April 9, which is celebrated today as "heroes' day" is a special holiday. We pay tribute to the Filipinos, who two generations past, fought against the brutal forces of colonialism that destroyed our country. We fought the tentacles of pan-Asian imperialism, as religiously pursued by Japan. We defeated the Japanese side by side with the Americans. The Americans religiously fought the Japanese believing that it's payback time, only to realize later that they were used by their own government to achieve world domination. America won the war and got the biggest prize ever---global power status. That war against Japan was an historical milestone because it justified the continued militarization of the American state.
Here, today, we pay special mention to the Filipinos who fought these wars of independence. For us back then, we were fighting a real enemy, an enemy who abused and disabused our most cherished possessions and tried to waylay us from the right path. We were fighting for love of country, the kind that possesses each and every individual only once or twice in a lifetime.
Kagitingan, the Tagalog word we used to commemorate today's holiday, is not to be interpreted as equivalent only to the word, bravery or giting. We Filipinos use two different terms: giting and tapang to describe bravery. I choose giting to describe what these Filipinos felt at the time of their sacrifice.
"Giting" is something more than bravery---it is a state wherein you sacrificed everything for a cause. Back then, the cause was liberation from foreign domination. You feel "ma"-giting because you are not just fighting for fighting's sake--you are doing the fighting or the striving for others, more than yourself.
You believe your cause to be just. You believe that you are fighting for your God, Country and Family.
"Tapang" is different. You feel it as some sort of a bravado, somewhat individualistic, personalistic, self-absorbed, egotistic. You are Ma-"tapang" because you feel that you can actually do things yourself. Using your brute strength, you unleash ka"tapangan" and not "kagitingan."
Kagitingan comes at a time when you least expect it. When duty calls, that's when kagitingan always comes in. You're probably not ma"tapang" but you're definitely ma"giting when you heed the clarion call of "to arms!"
Kagitingan is striving for glory to God, Country and Family.
Today, most of us want to believe that we are matapang. That we can face life as bravely as others do.
We forgot already that there is a higher cause or calling, Kagitingan. That we must face life in a honorable way and recognize that the solutions to all our problems lie in collective strivings or actions, and not individualist acts.
This is again, the time when we must show our kagitingan, and show the world how we Filipinos stand for what is just, and Right.