According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “a hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” A real hero is not measured by his/her power, strength or influence. There are many strong-willed men in this world, but only those who can be braver to endure life’s hardships longer and never admit defeat are heroes.
Having lived sixteen years in the province, I have witnessed the lives of these unnamed Filipino heroes, especially those who are underprivileged trying really hard to provide for themselves and for their family. Along the unpaved road to our house that I used to walk every time I go to school are shanties and small houses where simple people dwell. And in one of those shanties is where Gina Moyo lived with her family.
Ate Gina, a short very amicable woman in her late 40’s, has been working for my family even before I was born. She’s our labandera for 19 years and sometimes does other chores like cleaning and maintaining the main house. Aside from her work as labandera, she is also a social worker, a weaver in my cousin’s handicraft factory and does many other jobs that are available. She even does jobs that are usually done by men, like chopping firewood and working in the rice fields under the scorching heat of the sun. She only makes P2,000 per month from doing laundry for us and we pay her P100 per day for other occasional jobs like cleaning and cooking for an event or gathering. Adding what she earns from her other “sidelines,” she’s able to raise her family well. “Minsan, gipit talaga, pero gusto ko na mabuhay sila nang masagana, nang ‘di naghihirap gaya ng dinanas ko dati kaya nagsisikap ako para sa kanila,” Ate Gina said. For her to send her children to school and provide them with their basic needs she worked non-stop – the picture of her calloused, rough hands is still clear in my mind. There are times when she really wanted to give up (she told me in the interview), that she wanted to cry every time she fails to give her children their necessities. Yet, facing those really hard times, she never lost her focus and determination in achieving her dreams for her children, while other people of her status surrendered to the curse of being born impoverished. And so, she succeeded. “Alam mo si kuya Richard (her eldest son) mo tapos na ng Journalism at announcer na sa radio,” she joyfully told me. Hearing this, I can clearly feel her happiness, a mother’s joy of seeing her son having a better life. “Si Ryan (her second son) ga-graduate na ngayon, engineering. Tapos yung bunso ko e nasa college na rin, nursing, isang taon na lang ga-graduate na siya,” she added. I was crying while listening to her stories and I know she was crying lightly as well while telling me these things about her children. I personally know them; we attended the same school and I grew up with them. And this praiseworthy woman’s hard work and strong heart gave these children, my kababata who were once faced by a future full of dubiety (if not with nothingness), a brighter and clearer future is something more than enough to consider her a hero.
I don’t need to look for another Rizal or Bonifacio. I did not look for someone who made a giant leap forward and changed hundreds or thousands of lives. Ate Gina is a hero and I look up to her for this woman having finished only high school and never had a chance to enter college has lived through many years of poverty and countless hardships, but she never let these hinder her from giving her children a better future. She is indeed braver five minutes longer.