WE CELEBRATE “National Heroes Day” yearly to commemorate the deeds of our heroes with the hope that these feats are kept alive, instilled in our hearts, and become inspiration and example. Heroes did not intend to become heroes. They were catapulted to this status because of their courage to do the right thing stirred by their love to this country.
We have two kinds of heroes I believe. The first group is the kind of heroes who fight for the interests of their country. I call them national heroes. The second is the kind of people who fight for the rights and welfare of ordinary people regardless of race and nationality. I call them the human heroes like the superheroes in the movies. In the case of those who fight and defend for their faith, we call them saints or martyrs. We are celebrating the first kind of heroes, the Philippines’ national heroes.
Among the values shared by heroes, nationalism and patriotism come first. The love of country fuels them to fight or defend the national interest. One famous quote of Ninoy Aquino states that the Filipinos are worth dying for. He was warned not to return to the country during his exile or else he would die. He did not heed the warning of his friends and supporters because he believed that the Filipino people needed him at that time. He could not live a safe and comfortable life with his family, knowing that the country was under an oppressive rule.
Rizal, our national hero, was given the same prerogative. To live a safe life away from the Philippines or go back to the country and lose his life. He chose death for the love of his country. To the national heroes, nothing, no one comes first before the interest of the country. Not even their dear lives. So they died before their time. Can we sacrifice this one life for the country’s sake?
To the national heroes, freedom is everything. It is non-negotiable. William Wallace of Scotland from the movie Braveheart comes to mind. Oh, how he cried for freedom before his execution. Bonifacio must have bellowed this word so many times among with the others. Luna, del Pilar, and others. They believe in our independence and they fought for it even if they knew they were outgunned. Among Asian countries, we were one of the firsts to gain independence from foreign rule. This we owe to our freedom-loving individuals. We owe this from our heroes who bet everything. If Rizal is alive today, he could have written another novel against China’s claim over some of our islands.
It is difficult to measure the courage and bravery of our heroes. Ordinary citizens would cringe and tremble at the sight of a formidable enemy and might just raise their hands in surrender, asked forgiveness of their acts or bow to offer service. Nothing of the sight of the enemy can make the heroes shudder. Their love of country emboldens them more. They are ready for anything. With courage, heroes speak their mind and state the truth in their hearts without reservation. They do not seem to care if the fact they speak offend anyone. Because heroes do not play politics.
Heroes are relentless in their cause. They neither quit nor give up in their fight. Our heroes had difficult lives during their campaign for freedom. Hunger, cold, sweat, sickness, and deprivation of basic needs among others but they endured all these and kept the fight on. They faced numerous obstacles like the lack of armaments, lack of “katipuneros,” misunderstanding among factions of Filipino fighters, death of comrades and family members, noncooperation of fellow citizens, and most ignominious of all, betrayal of our countrymen. But they did not lose heart. They kept fighting on. To the last of their gunpowder, to the last of their breath. Heroes live in their principle and they stuck on this principle in all circumstances. Others would change their ideals when offered with money or be given a favor. For heroes, money and all sorts of favors cannot change their belief. We think of people today whose principles are for sale. Heroes disdain them.
Before these people became our national heroes, they were individuals, like us. When the call of time arose, these people were ready to respond because of their exemplary characters. The love of country was instilled in them. Some taught them about principle, courage, and the value of freedom. They listened and kept these teachings in their hearts. So, we could also be heroes. Time always asks for heroes especially for our dear country. Do you have what it takes to become one?