THINK ON THESE: Sort of heroes

A decade ago, when I visited my sister in Livingston, Montana, there was one incident that I could not forget. It was winter time and the garage was very slippery. Daniel, my sister Elena’s husband, was in his office some 30 kilometers away. We decided to go to the Walmart to buy some groceries in the nearby city of Bozeman.

We were going out when Phil, the youngest son, skidded and almost fell into the ground. Erik, the eldest, saved his younger brother by holding him before the latter fell. Instantly, Phil hugged his brother and told him, “You are my hero.”

Why am I narrating this? Nothing except that I was inspired after reading the stories churned out by the Manila Bulletin team in its recent Sunday edition (April 8, 2018). “Meeting Everyday Heroes,” it said.

Allow me to share those featured “everyday heroes” that caught my attention. Thirty-one-year old Raf Dionisio, is a social and environmental entrepreneur. It all started when he posted a photo of his travel to Yangil and Banawen, somewhere in Zambales. Seeing the photos, some friends commented: “How poor the land was due the lack of trees.”

It had given him an idea to plant trees in the area, with some help from friends and acquaintances. “Because the Philippines, and the world, has a looming water issue – no forest will mean no access to water by many,” he replied when asked why he was helping the indigenous group.

“They are the hope for the environment – if we take care of them, they will take care of the forest,” he told Stef Juan. “And helping them is easy – just send them seeds of local fruits and vegetables. They are very sustainable and we could all learn from the principles of their lives.”

Charlene Tan hopes the world one “bayong” at a time. She is the founder of Good Food Community, an enterprise that links food producers with consumers. But she only does it for those food grown organically.

“It’s about shifting our lifestyles and our diets to treat our farmers fairly; to respect our ecosystems and to feed our families well,” she explained to Yvette Tan.

She has been doing this for seven years now. “Organic diversified agriculture has become a viable option for many our farmers,” she said. “To be able to earn a decent income (and not go hungry every lean season), to do just and honest work (and not poison the soil with chemicals), to be with one’s family (and not work in the city or abroad) – this has become a reality for a number of our farmers because of the alternative we’ve built together.”

Only 23, Levin Jun Miscala is a teacher fellow at Dela Paz Main Elementary School, one of the most populated public schools in Biñan City. Although young, he helps children and co-teachers to learn technologies that would hasten their understanding of what modernized schools have which they don’t have.

“I think my co-teachers deserve to be recognized as heroes,” Juan quoted him as saying. “They have been working in the system for more than 25 years and I’m inspired to emulate their grit and perseverance in serving this nation.”

Anyone can be sort of a hero. A teacher, a doctor, an environmentalist, a journalist, a filmmaker, policeman, a farmer and even boy scout. But the question that begs an answer is: “How much is a hero worth?”

In the same issue, Kim Ferrer did an extensive research on how much a “hero” receives. For instance, the president who acts as the head of state and head of government receives an annual income from P1,931,088 up to P4,796,868. In comparison, American president receives an annual income of US$400,000 (P20,806,000).

A Filipino teacher, who prepares lessons according to the curricula, gives lessons and assesses students’ progress, has an annual salary of P242,148 on average. Primary benefits include mid-year and year-end bonus, enhanced performance-based bonus, productivity enhancement, personal economic relief allowance (of P2,5000), overtime pay, hazard pay, anniversary bonus, and loyalty incentives.

A Filipino policeman, who provides social order and public safety as well as responsibility in enforcing national laws, receives on average an annual salary of P356,016. A Filipino fireman gets almost half of what a policeman receives: P178,008 on the average.

A Filipino farmer gets on the average an annual income of P100,000. A Filipino fisherman gets lesser: P98,304 on average.

In comparison, farmers in the United States gets an annual income of US$70,110 (P3,641,050) on the average. Fishermen, on the other hand, settles for an annual income of US$30,220 (p1,571,893) on averge.

“The new heroes of the country have sacrificed so much – sometimes working beyond normal hours just to save lives, nourish children’s minds, or put food on our table. And how do we reward them? Sadly, most of the time it’s with a salary that a little over the minimum,” Ferrer wrote.