Celebrated as early as 1931, National Heroes Day honors and remembers all Philippine national heroes, particularly those who don’t have their own special holidays or observances.
Today’s holiday does not only commemorate prominent figures in Philippine history, but also honors unknown Filipino heroes, past and present, who have given much to our country. This is because only two heroes have their own national holidays: Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. Rizal is honored on his death anniversary, December 30; while Bonifacio is honored on his birthday, November 30.
As we celebrate National Heroes Day in the midst of a pandemic, let us widen our scope this year and recognize the many unsung heroes, living and dead, who have given as much as they can for their fellowmen over the past six months.
Numerous healthcare workers have died after being infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 while in the line of duty. The Philippines lost many of those unsung heroes during the early part of the outbreak, when personal protective equipment and protocols were not made readily available despite the looming threat of COVID-19 that had been stewing for months. Even today, as our nation grapples with the continuing surge in infections, health care workers all over the country continue to render acts of heroism every day that they go to work, in less than ideal conditions, with meager compensation despite the enormous risks and sometimes, even fighting discrimination and ostracism.
Aside from healthcare workers, let us also be cognizant of the heroism of other front liners who have been risking infection everyday as they go to work, either out of a sense of duty or because they have no other choice.
Today, as Negros Island celebrates National Heroes Day, even the act of staying home for the past four days of the “time out weekend” can be considered an act of heroism. Perhaps we can try looking at ourselves as heroes rather than the “pasaway” that certain government officials have been fond of labeling us as they make up for the inadequacy of the response to this crisis.
Let us focus on the heroism that is within and among us, not only for today, but until that heroism powers us through this pandemic and the eventual recovery that awaits.*