Heroes in our midst

Every day, we cross paths with people with diverse deeds. We know several with extraordinary endeavors aside from the heroes in our nation’s history who fought for freedom and independence.

As the country celebrates today National Heroes Day or Araw ng mg Bayani, we also give honor to our modern-day heroes — our overseas Filipino workers for contributing to the economy through their remittances and their sacrifices so their families will have a comfortable life; our Covid-19 pandemic frontliners who, despite the risks, continue to provide life-saving support and protection; and volunteers who augment responders to disasters.

It is also apt to hold up as heroes the deeds of those who continue to give their sacrifices for their families and communities. They are real-life heroes.

So is a former government work colleague who took on varied jobs that taught him a “lesson that every step of the way in a certain task is 100 steps toward a better future.”

In his high school years, apart from being a sacristan whose job is to clean the floor of the San Nicolas Parish Church for years, he also became a rattan factory worker. In his elementary school, he worked as a ball boy at a tennis court, and a sidewalk vendor at the Carbon Public Market, selling toys hand-crafted by his late cousin Cadio.

Born in San Nicolas-Proper (the oldest pueblo in the Philippines) on 5 June 1976 as the eldest of five siblings, he said his parents’ educational attainment was only until the elementary level. His late mother was a barangay health worker and took on labandera and shell craft-making jobs. His father, now 73 years old, was a surplus tools laborer and hydraulic jack repairman. So he needed to wake up early to serve as a ball boy for early morning tennis matches.

His dream to become a priest brought him to Virac, Catanduanes when an Italian seminary — the Congregation of St. John the Baptist the Precursor Catholic Seminary — opened its doors to young people with no seminary fee or tuition. He first applied at the Pope John XXIII Minor Seminary, but had no money for the P150 examination fee.

Despite his jobs at the parish — a bell ringer every 4:30 a.m. for the Aurora procession, preparing the altar for the 5:30 a.m. Mass, preparing for the Holy Masses, cleaning the church, assisting priests for in-church and off-church Masses — he managed to join the Boy Scouts of the Philippines where he learned the values of trustworthiness, loyalty, courtesy, and bravery, among others.

Fate had something else for him, so he left the seminary and went back to Cebu. He worked as a janitor at the Visayas Medical Hospital, dishwasher, and bagger at Gaisano Mactan, and assistant to the baker at Gaisano Country Mall.

As a self-supporting college student, he worked as a news reporter when he was in second year at the Cebu Normal University. His ROTC training helped him learn the rudiments of patriotism and nationalism that have become a part of his daily life.

His regular jobs at Banat News and The Freeman sustained his BS in Education major in Social Science, Master of Arts in Public Administration, and Juris Doctor degrees.

He admitted that the struggles of the odd jobs brought color and tenacity into his life that molded him.

For John Rey Saavedra, Cebu Bureau chief of the Philippine News Agency, heroes can also be found inside the family.

“See a mother washing clothes or doing the hardest of the livelihood for the family to have something on the table; see a father whose ears suffered because he would not eat until his children could get a meal or walk several kilometers to collect a meager payment so that he can buy rice; a son who goes to the market to sell something, so that he could finish his projects. These are people who championed heroism in the family,” Saavedra said.

He shared: “One day, the children of this family will become hardworking employees, honest public officials, or loyal staffers. And someday, we don’t need a Superman or Spiderman to save the community from the harms of terrorism or other perils, as a hero coming from the family will emerge.”

Real-life heroes abound.

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