By Ben Rosario
Contrary to what has been imparted to us by elementary school teachers, Jose P. Rizal is not the national hero of the Philippines.
Perhaps, if one considers as the basis for declaring national hero the sheer number of streets, schools, parks, barangay units, and other localities, Rizal might emerge the winner.
Andres Bonifacio, a Tondo-born revolutionary who founded the Katipunan, may have a Misamis Occidental town named after him.
But Rizal has two – one a Kalinga municipality and another, a province that used to be the largest in the country until President Ferdinand Marcos decided to take away eight towns from its huge territory to create what is now known as Metro Manila.
So, what must it take for Rizal or Bonifacio to be declared a national hero?
A legislative measure proposed in Congress and signed into law should put an end to debates about the choice of national heroes, national flowers, birds and many other things aimed at instilling in every Filipino the significance of them being free and independent.
In fact, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Republic Act 1106 declaring the Filipino sign language as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf and the official sign language of government in all transactions involving them.
After three Congresses, the bill finally became law with its authors, Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro and outgoing Senators Bam Aquino and Loren Legarda, agreeing that the new law liberated Pinoy deaf from learning US-based sign language.
There are a number of legislative measures that authors believed must be enacted for playing a significant role in underscoring in the many generations to come to their importance in being Filipinos:
1. The proposed National Writing System Act declaring the pre-colonial Baybayin as the national writing system of the Philippines. The House of Representatives passed its version of the measure that was authored by Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil. However, Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ version of the bill remained pending.
2. Proposal declaring “balangay” as the national boat of the Philippines. Approved on final reading in the Lower House, the bill sought recognition of the “balangay” or Butuan boat, oldest of which was carbon dated 320 AD, into national prominence. Separate measures were filed by Rep. Lemuel Fortun of Agusan del Sur and Trillanes.
3. House Bill 5408 authored by Paranaque Rep. Eric Olivarez mandates all Filipino beauty pageant contestants in international beauty pageant competitions to wear or use costumes designed and created by Filipino fashion designers. He filed the bill after Miss Universe contestant Mary Jean Lastimoso caused controversy for wearing an “un-Filipina” national wear made by a Colombian designer.
4. Bill declaring “walingwaling” orchid as the national flower of the Philippines. Written by Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, HB 7021 proposes to change sampaguita as the national flower with the exotic waling-waling, an orchid specie endemic to the forests of Davao, Sultan Kudarat and other areas in Mindanao.
5. HB 5747 the proposed Mindanao Heroes Declaration Act which will name national heroes Filipinos who led the revolution against Spain and the United States in Mindanao. Mindanaoan Rep. Maximo Rodriguez said the bill seeks to “correct the bias against heroic participation of the people from different regions “ in the revolution against Americans and Spaniards. Among those included in the heroes list were Gen. Nicolas Capistrano, Col Velez, Captain Vicente Roa of Cagayan de Oro; Simeon Ledesma and Rufino Deloso of Misamis Occidental.
Datu Uto, Datu Ali and Amai Pakpak were Muslim heroes who offered their lives in the resistance against Spanish and American conquerors
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice appeared baffled that until now, neither Rizal nor Bonifacio has been named a national hero.
“It seems supremely ironic that as of this date, the two greatest Filipinos who ever lived were, technically and legally speaking, not our national heroes,” he said.
There have been a number of decrees and laws that cited the heroism of the two national pride, but no one has acknowledged either of them the ultimate hero of the Philippines.
To address this seeming “bureaucratic negligence or deliberate government inaction”, Erice filed House Bill 2762 declaring the two revolutionaries the country’s heroes.
“This is the least we could do to repay them, as well as their families and heirs, for the ultimate sacrifice that they both performed so that the Filipino nation can be free,” said Erice.
HB 2762, filed by a member of the political opposition, never made it even in the committee level.