President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recognized on National Heroes Day the noble contribution of the late former Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople in promoting the welfare of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as he paid tribute to the unsung heroes who tirelessly dedicated their lives to public service.
In his speech during the commemorative ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Monday morning, President Marcos said that Secretary Ople was a perfect example of a true hero as she dedicated her life to promoting OFWs’ welfare.
“We must mention a dear and departed friend who we can only describe as well as a hero and that is our good friend who we just lost, Secretary Toots Ople. And she is a perfect example of what true heroism can be. She tirelessly dedicated the better part of her life to promote the welfare of our modern-day heroes,” President Marcos said.
Secretary Ople, a true champion of the Filipino migrant workers, died on August 22 at the age of 61.
President Marcos also recognized the heroism of the electric lineman from Bacolod City, who braved typhoon Egay floods and risked his life to repair broken electrical wires to prevent the greater danger of electrocution and a farmer who prevailed over harsh weather and economic conditions to ensure a successful harvest.
The President also acknowledged the heroic act of a teacher who strives not only to be a good teacher but also to be a patient and persevering multi-tasker in various activities. He also mentioned a teacher who lent a hand to an elderly neighbor in need during the ghastly wildfires in Maui, Hawaii.
The chief executive also acknowledged the OFWs, whose remittances continue to serve as a strong pillar of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
As he recognized the remarkable contributions of Filipino heroes in shaping the Philippines, President Marcos urged the people not to forget them and to continue to tell the world the tales of their heroic deeds with genuine appreciation and of promise to emulate their actions and do better.
“We shall not take their heroism for granted. We will not spare ourselves of the moral duty to perpetuate the ideals that they have fought for, and to rectify the unsafe, inequitable, or exceptionally difficult conditions that necessitated their selfless deeds,” President Marcos said.
“Failing in our duty, their sacrifices would have been all in vain. Collectively, their heroic acts, small or large, go a long way and make our country and the world a better place. To them, we once again earnestly dedicate this special day,” he added.
President Marcos also urged the Filipino people to collectively recall the heroic deeds of those who fought for the country’s honor and dignity from the warriors of old, revolutionary thinkers, war veterans, and the countless patriots who have helped shape the Philippines into becoming free, independent, and self-determined.
The President also urged everyone to continue to tell and impart their courage and wisdom to the youth “to inspire them and strengthen the identity and cohesion” of the Philippines for the century to come.
“In our journey forward as a nation, we must break free from the notion that heroes are only those who have earned a place in the National Pantheon, immortalized in monuments, or those whose names are inscribed in streets, or whose lives are chronicled in biographies,” the President said.
“While the memories of our heroes of our storied past will never fade, new ones continue to emerge. They are here amongst us, in the daily bustle of modern-day society, in our communities, in our own families and inner circles,” he added.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez was also present during the event along with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown, National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Emmanuel Calairo.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr., Taguig City Mayor Laarni Cayetano, and other government officials were also present during the commemoration of this year’s National Heroes Day with the theme “Karangalan. Katungkulan. Kabayanihan.”
The commemoration of National Heroes Day began during the American Colonial Period, with the enactment of Act No. 3827 on October 28, 1931, declaring the last Sunday of August of every year an official national holiday.
The last National Heroes Day commemoration happened on Nov. 30, 1941, before the beginning of the Second World War in the Pacific.
On March 20, 1942, former President Jose P. Laurel signed Executive Order No. 20, which set the National Heroes Day on Nov. 30, which former President Elpidio Quirino later on reverted back to the last Sunday of August.
It was adopted by former President Corazon Aquino.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, however, signed into law Republic Act No. 9492, placing the National Heroes Day observance on the last Monday of August as part of her “Holiday Economics” program in a bid to reduce work disruptions by moving holidays to the nearest Monday or Friday of the week.