We hold with great honor and great respect our “classic” heroes, those who fought for the Philippines in a number of revolutions. A number had even given their lives up for the country and for the things they believed in during their years of unselfish service, and are honored today in their final resting place, which is aptly called the “Libingan ng Mga Bayani”. We think of great figures, of epic names that mark each and every history book of the country, and great, timeless acts that truly gave them honor among their countrymen.
But these men and women whom we revere mostly come from a different context, a different Philippine landscape altogether, not really in terms of bodies of land but in terms of the problems of the time. They faced their own constraints and had their own adversaries, and had to operate in what tended to be hostile environments. It is more than a decade now past the dawn of the 21st century, the 2nd millennium, and we have a country that is not under foreign rule, nor is under total tyrannical rule. We are now a country that is not in need of the type of drastic revolution of decades past, but is a country that is moving forward and is trying to shed off many negative attributes on the road to progress. The country’s goals are now thus much different compared to before.
Heroic acts, in my opinion, now come from people who align themselves with the goals and priorities of the nation, detached from any personal aspirations, and given what I believe are the goals of the country in a modern context, these are people who are actively participating in efforts for progress. And progress is necessary for all sectors of the country, from governance to education, to, of course, the economy. As the country has had many setbacks, there is tons of room for changes that would require a lot of collective effort to overturn and mark the ends for the plight of many people, and those working towards these, I believe, all qualify towards becoming heroes.
It may then seem like my own definition of being a hero is shallow, and that the road to heroism is much less treacherous than it had been before. Maybe in terms of violence and turmoil, it is, but heroic acts are only precursors to heroism. What I believe will always hold as a qualifier for being a hero is having a legacy that will stand the test of time and have a place reserved in history books, for all Filipinos to read and learn about. To be a hero is to essentially be immortal, in the sense of creating things that continue to have ripples in the continuum of the country, even as whole generations pass. These may be in the form of ideas that inspire, or inventions that pave the way for a greater quality of life, or anything of the sort. This qualifier, to me, is what will always remain constant among all “heroes”. Many of the classic ones of years past are now household names, and with the country slowly realizing globally competitive advancements in many aspects, a new generation of heroes is now just emerging and waiting to make their mark on history.
– Jude Benedict T. Geron