Everyone a hero | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Everyone a hero

Moving and inspirational was the vignette that made up part of the Bonifacio monument published in Monday’s issue of this paper.

While we remember the Rizal monument in the Luneta mainly for the stiff figure of “Rizal in an overcoat” in the center, facing Manila Bay, the Bonifacio monument created by Guillermo Tolentino is best remembered for the scenes surrounding the standing figure of the founder of the Katipunan.

The photo on Monday’s front page shows a Katipunero at Bonifacio’s back with a bolo upraised, seemingly urging his comrades on, while behind him a father cradles his infant child and a woman weeps at his knee.

I remember a video many years ago with images accompanying the National Anthem taken from the Bonifacio monument. It showed moving scenes frozen in bronze, including the garroted figures of the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. Tolentino’s master work, it seems to me, is saying that Bonifacio wasn’t the only hero of the revolution against Spain. Long before he led Katipuneros in tearing up their cedula, a symbol of their defiance of Spanish colonial authority, so many of his country folk, like Gomburza, bravely defied the Spaniards. While many others, like the weeping Filipinos in the vignette, suffered death and loss as they shared in the people’s struggle for freedom.


* * *

WE CAN “read” into Tolentino’s meaning in his master work in many different ways.

My take on it is of shared heroism, of how the collective bravery of his people inspired and strengthened Bonifacio, bolstered his fighting spirit. Of course, even as we celebrate the heroism of Bonifacio, we must also remember the circumstances of his death, still the subject of hot debate to this day, and of how the sacrifices of so many were in the end betrayed or compromised.

But I feel it is especially apt that National Heroes’ Day should fall on Aug. 25, a few days after the nation observed the 31st anniversary of Ninoy’s martyrdom, a martyrdom that led to the “People Power” revolt of 1986.


For those few days were the very embodiment of shared heroism, when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos—on EDSA and elsewhere in the country—became heroes. They rose to the stature of heroism because they sacrificed, or were willing to sacrifice, all, including their lives in defiance of a dictator.

* * *


THESE days, as the responses to an informal survey on “everyday heroes” among this paper’s readers show, heroism has taken on a more intimate, smaller but no less nobler, aspect.

To many readers responding to the poll, their fathers and especially their mothers are their personal heroes, raising them and coping with the dire economic challenges of the times.

Others recognized other forms of heroism, NGO volunteers, government workers, teachers, doctors, rescue teams, even household help.

The traits the respondents cited coincided with what survey firms say are “values” long-treasured and admired by our people: dedication, commitment, helpfulness and courage.

These are, say social scientists, the very same traits that voters look for in their leaders, or in candidates seeking their approval. Most important, they say, is the perception that a person’s perceived values—expressed in what the public figure says and does—are one with the person’s personal values, “felt” and “sensed” rather than simply heard.

Every one of us is a hero, but we are looking for leaders who can tap that bud of heroism and make it flourish and thrive.

* * *

NOW I remember. The broadcaster I quoted in Sunday’s column about suicide being ironically a sign of the beginnings of recovery for those climbing out of the hole of depression was Dick Cavett, who wrote about his own struggle in a book.

The TV host wrote about the myths and misconceptions surrounding depression and suicide in the Aug. 25 issue of Time magazine, which had Robin Williams on its cover. Cavett remembers a conversation he had with the comedian after Williams had just finished a gig at a small club.  “He came off after lifting a cheering audience to its feet,” Cavett writes in Time. “‘Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people,’ he said. ‘But not to myself.’”

Reminds me of the classic clown get-up, a garishly dressed figure with white make-up, big mouth painted lurid red but turned-down, sometimes with big splashy tears even painted on his cheek. Despite the sad face, the circus clown is expected to bring delight and energy to his performance, to make people forget their troubles by laughing at his own foibles and fumbles.

And yet, like Pagliacci in the opera, the sad-faced clown earning a living by making people laugh is indeed crying in the inside while laughing on the outside. The troubled soul that Williams personified.

And so, as articles in the Sunday Lifestyle section sought to explain, all we can do for those caught in the emotional see-saw  of bipolarism is to watch and monitor, listen and talk them through the ups and downs, and urge them to seek professional help and medication when coping mechanisms prove inadequate.

As Cavett notes, despite all the research done on possible combinations of drug and behavioral therapy, little progress has been made. Some manage to live long, fruitful lives despite living with the swings of manic episodes and dark depression. But so many others ultimately succumb, often catching their family and friends by surprise.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Doubtless, there is much pain left behind by Robin Williams’ passing, especially for those who feel most keenly the void his passing leaves. We may never understand why he did what he did. But in wondering, the world may ultimately move closer to understanding.

TAGS: Andres Bonifacio, Bonifacio, Bonifacio Monument, Depression, History, Katipunero, Luneta, Manila Bay, National Heroes Day, Philippine history, Robin Williams

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.