Yesterday’s holiday was Bonifacio Day but, if my instincts serve me well, 95 percent of Filipinos probably did absolutely nothing to commemorate the life, ideals, and death of Andres Bonifacio.
To be fair, it is hard to blame our apathy towards national heroes these days because the coronavirus pandemic prevents us from doing almost anything in public and en-masse. If before there were parades or wreath-laying rituals, now, aside from the free day, there is almost nothing to differentiate a holiday from a regular day.
Even before the pandemic, we have already stopped commemorating holidays properly, mainly because our great leader didn’t want to waste his precious time on hypocrisy. Why should we celebrate Filipino ideals like bravery, honor, integrity and decency when Filipinos apparently like their role models to be misogynistic, rude, foul mouthed old men without any word of honor to speak of? Like our leaders, we eventually found enjoyment in spending our holidays sleeping in instead of getting up early to attend ceremonies honoring dead people and forgotten ideals.
The irony of the Philippines is that while it is among the top nations in the world when it comes to the number of non-working holidays, Filipinos learn almost nothing from those free days. We get new or extra holidays almost every year but it seems that the purpose of such days is for a disappointing government to give its people something to be thankful for. Perhaps, our public officials see us as school kids whose happiness can easily be bought by school cancellations.
Anyway, we can’t do much about a government defined by laziness but it is still up to us to learn something from our holidays.
Andres Bonifacio is often referred to as the Father of the Philippine Revolution. He was one of the founders and later became Supremo of the Kataastaasang, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or the Katipunan that sought the country’s independence from Spanish colonial rule. His role in our country’s history is so significant that he has often been suggested as an alternate or co-equal to Jose Rizal for national hero.
Bonifacio was a revolutionary. During those days, that meant being willing to take up arms, fight and even die for freedom. Unlike today’s politicos, whose words rarely translate into action or reality, real Filipino heroes back then meant what they said and backed up their bold statements with action. They had no spokespersons to come up with creatively imagined explanations and excuses for their bosses’ statements back then. If leaders like Gat Andres say he will do something, either he does it, or his word is worth nothing. Perhaps, that explains why we had more heroes from that era of history than we do from these days.
I’m partial to Andres Bonifacio’s holiday, not because I prefer a revolutionary over a scholar like Jose Rizal, but because he shares the same birthday as my father, his namesake. For me personally, the late Andres R. Leonardia is probably the bigger reason why November 30 is such a big day but if you come to think of it, yesterday boiled down to personal and national heroes.
Heroes are a big deal for me these days because there is almost no one to look up to anymore. It feels like more and more of the world is being led by con artists, incompetent fools and disappointments. Words of inspiration rarely come out of the mouths of the nation’s leaders and public servants. We just celebrated a national hero’s birthday yesterday but aside from another day stuck at home, hiding from COVID, yesterday probably meant nothing for most of us.
As parents, we want our kids to have heroes to look up to as they grow up to become active Filipino citizens. I don’t mind being a role model for my kids, but we all need help in showing them what great men can achieve and that is probably the OG reason why we have holidays. Unfortunately for today’s parents, current leaders who are supposed to serve as role models for the youth suck so terribly that the burden of being heroic and inspirational now rests on our ordinary, human, and quarantined shoulders.
Maybe one day, when governments no longer aim to bring out the worst in its people, the life and ideals of heroes like Andres Bonifacio will be remembered and commemorated once again every November 30. But until then, the best we can do as parents and guides for the next generation is to tell them the stories of our heroes and try our best to be good role models for them, in word and in deed.*