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It’s National Heroes Day and I’m trying my best to be asheroic as possible by staying home during a half-baked four-day time-out weekend so contribute in our own way to the government’s efforts the coronavirus disease.

I had high hopes for this timeout weekend when it was announced. While it was long overdue, it is something we’ve been desperately needing as the COVID-19 cases have started rising in our island that had the situation under control when our borders were still closed during the ECQ period. The timeout should’ve been called as soon as the decision makers in national government decided to reopen provincial and island borders and send people who wore possibly infected with the virus home but since local leaders have been indoctrinated into obedience whenever the mayor-in-chief and his merry band of wise men call the shots, we obediently followed orders and welcomed the virus carriers to our island that had thus far been isolated from COVID-19 with relative success.

Anyway, the confusion with regard to this weekend has been frustrating for many but the bottomline is if most of us complied with the request to voluntarily lockdown for 4 days, the virus would be deprived of opportunities to spread for that many days. And from the looks of our streets during this weekend as shown on social media, I think we most of us did our duty. Congratulations, heroic people of Bacolod, Talisay, Silay, Bago and Murcia.

We did our part and stayed home in the past 4 days. Now we can only hope that our public officials somehow pulled it off and did their part. To be fair to them, they had a more complicated job to do during those days, organizing the tests and hopefully laying down the corresponding protocols that would lead to the identification of trouble areas and the action plans for those hotspots so our communities are protected and the spread of COVID-19 arrested.

Along with my standards for performance and excellence, my faith in government is currently at an all-time low right now. At this point, there is no choice but to hope against hope that our local officials can manage to pull off a pleasant surprise as far as the time out weekend is concerned. We desperately need heroes and miracles right now and perhaps this is the weekend that finally gives us something to pin our hopes on.

If we give them the benefit of the doubt, our local leaders tried to be heroic by attempting the 4-day timeout weekend. During regular times, it might be enough to impress. Unfortunately for them, we no longer live in regular times and they will have to perform exceptionally well for us to concur with the heroism aspect. We still have a few more days for the test results to come out and an action plan be put into action based on the gathered data. Until then, let us withhold judgement, give our full cooperation, and pray for their success.

Writing on National Heroes Day gives me a reason to contemplate the state of heroism in our country.

In the past, we would celebrate this holiday by remembering the other national heroes who also fought for our country. Our colorful history meant we had a lot of heroes who never really got the same attention as Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio who got their own holidays. Yesterday was supposed to be for us to remember the life and deeds of Filipino heroes like Gregorio del Pilar, Antonio Luna, Gabriela Silang, Apolinario Mabini, Macario Sakay and many others who graced our history books.

But today, as our country faces dark times and the prospect of an uncertain future due to a vacuum of genuine heroism among most current leaders, we have resorted to desperately searching for the heroes among us. If we can’t find any inspiration from our politicos, and history is too far behind, we might as well look at our fellow humans whose heroism shines through despite having no budget for propaganda organizations or troll farms to boost their image.

We find heroes among health care workers, which is fine during a full-blown pandemic, but if you come to think of it, the situation has become so bad that we can even consider a food delivery person or grocery cashier as heroes.

While our standards for excellence and heroism may have fallen to historic lows over the past few years as mediocrity has somehow transformed our gold standard; that is not the reason why our idea of heroism has changed.

We live in a dangerous world today. Anyone can be killed or persecuted. Anyone can be infected with COVID-19. Because of our government’s failed response to the pandemic, the simple act of going out to do your job has become a life-threatening affair. That is why we suddenly look up to health care workers, delivery personnel, bank tellers and grocery cashiers as heroes. Everyday, they go to where the brave dare not go. Some do it because of a sense of duty, others do it because of 4 famous words: “No Work, No Pay.”

The difference between our heroes of lore and the heroes of today is that in the olden days, they did it for their country. Heroes then started and joined revolutions, walking the talk when they say they are willing to die for their country. Today, some people can be fooled into thinking heroism is achieved by kissing the flag, riding an imaginary jetski, or by showing up late at the site of a tragedy and getting on one’s knees.

If you come to think of it, genuine heroes are still a rare breed. Anyone can package themselves as a hero but in the end, most of us should still be smart enough to see through the antics of the fakers and differentiate real heroism from the theatrical sort.

While it may be tempting to look at any mediocre health care worker, a delivery driver, bank teller, or president as heroes in our desperation; we still have to hold our heroes to higher standards. We have already fallen into the trap of normalizing mediocrity and lowering our standards for everything else. Let us save some of our dignity and resist the temptation to do the same for heroism.*

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April 2021

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