By William Casis
FilAm Star Correspondent
When the nation observed National Heroes’ Day last August 26, Sen. Imee Marcos on asked if it is not actually a misnomer since officially, the country has no heroes.
“Little do most Filipinos know that ever since the Philippines gained independence, the government has never officially proclaimed who our national heroes really are, even if it has been taught as early as grade school that the likes of Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are among them,” stressed Marcos.
She said the Philippine National Heroes Committee officially recommended several people for the designation in 1995, including Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, and Gabriela Silang.
However, she said the issue deteriorated into a debate involving regional interests that never was resolved.
The neophyte senator said the only bill that sought to proclaim a national hero was filed by Bohol congressman Rene Relampagos back in 2014.
The Bill urges the government to declare the reformist writer Jose Rizal as such, who advocated, fought, and died for Philippine reforms during the Spanish colonial era.
As of January 2017, the bill has remained “Pending with the Committee on Revision of laws,” Marcos said.
“What we only have are implied heroes, despite having official dates for their commemoration,” Marcos said, citing that they continue to be honored year after year during public municipal or provincial holidays.
Should the debate on national heroes resume, Marcos urged the inclusion of Macario Sakay in the roster.
Sakay was the first president of the Tagalog Republic who fought against Spanish and American colonizers in the Philippines during the early part of the 20th century.
But Senators Win Gatchalian and Pia Cayetano called on Filipinos to honor those instrumental in regaining our freedom.
Gatchalian said Filipinos should pay tribute to the men and women whose courageous deeds made it possible for their country to attain its freedom — those whose names have been forever etched in history books, as well as to the nameless heroes throughout history who helped build the nation into what it is today.
On this day, Cayetano said we should remember the bravery and sacrifices made by heroes, including prominent figures who led the struggle for independence, and those who remain unnamed and undocumented in history books.
“May this day remind us of the importance of bridging our current generation of young Filipinos to our rich and proud past and cultivating in them love of country and service to fellow Filipinos, the same values which our national heroes embraced and stood up for,” she added.
Cayetano said she fully supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s call in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) for Congress to pass a law that shall “invigorate nationalism and patriotism among young Filipinos and further promote their role in nation-building.”
For Sen. Grace Poe, she believes that every day is an opportunity to be like the brave and selfless heroes.
She said they are OFWs who endure separation from their loved ones to give their families comfortable lives.
“There are the daily commuters and motorists who brave the traffic to get to work and their destination. There are the workers, entrepreneurs and employers who go through the daily grind to make the economy move forward. There are the volunteers and social workers who come to the aid of the often forgotten sectors of our society,” related Poe.
In whatever field of endeavor, she called on Filipinos to show excellence, perseverance and dedication for their families, for themselves and for the nation.
On the other hand, Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged the people to be heroes for the future and the children and preserve the environment.
For her part, Sen. Leila de Lima told Filipinos to be brave in resisting the prevailing culture of fear and impunity under the current regime.
In her National Heroes Day message, she paid tribute to known and unsung heroes who helped reclaim sovereignty from foreign colonizers and to the individuals who stood up and defended rights and liberty.
“And to truly honor their contributions that secured us a better future, it is our obligation to protect the freedom we inherited through their blood and sacrifice,” added De Lima.
She also denounced the government’s propensity to prosecute those who seek the truth and justice and those who fight for freedom, while rewarding villains and crooked individuals.