National Heroes Day

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - August 26, 2008 - 12:00am

Yesterday, our country celebrated National Heroes Day. Its commemoration was made pursuant to Republic Act No. 3827, passed by the Philippine Legislature on October 28, 1931. This national holiday honors all the heroes of the Philippines, including those whose names have been forever lost to history. Last Monday, August 18, we commemorated Ninoy Aquino Day to honor him and remember the sacrifice he made that sparked the will of our people to peacefully overthrow a dictatorship and restore democracy to our nation.

Both of these occasions are meant to pay homage to all the Filipinos who fought valiantly for peace, freedom and democracy; whose works and deeds contributed to the shaping of our country. But do many of us know the real essence of these kinds of celebrations? Amidst all the festivities, are most people even aware of what they are supposed to be celebrating?

Unfortunately, it seems that we Filipinos have very little historical consciousness. For most of us, the important thing is not what these heroes did in the past. It is that we did not have to go to work. The historical event is totally inconsequential. And its only effect on the nation is that we lose a day’s work.

Is it any wonder then that our country is where it’s at now? Wasn’t it our national hero himself, Dr. Jose Rizal, who once said that “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan?” We don’t seem to give much importance to our past, forgetting the fact that history is there precisely so that we may learn from it. Yet, it seems that nowadays, we have become oblivious of the historical events and the many men and women behind it. However, disappointing as our situation may be, our country is not bereft of acts of heroism even in this day and age. A good example is our courageous soldiers who, even as I write this, continue to risk their lives while defending our country from MILF extremists in Mindanao. We say we want peace but peace always starts with our being at peace with ourselves. If one is not at peace with oneself, how can he be at peace with his own community and the rest of the world?

Aside from armed conflict, however, our people are also facing another kind of battle. The dire situation that our country is already in has been made more difficult by rising oil and food prices. Felix Adler, an American-German author, once said that “a hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.” With the way things are going here now, our country needs people who would be willing to step up and be bold, and dare to take risks so that our country and people may be freed from the bondage of poverty. We have to become heroes ourselves so that the sacrifices made by our heroes from the past will not be for naught.

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