A FEW days ago, we recall two of our many heroes. Both were young and daring as they lived their youthful lives. Our first nominee gave up his promising years at the age of 35. Our other hero was even younger when he died at 26. Both lost their lives in the special month of December when they earned their respective places in Philippine history. Who were these two Filipinos? The first one spent his brief lifetime in various places. He was born in Calamba, Laguna; studied at the Ateneo Municipal after which he earned his medical course at the Santo Tomas University and completed his medical degree at the University of Madrid in Spain. He was involved in his family's farmland controversy and after some years the troubles made the Spanish government exile him to Dapitan in Mindanao. There he quietly practiced his medicine and community skills where he also met a foreign girlfriend. Our hero was of course the outstanding and unforgettable Jose Rizal.
Looking back after his medical schooling, Rizal was able to travel and study further in Spain where he met other notable Filipinos some of whom were involved in the growing discontent and eventual rebellion against the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. While Rizal was not directly involved, he was actively writing various books and other articles critical of the Spanish misgovernment in the Philippines. While he was not directly connected with the Katipunan Movement organized by another notable Filipino, Andres Bonifacio, he eventually became a prime suspect of the Spanish authorities together with the Katipunan leaders. This eventually led to his serious accusations by the Spanish government and led to his execution and death at the Bagumbayan in Manila. Despite his noninvolvement in the Katipunan movement, he had become a major rallying figure for the nationwide rebellion against the Spanish government. His major role was in his critical writings against governmental abuses which led the Spanish authorities to sentence him to death. Regardless of the countless aspects of the Philippine Revolution involving him in 1896, the destiny of Rizal and his accomplishments gave his life for his beloved country.
The second hero we remember last December, died at the age of 26 as a young and daring pilot of the Philippine Air Force during the initial attack of the Japanese WWII Air Forces in Luzon. His name was Lieutenant Cesar F. Basa, who was born in the town of Isabela, Negros Occidental on June 21, 1915. His parents were Fernando Basa and Rosario Tiangco. After he completed his primary schooling in his hometown, his family transferred to Manila and enrolled him at the Ateneo de Manila where he graduated with a major in chemistry with honors in 1939. Shortly after, he attended the Philippine Army Flying School where he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Philippine Army Air Force. In the brief month following December 1941, Com. Jesus Villamor assigned Lt. Basa and his few pilots against overwhelming Japanese forces which Basa and the few FilAmerican fighter planes tried but failed to overcome. During the air battle, Lt. Basa was hit by the Japanese planes while he was bailing out. He became the first Filipino pilot to be killed in action during World War II. Because of his courage and skills, the Philippine Air Force named “Basa Air Base” in Floridablanca in Pampanga in his honor. Among the defining moments, Lt. Basa courageously fought the Japanese plane and despite his fuel running out, he bravely fought the Japanese fighters until he died as he was shot down. After the war, the Air Force Base in Floridablanca was named after him.