Editor’s Note: In celebration of the Philippines’ 117th Independence Day, INQUIRER.net is publishing short essays submitted by our readers.
Gemma Louise Heaton, a teacher at The Lord of Grace Christian School, asked students under her History and Social Studies classes to answer our question: “What’s the best that you have done for our country?” Here are their responses.
‘Be proud of being a Filipino’
What is the best the thing I have done for my country? I actually don’t know because at my age, it is impossible to do something big. Then I realized it isn’t important on how big it is. I think the best thing I’ve done for my country is to be proud that I am a Filipino.
Being proud that I am a Filipino is not quite easy. Sometimes, I even doubt it because of our government. The people have to rally on the streets to get what they want. I feel like it is telling me that we have to go to war first before we can gain peace. When I was in Grade 7, we studied Philippine history. I then appreciated peace. It was not just about the Filipinos fighting the Spanish but how we fought for our independence.
Now, if someone will ask me what is the best thing that I have done for our country, I will tell him or her that I am proud to be a Filipino.
– Jen Denielle R. Hernandez, Grade 9
There are many heroes and heroines who have done big things for the Philippines: Andres Bonifacio, who sacrificed and gave everything for the sake of the Philippines; Melchora Aquino, who risked her life to help the Katipuneros; Dr. Jose Rizal, who is our national hero, and others who sacrificed their lives.
But what is the best thing a 13-year-old girl has done and can do for her country? I am not a mother who is a hero for neither her child nor a father who is a hero for his son. I am just a sophomore student, a girl who knows nothing but to eat, sleep, surf the Internet, watch television and fan-girl over Daniel Padilla. The things I have done for my country so far are to make my parents proud and to give respect. I study to make my parents, as well as my teachers, proud. It is not easy to make a person proud and, at the same time, happy.
I gave relief items to the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” before. Yes, it is a big thing, but for me, giving respect is bigger. It is the biggest thing a 13-year-old girl can do and give. Giving respect, for me, is the sister of loving and loving is the root of caring.
Giving respect is the best thing I have done for my country and for the people around me.
– Maureen Omanito, Grade 8
‘Study our history, teach it to others’
What’s the best that I have done for my beautiful, loving country? Even if I can’t die for my country like Andres Bonifacio and Dr. Jose Rizal, here are best things that I have done for my country and I will continue to do for my country: In our house, we separate biodegradable, degradable and recyclable trash. For that, I contribute to saving our environment. I also use “po” and “opo” because it is one of our Filipino traits well-known by people around the world.
But really, what is the best that I have done for our country? It is to study about its history so that I can teach it to the future young Filipino kids, that they will never forget where they belong. It doesn’t matter if what you’ve done for your country is big or small. Small things can become big things.
You don’t have to die for your country; you can simply do small things that will help the future of the Philippines.
– Marie Gold Vivien M. Totanes, Grade 8
‘Do good in school’
When people ask that question, the answer really depends on who you are asking. When you ask an adult, he/she would probably answer something like: “I have donated to charity” or “I have beggars on the street.” But as a sophomore student, and not a financially fortunate one at that, there is only so much I can do.
A lot of people say it doesn’t matter how old you are and stuff like that, “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” But in my perspective, I am just a little girl who is lost in a big world. What is there for a 14-year-old to do that will improve our country? After all the ups and downs in my 14 years of existence, I guess the best I can do is to do good in school, succeed as a student and be an obedient daughter to my family.
If I am an honor student, I can graduate with honors, and graduating with a scholarship is my goal. If I can make to the Dean’s List, I will succeed in the career I want to pursue. If I am going to be a film director in the future, as an adult I can change or improve the country by directing inspirational or motivational films.
– Anna Maria Mikaela Almirez, Grade 8
‘Pray for the nation, embrace our culture’
Praying for our nation is the best I can contribute to our country. When we had our field trip at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, we were told not to fold the bills. By not folding our monetary bills, I am helping our economy. Embracing our culture is one of the best things I can do for our country.
– Jean Lalaine F. Rubio, Grade 9
‘Help victims of calamities’
I, with my dad and sister, participated in the “World Wide Walk” fund run to help the people who were affected by a typhoon in the Visayas, a run that broke the Guinness World Record for having a huge number of participants. This event helped the victims of the typhoon in Samar and Leyte. If there are more events like this in the future, I’ll be there to participate and help.
– VJ Bagani R. Villan, Grade 9
I think the best thing I have done for my country is to save electricity since the Philippines has a power supply problem.By simply turning off appliances when not in use, we are helping the country.
– Aira Joy L. Bercero, Grade 10
‘Pick up litter’
As a student, the simple things I can do for my country will snowball to bigger things.Something as simple as picking up candy wrappers affects us all. This should not be taken lightly, as throwing small things can lead to throwing bigger things. By picking up litter, if done little by little, we are also influencing others to do the same.
– Reimart C. Sarmiento, Grade 10
Being a citizen is a little difficult for the reason that you have to follow the rules implemented by your country. We know that people hate to follow them; if you don’t you, could be sent to jail or you will have to pay the price. You have to submit to the authorities. You have to be responsible and you need to contribute in the simplest way that you can do for your country. Actually, as a citizen, you need to be aware and remember a few things or rules.
As a student, I believe the things that I can do for my country are limitless, as long as I believe in myself. Honestly, when I’m at home, I dislike following the house rules; sometimes, even when I am in school. When I’m outside, I throw garbage anywhere. But when I entered high school, I realized I have to stop these practices because it is childish. I need to grow up in order to contribute to my country. So, I started following the rules, regardless of where I am.
Therefore, I conclude that our society has a lot of problems right now and I’m aware there will be a lot more as time goes by. So stop being a burden in our society: Follow rules and submit to our authorities. Our society has a lot to face they may not be able to help you right now. Grow up!
– Lois Corliss Q. Rivera, Grade 9
‘Make the right decisions’
Choosing what course to take up in college and which school to apply for are the main thoughts of a Grade 10 student like me, taking up exams in the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas. Once we make the right decisions, we are doing the best we can do for our country.
– Joan Ellaine F. Rubio, Grade 10
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TAGS: 117th Independence Day, Essay, Independence Day, June 12, UGC
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In light of Donald Trump’s “law and order” speech at the Republican national convention, Jon Stewart offered a strong riposte to the idea that patriotism only belonged to Republicans.
We asked you for your thoughts on the matter – whether you identify as a patriot, what it means, and how your beliefs translate into actions in your everyday life.
Your answers are below.
Michael Bain, 58, ranch manager, New Mexico
Patriotism takes hard, thoughtful, informed, dedicated, humble, steady work.
Patriotism means supporting and being responsible for your family, your community and all levels of government with your willingness to work, to volunteer, to pay your share of taxes and pay with your life if need be.
It means the majority rules, but the majority protects the rights of the minority. It means respecting your neighbor’s opinion, but not letting yourself be run over by it.
It means thinking for yourself, but also seriously working to educate yourself. To be patriotic, you need to learn and understand where the biases in information you receive are coming from. Is the information objective, or captured by special interests on the left or right, or in between?
I volunteer, I pay my taxes without griping, I vote, I obey the law. I read something of real intellectual value everyday – generally in economics, finance or ecology (and I am no intellectual nor academic).
I do not wear my patriotism on my shoulder wrapped in a flag, nor do I run around with a gun (although I own several), but I try to practice patriotism honestly, knowledgeably and quietly every day.
Jacob C, 26, office worker, California
I think Jon Stewart is wrong. I think conservatives do own patriotism, at least in its contemporary manifestation. When I think of a self-described “patriot”, I imagine a loud, belligerent man who drives an oversized pick-up truck complete with both an American flag and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flying from poles mounted in the flatbed; this man responds to any dissenting opinion about America being “No 1” with the phrase “Love it or leave it!” and occasionally sports a tricorn at political rallies.
Hence why I would never self-identify in terms of patriotism.
Benjamin Pollack, 31, stay-at-home husband with a disability, Oregon
Patriotism means standing up for views contrary to my own, and for people unlike myself, because diversity is the greatest American characteristic. From the earliest days of the republic, we have been a nation as varied politically as we are geographically. Losing sight of that richness and complexity threatens to undermine the very essence of our national character.
Patriotism means never letting go of the multiculturalism that informed the birth of this great country, and showing up to dutifully stand in the face of tyranny in any form.
Jill Denison, 65, writer and retired CPA, Ohio
To me, patriotism means supporting the values set forth in the constitution, helping to ensure that everybody – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion – has the opportunity to enjoy the democratic freedoms of our nation. It’s about working not just for oneself, but for the good of all. Understanding that equality means everybody, not just a chosen few.
I live out my patriotism by helping people wherever and however I am able. I have neighbors who are refugees from Syria and I try to help them with everything – from dealing with everyday issues such as the electric company to agencies in regards to their residency. I write a blog and also publish in an online publication, speaking out against social injustices around the world.
I share what I have with those in need. I try to give more than I take. I try to always be kind and have a smile for everyone.
Mark Offtermatt, 30, librarian, Washington
I am not patriotic. I am not excited that I am an American. I live here; it is the hand I was dealt. The rhetoric from the patriots is simply gross, ugly, xenophobic isolationism. They really do sound like fascists, and in fact display a lot of characteristics of earlier fascist states. This indignant belief that we are right because we are American and our way is best is inflammatory and destructive.
The famous scholar of Russian studies Robert Service stated: “Communism may be the young god that failed, but American democracy has yet to work for most of the world’s people most of the time.” We export this democracy to other countries, using our patriotic belief that one size must fit all. This is dangerous, tone-deaf, and ethnocentric (all negative characteristics encompassed by Donald Trump).
This country is a mess, and there is very little to be proud of right now.
Caitlin B, 33, works in communications, Maryland
Whatever patriotism means, it’s not blind acceptance of the status quo. Patriotism means constant vigilance and asking whether the direction your country is headed in is the right one, and whether that direction makes your country a better place.
Patriotism is a spirit of comradeship for those who share your country, regardless of their background or walk of life.
Patriotism is knowing when your country is faltering, and helping it to do better.
Patriotism is representing what is best about your country, and putting its best face forward, to the rest of the world.
Patriotism isn’t about believing your country is always right. It means apologizing when your country has been wrong, and learning from the mistakes of the past to make a stronger future.
I work in philanthropy, so I am constantly deploying resources to make my community a better place to live, and hopefully creating a more tolerant society in the process. When I travel, I think I’m a good public diplomat, able to communicate what is good about America, and what is bad – while still being a proud American.
George Reed, 73, retired electrical engineer
I’m not sure what patriotism means to me anymore. When I was an enlisted sailor on a submarine, it was easy. Now I’ve watched a lot of wars take place over the years because of our “national interest” that seemed wrong, I’m thinking that perhaps the US is not such a nice place. Patriotism, in this case, would be working to align the values of tolerance and peace with our foreign policy. And working to instill tolerance in the US population.
Loren Ettinger, 41, wholesale wine broker, California
Patriotism is owning both the fact that the US was the first modern democracy, but also a democracy that still struggles with representing all facets of its plurality. Patriotism is embracing with love the fact that America is not just white Christian men, but a melting pot of all walks of life from every corner of the globe of all creeds, religions and races. We are all Americans and America is made great by all of us.
Cormac Breathnac, 40, self-employed, Kentucky
Patriotism is pride in and love for your country. But patriots don’t wear red, white and blue and beat their chests about how great their country is. Patriots work to make their country better. And that starts at home.
Sam Morrison, 62, library assistant, Illinois
As a boomer, I grew up in the age of patriotism. I took President Kennedy’s statement “And so, my fellow Americans; ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” seriously.
My father was a navy lifer and both my parents lived and served during the second world war. So yes, I love my country, warts and all. But to me patriotism is more than following a flag and the politicians who wave it. It also means defending the constitution and the bill of rights, and being willing to sacrifice myself for any of my fellow American sisters and brothers.
Our democracy is unique. There isn’t another one like it, and I want to preserve it for our future. Anyone who is an American is entitled to all of the freedoms that were given to us, fought over, died for. I come from a long line of patriotic ancestors. Their lessons and sacrifice have taught me well.
James DeSocio, 67, retired social worker, New York
Where to start? How about the first world war, the second world war, Korea and Vietnam. Fought and paid for (for the most part) by regular Americans (patriots).
The Tennessee Valley authority, Hoover dam, our beautiful national and city parks and the statues and monuments that were built and paid for (for the most part) by regular Americans (patriots).
How about Ike, who authorized the nation’s infrastructure bill during the 1950s, connecting the coasts with the highway system that we all use. Yes, it was built and paid for (for the most part) by regular Americans (patriots).
Public hospitals, public libraries, public schools and colleges, public transportation, municipal museums and the post office and the maintenance of roads, bridges and waterways. There for everyone to use, and yes, pretty much built and paid for by regular Americans (patriots).
Nasa? Everybody loves Nasa and very few Americans complain about funding it (patriots).
So being a patriot involves some type of contribution and a recognition of past and present efforts that remind us of what holds us together in the national interest.
Jason Green, 50, sales manager, Wisconsin
I emigrated from England at age 12. I later went to the army recruiting office and joined the US army, and proudly served in Germany from 1988 to 1990. I obtained my US citizenship in Milwaukee while on leave. I had tears in my eyes as I raised my hand a second time to swear the oath to defend the constitution, wearing my dress uniform. I later volunteered for duty in Saudi Arabia during desert storm.
To me, patriotism is the heartfelt belief that you are willing to give and sacrifice, to support and defend the values, honor and privileges that make this country so unique and inspiring above all others.
Debbie Tam, 45, editor, New York
Patriotism is often confused with blind pride in one’s nation. Patriotism is love of one’s nation.
It is a love without conditions. It comes with the understanding that when you look back on history, there will be things that one can point to and be proud. It also comes with the understanding that when you look back on history, there will be things that were regrettable.
Patriotism knows that these moments bring growth and progress. That these moments are acknowledged as lessons learned and shape the nation to be what it is today and all it will be in the future. One can be frustrated, but patriotism understands that the work never ends – that the nation is always a work in progress.
Carolyn, 34, academic and mental health worker, Wisconsin
Patriotism is a word I fear. It is often used in speeches to inspire solidarity to some kind of ideal nation-state we call America. It is used to justify rigid sensibilities of who to love and who to hate. I have no love of country that would supersede my love and concern for the wellbeing of all people, that would supersede the cause of peace, that would supersede human dignity, human rights and our collective/shared stewardship of this planet.
I treat all people with respect. I advocate peace and environmental protection. I help those who have been disadvantaged and marginalized. Most importantly, I work on myself – my prejudgments, my own sense of peace, and I pay attention to how I show up in the everyday.
Contributions have been edited for length and clarity