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Heroism redefined

/ 12:30 AM December 30, 2015

It was of all places at the wake of Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc that former president Fidel V. Ramos shared his insight into the way we observe or commemorate national occasions.

“Why do we observe the Fall of Bataan as a day to remember defeat (at the hands of Japanese invaders during World War II)?” he asked. “We should instead remember it as the start of a fierce resistance, for after the Death March, Filipinos and Americans launched guerrilla operations against the Japanese that delayed the invaders from widening their reach and forced them to commit more forces here. It was ultimately a victory.”

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Snatching victory from defeat seems to be a uniquely Filipino trait. Take the holiday we’re celebrating today. It is the observance of the execution of national hero Jose Rizal, which was first instituted with a decree from President Emilio Aguinaldo issued in 1898 establishing Dec. 30 as a “national day of mourning for Rizal … and for all victims of Spanish colonial rule.”

We can choose to remember this day as the anniversary of a tragedy—the death of Rizal—but we can also choose instead to remember it as the day the growing resistance against Spain coalesced and led to a revolution. That this revolution was in turn “snatched” from the hands of the Katipuneros and “insurrectos” by American colonizers should make us all the more determined to keep in mind that our republic was a hard-won prize paid for by blood and lives, and not merely handed to us by an interloper.

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THESE days, heroism seems to be hardly demanded of ordinary citizens. We no longer need to fight a colonizer, though perhaps those from the Left would say the struggle continues. Only those with law enforcement or the armed forces are called upon to bear arms and die for the country. But in truth we are called upon to be heroes in different callings and even in the most ordinary of actions, like voting.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), through its president Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, has issued a “guide to the Catholic voter” to help in the process of discernment as voters choose who, among the many candidates vying for a position, deserve their support and their vote.

While eschewing the naming of specific candidates or even posts, stressing that “the collective discernment of the members of our lay Catholic communities and associations” should be the basis of the faithful’s choices, the CBCP statement urges voters to “evaluate candidates according to the model of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served.”

The statement also warns against voters taking the easy way out by simply following opinion polls and trending tracks and voting for the leaders of the pack. “Do what is right and choose who is right!” is the admonition.

A Catholic, says the CBCP, cannot or should not “support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life,” a secular state that has “no tolerance for religion in public life.” Neither should the Catholic voter, it says, support a candidate whose programs “include initiatives diametrically opposed to Church moral teachings,” such as initiatives on matters like divorce, abortion, euthanasia and the return of the death penalty (I have my personal objections to this list, though).

The CBCP finally appeals to the Commission on Elections to “insure that all the security measures mandated by the Automated Election Law be implemented diligently,” adding that “the credibility of the elections and the stability of our democracy [are] at risk if the security and sanctity of the ballot is compromised.”

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In other words, heroism is exercised not just by giving one’s life for the country, but also by living this life in accordance with one’s ethical standards and principled stands, faith and fidelity to conscience.

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I WAS initially reluctant to even comment on the controversy concerning the disqualification from the Best Picture category of the film “Honor Thy Father.” The decision by the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) organizers was supposedly based on a “violation” committed by the movie’s producers when they failed to inform the MMFF committee that “Honor Thy Father” had already been shown in a film festival.

The disqualification, says the Directors Guild of the Philippines, constitutes a “dishonor to the industry” because the injustice done to the movie did not go through due process and was in fact announced just a day before the awards night.

Filmmakers are up in arms because, for one, the movie had already earned praise from many critics and filmmakers for its quality and for daring to buck the formulaic trend in the commercial film industry, samples of which proliferated in this year’s MMFF.

This was why I was reluctant to touch on this topic: I haven’t watched “Honor Thy Father” or the eventual Best Picture winner, “#Walang Forever.” It would indeed be difficult to compare two movies, neither of which one has seen. But let me remind the organizers of the MMFF that the festival, and the extraordinary privileges granted filmmakers who join this annual “homage” to the local movie industry, was first conceived to help filmmakers who wanted to make movies that would otherwise not earn enough to justify their bookings in theaters. “Honor Thy Father” is an indie thriller described as “bold” and “gripping.” And while “#Walang Forever” has received positive feedback, it is still at heart a rom-com, with plenty of potential for box-office income.

Would this be the reason the Best Picture award, which has given winners a much-needed boost in ticket sales, was denied the indie film?

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TAGS: Catholic, church, Hero, heroism, opinion, trait
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