Batang Bayani: A unique demonstration of heroism

Love of own native land
On August 16, 2011, Apl.de.Ap went back to the Philippines to inaugurate his Apl.de.Ap Music Library and Studio in his alma mater—Holy Angel University, in Angeles City.  It contains a state-of-the-art music studio, said to be first in the Philippines, and various music CDs all over the world shipped directly from US.  He also extends help in his own baranggay in the same city called Sapang Bato, by opening his first “computer laboratory program.” This is in Sapang Bato National High School.  All of these are manifestations of his gratitude to the land where he once belonged.  By improving the lives and contributing something for his kabalens, he can also show his own “taya para sa bayan” which reflects his love for the Philippines.  He is also looking forward to replicate this program in other provinces in the Philippines soon.
          This is a great example of contributing for the development of one’s own native land.  Looking back from where you came from, knowing the colorful culture and heartwarming history of your province, speaking your own mother-tongue (I’m referring to 170 languages and dialects in the Philippines), and boosting the morale of your fellow kabalens, kabagis, or kabanwa, that’s the essence of building our nation together.
          To quote what the National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera said during his acceptance speech at the Juan D. Nepomuceno Cultural Awards of our institution Juan D. Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies in Holy Angel University last Match 8, 2011:
“We give people wings and they fly away, never to return.  Roots bind us so that no matter where and how far you fly, roots will always bring us back to the land of our birth, our true homeland…”
          This was an expression of a Kapampangan who feels incomplete as a Filipino if he doesn’t look back from where he was born, raised, hailed, and made who he is.
          The problem of our country is not only concentrated in Manila but in our own native lands.  Heroism should start all over the country by campaigning it for a better Philippines.  This is how I’ll start my commendation to a unique demonstration of heroism manifested not by an Apl.de.Ap but by an Aethen “Nonito” Agana (hereon refer as Kuya Aethen hahahaha!  Historiographical research ba ito hahaha!) of Mindanao – his Batang Bayani Birthday Project.
A nagging virus
One day (maybe that was early part of July 2011), while I was checking of my Facebook account, I’ve seen a link posted by my friend, Kuya Aethen, about this strange “Batang Bayani” site and Facebook Fan Page.  I didn’t pay much attention on it because I thought it was just like the other sites fostering nation-building (and there are lots of them now on the net).  (Note: This doesn’t mean I hate this kind of sites hehehehe.)
          Days passed, Batang Bayani’s link continuously appeared in Facebook.  Kuya Aethen was, of course, the mastermind of this link as he posted it in various Facebook Fan Pages; including the “Rizal 150” and “Rizal 150 to 150”, which I am administering.  Again, I didn’t bother to click on the link.
          Suddenly, some of my Facebook friends (mostly from The Outstanding Students of the Philippines Alumni Community or TOSPAC which I and Kuya Aethen are both alumni) were already receiving links to this Batang Bayani and of course I received status updates, tpp.  This was followed by several photos of some celebrities having placards with them which read “I support Batang Bayani.”
          Curiosity dragged me on June 11th to click on this nagging link appearing on my friends’ updates posted virally by the “virus carrier”, Kuya Aethen. “What is this link for?”,“What is Batang Bayani?”,“How is this?”.
These were some of the questions played on my mind.
          Speechless. This is how I described my feeling when I followed the link.  Although it’s not a new kind of fostering volunteerism and care giving to a community, it’s still a clever “birthday” party!  He chooses to look back where he came from and is trying to contribute change and to boost morale to his young kababayans in Mindanao.  This project quite stirred me because among the institutions in our society, he chooses to bring smile to school children in various government schools.  (I preferred to use “government schools” than “public schools” because I’m a little bit sensitive on the latter term.  But still I am a proud product of public education from pre-elementary, elementary, secondary, and undergraduate and now continuing my masters at the University of the Philippines Diliman [yabbaaaannnggg!].  In addition to this, I am an educator and working in an academic research.)
Sali ako!
The said project indeed moved me and enticed me to support him.  So, I immediately post a comment on the Batang Bayani Facebok Fan Page commending Kuya Aethen, a. k. a. “Batang Bayani,” for his “taya para sa bayan.”  Then afterwards, I messaged him that I will contribute on his birthday party on August 8.
          I choose to donate some notebooks and pencils because these were what I could afford.  Well, as a Kapampangan who always exaggerate and shows flamboyance (which leads to braggartism hahaha), I felt diffident for I can only contribute 30 notebooks and three boxes of Mongol pencils.  And to make it more special (again, kayabangan na naman ‘to hahahah), I bought what is now rare edition of Filipino-inspired pop culture signature notebooks (i. e. an Igorot from Ifugao riding a big bike, a colorful “konyo” jeepney, the logo of Yahoo! as Tahoo!) exclusively distributed by Pandayan Bookshop.  My agenda here is to inculcate sense of nationhood to Mindanao students by showing them ideas about simple symbols of being a citizen of one proud nation—like, introducing to them how Igorots are and the symbols of our national characters such as taho, balot, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, jeepney, and halu-halo; my contribution will be just a small part to the towering contribution sent to him, though.
Maiinggit sa isang Bayani
Even though I first questioned the credibility of Kuya Aethen on using “Batang Bayani” to refer for himself, uso naman ang self declaration ngayon hahahaha!  Well, Kuya Aethen is doing a lot of things for his community – whether he is in Manila or in his home town in Mindanao. And that makes him a simple “bayani” in his capacity and resources.  He has already established networks and linkages from various individuals and institutions that he can deal with or ask support for his humble and great aspirations.  And I am pretty much sure that he can sustain this remarkable project he initiated.
          Maybe I feel a little bit envious of him because he can do such clever nationalistic project for Mindanao.  But how can I spearhead such program here in Pampanga or in Bulacan or Camarines Sur (where my roots are) if I don’t have that fervor and dedication like Kuya Aethen.  So I asked Kuya Aethen that through him, I can channel my long desired dream to help Mindanao, too, and to share what I have to share for my kababayan.  I am confident that Kuya Aethen will do this project every year during his birthday.  (Sana naman walang natira at wala kang hinord [hoarded] hahahah! Ang sama kong tao hihihihi.)
A bayani in each and every one of us
Rizal himself envisioned a better future for our country by having a well educated people who will constitute and run the nation.  When that time comes, we are worthy for independence.  This thought was actually based on Epictetus’ philosophy that “only the educated are free…”  And to those who want to help our country with their own ways, let this be your guide: “Filipinos could serve the country more if they were in the Philippines.  To serve our country, there is nothing like staying in it.”  (An excerpt in his letter to Jose Ma. Basa, January 1889.)
          To those who are still confuse on what and how to be patriotic (makabayan) and nationalistic (makabansa), let’s ask our history by using the teachings of Katipunan: he who loves his countrymen and God above all is the same thing as loving ones native land (bayan).  Bayan and bansa became synonymous because of our struggle toward nationhood.  And those who are ready to sacrifice part of their life are called bayani – a concept which originally meant “the defenders of bayan,” an honorific title only given to those who bravely defended and ready to defend for the cause of their bayan.  We are already done in the phase when Inang Bayan was in danger and called her “anak ng bayan” to become “bayani.”  We are on the phase when Inang Bayan calling all her “anak ng bayan” to unleash the “bayani” in them – to act as one nation, “to love our nation and our conscience dictates that we do everything that our duty calls for,” quoting again Rizal.
          Using the words of Ate Pamela Asis-Layugan, the founding and current chair of TOSPAC “there’s always a hero in each and every one of us…”  To quote the great educator and historian Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz “Heroes are those who contribute to the quality of life and destiny of a nation…”  And most of all, from Batang Bayani himself I quote “Not every one of us is given the chance to die as a hero, but everyday, we are given the opportunity to live as a hero…”
          Well, enough for these obsequious, flattering words.  Nevertheless, I am proud of being a friend of such Aethen Agana.  Sana mayaman lang tayo para magawa natin ang lahat ng gusto nating ibahagi sa bayan… but if we can already do something right now, let’s make it possible.
          I am ending this composition by quoting Rizal’s words in his letter to Marcelo H. del Pilar in 1889: I shall not stop working for my country.

Resident Researcher, History and Culture
The Juan D. Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies

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