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At the height of Nazi persecution of Jews, which led to the death of millions of innocent civilians and among Western civilization’s greatest souls, a legend reportedly emerged among the tortured occupants of ghastly concentration camps. The countless multitudes of emaciated and traumatized victims were told about the story of a defiant and courageous woman, who staunchly kept her dignity and poise amid all the surrounding darkness.

In this sense, there was room for a heroic, tragic struggle in play even in one of the darkest moments in history, which negated the very notion of humanity. She never let, even under the most impossible circumstances, the tortuous conditions of her immediate surroundings trample upon the inner coherence of her virtuous Being. She maintained the sparkling jewel of her humanity against the backdrop of inscrutable barbarism.

No one knows for sure whether she ever existed, but the astonishing legend of her heroic struggle kept the flame of hope defiantly kindling in the half-broken hearts of untold numbers of near-vitiated souls. The sheer consciousness of her existence, whether real or not, was sufficient enough to create a new inter-subjective reality of life-saving and soul-enriching aspirations.

Today, we face not the threat of genocidal totalitarianism necessarily; but the dark clouds of inhumane barbarism indubitably lurk over the horizon with progressively palpable menace. And it’s precisely in this atmosphere of social decay, moral apathy and political polarization -- with thousands of lives unjustly sacrificed amid a mindless war, and our national patrimony confronted with clear and present threat of what Prime Minister Mahathir aptly described as “new version of colonialism” -- where the ineluctable necessity for heroes arises.

Without heroes, we are a helpless flock of wandering sheep vulnerable to prey in the vicious wilderness of our current social conditions. Lucky for us, we are blessed with full-souled women and men, who have dedicated their bright minds to the interest of our nation and, along the way, have wed their destinies to the arc of patriotism and redemptive justice. And getting to know these exceptional individuals has been one of my greatest privileges in recent memory.

I am, of course, talking about Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a man of unimpeachable integrity, who has happily scarified careerism, including the much-deserved Chief Justice position, for the greatest interest of the nation. Far transcending the confines of his noble vocation, the good justice has become a beacon of patriotic enlightenment, delivering sobering yet inspiring message of hope, and the need for national unity and collective defiance, to millions of souls in the country and beyond.

I am also talking about former Justice and Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the ‘woman of steel’, a fiery Ilocana spirit, a full-blooded descendant of Gabriela Silang, who has dedicated, in her supposed days of retirement, the iron-will and dauntless determination of her intrepid spirit to the protection of our most fundamental values. As a Justice and Ombudswoman, she spoke truth to power, including all contemporary presidents, precisely when shameless opportunism was the default option for our political elite.

And, to complete the trio of patriotism and justice, let’s not forger the former ambassador and foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario, who has embraced, with his whole Being, the sacred mission of defending our sovereign rights amid the onslaught of Eastern imperialism in our own backyard. He is the same leader, who oversaw, with minimum fanfare and maximum professionalism, the repatriation of thousands of overseas Filipino workers at the height of the Arab uprisings, which swept across North Africa and Middle East.

Just when we felt there was no longer hope, gradually succumbing to the despairing thought that the patriotic spirit of our founding fathers has irredeemably abandoned us, there emerged our own version of the ‘justice league’ –a council of wise men and women as well as undaunted warriors, who have kept, with a conviction that is rooted in the very depths of their Being, the flame of collective hope burning in our hearts. So long as we have warrior-leaders like them among us, our country has a brighter future.

Let me conclude with an apt prose of one of the foremost mythologists of modern age:

The Hero Path

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known ...
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.

And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.”

― Joseph Campbell