WHAT makes a hero a hero?
Events these past weeks sparked a spirited national discourse on heroes and heroism. A controversial burial made the nation reflect on our collective sense of what defines a hero and how heroes come to be. It also made us re-examine the value and relevance of heroes in this day and age. A national consensus is still far-fetched as the passionate debates continue amidst repeated calls to move on.
What fuels the fiery debate is primarily perhaps the respect our culture accords to heroes as national symbols. Heroes are revered not just because they serve as markers and representation of our identity as a people but more so because they embody our aspirations. They are the aspirational expression of the best that we can be. Thus, any incursion into this hallowed territory is regarded as sacrilege and will be met with resistance.
As the nation commemorates the martyrdom of Jose Rizal tomorrow, it is important to contemplate on the value and worth of our heroes, and find contemporary meaning in their lives, works and actions. This is in the hope that we collectively find the best in each of us as Filipinos.
In our quest to find Rizal and the spirit of heroism in our midst, we need not look far. Every Filipino, especially the young are called to be heroes. The youth has proven time and again their passion and zeal for lofty ideals. They have many times in the past exhibited their incredible capacity to rise above the narrow confines of their individual existence to put others and nation first.
Here is the National hero's ode, his challenge, his call action to young people--Jose Rizal's To the Filipino Youth.
Unfold, oh timid flower!
Lift up your radiant brow,
This day, Youth of my native strand!
Your abounding talents show
Resplendently and grand,
Fair hope of my Motherland!
Soar high, oh genius great,
And with noble thoughts fill their mind;
The honor's glorious seat,
May their virgin mind fly and find
More rapidly than the wind.
Descend with the pleasing light
Of the arts and sciences to the plain,
Oh Youth, and break forthright
The links of the heavy chain
That your poetic genius enchain.
See that in the ardent zone,
The Spaniard, where shadows stand,
Doth offer a shining crown,
With wise and merciful hand
To the son of this Indian land.
You, who heavenward rise
On wings of your rich fantasy,
Seek in the Olympian skies
The tenderest poesy,
More sweet than divine honey;
You of heavenly harmony,
On a calm unperturbed night,
Philomel's match in melody,
That in varied symphony
Dissipate man's sorrow's blight;
You at th' impulse of your mind
The hard rock animate
And your mind with great pow'r consigned
Transformed into immortal state
The pure mem'ry of genius great;
And you, who with magic brush
On canvas plain capture
The varied charm of Phoebus,
Loved by the divine Apelles,
And the mantle of Nature;
Run! For genius' sacred flame
Awaits the artist's crowning
Spreading far and wide the fame
Throughout the sphere proclaiming
With trumpet the mortal's name
Oh, joyful, joyful day,
The Almighty blessed be
Who, with loving eagerness
Sends you luck and happiness.