What does it take to be a hero in the Philippines?
We can understand the nation’s joy when Filipinos of the likes of Shamcey Supsup and Manny Pacquiao come home with a crown, sash or cash from an international contest. Indeed they help in making other peoples in the world know there is a country called the Philippines.
Supsup could venture into a career in architecture and serve the people, being herself a scholar of the people. After all she graduated magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines, and it is rightly expected that she pay back the people who sent her to the university. She could emulate another “iskolar ng bayan,” Jomel Lapides who graduated cum laude from UP and, after topping the board licensure exam for nurses this year, decided to stay in the country to serve his countrymen.
And in the same vein, Pacquiao could remain in solidarity with the working class, to which he once belonged, to push for the P125-wage increase.
Indeed, anyone can claim there is a hero in him/her and say that a distinct achievement makes one a hero.
What makes one a hero and how do we honor our heroes’ memory. In school, we learned a hero is someone who risks life or limb either to defend our country from colonizers and tyrants, or for freedom and national independence. A hero is also someone who serves those who need them most. For example, a doctor, a teacher or a community health worker could be a hero when he/she give his/her best and all in the service of society’s most vulnerable and marginalized who, because of poverty, cannot afford to pay in cash even for basic needs and services. Farmers and workers, drivers and fisherfolk could be considered heroes when they serve people without expecting any compensation, reward or even fair treatment.
What makes a boxer and a beauty contestant a hero? Can our modern-day heroes stand by the patriotism of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang, Gregoria de Jesus, Teresa Magbanua? Do they have the heart of Ninoy Aquino, Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Diokno, Lorena Barros, Fr. Rudy Romano, Sr. Chit Valero to fight dictators?
Recent history has also given as heroes: taxonomist and botanist Leonard Co who was slain while doing research in a forest reserve; lawyer and human rights champion Fedilito Dacut who was murdered because he lawyered for the poor and the deprived; Bishop Alberto Ramento who offered his life as the best expression of faith-in-action; human rights worker Eden Marcellana who was killed during a fact-finding mission in Mindoro, to cite a few. Also, there have been heroes who died of old age and sickness and in deprivation but they deserve to be honored as heroes. Do we ever hold them in our consciousness as heroes?
We are a blessed country. We never run out of heroes. But we need to ask ourselves: What does it take to be a hero?
—NORMA P. DOLLAGA, [email protected]
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