Shaping the Hearts and Minds of Everyday Heroes
Being the last Monday of August, today, August 29, is commemorated as National Heroes Day. It is a public holiday to afford each citizen the opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon what our national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, modern-day paragon of courage in the person of the late Senator Benigno Aquino, and many others who willingly sacrificed their lives for our country. It is largely because of them that we can now enjoy the freedom and benefits of democracy that, alas, some have already taken for granted or worse, are putting in danger.
I am one with the many who oppose the idea of the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the noble place of many fallen soldiers and heroes in our country. The human rights abuses during the dark martial law days were so extensive that, up to now, the final resting place of many of our brothers and sisters who refused to be cowered by the dictatorship, remains unknown. They are heroes in the real sense of the word.
Heroes have shared qualities of courage and bravery, selflessness, leadership, integrity and great love for the country. We can also add humility as many do not engage in claiming credit for achievements earned. A quality that stands out is courage. Real heroes, with full knowledge of the consequences, do not flinch when performing what they perceive as essential for the future to be better for our people and our planet. They are, of course, far from perfect, and would go into conflict with others, so that their vision of a free, just, and fair society would be a reality.
It is worth our precious time to recognize the values and principles heroes stood for, who influenced them, and what built in them a strong fiber that citizens can emulate from, and not just for today.
It is a meaningful journey indeed for those in a position to influence and shape the hearts and minds of our citizens who can be everyday heroes. They can be you and me in our role as parents, family members, teachers and leaders in the community who care to give our time and attention to our young citizens for them to maximize their potential and God-given talent.
We remember the story of the Moth that one mother painstakingly told her son, the young and ever curious Jose “Pepe” Rizal. It is one narrative that comes to the mind when talking about flirting with danger and which one can easily apply to other situations in life. It also reveals the special attention that a mother unfailingly gives to her son in the phase of childhood that is most crucial and much-needed.
Teachers are likewise given that special role to influence their students in a positive way. Availing of the various tools for teaching is as important as the content, or what to teach. In our fast-paced technological age, teachers have to learn to be creative, innovative and inspiring and to adapt in the use of electronic references that peers in the past era were not expected to do, to get and sustain the attention and interest of the students and inspire them to be life-long learners.
Teaching environmental law, for example, requires a different approach as we seek to embed the mindset of sustainability, eco-stewardship, and caring among the students. The Socratic case method and pure lectures will never do, as surely the interest of the students will not be sustained apart from the fact that Environmental Law is not a Bar subject. Thus, among us who have had the privilege of trainings and exposure to multiple teaching methodologies in various jurisdictions and equally as important, access to materials from peers and the electronic data in the web, we have used the non-traditional way of teaching such as small group discussions, field activities to dumpsite and communities, debates, moot courts, and more.
The past week had been a most meaningful one for thirty one law professors, judges, and government officials who participated in the Teaching the Trainors Training, “Strengthening Capacity For Environmental Law In The Asia-Pacific : Developing Environmental Law Champions”. They had among best trainors one can hope to receive in teaching such a challenging field that cuts across various disciplines. They are most grateful as well to former Cebu City Councilod Nida Cabrera for guiding the tour at Inayawan Landfill and Mr. Lito Vasquez for the comprehensive orientation on the waste management initiatives and challenges in the city.
This is the first in-country training for the Philippines that the Asian Development Bank and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law did after the first regional training done in 2015. It previously conducted similar exercises in Malaysia and Vietnam. With such a formidable and growing number of environmental law professors in the Philippines and Asia, the day will not be far when environmental governance will be vastly transformed, where the Rule of Law prevails and citizens participate in science-based decision-making. Congratulations to the University of Cebu for being such an excellent co-host and organizer!
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