President Benigno S. Aquino III's Speech during the National Heroes Day

Libingan ng mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City

26 Aug 2013

[This is an English translation of the speech delivered at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Taguig City]

Our history is filled with Filipinos ready to fight for their fellowmen and for their country, regardless of the trials that faced them. It is they who we remember and celebrate every year—these individuals who have shown that in our veins runs the blood of heroes. We consider them heroes—those who confronted the challenges of an extraordinary time. Their commitment and their resolve were tested, and they rose to the occasion. The names of these men and women may or may not decorate the pages of our history books, but they were the ones who made our freedom, as well as the reforms we are undertaking right now, possible.

One shining example is Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, who displayed remarkable bravery during the Second World War. He fought only with a wooden Q-boat, clashing against the zero fighters of the invading Japanese—one of the most modern airplanes of that period. He could have waved the white flag from the start to avoid battle with the unparalleled force of his opponents, but despite his disadvantages, Commodore Alcaraz displayed grit and whole-hearted commitment to being a soldier. He showed that the Filipino cannot be easily overwhelmed. Because of this, he was able to shoot down three of the nine zero fighters; and he was ready to continue fighting if only his superiors hadn’t ordered him to surrender. His contribution to history did not end there. He was recognized as the father of the Philippine Marines, and he even resisted the dictatorship when our nation was on the brink of Martial Law.

Our soldiers who display a willingness to put themselves in peril for the sake of their fellow Filipinos exhibit the very same principles that Commodore Alcaraz did. They prove their courage every time they respond to powerful storms, or battle against those who seek to sow terror especially in far-flung areas of the country. They may not personally know the people they are helping, but they are ready to risk their lives to save and assist those in need.

In the same way, our OFWs should be considered heroes. They sacrifice so much and distance themselves from their families just so they can afford better lives for their loved ones. Their hard work and dedication to their jobs have not just shown the world the traits and the skills of Filipinos—they also help our country achieve true, inclusive growth and development.

In many different ways, all of us have benefited from the compassion and hard work of those who have come before; and it is only right that we continue that tradition. Under the banner of solidarity, let us help one another in pursuing our collective desires as one Filipino people.

Last Friday, I announced the abolition of the PDAF. This is part of continuously finding and forming a mechanism that ensures that the people’s money can only be used for the people. We will do everything in our power to find those who conspired to take advantage of the PDAF’s good intentions, and to hold them accountable. We will not allow anyone to be used to propagate the corrupt practices of a few. We will make certain that the mistakes of the past are not repeated so that we may further ascertain that the people’s money is spent properly. But for the system to be truly effective, we also need our people to keep vigilant watch of each project that will be funded.

The challenge for us: that we not be content with waiting for and receiving help from others. Instead, let us do everything we can to fulfill our responsibilities to our fellowmen and to society. The question for all of us: Can we still look ourselves in the mirror if we say no to the opportunities to contribute to change? Wouldn’t it feel good to be the rightful inheritor of the freedom our heroes fought and died for?

Heroism begins within us—in identifying and siding with what is right, and shunning what is wrong. This is the wellspring of our determination to care for those in need, and to defend those whose rights are being trampled on. As a sign that we respect and value the examples of our heroes; let us give life to the lessons and the commitment of our heroes. If they have proven that the Filipino can truly care for his fellow Filipino, what stops us from following in their footsteps? Each and every one of us—in whichever sector, whatever our state in life might be—can choose to be a good Filipino. Each one of us, no matter the size of our contribution, can be a hero. Every step we take forward—as long as we do it as one Filipino nation—can bring about widespread change. Let us proudly show the world that the sacrifices of our heroes were not meaningless; let us continue fighting to bequeath coming generations a better Philippines.

Thank you. Good morning.