Everyone is applauding the courage of Heidi Mendoza.
Considering these most strange and dubious times, M'am Heidi has been deemed as a modern day hero. On a Facebook site specifically dedicated to venerating her extraordinary act of exposing the anomalies and shenanigans of men in uniform as well as the minions who serve the machinery of institutional corruption, M'am Heidi has even been called a modern day Gabriela Silang.
Well, that might as well be.
For indeed, she gave up more than an alternative career at the Asian Development Bank in order to break open this can of worms. She did not only forfeit her financial security but also her own safety as well as that of her family. She is not dealing with muddling villains of the Keystone cop sort here: M'am Heidi has decided to face an entire pride of carnivores who represent various levels of power and influence in the government. Whether it is the befuddled general who has become the icon of everything wrong about Philippine institutions --- or the Grand Dame of the Ombudsman who gazes at senators, generals and common men with the same steely look completely devoid of emotion, M'am Heidi has indeed found herself in a pit far deeper than she could ever imagine.
Enough has been said about her courage. Her accolades are awarded out of wonderment. For indeed, there is a thin line between heroism and recklessness --- between nobility of spirit and sheer folly. With the case of M'am Heidi, people would love to hail her heroism if only because the Filipino people are so sick and tired of promises from politicos, dreaming and aspiring only to be met with the reality of frustrations --- or worse, accepting the possibility that indeed we do not need new leaders but instead require a new people.
Corruption has been so deeply embedded in our culture so that we justify what is unspeakable because everybody else does it anyway. Or so we would like to think. Thus, we have reached the point of numbness and apathy.Something so wrong can become all right or ignorable because it has been practiced both openly and covertly by people vested with power.
We take our cue from our leaders who lack moral fortitude --- or are merely empowered by flowery speeches or how they are marketed by spin doctors and myth makers.
And then came Heidi.
Like Jun Lozada who came before her, Heidi has a mouthful to say. She, like her underdog predecessor, was a victim of circumstances. But unlike Lozada, Heidi was not thrust into the arms of the awaiting senators ready to unfurl the dirtiest laundry of the military. M'am Heidi was only living up to her responsibility. She had moral conviction and a sense of obligation to her profession.
More so, she was committed to fulfill the demands of her work down to the very end even it meant being right at the heart of this media circus where she found herself most terrified and unprepared. And this was because of what she has unearthed regarding the grand scale theft taking place with the taxpayer's money. This was because she was quite decided to do what she had to do.
And now media has found a new cause celebre as well. The internet is blazing with all sorts of stories --- for who else but the Filipino would celebrate the underdog especially when she is pictured to fighting monsters with the powers of Titans. Like the NTZ scandal that had Lozano in a starring role --- or the Erap impeachment coverage --- media has conveniently diminished everything as a battle between the Bad and the Good.
Interestingly enough, half the battle is being fought not with the issues but with what people perceive in the television coverages. For indeed, the telling of stories has so much changed ever since the accessibility of technology as well as its consistent evolutions and reinterpretations. It is different to read about Heidi Mendoza seated in front of the Senators and the Powers she is going against --- than to see this frail woman bravely confronting the Giants and holding her stand.
By her sheer presence on camera, Heidi Mendoza has already become a hero. Whether she is aware of it or not --- or most likely because of her naivete about the way cameras work, television manipulates and audiences respond --- M'am Heidi has already fashioned herself to be the vigilante, the hero --- the weak fighter willing to give her life in the name of truth.
M'am Heidi, frail and frightened, musters courage each time she speaks in front of the microphone, videotaped and photographed, interrogated by senators. This happens while the people she pinpoints as the brains and promulgators of systematic theft and plunder sit across her, gazing at her with what is undisguised contempt. And as Heidi continues to reveal layer after layer of the manner by which money is being funneled out their sources to be sent in brown envelopes to generals, her image of weakness becomes the symbol of superlative strength.
Of course it does not help that her nemeses are absolutely charmless.
M'am Heidi set against the stoic Chairperson of the Ombudsman is a study of contrasts. Pity that no one ever advised Madame Gutierrez that despite all her legalese, exploration of arguments and manifestations of power --- the television audience still perceives her as a contravida. Because of her inability to suggest empathy, warmth or even humanness, she has created this solid shield of defensiveness to assert what a big boss she is.
Unfortunately, she is seen as the mythical evil stepmother simply because of the way she looks and conducts herself vis-a-vis the other characters in the room. Even as she attempts to explain the validity of the actions rendered by the Ombudsman, the public has already made up its mind: they want her head on a platter at the end of this fiasco.
If the confused general looks completely befuddled, confused and desperately veering away from panic, the Ombudsman chief must learn to play for the gallery if she wants to come out of this without being included in the short list of the country's most hated viragoes. All it takes is for Miriam Defensor to masticate and castigate the Ombudsman and you know exactly where this story is going to end. And it is all because television has captured it all --- and the images that tell the story has become the news itself.
Yes, we all hail Heidi. We all applaud her courage inasmuch as we are appalled by the degree of theft and corruption in the country that has already been embraced as "tradition." So enough said about pabaons and pasalubongs amongst generals and the likes. What we have come to realize is that heroism does not require greatness of gesture. Not even high profile achievements or yearning for celebrity status. Greatness comes in the simplest of things --- downright honesty and moral strength --- which, when one comes to think of it, are easier talked about than practiced in these amoral times.
We applaud Heidi for her professionalism. We applaud Heidi for her courage. More so, we applaud Heidi because she has a greater sense of righteousness and nationalism than most who claim or pretend to have importance or any love for this country.
We give the highest praise to Heidi for what she has done. And when one really comes to think of it, her accomplishment is a very basic exercise of being a decent human being.
A decent human being is one with a sense of what is right from wrong and not being afraid to make a clear-cut distinction between what is good from what is bad. Now what is so extraordinary about that? Isn't that what we are all taught right from the very moment we are capable of deciphering with our reason?
Apparently that has become quite extraordinary nowadays. And that is why we celebrate this frail woman for having the courage to insist and persist in spite and despite all odds. The greatest battle is to remain decent in a country that has drowned in moral ambiguity as far as leadership and governance are concerned.