This past week, we celebrated Independence day. And just like every year, we momentarily celebrate our love for our country. For most it will just be a day-off and a traffic-free Edsa. Apart from June 12, these are the other days we celebrate our love for our country:
August 21 : Ninoy Aquino Day
Last Monday of August: National Heroes Day
November 30: Bonifacio Day
December 30: Rizal Day
February 25: Edsa People Power Day
By Contrast, our religious holidays are:
1st week of April: Holy week, Holidays on Maundy Thursday & Good Friday
November 1 & 2: All Souls Day & All Saints Day
December 25: Christmas day
Year Round: City, Municipal, & Barangay Fiesta
The religious holidays are well celebrated. In all cases, we find ourselves participants in realizing the spirit of the celebration. We go to churches and even attend recollections during Holy week. We go to the cemetery to connect our faith with our loved ones during November. We fall in long lines to spend and buy gifts for Christmas. During Fiesta’s we prepare feasts. In some cases, people would even borrow money to make sure there is a lot of food during this festive season. From these faith celebrations, are famous feast days such as Peñafrancia of Naga, Pahiyas of Lucban, Sinulog of Cebu, Kadayawan of Davao, and so on.
In all of these events, we can see personal stake and involvement that have made these celebrations pillars of our culture and identity as a Filipino.
Unfortunately, we do not have much venues to celebrate heroism. Edsa People Power day (Feb 25) is hardly felt outside Metro Manila. There is no widely known venue where a person can participate in any of the other heroic holidays. Because of this, we are left with little opportunity and an unfulfilled desire for heroism.
This is probably why we are passionate about Jessica Sanchez and Manny Paquicao winning and shining for the world to see. Edsa becomes abandoned during Paquiao fights. All of us, down to the farthest barangay can connect to Jessica. The entire country felt her loss in American Idol. Similarly, we are also shocked by the loss of Manny that some are protesting - very much immersed and involved. It was as if our national pride and identity is slightly diminished by Bradley’s win.
Could it be that we are all drawn in by people like Jessica Sanchez or Many Paquiao because we are in search for heroes and patriots? This is not necessarily bad but we cannot rely on Jessica and Many to uphold our pride as a country. If we always need a world champion, we will have an external perspective of what makes us proud.
We have developed an external view of heroism because we lack the venues and opportunity to exercise and slowly appreciate patriotism or love for country in ourselves, our family, and our friends. We lack the opportunities to enable us to be proud of ourselves and see the heroism in us and those we care for. This is the foundation of patriotism - when we and those we care for start to have a stake in how this country is defined.
When was the last time you volunteered to serve during Independence Day, Bonifacio Day, or Rizal Day? Are you one of those that just go somewhere for vacation during those days?
At Kayan Natin, I noticed that our following is rooted in two things. First, People follow us because of the champions in good governance; what they do and what they signify.
Second, there are people that follow us and invest in us because they find that we create a venue where they become part of an effort towards good governance.
Mark Yu, the Chief Operating Officer of SeaOil, Inc., in a talk he shared with 15 mayors last weekend disclosed why they are partnering with us to engage local government leaders. ‘We want to create a healthy relationship with mayors because we do not want to bribe to get permits. And the best way to do this is to help them in their need as leaders. If we help them become better mayors, we are developing a healthy relationship with them. We are helping them become better leaders and we are also helping build this country.’ (Paraphrased), Mark said. Just this year, Kaya Natin and SeaOil partnered to engage 92 mayors to improve their Local School Board to develop public education.
Girlie Garcia-Lorenzo, my wife, is the executive director of Kythe. It as an organization that helps children and their families with cancer in public hospitals. She attributes their 20 year existence to their volunteers. Girlie said, “For twenty years, we have enabled volunteers to discover more about themselves in giving joy to a dying child. ...and many of our volunteers become passionate in what they do.” Lately, Girlie talks about Passion for Caring. “It is a program where we engage the hospital professionals to help them care for the children better,” Girlie said. By end of this month, Kythe will be inviting all of their partners and other corporations in an effort to celebrate the gains they see in deepening corporate social responsibility. “There is just so many sick children in need and we need more partners to help,” Girlie emphasized.
While I was volunteering with Gawad Kalinga (GK), I saw how individual heroism and love for country is celebrated thru meaningful and relevant participation. By volunteering to build houses, I found myself concretely fighting poverty which became my own expression and discovery of patriotism. For a while, GK was a place where I found myself relevant in making a difference for the future generations. It was a place I saw how I needed to reconcile my capacity in relation to the need I see. By that, it became a framework in developing patriotism. Today, GK continues to engage many people.
We need more venues where we can exercise and develop patriotism as we have our faith. Each time we sacrifice to go to mass, go on retreats, or give to the church, this becomes part of a growing understanding of our faith and how it defines us; our relationship with God and how we see ourselves - our identity. Can you imagine if we have the same opportunity to nurture our sense of patriotism? If we can somehow realize our love for our country in our search for identity, we will also discover our own heroic nature.
We have the capacity to love our country as much as we love God but we need to have a way to own our patriotism just as we have grown to own our faith. These are venues where we make small sacrifices for our faith that serve as formative and learning environments; moments we have invested to develop the integrity of our love for God into our culture. We need to invest in similar opportunities to develop our love for our country. The way we nurture our faith is the same way we need to nurture our patriotism - small, consistent sacrifices that become part of who we are.
Do you have your Kythe, Gawad Kalinga, Kaya Natin, or other venues that let you sacrifice to address a need? Do you nurture these sacrifices and continue to invest in them? Do you see your efforts become part of who you are?
Until you can positively answer these questions, you will remain in search of heroes. Every now and then a Jessica Sanchez or a Manny Pacquiao will come along and help make you proud of our country. But as they go you will be left wanting and searching for another hero.
As Jessica’s favorite singer said:
There's an answer,
If you reach into your soul,
And the sorrow that you know will melt away.