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. 

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