The last Monday of August 2022 will bring us another celebration of National Heroes Day. The Philippines is known for many things, but here’s a chance to learn more about its history as we honor its heroes.
The Philippines remains to be one of the countries in the world with a great number of celebrated national public holidays. As a matter of fact, the Philippines has 19 declared 19 non-working holidays and 3 special working holidays in 2022 making the country 4th in rank in terms of the countries with the most declared public holiday. We share the same spot with Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago. Interestingly, the majority, or ten (10) of the country’s public holidays are for the commemoration or celebration of various religious feasts like Christmas Day, Maundy Thursday, Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Ramadan), among others while the rest of the public holidays are a commemoration of significant events in Philippine history like Independence Day and Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor). And others are a commemoration of some of the country’s heroes like Rizal Day, Bonifacio Day, and Ninoy Aquino Day.
However, the Philippines, as a nation, could not declare a public holiday for all our heroes. Though every holiday aims to celebrate the act of heroism and commemorate significant events in the nation’s history, there are also other factors to consider in declaring another holiday or adjusting the dates of the celebration. One important factor that policymakers need to consider is its economic impact. Every non-working holiday declared costs our economy, specifically our businessmen and investors as they still need to pay their workers in spite of producing no output. Furthermore, they provide the additional payment mandated by law if they ask their employees to report on a non-working holiday. For instance, for work done during the regular holiday, the employee shall be paid 200% of his/her regular salary for that day for the first eight hours. While for work done during the special non-working holiday, an employee shall be paid an additional 30% of the daily rate on the first eight hours of work
Thus, to provide an avenue for the Philippines as a nation to recognize the heroism done by our numerous heroes, both the named and unsung heroes, the country celebrates the National Heroes Day or Araw ng mga Bayani every last Monday of August. Hence, the celebration of the National Heroes Day 2022 falls on August 29. Bria Homes will walk you through the rich history of National Heroes Day in the Philippines.
History of the National Heroes Day Celebration
The celebration of National Heroes Day is one of the oldest public holidays in the Philippines. In fact, it began during the American Occupation of the country. The Philippine legislature enacted Act No. 3827 on October 28, 1931 institutionalizing the celebration of National Heroes Day. It is truly interesting to note that the Philippine Congress during that period was dominated by Filipino leaders who represented the national aspiration for independence. The Act declared every last Sunday of August of every year as a national holiday. However, according to the Official Gazette Website, research suggests that the celebration of National Heroes Day coincided with the commemoration of Bonifacio Day every November 30. It appears that the practice of celebrating Bonifacio Day concurrently with the commemoration of Filipino heroes on November 30 was carried on in subsequent years. For example, on November 30, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon himself was the guest of honor at the National Heroes Day celebration held at the University of the Philippines.
During the Japanese occupation, President Laurel continued to celebrate National Heroes Day every November 30. Due to the multitude of lives lost during the Second World War, President Laurel signed Executive Order No. 20 on March 20, 1942, which set the National Heroes Day on the thirtieth of November. And year after, President Laurel opted to Mount Samat in the Province of Bataan as the place of the National Heroes Day commemoration to commemorate the Filipino and American forces defeated in that very place in Bataan and Corregidor on April 3 and May 6, 1943, respectively.
On November 30, 1945, the year the Japanese Occupation and the Second World War in the Pacific ended, President Sergio Osmeña delivered a speech on the National Heroes Day in Capas, Tarlac. This was to commemorate the town not only as a prison camp under the Occupation, but also as “a symbol of spiritual resistance, a symbol of faith.”
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During the administration of President Elpidio Quirino in 1952, the commemoration of the National Heroes Day was reverted to every last Sunday of August through Administrative Order No. 190, s. 1952. By virtue of the said Administrative Order, President Quirino appointed Secretary of Education Cecilio Puton as head of a committee to take charge of the National Heroes Day celebration, which took place on August 31, 1952. There, the President, in his speech at the Philippine Normal College (now Philippine Normal University), he explained that that the “change has become necessary because of the interest from different sectors of our country to celebrate each hero’s anniversary in order to perpetuate his [Andres Bonifacio’s] name.”
Another significant occasion for the National Heroes Day celebration happened during the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino. President Aquino’s Administrative Code of 1987 adopted this in Executive Order No. 292, Book 1, Chapter 7, which provided for a list of regular holidays and nationwide special days, setting National Heroes Day as a regular holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of August. It is clearly stated in the Administrative Code that the list of provided holidays and special days may be “modified by law, order or proclamation.”
The latest amendment to rules concerning the commemoration of National Heroes Day and the current basis of the celebration was signed into law on July 24, 2007. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9492 which amended Book 1, Chapter 7 of the Administrative Code. By the virtue of the said law, the celebration of the National Heroes Day was transferred to every last Monday of August. This is due to the program initiated by President Arroyo known as the “Holiday Economics” program. This program aimed to reduce work disruptions by moving holidays to the nearest Monday or Friday of the week, thus allowing for longer weekends and boosting domestic leisure and tourism.
Not all heroes wear capes, not all have statues built in their honor, streets named after them, or names recorded in history books and accounts. Nonetheless, with the celebration of the National Heroes Day, we give due recognition to the contributions of the unsung heroes. Nowadays, we still have heroes living among us, making small to grand contributions for the improvement of our lives. We have our dedicated teachers whose perseverance is undoubtedly tested by various circumstances; our OFW who tirelessly sacrificing their time and talent working overseas to provide food for their families; and health workers, underscored during the pandemic, who put their lives at risk just to professionally provide the necessary care needed by our sick neighbors despite the incompetent remuneration. These are some of our modern day heroes who, at times neglected, should be acknowledged and give them the honor by providing what is due for them.