National Heroes Committee: Quest for the Country’s “National Heroes”
Who decides if one should be considered a hero or a national hero?
The concept of a “hero,” much more a “national hero,” is a contentious one in any country. Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary generally defines a hero as “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage.” Essentially, this general definition could actually refer to anybody,
and even the simplest achievement and act of kindness could be considered a form of heroism. However, elevating heroism to an even grander scale and level, namely, by being considered a national hero, would naturally be the result of related distinguished actions and contributions of an even greater magnitude. But this situation begs the question: Who decides that one should be considered a hero or a national hero?
NO “NATIONAL HERO”
Contrary to what virtually every Filipino has “learned” in social studies class, the country does not have an official “national hero.” Yes, the great Dr. Jose Rizal is undoubtedly a Filipino hero, just like Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang, Jose Abad Santos, Jesus Villamor, and countless other Filipinos who have sacrificed their time, energy, effort, and even their lives, for the country’s welfare. But No, Rizal is not officially recognized as “the national hero of the Philippines,” as tempting as it is to accept this idea.
Nevertheless, the seemingly never-ending debate on who between Rizal and Bonifacio (and in a few other discussions, Emilio Aguinaldo) should be recognized as the country’s national hero is enough proof that Filipinos do care about this matter, and that there is general reverence for what and how they have contributed substantially to the country’s history.
LEGISLATING HEROES, HEROISM?
Historically, there had been numerous attempts and efforts exerted, specifically by the national government, to recognize Filipino heroes and the heroism of Filipinos to firmly symbolize the greatness of the people and the country. These endeavors were likewise the result of the need to further enhance the people’s sense of nationalism, strengthen the call for freedom and independence, and love of country and countrymen.
However, such a recognition was primarily through legislation and proclamations, prompting historians and critics alike to question if heroism could, indeed, be .....