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A national hero of the Philippines is a Filipino who has been recognized as a hero for his or her role in the history of the country. Loosely, the term may refer to all Filipino historical figures recognized as heroes, but the term more strictly refers to those officially designated as such. In 1995 the Philippine National Heroes Committee officially recommended several people for the designation, but this was not acted upon. Currently, no one has ever been officially recognized as a Philippine national hero.
The reformist writer Jose Rizal, today generally considered the greatest Filipino hero and often given as the Philippine national hero, has never been explicitly proclaimed as the (or even a) national hero by the Philippine government. Besides Rizal, the only other Filipinos currently given implied recognition as national heroes are revolutionary Andres Bonifacio and Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. While other historical figures are commemorated in public municipal or provincial holidays, Rizal, Bonifacio and Aquino are commemorated in public nationwide (national) holidays and thus are implied to be national heroes.
The National Heroes Committee recommended Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino (no relation to Benigno Aquino), and Gabriela Silang to be recognized as national heroes on November 15, 1995: As of today, no action has been taken for these recommended National Heroes.
In August 2009, shortly after the death of former President Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino, legislative measures have been filed calling for her official recognition as a national hero.
Already admired in his lifetime for his nationalistic writings and activities, Jose Rizal was executed for treason on December 30, 1896 by the Spanish colonial government. His writings had helped inspire the Philippine Revolution against colonial rule. On December 20, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the Philippine insurgent government, decreed December 30 of every year a day of national mourning in honor of Rizal and other victims of the revolution. Henceforth, December 30 has been celebrated as Rizal Day.
By the start of the 20th century, the Philippines had become a territory of the United States. Rizal was given special attention as a hero by the American colonial administration. This was because Rizal was interpreted to represent peaceful political advocacy, unlike more radical people whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule. Rizal was selected over the revolutionaries Andres Bonifacio, who was viewed as too radical, and Apolinario Mabini, who was considered unregenerate. In June 1901, Act No. 137 of the Taft Commission reorganized the district of Morong into the Province of Rizal.
Gregorio Labayan Aglipay (May 5, 1860 – September 1, 1940) was the first Filipino Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church.In 1902, with the Philippines now a territory of the United States, Isabelo de los Reyes was working towards the formation of a Filipino national church, and on August 3, he suggested that a Church independent of Rome with Aglipay as its Supreme Bishop be established. Aglipay, a devout Catholic at the time, initially did not accept.On January 18, 1903, Aglipay was appointed Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church by the bishops of Manila, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Cagayan, Pangasinan, and Abra.
On February 23, 1918, the Philippine Legislature issued Act No. 2760 which promoted the creation, maintenance, and improvement of national monuments, particularly the creation of a monument in memory of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Katipunan secret society which spearheaded the Philippine Revolution.
On February 16, 1921, the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. 2946, which made November 30 of each year a legal holiday to commemorate the birth of Andres Bonifacio, henceforth called Bonifacio Day.
On October 28, 1931, the Philippine Legislature issued Act No. 3827, declaring the last Sunday of August of every year as National Heroes Day.
By or even before 1960, Rizal was already held in such esteem that he was referred to as the Philippine national hero, even though no legislation had been passed making it official. That year, historian Teodoro Agoncillo wrote in his History of the Filipino People that the Philippine national hero, unlike those of other countries, was not "the leader of its liberation forces". Agoncillo noted the sentiments of certain quarters calling for Rizal's replacement as the national hero by Andres Bonifacio, since Rizal was interpreted as ultimately a reformist content to be under Spain, not a revolutionary wishing for independence. A distant relative of Emilio Aguinaldo who took over the reigns of revolutionary power from Bonifacio and ordered the "execution" of the former, Agoncillo opined that Bonifacio should not replace Rizal as the national hero but be honored alongside him.
Historian Renato Constantino, building upon sentiments noted by Agoncillo, wrote in his 1970 essay Veneration Without Understanding that Rizal was unworthy of his high status since he was a "United States-sponsored hero".
President Fidel V. Ramos formed the National Heroes Committee on March 28, 1993 under Executive Order No. 75, titled "Creating the National Heroes Committee Under the Office of the President". The National Heroes Committee was tasked to study, evaluate and recommend Filipino national heroes to recognize their heroic character and remarkable achievements for the country.
On November 30, 1994 (Bonifacio Day), President Ramos issued Proclamation No. 510 which declared the year 1996 (the centennial of the Philippine Revolution) as the Year of Filipino Heroes.
The National Heroes Committee recommended the following nine individuals to be recognized as national heroes on November 15, 1995:
Their report was submitted to the Department of Education, Culture and Sports on November 22 of that year. However, no action was taken afterwards. It was speculated that any action might cause a number of requests for proclamation or trigger debates that revolve around the controversies about the concerned historical figures.
On July 25, 2007 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved Republic Act No. 9256, which declared the Monday nearest August 21 a nationwide special holiday in honor of Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., called Ninoy Aquino Day. August 21 is Aquino's death anniversary. On the same date President Macapagal-Arroyo also approved Republic Act No. 9492, which decreed that National Heroes Day be celebrated on the last Monday of August, Bonifacio Day on the Monday nearest November 30, and Rizal Day on the Monday nearest December 30.
Following the death of President Corazon "Cory" Aquino on August 1, 2009, two resolutions, House Joint Resolution Nos. 41 and 42, have been filed proposing her official recognition as a national hero with her birthdate January 25 as Cory Aquino Day.