Although he believes Filipinos are worth dying for, Pitong Pinoy 2012 awardee Gerry Gamez thinks he can be of better service alive.
"Natatawa na nga lang ako kapag may nagsasabing paano naman daw ako naging bayani kung buhay pa naman ako (I'm amused when people ask how I came to be a hero if I'm alive)," Gamez told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in an interview after the Pitong Pinoy awards ceremony Wednesday.
But sometimes he indulges his critics and tell them that he died almost died six times.
Gamez lost his left arm in a field accident when he was 13 year old.
He also almost drowned twice, fell from a horse, almost hit his head on a plow and received death threats as a student activist.
"Sabi ko po sa kanila, maraming beses na nga po dapat namatay pero hindi po ipinagkaloob ng Diyos. Baka po may misyon pa (I tell them that I've neared death many time but God won't permit it. Maybe I still have a mission)," Gamez said.
Dubbed the one-armed crusader, Gamez donated bulk of his family's savings to start a campaign that built two classrooms in his alma mater in Oriental Mindoro.
His community in Manila has also come to know Gamez as an active promoter of patriotism, often seen wearing Philippine flag-inspired shirts.
Little acts of kindness can have disproportionate impact, Gamez said, even as he noted that grand gestures most often get recognized.
In his speech before other Pitong Pinoy awardees, Gamez again shared what he thinks is the etymology of "bayani," the Filipino word for hero.
"Kaya po bayani dahil bayan ang aani (It means that the nation will reap the fruits of what we sow)," Gamez said.
He added: "Hindi kailangang mamatay para maialay ang buhay sa bayan (One does not have to die to offer his life for his country)."
Gamez defined heroism as putting the welfare of others before your own.
This includes "having high aspirations for the country aside from personal ambition," he noted.
"Ang tunay pong ugat ng problema ng Pilipinas, ay ang kakulangan ng pagmamahal sa bayan (The root of all problems in the Philippines is lack of love for country)," Gamez said.
Politicians who use public office for public gain, he said, best exemplify waning patriotism.
"Kung tunay pong mahal mo ang bayan mo, hindi mo pagnanakawan (You wouldn't steal from a country you truly love)," Gamez said.
In the 2013 local elections, Gamez will be running as a Manila City councilor under the ticket of incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.
Asked if he is ready to have his work discredited on account of an electoral bid, Gamez said it is yet another sacrifice he has to make for his community.
"Ang pulitika sa Pilipinas lagi namang madumi pero hindi ka dapat tumigil dahil lang sa batikos (Politics is always dirty in the Philippines but that should not stop you)," Gamez told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.
The neophyte politician said he will follow the example of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, who served undaunted by criticism until he died in an August plane crash.
After an American novelist drew ire by calling Manila the "gates of hell," a popular Brazilian author pacified Filipinos anger by telling them they knew the way to heaven.