. Ultimately, she wants to be remembered as a person who made a difference in the lives of others and left a lasting impact.