Friday, October 08, 2004

Rewarding Mediocrity

This year earmarks probably the biggest number of pseudo-heroes and heroines our country has ever had.

Every month, it never ceases to amaze me at how proud we are of people who put up a fight, stumble, try to stand up and be content to merely survive. Or at how we welcome home with royal carpets and fancy praises, Pinoys who make it to finals, or even semifinals, but deliberately forgetting that there was a gold that eluded them somehow.

It never ceases to amaze me at how we reward mediocrity so much.

Who can forget the Hero we call Angelo dela Cruz, whose only claim to fame was to plead for his life before a camera? (I believe he now has a house and lot as well as scholarships for his children.) Or Manny pacquiao who started out strong in the fight of his life, but lost steam towards the end?

We watched our athletes slug it out in the Olympics and cheer them on even as they return limping back to our land. We supported Jasmine trias with our texts and votes even though we knew she was no LaToya, Fantasia or even william hung (and when she returned here, look at all the money shes raking in.)

At the end of the day we tell ourselves that they could have made it. That it was merely luck that caused them to fall-- a blistered foot off a cheap sock, a broken shin from a wayward kick, or even a gust of wind that caused the arrow to miss. It is always Malas.

Or dinaya. There are always the biased sons-of-bitches-of-judges who gave a six instead of a 7, or racist americans voting for their own kind. Yes, we are always the victims, arent we?

And of course, they are OUR heroes.

But who are we kidding? There is no misfortune in these contests, only stumbling blocks. And our heroes used them as excuses not to strive further. In contrast, the real winners having trained too long and too hard for the prize, have honed their talents to perfection and refused to allow these molehills to stop their drive for the prize.

Our heroes fall because they have feet of clay, and yet, are seen as gods only because we allow them to be immortalized as gods. Ironic isn't it? The new media of immortality is no longer monuments or history books. Its is TV, cinema, DVDs and the billboards of EDSA. It is here that we, whether we like it or not, shape who our heroes are.

And it gets worse.

We have telenovelas based on the "success stories" of nubile young girls who bared it all and became famous. We encourage crassness in our films, call it art and give the best acting awards to those that show the most flesh in the most alluring way. We sell inane records, such as Ocho Ocho and Ispageti, like hotcakes because we encourage half-baked ideas. Worst of all, we tolerate idiotic noontimes shows as potential fieldtrip venues for our public school students.

These will be the basis of heroes of the next generation.

But for now, our normal folks strive to be the flawed heroes of today. For now, we call our OFWs heroes because of the money they bring in, forgetting that parentless, directionless and probably spoiled children are the price they paid for their income. For now, we glorify the nurses, the truck drivers, the pinoys who merely survive in foreign lands, ignoring the fact that they slowly become less and less pinoy, and encourage everyone else to assume pinoys are always second class citizens. Unfortunately, our everyday heroes just dont dream big enough.

The sad truth is, that when we dont have the right heroes, we will never have the right dreams. Without the right dreams, we will never challenge the mountains blocking our way, but bellyache instead at the molehills that trip us.

Without the right heroes to free us, we will forever be chained in mediocrity.

Is it hopeless then? Is this downward spiralling of our basis for heroism truly the trend?

I think not. I hope not.

Ironically, with every misfortune that befalls me, I am reminded that there are still true heroes out there. Heroes probably making nothing but ripples to the media, but heroes nonetheless.

There are the good-hearted pinoys who go out of their way who help kickstart my car's dead battery or offer me a ride when I lose my way. Kind strangers who picked up my lost phones and returned it to me without asking for anything in return. An honest waitress who stumbled upon an errant wallet and refused the reward I left in her hands.

There are but the everyday heroes who show us that honest good folk still roam our lands. Pinoys who will pull us up when we fall and encourage us on the choices we must make. We have heroes amongst us who stand up when we need them to.

We are never short of the common tao with the makings of a hero. But why can't they dream as heroes dream?

Then again, there are the heroes that are larger than life. Then again, there are Filipinos that make us proud to be Filipino just because we need to be proud of being Filipino. Then again, there are the Filipinos who stand up just because we need to have someone to look up to. Then again, there are the Filipinos who ensure that we shall never lack of heroes.

They are out there. But the media shoves them away from the spotlight.

Were there billboards of teenage sensation Patricia Evangelista along EDSA? Have there been stories and films based on the award winning "Blonde and Blue Eyes" speech she delivered before an amazed international audience? Where, oh where, is the proof which shows that she made a difference?

Who knows what has now happened to the only Filipina who had a planet named after her? Does anyone know what Dra. Josette Biyo, the Internationally acclaimed educator extraordinaire of Philippine Science Iloilo, namesake of the minor Planet Biyo and humble public servant, is doing right now? Has anyone even voluteered to play her role in a weekly telenovela? Is there even a picture of the said planet being circulated?

Does anyone in Quiapo, probably the masa's biggest source of culture, even pirate the award winning film, "Rizal"? Are there peddlers who sell legacies of Lino Brocka, our most celebrated director? Who has been mass-producing the DVDs of WengWeng, the James Bond of pinoy past?
We never made movies about the rise and fall of the great Marcos Dynasty. We never made quality productions of Corregidor and Bataan in the Silver Screen. We never did learn much from the heroes of history because we never immortalized them enough.

What then should we do to find pride in our heritage? Rizal waited a hundred years to have his legacy of a movie. Are we to force the heroes of our past and present to waste away in historical limbo as well?

We need our media to focus on more of our real heroes. We need to encourage the Pinoy Greats of our age to raise the bar and try once more to prove our lineage right. We need to point the spotlight once again, from the false heroes of today to the ones truly deserving of the limelight so everyone can see what a true-blooded Pinoy can really do.

We can make our true heroes, true heroes. By simply remembering them as true heroes.


Anonymous said...

Amen lang ang masasabi ko. :)

--julian of piercing pens

JriDDles said...

I thought I was alone in wilderness questioning why OFWs should be called heroes. Heroes are people who act or do things beyond the call
of duty. When OFWs go out of the country, they do so not because they are responding to a call of duty, but because this damn government does not have any duty (read: jobs) to offer them. More than anything else, our hardworking OFWs are, in reality, scrambling the hell out of the country to survive!

If I remember it correctly, it was during the term of Ramos when the fanfare about OFWs returning as heroes was hyped up. When you have an
inutile and futile government digging their fingers into the coffer instead of generating income and employment for its people, it certainly makes sense for thieves to call OFWs lifesavers. Indeed, a cheap ploy to engage in the discursive politics of corruption.

The tradition continues to live on. Currently we have the petite Mole in Malacanang urging Filipinos to hone their Englishes, and conquer the world. Either in the Middle East, Hong Kong, or even in cyberspace taking consumer orders from high spending Japanese or Koreans who built their economies not on the basis of this language. When we have doctors turning themselves into UK or US nurses, the only English words they necessarily need to understand and effectively carry out their jobs are: 'time for you to take your medicine, and time for me to wipe your ass.' How heroic can we get?

A hero to me is someone who will be able to radically change the rotten system--economic, political, social--we are made to wallow in.

tinamaldita said...

This is my favorite post so far, and I won't even try to begin writing a comment. Well said. Very well said :)

Anonymous said...

One thing I still don't understand is why we (or most Pinoys) put these pseudo-heroes on a pedestal, why most people settle for mediocrity. If it's not a hopeless case, how are we going to turn tables and choose the right heroes? You got me thinking. Now this is gonna be on my mind the whole day.

- Xenia Maria (

Zane said...

you hit the nail right on the head, aids.

it's thoroughly disappointing at times.

although, i'm not a big fan of patricia evangelista. got to read her "award-winning" speech and i found the insights, well, unoriginal. i'm not saying she didn't do well or didn't say anything worthy. the message was just something that's been said before. but still, she did do us proud :-)

jillsabs said...

i knew you had a serious spot somewhere in your demented mind! :)

very nice.

de Villa said...

Was Angelo dela Cruz potrayed as a hero in the Philippines? That is a joke considering a hero is defined as someone who has done something very brave or having achieved something great. In this case your correct that all he did was plead for his life.

It does amaze me how the mass media defines heroes these days.

Anonymous said...

amen. though, di ako masyadong bilib dun sa speech ni patricia evangelista. there's something wrong in's somehow bordering too much on economic globalization.


kat said...

Kind strangers who picked up my lost phones and returned it to me without asking for anything in return. Yay! I agree!

In fact, I pretty much agree with what you said.

sarah said...

i like this post. but i've got to ask: how can we remember heroes when we always seem to forget our past?

Anonymous said...



Latte Lover said...

And I thought I'm the only one who thinks the media hype on jasmine trias is OA na.

Like what they said - this is well written. You have really zoomed in on the Filipinos' tendency to "award mediocrity". The same is true for some overrated artists (singers, actors, fashion designers, etc.)

Hey, are you sending this to youngblood? :)

Anonymous said...

There are a lot unsung heroes in the Philippines, but the media focuses on MAKING MONEY. The Philippines can't afford CuLTURE. Sorry. but it's the truth. Since 70% of the Philippines belong to the C and D market, there's just no room for the market for your Lino Brocka films and movies/documentaries about historical figures.

The things you call "mediocrity" is the outlet for what most of these people aspire to become or to have. The telenovelas serve as a sponge for the their emotional frustration.. that maybe there are others out there who understand what they feel and that MAYBE there's hope for the betterment of their lives. Why do you think all those rags to riches stories are such a hit? These things are the only things they can call their OWN.

You want these things to disappear? Try educate them to make them care. Most of them will probably don't care. We're just a country dying to be noticed that's all.

And YES. There's a pirated dvd of RIZAL in Quiapo. ;P

Arashi-KIshu said...

Amen dude. I think though its also a misplaced value system. hard times mean people value education for the wrong things, studying to make more money rather than for their own personal development.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...

Very incisively true. Great post!

Anonymous said...

well said. very, very, well said.

the real heroes remind me of a helmet song: "unsung"


solo flite said...

Julian: I like ur take on jasmine as well

Jriddles: exacty :)

Xenia: Hehehe. So finally i wrote something thought provoking? :D

Zane/Sealdi: Yeah, the speech itself wasnt all that original. But then again, it was how she delivered it to the british audience that made me all proud to be pinoy.

DeVill: Yup.

Sarah: Exactly. We always forget our pasts because no one reminds us. We're shifting back into a marcos cronyistic political circus because nobody dares put Marcos in bad light among the masa.

Nearsighted: yup. I guess i was fed up with all this "Pwede na" in our media greats. Youngblood? hmm... ill think about it :)

Anonymous: If being a nurse in a foreign land as a primary dream isnt mediocrity I dont know what is. You could at least aim for your own grocery store or something like what the chinese/korean immigrants are doing.

Im simply saying we dont have people like Bill Gates, Christopher Reeve, Jacky Chan, Alan Greenspan... and all those other modern day Idols here in this country. And yet, we build up the wrong examples for everyone else to look up to.

Everyone else... thanks :)

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