Advocacy Mindanow: If I were a child PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 14:41

BY Jess Dureza

PRESS FORUM  —This week, the Philippine Press Institute is co-hosting a media forum cum workshop in General Santos City. It will discuss child welfare. Interesting topic, badly needed, but rarely taken up. If I were a child today, how would the present environment, TV, radio, the media, the computers, the cell phones, the Internet, etc affect me and the other children?

GOOD ‘OL DAYS —This caught me reminiscing today  about those good ol’ days. I spent my early childhood in a barrio called Guihing down south until I moved to Davao City when I entered college. The city was only 60 kilometers away.  The roads and transpo were so bad that it seemed like forever going to the “big city”.
But those were good times. I wish I were a child again.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were simple times. (gads, I feel so ancient now. hahaha!) No TV, no refrigerator, not even electricity but only with a small “Philips” transistor radio (made in Germany, mind you) to connect us outside.  No movies except when a movie van of “Golden Key” cigarettes or  “Purico” cooking lard or a USIS audio visual unit (yes, the Americans were there already) would gather us in the open field plaza for outdoor free movies on some rare nights. On those rare occasions, I would feed the backyard pigs early before sundown and hurry off with my own wooden stool so I would not miss a scene straining at the elevated screen for an hour or so. It was always a treat. Never mind the stiff neck the morning after. Coke and other soft drinks cost only 10 centavos per bottle. Thankfully we got to consume not too often those unhealthful sweet-laden treats (several spoons of sugar in every bottle) and other junk food. Yes only during birthdays or some important occasions. That was the world I only knew and was aware of. And cared about. Until I moved to the big city.

BUS DRIVER. — Our father Martin, a passenger bus driver, was more often out but would bond with us whenever he was home. But I got to see him often as I rode on his bus during my Holy Cross (now Cor Jesu) high school days, whole commuting daily 8 kms away from home.  When he ventured into his own long-chassis jeepney business, I was his “conductor” (who collected passenger fares) during summer time. He returned to passenger bus driving when his rickety jeep did not last long. Then he worked as shuttle bus driver of the Davao Sugar Central, which was just at the back of our house in Guihing. He taught me industry and hardwork. I remember telling him once while I was already congressman of Davao City that he should quit driving since we, 8 brothers and sisters were already all professionals who could take care of him. He merely smiled but   did not say a word. I was later told by his co-workers at the motor pool of the Sugar Central that they also gave him the same advice.  But his simple answer to them in mix Ilonggo and Cebuano was “Why will I stop driving now that he is Congressman? He would not be what he is today if not for my driving.” Really, he enjoyed his work and due to his fatherly ways to all, he was “Tatay” to everyone. He retired as shuttle bus driver of the Davao sugar central. And spent the rest of his life until four years ago living and enjoying within his modest SSS pension with his favorite “Red Horse” beer.

PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER —Our mother Amparo, who passed away two months ago, was a   grade 1 public school teacher all her life. When we were all young, she was always with all of us 8 children in school and in the home most of the time. Until we all started dispersing during our college days. Just like many other public school teachers during her time, she would not see her paycheck (called treasury warrant) for years as it went directly to the moneylender who happily advanced for our tuition fees and family upkeep. There were no TVs nor cellphones, nor DVDs nor computers  to compete with our mother in her old-fashioned values for us to learn. She held total sway. That made a lot of difference!

When I asked her once why we siblings all started at 5 years old at grade 1 when it was supposed to be at 7 years old, she simply said: “Don’t forget I was your Grade 1 teacher!”.  Oh yes, classroom teachers were the ones deciding admissions then.

DIFFERENT WORLD — Today, we are in a totally different world. I guess I need not explain in detail why. Children today, whether in the cities or in the barangays, generally are directly interconnected with the world. Super! They are no longer as isolated as I was during my time. They are direct information consumers during almost all of their waking hours.  And unlike during my time, TVs, DVDs, cellphones today are totally dominant, even penetrating deep into the families’ bedrooms 24 hours a day preaching their own worldly and at times questionable values that my mother would have dismissed outright.

Quite a bit different, as my mother would start worrying if I spent too much time outside at the basketball court or being late for supper or getting drunk with tuba. Unlike today when parents have to live with their children’s early dawn arrivals from night-outs, or overnight stays, drugs, crimes, accidents and a host of other worries!

Thus the relevancy of media and schools to our present interactive environment.  And   the need for media practitioners and the academe to talk about their concomitant challenges and responsibilities vis-à-vis today’s child who is the principal consumer of today’s communications;  “a child who is generally   precocious, vulnerable, gullible, often times confused, but transitioning to adult life”.

This week’s   forum of the National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) of the Department of Education being supported by the PPI will hope to discuss these issues and challenges.

And before I forget, I wish to say this: If I were a child now, I don’t want to be a child of today. Yesterday seemed much, much better.