When Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro, Jr. visited Capiz 6 years ago during an election sortie, I watched with amazement and not a small degree of amusement as people from all walks of life lined the streets and hung out of windows just to catch a glimpse of the guy as he passed.

I remember I was stuck in traffic at the time, waiting for his convoy to pass before I could go back to my office. But unlike other times, the mood of the people around me was not one of frustration at having to wait for another self important VIP to pass. Surprisingly, there was instead a palpable air of excitement. Unlike other visits, this one felt more like a celebrity was coming instead of just another politician.

As his convoy approached, those feelings intensified and a buzz came over the crowd. Spontaneous cheers and sporadic chants of “Gibo! Gibo!” could be heard in the distance, steadily coming closer as the cars carrying him and his supporters approached the place where I was. And unlike other political gatherings I have been in, this one was spontaneous and unfeigned.

It was an experience I have never had before in any political rally and have not seen since. It was as if his mere presence elicited a sense of hope and optimism in a people exhausted of corruption and bad news, beaten and broken from decades of oppression and bad governance, a people in desperate need of a hero.

He did not win that election and the final embers of hope in my breast died along with his political career. I still believe that he was our best hope for a better future, a man who was larger than life but had his feet firmly rooted on the ground, someone I could look up to and respect. He did not seek power for power’s sake but accepted it as his duty and responsibility to a people who trusted him to do what was right for them. He was equally comfortable in the halls of Congress as he was wading in the floodwaters brought by Ondoy or flying a plane to deliver relief goods to an isolated island. Somehow, you knew that he did things because he had a heart and not because he sought attention.

Now, more than ever, we need men like him to lead us and guide us and care for us and restore our faith in humanity. We need someone who does not lust for power but rather accepts it when it is thrust upon him and who relinquishes it readily when the need has passed. We need someone with empathy who will listen and can understand the plight of even the lowliest among us and not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the problems plaguing the nation. We need someone who will look out for everyone’s welfare and not just those of a chosen few.

We need someone who will unite us into one nation again and make us proud of our country once more.

Now, more than ever, we need heroes.