Do we still know our Heroes?!

I have not given thought to heroes until these past two weeks, when the commemoration of National Heroes’ Day reminded me that if there’s anything they do for us at present, it’s that they give us long weekends.

I don’t mean to imply, though, that holidays are all they’re worth; they’ve done so much more for this land than many of us ever have — or so we are taught to believe. But these weekends feel like they’ve just been long weekends, nothing more. And it does feel kind of sad that we don’t seem to remember why we commemorate them in the first place.

Maybe it’s because the nature of our heroes has changed. Times are different now, and the heroes of old have ceased to be relevant. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that "hero" is now synonymous to "icon", since many of the people we call "our heroes" happen to be icons as well, like boxers and movie stars.

While I don’t necessarily agree with it, there is nothing wrong with that. Who a person considers to be his hero is his own business.

But if we have started to look for our heroes in places other than where they used to be, like at the forefront of causes or building the nation, so that our standards for heroism have changed, does that mean that we’ve lost them? Have heroes — people of courage and self-sacrifice, who fight for the greater good — disappeared?

Heroes are important because they remind us of man’s capacity for good in a twisted world. That’s why we need them, and that’s why we hold on to them: they give us something to believe in. They give us hope.

That’s also why, nowadays, we have turned to sectors like media or sports for our heroes. They are able to help us get through the drudgery of reality. When Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, we are able to set aside the problems of high prices and government corruption for a moment, and recall the greatness of the human spirit. When Manny Pacquiao won against Barrerra (or Morales, or Diaz), we remember that we, as a nation, still have something to be proud of. We look up to them because they can, to a certain extent, be looked up to.

After all, if we look to the realm of politics or society, will we find anyone we can look up to? Maybe there are, but the fact of the matter is we just don’t see them. Or if we do see them, they aren’t inspiring or ‘heroic’ enough to move us to action.

But who would want to be that kind of a hero, anyway? In a system where the lines have become so blurred that heroes are persecuted for doing the right thing, what incentive would you have to be one? Ironically enough, it seems that to play the role of a hero is to accept playing the role of the villain.

But even more ironic is the fact that we kill our heroes while crying out, at the same time, that we need them.

Then again, it’s possible that I’m looking in the wrong places. There are a lot of good people out there who are doing what they can to help change the way things are. They come in different faces: volunteers who help build houses, professionals who prioritize the less-fortunate, even icons who use their status to highlight their advocacies. In a sense, you can call them heroes because they serve as examples for doing the right thing.

It’s not like I mean to discredit their good works, but I don’t think you can boil down heroism to just being good. I think heroism also means doing the right thing even in the face of persecution, because that means you’re brave enough to stand alone. Taken in that sense, heroes are really hard to find. Ironically enough, perhaps that’s what makes them more valuable.

But even more ironic is the fact that it seems to be the heroes who face the greatest persecution who are be able to rally the most people.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found those people yet. I’m still holding out for a hero.