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Antonio Luna

Movie Review

Review: Heneral Luna

This might not turn out to be coherent enough to be a proper movie review. It sure won’t show off an informed opinion of the historical biopic. I guess this would just be a documentation of my thoughts and feelings after watching the film Heneral Luna. I have a strong inkling I would need to go back to these someday, to refresh and remember.

As a kid in school I looked forward to the challenge of Math and English, while cringing at the very thought of my Filipino and History subjects. I hated the dates, the strange-sounding names of people, places and events that I had to memorize for exams. It was very hard for me to remember them all, and my gloom extended to an aversion of the subjects and all their reincarnations from Sibika to HEKASI to Kasaysayan. It was a deficiency that followed me all through college, and one that led me to be a part of the growing crowd of Filipinos who knew little about our own history, save from the holidays that they inspired.

Thus, shame was the first feeling that crept inside my heart while watching Heneral Luna. Shame that I was watching it as if it was that Maze Runner sequel, something bright and novel, shiny and unknown, instead of seeing it as a story that I have learned by heart since my formative years. I could very well have been a foreigner in the theater, only I didn’t need the subtitles.

I felt sadness, the suffocating kind, watching a story unfold with the knowledge that it doesn’t end with a win, not for anyone there. Not in any way that mattered most. It’s like reading your favorite book again and again, hoping the character you love doesn’t die this time. But of course he does anyway.

I felt empathy, and a shaky sense of understanding. Heroes are not saints. Very far from it, if the way they curse, fight, scheme, and kill are any indication. Even the villains are not pure evil, but people too, imperfect in the principles they cling to, and the ones they choose to bend.

I laughed, so I must have felt joy too, and it was the kind that lingered and made the darker scenes all the more oppressive. I liked these characters. I felt for them. The stakes were high and I wanted them to win. I would have loved to have a drink, or to share ensaymada and tsaa with Luna, as long as he promised to not scream out Artikulo Uno at me. Or maybe it would be okay to hear it shouted at my face, to save as a reminder, an important memory.

I felt anger, the kind that builds inside you and threatens to explode unless you walk it off or throw out curse words into the night. Punyeta! Inutil! Gago! Even after that I didn’t really feel much better, because the movie wasn’t an escape like most other movies. It was a two-hour commentary of the life we live now, of the kind of people who lead us, and of the kind of people we are. It was a forced reflection, a punch to the gut, a hand pushing our faces up to the truth that we, as Filipinos, as a nation, are still where Aguinaldo, Mabini, Buencamino, and Luna were hundreds of years ago. Roads may now be pavement, carriages are now metal, but in principle, or in lack thereof, we are still the same as our forefathers.

I wish I paid more attention to my Filipino and Kasaysayan classes. I wish I could talk about the accuracy of the facts in the film, and separate the truth from fiction. I wish I could knowledgeably debate on the topic of Aguinaldo, and that I could articulate my feelings in ways other than my current aversion to five-peso coins. I wish I was proficient enough in Tagalog to write this in that language, and learn to be even a smidgen of the poet that Luna was. I wish I knew Luna, and other characters and plots in our history books, and the faces on our currencies. I’m glad I wish for these things with the heavy heart that I carry around now, because it means I will try to make up for lost time. And maybe this time, now that I’m older, it would be easier for me to remember.

Photo/video credits to Heneral Luna Official, Jerrold Tarog sites.

Thank you Jerrold Tarog, John Arcilla, and the rest of the brilliant cast and crew. Let’s do more of this please?

Favorite lines:

“Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pagibig ng isang puta.”

“Ganito ba talaga ang tadhana natin? Kalaban ng kalaban. Kalaban ng kakampi. Nakakapagod.”

“Bigyan ninyo ako ng tatlong araw.”

“Tanggalan sila ng ranggo!”

“Ano bang akala niya, ibang bansa na ang Kabite?”

“Paano ako lalaban? Kakagatin ko sila?”

“Nasubukan mo na bang hulihin ang hangin?”

“Giyera ang asawa mo. Ako ang kabit.”

“Ang taong may damdamin ay hindi alipin.”

“Ingles-inglesin mo ako sa bayan ko? Hulihin na yan!”