On #NationalHeroesDay, Filipinos should understand the difference between a "martyr" and a "hero"


It seems Filipinos are a bit confused about the two notions and they seem to owe that confusion to (1) the imprecision of their “national language” and (2) their deeply-religious collective character.

Indeed, the imprecise way Filipinos evaluate concepts is evident in the flaccid nature of their national “debate”. The country’s foremost “thought leaders” habitually go off on shrill “activist” campaigns on the back of ill-defined and sloppily-framed premises. The messiness with which Filipino thinkers chart the discourse continues to contribute to the wishy-washiness of Filipinos’ concept of what defines their nationhood. This is why “heroes” and “martyrs” matter a lot to the Philippines’ cadre of politically-passionate “thought leaders” — because grounding of advocacies, movements, and political platforms on the theatrics of melodrama is easier. It is definitely easier than doing the hard intellectual heavy-lifting of framing issues properly and intelligently.

Thus, Filipinos’ most revered historical characters are mere martyrs — people who died. Absent from the Philippines’ nationalist rhetoric, however, is a strong martial tradition.

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