On the last Sunday of every August, Filipinos celebrate National Heroes Day, declared in 1931 as a national holiday to celebrate all heroes, past and present, in the Philippines.
The holiday can be traced back to the Cry of Pugad Lawin, an event that marked the beginning of the Philippine Revolution in 1896 when the Filipino people declared an insurrection against their Spanish colonizers. Revolutionaries from the Katipunan met to plan the revolt, and Andres Bonifacio encouraged the people to tear up their Spanish tax certificates to show their support for the uprising. Above all, the Cry was a declaration of Filipino independence.
National Heroes Day celebrates not only these heroes of the Philippine Revolution who pledged their commitment to Filipino liberation but to the many ordinary heroes in Philippine society.
On Monday, President Marcos called on Filipinos “to become heroes of their families and communities to be able to contribute to nation-building”, and cited the importance of unnamed historical figures in shaping the nation. Despite these platitudes, Marcos has proven himself to be an enemy of the people through the brutal repression of activists and human rights advocates in the Philippines fighting for freedom and genuine democracy.
Modern-day revolutionaries and activists are targeted heavily by the Marcos regime and can be jailed unjustly, involuntarily disappeared, and murdered in extrajudicial killings for their participation in the National Democratic Movement or dissent from the government. Many progressive organizations face red-tagging and harassment, from worker’s groups to groups advocating for people’s welfare.
While these heroes of the people are vilified, the actions of the Marcos administration demonstrate that the only heroes worth celebrating are those who do not dissent nor threaten his reign.
This National Heroes Day, we condemn Marcos’ repression of the real heroes. We celebrate the brave people organizing for justice and peace in their country, from the workers in the cities to the peasants in the countryside waging people’s war for people’s peace. We remember and honour all those who have contributed to the movement in the past and all those who will carry it forward in the future as the true heroes.