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Recognizing The Heroes of Today By Armando O. Bartolome

For so many years, our definition of a hero was either that of Andres Bonifacio who fought for the Filipino people through a physical battle with the Spaniards and that of Jose Rizal’s way of enlightening the people by means of writing novels that were obviously pointing to the Spanish Government who was then ruling over the Philippines. Dying for the country is indeed heroic but should we limit the definition of a hero to that?

Now, there are more people tagged as being heroic because of their selflessness and valuable contribution to the country and its people. Here in the Philippines, the government has given recognition to our new day heroes in the form of the Bagong Bayani Awards. This award giving body was created to give recognition to notable Overseas Filipino Workers who has done exemplary contributions in the Filipino Communities where they have worked with and that has continually inspired people from all over the world by promoting the image of the Filipinos as competent, responsible and hardworking people.

Knowing how difficult to be away from their own families, some Filipinos have turned their homesickness into something worthwhile that has slowly earned other people’s trust and confidence. With this kind of award, suffice it to say that all the hard work and sleepless nights that they may have had been paid off.
There are several others worth calling as our heroes. In their own small ways, they have touched the lives of others. Unfortunately, some have died but their memory hopefully lingers and become inspiration to our people.
• Muelmar Magallanes - In September 2009, the Philippines suffered from a typhoon that led to flooding in Metro Manila. This 18 year old sacrificed his life by saving 30 people. This selfless act has touched the hearts of so many especially those who have witnessed how he swam through the flood to save a mother and her baby who was slowly drifting ashore.
• Airport Personnel who found huge amount of money and without having second thought had it turned over to the authorities so it can be given back to their rightful owners. Considering how hard their lives are, still these people had their kindness in their hearts to return that does not belong to them. The amount of money they have found was good enough to provide for a number of months but they felt that it was just right to give them back.
• Soldiers – Some were able to come back to their families wounded after a battle. And some were not lucky enough to make it through. These soldiers have vowed to be the protector of our country despite being just as human as anyone of us with the fear of not being able to be reunited with their families after an encounter.

• Teachers – We have entrusted our children to their teachers to be their second parents and to be their guide in learning. In a public school set up, not all students may have the required books and other school materials needed. Although the government has given free education, this is not enough for the students. Some teachers have sacrificed a portion of their own salary by providing paper and pens to their students to ensure that the students area able to cope up with their lessons. The salary of a teacher may be just enough for a month. And to take a portion out of it to help the students is something that we should be grateful about.
• Kesz Valdez – At such an early age, Kesz was able to start Caring Children Organization to help 10,000 street children with their basic needs. While other children of his age may be just focused into playing online games, this young boy was thinking of how he can help unfortunate children.
• Tzarina Saniel – She strongly believes in the value of education thus she has started collecting old books and manuscripts with the aim of preserving the Filipino culture.
• Our Mothers – The unappreciated and most often misunderstood. They may be the least thought of to be heroes because most of us may just see them as someone who is responsible to give us education, clothes, a roof over our head and other things that we might need. But apart from all those responsibilities, a mother also has her own life which she has often taken for granted because of seriously taking her role of taking good care of the family, most especially the children. Filipino families are closely-knit that in one household, there would be at least three generations living together. A grandmother, no matter how old she has gotten, still has the loving heart to take care of her own children as well as look after her grandchildren to the point of sometimes, even her measly pension she shares part of it in providing for the whole family.
These are just few of the heroes which we should get inspiration from and be thankful for. Because of them, the people of this nation has been seen as more than just the people from a Third World Country, but as people who shares the same values as those of others from different nations.
And as for our mothers, we should always honor and shower her with our love because the love that they give to us, their children is endless….it can never be compared to anything. Last 2011, my mother Elvira left my siblings and me a message that to this day I have painstakingly preserved. Here was her last message …”I wish to thank you for giving me the encouragement to pursue my ambition and desire to be an equal elderly being not just a parasite in this world of ours. I know that even if we don't see each other often you still take care of me. In return, I am trying hard to catch up inspite of my Alzheimer. Again thank you for loving your Mom. I love you, Mama.” Today she is 89 years old and could hardly talk to any of us. During her younger years she showed us the meaning and value of work. In fact she has been a public servant as a public school teacher and later serving in the Central Post Office in Manila. Her hard work made her as model employee and awarded a pen with a proud inspiration.

My mother Elvira taken with my nephew Guam-based TJ

There may be an endless list of heroes today. Bring them forward and let others know how they have contributed to your community and be rightfully given the recognition that they deserve.

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