On Oct. 28, 1931, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 3827 that declared the last Sunday of August of every year as a national holiday to honor the heroes of the country. This was part of the national aspiration for independence from American colonial rule. Researchers point out, however, that the actual celebration was held on Nov. 30, the day set aside to honor Andres Bonifacio in Act No. 9246 issued in 1921. While marked on the same day, there were separate celebrations: at the Bonifacio monument in Caloocan and at the parade grounds of the University of the Philippines.
During the Japanese occupation, President Jose P. Laurel’s executive order reset the commemoration to November 30 and chose to mark it at the Mt. Samat cemetery in Bataan as a silent act of defiance. A year after the war ended, President Sergio Osmeña chose Capas, Tarlac as the venue for its observance to honor the memory of more than 20,000 Filipino and American soldiers who died during the infamous Death March from Bataan.
In 1952, President Elpidio Quirino reverted the observance to the last Sunday of August. When President Corazon Aquino signed into law the revised Administrative Code in 1987, National Heroes Day was included in the list of regular national holidays. Twenty years later, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9492 stipulating the observance of National Heroes Day on the last Monday of August. This was part of the Holiday Economics program which sought to minimize work disruptions from holidays by observing these on the nearest Monday or Friday of the week, thereby boosting domestic tourism on extended weekends.
Such detailed account of the genesis and evolution of the celebration of National Heroes Day is capped by this commentary in the Official Gazette, the chronicle of the Office of the President of the Philippines: “National Heroes Day specifies no hero; the law that put into practice the celebration does not name a single one. And this lack of specifics offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, nation, justice, and freedom.”
During the past two years, health workers serving at the frontlines of mood the tide of Covid-19 transmission have been aptly hailed as heroes — along with delivery riders, supermarket and drugstore employees, and security guards who enabled people to work from home and carry on with daily activities during protracted periods of enhanced community quarantine and lockdowns.
Overseas Filipino Workers, estimated at around two million, sent home total remittances amounting to ₱210.4 billion in 2019 — or ₱106,620 per capita — prior to the pandemic. By dint of hard work and personal sacrifice, they, too, are heroic Filipinos who deserve the nation’s gratitude.
Finally, we salute, too, the quiet heroism of our teachers, soldiers, police officers, street sweepers, construction workers and other Filipinos who work diligently and cheerfully to keep our nation safe and ensure the well-being of our communities and families.
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