Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
—The Fray, “How to Save a Life”
Not too long ago, my cousin, who is a nurse, decided to unwind after work. He and his friend went to an Internet cafe straight after their shift to play some games. Suddenly, a fellow gamer collapsed nearby. Without hesitation, my cousin and his friend jumped into action and performed CPR on the unconscious man. With their quick thinking and considerable medical skills, they were able to revive the him until help arrived.
This story was particularly dear to my heart, especially since acts of selfless heroism like this are far and few in between in today’s jaded society. Not only am I proud of my cousin’s intrinsic ability to help a perfect stranger, his modesty inspires me and makes me reevaluate my previous long-standing belief that millennials are nothing more than a bunch of selfish, privileged, and entitled generation. When he and his friend was saving the man’s life, he did so without even thinking about it. What is even more impressive is that he said his instinct just kicked in and did what any person would do given the same situation. Outside of people whose jobs it is to save lives, not many of us regular folks can claim the same. Incidentally, my cousin’s younger brother is a Special Ed teacher, which is a different sort of hero, but a hero all the same.
Then I had some time to think about it, and I realized there are all sorts of heroes in my family. My number one hero would be my mother. She dropped out of college in order to run her father’s business to support her parents and her 10 siblings—9 of them were younger than her since she is the second of 11 children. She gave up most of her life to raise and support her family. Despite being a creative and talented woman, she gave up on her dream of becoming an artist to prioritize her family’s needs. And when they all grew up and had families of their own, only two ended up helping her. When no one else volunteered to take over the family business, she dedicated her life to keep providing for her mom, my grandmother (God rest her soul), and her youngest siblings. My grandfather was out of the picture long before I could remember him. Eventually, my mother got married and had children (all 5 of us), but she was still stuck managing the family business. Both my grandparents have long since passed away, but my mother is still running the store until now. My uncle, who comanaged the business with her as soon as he graduated from college, resigned some years ago after he got married to put up his own business. Only my mom and my aunt (her eldest sibling) are left tending the business after my cousin and uncle (another younger brother) almost bankrupted the company. The rest of my aunts and uncles got married, had their own family, and never looked back. Two of her youngest siblings, the youngest brother and sister, still rely on a “monthly allowance” from the company.
Then there’s my father. One time, our family went on an outing to a beach. During one of the small islands we visited, one little boy got swept up in a strong tide and almost drowned. My father sprang into action in a split second while the rest of us stood frozen in shock. He yanked the kid out of the water at the expense of the cellphone in his pocket. That day, I saw my dad as a hero. He become one again when the 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Bohol in 2013, which decimated his father’s newly renovated house. Upon hearing that Lolo Mando’s house—and his room, in particular—was totally destroyed, my father immediately flew back to his hometown to rescue my grandfather. We would have gotten my aunt too except she vehemently refused to leave Bohol. My grandfather stayed with my parents for over a year until he passed away on February 2015, exactly a week after his 91st birthday. Daddy’s tatay (father) never made it back home again. A week later, Dad and I went to Bohol to deliver my lolo‘s (grandfather) ashes to his final resting place. His house was still in ruins that a makeshift shed was put up on the lawn for my aunt and cousins to sleep in.
Not only are my own parents my personal heroes, they also play superhero to their grandchildren as well. When my brother and his wife had to leave their daughter with my parents while they work in Japan, my parents had to take care of my niece and my sister-in-law’s adopted son. At a time in their lives when they should be slowing down in retirement, they had to get up early, bathe the kids, prepare their meals, and drive them to and from school. They are basically raising two 10-year-olds. Conversely, my brother and sister-in-law had to suffer being away from their daughter for long periods of time just to be able to support and provide for her and their adopted son.
It’s amazing the extent of the sacrifices parents make for their kids. I’ve seen firsthand the unconditional love my parents had bestowed on me and my siblings growing up, and I have witnessed the great lengths my siblings go through for their own kids. While I have no children of my own, I can appreciate that parents are essentially their own brand of heroes. They work days and nights to provide for their family, stay up all night if their child is sick, and put their children’s needs before their own.
I do not use the term hero lightly. I think it is a disservice to brandish it around like insipid titles, not unlike how the word epic lost much of its meaning because of overuse. I do not necessarily think doctors, firefighters, and policemen are all heroes because I am not close enough to know one personally. But I stand by each and every hero in my life. They are what I aspire to be and hope the future generations would become. I am reminded every day that the world is not entirely a shitty place to live in and that people are not always self-serving. They restore my faith in humanity. I feel blessed that I don’t have to look beyond my own family to find the inspiration to live my life as conscientiously as I can. So this is how I pay tribute for being the heroes that they are. In my own little way, I want the world to know that there are still good people out there, and I am honored to have some of them in my family.