How Activism Helped Me Excel in My Studies

Posted by Javan Poblador | Posted on August 2, 2020

How Activism Helped Me Excel in My Studies

by Joshua Villalobos
Bacolod City

 

“Mag-aral nalang kayo!”

That’s the immediate response of people who are either against the cause you are fighting for or just hate to see people who are strong enough to stand their grounds and fight for what they believe is right.

Our country was shaped and is being shaped by activism. There’s no debate in that. From Rizal to Lean Alejandro to Elago and other youth blocs who continue to push for a more humane Philippines. 

People are quick to dismiss the activism of the youth. They often describe us naive, ignorant, “bayaran” or “ginagamit lang”. They think that the youth doesn’t have the capacity to discern for themselves. 

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM: Even with a pandemic, it is sad that we NEED to go out and protest. Following health protocols, students, journalists, and other sectors join the indignation protest against ABS-CBN shutdown.

The quick response of some people to belittle the stand of students in social issues “Mag-aral nalang kayo” is to portray that the students don’t know enough. But they do not realize that students go to the streets because they understand how things could be better and why we should not keep silent.

Critics of activism often paint activism as a distraction in pursuing your dreams, in studying hard. But for me, it was the opposite. Activism helped me not only to finish my secondary education but to excel in it.

Engaging in organizations and campaigns cannot only help you to become a responsible and active citizen but also to be a well-rounded student.

I can attest to the fact that my participation in youth organizing and campaigning has helped me to write better, to speak in front of the crowd more confidently, and to express myself to others more eloquently.

BIRTHDAY PROTEST: I celebrated my 17th birthday on the streets joining youth advocates from all over the country in the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City during the National Ecological Justice League Summit.

When I attend meetings and planning sessions along with veteran advocates, academics, religious people, and fellow young people – not only I have the chance to meet them and appreciate how they think, I can also think and share my thoughts with them.

Also, one of the greatest things you’ll learn in engaging with people who are fighting side by side with you is you don’t need to agree on all things. It gives me an affirmation that you don’t need to have the same stand in everything for you to work together and resist together.

Based on my experience, you can see the most creative and innovative people in these groups and to say that their creativity and enthusiasm are contagious is an understatement.

And these skills, from communication to critical and rational thinking to collaboration and creativity have helped me to excel in my studies, and most importantly educated me on how the world works and how people who work together can bring positive social change.

So when I go back to class, the reports, the analyses, the writing activities, and the group works have been less strenuous for me and when social issues are being discussed in the class, it is always an advantage to have an informed opinion.

Activism is a form of education. While it helps you in your formal education, it is an education in itself.

The skills that you can take away from your engagement in fighting for the masses, is essential for you to be competitive in the 21st century. Though it should be noted that the desire to be part of these movements should be rooted in your aspiration to feel the feelings of the oppressed, understand their oppression, and fight alongside them because you’ll realize that you are also a victim of that oppression. 

Personally I have started working for environmental protection because I came to understand that the attacks against the planet are an attack against the vulnerable sectors of the society. However, I realized that these issues are all connected and I cannot just shout against the killings of the trees and the turtles while my fellow Filipinos are being murdered in my own very eyes.

Activism is a form of education. While it helps you in your formal education, it is an education in itself.

I believe I am morally obliged to talk about this and tell this story to counter the narrative that activism is just obstruction of having a formal education and to tell my fellow youth that in these trying times, they are needed and there’s nothing wrong in speaking up.

Time and time again, history speaks to us, that silence doesn’t do anything, unless it is a silent protest(hehe). 

Now that the Anti-Terrorism Law takes effect, the campaign to demonize activism has been more terrorizing than ever. They said that it is the worst time to be an activist. But If all of the human rights activists will be afraid, who is left to defend us? If all environmental defenders will be frightened, who will be left to speak out against the attacks on our planet? 

PAGHIMUD-OS: In English “struggle”. In this photo, I join my fellow Negrosanon youth in front of the Pagimud-os sculpture in demanding from our provincial government to declare Negros a coal-free island before a threat of a coal plant proposal in the province.

Let me quote the infamous line from a fallen UP activist who fought the martial law Ditto Sarmiento “Kung Hindi Tayo Kikibo, Sinong Kikibo? Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kailan Pa?”

To my fellow youth, when they tell you that fighting for what you believe is right is a distraction to your studies, prove them wrong. Study hard. Fight harder.

You don’t need to go against the government. Activism comes in many forms. Rallying and picketing are not the only options.

Para kanino nga ba tayo nag-aaral? Para sa mga sarili lang ba natin? O para sa ating mga komunidad at inang bayan?

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About The Author

Joshua Villalobos

Joshua is an a human rights advocate and activist based in Negros Occidental. He is a Nominee for Outstanding Human Rights Defender in Amnesty International Philippines’ Ignite Awards. He is 18 years old. He finished SHS ranking first among more than a thousand of students. A HAPI Scholar.

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