Unhappy land

    AUGUST 28, I found in FB infographics from your favorite television network celebrating the Top 10 Filipino heroes in the people’s mind gathered from a Social Weather Stations poll.

    What? No President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in the list?

    My rage to slash at the SWS cooled the instant I saw in the fine prints that the survey was undertaken in 2011 yet. Which, instant recall, instinctively pushed the fingers to acaesar.blogspot.com, where my old pieces rest, and fi nd this one from Punto! April 11, 2011 titled Of Heroes.

    UNHAPPY IS the land without heroes. So, some wag wrote.

    Happiest then is the Philippines with its surfeit of heroes.

    “Who are the persons whom you consider a genuine Filipino hero? You can name up to five persons.” So – with neither prompting nor proffered list – the Social Weather Stations asked 1,200 respondents nationwide in early March.

    Emerging on top: Jose Rizal. Andres Bonifacio. Benigno and Corazon Aquino. Rightly so, the national hero is numero uno with 75 percent. Bonifacio had 34 percent. Ninoy had 20 percent and Cory 14 percent.

    In a tie with Cory is the “Subime Paralytic” Apolinario Mabini, followed by four Presidents – Emilio Aguinaldo (11 percent), Ferdinand Marcos (5.1 percent), Ramon Magsaysay (4.3 percent) and Manuel Quezon (3.8 percent).

    The very first Filipino historical hero Lapu- Lapu was named by 3.7 percent.

    Just out of the Top 10 were Melchora Aquino (3.2 percent) and Marcelo H. del Pilar (3.0 percent).

    President Noynoy Aquino at 2.9 percent edged the “Brains of the Katipunan Emilio Jacinto (2.8 percent), who was followed by pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao at 2.6 percent.

    More historical heroes followed: Gabriela Silang (2.6 percent), Gregorio del Pilar (2.2 percent) and Juan Luna (1.9 percent), capped by President Manuel Roxas (1.8 percent).

    Even former President Joseph Estrada figured with 1.8 percent of the respondents, followed by President Diosdado Macapagal (1.6 percent) in tie with presidential candidate actor Fernando Poe Jr. (1.6 percent) whom his daughter Gloria bested in 2004.

    Alas, seemingly erased from the collective memory of the Filipino people are some other national heroes: the martyred priests Gomez- Burgos-Zamora, the propagandist Graciano Lopez-Jaena, military genius Gen. Antonio Luna, Diego Silang, Francisco Dagohoy, Macario Sacay and Jose Abad Santos.

    That the Dictator earned an honoured place in the Top 10 and the disgraced and convicted plunderer merited a place at all in the survey manifest some reconsideration in our general understanding of heroism.

    Yeah, how did Marcos and Estrada ever become heroes?

    Some symptoms of a damaged culture patently manifest there. Unhappy is the land with a surplus of pseudo-heroes.


    So what does it take to be a hero?

    A debate had long focused on the question: Are heroes born or made?

    Is heroism inherent in a person or does it rise out of circumstance? Th e latter has traditionally been the preferred position buttressed by historical epochs.

    Without the American Revolution would there be a Washington? Without the Civil War, a Lincoln?

    Could Turkey’s Ataturk have arisen without the Ottoman persecution? Or Lenin sans the Romanov’s enslavement of Russia?

    If memory serves right, I think it was Arnold Toynbee that provided the synthesis to heroborn versus hero-made contradiction, to quote liberally (from faded memory): “When he has in him to give, and the situation demands of him to give, he has no other recourse but to give.”

    The essence of heroism inheres in the person and is drawn out from him by the circumstance. Both born and made is the hero then.

    Even if one possesses all elements of heroism in him – generally thought of as intelligence, honor and integrity, courage, selflessness and commitment to a cause, self-sacrifice and love for others, if there is no situation that will warrant the extraction and expression of these elements – a triggering mechanism of sort – the hero will not come out of him.

    That may very well be the lamentation expressed in Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard: “…Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air…”

    HEROISM IS the summation of a life. Heroism is a verdict of history.

    So what’s Marcos doing in that list of “genuine heroes”? Estrada too, and for that matter P-Noy and Pacquiao?

    Ah, yes, I remember reading someone writing somewhere: “Anyone is a hero who has been widely, persistently over long periods, and enthusiastically regarded as heroic by a reasonable person, or even an unreasonable one.”

    Yeah, I can only think of the “unreasonable” ones getting them there.



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