ISTAMBAY: A SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF YOUTH INACTIVITY IN THE PHILIPPINES
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This dissertation explores the life experiences of a particular group of young people in the Philippines known as the “istambay”, a Filipino term derived from the English phrase “on standby”. The study examines the concept of istambay and the dynamics of inactivity in the lives of selected Filipino youth. It illustrates the habitus, life contexts, and the web of crises that these youth negotiate within the protective realms of family and religion, and the dismal labour conditions in the country. Methodologically, the study utilizes a mixed methods approach that includes both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Primary qualitative data are derived from case studies, songs, field notes, and ethnographic observations. Secondary quantitative analyses are conducted using the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS) 2002 and a perceptual survey. The study is theoretically oriented around Mills’ sociological imagination and Bourdieu’s theory of practice. It illustrates that the istambay phenomenon is more than a personal trouble (problematic istambay). It is a public issue (istambay problematique). The study also shows the varying levels of vulnerability experienced by different types of istambay. Research findings reveal the istambay phenomenon is a manifestation of the interrelated problems in the educational system and the labour market of the Philippines. The consequence of inactivity among these istambays is found to be mitigated by the culture of care provided by Filipino families combined with solace derived from the church. However, istambays are also found to express disconnection from the state because of the government’s inability to provide employment for them, resulting in their quest for employment “abroad” (overseas) as an alternative. Youth inactivity, although moderated by a familial-faith dynamic, highlights how complex forms of inequalities in the Philippines marginalize the istambays from gaining legitimate active status in Philippine society.