Heroes through the centuries until today

We normally associate National Heroes Day to commemorate the extraordinary virtues of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Antonio Luna, and scores of revolutionaries who gave up their lives or made extraordinary contributions to the struggle against Spain and liberate our people from the yoke of foreign oppressors.

But in all phases of our national existence, whenever we are faced with existential crisis, there are extraordinary souls who went the extra mile to heed the call, so to speak and take the less trodden path beyond what is required of them.

Without regard for their safety and even the well-being of their loved ones, they are ready and willing, despite impossible odds, to place all bets to fight and struggle against the enemies of oppression in whatever form.

These are the people imbued with extraordinary spirit and able to muster the courage to fight so that others will survive.

By this standard, the Filipino resistance fighters, like Luis Taruc of Pampanga, guerilla leader Wenceslao Vinzons of Camarines Norte, and the thousands of guerillas who fought the Japanese invaders are heroes.

Ninoy Aquino and thousands of nameless and faceless individuals who braved the full fury of the Marcos dictatorial rule are heroes.

No amount of historical rewriting and disinformation can deny nor dilute their contributions to Philippine society and what they have given in the struggle for national survival.

While most of the heroes written in history books are already dead, there are heroes who walk in our midst to this very day.

We refer to the millions of our kababayans who continue to brave foreign lands, and live amongst strangers to eke out a living and keep the economy afloat, provide a decent life to their families despite, sometimes, at the risk of discrimination and abuse.

I have been in too many places and I tell you, beyond the facade of beautiful sceneries, the seemingly high standard of living of the locals, is an undercurrent of intolerance and discrimination against those who may be “different.”

The Overseas Filipino workers do not often lead blissful existence but continue to suffer the loneliness and heartache of prolonged separation from loved ones.

Throughout centuries, no one can deny that courage and self-sacrifice are virtues second nature to us. Time and time again, we have demonstrated this.

I honor heroes from the early resistance to Spain and the Philippine Revolution as well as the Philippine American War.

I honor heroes from the Ilocos to Mindanao, including my home city Cagayan de Oro.

I honor writers and intellectuals, military generals and enlisted men, including medal of valor awardees, activists and human rights lawyers, priests and nuns, nationalist politicians, and yes NPA, MILF, and MNLF revolutionaries.

These include: Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Rajah Buayan Silongan, Dagohoy, Gabriela and Diego Silang, Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Andres Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus, Apolinario Mabini, Melchora Aquino aka Tandang Sora; Teresa Magbanua, Emilio Aguinaldo, Artemio Ricarte,Faustino Guillermo, Apolinar Velez, Tiano Brothers, Colonel Jesus Antonio Villamor, Josefa Capistrano, Elena Poblete, General Paulino Santos, Major Emigdio Cruz; Dr. Guedelia M. Pablan and nurses Carmen Lanot and Bruna R. Calvan known as Bataan Angels, Isabelo de los Reyes, Claro M. Recto, Captain Conrado Yap, Sgt Claudio Forrosuelo, Karl Misuari, Bomber Lucman, Salamat Hashim; Eman Lacaba, Billy Begg, Edgar Jopson, Bobby De La Paz, Lorena Barros, Fr Godofredo Alingal, Lorenzo Tañada, Ninoy Aquino, Pepe Diokno, Sr Christine Tan, Haydee Yorac, Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, Cory Aquino, Fr. Archie Intengan;; Fr Pops Tenoruo, Nido Nabong, Jorge Madlos, Menandro Villanueva (alias Bok), Kerima Tariman, Chad Booc and the New Bataan 5, PFC Ian O. Paquit, Captain Rommel Bigyan Sandoval, Nene Pimentel, Fidel V. Ramos, Emy La Viña, and many others.

Finally, I honor our health workers.

Almost three years after, as we continue to experience the ebb and flow of COVID-19 pandemic, the country is slowly opening up.

To this day, our heroic health workers continue to plod on, serving as our frontline warriors, keeping us safe and well protected.

Thanks to their heroism, we are almost, if not already, out of the woods

That many survived, and are now beginning to reclaim their former normal lives, we owe it to the health workers and the millions of frontliners who sacrifice their comforts, safety and sometimes their lives so that others may live. They truly are our modern-day heroes.

That is why we must all condemn the attacks and red-tagging of doctors and health workers that continue even under the Marcos administration.

I am with the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), together with other health organizations, in coordination with several lawyers’ groups, who this morning will hold a protest march from the Philippine General Hospital to the Department of Justice.

The activity aims to call the attention of the public, the government, and the Department of Justice to immediately act to investigate and stop the attacks and red tagging against health service providers and human rights defenders.

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