‘A revolution has no end’ | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

‘A revolution has no end’

/ 04:35 AM August 29, 2022

There are many kinds of modern heroes: Frontliners who provided and continue to provide life-saving support through the COVID-19 pandemic despite risks to their own lives; overseas Filipino workers whose remittances from their blood, sweat, and tears — literally in many cases — help prop the Philippine economy; parents and grandparents whose sacrifices have supported their children from birth to adulthood; teachers whose dedication to their students and the profession have shaped the youth and helped them navigate their place in the world; priests and religious leaders who guide their congregation through life’s moral challenges; soldiers who, to paraphrase an iconic Hollywood movie character, stand guard at night so that the rest can sleep comfortably under the blanket of their protection.

Then, there are the brave Filipinos, known or unknown, who had sacrificed their lives for love of country. We honor and remember them today as we mark National Heroes’ Day.

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“Our national heroes are often portrayed as a pantheon of distinct and powerful personalities who have managed to get their names published in our history books by virtue of their words or actions,” states the Official Gazette. “But National Heroes’ Day specifies no hero; the law that put into practice the celebration does not name a single one. And this lack of specifics offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, nation, justice, and freedom.”

The celebration of this day began during the American colonial period through Act No. 3827 issued in 1931 setting it on the last Sunday of August. The Gazette, however, noted that the practice of commemorating National Heroes’ Day on Nov. 30 at the same time as Bonifacio Day was carried on from 1936 through the Japanese Occupation. In 1952, then President Elpidio Quirino reverted the commemoration to the last Sunday of August. In 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who popularized the “holiday economics program,” signed into law Republic Act No. 9492 setting the commemoration of National Heroes’ Day on the last Monday of August.

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And while the law does not specify which hero to honor, Philippine history is full of brave men and women who collectively shaped the Filipino identity and influenced the struggle for independence.

Similarly, there is no law declaring a national hero, not even Jose Rizal who has parks that pay homage to his martyrdom and a separate day to commemorate his execution by firing squad under Spanish rule. But Rizal is undoubtedly the most popular and most esteemed as reflected in a 2011 survey by the Social Weather Stations on “genuine Filipino heroes.” The other heroes who gained double-digit percentages in that survey were Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, and Emilio Aguinaldo — all instrumental in the revolution against Spain; and Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Corazon Aquino, who were focal personalities in the 1986 Edsa revolution.

But are heroes still relevant and respected in today’s world? A contestant in a local TV show, when asked to identify the three martyred priests Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora (collectively known as GomBurZa), answered “MaJoHa.” Ninoy Aquino, whose assassination was commemorated only last Aug. 21, has been the subject of fake news and Red-tagging by certain police officers.

Many blame the lack of historical appreciation on the Department of Education’s decision in 2014 to remove history as a subject in the high school curriculum. To address this, Sen. Robinhood Padilla recently filed a bill seeking to put history back into the curriculum and “inculcate a sense of patriotism” and “understanding” of Philippine history and heritage.

Educators and policymakers must keep in mind, however, that technology has changed and influenced today’s generation. They get information, not from school textbooks, but from social media platforms like TikTok where short videos meant to be viral more than factual are easily spread unchecked. It is crucial that the young are taught to be critical of the information that they are bombarded with — but they cannot be critical without knowing the facts first. History as a subject in school must go beyond memorizing names and dates — students must be taught what our heroes did, what they had to sacrifice, how their courageous feats changed and shaped our nation, and why the revolutions they started remain relevant today.

As the National Historical Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) wrote in 1995: “In reality … a revolution has no end. Revolutions are only the beginning. One cannot aspire to be free only to sink back into bondage.”

Our national heroes serve as reminders that the fight for justice, freedom, and country is a continuous process, and from it, new heroes may be born.

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Para sa ating mga bayani, salamat at mabuhay!

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