In search of historical heroes
AST August 26, the Philippines celebrated the National Heroes’ day. This was originally celebrated on the last Sunday of August, pursuant to Republic Act No. 3827, passed by the Philippine Legislature October 28, 1931. The Act declared the last Sunday of August of every year as an official national holiday. This is celebrated to pay tribute to all other known or unknown men and women who sacrificed their lives for Philippine freedom. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued in 2007 Republic Act 9492, changing the celebrations of significant dates in the country, that when a holiday falls on a Wednesday, it shall be transferred to Monday of the week. And those falling after Wednesday shall be celebrated Monday of the following week. Also, if a holiday falls on a Sunday, then it shall be observed on the Monday. That was the start of the transfer from Sunday to Monday. Anyway, transferring the dates would not change anything but confused our teachers of history.
Heroes and saints are ordinary people doing extraordinary works in ordinary situations. Saints go a little further for they focused their extraordinary deeds on Divine inspiration while heroes do it for the good of the community. It might be safe to say that all saints are heroes and not all heroes are saints.
Our country, like many countries in the Far East, had produced a lot of heroes compared to the developed and super-developed nations. In the Philippines, we have recognized heroes not only as defenders of our country but had declared some who collaborated with the imperialist invaders. The justification for making them heroes is that they surrendered their principles to protect the common welfare of the nation. These men and women should be given recognition and should be in high places.
During the Spanish period, there are a lot of “alipins and timawas”, who fought bravely to protect the country from the foreign colonialists. During the 1st and the 2nd American invasion as well as during the Japanese period, a lot of our forefathers fought bravely but their nationalism, bravery, and patriotism were never recorded in history. They were not recognized for they were just ordinary men and women and they do not belong to the maharlika, illustrados and the elite.
In the recent past, a few names came out and a lot of discrepancies were debated. Lack of information was the source of the anomalies. Only a few wrote a journal of how their forebears’ bravery and nationalism were shown in the past. Few historians would like to look back and write something about these unsung heroes, unless, they come from prominent decent. The ordinary Filipino was simply a soldier or a pawn used in the great battles. If one gets serious, they have more stories to tell about how they shed their blood protecting the territory and their leaders. Take the case of the Japanese invasion, many poor people helped carry the bags and luggage of the rich people who fled to the mountains. Do we know who these people are?
Many articles came out recently that the Philippines has no criteria in choosing or making one a hero. Looking at the whole picture, the Philippines celebrates only the heroisms of Bonifacio and Rizal. All the rest are considered heroes without a commemorative date. Heroism is not dying for one’s belief or property, heroism is an act that would effect change to the community or society. Do we still have heroes today?
St. Nicholas of Tolentino, pray for us.*