Knowing different student perspectives about heroism is one thing that fascinates me most about teaching the Rizal course. It is in this subject that several discourses about heroic representations and framing are discussed to contextualize further Jose Rizal as a social icon. One discussion I always share to the class are the different theories and perspectives about heroism such as the Theory of Sociological Imagination, heroic determinism, social determinism, pre-destination, agency and structure, as well as the Adaptive-Evolutionary Theory.
As supplement to the discussion, I asked the class to pick one contemporary figure they consider as a hero of today, and contextualize the person based on a particular heroic theory or perspective. Then, they must be able to provide specific instances when the figuro exhibited his or her heroism. Students would usually provide answers like popular political figures such as Miriam Santiago and Rody Duterte, as well as 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida. Some would occasionally provide refreshing figures like teacher Lilia Diaz who, after retirement, chose to volunteer work for the Tagbanuas of Palawan.
Conversely, being a hero nowadays becomes seemingly tantamount to being popular or being rewarded with some form of recognition. In this particular class activity, some answers would refresh my views, while some would bother me to a certain degree.
Interestingly, some groups would choose Jejomar Binay and Vic Sotto as their perceived heroes of contemporary Philippine society.
The Vic Sotto Case
Using social determinism, or the school of thought that suggests how social interactions determine an individual’s social behavior, one group depicted Vic Sotto as someone who heeds the call of service by using his popularity for the benefit of the impoverished. The group said that Sotto gives service to the poor especially through Eat Bulaga’s Juan 4 All, All 4 Juan.
The Jejomar Binay Case
With full conviction, another group decided to present former Vice President Binay as a hero who started out as a youth activitist, before eventually venturing out as an advocate of the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers, and other marginalized sectors in the Philippines.
Back in my PI 100 (Philippine Institutions 100, Life and Works of Jose Rizal) class, my professor would argue with us about heroism from an ideological point of view. When we did a similar activity, some of my classmates chose Claro M. Recto as their hero, while some pushed that Rizal definitely deserved to be our only hero. I, for myself, tried my best to advocate the heroism of the farmers, as they are the main force in our society given their task and number.
However, it is not my intention to compare my own class and the students I handle right now. Nevertheless, it is my ultimate interest to determine the sources of my students’ heroic perceptions. There must be a solid explanation why they would choose Binay, given all corruption allegations charged against him, and Sotto, provided that his comedic roles are far from social work.
Possibly, the exposure of the youth to pointless entertainment could explain the depth of arguments they could provide. The level of dicourse could have also arisen from the state of Philippine historical discourse especially in the school system.
Of course, one dimension that can be generalized from this activity is to enhance further the theoretical and ideological foundations of the youth so that they may argue in a more academic sense.
However, this activity, whatever outcome there may be, should at no point be a sense of disappointment but a challenge that each class session must become an avenue of teaching students a deeper appreciation of nationalist struggles. Likewise, teachers must be challenged to counter the existing cultural hegemony that affects the youth’s manner of viewing things.
The school, as an institution, must be strategically utilized as an avenue to transform individuals as genuine students of the society. Easier said than done, I know. However, as one friend told me once, every opportunity for arousing, organizing and mobilizing students must be aggressively approached. There must be no reason to be disheartened, but be even more motivated to address the need for more intellectuals who are willing and able to serve the people.