Alumni Voice


“A Change for the Better”

Christine Abigail C. Tolentino

University student (AB/MA Political Science Major in Global Politics Minor in French Studies)

They say change is constant, it happens regularly, but the change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is monumental. It has altered the way we live so significantly that a phrase has been termed to differentiate the world from before the pandemic happened and the world now — the New Normal.

These days, we mostly live online. Virtual interactions have been an option before, but now for most, it seems like the only option. With the quarantine lockdown happening, the platforms for classes, work, shopping, and other entertainment hobbies have all shifted online. Since it has become unsafe to travel in the real world, we moved about in the virtual one.

However, what about those who do not have access to the online community? Whereas some people have adapted their way of life and now do most of their tasks online, others who have little to no internet connection are forced to pause a portion of their life. Not all schools are accommodating to asynchronous learning, thus leaving very few options for some students. A lot of people have lost their jobs, some because they were fired from their companies, others because they cannot do the work-from-home set-up. It is important to consider that not everyone has a good signal in their areas, or even a gadget to begin with. 

Therefore, it is truly helpful that awareness campaigns and online advocacy works continue amidst the pandemic. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is one example of the power of voices speaking up, and people organizing to address social issues. What started as social media posts accumulated to become a way to boost a movement. Through the online community, the #BlackLivesMatter movement reached out to millions of people across the globe even amidst the lockdown. This shows that we may be physically distant, we can still connect and act together. Today, advocates, non-government organizations, both grass-roots and not, continue to raise awareness and speak out on the social issues that need to be addressed. 

This is also evident in the Philippines. When Super Typhoon Goni (locally known as Super Typhoon Rolly) and Typhoon Vamco (locally known as Typhoon Ulysses) struck the country, many homes were wrecked, families were displaced, and lives were lost. With one of the two main news media networks in the Philippines being shut down, news updates on the storm and the places and people affected were slow. People took to social media and text messages to communicate. Donation drives were conducted by organizations and individuals alike. Advocates volunteered to do search and rescue parties for the people who badly needed help. Filipinos paid close attention to communication channels, both online and offline. For people who do not have access to the internet, phone numbers were given for calls and text messages. Since photos of the flooded areas were not covered by the traditional media sites immediately, photos and updates were distributed through social media platforms, mostly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Citizens on the ground shared their experiences online so that more people would know about what was happening in their areas and raise awareness about it. Through those acts, people became updated, and cared more about the donation drives that were happening.  

In the onslaught of disasters, people must unite and share empathy. Cooperation and collaboration are the ways to collectively rise from the problems that have come, to face the challenges that will continue to come in the near future. Platforms must be supplied for people to raise their voices and take action, especially for the people whose lives are severely impacted. 

We can do this by contributing to the betterment of the world, through working harder to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Advocacy work today might be mostly done virtually because of the pandemic, but we can still aspire to humanize our digital communications through passion, perseverance, and sincerity. By reminding social media audiences that the problems we aim to address are real, that the people behind the photos exist, and that there are consequences to their action or inaction, we can appeal to the shared values, beliefs, and experiences of the citizens of the online community. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered various flaws in institutional mechanisms across the globe. Thus it has become more evident that more efforts are necessary to get to the change that we need. Beyond policies affirming human rights and institutional action to address social issues, the effective implementation of those rights is vital. For that to happen, we must build networks of allies and call out for more responsible and efficient responses. Just as the virus has spread and affected billions of lives across the globe, we too can spread awareness and influence people to become allies of our movement. We too can propagate our vision and mission, and move onward, bearing torches of change as we march and light up the dimly-lit streets, the dark corners of houses that for a very long time have been sidelined in key policies and media.

The path might be daunting, but surely the youths of ASEAN, Japan, and the rest of the world can contribute to the endeavor of utilizing their skills in pursuit of the achievement of the 17 SDGs, for a better society. Multinational cooperation and collaboration can positively promote the digital campaigns that are ongoing today. 

There will be more challenges, but there will also be more opportunities to change the world for the better. The TYCA program is catered to inspire youths, allows them to discover new cultures and perspectives, and to share their innovative ideas with others. I believe it continues to motivate us, past participants, even until today. It showed us that despite our young age and being a student, we can truly be a changemaker and contribute in this world full of innovations, advancements, social issues, and global solutions. 

TYCA has taught youths like me that our voices matter, and that we can do something to address the issues of the world. This program has nurtured within us the essence of international participation and partnership for a stronger impact. 

Everywhere in the world, many problems need to be solved. But we’re still here. We’re still fighting. We youths, young as we may be, are still strong and together. Alongside you and me are the voices of our friends, of our families, mentors, and fellow advocates. Collectively we are speaking and listening, to encourage others to do the same, to positively impact others to enact meaningful change for a more inclusive society. The only constant thing in the world is change. It is up to us to ensure that the post-COVID society that we have, that the New Normal that we create, is a community that has been changed for the better.














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