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1 month ago
Today is a holiday. Republic Act No. 9492, signed into law in 2007 set August 30 of every year as National Heroes Day. This used to be commemorated on November 30, alongside Bonifacio Day, in honor of Andres Bonifacio's birthday.
But Bonifacio, who symbolically ripped the cedula (community tax certificate) as a sign of protest against the Spaniards and started the revolution, was too big of a hero already and deserved a day to himself.
National Heroes Day was for the unknown heroes who also died or were persecuted as the nation fought to emancipate itself from the clutches of its oppressors. It is not in honor of one specific personality, but that of every individual who showed courage in the fight for the freedom we enjoy today.
However, I doubt people actually know the significance of this day. To most, it's a holiday so there's no work, no classes, and maybe less traffic. Unfortunately for those who are daily wage earners, it also means no pay. For the ones required to report to work today, they do get extra pay.
History books haven't really done justice to make students fully appreciate the sacrifice of these people dubbed as heroes. Neither have most teachers taken an in depth approach to presenting history so it is more vivid in the minds of kids rather than just asking them to memorize dates, places or people's names for tests.
Come to think of it, I may have enjoyed relating historical events or actions taken by those who fought for independence to our life as we were growing up. But that's water under the bridge.
Fast forward to 2021...
Mention hero today and what comes to mind are health workers who have sacrificed, toiled, and risked their lives during this pandemic that's running to 18 months.
There are also frontliners, whose jobs are not medical related, but have been called upon to serve the public at a time when mobility is restricted and most services are only operating at half capacity. The delivery riders, the staff at groceries and pharmacies, law enforcers, security guards, and allied workers in medical facilities.
We may not be at war using cannons, guns and bullets, but we are also fighting a battle that has claimed thousands of lives, often in solitude without even seeing the enemy.
And every doctor, nurse, medical technologist and technician, and hospital aide who brave each day exposing themselves to a virus that seems to always be two steps ahead of the world, rightly deserve to be called heroes.
Then what? Honoring heroes should go beyond just recognizing the work they've done and continue to do. What they need is validation through specific action, and the most profound way to honor these men and women is give what is due them, commensurate to their sacrifice, now, not six or eight months from now.
That means the special risk allowance, equivalent to hazard pay, and benefits covering food, transportation, and even insurance which was promised by government through a law enacted at the start of the pandemic.
It is nurses in private medical facilities that are struggling the most because of already low salaries, and many have chosen to give up because of meager pay compounded by exhaustion in the last year-and-a-half.
While being called a modern-day hero may sound exulting, without corresponding action to demonstrate they are truly valued - such as upping their salaries beyond minimum wage and releasing their benefits in a timely manner - being a hero is meaningless.
For the public who can contribute little to the economic plight of nurses, the most practical way to help is to keep safe and avoid being infected with the virus so hospitals will not be further overwhelmed more than they already are.
One is usually hailed a hero for performing extraordinary deeds under ordinary circumstances. This is a day for remembering heroes, those who gave their life for the nation to be free.
But in today's context, there are thousands of people doing heroic acts but feel they are grossly undervalued. Let us remember them, perhaps through prayer, that they finally get what they deserve so they can truly embrace their being heroes.