In search for heroes

Who needs heroes? We do. Some people are always on the look out for someone to emulate, someone to look up, someone to idolize or even fanaticize with, someone other than self that may fit into your dreams or has fulfilled totally or even in part – your aspirations in life whatever that is. It always boil down to fame, honour and much money – that which the common man may rarely achieve; and for that reason it remain just an elusive dream. This gave birth to what we now see as common trend, where the heroes are those in the spotlights and re-defined our concept of heroism, demolishing the old concept of self sacrifice that served the common good to humanity – we used to call heroes.

Let me cite one if you may – the ‘Pacmania’ of the Philippines. Coined after the nickname adopted by the well-known boxer Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao of the Philippines who just few days ago, cemented his name as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer. November 14, 2009 is a day to remember in his life and in his country where he is welcomed and cherished as a hero – whatever that meant to them. The fact that he is a celebrity in his own right does not necessarily elevate him to the ranks of the heroes from by-gone generations who really shed blood and lost their lives for the cause of the their country without camera glare nor publicity stunts but plain exemplary service – that was the definition before. When was it changed and who did? Don’t get me wrong. I respect and admire Pacman’s talents, courage, determination and wit. He truly is a champion. I enjoy watching his bouts as much as his fans due to his showmanship and skill in the ring. However I treat my admiration with caution so as not to elevate him to where he is not supposed to be. Undue adulation will eventually destroy the man, he deserve a better treatment especially when his fame wanes, and eventually – it will.

Let me quote an article from the Manila Bulletin dated Friday, November 20, 2009 – subtitled ‘Pacquiao now a Datu’ “President Arroyo Friday conferred the Order of Sikatuna, with a rank of Datu, on Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in recognition of his unequivocable contribution in putting the Philippines in the international radar screen, particularly in the field of boxing.

In welcoming the People's Champ who just arrived Friday from his victorious welterweight bout, Mrs. Arroyo accorded him the national order of diplomatic merit.

The recent recipient of such award was United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who visited the country last week. Mrs. Arroyo also conferred the award to late Manila Archbishop Cardinal Sin, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; several foreign diplomats, including former United States Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone.

The President, who had earlier named Pacquiao as the country's envoy for peace and national unity, was supposed to provide hero's welcome for Pacquiao, but decided to honor him in a ceremony in Luneta, instead.”

A Datu is a native tribal chief ; a royalty that is almost equivalent to Rajah or Sultan and is accorded to the great leaders prior to the Philippines becoming a republic. Pacman’s victory in gaining seven world titles in different divisions is indeed a feat unequalled or hard to surpass. It is a notable accomplishment by a man from obscure beginnings that is worthy of admiration in the field of sports. He deserved the honour. That current record may even earn him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records – good for him and his proud countrymen. Being a boxing icon though should not be treated as passport for inclusion to the roster of those real heroes of old. For sure, there are other great athletes who brought honour to their countries and are recognized as such. But I think Pacquiao’s accolade by the Philippine government was a bit too much that it seemed the man is getting puffed up. When this happens – it will be the start of his ruin and I hope I am wrong. History attests that nobody can stay at the top all the time, but to fade with grace should be the right path for Manny. When pride and fame gets on the way – it will be only a matter of time because it always leads to ruin. A stern reminder from the Holy Scriptures – “pride goes before destruction” – must be heeded, but it is my hope that Manny will not suffer this fate when the time comes for him to hang his gloves and the adulation forgotten. His name will still resonate in the halls of MGM Las Vegas for periods to come. That alone is an honour enough for the man who helped re-energized boxing as international sports. Yet his alliance to local politicians who took advantage of the limelight to pursue their personal interests is disturbing. One of them even proposed to erect a monument in his honour. Thus it seems that these figures are the catalysts behind Manny’s political ambitions. I would rather have him stay in the world of sports than meddle with politics that may even pull down his name from where he is known right now. Philippine politics is so corrupt that it’s better for this champion to stay away from it. In politics – there are no real friends, no real gentlemen, sometimes no real honour. The very leaders that people called ‘honourable’ often do not have a word of honour. In this country – politics and show business are synonymous. Both are surreal and often it is hard to tell the difference. It will be natural then to assume that the very people giving Pacquiao exaggerated recognition might be the very ones that will cause his downfall. That is a sad story.

On the other hand – this modern form of idolatry is visible worldwide. Movie and sports stars are now the new heroes. They became the icons where the youth seek to pattern their lives. In so doing – there is more sense of escapism than realism. No wonder, modern society have more problems than the previous generations. Call me naïve or outdated but at least I am not out of touch with reality. Isn’t it time to give to give honour or respect to whom it is due? Anything in excess will prove to be disastrous in the end. Perhaps I have a wrong understanding of what defines a hero. In this time and age my idea could be obsolete but I still cling to the age-old values I knew. Fame and wealth with no values is something I can’t comprehend. After all I’m just a small voice that will soon fade to insignificance. But at least I know my stand. In closing let me quote from Stephen Grellet, an 18th century French-American religious leader, who said: "I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again."

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