MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte honored COVID-19 frontliners risking their lives to keep the nation safe, saying during the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan that they are "worthy heirs" of the legacy of Philippine hero Lapulapu.
In a recorded video message during the quincentennial commemorations of the Victory of Mactan in Cebu, Duterte said Lapulapu and his fellow warriors "fearlessly fought foreign invaders who threatened their cherished way of life."
He said Lapulapu and his companions "never cowered against the might of the enemy" and "bled in defense of their homeland" five centuries ago.
"Today, we remember their gallantry by honoring the worthy heirs of Lapulapu’s legacy. Our medical and essential frontliners, who, in the face of danger caused by COVID-19 pandemic, continue to risk their lives, their own lives to ensure the safety of their fellow Filipinos," Duterte said.
"Let us draw inspiration from the heroes of the past and present as we overcome pandemic and rebuild a stronger and more resilient nation," he added.
In a separate message for Lapulapu Day, Duterte called for unity as the Philippines grapples with the pandemic.
"Now, more than ever, we must show our resiliency, strengthen our commitment, and espouse the bayanihan spirit as we collectively strive to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic," the president said.
"As we continue to honor and celebrate the valor of Lapulapu, the duty now rests on our shoulders to carry on his aspirations for our nation. Let us all march in solidarity towards our shared hope of a stronger and more prosperous future for every Filipino," he added.
Duterte also described pandemic frontliners as "contemporary heroes that we must emulate."
Rene Escalante, chairman of the National Historical Commission, said the victory of Mactan showed how the ancestors of Filipinos displayed unity against a threat to sovereignty.
"We should unite again just like what happened here in Lapulapu City 500 years ago. As we battle the pandemic, let us unite, help each other, and support the government so that we will emerge victorious in this fight," Escalante said.