Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Heroes of Today

When people speak of a hero centuries earlier, chivalry comes to mind. They were known for exemplary traits. The public referred them as people who risked their lives fighting for their nations. These were the ones who braved the scorching heat of the sun, the longing from their families, the hunger, and restlessness as they battled for the greatest cause, which by then was liberty. They were heroes because they died so that the later generations will enjoy what was deprived of them.

Earlier in the past, when we spoke of a hero, many could still recollect the names of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and the courageous couple Diego and Gabriela Silang. Nevertheless, not many of the populace may remember Tandang Sora, Gregorio and Marcelo del Pilar or Galicano Apacible. Perhaps, not many of the Filipinos may know how Pedro Paterno became the peacemaker of revolution or who constituted the 13 martyrs from Cavite, much less understand their cause.

Many decades later and hero has a new face.

When the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by EDSA revolution, his successor, the late former president Corazon Aquino was deemed a hero because she was a symbol of a new hope. She was perceived as someone who could bring back the suppressed freedom during martial law.

Nonetheless, a change in regime also entails a change in the face of a Philippine hero.

It was in Aquino’s term when the OFWs were institutionalized as the “new heroes” when their billions of remittances help the ailing Philippine economy afloat.

Such notion was supported by her successor, Fidel Ramos, when he addressed the OFWs as the “new heroes of the Philippines.”

But like the heroes in the past, the heroes of our time are vulnerable to death. Because of media exposure, Flor Contemplacion was probably the first OFW casualty who had been explicitly described as the "modern day hero" as she remained strong until her execution in Singapore.

In Gloria Arroyo’s term, the OFWs being the hero earned a new mileage: “heroes of the new millennium”, referring to millions of Filipinos who left the country to seek for greener pasture, self-growth, and fulfill their destiny, which also equated to more billions of remittances. It was also in her time, when Angelo de la Cruz left for Iraq a poor man, only to come home a hero when he was saved from his captivators.

While these industrious workers are toiling abroad, some local talents excel in their craft. Their excellence in their craft, though, did not contain within the Philippine archipelago. They championed even in the international community in industry such as beauty, sports, music, dance, and film. And each time a Filipino wins a competition abroad, the nation uses the word ‘hero’ to describe such victorious aspirant.

No, nothing is wrong with that, after all, we live in modern times when we no longer fight for our freedom.

In an article entitled “What are heroes for?”, the author, Raj Arumugam says:

By their very achievement, heroes become exemplary, pointing out implicitly to the individual that each can achieve things just as they have done. These heroes point to possibilities:  that one can become what one wishes to be.”

If we apply such statement in our country however, one should not wonder why the names such as Manny Pacquiao, Charice Pempengco, and Shamcey Supsup are the latest additions to the list of modern day heroes, instead of names that would inspire Filipinos to excel in business, engineering, science and technology, innovation, and invention. Filipinos simply find relief and pleasure from entertainment and sports than in academic excellence.

While there is nothing wrong in seeing a hero in the likes of these individuals, there is the danger of inculcating a wrong message in the young minds of today’s generation: that the easiest way to succeed is to be a hero of the modern Philippines.

Such is not impossible as Filipinos are known to worship the heroes, who are in turn encouraged by their own vanity and sense of self-importance as what Raj warned in his article. 

It actually discourages self-fulfillment and sense of originality.

Overall, I have nothing against using the word ‘hero’ to describe someone who continues to bring glory to our nation. My only concern, nonetheless, is how the impact of the said ‘hero’ is treated by his admirers. Does it inspire the person to excel in his chosen field rather than following the path of his hero? Or does the hero remain a hero in other people’s lives?

Sadly, many Filipinos fall in the latter category as they always need a hero. The heroic acts of their heroes cannot compel them to go out of their box and reach their own full potential.

Whether we ascribe to the heroes in the past or the everyday heroes in the street, one thing should be remembered: we learn from them and we become our own heroes. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Manners: Do You Know These?

Every week on a Saturday, I often have a date with my best friend on Skype Messenger for a few hours to exchange news. She works in one of the international MNCs in Dubai, among the beautiful destinations known today for tourists and employment seekers. 

Though a nation of Arabs with Islam as her religion, Dubai employs many of our Filipino graduates, under-graduates, and even the unlettered, whether Christian, Protestants, and fellow Islam adherents.

A clean nation with disciplined inhabitants, the Filipinos however, manage to showcase their lack of manners in Dubai. Apparently, being in a highly-advanced country does not afford these individuals some etiquette, especially if they are in the company of fellow Filipinos.

Defined by the Dictionary as social comportment, Manners are supposedly implied. They are cultivated at home by our parents or elderly. These are the polite standards that constitute our character; our being. It does not take an expensive education to learn how to give deference to the existence of others or to understand the reason why.

For instance, when somebody is still sleeping when you wake up in the morning and do the necessary preparation, reasons dictate that you respect those who are still having their sleep by being discreet in your actions and words. You would not want to wake them up with your loud noise. That—is a specified rule.

Such is not the case among many Filipinos who are more concerned with their own interests like pursuing materialistic goals, often circumventing laws and doing other forms of violations. While these goals certainly improve their economic conditions, wealth and all material possessions cannot buy the owner some manners. These cannot make people humans.

In her book “Philosophy: Who Needs it?”, Ayn Rand advocates that “reason is not merely a distinguishing attribute of man. It is his fundamental attribute; his basic means of survival.”

This means that if man would only use his reasons coupled with philosophy, he can think, act, and live.

The problem with most Filipinos is that they often misuse their reasons in their endeavors. When they do their activity—whatever it is—they do so without regard to others who also own similar rights. Ironically, they dismiss the old axiom that their rights end where the rights of others begin to exist; which only supposes that our rights are never absolute.

Many Filipinos in Dubai rent a bed space for their housing accommodation, despite their high salary. Maybe it’s the expensive rental fee that keeps them from having their own private place. Or perhaps it’s the Filipino culture of wanting to be around fellow Filipinos that they’d rather huddle in a space as small as a room.

Unlike in our country, the rooms in Dubai are further subdivided  to accommodate many, and at the same time, allow each bed spacer some privacy despite being in one room with technically, six or twelve bed spacers (this holds true even in condominiums, apartments, and pads).

A few of my friends in Dubai complain of the noise from fellow Filipino bed spacers especially in the morning when they have to come-and-go out of the room, in the course of preparing to go to the office.

Also, when they engage in conversations with their fellow bed spacers late in the evening or sometimes after midnight, they talk like they own the whole room or like they are having a party. They do not consider that others who are in the same room may already want to have their rest, but cannot do so with their loud noise.

And to think that they all pay the same rental fees.

A similar thing can be said in using the Television, DVD player, and Videoke, which usually starts in the morning of Friday or Saturday [Dubai’s weekend] to late in the evening.

There are also situations where Filipinos talk to someone on their mobile phones with high  volume of voice so that everybody can have knowledge of their conversations.

If you try to confront them about it, they would apologize, yes, but this does not stop them from committing the same act. Others would claim they are just curing their loneliness or the longing for their loved ones back in the Philippines. If you persist with your complaint, they would accuse you of being insensitive, inconsiderate, and incapable of understanding because maybe, you don’t have a family or are never close to them when you were still in the Philippines or wherever.

In another scenario, despite the written reminder posted conspicuously about the house rules, many Filipinos ignore them. These range from maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen, toilet and bathroom, to using the facilities available like TV, Refrigerator, and Stove.

In “What Makes Man Truly Human” book, the author, Michael Morga said that we, humans are only considered to have reached our full humanness—and thus become truly humans—when we became aware of and learn to use our physical potentials, cognitive abilities, and human sensitivity.

Of course, to make ourselves truly humans, we should also develop these traits through many years of learning and training which start at home and continue outside during our interactions with different institutions and sectors in the world; and with fellow human beings. It is during this time when we incorporate philosophy in our lives; a time when we became acquainted with manners.

The attitude of Filipinos described earlier is not exclusive. Nor can it be said that it is the place that makes them forget their manners. In the Philippines, similar stories abound in boarding houses, apartments, dormitories, and in work places, especially, in the BPO industry.

At times, they happen even at our very own houses.

Morga stated, nevertheless, that throughout our lives, not all humans make themselves truly humans as many fail to procure the requirements of becoming one. This means that, some people, including Filipinos never learn to understand the truth about human sensitivity, particularly, in practicing manners.

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