As the country observes National Heroes' Day on Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. urged the public to continue honoring the sacrifices of the front-liners amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
"Those are the people who continue to persevere in saving lives in hospitals, in producing our food and other essential supplies, andin keeping our communities safe amid this pandemic," he said in a statement Sunday.
Faustino made this remark as the nation remembers the life and legacy of Philippine national heroes who have become cornerstones of the country's freedom, independence, and democratic ideals.
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, Faustino urged all Filipinos to continue to honor the heroes’ sacrifices and remember that “all be heroes in our own respective fields and in our own little ways.”
Every last Monday of August, the nation pays tribute to past heroes of the revolution, as well as unknown men and women who sacrificed their lives for freedom from colonial rule.
"Likewise, we recognize our modern day heroes who continue to defend and promote Filipino values, principles, and values that form our national identity," he added.
The celebration of National Heroes Day began during the American Colonial Period. The Philippine Legislature, then dominated by Filipino leaders who represented the national aspiration for independence, first enacted the holiday into law through Act No. 3827 on October 28, 1931.
The Act declared the last Sunday of August of every year an official national holiday.
However, as far as research has been able to determine, November 30, while already celebrated as Bonifacio Day by virtue of Act No. 2946 s. 1921, was also held to commemorate anonymous heroes of the nation in that same year.
In 1952, President Elpidio Quirino reverted the date of National Heroes Day back to the last Sunday of August. Through Administrative Order No. 190, s. 1952, he appointed Secretary of Education Cecilio
Puton as head of a committee to take charge of the National Heroes Day celebration, which took place on August 31, 1952. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
He then delivered a speech on the same day at the Philippine Normal College (formerly Philippine Normal University), explaining that the “change has become necessary because of the interest from different sectors of our country to celebrate each hero’s anniversary in order to perpetuate his [Andres Bonifacio’s] name.”
President Corazon C. Aquino’s Administrative Code of 1987 adopted this in Executive Order No. 292, Book 1, Chapter 7, which provided for a list of regular holidays and nationwide special days, setting National Heroes Day as a regular holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of August.
The Administrative Code provides that the list of holidays and special days may be “modified by law, order or proclamation.”
On July 24, 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9492, which amended Book 1, Chapter 7 of the Administrative Code.
By virtue of RA 9492, the celebration of National Heroes Day thus falls on the last Monday of August. The rationale behind the move was President Arroyo’s “Holiday Economics” programme, which aimed to reduce work disruptions by moving holidays to the nearest Monday or Friday of the week, thus allowing for longer weekends, and boosting domestic leisure and tourism.
The practice of celebrating Bonifacio Day concurrently with the commemoration of Filipino heroes on November 30 was carried on in subsequent years. For example, on November 30, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon himself was the guest of honor at the National Heroes Day celebration held at the University of the Philippines.
While National Heroes Day and Bonifacio Day were celebrated on the same day, there were separate celebrations.
The custom then was to hold the annual formal military review of the cadets (ROTC) of the University of the Philippines, in the presence of officials from the three branches of government while another celebration was held at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan.
It was on November 30, 1941, the last National Heroes Day commemoration before the beginning of the Second World War in the Pacific, that President Manuel L. Quezon broke protocol and addressed the cadets assembled in the military review at UP, informing them and those present about the precarious situation of the country amidst the Japanese encroachment in neighboring countries.