This week, we learned from CNN that the median age of Filipinos is 22.9 years old. 22.9. We’ve just passed puberty.
Now, a median number is a midpoint — meaning, half of our population is older than 22.9, and the other half is younger. This is a really surprising statistic. It means that most Filipinos today were born after the EDSA Revolution. This fact signals a sea change in our country — one that will affect us for centuries to come.
See, a 22.9-year-old Filipino part of a generation unlike anything this country has seen before — an age group that has never been at war, has never been colonized, and has never lived under a dictatorship — a “clean slate” generation, bred and brought up in self-rule.
But “clean slate” kids have also always lived in a Philippines that is poor. They’ve been in debt from the time they were born, and have grown up with an image ingrained in their heads, of the Philippines as the “sick man of Asia”.
That there, though, is a cocktail for greatness.
We’ve always been hobbled by the past. Last Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed by Gina Apostol, entitled, “In the Philippines, Haunted by History.” Apostol wrote about how we’ve never been able to shake off the colonial mentality the Americans left behind, or the oligarchy we inherited from Spain.
But imagine a population without those emotional scars? That’s what we have now. It’s why we blame ourselves for our problems — as in, “Pinoy kasi” and “Only in the Philippines”, and why we look to ourselves for the solutions — as in, “Ako ang simula,” and “Ako mismo.”
Now, in three elections, the “clean slate” generation will be eligible to run for President. They will make up a majority of the voting population and will have complete say over the direction of this country.
We aren’t too sure how this is going to pan out. The educational system isn’t producing the sharpest students, and we aren’t doing enough to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among young people.
But we know this: What we were shouldn’t dictate what we can be, and kids today possess an unprecedented opportunity to tread the Philippines a new path.
* * *