Wanted: New HeroesJanuary 8, 2009
Andrea: Unhappy the land that has no heroes.
Galileo: No Andrea. Unhappy is the land that needs heroes.
The Philippines has its fair share of national heroes who were chosen to inspire the people to become better citizens. It boasts heroes from the intellectual archetype Jose Rizal to Mariano Gomez, one of three priests executed for supporting the Cavite mutiny. Most of these heroes hail from the Spanish colonial period and the war for independence. More recent ones like the women’s rights advocate Josefa Llanes Escoda hail from the American Period to World War 2.
Elementary students are forced to memorize their names along with their achievements, or else they fail. Most of these students forget about them once they finish examinations. More hardy heroes, especially those printed or embossed in currency are remembered mostly by their looks, and rarely by what they did.
Yet these heroes, even though elevated to archetypes, have mostly failed to inspire the docile nation that is the Philippines. Intellectual Jose Rizal is honored only in name. Old woman Tandang Sora’s name is mostly forgotten by widows and spinsters. Paraplegic Apolinario Mabini has failed to awaken the differently abled to national pursuits. Priest Jose Burgos is mostly ignored by the Catholic Church.
Even though the government of the Philippines has officially declared several men and women as heroes; these, however, are not the heroes that its people have set up for themselves. The unofficial heroes are the movie stars, boxers, and every Filipino who has made a name in the international scenario.
Movie stars perceived to be agents of good in the fantasy world of television have been elected to become politicians in the real world. Filipinos who have shown to the world that the Philippines is at par or even better than all the other nations have been elevated to soaring heights in the hearts of those who see them as their heroes.
And in a bid to ensure that the Filipino people be given heroes who can inspire them to become better citizens, the government declared the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as the “bagong bayani” or new heroes. These new heroes slave away in foreign countries in order to support their families at home.
Yet the elevation of these new heroes is a slap to the sacrifices that the national archetypes represent. The Philippine original national heroes fought against foreign oppression in Philippine soil. Many of these new heroes are now allowing themselves to be oppressed again by foreigners. This time, not in Philippine soil, but in foreign soil.
It should, however, be noted that only their very presence saves the country from bankruptcy. Nevertheless, it is their counter-example of escapism that is threatening to undo the country. Sacrifice for the country is all but forgotten. Sadly, it is their type of heroic example that is being emulated in this country.
The Philippines needs newer and better heroes. The old archetypes have failed to lift the Filipino nation. Many of them were not even worthy examples of nobility and sacrifice. Only the whitewashing of their reputations made them what they are known today. Jose Rizal was a philanderer. Andres Bonifacio was an incompetent general who was murdered by another national hero, Emilio Aguinaldo.
The newer ones do not have a major following. Even the millionaire who frequently lays hold of P1000 bills can’t even name the three heroes printed in them. Ninoy Aquino’s commendable sacrifice was nullified by the advent of the corrupt politicians prevalent in our country today.
The most recent ones, the OFW, although contributing to the economy of the country, do not inspire the Filipino to become more nationalistic. Instead, the Filipino receive them as missionaries to the wonders of foreign countries. Their elevation as national heroes has promoted the culture of escapism in the country. People are no longer inspired to sacrifice for their country when even a fraction of their efforts in foreign soils gives them multiplied earnings.
The Philippines needs new heroes. Yet who can find someone worthy to step into such shoes…