22 January 2015

Bagito and the Sexuality of the Filipino Youth

Image credit:  Wikipedia.
Question: How do you call a teenage male who has already fathered a son?

Answer: a Younghusband.

That was supposed to be a joke; albeit, the joke failed to specify if the Younghusband is Phil or James. Go squirm. The joke, by the way, was something I heard from one of the young men I play football with every weekend, triggered as it was by a brief discussion – of all things – of the ABS-CBN early evening series called ‘Bagito.’

Bagito: directly translated, a young initiate or inductee; a neophyte. The word itself was coined from the Tagalog ‘bago,’ meaning ‘new.’ In contemporary Tagalog slang, the word is shortened to ‘bagets,’ which we all take to be somebody young; likely someone pubertal or a teenager.


Personally, I also have interest in how the show has highlighted how schools typically deal with teenage sexuality. There is logic to wanting to protect the student body when a teenage pregnancy or premarital sex occurs within a secondary school; and so thus, Drew was initially dismissed before legal action forced his school to take him back.
The word is also the title of a thought-provoking television series that runs early evenings on ABS-CBN. Created by Rondel P. Lindayag and directed by Onat Diaz and Jojo. A. Saguin, the series stars Nash Aguas as Drew Medina.

As a 14-year old high school student, Drew was seduced by a drunken 18-year old college student named Vanessa Bueno – played by Ella Cruz – into having sex. Drew was initially cocky after having tasted ‘God’s own cooking’ – direct translation of a Tagalog metaphor – but soon enough began to discover the consequences.

As happens in a television series, a drunken one-night stand was sufficient to get Vanessa pregnant. She fled soon after delivering her child, leaving Drew to take care not only of the baby but also of the problems that naturally came with doing so.

The series is well-meaning and, indeed, it is suffuse with lessons that cannot possibly be lost on the younger audience tuned in. Suffice it to say, however, that something with as sensitive a topic as teenage sexuality was something you would not have found on television in the early evening during my own youth.

On the one hand, it can be argued that the network is being responsible in educating the youth on a societal issue that is already prevalent, anyway. On the other hand, there is also every risk of bringing into consciousness a matter which for many other youths has never been or will never be an issue.

There is no denying, however, that the matter of youth sexuality deserves some attention. According to the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study of 2013 conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute, one in three Filipino youths now engage in premarital sex. Youth is defined in context by the study as young people aged 15-24.

The 2013 figure is a 14.2% increase over the 1994 study conducted by the same institute; and an 8.8% increase over the 2002 statistic. Moreover, the percentage of young males who have engaged in premarital sex has increased from 26.2% in 1994 to 31.2% in 2002 and 36.5% in 2013.

For females, the increase has been from 10.2% in 1994 to 16% in 2002 and 28.7% in 2013. Significantly, the increase in percentage for young people who have engaged in premarital sex from 1994 to 2013 has been substantially higher for females, an 18.5% increase over the males’ 9.4%.

The increased sexual activity among Filipino youths, however, has surprisingly been bad news for practitioners of the world’s oldest profession. From 2002 to 2013, the number of young people who paid for sex dropped from 3% to 1.4%. Meanwhile, the number of young people who received payment to have sex over the same period also dropped from 1.9% to 1.4%.

By 2013, 11% of females aged 15-19 are already mothers, a 6.6% increase over the 4.4% of the 2002 study. 11% may not seem a lot; but that is 11 million of the estimated Philippine population in 2014.

Moreover, 2.6% of females aged 15-19 were pregnant with first child in 2013, compared to the 1.9% in 2002. All told, the percentage of females of the age group who had begun childbearing jumped to 13.6 in 2013 from the 6.3 in 2002. In other words, 14 million of Filipinas who were childbearing in 2013 were aged 15-19.

To segue back to Bagito and why its relevance is unmistakable, of the Filipino youth who were experimenting with premarital sex in 2013, 78% did not use protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The statistics were higher for females (83.8%) than males (73.4%).

Of course, those who watch Bagito know that the producers gave all these statistics a twist in that the issue of teenage sexuality has – at least, so far – focused more on the travails the ensuing pregnancy has brought upon the young male rather than the female.

Personally, I also have interest in how the show has highlighted how schools typically deal with teenage sexuality. There is logic to wanting to protect the student body when a teenage pregnancy or premarital sex occurs within a secondary school; and so thus, Drew was initially dismissed before legal action forced his school to take him back.

However, discipline in the matter of sexuality is never straightforward in a school; and often a school has to examine its own conscience. Which is more compassionate, then: to dismiss an errant student from the desire to protect the rest; or to come to the aid of a young person who is obviously lost and in distress.

Like I said, there is no straightforward answer.

Reference: 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study





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