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Vol. IV,  No. 27                           August 8 - 14, 2004                      Quezon City, Philippines


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Mong’s Moment

A UN body will confer a “youth empowerment” award to Mong Palatino, an activist and youth leader often compared with former student leaders Edgar Jopson and Lean Alejandro. Mong says the recognition only strengthens his resolve to live up to the ideals of these two great Filipinos.

By Emily Vital

This Monday, in celebration of the International Youth Day, a youth leader often described as the Edgar Jopson of his generation will receive an award from the United Nations Association of the Philippines (UNAP) for “youth empowerment on national concerns.”

Raymond D. Palatino, or Mong to his friends and colleagues, said the award was a pleasant surprise. “I was not expecting this,” he said.

But who could have? A former teacher of his at the University of the Philippines could not believe it either.  “She called me to ask if I was really the Raymond Palatino she had read in the papers.  She asked me ‘Kailan pa kumilala ang UN ng aktibistang katulad mo?’ (When did the UN start recognizing activists like you?),” Mong said.

Prof. Rene Romero, national chairman of the UNAP awards committee, told Mong that his advocacy as a youth leader, as an activist, was a plus factor for his selection as one of the five UN youth awardees.


The UNAP certainly recognized Mong’s consistent efforts in empowering the youth. A graduate of education from the University of the Philippine-Diliman, Mong was active in student politics. He was chairperson of the college student council in 1999.  A year after that, he was elected as chairperson of the University Student Council.

In 2001, Mong was elected as the national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the biggest alliance of student councils and governments in the country. As NUSP president, Mong was the voice of the students in various hearings called upon by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and by the House of Representatives.

Mong was one of the convenors of different broad youth formations, including the Estrada Resign Youth Movement (ERYM), Youth Action Network (YAN), Filipino Youth for Peace, Kabataan Kontra-Kartel (Youth Against the Oil Cartel), and TxtPower. 

These formations use different forms of activities to advance their objectives. Mong mobilized the youth for protest actions, trained youth leaders, lobbied in the Congress and Senate, and wrote statements and articles.

Mong is also a columnist of Tinig.com, a Filipino youth magazine on the Internet and a co-host of Apolinario Lozada in the radio program Sabado Live in DZAR.

Today, he serves as the national executive vice president of Anak ng Bayan (Nation’s Youth) youth party.

Youth issues

Mong said the Filipino youth’s future would remain bleak if reforms are not undertaken. The youth leader said education and employment are two important concerns. 

“I hope the UNAP will not stop at recognizing youth leaders. I hope to find allies in UNAP in calling for the re-channeling of foreign debt servicing to the education budget. I encourage my fellow youth leaders to see the problems comprehensively, to look at structural inequalities and flaws,” Mong said.


Mong protests at media’s portrayal of the youth as apathetic. “We should not allow them to brand us as such. The Filipino youth undertakes tasks, responsibilities for the country,” he said.

Mong noted the active involvement of the youth in the People Power 2 uprising and in the anti-U.S. war movement last year. “We opt to be called GenPeace instead of Gen X or Gen Y,” he said. 

Meeting Gloria

Mong said he looks forward to meeting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo again.  He said it was in February 2002 when he last saw Arroyo.

“I could still remember how we called her attention to the youth’s problems, particularly on education.  She said access must be addressed and scholarships must be expanded,” Mong related. “I want to ask her what has happened since then.”

Mong does not let an opportunity to advance the youth’s concerns pass. He often writes letters to the editors of national dailies to bring up an issue. From Bayani Fernando’s plan to prohibit playing basketball in the streets to GMA’s education-for-all program, Mong always has something to say.

Not typical

Mong is not typical of youth activists.  One could not hear him speak on top of his voice even during rallies.  He is rather soft-spoken but assertive. Mong is often described by his colleagues as the sober type. 

In fact, Mong is a jester. When asked about his strengths as a youth leader, he deadpanned: “I am handsome. When I speak, people don’t listen to my speech. They look at me.” He then laughed and pleaded not to include the quote in this article.

Prof. Romero had told Mong the youth leader could be the next Edgar Jopson or Lean Alejandro.  To which, Mong replied, “Sir, mga patay na po yun eh.” (Sir, all of them are already dead).

Seriously though, Mong said he is always flattered whenever people compare him to Edgar Jopson. “At the same time, I consider it a big challenge living up to the ideals of Edjop.”

“Edjop could have been the president or one of the senators of this country. Yet, after a successful academic career, he chose to be involved in the trade union movement. He chose a simple life, a life not chosen by many, and a life which is difficult to choose.”

Mong said, “I may not be able to match Edjop’s great contributions but I can look up to his examples. Like him, I hope to inspire future youth leaders.”

Mong describes his life as an activist as something addictive. “I feel fulfilled. There are concrete gains, reforms for the youth and the Filipino people in general.  I can never give up such sense of fulfillment.”

He added, “I don’t want to lose the idealism, the passion to serve. I don’t want to be like those who took advantage of their experiences as youth activists to advance their personal career.” Bulatlat

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