Gorillas, guerillas and other unsung heroes

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The country commemorated National Heroes Day on Monday. There was not much fanfare from the government other than preparing moves to pacify members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo who took to the streets last week.

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During my not so long ago college days, in our “Rizal and Other Heroes” class, our professor Lino Baron asked us to research about unsung heroes. We were told to prove our hero’s greatness against Raul Manglapus’ ‘Characteristics of a Hero.’ I remember very well how we giggled when one of our classmates from Surigao reported that his grandfather was his unsung hero. When he was asked why, with pride and conviction and in a well-modulated voice with matching fist in the air he declared: “My lolo is a hero because he was a gorilla.”

Professor Baron:“A what?”

Student:“Yes sir, my lolo was a gorilla and I am proud to say that my lolo is a gorilla.”

Professor Baron: “So what are you, a monkey?”

Actually, my classmate wanted all and sundry to know his lolo was a combatant in a small war. He was serious and proud about it, and he did not mean any monkey business.

We all have our unsung heroes, so much so that even in their hometowns the locals of this generation have no inkling of who they are or what they did. Name recognition is good only when streets and other infrastructures are named after these heroic departed.

I researched on some heroes of whom Filipinos should be proud, and here’s what I found:

Ilocano’s Pride: Anastacia Giron Tupas, who is called the Dean of Philippine Nursing, was born on Aug. 24, 1890. In 1917, Tupas was named the first Filipino chief nurse and superintendent of the Philippine General Hospital School of Nursing. She also headed the committee that prepared the bill systematizing Philippine nursing education, which became law in 1919. In 1959, through the initiative of the Civic Assembly of Women of the Philippines, she received the Presidential Medal of Merit. Tupas died on September 28, 1972.

Speaking of Ilocano heroes, would Sen. Bong Bong Marcos, another illustrious son of Max Soliven’s Ilocoslovakia, also compete in the presidential slugfest?

Bicolandia’s Fifteen Martyrs
These Bicolanos were executed by firing squad on January 4, 1897, for cooperating with the Katipunan.

Among their counterparts in our time is Jessie Robredo; would his life later be described in the history books as a modern-day martyrdom? Would his widow Leni Robredo continue to carry Jessie’s torch of martyrdom to bring to light, before a whole nation, the truth of, and behind, his heroism?

Iloilo’s Graciano Lopez Jaena
He was a journalist, orator, revolutionary, and national hero from Iloilo, the Philippines, who was and is well-known for his newspaper, La Solidaridad.

He was a member of the triumvirate of propagandists, along with Jose Rizal and Marcelo del Pilar. Would Iloilo’s Drilon persevere as his party and the Administration’s propagandist — should fellow Ilonggo Mar Roxas bite the dust at the polls?

Davao’s Datu Bago
An interesting and noteworthy figure is Datu Bago, whose heroism is controversial even until now and even in his native Davao. While some laud him as a hero, others consider him a villain.

According to some sources, the villainous image of Datu Bago was a creation of the Spaniards. Datu Bago, a local chieftain, fought against the land-grabbing Spaniards who, in turn, accused the Datu of being a common ex-pirate.

Rodrigo Digong Duterte is a kind of reincarnated Datu Bago in that while he is a hero to some, to others, he is a villain.

Could Duterte’s image as a local strongman win for him higher office? Would he, like Datu Bago, be able to protect his constituents from internal and external aggression?

These were heroes, but if they were to be resurrected only to see our Republic’s status quo — might they not rue the sacrifices they made for their country, seeing, especially, that the state of the nation has even deteriorated? And no thanks to invading imperialists but rather to mercenary, marauding politicians!

As we commemorate the heroic acts of these unsung heroes as well as those of the more popular historical figures, let us not forget the lessons they impart. Otherwise, future judges very likely would keep harking back to the hard fact about ourselves: that we Filipinos, as a people, have not learned from our history and so doom ourselves to repeat it.

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