Monday, December 11, 2006

What Heroes Are Made Of

It really makes me sad how things can be twisted in the Philippines. Take for instance the word "hero." Manny Pacquiao, Efren Reyes, Precious Lara Quigaman and our numerous overseas workers are referred to as our modern-day heroes. We have lowered our standards again as usual. No wonder we are moving backward instead of forward. Our role models are those who do not finish their schooling most of the time. The implied message is as long as you have fame or fortune or both, who cares if you got an education or not? You can be a hero as long as you have the gold in your pockets or gold plating on your medal, your belt or your crown.
Hey, I have nothing against our athletes, beauty queens and OFW's. Our beauty queens and athletes do bring glory to our country in their own way. Our overseas workers help sustain our flagging economy by remitting dollars more than once a year. However, I just can't see them as our modern-day heroes. P-L-E-A-S-E! I'm sorry, but I just can't.
I've been hearing so many kind words about our overseas workers. According to our politicians, without our OFW's, we wouldn't be enjoying the kind of dollar reserve we have right now. We are told that while we stay here to enjoy their dollars, they are over there, far away from their families and making sacrifices for us. Hence, they are viewed as our modern-day heroes.
Hmmmmmmmmmm. I am grateful that our overseas workers do give our economy a boost but do we really need to label them as heroes? For crying out loud, if trying to earn a living is heroic, then I must be a hero myself. I mean, that is what they are trying to do-- earn a living. It just so happened that they couldn't make a decent living here so they are forced to find work elsewhere and that's it. Are the politicians saying that the workers who are staying here do not contribute to the Philippine economy? Are Filipino workers who work abroad better than Filipino workers who work locally? Well, it is not suprising that the dollar is worshipped more than the peso. We have a hard time shaking off our colonial roots.
It is quite insulting to lionize our overseas workers. Our local workers(me included) also make sacrifices. If the government had provided better working conditions here in the Philippines, I am very sure most overseas workers would have stayed here. There is nothing heroic about working abroad. It was brought out of necessity and not for the greater good. I doubt if our overseas workers were thinking of helping our economy by working abroad. They were thinking of themselves and their families. I don't begrudge them that, though. Self-preservation is but natural.
Of course, it is equally insulting to me as well to lionize our boxers, billiard players and beauty queens. Talk about blowing things out of proportion! Sure, I am very proud of them, especially if they win their bouts and titles, but I certainly don't think they deserve to be called heroes.
Our boxers, billiard players and beauty contestants are out there to win not so much for our country but more so for themselves. Since they are representing the Philippines, it can't be helped that they bring glory to our nation when they win. If they were really doing something beyond themselves, how come our boxers and billiard players buy extravagant toys for themselves when they get the money? How come, beauty titlists usually enter showbiz? Such acts cannot be judged as heroic. Again, I do not begrudge them that. It is their hard-earned money. It is their title. What they do with their fame and fortune is their own business. However, they do not deserve the label "modern-day heroes."
So who are my modern-day heroes? First, let me define what a hero is to me. A hero is someone who puts himself/herself second to the greater good, big or small. The sacrifices that he/she makes is not self-serving. Heroes can be seen in all walks of life.
On a bigger scale, my modern-day heroes are those bright people who have chosen to stay in the Philippines to serve our own people despite offers to work abroad. For example, there are good teachers who have remained here to teach. They endure the long hours, low pay, and sometimes even public scorn just because they love what they are doing and feel the need to make a difference. But we seldom see them as heroes. Many think they are stupid for not grabbing the chance of a lifetime to work abroad, especially in the US.
I remember reading about this science teacher named Biyo who bested other representatives from first world countries in a contest. I can't even remember that teacher's gender. I don't even know if I spelled the name right or what that contest was all about. My faulty recollection just shows how much our country trivializes an achievement like this since there was little press coverage of this contest. Such feats are deemed as forgettable.
The same thing happens to our scientists. They flounder in this country. They receive little support from the government and are seldom encouraged to make discoveries that will solve some problems in this country. There is little press coverage for them as well. No wonder we always hear stories of how some Filipino scientists sold their inventions or discoveries abroad to cover the expenses they have entailed while experimenting on their formulas. Our scientists are another set of unsung heroes.
On a smaller scale, I see heroic acts done by simple people. Look at those grandparents who become babysitters. They could have chosen to relax and travel a bit(if they have the money), but they have chosen to help their own children by looking after their children's children. Everyone knows it is very physically taxing to run after frisky little kids or to change diapers or to feed reluctant mouths.
On the other side of the coin, there are grown children who have to look after their ailing parent/s since their siblings are too busy with other things to help out. These conscientious people usually have to sacrifice their own jobs to be able to look after their sick parent/s and have to subsist on the allowance given by wealthier siblings or siblings who do not like to be bothered by this family issue. This sacrifice, as we can all see, is not self-serving.
There are also those kids who should be in school but are earning a living by selling flowers, cigarettes, etc. to make both ends meet just because their own good-for-nothing parents are too lazy or too intoxicated or too spaced out to care about their own kids. These kids have to sacrifice their education, time and youth to take the role of their irresponsible parents. Isn't that quite heroic of them?
One would think that a sacrifice is always done for the sake of others but this is not so. The sacrifices that athletes, beauty queens and overseas workers make are usually beneficial to themselves and cannot be called heroic. Plus, whatever contribution our winning athletes, beauty titlists, and OFW's give to our nation cannot be viewed as for the greater good.
I know that what I think won't matter that much to the media and the politicians. They will still continue to lionize the b's(boxers, billiard players, basketball players, and beauty titlists) and the OFW's because fame and fortune is more glamorous than the sacrificial giving of one's life. I just wish they would stop making heroes of non-heroes and start recognizing the true heroes of our country today. Give credit where real credit is due, PEOPLE, or I will slug you like Manny Pacquiao!

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