Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Part 1: The Committed Generations
Part 2: Senior Citizen activists
Part 3: Veterans

The Philippine-American War claimed the lives of one million Filipinos and nearly wiped out the country’s carabaos (we had to import water buffaloes from Indonesia after the war). In Balangiga, Samar Province, no adults were allowed to survive. Those who died in the anti-colonial struggle were veterans of the 1896 Revolution. They were young and brave Filipinos who fought and defeated the Spanish colonizers. They belonged to a generation that was ready to fight for the dignity, honor, and independence of the new nation. This lost generation, unfortunately, was replaced by sons and daughters of ilustrados whose preferred political tactic was to peacefully collaborate with the American colonial masters. So instead of building a nation based on the blueprint designed by the revolutionary leaders of Katipunan, the prominent Filipinos leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were scions of landlord politicians whose idea of radical politics was to beg for bureaucratic reforms in the American civil government.

Another war, the Second World War, led to one million deaths in the Philippines. In Bataan peninsula alone, the adult population was almost wiped out during the Japanese invasion. Those who survived the war are known as the country’s war veterans but we should also remember those who perished in the war especially members of the communist-led Huk army. These young idealist Filipinos could have provided an alternative politics after the war – politics that embodies the yearning of Filipinos for genuine emancipation from colonial bondage. But this generation, the generation of Huk fighters, was again replaced by ilustrados who were loyal subjects of the American and even Japanese masters. The revolutionary project was torpedoed once more by pro-US dynasties and oligarchs.

The next flashpoint in Philippine mainstream history was the 20-year Marcos dictatorship. During the Martial Law years, thousands of freedom-loving young Filipinos joined the anti-Marcos struggle. Some of them came from affluent families but have decided to risk everything, even their lives, to fight the fascist dictator. This generation produced the country’s new heroes in the postwar era. The loss is immense; these martyrs could have succeeded in parliamentary politics and could have provided a more patriotic type of leadership after the downfall of Marcos. Sadly, the vacuum was filled by showbiz politicians like Erap, trapos like Arroyo, and returning oligarchs like Noy.

The Marcos years hastened the maturity of young Filipinos in the 1970s. Activist teenagers were forced to act as adults to avoid incarceration or death. For example, the duties and tasks performed by college undergrads for the revolutionary movement were difficult and extensive like building organs of red power in provinces throughout the country. On the other hand, those who were imprisoned and tortured were deprived of the chance to interact with the rest of society. It is interesting to probe if the Martial Law political prisoners became older or younger during those years. Case in point: Satur Ocampo is 71 years old today but he was in prison for 9 years during the Marcos regime. Does this mean he is only 62 years old? But the torture marks on his body have also weakened him. Satur’s mind and willpower may be younger and stronger but his body could be older than 71.

In Japan, the concept of lost generation is related to the economic crisis in the 1990s which produced a generation of young Japanese with no full-time employment. Using the economy as a yardstick, we can describe migrant Filipinos (from OCW to OFW) as belonging to the lost generation. They are talented Filipinos who are forced to wander in other countries to pursue their dreams. Can the dollar remittances compensate for the loss of our skilled human resources?

The labor export policy also created another lost generation – the children of OFWs. They grew up while their parents are far away. Parenting in these modern times is accomplished through letters, telephone conversations, and internet chat. Often, OFW parents shower their children with consumer goods to ease the guilt of leaving their families. What is worse is that children of OFWs will grow old thinking that earning money and fulfilling a dream can only be realized by migrating to distant shores. Isn’t it tragic that a generation of Filipinos is holding on to a believable fiction that life is always better in other countries?

It is not only wars and economic difficulties that destroy the future of a generation. Today there is a real danger of “losing” the attention and support of young Filipino internet users. It is alarming to see young people who are withdrawing from the social because they are too enamored with their virtual lives. It is even more distressing to read and hear impassioned statements that young Filipinos are ready to fight for justice and democracy in the safety of their online communities. They want to change the world by blogging and tweeting about it. They are satisfied with facebook debates. Are we the lost generation of the early 21st century Philippines?

4 Responses to “Lost generation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mong palatino, Ang Mungo. Ang Mungo said: RT @mongster: new blogpost: Lost Generation – […]

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  2. This is very insightful, and I appreciate the challenge you’ve left your readers. As an activist and community-builder, I am also concerned about the evident apathy among many of our nation’s youth. While the Internet brings knowledge, on the flip side, it poses an innocuous threat to their ability to take up the challenges in the “real world”.

    Blogie Robillo

  3. Partly, I believe innovation and internet culture have contributed to the passivity of the youth-student sector in the country. Then, during the height of “student power” in the late 60s and early 70s, sophisticated gadgets and popular social networking were not yet available, thus leaving students no alternative but to participate in educational discussions, debates and demonstrations to articulate their ideas. Yet, of course, the prevailing political situation in each respective period should be the foremost consideration.


  4. […] generations Lost generation Kabataan legislative […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Kabataan Partylist: The Next Generation

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