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What makes a national hero?

n August we mark National Heroes Day on August 31, Ninoy Aquino day on the 21st and Quezon Day on the 19th. It may be a good time to reflect on what a national hero is now that some people propose that Congress make the late Mrs Corazon Aquino, 11th President of the Philippines a national hero.

Mrs Aquino's husband Senator Ninoy Aquino was finally granted national hero status with Congress creating a national holiday in his honor. It was much belated since Mrs Aquino would never have thought of making her husband one during her term. President FVR recognized Ninoy's hero status by presidential proclamation. The vast majority of Pinoys agreed although there is some dissent.

Foremost of the dissenters is Frankie Sionil Jose who writes that Ninoy is indeed heroic and a martyr, he is no national hero. For him it is Rizal and Rizal only that should have the honor for his deeds alone made this nation for what it is now. Of course not all agree with Sionil-Jose. What about Andres Bonifacio?

Rizal was "canonized" not by the interloping Americans but by Emilio Aguinaldo and la Republica Filipina who decreed our first national holiday, December 3o as Rizal Day (And not June 19 as the revisionists would have it). The Americans saw fit to ride on the Rizal adulation and craftily made a spin of their imperialistic own. This is the basis of the hook, line and sinker propaganda dished out by the silly Left when I was an undergraduate. "Rizal was an American minted national hero" they said and Bonifacio should be the one.

While Bonifacio indeed is a national hero, he has been relegated to the unenviable "assistant national hero" status. He is just like an associate professor who wants to be chair of his/her department and can't get promoted due to political reasons. Rizal remains the National Hero and people still go into apoplectic fits on changing the color of his childhood home or when he was pictured wearing a barong and eating "tuyo". In contrast, Bonifacio's house is now a mall, the founding site of the Katipunan a commercial building, the site of that contentious "Cry" is unresolved, Bonifacio is the subject of a nasty children's ditty and we don't know where his bones are. Now hardly anyone goes into a fit if Ka Andres is maligned!

Similarly when another hero's bahay kubo, Apolinario Mabini's house was moved from Nagtahan to Santa Mesa, hardly anyone made a fit!

Maybe we should just have one national hero. All other heroes should be in supporting cast! While Congress can legislate, acclamation always comes from the people throughout time. Methinks this is what our honorable Representatives should consider before considering Mrs Aquino as a national hero. Let the traditional mourning period pass. The worst thing that can happen is that one or two generations from now, Mrs Aquino would be considered a supporting national hero to husband Ninoy! That would rile the feminists and do no justice to Mrs Aquino at all.

When President Quezon died in August 1944, biographer and national artist Carlos Quirino likened Quezon to a "paladin of Philippine freedom" and in the same league as Rizal. Today, we do recognize that Quezon was heroic, but we are fans not due to his heroism but because of his being a wily politician that is imprinted forever on the nature of our republic. Of course Quezon will always be a hero to Quezon City, Quezon, Palawan and the Province of Quezon.

As for Rizal, national acclamation and adulation continues and some consider him divine!


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