CALLING them the new breed of heroes, frontliners were honored anew at the commemoration of the 124th year of Philippine Independence in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental yesterday, June 12.

Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who was with former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo at the rites held at the city’s public plaza, stressed that the frontliners went through a battlefield not of guns or ammunition but of an unknown enemy that challenged the whole world’s health system.

“The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic brought out the hero in each of us as we tried to keep ourselves away in whatever way we could, following protocols and guidelines,” Leonardia said.

Despite these protocols, the havoc was so extensive that our medical practitioners and frontliners were burdened, he said, adding that, “we went through the worst when our health system was already challenged.”

“But I am proud to say that Bacolod City, with the inspiration, initiative and the spirit of cooperation among our officials and the volunteerism of many private groups and individuals, was able to manage and create a system that became a benchmark for other local government units to pattern after (in fight against Covid-19),” Leonardia also said.

The mayor noted that slowly we are almost there at the threshold of normalcy with plans of going back to the face-to-face classes being laid out already.

Addressing the Bacolodnons who attended the rites, he noted that measures of the national government for economic recovery and some health protocols have already been lifted such as the wearing of face shields and easing of travel restrictions.

For him, this is precisely what this year’s celebration theme “Kalayaan 2022: Pag-suong sa Hamon ng Pnaibangong Bukas (Rise Towards the Challenge of a New Beginning)” means.

“As we celebrate Independence Day today, we salute our frontliners, healthworkers, city and barangay officials, private sector volunteers, and our people in general for how we worked together to fight and beat Covid-19 because we worked as one people, we can look forward to celebrating our Independence Day from Covid-19 soon,” Leonardia reiterates.

Like Leonardia, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson also lauded the frontliners in the province and reminded all public servants that the pandemic presented an opportunity to re-evaluate and reconsider the methods.

In the process, Lacson said, we could find alternative and effective means in the delivery of duties, services, and programs.

“For the past two years, the enemy we fought was not just the kind that threatened our democracy, it was the kind that threatened our very existence,” the governor said.

He added that he is not in favor of the suggestions to do away with the wearing of face masks in open fields, saying that the people still need to follow the rules of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on the matter.

The activity attended by other officials of the province at the Capitol Lagoon and Park ended with the distribution of the P1.1 Million worth of insurance benefits to the beneficiaries of the Barangay Insurance Program for Barangay Tanods and Barangay Officials and Employees, from various cities and towns.

Before the activity’s end, Lacson stressed that the people who fought for our freedom never wished for war and would choose peace and freedom, but they chose to fight so that the freedom and peace they yearn will be enjoyed by the next generations, thus, it is the solemn duty of all generations to protect, preserve, and promote our freedom.

“It is my ardent hope that the present generation be conscious of our history, to understand that history is not just some stories of the past, that our rich history was marked by sacrifices of real people just like us,” he added.

Meanwhile, Panelo, who is the guest of honor at the Independence Day rites in Bacolod, urged all the newly elected government officials to prioritize the education for all the Filipino people in order to attain real freedom.

“Palayin natin sa kamangmangan ang sambayanang Pilipino upang magsimula tayong tumahak sa landas ng kaunlaran dito sa ating bansa. (Let us free the Filipino people from ignorance so that we can start to tread the path of the development in the country),” he said.

“How can we say that we have our real freedom if until now the majority of our people are bound by poverty? How can we say that we are free when we have not freed ourselves from poverty, corruption, unemployment, and threat of communism by the local rebels?” Panelo asked.

Unless the Filipino people have not acquired an education, Panelo said that the problems in the country will continue real indepence means free from ignorance.*