LAST Monday was a holiday in celebration of National Heroes Day. What comes to mind when you think of the word, “hero”? What ideas does it connote? As a Filipino citizen, what does that mean? Who are your personal heroes?
For me, I am reminded by this quote from Otto Von Bismarck: “The main thing is to make history, not to write it.” Those who are seen as great men have rarely ever had time to write down their own personal narratives. It is the people around them, or their subordinates, that often write accounts of their deeds. It is always fascinating to see which stories manage to survive through time and serves as a testament to the legacy that we people leave to others.
As an Iranun, I see heroes differently from those that a Lumad or a Christian settler might. One of my personal heroes is the Bangsamoro mujahideen who have fought for our right to self-determination and have thus set the foundation for our work as members of parliament in the BTA.
My brother also has an interesting perspective to our heroes. He wrote on his timeline that, “With all due respect to northern ‘national heroes’, I really do not feel any connection with them, just like how almost all northerners feel about my heroes and ancestors - THE NOBLES.”
The nobles that he is referring to are Sultan Kudarat and his grandsons, Datu Barahman and Datu Kuda. Sultan Kudarat, as legend has it, was able to gather different Moro tribes to fight under one banner. His speech to the chieftains of the Lake Country was a testament to his power: “What have you done? Do you realize the subjection they would reduce you to? A toilsome slavery under the Spaniards! Turn your eyes to the subject nations and look at the misery to which such glorious nations had been reduced to. Look at the Tagalogs and Visayans! Are you better than they? Do you think the Spaniards consider you of better stuff? Have you not seen how the Spaniards trample them under their feet?”
Being a real hero, however, is more than just the rhetoric or the speeches that they use. There are unsung heroes that come from every walk of life. There are those who work away from their families in order to provide for them, those that serve in our military and police forces, and those who work for the development of our country.
Being a hero is also something that can mean different from everyone. This is something that is both a challenge and an opportunity here in Mindanao. Our identities are so rich and so complex that finding a unifying narrative can be daunting. However, we at the Ateneo and the Al Qalam Institute are looking towards conducting a second conversation on Mindanao Histories and Studies next month.
This ongoing dialogue with our public and private sector partners is important, in order to truly impart onto our youth an objective account of our histories. Those who have forgotten their own history, or else do not feel a connection to it, are often vulnerable to social isolation and disenfranchisement. This connection to those around us is something that we must all treasure and preserve.
That is why, as a collective, we are called to remember and to write the histories of those who came before us. What do we want to be able to teach the next generation of heroes? What can we learn from them? For all of us, we have to lead with a history that we can learn from and teach. We are looking forward to welcoming our partners and to enjoy more fruitful discussions regarding this issue. It is a conversation that we must not, and can no longer, set aside.