EDITORIAL - Everyday heroes

The Philippine Star

This is history, not chismis: today the nation commemorates the Filipinos who resisted foreign invaders, many of them dying in the process. Mactan chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who had sailed to the Philippines under the sponsorship of the Spanish crown, starting nearly 400 years of colonial rule.

Later, Jose Rizal inspired while Andres Bonifacio launched the revolution against the colonizers. Fellow revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo, who declared Philippine independence, continued leading the resistance against the Americans until his capture. During World War II, tens of thousands of Filipinos died alongside American soldiers before the country regained freedom.

Three of the freedom fighters during that war have been scrapped from their place of honor in Philippine currency. Resistance fighters Jose Abad Santos, Josefa Llanes Escoda and Vicente Lim, who were killed by the Japanese during World War II, have been replaced in the 1,000 banknote with the Philippine Eagle.

Decades later, Filipinos would struggle for freedom from the oppression of martial law and Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. Many lives were also lost in that fight, with Benigno Aquino Jr. the most prominent. Marcos’ son has now regained power, and has urged the nation to judge him not through the prism of the past but by his own actions.

Apart from those who died for their country, the nation also honors today, National Heroes’ Day, those who live in service to the people. The past two years saw much heroism in everyday life, starting with the health frontliners who battled an unseen and little understood enemy before any vaccine became available, losing their lives and those of their loved ones to COVID-19.

There were many others on the front lines of the COVID pandemic: teachers who struggled to continue the formal education of millions of children confined to their homes; security forces who worked even without personal protective equipment; sanitation personnel who risked exposure to the virus as they went about their work; mental health workers who helped people cope with the intense psychological stresses of a deadly pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the nation has long hailed its modern heroes: millions of overseas Filipino workers who risked abuse and endured long separation from their families, whose remittances have kept the economy afloat even during downturns.

The pandemic isn’t over and the country continues to face multiple crises, as even government officials have acknowledged. These situations offer opportunities for selfless acts, with the nation and the greater good in mind, as heroes of the past have done. There is no lack of opportunities for becoming everyday heroes.

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