The youth and the frog


I was the chairman and chief executive officer of the National Youth Commission (NYC) from 2000 to 2003. Although I have been long gone from the Commission and four chairpersons have served since my term ended, and a new one has just been appointed, I have always felt part of the NYC family. Below is my speech delivered during the closing ceremony of the 10th National Youth Parliament at the Manila Grand Opera Hotel last Sunday:

Isang makabuluhan at makasaysayang umaga sa inyong lahat.

I can still remember the first National Youth Parliament I attended. It was way back in 1998 and I had just been appointed Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs. The NYC Chair then was my good friend Cesar Chavez. I believe it was only the second NYP and the heat, passion and commitment of the youth delegates were sizzling in cold and foggy Baguio. The youth parliamentarians could very well pass as Senators and Representatives in the august halls of Congress, and many of them have already made names for themselves in various fields of leadership.

Although I wasn’t able to personally witness the present NYP until today, I know that NYC only chose the best and the brightest among the thousands that applied. I also know first-hand that NYC will make sure your take-away from your NYP experience will last you a lifetime. I am certain you will bring whatever you learned back to your communities and become more active in advocating for the youth.

I was NYC chair during the transition period. I was an appointee of then President now Manila Mayor Erap and served until the end of my term under President now Congresswoman Arroyo. It was not easy, especially in a highly politicized society like ours, but I survived and learned a lot. My mission was simple: to protect the agency and its constituents so I stayed on. Our youth and youth programs shouldn’t be the subject, or victims, of politicking. My goal was straight-forward: to make the NYC a by-word, top-of-mind among our country’s youth, all over the country. My plan of action was practical: listen to the experts—especially the career NYC employees who had been with NYC longer than I have and who will stay long after I have finished my term. Thus, I was able to prove that if in whatever challenges we face, we search our hearts, use our conscience always on the side of the truth, we will not go wrong.

This reminds me of a piece I read about the “boiling frog” syndrome:

Human beings and frogs are the two creatures in nature that have tremendous power to adjust.

Put a frog in a vessel of water and start heating the water. As the temperature of the water rises, the frog is able to adjust its body temperature accordingly. The frog keeps on adjusting with every increase in temperature. But just about when the water is about to reach boiling point, the frog is not able to adjust anymore. Then, the frog decides to jump out.

The frog tries to jump out but is unable to do so. It has already lost all its strength in adjusting with the temperature.

What does the story of the frog tell us? What does it tell you as the future vanguards, front-runners, and decision makers of the country?

The lesson here is not to quit when problems arise; it is not to raise the white flag as soon as the opposing forces start to attack; it is not to give in when we are forced to do something that goes against our principles and beliefs.

The story tells us not to allow ourselves to be boiled alive. It suggests the need to adjust with various people and different situations. It advises us to be sensitive, alert and aware when to take action and take charge. It lets us when we should stand our ground and when to jump.

Ang ibig sabihin ba nito kapag tumalon kang mas maaga, duwag kana? Ang aral ba na mapupulot dito ay tumakas bago maging huli ang lahat?

Hindi po at hindi kailangang humantong sa isang sitwasyon kung saan ang pagpipilian lamang ay ang sumuko o magpakamatay.

As our country’s hope for the future, you have the gift of time on your hands to prepare, strengthen your core values, establish your principles and chart your life. You don’t have to be in the same situation as the frog. This is the essence of what the National Youth Commission strived and continues to strive to do with its programs, among the notable of which is the NYP. The NYC wants you to be and not just a wannabe; to act and not just merely acting; to become a leader in action and not merely a leader in words or by title.



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  1. As a parliamentarian of the 10th NYP and the lone representative from Zamboanga Sibugay, it is very important that we make sure that the resolutions we made will not end as papers but will be taken into action and be implemented. As what late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.” More powers to the Youth and the Filipino People. MABUHAY!

  2. Bryan Cesar Asiatico (6th NYP Floor Leader) on

    I wish I had the chance to listen to you (during the closing of the NYP10)… and reading it now, tells me how much I have missed (also the part, the Comm. Dingdong is there! hehehe)

    I want to commend you Madam on this write-up… it is good that leaders like you could find time to share and teach the next generation. I look forward to your FB sharings! Thanks and God bless!

  3. Gonzalo B. Pena on

    Isang payak at makabuluhang talumpati ito na sana ay maging huwaran at panuntunan ng bawat kabataang Pilipino. Mabuhay ka Mabel.

    • Melani Ledina-Perez on

      Very meaningful and encouraging! Our country needs leaders like Atty. Mabel Villarica-Mamba:-)