It was during those colonial days in Philippine history – remarkable and unforgettable – that repressed, yet brave individuals formed an alliance against the colonial power that shackled the nation for hundreds of years. Until the day when the national flag was waved and the national anthem was sung amidst millions of Filipinos, the country had to pay numerous lives, whose concern for nation superseded self-interest. But not everybody’s works and names are remembered. In fact, only few who were at the forefront of directly clashing against the colonial power – Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, and some others – are remembered in the walls of educational systems. What about Teresa Magbanua? Honorato Gen. Vicente Alvarez? Who are they? The unsung bayanis, those who equally fought against the same colonial power the known heroes also fiercely opposed, should be acknowledged because they also paid the price of bringing the nation into independence.
Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas – Born on December 1907 in Iloilo, he had to support his father to raise his siblings once his mother died when he was only 12. Such strong sense of duty, perhaps, made him the first Filipino to ever receive a Medal of Honor for his valiant act done in the combat against Japanese army during World War II. First as a Scout in the Philippines and to U.S Army, his bravery was remarkable as he ran a thousand yards under heavy enemy fire to the gun position, fixing the previously knocked out guns into order and firing on advancing Japanese soldiers. His exemplified valor and courage for the country and fellow countrymen earned the medal, making the country proud. He had long life; he died in 1999, dedicating the medal to the museum in Texas for safekeeping and display.
One of the most controversial Filipino heroes goes by the name of Macario Sakay. A man that the Americans and pro-American Filipinos believed to be a bandit. In truth, Sakay was a revolutionary hero who spread the ideals of the Katipunan even after the downfall of Bonifacio’s Magdiwang. Sakay fought for what he believed as the genuine meaning of freedom which was having united Filipinos who have utmost love and respect for their nation. He died on September 13, 1907 in the old Bilibid Prison in Manila at the hands of American soldiers.
Being the first woman to ever fight in battle against the Spanish and American troops in the Visayas region, Teresa Magbanua was dubbed as the Visayan “Joan of Arc”. Her unmatched fighting skills as an exceptional horseman and marksman lead her fellow Visayans to many victories. Despite her best efforts, Teresa and other military leaders were forced to surrender to the Americans – but this was not the end of Teresa’s fight for freedom. She returned forty years later to help fight the Japanese soldiers who came to Iloilo as she financially supported guerrilla activities.
During the Japanese-American war in the Philippines, most of the hospitals had been closed due to the gravity of the war in Manila. At that time only Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and San Lazaro Hospital were allowed to be open. One of the medical interns serving at that time at PGH was Honorato Quisumbing. During a dangerous medical mission, Honorato did his very best to secure medical supplies to help treat wounded patients. On his way to retrieve medicine, he was shot during crossfire between Japanese and American forces. He died on February 17, 1945.
Gen. Vicente Alvarez
The story of General Vicente Alvarez portrays the lesser known struggle of Mindanao against the Spaniards during the Philippine revolution. Gen. Alvarez trained to become a soldier from the very beginning. Hailing from Zamboanga, a part of Mindanao that was taken over by the Spaniards, Vicente started the Philippine revolution and led an army of men coming from Christian, Muslim and Tribal descent to drive out the Spanish forces. After days of exchanging fire, the Spanish troops finally decided to surrender the fortified Port Pilar to the Filipino people of Zamboanga. With this victory, President Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Vicente Alvarez as general.
Post Colonial Period
Noel Tierra – Many Filipinos may not know who Noel Tierra is. He was born from parents in the medical profession. Noel went to the University of the Philippines where he joined groups such as the Nationalist Corps. and Samahan Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), an organization he was so passionate for. When the gavel struck and Martial Law was implemented, he was still with the SDK. He was arrested twice in Quezon province and on the second time he was tortured and paraded around nearby communities as an example. At the end of his two weeks, he was the shot by the soldiers that held him prisoner. His parents picked up his body and buried in Lucena City. He was martyred for freedom at the age of 21.
Renato, or Dodong as his friends and family would call him, joined politics in 1971 being part of the municipal board of Gingoog city under the Political party, Pilipino Democratic Party -Lakas ng Bayan (PDP – Bayan). In the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections, an attempt to overthrow the dictator Marcos, Dodong was the chair of PDP-Laban in Gingoog City. He campaigned vigorously for this party and being the opposition, his life was in danger. But he would rather live a principled life. Two weeks after the elections, he and his family were slain by paramilitary groups.
This is but a magnified portion of a long list of unsung Philippine Heroes. Brave Filipinos, who through times of turmoil and unrest, have gone beyond the call of duty, sacrificing everything for their beloved home. The lives of these brave men and women, though overshadowed by the textbook bayani, must be honored for the deeds they have done for the sake of freedom. They may have fought with the sword or with the pen, they may not have been fighting at all, but their memory should remain.
From nurses to student activists to soldiers fighting on the battlefield, the heroes on this list are but ordinary folks who lived in a time when bravery, among a myriad of virtues, was needed for the sake of freedom. It is from these souls that people today can take inspiration from. We need not be extraordinary to be able to do extraordinary things. What matters is the will to do them. If every Filipino will stand up against foes, whether foreign or domestic, then there is hope for the Philippines.