The path laid out before him began in the classroom of a prestigious educational institution where people like him – standing below five feet tall, dark skin, less than aquiline nose – gets derided, mocked, discriminated against. Then that path went on to a few years in Europe where his eyes opened to a much bigger world, other worlds where friars did not rape women nor seize lands from the people, where governments worked for the people and not the other way around. Then that path made a u-turn back home, where courageously continued on bringing with him two books that would open the eyes of his people, and earn him the ire of an abusive government. He walked on and the path ended with a short work from his cell and ended at an open field where he faces a phalanx of soldiers with rifles pointed at him. And Jose Rizal was dead, martyred and now revered as this country’s National Hero.
Andres Bonifacio’s path ended with a climb up a mountain where it ended with a bullet not from the enemy’s gun, but from a fellow Filipino’s. Macario Sakay’s path led him to the gallows. Ninoy Aquino’s path ended with those few steps from the top of a plane’s exit ladder. The farmers who fought for what was rightly theirs found the end of their path at the gates of Malacañang where they were gunned down by the same government forces who were supposed to defend them.
The path to heroism is sometimes fraught with terrifying challenges, ends, but not always. In fact, a lot of times, it’s a walk in the park.
All a policeman needs to do is to not accept that five hundred peso bill, do his job and issue that ticket, and there would be much less accidents on the road, much less smoke belchers and a much cleaner air. All a mayor needs to do is do what he’s mandated to do – serve the people, and make decisions that would result in a better life for his constituents and not in a fatter bank account for himself and his cohorts at the expense of the very same people who put him in office. All a president needs to do is to defend the constitution, as he or she has sworn to do, and not trample on it just to cling to power, or even simply let the wheels of justice turn as they’re supposed to, so as to let the world know that there is hope for justice in this country, instead of letting a monumental crime go unpunished, letting the world know instead that this country’s justice system can be circumvented by those who have enough money, never mind if that money is the result of plundering the coffers of a country where majority of its people are literally starving to death – where even a child can see the hopelessness of it all and end her own life to escape living the rest of her life in misery.
And as for the rest of us, all we need to do is cross the street where we’re supposed to, stop our car for a few seconds to let other people cross the street, not park our cars where we’re not supposed to, throw that cigarette butt in a trash can and not at the gutters where millions of other cigarette butts await that single one.
We can gripe all we want about how wrong the city government was in insisting on collecting only segregated garbage without a thorough information drive to educate the people on how it is done and what the benefits of doing it are, or we can also just begin simply segregating our garbage at home, and start telling our neighbors who don’t that a cleaner, healthier city for our children is surely worth the extra effort of putting biodegradables, recyclables and residuals in separate trash bags.
For some, it’s a journey that ends in death, for others, it’s a walk in the park – and we can all be heroes.