“Iba na ang kabataan ngayon”, an emerging line which rivals that of Dr. Jose Rizal’s renowned saying: “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan”. Whether the former denotes good or bad, the youth are the only ones who can attest to that.

When an elder would describe the life of the youth way back, it would always center on how they prefer clothing with longer sleeves, going home as early as 6 PM and playing traditional games with their friends. It seems that the drastic changes in the lifestyles of the so-called “pag-asa ng bayan” is still a bane for some of those who came earlier before them.

Truly, the youth is not the same as before. Labeled as the “millennials”, today’s youth live in the mercy of technology. With the accessibility to the World Wide Web, information sharing happens in a blink of an eye. Social networking sitestranscend geographical boundaries. Millions of people have their own Facebook account, at least here in the Philippines.  Checking mobile phones for a message or notification, expected or not, becomes a morning ritual as soon as waking up. It seems like having an internet connection is becoming a necessity.

With different priorities in life, it seems that it is hard to engage the youth into serious matters unless it concerns themselves. Love, family and academics are among the top notchers when it comes to their list.Amidst all of this, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office’squestion is that: In the long-list of things that catch or require the youth’s attention, does taking care of the environment stands a fight?

Knowing that engaging the youth into activities is not easy as making them “like” a picture on Facebook, PENRO decided to start with the campaign, aiming to establish a connection with the youth. During the advocacy campaign at Barangay 7, Mamburao, youth participants were asked if they still have time to think or care for the environment. Reality speaks, most of them put anything about the environment somewhere at the bottom of their priority list or worst, it is not written at all.

Truth hurts but avoiding it does not help at all. Knowing the lapses, it is easier to find a solution. PENRO believes that one way to make the youth participate to environmental programs is to let them know how important their roles are and that they are needed. With the theme, 4Ks: KamalayansaKahandaan, Katumbas ay Kaligtasan”, survival tips were first handed to the participants by Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office Representative KristofferBaronggo. With eyes full of curiosity, they look at how the ground moves during an earthquake exhibited by a 3D model. They also had a game on solid waste management.

Though the campaign held on a Saturday morning was greeted by a grumpy weather, it continued with a ray of hope making its way through the clouds. The youth participants were challenged to step up by participating in environmental programs like tree planting and clean and green. Before the program finally ended, several youth raised their hand and gave their names and contact numbers to show their willingness to take part in any programs and event of in the future. After the campaign, the established connection is still on safeguard by communicating with them through social media.

For PENRO, this is just the start of a long series of campaigns. Those handful youth who pledged for their commitment may only create a small spark but it may contribute dramatically to the on-going battle for the environment. Of all the stakeholders that government and non-government organizations have partnered with, may it be programs or campaign, the youth should still be reckoned as a mighty ally.

The youth today is not the same as before. They were bestowed more opportunities and they seek for adventure. They are already equipped with new ideas which are keys to boundless innovations in the future and they have the hunger to prove what they are capable of.  It is just that they were taught or influenced to use them on other things—–good or bad. Just like how plants and trees are nurtured with the help of different elements, the youth, when properly guided not only by the government but also at home and at school has a great part in the fight for the rehabilitation of the environment.