The heroes we need
We certainly do not need self-proclaimed heroes talking of a revolutionary government that will replace the current leadership with the same personalities. There is nothing revolutionary in that. Just an attempt to extend a hold on power with more promises of change that will never happen.
We should also stop this practice of treating fellow Filipinos as heroes only when they come home in caskets after years of sending back to our economy much-needed dollars that keep the country’s economy afloat even in the toughest of times, while they were, in the first place, given no choice but to leave the country and strengthen the engines of growth of other countries, become second-class citizens, and leave their children to grow up without their guidance and loving embrace.
We recognize such a great sacrifice, but that brand of heroism deserves much better treatment from government and society from the get-go rather than just repatriation options when crisis hits, and free funeral services in all-too-familiar worst-case scenarios. Most of them do not want to become heroes in the first place. They just had to find a better way to provide enough for their families.
It is also sad that we now have health workers and professionals becoming heroes we now can only sing odes to. They could have done so much more for their families and the country and with the rest of their lives if only our leaders rolled out a much more comprehensive and cohesive action plan against COVID-19 early on, put health experts at the helm of the national response, and made sure at the minimum that they had personal protective equipment, transportation, and accommodations aside from better pay and hazard benefits. That is how we should have recognized their heroism from day one—by simply looking after their needs.
So who are the heroes we need? First and foremost, we need our heroes to be alive and with us for the long and perilous journey ahead of us. They should never be left to fend for themselves, especially when they face almost insurmountable odds. Second, they need to be empowered in the many ways that people can be supported, motivated, inspired, and recognized. They deserve an environment that will encourage innovation, boldness, and activism even.
The heroes we need today will have to lead or become part of teams that will deliver a better all-of-nation and all-hands-on-deck type of response to the continuing scourge of COVID-19. Using science, better data, and metrics and learning from working models across the globe, they will make possible what experts say can be a 2- to 3-month period of getting the whole country into a better normal where objectives of health and the economy need no longer be at odds.
The heroes we need today will deliver education platforms and blended learning down to the barangays so that no generation will get left behind because of this pandemic. They will rethink policies and actions of government and work to reverse those that make learning even more challenging.
The heroes we need today will fire up businesses big and small in a better normal. They will communicate more effectively how everyone can become part of the ways forward in this upside-down world of the pandemic. They will rekindle confidence. “Kumpiyansa” is the Filipino word used by a true hero already in our midst. They will make possible the generation of value and wealth once again, taking care of the people who will help create the value and who will also be the ones to consume the products and services that drive our economy.
Most important of all, the hero we need today is a true mother or father of the Filipino nation, who will ensure that every Filipino survives the twin disaster of this pandemic and a collapsing economy. She or he must rise out of the ashes and unite our divided nation because, in this global upheaval, it is the countries that move as one that are winning the war.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, former executive director of the Makati Business Club, works with the Phinma group and chairs Oxfam Pilipinas.
Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).
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