By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(August 1994)

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LOT OF US are still confused over which date really has been set by the government's official calendar of holidays to honor our national heroes. For some years long past, National Heroes' Day was celebrated every November 30th, but this date has long since been returned to being "Bonifacio Day" and National Heroes' Day has been officially observed on the last Sunday of every August.

          A lot of us are also confused when debating whether or not Bonifacio should replace Rizal as the National Hero. The truth of the matter is that they are both government-declared national heroes, the two of them sharing this status with no other. You would not find any other hero having his own birth or death anniversary officially commenmorated nationwide as a legal non- working holiday.

          But of course, there are many other national heroes, enjoying varying degrees of recognition by the government and by the people. We have Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Antonio Luna, Melchora Aquino, Makario Sakay, Felipe Salvador, and Graciano Lopez-Jaena, to name a few.

          Emilio Aguinaldo's placement (by his grandnephew Cesar Emilio Aguinaldo Virata) in the third largest circulated major denomination, namely, the five-peso bill (and, by the later translation, in the five-peso coin), would give the impression that after Rizal and Bonifacio, the third-ranking national hero would be Aguinaldo (later, Bonifacio's removal  from that slot, and Del Pilar similar fate, would imply that Aguinaldo ranks second to Rizal). But this is ironic because his very inclusion in the enumeration of heroes, let alone national heroes, is controversial, to say the least. This section may focus an entire essay in the future to explain why.

          The other Emilio, author of the very inspiring Katipunan code of ethics, called the Kartilya, has been one of the least projected.

          Another hero, Marcelo H. del Pilar, has been delimited somewhat through his overidentification as "Father of Philippine Journalism." Plaridel, as this hero is also known, celebrates his August 30 birthdate closest to the last Sunday of August, our National Heroes' Day.

Most Prolific Writer

          In his work, "Marcelo H. del Pilar," published in the Philippine Review (no date given), and anthologized in 1957 by Gabriel Fabella and the Philippine Historical Association, historical researcher and archivist Epifanio de los Santos gives us the following description of the magnitude of Plaridel's body of writings:

          "If Del Pilar's articles, essays, and monographs, scattered throughout newspapers and reviews, but especially in La Solidaridad, and the writings published independently were gathered, properly classified, and published in several volumes, as was done by General Luna and Lopez Jaena, each of whom selected his (own respective articles) in a volume, Del Pilar would make at least five or six volumes in cuarto, of 400 pages each, and would have no equal in Philippine bibliography so far as wealth of local and international information and serenity and fearlessness in journalistic controversy are concerned."

          De los Santos, after whom Metro Manila's main circumferential highway is named, actually lists the titles of Del Pilar's works under two general headings: "1st- Miscellaneous Editorials and Articles Published in the Semi-monthly Review 'La Solidaridad'".(about 200 titles); and "2nd- Essays and Articles Published in Various Newpapers and Reviews" (16 titles).

          Marcelo H. del Pilar was born in Kupang, San Nicolas, Bulacan, on August 30, 1850, to parents Julian H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitan. He studied at the San Jose College and transferred to the University of Sto Tomas where he finished law in 1880.

          He then became one of the greatest propagandists who used the power of the pen to assert the dignity of our people and seek freedom for our country.

Journalist was Statesman

          In 1882, he established the newpaper Diaryong Tagalog which carried sharp criticisms of Spanish colonial rule. Using the pen name "Plaridel," a simple anagram of his surname, he wrote satires especially against the Spanish frailocracy, notably Caiigat Cayo and Dasalan at Tuksuhan.

          In Spain, he replaced orator Graciano Lopez Jaena as editor of La Solidaridad, the major newpaper of the expatriate movement that preceded the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Tata Celo fell ill of tuberculosis and died in Spain on July 4, 1896, more than a full month before that revolution broke out. But Katipuneros led by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto made clear efforts to claim lineage to his heritage.

          Limiting Del Pilar to being the "Father of Philippine Journalism" dimishes his role in Philippine journalism, diminishes his role in Philippine history, unless one appreciates fully the fact that this nascent Philippine journalism no less than birthed what came to be Filipino statesmanship. Del Pilar was one of our foremost statesmen, and Filipino statesmen of his time could not be anything else but authors and journalists.

          Contrasted to present-day journalists who quote and analyze what the nation's politicians say and do, statesmen-journalists of Del Pilar's time were the ones giving quotes and articles for their compatriots to swing between supporting and fiscalizing the leaders; they were the leaders.

          De los Santos gives us this quote from Mariano Ponce: "He (Del Pilar) expected nothing from outsiders: rights, liberty, happiness, are conquered, not begged (for) from anybody."

          This lesson from Plaridel's credo deserves to be echoed and re-echoed for the benefit of present-day officials, to give them a chance to become real leaders, statesmen, and present-day heroes.

          Let us bear this in mind whenever we pause to salute our national heroes on the last Sunday of August or on any other date.

          That is, if at all we bother to pause from the hectic pace of the here and now and ponder longer timeframes and present demands for heroism among the common folks.

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)



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