Young Filipinos were unquestionably the driving force in the May 9 national elections, and it shouldn't come as a surprise. At least, not to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), whose records show that more than half of the country's 65.7 million registered voters fall within the youth demographic.
Citing actual numbers, Millennials (ages 26 to 41) made up 23.9 million of the voting population, while Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) totaled 13 million voters. Combined, they account for over 56 percent of registered voters.
In comparison, Generation X (ages 42 to 57) covers a sizeable share among registered voters at 16.7 million or 25.5 percent, while the Baby Boomers, Silent Generation and Greatest Generation have the lowest percentage at 18 or 11.9 million voters.
Nevertheless, it is the younger generations that Comelec credits for the dramatic increase in the electorate, with first-time voters numbering around 7 million.
On election day, The Sunday Times Magazine hit the ground running to interview some of these Millennials and Gen-Zers, who, as they confirmed, have been very involved in discussions on- or offline over the campaign period.
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When asked what motivated them to register and cast their votes, they all gave the same reply: To help make a change for the country.
"I decided to cast my vote primarily because I wanted a change in the government, and I want for the future, not only of my generation but the next generation, to be better," Chrystelle Lomibao, an 18-year-old student from the De La Salle University related.
Mary Rose Vinluan, a 19-year-old student who traveled all the way from Pangasinan to her polling place in Quezon City likewise said, "Naranasan natin kung gaano kahirap yung pandemic, parang gusto ko rin po tumulong sa pagbabago sa ekonomiya natin at baka sakali sa boto ko – kahit isa lang siya – malaking tulong na para mabago yung bansa natin."
"For a change," was also Suzzainne Del Campo's response. She is a 19-year-old student from the University of Santo Tomas.
"Kasi nakikita naman natin sa society natin ngayon, hindi kaaya-aya yung mga pinapatakbo and marami pa ring naghirap at mas naghihirap. Kaya kailangan natin ng pagbabago, and for a change din, gusto kong makiisa sa pagbabagong iyon," she vowed.
From what they said, and with so much at stake indeed, these young ones said they were compelled all the more to choose the right candidates who can truly lead.
To do so, these Gen-Zers carefully sifted out what seemed to be fake news from reliable sources. As dauntingly challenging to do, these quick technological learners who are intrinsically media-savvy took time to fact-check and research what the candidates have said or promised. From there, they chose whom they believed to be the best people for the government.
As Lovely Ocop, a 18-year-old voter from Rizal Technological University explained, "As part of the youth, syempre ayoko na i-influence ako. Kaya nag-re-research pa rin ako. Actually nagdala ako ng kodigo para i-sure kung sino ang iboboto ko at hindi magkamali.
"Hindi po ako nagbase mostly sa internet. Nagbase ako sa debate and meron din po kaming group chats kung saan nagsesendan kami ng mga articles para may patunay bakit 'yun yung gusto namin."
As for 18-year-old Grade 12 student Ralf Biscocho of Far Easter University-Diliman, he expressed, "A lot of my friends and my family are politically vocal so marami kaming discussions about the past government and how they handle some things. Since I was young, nakikita ko na yung mga nangyayari so informed kami.
"Yung una kong hinanap is yung qualifications nila. And then I watched their debates, also yung political views and kung anong laws ang gusto nila," he recounted.
Unlike in previous elections, the Philippines is months deep in a global pandemic this time. And for the youth, the health crisis is one of the most critical issues the incoming administration needs to address. This, apart from problems in the quality of education, corruption and job generation.
"For me ang issue as a future teacher, education system talaga. Kaya maraming napapaniwala sa fake news kasi kulang ang kalidad ng education. Kung hindi kulang, marami ang hindi nakapag-aral. Sorry to say, ganoon talaga ang kalagayan ng lipunan natin. So hopefully, 'yun ang pinakatutukan nila kasi yun yung magsasalba sa atin kung lahat tayo nakakareceive ng quality education," chimed in del Campo.
"Hopefully sa next administration, nandoon na yung iba-ibang kritisismo ng ibang partido, normal na 'yun pero for me, nakikita ko yung future na maging maayos."
Twenty-one-year-old Marie David added, "In the future, sana maging people-centric, sa traffic, kulang yung public transport and yung health care para sa frontliners and sa mga ordinary citizens. 'Yung buong system din po sana mabago at mawala na yung corruption."
Finally, asked why leaders need to hear the voice of the youth, most quoted the famous line of the Philippines' national hero.
"Kailangan nilang pakinggan yung opinion namin kasi sabi nga ni Dr. Jose Rizal, 'Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan' at kung pagtutuonan natin ng pansin ang mga opinyon ng kabataang tulad ko, makikita nila at mas malulutas kahit maliliit yung problema ng ating bansa katulad nung pagdaing namin sa online class. Maliit pero hindi naririnig," Vinluan offered.
"Yung nakasanayan kasi nakikinig lang tayo sa sinasabi ng mga matatanda. Pero kahit bata pa lang kami, ang dami din naming nalalaman. And maganda din pong mapakinggan kami lalo kung makakabuti naman sa karamihan," 19-year-old French Julom noted.