PNoy Speech in celebration of National Heroes Day, August 29, 2011

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
In celebration of National Heroes Day
[English translation of the speech delivered at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Taguig City on August 29, 2011]
Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Secretary Albert del Rosario; His Excellency Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps; Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; Mayor Maria Laarni Cayetano; General Ed Oban; Police Director-General Raul Bacalzo; MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino; Major Service Commanders; officers and members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines; fellow workers in government; honored guests; my beloved countrymen:
Good morning.
We commemorate many historic events in the month of August, events that have shaped our nation over the years. Among them, the Cry of Balintawak, which, by its very audacity, launched a revolution. The devastation of the Second World War likewise officially ended in this month. August also holds much personal meaning for me, for it is in this month that my father was slain, having chosen to return to the Philippines to defend democracy. My mother, too—the mother of our cherished democracy—passed away on an August day. My grandfather died on an August, worrying about the death sentence passed against my father. I myself barely escaped an ambush on August 28, 1987. August is truly a historical month for us—the members of my political party, the Liberal Party, were almost wiped out during the Plaza Miranda bombing: that was on an August 21.
Perhaps it is only fitting that at August’s close, we also celebrate National Heroes Day. However, as with any recurring commemoration, there is a danger of missing out on its true significance—of forgetting for whom, or even why, we celebrate. On this day, we must remind ourselves of the dedication and the sacrifices of all our heroes; we must remind ourselves that we must constantly uphold their values, so we need not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Our country is truly a cradle of heroes. Their lives have been recorded in the pages of books, monuments have been built to attest to their deeds. But there have been heroes among us who, despite their crucial roles in helping secure the stability and the equitable progress of the nation, have fallen by the wayside, forgotten by history itself—our soldiers who have not been given the gratitude due them. But history having failed to record their contributions is not an impediment to our conferring upon them the recognition they deserve.
I salute the soldiers who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country. Our gathering today rightly honors all their efforts and their heroism. Whenever our peace and our freedom were threatened, they sacrificed their lives. They molded history by ensuring that coming generations of Filipinos would live in a Philippines marked by stability and progress. Thank you for upholding your sworn duties. Thank you for your sacrifices on behalf of the Filipino people.
Thank you, too, to our veterans who are the allies of our government as it marches on the straight and righteous path. You remain exemplars of valor and steadfast service to the nation. Rest assured that you are not alone; your government is here to assist you. The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, or the PVAO, is at the forefront of our efforts to streamline the system that awards the pensions and other benefits due you. We have, likewise, improved health services for our veterans, by granting accreditation to nearly three hundred hospitals that will attend to your needs. Our government strives to realize the programs that will, however humbly, thank and repay you for your service to the nation.
To our enlisted soldiers, thank you for your readiness to defend Philippine territory, if need be. You have long displayed the heroism required to maintain the nation’s peace despite the deficiencies your ranks have suffered. Your government has been assiduous in ensuring the upgrading of your equipment and the efficacy of your training. We are aware that spears are no match for guns, that boats from Lapu-Lapu’s time cannot stand against looming ships with state-of-the-art munitions—and, most especially, that courage, no matter how unwavering, cannot stand alone if we lack the necessary firepower. We are in the process of finally fulfilling our dream—of the Filipino soldier recognized and respected the world over.
Today, I also address our civilian citizens, especially the volunteers in our campaign that began securing the change upon us now. As one, we responded to the call for reform, setting aside our personal interests. Because of your solidarity with us, we have gone so far in such a short time. Despite our many accomplishments, however, I am confident that there is still much we can achieve—alleviating poverty and banishing corruption, among others. I am also confident that we will continue to stand united, demonstrating the spirit of bayanihan and by so doing, helping more and more of our fellow Filipinos.
We have been given the opportunity to do what is right, as our heroes did and that for which our heroes fought. I am ready to make sacrifices. But I have often said that I cannot carry the burdens bequeathed to us by myself. Our country does not need a superhero to solve all our problems. What our country needs is the solidarity and heroism of every Juan and Juana dela Cruz. What we need is a nation committed to being part of the solution.
Many of us come to a crossroads every day. And so this is the challenge I make to you today: Were your principles to be ranged against bribes, if your honor were to be matched against mountains of cash, if your conscience were to be given a monetary price-tag, would you still choose to be a hero? These are tests of character. And it is out of these tests that true heroes are born—heroes who do not demand that history acknowledge or praise them, but rather, heroes who remain steadfast regardless of whether there are any witnesses to their virtue.
The heroism of our forefathers is part of our DNA, it is in our blood. I have faith in every Filipino’s capacity to further the progress of our nation. Our times do not demand we lay down our lives or that our blood be shed for us to achieve heroic status. We only need to demonstrate a genuine and unsullied desire to help our fellowman. Simply obeying the law and helping those in need can make you hero. Every little sacrifice you make for your fellow Filipinos and every moment you lend a hand to those in need adds up to forging a stronger, more vibrant Philippines comprising more than ninety million heroes.
The Filipino hero is in charge of this country’s destiny. We refuse to be sidetracked by those who foster and exhibit the wang-wang mentality, the culture of entitlement.
Our forefathers did not live to witness the confidence we demonstrate today, but I am certain they would be pleased to see the manner in which we are striving to secure a brighter future for coming generations of Filipinos.
Again, good morning to you all.
Thank you very much.