Filipinos commemorated the National Heroes’ Day on August 31, 2020, honoring and remembering known and unknown heroes of the revolution who laid the foundation for the country’s independence after centuries under foreign rule including Spain, the United States, and Japan.

This day also commemorates the Cry of Pugad Lawin, a revolt that started the 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spanish empire along with the long struggle of Filipinos for the country’s independence.

National Heroes’ Day was initially celebrated on the 30th of November — the same day as the remembrance of the birth of revolutionary Gat Andres Bonifacio.

Bonifacio was the founder of Katipunan, a revolutionary group of Filipinos who bravely fought against the Spanish colonizers.

The holiday is still being celebrated on the same day during the Japanese occupation under Executive Order No. 20 issued on March 20, 1942, signed by former President Jose P. Laurel, setting the National Heroes Day every 30th of November.

In 1952, President Elpidio Quirino reverted the date of National Heroes Day back to the last Sunday of August through Administrative Order No. 190, s. 1952.

He appointed Secretary of Education Cecilio Puton as head of a committee to take charge of the National Heroes Day celebration, which took place on August 31, 1952.

He then delivered a speech on the same day at the Philippine Normal College (formerly Philippine Normal University), saying that the “change has become necessary because of the interest from different sectors of our country to celebrate each hero’s anniversary in order to perpetuate his [Andres Bonifacio’s] name.”

Meanwhile, the Administrative Code of 1987 of late President Corazon Aquino adopted the Executive Order No. 292, Book 1, Chapter 7, which provided for a list of regular holidays and nationwide special days, setting National Heroes Day as a regular holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of August.

The administrative code provides that the list of holidays and special days may be “modified by law, order or proclamation.”

On July 24, 2007, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9492, which amended Book 1, Chapter 7 of the Administrative Code.

The National Heroes’ Day is now celebrated every last Monday of August.

The move was part of Arroyo’s “holiday economics” program, a policy adjusting national holidays normally celebrated on weekends moving to the nearest Monday or Friday of the week, allowing longer weekends as well as revving up domestic leisure and tourism for the benefit of the country.

National Heroes’ Day is a time the Filipinos pay tribute to all known or unknown individuals who contributed and sacrificed lives in the name of achieving our Philippine identity, justice against tyranny, peace, and freedom.

This year, as the world grapples with a dreaded virus, modern-day heroes — those who sacrificed their lives to save others — are honored and commended.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a short message, joined the entire country in paying tribute to the heroes who risked their lives fighting for liberty.

“Today, we honor not only the valor of our forebears who fought for our motherland’s freedom but also the heroism of those who risked their lives fighting a different kind of enemy,” he said.

Duterte also recognized front-liners who are risking life and limbs in the battle against the pandemic.

“Present-day challenges posed by the current public health crisis have given rise to modern-day heroes — the country’s Filipino frontliners here and abroad who are battling the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. (Lade Jean Kabagani, PNA)