"Honor our nameless and faceless heroes."
Awed—this is the dominant feeling I have as I put together a list of the valiant men and women who, consciously or not, played a role in the country’s struggle for independence. I started the list about two years ago and now there are more than 5,100 names in my roster. But I am getting ahead of the story.
As an ardent student of Philippine history, I have come to know and be friends with descendants of some of our heroes. I count as friends, or at least close acquaintances, descendants of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregoria de Jesus, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, Gen. Miguel Malvar, Gliceria Villavicencio, and the Apacible brothers, Galicano and Leon.
Spending time with these friends talking about our story as a nation and people is always enlightening as well as it is inspiring. One comes face to face with stories and tidbits about our heroes passed through generations of descendants. These are anecdotes that are neither found in books nor taught in schools—these are stories that make our heroes human, like we are. When I am with these friends, I would always wonder about my own ancestry and wish that I also descend from at least one of the hundreds of thousands who valiantly fought for our country’s independence. But I knew no one and have not heard any story from my grandparents and parents when they were still around.
Often, I would tell my friends that I envy them because they come from bloodlines of heroes. I wondered if like me, others would also be interested to know if they come from a family of revolutionists. Yes, envy was a motivation for me to find out if I have a revolutionary ancestor. I asked friends if there was a list somewhere of those who fought during the revolution. I followed the leads only to be disappointed because there was not much considering the multitude of Filipinos who took part in the events leading to, and during the revolution.
The idea of making my own list came when I realized in hindsight that the history books I had read included a lot of names of revolutionists. I thought it was just a matter of jotting down their names, and this I stated doing.
It helped that my group Tunay na Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas (TUKLAS) decided to join the HistoryCon more than two years ago. We thought it was a good interactive activity to make public the initial list I could come out with so interested visitors would have the possibility of “meeting” their revolutionist ancestors. We also wanted to know if there is interest in something like this.
The reality is that we only know a handful of our heroes. Schools only teach about a few of the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of valiant Filipinos who gave their lives up for the country and for us to be independent as a people. We owe our freedoms to these nameless revolutionaries. It is not only correct, but just to name as many as we can and recognize their importance in our history. Coming out with a list is a small contribution toward this end.
Thus, the list I was doing would no longer be just for my purposes. I even had a deadline. We targeted to have at least 1,500 names ready in time of the HistoryCon. This also meant that the list should be improved, and it would have more impact if details about the revolutionists in the list could be included.
The initial Roll Call of Valor released during the History Con was a big success. People crowded around the list to find out if they come from revolutionary lines. Some even called their family members to ask for or confirm the names in the list. It was heartwarming to witness people’s excitement and joy upon realizing that they could be descendants of great revolutionists. Young people’s reactions were quite touching. Finding their connection with our glorious past was a meaningful experience. The notes they left for their ancestors were warm, grateful, even loving.
Since then, the list has been growing significantly. As this project continues, it is amazing to realize that profiles of unknown revolutionists who appear in different history books are emerging. As more details about them are stored in one place, their role in the struggle becomes a bit clearer. Perhaps this will inspire descendants to reconnect with their past and find out more about their lineage.
It will be the 125th anniversary of the Philippine revolution in 2021. The plan is to intensify the work and gather at least 10,000 names of revolutionists and launch Roll Call of Valor to honor our nameless and faceless heroes. This will just be a drop in the bucket but hopefully, the work will continue.
As to my personal quest, I found two revolutionaries bearing the surname of my grandmother. I am claiming them as my ancestors and this gives me immense happiness. I come from a lineage of valiant men who fought for our country’s independence.
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