Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Notes after "General Articulo Uno"

Notes after "General Articulo Uno"

a movie rambing-review of Jerrold Tarog's movie 
"Heneral Luna"

By Lualhati Madlangawa Guererro

Not all patriots are patriotic, for some are just treating patriotism a veneer for their interests. Only few really adhere to patriotism and its ideals, most of them  were killed by war or even badly executed, one of them was Antonio Luna, known as General Articulo Uno, who was immortalised in the latest film made by Jerrold Tarog, simply entited as: Heneral Luna. 

In watching Heneral Luna at Cubao's Gateway Mall, it seems that besides the good cinematography, the expressions, and the emphasis on the human side of its characters especially those of Antonio Luna (played by John Arcilla) according to most film critics, it seems that it shows that no matter how it romatisises (or fictionalises) some, if not most historically accurate events (as those of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans) it shows still shows the reality of how "patriots" of the past are actually not even "patriotic" but fellow travellers who at the same time trying to keep their interests and be romanticised so as to reflect the scenes behind his eventual demise. Anyways, according to the "Philippine Entertainment Portal", it says: 

"Historical biopics are tricky. You must check and countercheck facts since this is no fiction. It is as real as it gets. When Artikulo Uno came up with Heneral Luna, a biopic on Antonio Luna, the task was far from easy."

Quite tricky indeed, especially to make deified characters human, and making scenes related to actual events "true" to become true.

Obviously, most of the scenes shows the human side of every hero, of every patriot. That behind their deified names are individuals having motives, driven whether by patriotism, personal interest, opportunism, or anything what goes in the early days of the republic. That behind their heroism were those venting rage such as the well-known General who was known for bad temper that sometimes resulting on fisticuffs, to a head of state who was feigning innocence as he surrounded by opportunists and self-seeking bureaucrats.
If not mistaken, in a scene wherein Antonio Luna and Felipe Buencamino sr. having fistfight in the middle of a cabinet meeting shows how patriotism and personal interests are worth deemed contradicting especially from men debating about defending country at all costs or having a compromise with the occupiers all for the sake of peace. And in it, like all other related events during those periods, also somehow brought the idea of an American soldier who also worked as General Otis's assistant, concluding that most Filipino "officials" during those times were those of businessmen and can be bought. "Divide and Conquer," became Otis's conclusion. Scenes bearing warring contradictions would eventually becoming basis for his death, be it because of his stern discipline, of his seriousness in defending his homeland, or perhaps from those who trying to remove a stumbling block from their motives, be it compromise offered from the Americans, or perhaps selling the country at the expense of a possible cabinet seat. 
Again, right was Otis to say "Divide and Conquer" in describing those events, with Luna telling which was, or even is important: "Their interests or the country?"

Too good to be true indeed in hearing Luna's incorrectness through his foul mouthed statements in a  middle of a cabinet meeting. Bureaucrats like Buencamino and Pedro Paterno (played by Leo Martinez) wanted compromise all for the sake of peace if not trying to keep their interests as it was in their pasts collaborating with Spain, while Generals like Tomas Mascardo (played by Lorenz Martinez) disregarded chain of command in favour of regionalist loyalties besides those of his hidden envy. Aguinaldo (played by Mon Confiado), in feigning innocence, expressed "respects" over the Europe-bred General, yet also carries some envy knowing that his leadership in the armed forces may possibly make him a threat to his leadership. No wonder in his assassination he and his offials afforded to bury him wih honours, while his mother afforded to say "was the general alive?" after the Kawit guards shot and hacked him madly deeply, followed by a scene reminiscent of Juan Luna's Spoliarium wherein some Kawit guards dragging the corpses of Luna and his subordinate, Paco Roman (played by Joem Bascon) with spectators crying if not expressing fear.

But besides those the fisticuffs, of bad temper, treacheries, the feigning innocence of Emilio Aguinaldo, and envies coming from Tomas Mascardo, the movie also involves humor, especially those of Archie Alemannia's role of Eduardo Rusca who loves to eat, as well as Luna himself who tired speaking English that made him instruct Rusca and Roman to arrest a British official working for the Manila-Dagupan railway. In the railway office, Rusca loves to munch pastries and tea that made Roman telling him that the "ensaymada" fits together with the tea. 

But to sum it all, the movie is quite amazing though the scenes featured, enough to cultivate a lesson such as country above self. That in every foul mouthed or inconveniently straightforward statment coming from the General, he wanted to put justice by urging people to unite, to roll their sleeves whether to defend their stations or to make deep trenches, that in the pain of death he and his loyal men knows that history will absolve him from his mistakes, such as for not heeding the call of struggle against Spaniards like those of Rizal with all the illusions of reform and perhaps even reconciliation with the oppressors. It is also true that in the movie, Luna simply stated that the greater enemy is not those of the invading Americans, but themselves as Filipinos putting self-interest above the nation. Buencamino, Paterno may tried to insist that they did good things to the country, but come to think of this: isn't it the words played by traditional politicians trying to keep firm in their interests? Paterno was the man behind the BiaknaBato agreement, Buencamino toyed the idea of assimilation that as if can bring peace, while Luna? The once reformist eventually recognised the need to struggle, to resist in pursuit of a greater goal such as Independence, no matter how arduous the path it was, or even is. 

And also to think that no wonder why the aspirations of the past remain unrealised regardless of the speech, the paper, the action that are mostly made for appeasement than a commitment. Some of the General's plans were taken too late by Aguinaldo and his men after his death, just because some, if not most who are afforded to rally under the flag, yet reluctant to obey Luna as commanding General were just hardy than intelligent thinking that in an independent nation can able to face the enemy fairly than heed what the General said such as those of Guerilla Warfare, or even a redoubt that can possibly change the events related to the Philippine-American war. "The Philippines has lost its General", as what the Americans said after his death. 

Anyways, those times involved debates, fisticuffs, and plans taken too late. Worse, having leaders who failed to rein their balls by their brains. Right was Tarog to create a movie, in showing the ones behind the struggle as simply men, and not deified beings. 

But in fairness, the artists behind the movie really made characters human than illustrous beings, or deified heroes. John Arcilla with his personally grown moustache as well as the accurate description of the hero as a hot-tempered illustrado is one example. 

And admittingly speaking, the movie is more than a masterpiece, but a clarion call to seriously love the country above interest. 


John Arcilla as Gen. Antonio Luna
Mon Confiado as Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo
Paulo Avelino as Gen. Gregorio "Goyong" Del Pilar
Mylene Dizon as Isabel
Bing Pimentel as Doña Laureana Luna
Epi Quizon as Apolinario Mabini
Aaron Villaflor as Joven Hernando
Archie Alemania Capt. Eduardo Rusca
Joem Bascon as Col. Paco Roman
Alvin Anson as Gen. Jose Alejandrino
Nonie Buencamino as Felipe Buencamino
Alex Medina as Capt. Jose Bernal
Ronnie Lazaro as Lt. Garcia
Ketchup Eusebio as Capt. Janolino
Art Acuña as Col. Manuel Bernal
Leo Martinez as Pedro Paterno
Lorenz Martinez as Gen. Tomas Mascardo

Directed by:

Jerrold Tarog