This Thursday, April 9, would have been the 78th year of Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, a national holiday to honor the Filipino and American soldiers who survived the hell that was the Japanese Occupation. This dark time in Philippine history is infamous for its Bataan Death March, where thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced by their Japanese captors to walk from Mariveles, Bataan, to Capas Tarlac, a 112-km trek that saw hundreds die from starvation, dehydration, illness, or sheer exhaustion.
The continuing threat of COVID-19, however, saw all activities for Araw ng Kagitingan and Veterans Week “moved on a later date once the quarantine period is lifted,” said the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office in a statement to the media.
Till then, let’s honor a different kind of soldier, those who, in these precarious times, willingly sacrifice their safety, health, and personal resources for the sake of others.
The neat part about these modern-day heroes? They’re ordinary folks just like you and me. Which means anybody—yourself included—can be a hero.
“Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light these days: they are not famous, rich, and successful people,” said Pope Francis in one of the first of his Holy Week ceremonies held in the confines of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“They are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others,” added Lolo Kiko of today’s frontliners. “Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line.”
Tina Alviar Agbayani, ‘Forwarder ng mga Frontliner’
“I can’t always stay at home…I’m a driver” is the caption of the Facebook profile picture of Tina, who has taken it upon herself to pick up complete strangers on the road and drive them to their respective destinations—all for nothing in return.
She drove a senior from Las Piñas to Marikina on March 24; drove a lady in a wheelchair and her son from Quezon Avenue, where they were walking, to North Caloocan on March 30; drove frontliners from Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital on April 1; and drove a son who was taking his mother to her chemotherapy session on April 2. She also gave a man named JonJon her last P100 (and wanted to give the extra P100 she found in her car but he politely refused, saying “sobra sobra na po yung binigay nyo”).
Real heroes are all about action, not words. “Salamat po,” was Tina’s simple reply when a relative of the chemo patient was profuse with gratitude. “Just helping in my own little way.”
The Good Samaritan in Landmark Supermarket
On the evening of March 10, as shoppers lined up at the checkout counters of Landmark Supermarket, their giant carts filled to the brim with groceries in anticipation of the weeks-long quarantine, netizen Lane Blackwater overheard a young lady tell the man next to her to add more items into his basket of a few canned goods and two small bottles of alcohol.
“Dagdagan niyo pa po, ako po ang magbabayad,” she told him in Lane Blackwater’s now-viral post.
Hesitant at first, the man acquiesced and as he left to get more items, the girl and her companion began filling up his basket with other necessities. This set off a chain reaction of equally compassionate shoppers offering other already paid-for items to the man’s modest haul.
Indeed, kindness is contagious. “Pati tuloy mga tao nahawa sa kanya,” wrote Lane Blackwater. “Sana all kagaya ni girl.”
Maureen Lacida Claro, Guardian Angel to Cebu’s Stray Dogs
Cebu may be on an enhanced community quarantine, but that hasn’t stopped Maureen (aka Alexa Yna) from braving the streets in her face mask to do what she has been doing for the past three years: feeding stray dogs and cats. Her act of kindness was caught on camera by GMA News on April 3; to date, the Facebook post has over 5,000 likes and 355 shares.
Through her personal funds and pledges from fellow animal lovers, Maureen has been able to feed stray dogs and cats roaming Mandaue’s reclamation area. In uncertain times, when people understandably hold on to whatever resources they have, it takes a big heart to look beyond one’s needs and extend help to others, including unwanted animals.
“Not posting my feeding for FAME,” she wrote on Facebook on March 29, “but to encourage some to do the same even in your own little way, you don’t have to be rich to start with. Even with a small amount and a little effort will go a long way.”