Taytay Public Information Office head Jovy Medina-Leonardo explains why fathers and mothers should advise their kids against being harassed and intimidate in school and online.
Text by: Jimbo Gulle
“Anti-bullying is one of my primary advocacies aside from good governance and ethical leadership. We have a lot of kids in Taytay, and research shows that they pull out of schools, won’t go to school, or worse commit suicide because of bullying.
“Kids are not aware they’re bullying already. Research says these bullies, at one point in their lives, were also bullied, so they’re doing it to others. We need to make them stop, put a stop to this. We don’t want to add to the children who died, who didn’t go to school, who bring (the trauma of bullying) with them until they grow older.
“To tell you honestly, a lot of kids who get bullied don’t speak up or talk about it. That’s what I’m worried about. That’s where I want to strengthen my advocacy, to make it into an international campaign, not just a national one, not just here in Taytay. If they don’t express their sentiments and unload their emotional burden, this triggers a different expression in the form of suicides, because their sentiments are suppressed.
“Sometimes kids don’t have anyone to talk about it with. Why? When they are angered at school or elsewhere, they feel they can’t say it to their parents. Sometimes it’s the same way in schools. There are some instructions to teachers that say they shouldn’t feel pressured when parents come to them. A lot of things can trigger these kids to decide on something that really brings grief, especially to parents.
“Why do I want to talk about this in December? It’s when people become highly emotional. During December, a lot of people see others buying stuff and getting bonuses. Not everyone gets that opportunity to have a lot of money by then. Why are crime rates high during December? Police records show that, and there’s another study that shows kids’ emotional burden increasing during this month, because they don’t feel complete because of that financial or material lack.
“It may be that during this month they lack even more attention from their parents, because they’re busy, so they don’t have anyone to tell their problems to. So they don’t know how to fight life’s battles this way, because parents don’t or can’t explain to them how to be emotionally stable. Usually some parents would say ‘don’t worry about it, that’s kid stuff’ but it’s not explained to them that these ‘fights’ are already a form of bullying.
“Bullying isn’t just physical. There’s an anti-cyber bullying movement going around. Kids also aren’t aware that cyber-bullying is a way that can hurt people. Even on their Facebook accounts, their shout-outs are also bullying others, but they’re not aware of it.
“We made something called ‘Loser: A Short Film’ (filmed by her husband, Aldrine Leonardo — Editor). It’s reached over 11 million hits now on YouTube. It’s already being used by WAALM (World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media), and it’s searchable on Google. WAALM got my permission to use the film, I didn’t ask for copyright or any royalties because it’s an advocacy. I’m happy foreign artists have used this in their campaigns. This is a big accomplishment, for any person to get 11 million hits on YouTube.
“I did the script, I directed the shoot for ‘Loser.’ It started with a program of Siena College organized by parents like me, and we showed the effects of bullying on children. With the help of a lot of people — it’s a very short film, about five minutes – you can see the message, and its essence is obvious. This plays on karma; the gist of the story is that a girl in high school, an older sister, bullies someone, but doesn’t know that her sister in elementary school is also being bullied.
“At the end of the story — it’s a very heartwarming story — you can see that there’s a twist, where people can see that even if the older sister was bullying someone, that girl being bullied was the one who helped her younger sister at the end of the story. There’s a redeeming factor to it. We hope to spread this film because I really hope no one else kills themselves because they’re being bullied and get depressed because of this problem.
“Why am I so involved with this? I’ve been thinking about it, and all I can think of is people kept calling me ‘short’ when I was younger, the usual things kids would annoy each other with. But I kept thinking about it and said to myself, does this affect the way I feel about the issue? Maybe yes, but it also made me a better person, because I used it and ‘twisted’ it to my advantage. Some people can’t do that because we each have our own emotional strength. Some can fight it, some can’t. Some get depressed about it, some turn it into a positive, and make themselves better over it.
“In my case, fortunately I’m a goal-oriented person, when there’s a problem I always think ‘I can handle this, there are a lot of solutions for this.’ I’d ask myself, ‘What are the possible solutions? What are the next steps? What else can we do?’ I wouldn’t settle or stagnate at a certain point. Somehow that gets me through my problems.
“I really didn’t have problems with bullying growing up, but I love to read, and I really get affected by stories of people getting bullied. I can identify with them. Then it happened to my daughter, who I transferred to another school. I talked to her because she was being called names like ‘monkey.’ I told the bully, ‘Do you know what a monkey looks like? Would you be happy if someone called you a monkey?’ I put her through the process, of making her understand it.
That probably triggered (this advocacy) for me, because I thought ‘What if there were no mothers who could talk to their children about that, to process it for them?’ Because the kid didn’t know she was bullying my daughter, she wasn’t aware of it. To think kids at that school, these were ‘elite’ kids, whose parents were politicians, tycoons, you name it.
“I’m just bringing attention to the problem, because people aren’t aware of it, even the parents don’t know they’re bullying their own kids. Bit by bit, it dawned on me, I was convicted of it. I should spread the word about it.”