Today is National Heroes Day – a day of great significance especially for those of us who serve as soldiers of the Philippine Republic. These days, when my soldier life has become less of the dangerous combat missions, I have seen more of the heroism in the people I worked with and the many soldiers I have encountered. For one, I now interact more to people outside my organization. Conversations with them provide better insight and better appreciation. When I listen to people’s perception of the life of a soldier, I learn that the life that many of us live (or sacrificed) has so much to appreciate – so much to give so much to offer.
In occasions such as National Heroes Day, we are forced to look into ourselves and wonder how we are part of this commemoration. We come to ask what significant contributions we have really done for the nation.
Over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte was the guest of honor for the 10th year anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command. It was his third visit to military units within the Davao Region, two of which happened to condole with the family of our fallen comrades who died in combat. I hear in the news that he led today’s National Heroes Day Celebration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig. A little later, he is at the wake of PO1 Gary Cabaguing in Samar. Cabaguing was killed during an anti drug operation as part of the team that served a warrant of arrest on a known drug suspect five days ago.
In the first two months of his Presidency, he mostly visited AFP and PNP camps and wakes of those who died in action. No president in my recent memory has done that. No national politician I can remember has done that. I have not seen any local politician visit the wake of my fallen comrades in my time in the field even if the wake was just across that politician’s house. None of those soldiers or policemen who died he personally knew. He was just there.
Just like what the President is doing, the heroes that we honor today made the harder choice and sacrificed their life for this country. We honor them because despite of whatever form of fear, confusion or hesitation they had, they still did what they did and died for it. I remember the sacrifice of one Sergeant Claudio Forrosuelo who, having realized that his whole battalion was encircled by attacking MILF rebels in August 2000, organized a group of soldiers who will hold the ground in order for the rest of his unit to extricate and fight another day. Accounts of soldiers who came back the next day would reveal the lifeless body of Sgt Forrosuelo surrounded by many dead rebels. He is now buried in nearby Tagum City and perhaps the only Medal of Valor awardee in this part of the country. Inspired by his heroism, his daughter, who at the time of his death was too young to comprehend what his father has done, later joined the Philippine Military Academy and is now a second lieutenant in the Army.
Many of us will not be placed in that situation but all of us can choose to sacrifice something for this country. All of us can forego of our fears, our confusion and whatever hesitation if in the end that decision will have some contribution for the good of this country. When we look at the many problems plaguing this country, it is not easy to understand why we are in the mess we are right now. We refuse to do what must be done and we refuse to offer ourselves for this country. Very few of us are willing to sacrifice for this country. The least that we can really do is to be there for this country. To be Filipinos that contributes positively for the Philippines.
Today’s commemoration is about honoring the selfless acts done for this country. We honor our National Heroes not for their feats of heroism but for the aspiration for which the heroism was made. We honor them because their action was in consideration for something greater than themselves; it was for the Filipino People as a whole.
Yesterday, I was asked during a guesting in a local radio program, what are my thoughts on the ongoing Peace Talks. My answer was short of saying that the President voted by 16 million Filipinos should be trusted that his decision is what is best for this country. At the back of my mind was the fear that the many NPAs we have fought hard to put behind bars will all be released. I fear that the CPP-NPA-NDF will take advantage of the truce and use the opportunity to regroup and rearm. I fear that the cabinet secretaries they fielded will take advantage of their positions for their own agenda. Actually, I fear many things but if this is what it takes to find peace for our country it must be done.
Our country now is in trying times. We are in challenged by many things that will determine our future as a nation. Today’s celebration is perhaps a reminder how we are to act as a people, as Filipinos. Perhaps if we can do that, then maybe, just maybe the future ahead is bright and wonderful.