Heroes we must not forget

The freedom that we celebrate as a nation was (or still is being) written with the blood of our heroes whose daring acts lead us to what we are now as a nation. 

Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, del Pilar, Jacinto, etc. are the usual names that are linked with ‘National Heroes.’ But do we really care about them? They won’t feed my hungry ten kids anyway, right? So why do we still celebrate their lives and their sacrifices? The usual answer is, of course, to remember their patriotism, bravery, and so on.

A writer once said that we are a nation of heroes. I believe we should not soley revere our national heroes too much by erecting numerous forgotten busts. They are just the leaders, for the true heroes of any movement are the united masses.

The late Renato Constantino once said that “the unity between the [masses] and the honored single individual enhances the influence of both.” As a student activist, I agree with this because, of course, the masses are our inspiration to challenge and confront the status quo as they in turn are inspired to mobilize among themselves.

Here are some other 'national heroes' whom we must not forget as we celebrate August 25, National Heroes Day, either in Luneta, in a cold mall owned by the richest man in the Philippines, or simply in the comfortable space of home:

Edgar Jopson. Jopson, a son of a grocer, was the national president of the then moderate National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).  He acted as one of the organizers of the first rally that followed the waves of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. An Atenista who received the prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award, EDJOP became a revolutionary. He was killed in 1982 by military forces. He will perhaps be remembered by boldly challenging Marcos to sign a waiver that he won’t run again after his 1969 term.

Lorena Barros. She is the founder of the radical women’s group of the 1970s, the MAKIBAKA (Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) which is perhaps the first feminist-oriented group in the country. When martial law was declared, she went underground and joined the New People’s Army (NPA). The promising iska ng bayan (scholar of the nation) died after a military operation in Southern Tagalog. She perhaps influenced the late beauty-queen-turned-activist Maita Gomez. 

Bishop Antonio Fortich. If El Salvador had Oscar Romero (who needs to be beatified already) and our Metro Manila had the good Jaime Cardinal Sin, the people of Negros have their own ‘bishop of the poor’ – a true servant of God and His people. He earned the moniker ‘Kumander Tony’ for allegedly housing communist rebels in churches under his watch. He stood with the oppressed sakadas of Negros. The holy man fits the classic phrase, “when I feed the poor, you call me a saint; but when I ask them why they are poor, you call me a rebel." 

Joaquin Roces. Despite old age, Don Chino, a committed press freedom fighter who fought the Marcos dictatorship, was always in the frontlines of protest actions – never mind the water cannons. Perhaps, that road which leads to Malacanang where protests are frequent deserves to be renamed after this great old man of Philippine journalism. 

Dr. Remberto de la Paz. It is often a peculiar sight when a Doctor of Medicine considers serving far-flung barrios rather than comfortable hospital clinics – but at a time where Philippine history was shifting towards a new chapter, Doc Bobby chose to serve the poor people of Samar. He was later assasinated while at work in his clinic. 

Behn Cervantes. The 1976 film Sakada challenged the bourgeois lifestyle of the youth and urged them to be conscious about the social realities of the time. It was an honor to have a short talk with the late Direk Behn in a Martial Law Commemoration rally back in 2012 – it was the last time he marched along with the masses he served and represented in his films.

We, the people, are the true heroes of our motherland which means that we are collectively responsible for achieving a genuinely just and progressive Philippines. – Rappler.com

Ted Tuvera is a journalism student of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He is a cultural activist.

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Bantayog ng mga Bayani and UP UPdate.