Again, this week, I am sharing my Friday column from SunStar Davao Newspaper. I hope you enjoy the article.
Every country needs heroes. Every group of people needs heroes of it’s own. It’s something in the human spirit, having heroes helps us do better ourselves. Somehow we want to emulate the person who has achieved hero status.
Politicians, these days, don’t make for good heroes, they are too divisive. Half the people revere a certain politician, the other half hate him. It is very rare in this age that there is a politician that is looked up to by a big enough percentage of the populace that they could be considered a hero. Sure, a certain politician can be a hero to his followers, but not so much to an entire nation.
Who are the heroes of the Philippines? Without much doubt, the number one hero of the country is boxer Manny Pacquiao. Manny has another bout coming up in just a few weeks, and you can bet that the nation will come to halt for a few hours to watch their hero go to battle (and hopefully win!). Manny brings pride to the Filipino people, and rightly so. But, in the end, Manny is a Sports hero. Sure, he will contribute some money to some causes in the country, but how much can a Sports hero really do to make the nation rise to greatness, let alone his individual followers make the same rise?
CNN, the Cable News Network, is having it’s annual (I think this is the second year for the event) search for heroes. Right now, they have narrowed the search down to 10 candidates. One of those candidates is a Filipino, Efren Peñaflorida. Efren is on a mission to teach kids. Destitute kids. Kids who are not in school, and some of whom have no homes except the streets.
Peñaflorida has his own “school of the streets,” he has a pushcart that he loads up with books and other learning materials, and he pushes his cart around the streets of Manila. He goes out and finds kids who need to learn, and he teaches them as best he can. Peñaflorida goes out and finds kids who are in gangs, and he takes them out of gang life by giving them an education.
One of the students said it all:
“I thought I’d get stuck in that situation and that my life would never improve,” recalls Fajardo. “I would probably be in jail right now, most likely a drug addict — if I hadn’t met Efren.”
Saving kids from going to jail, and instead giving them an education is something that only a hero could do.
Peñaflorida, who is only 28 years old, has been doing this for 12 years already. Can you imagine, the fellow started at the age of 16? I wonder how many kids he has saved from gang life, even death in those years?
Where does Peñaflorida find his students? Well, all over the streets of Metro Manila. Even at the garbage dump. Now, in addition to his “pushcart school,” Efren also operates a place where these poor children can get a shower an start off the day clean and ready to learn.
This contest to find CNN’s Hero for 2009 is something that you can make a difference in. You can vote for your hero, and when the votes are summed up, that is how CNN’s hero will be chosen. By visiting CNN’s Website, you can cast your vote for who you think the hero is. Hey, let’s face it, any one of those ten who are in the finals are heroes in their own right. But, for me, Efren is a real hero by helping these kids make something of themselves. If you agree with me, please go and vote and make Efren the CNN hero. If he wins, he will get $100,000 to advance his work. Efren has said that it is his goal to spread his pushcart schools all around the Philippines, and to help more children through the effort. You can do a small part by going and voting for Efren now!
The Philippines needs more heroes, and you can do your part by voting now!