“Every vote counts” are words we often hear in every election season. That is why we take the time and effort to exercise our right to vote and let our choices be counted.

As we approach the May 9 polls, I have been personally meeting young and intellectual Filipinos whose ages are not eligible to vote yet actively volunteering in campaigning for a certain presidential and vice-presidential tandem, whom I believe the country needs. I encountered most of these young volunteers as I took part in a mural project in Mandaluyong City along with other Mandaleño youth who are supporting the tandem. These young people served food to volunteer artists like me, helped us finish the murals, and conducted in-person or house-to-house campaigns in support of the candidates we are standing up for.

During one of our meals together, we got to introduce ourselves and revealed our ages. Much to my surprise, there are some volunteers who are only 14 to 16 years old yet they carry political knowledge and sentiments that are more noteworthy than the arguments of some adults I know. At first, they reminded me of comments I saw on social media like, “Mga hindi pa naman kayo botante!” But when I heard these young volunteers’ stances, I have come to realize that their voices also matter. Their voices should also be heard and help beat the noise of those who only chant lies.

I remember an inspiring story shared by a 15-year-old volunteer who was distributing the food provided by kind-hearted donors. This young lady ecstatically shared with us that she already convinced 10 people to vote for the presidential candidate we are supporting. I can still recall her not-so-little voice saying, “Sampu na po ang na-convert ko.”

She is just one proof that although she’s young and not eligible to vote yet in the upcoming elections, her voice still counts. With facts from reliable sources and love for the country as her weapon, she successfully made 10 registered voters believe that what she believed in could benefit the Philippines. These 10 people will not just make their votes be counted in the upcoming elections, but will also let my co-volunteer’s voice be heard. Because of the votes of these 10 people, although she is not a voter yet, her bets can still be reflected in the ballots—10 ballots that came from voters she had “tao sa tao, puso sa puso (person to person, heart to heart)” conversations with.

Indeed, the voices of young ones like her should also be heard because these people are trying their best to be as vigilant as they can to not fall for false news and disinformation. Their voices are likewise significant because their desire to ensure that this country will be in good hands in the next six years is more worthwhile than the desire of those who choose to be fanatics and loyalists of other politicians. Lastly, the youth’s action also matters because it is a manifestation of how they really care for their future.

If every Filipino voter could just open their ears to the thoughts of the enlightened youth and allot spaces in their hearts to aim for a kind of nation these young ones want to see when they enter the workforce, I believe citizens of all ages would benefit. I also believe that there are still a lot of Gen Z individuals who are not gullible to fake information and only share narratives they double-checked, or triple-checked if needed, given that they are digital-savvy.

Because of this election season, I now have a different take on Gen Z. I know the few I have met do not represent the whole generation, but knowing one or two of them is enough reason to choose leaders who have concrete plans for the youth sector.

As Election Day nears, I suppose I would still come to meet young individuals with beliefs the same as mine. Individuals who might be younger than 17 but have the power to serve as a reminder that if teenagers can stand for what they truly believe in and can break neutrality, what more the older ones.

Every voice counts, including the voices of young people who are fighting for their future.

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