Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Heneral Luna

Heneral Luna had been on my to-watch list ever since I saw the billboard, mainly because it has that epic-movie vibe. As soon as its theatrical run started in early September, it started getting solid reviews. Even more than the marketing and advertising, positive word-of-mouth helped drive more and more people to the cinemas to see  it. When my nephews told me that their school required them to watch it, I decided to take them. And I have to say, it absolutely lived up to the hype.

photo from the

The film tells the tale of Hen. Antonio Luna, regarded as one of the most brilliant and tactical Filipino generals who fought against the Americans during the Philippine-American War. I must admit I am ashamed that I didn't know this much historical detail about Antonio Luna. I didn't know that he was assassinated by his own countrymen (or maybe I knew this back in grade school but I have since forgotten). I also didn't realize that President Emilio Aguinaldo is believed to have been involved in Luna's assassination although there is no confirmed proof of this and Aguinaldo remained steadfast in his claims that he was not involved at all. Watching Heneral Luna has ignited a strong desire for me to study Philippine history again and visit the National Museum of the Philippines.

The movie opens with a statement that while it is based on history and on facts, several liberties were taken to be able to share a greater truth to the audience. Indeed, what makes this film very compelling is the fact that while the setting in the late 1800s, the issues and the scenarios presented are very current and relevant. It showcases how the progress of the country is impeded by Filipinos battling against each other, and often, the parties involved in these conflicts have vested interests and personal agendas that do not serve the betterment of the nation. This is actually not limited to the Philippines - practically every other nation in the world has its fair share of this - but somehow these conflicts hurt the growth and development of the Philippines a lot more.

This could be because of another "truth" that Heneral Luna presents: that most Filipinos are willing to make huge sacrifices for their families and other people close to them but not for the nation. In some cases, the selflessness does go beyond family ties but not beyond provincial or regional loyalties. This was showcased when General Tomás Mascardo declares that he will only follow orders from a fellow Kabitenyo. When people look out only for themselves or their immediate surroundings, the choices they make can easily become slanted towards their personal gain and impede the nation's growth. The fact that the Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world could be a result of this. Hopefully, enough of the youth who see the film understood this and take it to heart when they leave the theaters.

While there are many other important lessons that this film tries to impart to its audiences, I will share just one more: every Filipino needs to take action to make the Philippines a better place to live in. When (fictional) journalist Joven Hernando gets caught in an ambush attack, he takes up arms and fights the Americans even if he has no military training. While we don't need to pick up a weapon and march into an actual war now, there are many things that every Filipino citizen can and should do to make a difference. Following traffic regulations (don't jaywalk, don't counterflow unless allowed, don't beat the red light, whether you are driving or just crossing the road on foot) is probably the easiest thing people can do that can make a difference.

What makes Heneral Luna a little (or even a lot?) different from many other local historical films is that it was written to cater to the younger generation, which I believe is its target audience. A lot of the dialogue feels a bit current so that millennials can relate to it a bit more. Because the theme is very heavy, a lot of humor was injected throughout the film, especially in the first half, which helps cut the tension, making the film easier to digest and keeping viewers entertained and interested. Many people have said that audiences in the theaters clapped loudly as credits rolled and the same was true when I watched it. I suggest that you go see it while you still can as it is definitely worth seeing.

My appreciation of Philippine history and culture has grown as I have gotten older so I am very pleased that a well-made film about one of the most heroic historical figures has gotten such incredible support from the public. I am very happy that Heneral Luna has now raked in more than PHP200 million at the box office and I hope it continues to earn even more.

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