In recent years, many members of Gen Z have started to become more aware of their role in society. But what makes Gen Z’s attempts for a better country different? Ja Camacho, youth leader and the youngest elected official in the history of Antipolo, talks about her experiences as a Gen Z leader as well as our generation’s role in serving the masses.
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: How have your experiences as a member of the younger generation impacted the way you see public service?
JA CAMACHO: I guess it became my weapon. Nakikita ko (siya) as a tool to turn hope into a reality. It sounds corny, but it’s the truth. I cannot sugarcoat: (kung) walang gagawa, edi ako.
Is there something about Gen Z that you believe is overlooked when we talk about making impact in public service?
As young people, we’re always told to wait—wait for when you graduate from college para magkajowa, wait ‘til you’re 14 or 15 to get a phone, (and even) when it comes to public service. And for me, na-ooverlook yung mga capabilities ko just because of my age. People are scared of change, of what we can offer ‘cause it’s so different and new. It’s what’s stopping us from being involved—hindi nakikita na (pwede tayong) maging part ng public service because we’re so young daw. But they should give us a chance because tayo yung magmamana; lahat naman ng desisyon ng people governing (us) affect us.
Why do you think it’s important to have members of Gen Z take part in creating systemic change?
Ang laki ng participation ng kabataan sa maraming bagay —I think tumaas yung voting population ng Antipolo because of the incoming SK. It just shows that we’re part of society. In a city council, there is a representative of youth, ng buong kabataan ng Antipolo. The fact na may representation means na malaki yung number (ng population).
For there to be systemic change, you involve everyone. If you’re going to exclude someone from the decision-making process, how can you say na lahat ng pinamumunuan mo ay makakaramdam na pinagseserbisyuhan sila? Wala nang essence yung public service if the whole public isn’t being served. At sinong mas nakakaalam ng pangangailangan ng kabataan kundi kapwa kabataan?
What message do you have for members of Gen Z that want to make an impact in their own community?
Hindi nagbabago yung gusto kong sabihin: kung hindi ikaw, sino? In the first place, we’re fighting because we know we deserve more. Hindi lang ‘to para sa atin. I look at my parents—patanda nang patanda na sila, and it’s the same with us. Grabe yung potential ng buhay ko at ng buhay nila na hindi nila nakamit. Hindi lang sayang yung pagkabata ko; sayang (din) yung oras ng mas nakatatanda sa akin. So if not now, when? If not me, who?
“If you’re going to exclude someone from the decision-making process, how can you say na lahat ng pinamumunuan mo ay makakaramdam na pinagseserbisyuhan sila?”
Iba-iba ang mga tao. Onti lang ang may mga opportunities like I did to run. So ang advice ko is to be brave. You don’t have to run for councilor. You don’t have to run for student council president. Kung may gusto kang ipaglaban, gawin mo. The fact na naisip mo ‘yan is a calling. Don’t wait like we’ve been told throughout our youth—I don’t see any reason to wait, kasi wala sa edad ‘yan.