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Saturday, December 2, 2006


Time Magazine recently chose Efren “Bata” Reyes as among the 60 Asian heroes of our generation. In celebration of this remarkable achievement, one of his regular competition sponsors published a congratulatory message on nationwide broadsheets, with a picture of him (sheepish grin and all) lifting a bottle of gin. Hero, huh?

With mixed signals of this nature, I wonder how the concept of heroism is being taught to school kids these days.

I consulted the ever-dependable Mr. Webster, and he validated the definition I have known for most of my life - a hero is "one of distinguished courage or ability admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities; one who has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal".

As kids, there were only a few persons we call heroes, and almost all of them have sacrificed their lives so that this generation will enjoy breathing the air of freedom they so longed to have. Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini … all of them disregarded the call to complacency and the temptation to pursue personal vainglory and instead decided to take the cause of freedom for the greater number.

And what did we do, a generation hence, in return? We shamelessly dilute their heroism by placing in the same pedestal people who share nothing of their values.

Pray tell me, what has Bata done to deserve being tagged a hero? Is playing billiards all your life and getting paid for it, heftily, I should add, an example of selfless virtue?

There has to be a stop in heralding every good-doer a hero. If these times really lack nobility, then by all means, leave it at that. We should not adjust our standards just because nobody meets them.

I agree, people who do good should be appreciated, praised or even rewarded. But we should use the hero tag sparingly, more so if their acts are but results of the desire to survive or worse, of the pursuit for personal dreams. Heroism cannot just be an offshoot of something else; it has to be a product of a conscious effort to abandon the self for the higher interest of others. I do not subscribe to accidental heroes.

This means therefore, that we should stop calling OFWs heroes because they definitely are not within the league. They may have made sacrifices but these are all for the benefit of their families and themselves. Of course, the government must laud them for the remittances they send back home and for the investments they make in local businesses, but such must only be within the context of their saving the government from further embarrassment for its ineptness in handling the economy. All else outside this framework is pure "bola".

This means too, that self-confessed crooks should not be treated and allowed to swagger like royalty just because his squealing caused the downfall of another administration (of course, he was a partner in the robbery of the public treasury at the time, but look at him pontificating like the Pope on the evils of corruption). People like him should be in jail.

Nor should that boxer who is already a multi-millionaire be barraged with hosannas as the sole bearer of good tidings to this forlorn country. Suckers that we are for fame, we take the line that he does his boxing in the name of country. Rubbish! He is into what he does for the money and the fame that goes with it. He is hero only to the leeches who use him for photo-ops and all means fair and foul to score political mileage. And the poor guy doesn’t even realize he’s being used. Or may be not. I guess he knows he could make a fool of millions of Filipinos; for how else could he have the gall to launch a singing career and thus pollute our airwaves, if he doesn't think of us as stupid enough to let him get away with it? Hero, my ***!!

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