Why not honor our heroes by commemorating the day they were born? | Inquirer Opinion

Why not honor our heroes by commemorating the day they were born?

/ 05:00 AM January 03, 2023

Though it is common practice to do it during their death anniversary, I think we can honor our heroes in a more positive light by celebrating their birthdays.

Death is the culmination of everything. Even inanimate objects die. We, too, will pass away. But not all of us are born heroes. All of us are born champions, no doubt, for we have won the race of becoming human among millions of contenders in our mother’s womb or in a test tube. But not all of us are born heroes.


Commemorating the death anniversary of our heroes, especially those whose demise came not of natural causes but of man’s unspeakable brutality, seems to encourage the subconscious need in making heroes out of misery and painful death. Martyrdom? Sainthood? These are not always the trappings of a real hero.

The intellectual giant Apolinario Mabini, who drafted decrees and edited the constitution for the First Philippine Republic, is a hero. But he did not die a painful death at the hands of man. So was the master propagandist of the Tagalog language Marcelo H. del Pilar, as well as the world-class painter Juan Luna who mesmerized the Spanish conquistadores with his awesome “Spoliarium” that proudly emblazons the entrance wall of our National Museum today.


Countless other heroes of national and international eminence are honored not because they were martyred, but because they were born and brought us progress, advancement, and peace we now enjoy.

Albert Einstein died not in battle or through man’s cruelty. But he is truly a hero. We won’t understand much of our world and the universe we live in without him being born. Isaac Newton died in his sleep. Yet he, too, is a real hero, strengthening the foundations that allow us to move forward in quantum leaps in scientific knowledge—the very same foundations that were first laid out by world-renowned heroes like the Polish Nicholas Copernicus and the Italian Galileo.

Born 100 years before Newton, Copernicus did a heroic feat by announcing in 1543—despite the vehement disapproval of the Catholic Church—that the Earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Galileo, who died of natural death, fought a similar opposition from the Catholic Church, and was declared a heretic in 1633. But like Dr. Jose Rizal, their insistence on fighting not with bolos and bullets, but with the truth, finally forced the Catholic Church to kneel down and embrace their ideas, albeit belatedly in 1835 or almost 300 years after Copernicus first published his heliocentric theory of the solar system. On the other hand, the Vatican admitted officially it has wrongly condemned Galileo and accepted that the Earth revolves around the sun only in 1992 or 359 years later. It was finally a victory of the truth, of Light over Darkness.

The greatest heroes of the world are those who fight for our freedoms, those who wage war using whatever media in clearing the darkness of ignorance, apathy, and greed among men. And the greatest of these freedoms is the freedom of knowing the truth and applying it in daily life without fear. As the old saying goes, “The truth shall set us free.” It is the same legacy that Rizal gave his compatriots by showing them the truth, the Light, which has always been threatened by Darkness through the ages.

It’s a relief to see that modern heroes continue to march on to enlighten this world. The likes of Miscrosoft founder Bill Gates, iPhone idealist Steve Jobs, and Facebook architect Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few, have revolutionized the way we do things for the better. We console ourselves knowing that all these heroes were born among us. We grieve when they die, knowing we have lost the champions of our freedoms, thus briefly slowing down the momentum of our progression toward the Light.

Let us, therefore, celebrate the day when our heroes were born and became members of our human family. We want to remember the happy moments of their first toothless smile to the world and their exemplary deeds while alive, not the last gasping breath of their passing.

Commemorating the anniversary of the birth—not death—of our heroes will teach us and our children to look at things positively without forgetting our heroes’ noble sacrifices and history’s bitter lessons. It will also encourage a healthy engagement with our colonizers’ descendants, be they Spanish, Americans, or Japanese, who can’t be faulted for their forefathers’ misdeeds.


Edsel P. Barba,
Digos City, Davao del Sur

[email protected]

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