By Junelie Anthony Velonta
Ambassador, HAPI Youth
(c) Erik Aquino

Where does greatness reside? The many statues around the world allude to the self. It is, after all, a fact that the common man and woman study the lives of those above them. From conquerors to brilliant minds, pedestals are built both with concrete and words. As the cement hardens and the words lengthen, these statues become immortal – above the flaws of humanity in many respects. 

Often, the reason these immortals are set to stone is forgotten. Most Filipinos know of token Filipino hero names such as Silang, del Pilar, Bonifacio, Rizal, etc. They are, in a sense, omnipresent. Their cold eyes observe every corner of the nation, serving both as an inspiration and a reminder. However, does the common Filipino really know what made those men and women great?

Brilliance is the standard from which the self, the individual, is measured. Experts and pioneers of the many fields of study and practice serve as incremental demarcations of such. After all, titles like “The Next Einstein” or the “The Napoleon of” are commonly thrown around.

Brilliance is the standard from which the self, the individual, is measured.

Ideology, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing. It is through ideology that the selfless can be classed differently from the self-serving, that the singular can be differentiated from the collective. Ideology sets legacy. 

Where, then, does greatness truly reside? The brilliance of one man should be recognized. Individual excellence, however, does not guarantee positive actions. One man’s brilliance does not justify a legacy of retrogression and hardships. One man’s brilliance could never compensate for the loss of life resulting from his lust for the mundane. Brilliance, in itself, is not greatness.

Does ideology guarantee greatness? Like how history can be rewritten, ideologies can be bent. No matter how great, no matter how noble, what people consider true has the ability to blind them. Difference, after all, breeds contempt. One only has to immerse his or her own self in an echo chamber, and they’ll be finding a hard time recognizing the merits of others, or the fault of themselves. Ideology, in itself, is not greatness.

Ideology, in itself, is not greatness.

It is the duty of every Filipino to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. To do this, the immortals, riding high on their pedestals, must be brought down. The stone holding them up must be broken and the words that make them rise must be deconstructed. Their legacies must be judged by their actions when they were still alive. 

Knowing how, when, or why they died is not enough. Other questions must be asked. Most importantly, one must ask: “What did they live for?” Only once that question is answered can greatness be defined.

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