MOST Filipinos are probably familiar with heroes such as Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, who bravely fought for our independence. More than their personalities though, and more than their military or literary prowess, we commemorate the ideals they fought for. The sacrifices they made 121 years ago still serve as a symbol of their love of country and their devotion to the Filipino people.
Though Rizal and Bonifacio are arguably the most well-known Filipino heroes, there are countless others whose stories remain untold or forgotten, including many women who courageously supported the fight for freedom. One such woman is Josefina “Joey” Guerrero, a leper who acted as a spy for Filipino-American troops against the Japanese occupiers in World War 2. She transformed her disability into an opportunity to help, and despite the dangers involved, she carried out her role admirably. Lepers at the time were nothing more than a burden on society, but Joey proved that one seemingly insignificant person had the power to change the game.
The life of Jessie Lichauco is another wonderful testament to the power of small acts of kindness. Though born in America, Jessie came to the Philippines in the 1930s and has lived here for over 80 years. During World War 2, she opened her door to countless refugees from the city of Manila — feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Her kindness to others was unparalleled, and those she assisted paid it forward by helping others.
Countless heroes such as Jessie and Joey have helped build our country, and in honor of National Heroes Day, we asked four of our female colleagues to share their favorite Filipino heroines and the ideals they stood for.
“I really admire Teresa Magbanua, because she was a rebel! But seriously, she’s really cool. She was the first (and only) woman to lead troops during the revolution, and she continued to fight for our independence until the Japanese occupation. I also really like her because she’s not a snob. Despite being educated and coming from a wealthy family, she was socially aware and politically active, contrary to the “mahinhing dalagang Pilipina na hindi makabasag pinggan.”
Arrielle Tugade, 24, ISA
“As a Miriam Volunteer, I can strongly say that she played an important role in my life as a Filipino youth. Through her, I was inspired to excel more in my studies and be an active student leader in our university. She has always been my idol, and has inspired me to always do my best and stand for what I believe in. I will always remember her love for the Filipino youth, her witty pick-up lines, and all her wonderful debates in the Senate. Truly, I will always imbibe in my heart all her wonderful advice, and continue to aim for academic, moral, and professional excellence. She may already be gone, but I know that she has left her mark and will continue to win the hearts of the Filipino youth, now and forever.”
Aimee Abello, 26, ISA
“Karen Davila is the epitome of professionalism and eloquence in media. Though I am not a journalist, and do not ever see myself in the field of journalism, I admire what they do. It is a challenging job, and I find it to be an amazing feat that people, such as Karen, can do the job well without compromising their principles.”
Kirsten Ramos, 22, ISA
“Clarissa Delgado is the CEO and co-founder of Teach for the Philippines, and it is her pursuit of quality education for all children that makes her a modern day Filipino heroine. She empowers the youth to be the voice of hope, knowledge, and service in the journey to build a community of educated Filipinos.”
Regine Cinco, 28, Institute of Corporate Directors
Though oftentimes heroes reveal themselves only in times of conflict, a quote from television series ‘Doctor Who’ reminds us of just the opposite.
“Mankind doesn’t need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honor and valor, and let’s hope that from now on, this country can find its heroes in smaller places.”
On August 27, let us celebrate not just the heroes in our history books, but also the everyday heroes we encounter around us.
The Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) is a non-profit group that advocates governance reform and envisions a Dream Philippines, where every government institution delivers and every citizen participates and prospers. Learn more about their work on isacenter.org.