There are probably a number of rave reviews about the fiery life of Heneral Luna or General Antonio Luna’s biopic which invokes a mix emotion of admiration, inspiration, frustration and anger. At least that’s how I felt watching the movie. I’m not exactly a veteran movie reviewer but this post is my two peso worth about the movie or more like the effects of Heneral Luna’s narrative on me.
When we watched the last full show of the day on Monday night (Sept 14), I had high hopes that the film would deliver. I was already imagining how they would achieve those action sequences with limited resources on hand (let’s be real, a budget for a Filipino movie let alone an indie film is nowhere near to any Hollywood action films, not even by a fraction). I could think of clever camera angles and modest yet skillful cinematography techniques to make the movie look convincing despite a small cast and limited resources compared to other foreign war films. Stunning visuals, beautiful costumes and set designs in the absence of green screen, giant city size sets and CGI supplementation is already a feat worth celebrating.
As it turns out, I was right all along as the film was beautifully crafted from inside out despite not having any of those big name film production companies attached like VIVA FILMS and STAR CINEMA just to name a few. My only comment is the poor acting chops of most of the American contingent. I’m sure hiring B-movie level American actors might be stretching too much for an indie production. It does not matter though because the Americans only had a short amount of screen time and the rest of the extras don’t have any meaningful dialogues at all. Also for me, John Arcilla as Heneral Luna may seem a bit too theatrical. But with Luna’s infamous temper, John really has to gut out that Luna madness to his limit or anything less might be a sacrilege. Still, John Arcilla really did an excellent portrayal of Heneral Luna and the other actors as well for the rest of the “motley crew” politicians and soldiers. I was even amazed with both Epi Quizon as Apolinario Mabini and Mon Confiado as President Emilio Aguinaldo. Aside from their amazing acting on both pivotal characters, they almost look like the spitting images found in our old 10 peso coin (Mabini) and 5 peso bill (Aguinaldo) if you blink fast enough.
What I did not expect though is the effect of the film on my psyche. Everything that is wrong with our sense of governance can be traced back in Luna’s days or probably even before his time. My girlfriend pointed out that every distinctively negative Pinoy traits has been meticulously portrayed so well in the movie even to its minute detail from peeing everywhere to being slack, prioritizing siesta and enjoying fiestas right in the middle of a war. Today, we see those traits among us alive and well. I can only imagine our distinguished “public servants” enjoying P50,000 per bottle of wine discussing kickbacks and pork barrels in the comfort of their air-conditioned function (or should I say lazy) rooms while we are caught in a 5-hour traffic along EDSA. Some folks are even caught overnight in traffic. I may not be in Manila right now but, trust me, I’ve been into those traffic hell holes for hours in the past when I was in the capital.
What was even more striking is how the politicians in those days acted within Aguinaldo’s boardroom. The president himself (our first El Presidente) didn’t even have discernment over his cabinet members. Though it is found in the history books, I actually forgot that Emilio Aguinaldo betrayed Heneral Luna who was his finest general and Luna’s men (who were probably the best fighting force Aguinaldo had) because of a hearsay that Luna wanted to take over regardless of knowing how Luna was very loyal to him. Remember, Aguinaldo had Bonifacio and his brothers killed. Not only that, he was the first ever Japanese collaborator during WWII. More of Aguinaldo’s douchery here: http://www.filipiknow.net/facts-about-emilio-aguinaldo/
Yes, the very politicians and their traits I saw in the movie are the very traits that we see in our government today. All the bickering, mudslinging and turncoatism for the sake of more riches and power is becoming a commodity inside Philippine politics. Notwithstanding musical jingles, ad campaigns, TV appearances and photo ops spiced up with empty promises on top of the other to court the masses. No wonder our politicians want the majority to remain poor and ignorant (especially about our history) for them to easily manipulate the masses. I guess we got that from the Spanish conquistadores. Keeping the “indios” ignorant is the name of the game. I will only name one glaring trait that I could clearly smell in the movie that has more stink than all the rotten eggs and dead fish combined… SELF-INTEREST! The undying sin of our history. The root of all corruption. Self-interest was the key to our Pandora’s box. To be sure, here’s the definition for SELF-INTEREST:
We should never forget what our heroes fought for. Our greatest adversary as Heneral Luna explicitly showed us is not the invading imperialists but our stubborn selves. I never realized how divided we were by default and the word “UNITY” seems an abstract gibberish we pretend to understand and value.
Please support our very own films such as this. It is an entertainment but it is also a powerful reminder of our troubled history. If you got bored in your history class before then give it another try, away from the classroom and into the movie house for a good reason. Heneral Luna has moved me beyond what I expected. It was beyond entertaining, beyond popcorn goodness. It was both inspiring and maddening weaved into one masterful stroke that’s meant to disturb our complacency.
Our history is a treasure throve of painful lessons that can temper ordinary iron to unyielding steel to strike the evils of corruption and self-interest. Wonder why our country is no longer what Rizal had envisioned? Why it is not the future Heneral Luna and other heroes of this nation had hoped for with their dying breath? It is because we never learn from our past and it shows by simply ignorant of our history. Our ears hear yet our hearts are deaf by choice. We have become mindless herds providing riches to the oligarchs, to the corrupt, to the powerful greed by a mere morsel of promises and media hype.
After watching Heneral Luna, we left the movie reminded, disturbed, stirred and shaken by the truths of our history. It made me think, it made me reflect and finally it urged me to write again. I couldn’t even remember when was the last time I wrote a serious piece. A blog post that’s not about food, travel or UFC but about the real issues that is slowly gnawing my sanity yet too numb for me to even bother writing. I used to write a lot about the problems of church politics and biblical misconceptions but never about our history and the obvious craziness of our “beloved” politicians. I guess this is what the creators of Heneral Luna film wanted to deliver. To remind us again in the most visual way possible for us to do something about our country. Not to wage war with arms and bombs anymore but with knowledge and awareness to move us to strive, to excel, to rise up.
As I write along this blog, it reminded me about Korea and Japan. Both being ravaged by wars yet somehow they were able to rise from the ashes and became economic giants in not more than 50 years. I remember through documentaries how these two countries ended up in poverty and ruin after the wars (Korean War and World War II) yet they were able to unite with one accord to save their respective countries from collapse and oblivion. I remember how the Koreans would sell their valuables to help their nation recover from debt. They had this idea to save their nation so it will give them a better future. We, on the other hand, are rather self-centered at times or most of the time (e.g. the Pork Barrel Queen and the Trapos) and want the least resistance possible to success at the price of our nation’s welfare. It does not matter if our neighbors are in shambles and our nation in abject poverty as long as our families are flourishing in luxury here or abroad.
Our being regionalistic and having a tribal mentality is not even an excuse for us not to work together for the betterment of our nation. The Japanese people during the feudal era were as much as at war with each other (feudal lords and their feudal states) more than we were with sticks, stones and spits. In spite of their chaotic history, not to mention the infamous Imperial Japan of World War 2 that wrecked havoc across Asia and the Pacific, two atomic bombs later they were on their knees in blood, dirt and shame. However, they were able to stand up, accepted defeat and moved forward towards redemption. How can we not learn from our Asian neighbors? Our past heroes studied abroad for the cause of freedom for our country. Today we fly abroad to escape and runaway from the very country our heroes fought and died for.
Heneral Luna could have stayed and lived in Europe and become a famous scientist. Jose Rizal could have kept traveling around the world and become a famous novelist, poet and doctor. They could have lived a life in silver platter, fame and honor but, no, they did not. Their purpose was always about the motherland Philippines. Nowadays, we still see and hear Filipino success stories abroad. Filipino achievements are here and there in the field of science, music, art and sports. Yet, our government is just all praises and recognition but have no budget and opportunities for them here to pass on their blueprint for success to the next generation of Filipinos. Except for the extremely successful few like Manny Pacqiuao who can afford to continually live in the Philippines with his mega earnings, others choose to stay outside the country instead because there is no future for them here despite their accomplishments. Only celebrities in the entertainment industry seems to fare better here than Filipino scientists, educators, athletes and the rest that are OFWs in foreign lands.
To the creators and cast of Heneral Luna film, I thank you so much for bringing us to realization that the revolution is not over. A revolution that no sword can asunder, no army can quell, no guns can penetrate, no missiles can destroy and no dictator can silence with fear and terror. A revolution that is no longer about shedding blood and killing fellow brethren in race, creed and humanity. A revolution that is not dictated by the tip of a gun or mobilized by strength in numbers. All it takes for a real change to happen is a revolution that starts within oneself that has a true burden for this nation and for the rest of the Filipino people. A burden not just for his or her own tribe, community, city or region. Not just for his or her own family, friends and brethren in faith or without but for this entire nation Philippines. I admit, such a revolution should start from the next person you can immediately reach which is your family and friends.
I believe this revolution of change to oneself will become a legacy for the next generation to inherit and grow. I pray and I hope that most if not all will eventually have that burden for this troubled nation Philippines. I may not able to dent this nation of 100 million people with a hundred blog posts or Facebook statuses. But if there are a hundred people like me who were moved by this film and felt the need to share the burden for this nation, what more a thousand can do, let alone 10 thousand. This revolution may take many lifetimes to spread and grow to all walks of life. Still, as long as people like you keep educating and reminding us to learn from our history, the seeds planted by the heroes of our revolution will continue to bear fruits until our motherland will become a lush paradise for all Filipinos to live and flourish.
Again, I thank you!
To Heneral Luna, I salute you!
‘Heneral Luna’: Para sa bayan o sarili?
‘Heneral Luna’: For country or self?
I had my girlfriend Leia read this blog for proofreading before publishing it live and after she read it all, she quipped: “if the pen is mightier than the sword, then a movie is mightier than the pen.” AYOSAOI!!
I am super amped for the trilogy btw!!!