What Is It like to Grow up in the Philippines?

Before you get into this entry, let me eradicate your expectation. This isn’t some puff piece of how I felt growing up here in the Philippines (if you really want to read something like that, you can read one of my entries). This is about what it’s like growing up under President Duterte. When I came up with this idea, I didn’t want this to become a political piece. I also don’t want to use theories and ideas from Political Science since this is not what this site is for. Of course, I won’t spurt out baseless ideas without facts.

This essay was inspired by The Learning Network’s prompt: Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past? There is also an Opinion piece written by David Brooks titled A Generation Emerging From the Wreckage. You should give that a read as well since that helped me frame my mind for this entry. And if you don’t know about President Duterte, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published The Duterte Administration: Year in Review. It’s not a complete picture, but it’s a great place to start.


All things I say are purely my opinions and my observations, but I will never make assumptions based on nothing. So to answer the title, it’s very frustrating and extremely disappointing to be growing up in this regime. When people vote for a person, they place trust in that person and the institution to lift people’s standard of living (in my personal opinion, the standard of living is what all governments of the world should focus on improving). However, I don’t see that happening with Duterte’s administration. When he was still running for president, I was actually still hopeful of the change he promised. He’s definitely known for wielding an iron fist, but I thought that discipline could be a good wakeup call for all politicians. In fact, I even wrote a paper on it.

One of the earliest blunders of Duterte was the campaign of War On Drugs (read the latest article* from the Inquirer and Rappler). This campaign was supposed to “clean” the Philippines of drugs, but it has set a veil of fear over the population. No one knows who’s going to die next. It could be someone we know like a friend or a neighbour. Small-time drug dealers and unfortunate innocents get shot without prejudice, yet alleged big game drug lords are getting some form of special treatment (read the articles from Inquirer, CNN Philippines, and Rappler).

So there’s a state of fear, anger, uncertainty, mistrust, and disappointment. But I think what’s most frustrating is that people are now afraid to speak out since there’s a possibility of being shot. Last year, Ateneo de Manila University had a rally outside the campus calling to stop the extrajudicial killing, but they were met with a police car with no license plate (read the article on The Guidon and The Inquirer).

One paragraph of Brooks’ essay actually does ring true to the young generation of the Philippines:

The students spent a lot of time debating how you organize an effective movement. One pointed out that today’s successful movements, like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, don’t have famous figureheads or centralized structures. Some students embraced these dispersed, ground-up and spontaneous organizations. If they flame out after a few months, so what? They did their job. Others thought that, no, social movements have to grow institutional structures if they are going to last, and they have to get into politics if they are going to produce any serious change.

In my previous post, I talked about why I had low political participation, but I guess I forgot to mention the dangerous environment where free speech could be seen as a weapon against the government. But there are young individuals like Sarah Elago who has gotten into politics, and I can’t wait to see what kind of change she can bring. I guess I should add ‘being hopeful’ as one of the answers to my main question.

7 thoughts on “What Is It like to Grow up in the Philippines?

  1. You know what I had been asking myself? Why is it that all the EJK victims are teenagers? Merong matatanda bat mostly teenagers ang nababalita. Hindi naman siguro yung mga teenagers ang drug lords no bat nila pinapatay? Bakit di nila huntingin yung mga drug lords talaga. I think it’s all just a show para masabing ‘yes’ nililinis niya nga.

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    1. This is just a theory, but what the older generations fear is being discarded and replaced by younger and more capable individuals. And, maybe, to prevent that from happening, they instill fear in the young generation. That fear stops them from questioning authority.

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  2. I think the problem is that the Filipino people rely so much on the President and the Government to change the ways of the country. In reality, to change a whole country you need all of the people in the country to change, and that is impossible for one man to do. I don’t think he is doing “nothing” he is doing something, but the people need to meet him more than half way to make it work. Everyone needs to love their country not just by saying it but doing it. For example, waste in the Philippines. The government does not produce the waste around, it’s the people. Now, most people will think: It’s the government’s duty to clean the streets, the rivers, and the nature, of the country, they should provide more staff or facilities to tackle the problem. No. That will not happen because there is no money in the government because it’s being stolen by the corrupt. So what do the people do? Nothing. They just continue the poor waste management practice or lack of it and just blame the government. Change comes from within, it comes from the people. If everyone really loved their country, it would not have been this bad in the first place.

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    1. I believe that you’re right when you say that change comes from within. But people must be taught that ideal. People should be educated in the most simple things like proper waste disposal and who has the budget to teach millions of people? The government. Change comes from within but it must be ignited and inspired by someone else. It’s just like that old saying. Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

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      1. People do not need expensive education to know how to do the right thing. It’s common knowledge not to leave waste where it’s not supposed to or that it’s wrong to sell or used drugs. We all know and feel what is right and wrong but majority of our country men do not choose to do what is right and that’s where the problem is. Do we really need an “iron fist” president to change how we choose? The real problem is that our country men always choose the “easy and fastest” way when given the option. Easy and fast way to earn money? Sell drugs. Easy and fast wast way to dispose waste? Just throw it in the river. Do you really need an inspiration or an education to know that those choices are wrong?

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        1. Well, let’s agree that all people have some sort of moral compass. And assuming from what you said, things are fast and easy are wrong. But I see it differently. We can’t just quickly blame those who actually did something wrong. There always has to be a root cause for things. From what I studied, people who are divergent from ‘normal’ society are victims of failed institutions i.e. parts of the government. One of the government’s responsibilities is to provide care and welfare to do those who can’t do it themselves. But of course, we know that the government has failed in that. What happens then? Well, when institutions fail to provide for the citizens, the citizens have to resort to alternative means to survive. They do this not because they don’t care about their surroundings or others. They do it to survive for the next day. It’s quick easy money, but money gets them food. And food sustains them from death. It’s easy to put blame unto people who do wrong things like drugs because we’re obviously not starving to death. Anyway, that’s how I see it. It’s a failure to serve the people.

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