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  • Woke editors

Shibby de Guzman: Philippine's Young Voice

We’ve recently been lucky enough to interview Shibby de Guzman, an extremely brave teenager who’s shared some pretty personal insights into her life and thoughts.

But first let’s answer the question you’re all probably asking yourself, who even is Shibby de Guzman?

Shibby de Guzman- Photo by Shamah S. Bulangis; Getty Images

Shibby lives in the Philippines and attends St Scholastica’s College (SCC). In November 2016, when she was just 13 she protested against the state’s heroic burial of President Ferdinand Marcos, who established a dictatorship and imposed martial law in the Philippines from 1972-1981.

She carried a megaphone and wore a cardboard sign similar to those sometimes strewn over the bodies of drug-war victims. A photo of her protesting went viral.

Then in July, 2017, she joined another protest and campaigned against Phillippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, the extrajudicial killings occurring because of it and the violation of civil liberties.

Senator Leila de Lima, who leads the fight against Duterte’s war on drugs, said that Shibby serves as an inspiration for Filipinos and she reminds everyone the importance of educating the youth on social justice.

Due to her campaigning, she was listed as one of TIME’S 20 Most Influential Teens of 2017.

We managed to get in touch with her and we asked her some questions;

What do you want people to know about you?

Shibby- “I'm sure that there was a time I wanted people to know me because I'd made it big in the world. Presently, I'm less concerned about how people see me (or if they see me at all) but if they do, I hope it's because they recognise the little I've been doing to extend my empathy and compassion to the less fortunate of the country. For now, that is volunteering at Aha, a free tutoring centre for public school kids. Their goal is to get everyone to "same level" due to the alarmingly low literacy rate of Filipinos.”

Tell us a bit about your family...

Shibby- “I don't have a nuclear family. It was never perfect. It isn't Mama, Papa, me and some other sibling. Despite it, I was raised in a house full of love and support. My ideas were never invalidated and I wasn't interrupted nor belittled in my joining "adult conversations." I was always surrounded by compassionate, hardworking and smart people. I can only hope to grow a heart as kind as theirs.”

What difficulties and struggles have you faced in life?

Shibby- “Like every 15-year old, I experience teen angst in all its forms of insecurity, existential crisis, and mental illness. I still go through them, but I'm still alive and kickin' in pursuit of what I can do in and for a world I am tired of.”

What inspires you?

Shibby- “Nothing, really. Probably my mum, of course, but mostly it was knowing that campaigning was an easy thing to do- and it was the little that I could do at age 13 out of the noise I could bring to the issue. It was knowing that the suffering is real. That it was hard to believe. That is why I saw (and see) that we can't afford to not be trying our best.””

What would be your advice for other youth activists?

Shibby- “Don't just campaign. Do the direct work. Volunteer. Donate. Find something you believe in, whether that is art or education or funding- and actively participate in it. Because no one else will. Earlier I mentioned that my family structure isn't the conventional or "ideal" one. Personally, I wouldn't want to make that information public, but maybe some kid out there could hear or read this and know that they are not alone- and that they weren't born out of brokenness. I know that there is little to no hope in the world but I think we can make it big. I think we can create love and give it as long as we see ourselves as people who can love. I am no one, I'm an ordinary depressed teenager who lives in the city, but I am a big believer in everyone. We are a troubled youth. But I believe anyone's little change is a big one. No matter who you are, you can do great things bigger than yourself by just doing your part for the Filipinos that we love. The situation is too grave for us to not do anything.”

Shibby de Guzman, center, at a Manila rally to protest policies of the Duterte's government. Photo by Ana P. Santos for The Times

Shibby’s an ordinary girl, just like us. But she believes in the power of youth activism. She believes, just like I do, that we can change the world. We’re young, but we’re fighters and in Shibby’s own words, “we completely know and understand the injustices we’re protesting against”.


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