My Idea of a Hero

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MY IDEA OF A HERO
a personal reflection in light of recent events

by Alvin E. Lauran

I can visualize my picture of a hero to an angel with a halo, but without wings; a little bit of an imperfect saint with some allowance for pardonable misgivings.

My hero is patriotic – one who is simply willng to die for his country or one who is reaching out a long-stretched arm to an enemy or a friend who is about to fall from a ravine. He may not be well-decorated in terms of his accomplishments, but his willingness to serve others above self “na walang halong pag-iimbot o pagkukunwari” is more dominant. In our daily existence, there are people who may save our aweful day, “an angel in disguise”, whose heroic deeds were unknown to us. My parents, my teachers and mentors – they are all heroes to me. Our overseas contract workers, those people risking their lives to save other people from fire or some similar emergencies and disasters are heroes, too. The unsung heroes, they told us.

In light with recent events, the nation is once again divided. One tv station last night stressed in its prime time news the sneaky burial of the dictator. Stressing the word “diktador” in full voice with sarcasm. Well, I can fully understand the gesture.

I grew up in a small fishing village in Cebu, in a time when Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was president of the republic. Although we heard about curfews and the so-called “killings” in some areas like the foot “tsinelas” patrol or NPAs in the forest region of Tuburan, but I can say, we were not that affected because our parents were just busy enough for our simple living, and we kids were just that – kids, enjoying the innocence of childhood. I remember our family, along with other families in our neighborhood and nearby barangays, was recepient of the swine dispersal, a national government project of Pres. Marcos via Kilusang Kabuhayan para sa Kaunlaran, popularly known as KKK. We had a transistor radio which played Cebuano dramas, sometimes with interruptions when the president had an important announcement or proclamation. And it was heard all throughout the country in basically all stations in a radio dial.

In our elementary days, (circa 1976 – 1982), the regal portrait of Marcos with his prominent signature was hung in the center walls of every classroom. I remember I used to copycat his signature, and I hate to admit it, Marcos signature was the blueprint of my signature during my younger days, yet I opted to change it when I reached the age that I would have to sign legal and official transactions. And in one corner, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS) along with other Ministry thrusts and development goals were appropriately displayed. We had a peaceful childhood where we could freely play. I was even more encouraged to go to school and look forward almost everyday of the free feeding program featuring Nutri-Bun, and in some cases, a free hot meal or lugaw and “utan” with malunggay and kalabasa.

It was during my sixth grade when I could fully grasp that we had indeed a leader in the country, and one of the most popular leaders at that time. Miss Rizalina Soto, our Social Studies teacher introduced us the Philippine and world map, the current events, the national and world leaders at that time, even successful enough to convince us to memorize all their names, and the meaning behind the anagrams like the BLISS, KKK, the UN, NATO, SEATO, UNESCO, UNICEF, etc. Most prominent and is still vivid in my memory was that, when Ms. Soto handed me a note on a Friday afternoon, asking me to memorize a poem in a weekend so that on a Monday flag raising, I would deliver the message. September 21, 1981, I faithfully recited the poem infront of the teachers, pupils and some invited guests from the community, as a tribute to the man behind the martial law. It was more of an oratory than a poem, lifting a strong man, that was Marcos, into some kind of high pedestal. I can still remember a line, every last line of the 6-liner, 8 paragraph poem had it, stressing the line, even stretching my right arm into the thin air and say or shout with conviction, MARCOS IS THE MAN! It started just like that. As a young kid willing to absorb knowledge, I searched for more, about the man. I couldn’t find anything in a school like ours with very limited resources. I was just contented reading a book from our Class Adviser, Ms. Erlinda Ouano, featuring Imelda Romuladez Marcos and her regal family in Malacañang.

No Marcos-related personal encounter during my high school days, except that when we were about to graduate on March 1982, we had so much fear to not able to make it to our graduation. People Power revolution erupted on the third week of Febuary that led to the oust of the “dictator”, and the first woman president took place. Rumors had it, that during the Edsa revolution, Cory Aquino took refuge in Cebu, without us all knowing. Well, amidst all the chaos, we were able to march on stage and got hold of our high school diploma, with the commencement exercises theme “The graduates’role in good government”. Sounds familiar, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) of Pres. Cory after that.

During my college, when I could go search the library and read news and magazines like the Philippine Free Press, when so much had been said about the deposed president, I came to know more. But who I am to judge?

Just recently, I bought what I call “my yellow book”, REMEMBERING/RETHINKING EDSA edited by Paul S. Manzanilla and Caroline S. Hau. It’s about the anthology gathered together among the reminiscenes of activists, academics and artists focusing not only on those who took part in the event, but also on those who came of age in the wake of Edsa. As I leaf through its pages, it seems to me that the book is really an act of remembering, rethinking and reassessing the contested legacy of Edsa and its continuing implications for present and future generations of Filipinos.

Now, the question if Marcos is fit for a hero’s burial is not mine to fathom. For me, a hero is nothing like a metaphor associated with how other people see or judge our actions. Sometimes, history books do not tell it all. The ultimate and supreme, all-knowing God is the only one who can judge us. The least we can do is to continue living with the Golden Rule, and if we can’t do good to others, at least don’t harm them. #

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