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Heroes who died young, as old as today’s millennials

by Izel Abanilla

NOWADAYS, if you look at what the youth are busy with, you’d mostly find them starting careers, finishing studies, in love, having fun or resting.

By definition, millennials are kids born anywhere from 1981-1996 making their ages range from 26-41 years old while Gen Zs are those born from 1997 onwards which means they are aged 25 and younger. 

If this is so, have you ever pictured what the young men of the Spanish era were up to then?

Back then, the country was enduring oppression and the world was totally different. Children and women were almost voiceless in society and a constant struggle for independence prevailed over the nation. 

However, history had it that there were a few who stepped up to pursue the fight for freedom. We know them today as our heroes. 

Although it seems like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders, they were still practically teenagers and young adults trying to figure out life while having to grow up faster than they should because the country was depending on them.

So let’s take a rundown of some of these distinguished Philippine heroes.

  1. Jose Rizal

Jose Rizal or José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda is a historical figure who needs no introduction. He is considered the national hero and his works and deeds are made part of present-day curriculum for students. He was an overachiever who has done works that triggered national outrage. For a man of his age, he had done things that most men today cannot do in a lifetime. 

It did not take Rizal a lifetime to produce two novels, a medical degree, to launch a propaganda movement, global travels and a conviction that provoked national awakening. When he was assassinated by firing squad in Bagumbayan (now Luneta) on December 30, 1986, Rizal was only 35. 

  1. Gregorio Del Pilar 

If we’re talking about the most notable young heroes, that would have to be the Gregorio del Pilar Sempio. As one of the youngest generals in the Philippine revolutionary forces, he was nicknamed the “boy general” due to his youth.

His daring attacks during enemy encounters propelled his ranks in the military hierarchy. At barely 20, he was among the signatories in the historic pact of Biak-na-Bato and later joined former President Emilio Aguinaldo in his Hongkong exile. Because he was able to prove his value in the revolution, he was made Aguinaldo’s confidential man and protege. 

But as they say, heroes die young. 

On the morning of December 2, 1899, American forces stormed the mountains of Tirad Pass which he was defending in an attempt to cover the retreat of the president. With the help of a Filipino spy, American soldiers managed to pinpoint Del Pilar’s exact location and staged a surprise attack. Del Pilar died of  a gunshot wound in the neck. 

He was then only 24.

  1. Antonio Luna

Antonio Luna was a soldier, a chemist, a musician, war strategist, journalist, pharmacist and a hot-headed general who died not in the battlefields against the oppressing enemy but in the hands of his fellow Filipinos in the streets of Cabanatuan. 

He was assassinated in 1989. He was only 32.

  1. Apolinario Mabini 

The brains of the Katipunan, Apolinario Mabini was a theoretician, a spokesman of the Philippine revolution, a lawyer and the right-hand man of the President. When the Spanish-American war broke out in 1898, Mabini urged cooperation from the United States to gain freedom from Spain. Among his most notable works was his drafting of the Malolos Constitution in 1898. 

Back in 1895, he was struck by polio which eventually led him to lose use of both his legs in 1896. 

Eventually, he was captured by the American in 1899 and because he refused to swear allegiance to the US, he was exiled in Guam. He died on May 13, 1903.  He was 38.

  1. Andres Bonifacio 

Andres Bonifacio was mostly noted for founding the Katipunan, a secret society that led the rebellion against Spain. Although hailing from a poor family, he was well-read and a big fan of Rizal’s writings.

Following Aguinaldo’s win at the 1897 Tejeros Convention as President of the new Philippine republic, Bonifacio tried to establish a new rebel government because he refused to recognize the results of the election.

Because of this, he was arrested for the crime of treason and was executed by firing squad. Born on Nov. 30 1863, he died May 10, 1987. He was then only 33.



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