Ignoring the heroes

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

While the Bacolod City government is officially celebrating the festival to encourage alcoholic drinks in its Rum Festival that will run for three days, we have not heard of any official commemoration of the democratic struggle of Benigno Aquino, Jr. whose assassination fell on August 21. The Aquino day is declared official holiday that all government offices and schools are closed.

Even in Manila, the news report says “family and friends” remembered the day, but there was no official commemoration. Well, the Aquinos are no longer in power and therefore nothing to dispense.

The Aquino commemoration, as Manuel L. Quezon Day on August 19, was only for one day, while Bacolod’s Rum Festival is longer. You can readily see what kind of values the City of Bacolod is promoting. While the Congress just passed a bill to increase taxes on alcoholic drinks to discourage their consumption and prevent the undesirable consequences of drunkenness, Bacolod’s officialdom is encouraging people to drink alcohol. What kind of values are the city officials teaching?

That the drunkard’s festivities and twisted sense of values had to start on the day we honor a hero smacks of insult to the ideals of Ninoy Aquino even if unintended. But, well, Bacolod is not well-known for honest idealism.

Although Bacolod went to the extreme of the insult, Filipinos also had generally developed a habit of ignoring its heroes. Bacolod is not the only culprit but practically all local governments. How many, for instance, do commemorate the heroism of Andres Bonifacio or even that of Jose Rizal on a scale worthy of these men and what they represent?

Soon we will commemorate National Heroes Day, but have we heard of any activities that the government offices, especially the schools for the day? The only thing that comes to mind among students, teachers, government and private enterprise employees is that there is no work. Those who, by the nature of their jobs had to report, are happy because they get double pay.

Thus, millions worth of work hours and services are lost because these holidays for our heroes are wasted. Hardly is there a commemorative activity to recall and imbibe in our citizens, especially the young generation of the value of the heroism of the past.

There are some flag-raising activities mainly in the plaza where a politician would speak about heroism including his own “performance” but nothing substantive to inculcate the virtues intended by law. Most city officials are absent and even among teachers, there is token attendance. Where are the rest of the people who were given a day off so they can commemorate the historic event and hopefully learn a lesson or two in patriotism?

The government, particularly the schools are the most organized group and with the financial capacity, no matter how small to hold a program. The schools, public and private can handle a half-day commemoration with a symposium or a conference on the life and works of a hero to inculcate in the students the ideals for which these people have fought and died for.

Of course, it can be argued that those already in the workplaces are supposed to know our heroes, but that assumption is wrong mainly because while in school they might have heard the name but not what they were. This is the result of the failure of our schools to teach our history.

Many people, officials especially of government, bewail the ignorance of our people about heroism and patriotism particularly in the exercise of their citizenship responsibility. But these virtues are not learned in a day but in a continuing series of reminders, the reason that we have commemorations about the lives of heroes.

The Department of Education and the Department of the Interior and Local Governments are supposed to be the lead agencies in ensuring compliance of the mandate and expectations of the law. But has anyone of these departments called attention to this lapse in commemorating the heroes’ days?

Consider the recent flurry of compliance in removing illegal structures. These are supposed to be normal functions of local governments, but it had to take the president to enforce the law under pain of sanction.

Ignoring our heroes is a defect that does not show immediate results, but its cumulative effect can be seen in the lack of civic responsibility.