A Tribute to My Heroes

Today we celebrate the National Heroes’ Day and I think there is no time more appropriate to write this entry than now. However, this is about the less popular, unsung heroes…at least to me.

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My paternal great grandfather was a Katipunero, a member of that underground revolutionary movement during the Spanish occupation called Kataastaasan, Kagalang-galangan Katipunan mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK or Katipunan for short). He later became a professor in Colegio de San Jose, a school run by the Jesuits (which I suppose is today’s Ateneo), and was acknowledged as the “father of realism” in the age of romanticism in the country. (Being a non-conformist runs in our family..it’s my genes, not me :-p )

His only son, my grand uncle, was a personal interpreter of our non-English speaking president. By call of duty he frequented the Philippine consulate in the US, where he met his wife. They had five children and one of their sons, my father’s cousin, became a radio broadcaster who announced the Fall of Bataan. He, a lieutenant, was a student at the University of the Philippines but because of war, had to finish his studies in the US.

My uncle’s book now sells at $47.50 and my great grandfather’s at $18.95 both at Amazon. If only I could establish that I am one of the rightful heiresses… if only I had more than just droplets of their blood in mine… if only I had their passion and brilliance… so go, blame my ancestors for my hero complex! :-p

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But there are also hereos in my life whom I met in person and not just in books or my father’s journal.

One is RP whom I met in the University. He struck as a lunatic who once said “there is more to life than achievement” and who quoted St. Augustine “to seek God is the greatest adventure, to love God is the greatest romance, and to find God is the greatest achievement.” At that time, my personality test revealed that my need for achievement was 98 (percentile? I didn’t know the measure. Highest possible rating was 100), for food 12, and for social connection 4 (so what do these numbers say about me? ha ha!). If it were not for RP, I would most likely find myself now in that jungle with insatiable greed for fame and fortune, which was actually my original plan after college. (Er, is too late to go back to it? :-p Kidding! RP might turn in his grave.) RP became my boss/director in a movement where I did volunteer work for a year after graduation.

Another is DB, a social entrepreneur at its truest sense. After establishing 11 successful companies at the age of 35, he decided to share with the poor his entrepreneurial skills so that they may get out of poverty. That was 45 years ago and up to now he is still going around the world helping the needy. I worked with him for barely three days on a project in 2001 and my life was never the same again. I did not see him as my boss (probably because he did not treat me like a staff); I was like a fan around an idol when I was with him. It’s not only his brilliance that struck me; more than that, it’s the genuine goodness of his heart.

Then there’s JJ. In our two years of working together, I did not realize I had learned a lot from him. And my lessons are not about work or technical matters; they’re about life. I am amazed whenever I quote him in my conversations with friends and in my blog entries. JJ has been a social activist for more than 30 years now, twice jailed for fighting for the cause–if only I had his perfect combination of passion, perseverance, and patience…. “Just glide” and “Look at the soul” are the two most important lessons he taught me.

The most recent to join my list is LS. He gave up his comfortable life in the US to work with and for the handicapped in our countryside. SILENTLY. No fireworks, no drumroll. Just like with DB, I worked with LS–whom I fondly called Speedy Gonzalez and who, in return, called me “amiga”–for only three days but I felt instant connection with him. He succumbed to cancer a few weeks after we met–at that time he was already in terrible pain yet he patiently and joyfully joined me in my fieldwork and toured me around the barrios–and until now I grieve over the loss. I myself wondered why I was greatly affected by someone whom I’ve known only for days. I only have one answer–I found a hero in LS.

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Click here for the more animated version.

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