We have no national hero. Would Lapu-lapu make it in a new list?
TECHNICAL group of historians and experts, formed under a March 28, 1993 executive order of then President Fidel V. Ramos, listed nine national heroes. The group then submitted the list to a committee of three Cabinet secretaries that was to review and then submit it to the President.
The heroes were never officially proclaimed by Ramos and the presidents who followed. To this year, National Heroes Day is celebrated with no official national hero, “a technicality” that Sen. Imee Marcos pointed out Monday (Aug. 26). Imee, for the record, was not rooting for her dad to be in the list.
Not proclaimed, legislated
One reason Ramos gave up the idea, a historian’s account said, was that FVR came to realize that national heroes are “not proclaimed or legislated.” Inquirer history columnist Ambeth Ocampo, a member of the technical group, said persons become heroes by acclamation. As to how that is done
for locals like Lapu-lapu, Macario Sacay, or Sultan Kudarat, Ocampo didn’t say
The problem apparently with the President or Congress tagging the national heroes is that it may open the floodgate to requests from interested parties and may set off debates on controversies that swirled around the “candidates.”
For example, one candidate for national hero: Lapulapu. He didn’t land in the technical group’s National Heroes Nine, who included only Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, and Gabriela Silang. Would he make it in another list, should today’s leaders try to meet the technicality that Senator Imee talked about?
Two points against Lapu-lapu
Very unlikely. For two reasons: (1) Accounts that historians have relied on, those of Antonio Pigafetta and Gaspar Correo, didn’t specifically say that it was Lapu-lapu who killed Magellan. (2) Lapu-lapu was a tribal leader who wasn’t fighting for independence, not for a nation, a local chieftain who had been paying tribute to the Spanish king and struck out against s authority only when Rajah Humabon was named the head of the three Mactan leaders. It was “for personal pride,” not a nationalistic outburst.
Honoring Lapu-lapu has been, in Ocampo’s phrase, by acclamation. Local acclamation, which legislators such as Raul del Mar and, recently, Paz Radaza would like to expand nationally: by declaring a non-working national holiday and renaming the international airport in Lapu-lapu’s honor. The giant statue of Lapu-lapu standing within the Luneta—which ironically Radaza as mayor wanted uprooted and relocated to Mactan—is part of the effort at national recognition.
Honoring without fiat
Becoming a national hero is a tall order, a tough job for lobbyists rooting for their hero. Acclamation across the country is so very hard to do; new information on the hero’s exploits could help but usually such disclosures also bring out dirt about him. As Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao wrote on Aug. 28, 2017, how do heroes such as Kudarat–or Lapu-lapu–ever get to be acclaimed nationally? Executive or legislative fiat may help, or not.
Is official declaration of Rizal and the eight others necessary when the nation has been honoring them and thus “inculcating patriotism and nationalism”—in gradeschool books, statues and matches—even without proclamation by executive order or statute?
Technicalities matter. Sometimes though, as in popular culture that selects heroes, they don’t.*