“…heroic behavior is to be found in every age and
in all kinds of places. The chief criterion is the
verdict of the public and this, being arbitrary,
eccentric and often irrational (as well as changeable),
gives a salty flavor to the business.”
– Paul Johnson in Heroes From Alexander the Great To Mae West
PAUL JOHNSON’S definition of a hero is hardly applicable in the Philippines. Why? Because heroes, in this country, are chosen as a result of insidious manipulations by vested elements who are motivated by the interests that they serve.
Otley Beyer’s story on how Rizal became numero uno
Take the case of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Professor H. Otley Beyer were to be believed, he maintained that Dr. Rizal was voted as the Number One Hero of the Philippines by the American-organized Philippine Commission (PC). His claim, undisputed up to this day, is that the Americans were wondering why the Filipinos did not have a national hero. Perplexed by the absence of a national hero, the PC decided to vote on who should be the Filipino hero who could be the unifying force in the subjugation of the country by the Americans.
As the Beyer’s story goes, the PC voted on who should be the national Filipino hero. From the list of Filipino heroes that the PC had, it chose first Andres Bonifacio. But on close examination of the life of Bonifacio, he could not be the Filipino hero since he was a revolutionary who fought the Spaniards and Americans so the Filipinos could establish their own independent country. So as a revolutionary, he was dropped as the choice since choosing a revolutionary may encourage Filipinos to believe that mounting a revolution against foreign invaders is a right thing to do. Similarly, the second and third choices – General Gregorio del Pilar and General Antonio Luna – were also written off for the same reason.
Finally, the PC chose Dr. Rizal as the Filipinos’ national hero as he was for the integration of the Philippines into Spain, specifically the representation of the Filipinos in the Spanish Cortes – Spain’s legislative assembly. Thus, consistent with PC’s decision, statues of Dr. Rizal were erected in almost all municipal plazas throughout the country and the legends about him in history books and biographies.
A cursory look at the lives of Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio will lead any intelligent and rational Filipino who has studied the history of other countries and our history to hold that the honor of being the Number One Filipino should go to Andres Bonifacio – the great revolutionary, and even a greater Filipino.
Conversation with President Carlos P. Garcia
Apropos this subject, in a conversation with President Carlos P. Garcia in Malacañang–when I was fighting for academic freedom and to retain my hard-earned diploma at the University of the Philippines and the UP authorities were waging a war against me in Philippine media because I was anti-Rizal–President Garcia told me the following: “You know Homobono, I agree with you on your judgment on Andres Bonifacio and Rizal, but I advice you to keep silent on this because even as you are right, it is difficult to fight a dead hero.” Sheepishly I replied, ”Yes, Mr. President, but I am not fighting anyone. I am only stating my choice on who should be our Number One Hero.”
My conversation with President Garcia, in the presence of my late father – Mayor Pedro Adaza, Jr. of Catarman, Camiguin (then a part of Misamis Oriental) – was the headline of the Manila Times and a frontpage item in the other Manila dailies. It did not document the specific conversation – all the dailies mentioned is that President Garcia lectured me, which of course he did not. President Garcia who is probably the most nationalistic among Philippine presidents having started and pursued with enthusiasm and great intensity the Filipino First Policy, knowing me and my cause never attempted to give me a lecture on any subject. But of course, media could not publish that President Garcia agreed with me in my choice of the Filipino hero – Andres Bonifacio.
Ninoy Aquino – as Moses?
Why this reflection on the appropriate choice of the Filipino hero? It’s all due to the stories in the front pages of the Manila media very recently that Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the father of the sitting President Benigno Simeon Aquino, Jr., popularly known as PNoy not Balut, has been recommended to be considered as the Moses of the Philippines, the savior of the country.
With all due respect to Ninoy, this thing about Moses is a lot of nonsense. Examining the role of Ninoy in taking the Filipinos from out of the darkness of martial law, these events come to mind.
When martial law was declared, Senator Ninoy Aquino had the boldness to declare that martial law could not last for a year because the people would revolt against it. Martial law lasted for nine years. It was a serious mistake of judgment of Ninoy and anyone who knew the Filipino at that point in time would have clearly disagreed with Ninoy. It is obvious that Ninoy in arriving at that conclusion he did not know the Filipino and he had not read very well Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
In 1981 when Senator Salvador “Doy” Laurel and I met with Ninoy in Lupita Kashihawara’s residence at Ocean Point in California several interesting events happened. First, Ninoy told Doy and me that he was tired of politics and all he wanted to see was President Ferdinand Marcos defeated and then he would go back to the academe.
Disturbed by this comment, Doy who is a fraternity brother of Ninoy in the Upsilon Sigma Phi at the University of the Philippines, commented, ”But brod, who then would be the leader of our country if you are going back to the academe?”
Without batting an eyelash, Ninoy replied, “Who else, the two of you.” Doy smiled from ear to ear at being anointed by Ninoy.
Suddenly Lupita, as if on a cue, called Doy from the first floor of her residence, saying,
“Doy, you have a phone call here.” And Doy went down immediately to the first floor. As soon as Doy left, Ninoy asked me, “Are you going to the State Department with Doy?”
“Of course since he was the one who invited me on this trip,” I replied.
“You better go there alone because I have a message for you to bring to those people,” Ninoy continued.
“What is the message?” I asked.
“You know, when I came to this country this time, they called me almost every fifteen minutes. Now, they have not called me for the last fifteen days. So tell them that I am your leader.” So I broke into a faint a smile, amused at the sudden change of mind of Ninoy, from returning to the academe and again becoming the leader.
Noting my amusement, he exclaimed, “At least in the United States.” Then, he wrote down in his yellow pad, telling me, “You know, these our possible candidates for President in the coming elections. Macapagal and Tanada, they are too old. Gerry Roxas, he is moribund.
Jovy Salonga, he is sickly. Pepe Diokno, he is a loner. Doy Laurel, he is not the best of the lot but he is the only one we’ve got.”
Then, Atty. Ernesto “Ernie” Maceda arrived and Doy came back from the ground floor of Lupita’s residence. Ernie told Ninoy, “Boss, Mike Tamano is waiting for you downtown because he has a breakfast appointment with you.”
“Ok Ernie, you take your cup of coffee and then join Mike and keep him company as I have still to talk to these guys,” Ninoy replied, pointing to Doy and me. As soon as Ernie finished his cup of coffee, he went down and I was surprised because Ninoy went to the window facing the parking lot and I followed him. He was looking at Ernie going to his car and driving away. Immediately, he went back to the table where Doy was seated.
Then, Doy asked Ninoy, “Brod, why did you send Ernie away?”
“Brod, you can never trust Ernie with secrets,” Ninoy retorted.
“But he is always at your side wherever you go here?” Doy asked Ninoy again.
“Yes brod, because Ernie is only the one here who can read the mind of Marcos. But with respect to secrets, brod you can never trust Ernie with secrets,” Ninoy replied.
Why do I relate these stories? Because these conversations, reveal the character of the man! There are more stories on Ninoy so you can make your judgment whether Ninoy is hero or heel. My next column will tell these stories and my judgment on Ninoy, if you are interested.