On March 16th, 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan spotted Samar Island from his ship and decided to go ashore. He would be dead within weeks. Magellan was killed fighting against Lapu-Lapu, the local ruler of the island and the first national hero of the Philippines. Continue reading to discover which other Filipinos are regarded as national heroes and how the country celebrates them.
What is National Heroes Day?
National Heroes Day is a public holiday that celebrates the people who helped the Philippines win independence and grow as a nation. In 1993 a government commission defined national heroes as those who:
- Have a concept of nation and thereafter aspire and struggle for the nation’s freedom.
- Define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for the nation.
- Contribute to the quality of life and destiny of the nation.
With the country free from foreign rule, nowadays Filipino migrants are considered modern-day heroes. In 2020 alone, nearly 35 billion dollars was sent home by Filipinos overseas. Now that’s truly heroic.
What date is National Heroes Day 2021?
This year the day falls on Monday 30th August. National Heroes Day is celebrated on the last Monday of August each year. It was declared a public holiday by the Philippines legislature in 1931 and was originally celebrated on the last Sunday of August.
In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo moved the celebration to a Monday, to stimulate the leisure and tourism industry.
Why do Filipinos celebrate National Heroes Day?
National Heroes Day is strongly associated with Philippine independence and the Philippine revolution. The day honours the people who freed the country from Spanish rule and later secured independence from the USA.
While Lapu-Lapu may have killed Magellan, the Spanish colonists who followed were not so easily deterred. Within a few years, the territory had been claimed by the Spanish and named after their king, Phillip II.
By 1896, an anti-colonial organisation called the Katipunan, led by Andres Bonifacio, had started to influence the country. Bonifacio is one of the people honoured on National Heroes Day each year, as he is considered one of the architects of Philippine independence.
If you’re looking to send money home, check out our post on how to send money to the Philippines.
Who is Jose Rizal?
Jose Rizal is perhaps the most famous of the Filipino heroes. Rizal was a writer and polymath whose works influenced Bonifacio and Filipino nationalism in the 1890s.
When the nationalist movement grew from a secret society into a full-blown revolution, the Spanish were quick to stamp out any sign of rebellion.
Rizal was arrested in Barcelona while en route to Cuba, where he had planned to volunteer as a doctor. He was tried for conspiracy and sedition and subsequently sentenced to death. A few months later, Andres Bonifacio met the same fate.
Who are the other Filipino heroes?
Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are the two people most associated with the history of National Heroes Day, but they are not alone. In 1993 a special presidential committee was assigned the task of recommending a selection of Filipino heroes.
In 1995 the committee proposed Rizal and Bonifacio along with seven others:
Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964)
A revolutionary, military leader and the first President of the Philippines.
Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903)
The first Prime Minister of the Philippines.
Marcelo H. del Pilar (1850-1896)
Writer, lawyer and journalist. Influential in the Philippine independence movement.
Muhammad Kudarat (1581-1671)
Seventh Sultan of Maguindanao.
Juan Luna (1857-1899)
Painter, sculptor and political activist during the Philippine revolution.
Melchora Aquino (1812-1919)
Filipina revolutionary known as “The grand woman of the revolution”. She tended to and counseled sick and injured revolutionaries, as well as holding meetings of the Katipuneros in her house.
Gabriela Silang (1731-1763)
Leader of an early nationalist movement against Spanish rule.
When is National Heroes Day celebrated?
The day is celebrated on the last Monday of August each year. It was declared a public holiday by the Philippines legislature in 1931 and was originally celebrated on the last Sunday of August.
In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed an act that moved the celebration to a Monday, to stimulate the domestic leisure and tourism industry.
How do Filipinos celebrate National Heroes Day?
As a public holiday, most people get the day off from work and many businesses will close for the day. Filipinos celebrate National Heroes Day with parades, visits to local shrines and fireworks displays.
In addition to honouring the country’s most famous sons and daughters, the day also honours the unknown heroes of the Revolution. Town squares around the Philippines will be decorated with wreaths, commemorative notes and flowers
Above all, National Heroes Day reminds Filipinos that independence comes at the cost of others’ sacrifices.