10 Courageous Heroes Of The Philippines We Celebrate Today

Last night, I was looking for an Iron Man movie in Netflix for my blog today. I was disappointed there is none. I was really looking forward to two hours of Tony Stark. On hindsight, maybe it is for the best.

Because when I woke up this morning, for some reason (since we are not really affected by holidays and weekends and whathaveyous), Sophia remembered it is a holiday and she asked me what it is about. So I started telling her about the Filipino heroes and how we owe our independence to them. Again, Sophia was like, huh? So I needed to explain how the country has been under the Spanish colonization for over 300 years.

She does not have a grasp of the concept yet, so she asked about the consequences and what it was like. I simply said the Spaniards were in charge and the Filipinos did not have the power to do anything. I added that our ancestors had to follow the colonists rules. And then she asked for an example. Now, just to give you a brief background, I am so bad at history, there were less things I hated when I was in high school than memorization.

I told her I was not alive then, so I cannot say for sure, but I heard they were pretty strict! In fact, maybe Filipinos then felt somewhat like they were in quarantine, not free to move around with curfew and everything. Anyway, I will show her my blog for today so she learns a little about Philippine history. Who are the heroes we are celebrating today?

1. Jose Rizal. June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896 was a Filipino nationalist and polymath during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. He is considered the national hero of the Philippines. An ophthalmologist by profession, Rizal became a writer and a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement, which advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain. He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution, inspired in part by his writings, broke out. Though he was not actively involved in its planning or conduct, he ultimately approved of its goals which eventually led to Philippine independence. He is widely considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines and has been recommended to be so honored by an officially empaneled National Heroes Committee. However, no law, executive order or proclamation has been enacted or issued officially proclaiming any Filipino historical figure as a national hero. He was the author of the novels Noli Me Tángere and El filibusterismo, and a number of poems and essays.

2. Andres Bonifacio. November 30, 1863 – May 10, 1897 was a Filipino revolutionary leader, often called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution”, and considered one of the national heroes of the Philippines. He was one of the founders and later the Kataas-taasang Pangulo (Supreme President, Presidente Supremo in Spanish, often shortened by contemporaries and historians to just Supremo) of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or more commonly known as the “Katipunan”, a movement which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Philippine Revolution. With the onset of the Revolution, Bonifacio reorganized the Katipunan into a revolutionary government, with himself as President (Pangulo) of a nation-state called “Haring Bayang Katagalugan” (“Sovereign Nation of the Tagalog People” or “Sovereign Tagalog Nation”), also “Republika ng Katagaluguan” (“Tagalog Republic”, Republica Tagala in Spanish), wherein “Tagalog” referred to all those born in the Philippine islands and not merely the Tagalog ethnic group. Hence, some historians have argued that he should be considered the “first President of the Philippines”, though he is not included in the current official line of succession.

3. Emilio Aguinaldo. March 22, 1869 – February 6, 1964 was a Filipino revolutionary, statesman, and military leader who is officially recognized as the first and the youngest president of the Philippines (1899–1901) and the first president of a constitutional republic in Asia. He led Philippine forces first against Spain in the Philippine Revolution (1896–1898), then in the Spanish–American War (1898), and finally against the United States during the Philippine–American War (1899–1901). Aguinaldo remains a controversial figure in Filipino history. Though his status as first president of the Philippines has led to his being recommended as a national hero of the Philippines[14], many have criticized him for his involvement in the deaths of revolutionary leader Andrés Bonifacio and general Antonio Luna, as well as his sympathies for the Japanese Empire during their occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

4. Apolinario Mabini. July 23, 1864 – May 13, 1903 was a Filipino revolutionary leader, educator, lawyer, and statesman who served first as a legal and constitutional adviser to the Revolutionary Government, and then as the first Prime Minister of the Philippines upon the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. He is regarded as the “utak ng himagsikan” or “brain of the revolution” and is also to be considered to be as a national hero in the Philippines. Mabini’s work and thoughts on the government shaped the Philippines’ fight for independence over the next century. Two of his works, El Verdadero Decalogo (The True Decalogue, June 24, 1898), and Programa Constitucional dela Republica Filipina (The Constitutional Program of the Philippine Republic, 1898) became instrumental in the drafting of what would eventually be known as the Malolos Constitution. Mabini performed all his revolutionary and governmental activities despite having lost the use of both his legs to polio shortly before the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Mabini’s role in Philippine history saw him confronting first Spanish colonial rule in the opening days of the Philippine Revolution, and then American colonial rule in the days of the Philippine–American War. The latter saw Mabini captured and exiled to Guam by American colonial authorities, allowed to return only two months before his eventual death in May 1903.

5. Marcelo H. Del Pilar. August 30, 1850 – July 4, 1896, commonly known as Marcelo H. del Pilar and also known by his pen name Plaridel, was a Filipino writer, lawyer, journalist, and freemason. Del Pilar, along with José Rizal and Graciano López Jaena, became known as the leaders of the Reform Movement in Spain. Del Pilar was born and brought up in Bulakan, Bulacan. He was suspended at the Universidad de Santo Tomás and imprisoned in 1869 after he and the parish priest quarreled over exorbitant baptismal fees. In the 1880s, he expanded his anti-friar movement from Malolos to Manila. He went to Spain in 1888 after an order of banishment was issued against him. Twelve months after his arrival in Barcelona, he succeeded López Jaena as editor of the La Solidaridad (Solidarity). Publication of the newspaper stopped in 1895 due to lack of funds. Losing hope in reforms, he grew favorable of a revolution against Spain. He was on his way home in 1896 when he contracted tuberculosis in Barcelona. He later died in a public hospital and was buried in a pauper’s grave. On November 30, 1997, the Technical Committee of the National Heroes Committee, created through Executive Order No. 5 by former President Fidel V. Ramos, recommended del Pilar along with the eight Filipino historical figures to be National Heroes. The recommendations were submitted to Department of Education Secretary Ricardo T. Gloria on November 22, 1995. No action has been taken for these recommended historical figures. In 2009, this issue was revisited in one of the proceedings of the 14th Congress.

6. Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat.  (1581–1671) was the 7th Sultan of Maguindanao from 1619 to 1671. During his reign, he successfully fought off Spanish invasions and halted the spread of Catholicism on the island of Mindanao, much like the other Muslim rulers in the southern Philippines. He was a direct descendant of Shariff Kabungsuwan, a Malay-Arab noble from Johor who brought Islam to Mindanao between the 13th and 14th centuries. The Soccsksargen province of Sultan Kudarat is named after him, as is the municipality of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where his descendants, who bear the rank of Datu, are current political leaders.

7. Juan Luna. October 23, 1857 – December 7, 1899 was a Filipino painter, sculptor and a political activist of the Philippine Revolution during the late 19th century. He became one of the first recognized Philippine artists. His winning the gold medal in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts, along with the silver win of fellow Filipino painter Félix Resurrección Hidalgo, prompted a celebration which was a major highlight in the memoirs of members of the Propaganda Movement, with the fellow Ilustrados toasting to the two painters’ good health and to the brotherhood between Spain and the Philippines. Regarded for work done in the manner of European academies of his time, Luna painted literary and historical scenes, some with an underscore of political commentary. His allegorical works were inspired with classical balance, and often showed figures in theatrical poses.

8. Melchora Aquino. January 6, 1812 – February 19, 1919 was a Filipina revolutionary who became known as “Tandang Sora” (“Elder Sora”) because of her age during the Philippine Revolution. She was known as the “Grand Woman of the Revolution” and the “Mother of Balintawak” for her contributions.

9. Gabriela Silang. 19 March 1731 – 20 September 1763 was a Filipina military leader best known for her role as the female leader of the Ilocano independence movement from Spain. She took over from her second husband Diego Silang after his assassination in 1763, leading her people for four months before she was captured and executed by the colonial government of the Captaincy General of the Philippines.

These names do sound familiar from all those years back. I mean, unlike the theory of relativity, which is some days all I can think about! For instance, I cannot decide whether the lockdown has actually made time slower or faster! I cannot deny the fact that it is significant that kids these days are aware of their past, giving them a deeper understanding of their cultural heritage, how it has shaped the society they live in today and most importantly, that they learn from what happened all those centuries ago, to make sure they never repeat the same mistakes again.

Equally critical, however, is to expose our children to current events, something they witness and experience first-hand, and explain to them the implications of the history unfolding in their very eyes. And one example would be how the present-day heroes are battling this pandemic (which in my opinion is more historic and relevant than say, the first Philippine flag or something).

10. Health-care practitioners are called modern-day heroes for a reason. Aside from my normal aversion to hospitals and doctors and blood and the likes, I cannot imagine where they are getting inspiration, courage and the strength to fight COVID-19. And I have not even started on the added emotional toll brought about not only by the normal frustrations that comes with their profession like casualties and such but also the difficulties caused by the uncomfortable suit and the separation from their families.

If Iron Man (the photo is a bit blurry but let us just agree that he is there somewhere) and the rest of the gang is bowing their heads in appreciation to these modern-day heroes, who am I not to?

Happy National Heroes’ Day, fellow Filipinos!

#ToABetterSarah #RaisingSophia


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