Take-away points from “Goyo, ang batang general”

CCTO via inquirer.net.


I watched the movie “Goyo, ang Batang Heneral” twice because I like historical films. I was lucky to have been in a cinema where the movie’s director, Jerrold Tarog, was there on stage to give a brief introduction. He explained that the movie, the second of a Trilogy (with the first one being “Heneral Luna”) took three years to make and they aimed to present some salient parts of Philippine history to engage the attention of Millennials. And indeed, with a few exception of “parents” like me in the audience, most of the people who watched the movie were Millennials.

First, the impressive points: the movie had a relevant theme, touching on our bloody, revolutionary history, specifically on how our forefathers, led by Gen. Gregorio del Pilar (Goyo) struggled for freedom from the American colonizer. The plot stayed close to historical facts while using a bit of artistic license to make the movie more appealing. Further, the setting: period dressing, use of abanico and the old houses with Capiz shell windows resembled the costumes and houses of the historical period covered. The “old Tagalog” language was also spoken, especially by the three women- admirers of Goyo, during their parade and program honouring his glories in battle. It was also well-researched. The realistic setting of the movie reminded me of the beautiful sceneries in the movie “The Last Samurai.”

A striking thing I observed was the character of Goyo, who was torn from being a war hero, an “agila” (eagle) as his brother and others had glorified him as opposed to being a regular human being hounded by his guilty conscience. The movie dialogue referred to Emilio Aguinaldo (Ka Miong), the Philippine Revolutionary President, ordering Goyo to kill Gen. Antonio Luna, who was his political rival. Aguinaldo had ordered Goyo to capture the brothers Manuel and Jose Bernal, who were staunch allies of Gen. Luna. The torture scene was realistic. They captured Manuel Bernal, who was a major in the revolutionary army, stripped him of his rank by symbolically removing his army uniform off him, pummelled, kicked and ultimately shot him. This scene, and the sight of an old man whom he thought was a spy for Gen. Luna, haunted Goyo, giving him panic and anxiety attacks. This explained his inability to sleep at night. In one anxiety attack, he almost drowned while he and his friends went for a swim at night as the Americans pursued the remaining resistance fighters. Goyo feared retaliation from Gen. Luna’s supporters.

My personal hero in the movie was the character of Apolinario Mabini. His observation that the Filipinos then (Luna’s and Goyo’s supporters) were not united, is as true today as it was before. And this was confirmed by the American officers, one of whom jokingly said “And here we were worrying about the strategy of divide- and- rule when they just fought against each other. Saved us a lot of trouble” (paraphrased). The early Filipinos then fought each other for power, positions, wealth. Mabini also correctly observed that regardless of the negotiation underway between the Americans and the Filipino army officers, they would never treat the Filipinos as equals. The focus then was on the leadership personalities themselves as opposed to the principles on why they were at war. These personalities wanted freedom but only if they were also the ones in power. This was exemplified by Aguinaldo who ordered Gen. Luna and his supporters killed just because he was threatened by him.

The Battle of Tirad Pass scene was a pathetic sight. It revealed the Filipino resistance fighters’ lack of battle tactics, training, sharp-shooting skills, weaponry (they did not even have a telescope to see where the enemy was). Thus, their defeat was easily predictable. The American Army killed almost all of them despite them having an advantage of being in a higher vantage point at the summit of the mountain.

This tragic lack of battle skills and training was demonstrated in Goyo’s announcement of an early victory when in fact, the enemy was on the verge of staging an ambush. Without seeking cover, he walked around, trying to look for where the enemies were, until they were all killed like “sitting ducks” as predicted.

We also need to re-think Aguinaldo’s role in Philippine revolutionary history and examine why we consider him a hero when he escaped, along with his family, leaving the hapless Filipino revolutionaries to fight the enemy. Again, “maka-sarili” Me first, before the country. For me, Mabini, Jacinto and Bonifacio have done more heroic deeds than Aguinaldo in the context of the Philippine revolution.

While the poor farmers and labourers who comprised the Filipino resistance fighters were holding out in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, the congressmen in Manila were preoccupied with their photo shoots, aligning themselves with the colonial power and enriching themselves. Sounds familiar? This also reflects the current reality, where most legislators are “maka-sarili”, enriching themselves while promising the moon to voters during elections.

My wish list for our country is for us to carve a definite direction and focus as a nation, aggressively push for economic growth and progress, boost programs, mechanisms and adequate budget to encourage Filipino inventions and innovations up to a global competitiveness level and minimize if not eradicate political bickering. Bickering/in-fighting is like a ton of termites destroying the foundations of our nation. I am one with Mabini and I wish that we could all be united pushing for one goal – a country with a strong economy and wise, sound leadership under our Almighty God.