As the Philippines marks National Heroes Day today, we ask the question of who is a hero, and what makes him a standout in his community?
With the speed of light, we remember names from history books or those taught in school for years, decades, and even scores. And then period. Nothing more.
But it is not enough that we can memorize their names, dates of birth, and death. That is a hollow celebration of the lives of heroes – then and now. After all, heroes can change with the leaves of time and age.
But we are told a hero is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.
Like other formerly gender-specific terms, a hero is often used to refer to any gender, though heroine only refers to women.
The dictionary defines “hero” as “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities.”
Heroes come in many forms in life, ranging from one’s family and friends to athletes to movie stars. A person’s heroes can change over time.
We also have the classical hero, a character who possesses a great talent or ability that separates them from the rest of their contemporaries.
This could be a skill, such as the ability to fight, or it could be an internal quality such as bravery or cleverness.
According to researchers, empathy, and compassion for others are key variables that contribute to heroic behavior. People who rush in to help others in the face of danger and adversity do so because they genuinely care about the safety and well-being of other people.
Given the health emergency, we are in, we focus our eyes on the frontliners at home and abroad, the nameless and often faceless men and women – medical practitioners, doctors, microbiologists, nurses, medical technologists, physical therapists, laboratory scientists, among others – who took up the challenge in hospitals and other medical centers to battle against the sweeping coronavirus 2019.
In their shadows are the garbage collectors and their legion who made sure that none would be left in garbage bins which might cause further infections and even death.
These are the people, the modern heroes indeed, who have put themselves after the welfare of others so that the latter may be saved from the claws of the deadly virus, assuming the frames of being selfless in a good way to protect those in Covid’s path.
Today, the last Monday of August 2022, will bring Filipinos another celebration of National Heroes Day.
The Philippines is known for many things, but here’s a chance to learn more about its history as we honor its heroes.
The celebration of National Heroes Day is one of the oldest public holidays in the Philippines.
It began during the American Occupation of the country. The Philippine legislature enacted Act 3827 on October 28, 1931, institutionalizing the celebration of National Heroes Day.
It is truly interesting to note that the Philippine Congress during that period was dominated by Filipino leaders who represented the national aspiration for independence.
The Act declared every last Sunday of August of every year as a national holiday. However, according to the Official Gazette Website, research suggests that the celebration of National Heroes Day coincided with the commemoration of Bonifacio Day every November 30.
It appears that the practice of celebrating Bonifacio Day concurrently with the commemoration of Filipino heroes on November 30 was carried on in subsequent years.
For example, on November 30, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon himself was the guest of honor at the National Heroes Day celebration held at the University of the Philippines.
During the Japanese occupation, President Laurel continued to celebrate National Heroes Day every November 30.
Due to the multitude of lives lost during the Second World War, President Laurel signed Executive Order 20 on March 20, 1942, which set National Heroes Day on the 30th of November.
And year after, President Laurel opted to Mount Samat in Bataan as the place of the National Heroes Day commemoration to commemorate the Filipino and American forces defeated in that very place in Bataan and Corregidor on April 3 and May 6, 1943, respectively.
More on this in succeeding columns.