His Excellency Elpidio Quirino
President of the Philippines
On National Heroes Day
[Delivered at the Philippine Normal College Auditorium, August 31, 1952]
Fellow Guests, Ladies and
Gentlemen, and Friends:
This vast concourse of our youth gathered to do honor to all our heroes is a welcome sight to the eye. It is a sight to move any Filipino to see a continuing vision of his country confidently on the march towards its bright destiny. Here stands the best assurance of our people’s potential to sustain a continuing heroic tradition—without which there would have been no past worthy of our loyalty, without which there would be no present to challenge our highest effort and without which there could be no future to fire our noblest ambition.
For the first time we are giving due compliance to the legislative mandate fixing the last Sunday of August as National Heroes Day. Heretofore, we have been celebrating the occasion on November 30, Bonifacio’s birthday anniversary. 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 name. There has been a change in the objective of this day’s celebration, in order to give more emphasis to the participation of the youth of the land. That is why in forming the Executive Committee to undertake the program of the nationwide celebration of this day, I particularly chose the Secretary of Education, who has the closest contact with the youth.
As our history as a nation is still short and the distance we have traveled as such makes us feel so near to our respective heroes, there is a tendency to magnify or discount their statute before our national eyes. Already, in the legislature there have been several attempts to choose one day, especially for the celebration of the birthday or the death anniversary of a hero of a certain region, this makes uncertain if not premature the verdict of history on the appraisal by future generations of the relative significance of our great men.
We can only group them today in our effort to perpetuate their memory for the special emulation of our youth. This naturally follows because in every epoch of our history its leaders and heroes are subject to specific but fluctuating standards in the measure of their greatness on the part of contemporaries. Only time and judgment of successive generations will develop the consensus of opinion that can be accepted as the just, definitive verdict of history.
Today, therefore, as our minds look up to the relative greatness of all our past heroes for immediate inspiration, we are gathered to distill from our collective heroic inheritance what should guide us in our actions, what should propel us to higher reaches of development and widen our horizon for the highest incentives to fulfill our country’s mission.
Great men make great nations. Inspired by these men, we should and can develop a strong citizenry that would make our nation stronger and greater yet. This is the objective of our celebration today. Following their example, we can reach greater heights, achieve greater deeds, for our security and happiness as a people.
We can group our heroes by their epochs. Thus, we have the group that belongs to the epoch of idealism, of pure inspiration, to which Rizal and his colleagues who labored with him in Spain belong. This epoch saw the awakening of national consciousness and the crystallization of an ideal of freedom. Burgos sparked its spirit; Rizal gave it idealism; Marcelo H. del Pilar, Lopez Jaena, and others gave it political push and impulse.
The next group belongs to the revolutionary epoch that saw the active implementation of our nationalistic independence aims. It includes Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, the Lunas, Mabini, Gregorio del Pilar, and others of their generation.
The third group comes under the libertarian epoch which Quezon and Osmeña spearheaded. They and their noble company pursued with relentless vigor, through democratic processes, the objective of independence to its consummation. Up to this hour I know that Quezon’s voice appealing for immediate and complete independence still reverberates in the U. S. Congress.
Intermediate to and leading the fourth group was Manuel Roxas who launched the present epoch of independence, reconstruction and general economic development, and Jose Abad Santos who preferred to die rather than cooperate with our enemy in the darkest hour of our history. Others also died but national evaluation has not as yet been so definite in declaring them as heroes, including those who died in the battle of Bataan or Korea or elsewhere. In this epoch are our heroes in the making, the men and women, you, who with faith, courage, and energy are building a new nation that is free, secure, and content.
Our heroes were red-blooded men and women. They were not absolute paragons; they had the limitations of man. But they rose above their fellows because they used what gifts, what talents they had for their country and fellowmen. They did not live for themselves. By their vision, their struggles, their sacrifice, they gave glory to their respective epochs and left us the basic heritage on which our Republic now stands.
Our country in the course of its development has been subjected to many changes in its cultural structure. It has received the impact of a diversity of outside influences during our people’s intermittent subjugation by different invaders. As a result, it has acquired divergent if not conflicting outlooks.
It is imperative that we form a definite anchorage springing directly from our own ideals as derived from the sacrifices and experiences of our heroes and martyrs. We need it to keep intact the authentic spirit of the Filipino race, to give it the character and distinction in increasing measure which determines our position in the free world and the quality of our contribution to its welfare. We cannot begin to speak of our role however modest in the free world if this spirit is drowned out by disunity or by confusion in outlook among our people. A steady loyalty to our heroic inheritance, a persistent effort to give it worthy expression in our daily activities, is the best assurance to maintain the nation’s spirit in full power and vigor.
The history of other countries dominated by an irresistible spiritual leadership or inspired by the universally accepted heroism and martyrdom of their sons has shown their admirable consistency and unity immeasurably strengthened by faith in, and loyalty to, their leaders.
In the Philippines, as in other countries, certainly there must be some central figure to symbolize our ideals and to play the unifying factor in our growth and development. Buddha was that symbol in India, Confucius in China, the Emperor in Japan. Some have, in their influence, transcended the frontiers of their country, such as Jesus Christ through Christendom and Luther among the evangelical Christians.
While it is generally accepted that Rizal may well be our Filipino symbol, and for that reason we have already set by legislation and popular acclamation December 30th of each year as the day of his homage as a national hero of this country, we have set the last Sunday of August of each year as a separate day to extol the virtues and perpetuate the memory of our other heroes.
This last Sunday of August should in time develop a wealth of associations made meaningful by our resolve to make the virtues that made our heroes great, the daily guide in our thought and conduct, and to take their limitations as warnings of difficulties we must persistently endeavor to overcome in ourselves.
Every celebration of this day, therefore, should mark a renewal of confidence in ourselves as individuals and as a nation, for in the thoughtful recollection of our inheritance from our heroes we find the substantial basis of the capacity of our own generation to bridge our glorious past and an even greater future.
It should also be an impressive reminder that because our opportunities and advantages are infinitely bigger, the challenge to better and superior performance on our part is greater in the same proportion.
Our privilege today is that we have the broader freedom to work out our own national salvation not only among ourselves in our own country but in cooperation with neighbor peoples prepared to help and be helped, and moved by a similar devotion to the ideals of liberty and democracy. To pay homage to our heroes as a whole, as we now do with reverence and admiration, is to affirm our acceptance of the obligation to enrich the legacy they left us so that we can leave an even greater challenge to the generations that will succeed us. So on this National Heroes’ Day I invite you all, the living would-be heroes of this epoch, in all solemnity to accept the challenge that with all the vigor of your soul and the breath of your vision you may all rise to the levels you are expected to attain, leaving a greater challenge to the succeeding generations. Thank you very much (Applause)
Source: Presidential Museum and Library
Quirino, E. (1952). Address of President Quirino on National Heroes Day, August 31, 1952. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 48 (8), 3323-3326.