What is the difference between a hero and a martyr?
A hero stays alive long after a call to action has been sounded. But a martyr is dead; more often than not, he may not even see the conclusion of a conflict where the entity is sacrificed in the advancement of a goal.
Interesting enough, if we traced back the reason why we declared Dr. Jose Rizal as our National Hero, we can determine the motive behind it. Our history books point out the stark contrast between two prominent figures in the War for Philippine Independence, Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal as two polar opposites in the approach of obtaining freedom: one prefers direct confrontation and would not hesitate to start a revolution at the cost of human lives; the other believes in a non-aggressive yet intellectual approach to attaining freedom for our country, preferring open dialogue and discussion to resolve an issue at hand.
The Americans wanted to create a role model for the Filipinos to emulate; but not at the expense of a revolution so bloody that they would have no choice but to leave. And thus, the imposition of Rizal being a National Hero; representing the values compatible with American interests is immortalized.
Taking cue from that idea, a lot of heroes and martyrs have been declared as such and such in the past years; quite a number of them come from the EDSA Revolution period. Every year we pay tribute to them and a lot more heroes coming from different parts of our history. But all of them have been called by such by other people; rarely does a person become a hero directly through the endorsements of their very own family. In the Philippine setting, one can only be considered as a hero through the efforts of famous personalities, politicians or sometimes both.
In fact, even a class of people can be called by the honorific title. Our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) have been declared in recent history as our “Bagong Bayani”; our main contributors in GDP at a time where our economy and its growth have been primarily propped up by their overseas remittances.
One pattern that can be gleaned from the said facts is that one must have power to be able to influence people into submission to an idea of a hero; two, that a there must be at least a logical, if not legitimate basis for labeling someone as such; and three, there must be a positive cause that the person/s in question can be associated with.
Following this logic, one is declared a hero not out of volition alone, but of a particular reason. Symbols serve to convey an idea to a set of people that can understand it; to serve as a form of social control to ensure a particular behavior should be followed by the people.
And whoever thought of this simple yet ingenious method is my hero. It takes a lot of guts and intellect to come up with this; even more patience and dedication to drill this into the mind of a nation.