We have to tell the stories of heroes. Young people need to realize that many things we now enjoy have come with a cost. Sacrifices had to be made and risks taken. Every time and place provide challenges that we need to face and confront through meaningful responses. We are constantly called upon to care and live fully.
Malala, the young woman, who challenged her culture by pushing for the education for girls is one of my favorite heroes. It was very risky to promote the education of girls as the Taliban were violently opposed to it. But she not only worked for the school, she also went into various fronts to promote the advocacy, to encourage girls to have an education. She got shot; fortunately with fast action, she is now alive. She continues to harness all available resources in her hands to intensely drive her point on the value of educating girls.
Mother Ignacia del Espritu Santo also had to act decisively contrary to the prescription of her culture. As a Chinay (of Filipino Chinese parentage), she was supposed to get married at the age of 21. At this age she decided not to marry; instead she lived alone near the Jesuits and under their spiritual guidance. This was the beginning of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM). She had a place for young Filipino girls where they were taught catechism and lived in a dormitory.
The LAW Center, Inc. Heritage Cards describes Atty. Arbet Sta. Ana Yongco as the “Champion of Alternative Lawyering”. The card on her says: “Arbet earned the mark as the first court warrior princess in the Office of the Prosecutors in Cebu in defending the rights of women and children and championing the delivery of justice for the disadvantaged.”
It proceeds: “She could have chosen to concentrate on making money and accumulating material rewards. Instead, Arbet jumped headlong into ‘alternative law’.
“In 1997 as Legal Services Director of the fledgling Law Center Inc., she gave direction, urgency and passion to a movement that placed the issue of violence against women and children as a primordial concern as it should be.
“As a shining example of gender sensitive legal advocacy, she challenged lawyers to catch the gauntlet as many have.
“She opened her house as refuge to abused women and children who did not have a room to stay while pursuing their cases in the city.”
When a young wife was killed and her husband accused of the murder, she took the case on the side of the wife and her family, who even became victims of massacre. The accused belonged to a powerful political family. Their power has been strengthened by a religious following; the husband being revered as a religious leader. Arbet’s determination to demand justice for this woman’s and her family’s murder resulted in her death.
Another female hero is Inday Nita Cortes Daluz. This radio personality is described in the Heritage Cards: “In the Martial Law period, she became the voice for victims of human rights abuses and despite censorship her programs covered such events as the Anti Marcos “Freedom March” in Cebu in 1980. She was arrested and detained at camp Lapulapu and her radio station padlocked.”
I got to know her more closely in Kamatuoran, an anti-narcopolitics group. In her community, drug abuse and drug pushing became very rampant one would think illegal drugs were just a common commodity in a sari-sari store. She worked with the homeowners association. They decided to ban tricycles from their compound for the drivers were observed to be peddlers of the forbidden merchandise. Opposition arose both from some residents but mostly from the tricycle drivers. They even approached the cardinal, claiming they were deprived of their livelihood. Inday Nita explained what a threat they had been. When she noticed that the drivers simply moved to another community, she urged other communities to join the fight against illegal drugs, asserting the necessity for concerted action for the problem. As a member of Kamatuoran, Inday Nita was really active in the campaigns, despite failing health.
Many realities now call for a variety of responses. We need to be with our young as they become sensitive to them, for the call for heroism continues.
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