Include ordinary heroes
“We do not need to create heroes. We have many in our midst that we know little of … if only we took the time to learn more about our past.” Thus did columnist Ramon Farolan conclude his Oct. 1 column (“Message from Nakar”) on Lt. Col. Guillermo Peñamante Nakar who, he said, even after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor in World War II, “refused to surrender [to the Japanese] keeping the 14th Infantry intact and laying down the foundations of an effective intelligence network covering the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Pangasinan.”
This called to mind a long-forgotten hero, albeit an ordinary Filipino—a source of inspiration back in my Boy Scout days, who chose to risk his life, thereby saving the lives of thousands of Filipino civilians and American soldiers. As Boyd B. Stutler narrated in an article published in the March 1945 issue of the American Legion Magazine, this hero used the semaphore signaling code he learned as a Boy Scout to initially get in touch with the invading Allied forces at the height of the American bombardment on the eastern coast of Leyte in October 1944. For this act of heroism, Scoutmaster Valeriano Ibañez Abello of Tolosa, Leyte, was subsequently awarded the Legion of Honor by President Ramon Magsaysay on Oct. 20, 1956.
Farolan’s column thus brought me back to the Aug. 29, 2012, issue of the Inquirer which carried a list of Filipinos and foreigners awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, from the Roxas administration to the present Aquino administration. And I was sort of aghast and felt sad that the focus of the list was obviously on the rich and the famous, the powerful and the influential—but not on “ordinary heroes” who, bound by no public office, went the extremely dangerous extra mile, with little (if any at all) thought of self, to answer the call of heroism that only a very few can muster the courage to heed when demanded by the moment. And I thought the absence of Valeriano Ibañez Abello and many other ordinary, little-known Filipino heroes from that list was conspicuous.
And yet, if I remember right, Abello has been featured several times in past Inquirer issues. I write this to pass on the inspiring message from Nakar and Abello about heroism: that it springs not necessarily from great assignments and big titles; that ordinary people, too—yes, every one of us—can be heroes, and all it needs is to harness the hero in every one of us according to the moment’s demand for selflessness and sacrifice.
In this light, may I suggest that the Inquirer publish a complete list of all Philippine Legion of Honor recipients at the next opportunity.—OSMUND C. ORLANES, Calbiga, Samar, firstname.lastname@example.org
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