'Let Us All Be Heroes'

Photo courtesy of Zarah Morales/Flickr.com

NOTE: The following speech was delivered by OpinYon publisher Ray L. Junia during the commemoration of Signal Day at Telegrafo, Tolosa, Leyte, on October 18, 2015.


Let me start with this quote: “It diri nalingi han iya guin tikangan, diri makaabot hit iya hingaradtoan.”

This is a beautiful and wise counsel that best remind us of the value of gratitude. I chose this quote as today is a celebration of gratitude to three Scouts who braved the artillery fire from the Japanese forces to save thousands from the cannons of the American liberating warships.

Today, we celebrate the heroism of these three Scouts on the morning of October 18, 1944. One of them was my uncle, Antero “Tatay Terong” Junia. The
two others were Valeriano Abello (Man Yayong) and Vicente Tiston.

Luckily, the story of their heroism was not left gathering dust in the pages of our history books, but continues to inspire young scouts to live the value of self-sacrifice.

My task today is to say, on behalf of the Junia family, thank you for remembering the act of self-sacrifice of our beloved three scouts, who incidentally were Tolosanos. And while we’re at it, kindly allow me to remind each of us and every scout, what could have motivated their act of heroism.

As told us by our elders, the three saw the need to guide the American shelling to Japanese encampments, as Filipinos were being killed from indiscriminate targets of American cannons.

Tatay Terong, who organized the signal effort first looked for my father, a sea scout. Unable to find my father, Tatay Terong sought Man Yayong, who knew semaphore signaling. Theirs was a team of sender and reader and a good “banker.” By the way, in my scouting days, semaphore flag signaling contest was a favorite. I finished my scouting days as a senior scout.

Tiston provided support to the two, more so that they had to sail to the American warships to direct the shelling. They were spotted by the Japanese forces and were attacked with cannon fire. Midway to the warships, a Japanese shell found its mark, capsizing their banca. The three had to swim to the warships.

Every Filipino youth, not only scouts, should draw inspiration from these three: Tatay Terong, Man Yayong and Vicente Tiston.

They became heroes because they risked their own life to save other lives. They became heroes because of situations, and not opportunities.
Nobody plans to be a hero. Situations create heroes. Heroism is often accidental and deliberate. It is accidental in circumstance, but deliberate in execution to action.

Heroism is an act not an honor.

Remember Yolanda, the world’s biggest and strongest typhoon in known history. That typhoon made many heroes, some recognized, and most were not noticed. Some of course lost their chance to heroism, preferring to leave town before the typhoon landed, seeking the safety, if not comforts, of Metro Manila.

Yolanda was a defining moment to man’s willingness to offer self-sacrifice. While some, duty-bound to protect their communities, fled and abandoned their sworn duty, others stood to the challenge even when faced with ridicule and disdain.

Let me take courage to name some I personally think were Yolanda heroes. First in my list are the media men, both foreign and local, who did not leave their station to report to the world the wrath of and destruction from Typhoon Yolanda. As a result, their stories have created even more heroes from all countries and all colors.

Among our local public officials, Sandy Javier, the mayor of Javier town, stands out. He, with bulldozers and chainsaws, started the clearing operations of major highways from his town to Tacloban City, to allow movement of relief trucks. Mayor Javier went beyond helping his town. He is my personal idol for it is not everyday that a person very successful in business in the big city would choose to return to his small hometown to lead in the socio-economic progress of the town. Mayor Javier is a class act. His return to become mayor of his town is not only an act of self-sacrifice. It is more than that. It is love to his beginnings.

The Petilla brothers, ‘Ikot’ Petilla, who, unreported in media, did not mind the risk of flying in helicopters, braving night and darkness to bring food to famished areas and hope to families left without shelter and food. He was then the energy secretary and pushed heaven and earth to bring back soonest electricity to our homes. His brother, Gov. ‘Nik’ made sure relief operations reached even the remotest barangays.

Alfred Romualdez, who after not being heard of and was reported missing, gathered himself together and was seen doing relief and rescue operations in his city. At least, he did not fly to Manila.

Among our national officials, I salute Mar Roxas and Voltaire Gazmin, even when my cousins think otherwise. Roxas is a scion of a billionaire family, who has made serving the country his vocation. He was here in Leyte, when he could have just stayed in the comfort of his air-conditioned offices. Unlike some of his mayors, the DILG headman preferred to stay, while some mayors left on the day before Yolanda landed, for all the silliest reasons like a cockfight derby in Manila.

Another is Mayor and ex-future President, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte of Davao City. He came with his policemen and trucks of relief goods. He helped put some order in the streets.

As I said, heroism is often accidental and deliberate.

As we look back at the heroism of these three Tolosanos, notice also the heroes of Yolanda and draw inspiration from them.

The World War II was a situation that asked for heroism. Typhoon Yolanda was a situation that needed heroes. But we do not need a world war nor a typhoon to be heroes.

One is a hero if one stands up against corruption, for he saves millions from poverty.

Filipinos today are not dying from bullets of war nor from the fury of big typhoons. Many are dying from poverty caused by widespread corruption. The worst form of corruption, though, is most familiar to victims of Yolanda. Without mercy, emergency cash for relief in shelter went to pockets of local officials.

In saying thanks to the honor you have given my family and the families of Abello and Tiston, I challenge you to become heroes too of your family, if not our country. A situation to heroism is always there.

By the way, in ending, let me remind our keepers of record and storytellers, accuracy should not be sacrificed for drama, or worse, for partisan politics. The monument that reminds scouts of the heroism of these three is most inaccurate if not a comedy of errors.

In that monument by the beach, that Man Yayong stands alone and the two others are forgotten, is a distortion of history at best, and a deliberate dishonesty at worst.

That Man Yayong is wearing a scout uniform of current vintage is a comedy of errors.

Let us take lessons from the monuments of Rizal, Bonifacio, Cry of Balintawak, and other events and heroes.

Finally, on behalf of the Junia family, thank you for remembering.

Let us all be heroes!

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Thursday, 15 November 2018
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