‘Heneral Luna’: its most positive impact
KUDOS TO Cristina Montes for her article ‘“Heneral Luna’ and Filipino audiences” (Opinion, 8/26/15). Truly, the success of the film “Heneral Luna” implies that Filipino audiences are not “mababaw” (low in intelligence). Given a good film, they would devour it. But not always. Because there had been good Filipino films that were not blockbusters.
Perhaps what helped this historical film click is that its story and characters are so similar to the present. First, there is Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the Republic, who seemed indecisive but treacherous.
The Kawit battalion which Luna disarmed for not showing up at the assigned point of attack to quell US offensive in Manila was the same battalion responsible for his murder. If it is any coincidence, the initial attack on Manila against the Spaniards by the Katipunan, which was led by
Andres Bonifacio, was not completely successful because of the failure of the Cavite troops to take up their agreed-upon position. On both instances, the reason given by the commanders was that they would take orders only from Aguinaldo. (In history, Aguinaldo is also held responsible for Bonifacio’s execution.)
Aside from insubordination (to Luna), the troops were undisciplined. They wore their uniforms shabbily and were gambling and drinking on the job, while their commander was having a tryst inside his quarters—all these in the midst of war, while countrymen were fighting and dying to defend the country. Aguinaldo chose to ignore Luna’s rightful outrage. This is like what’s happening at present, when the people’s complaints regarding public service, economic policies and political chicanery are just shrugged off especially if those answerable are the KKK (kaklase, kaibigan, kabarilan).
Then there was the Cabinet whose members could not agree on how to deal (or not to deal) with the American aggressors. Cabinet members, many from the elite class, viewed the American intrusion as “benevolent.” At this point comes Luna’s quotable quote—“Para kayong birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng p–a (You are like virgins who believe in the love of a whore)!” The elite actually view the situation as a business opportunity, totally disregarding the issue of sovereignty. Then comes another quotable—“Bayan o sarili (The country or yourself)?”—comments and questions that still ring true today.
The one thing that may be misunderstood in the film is Luna’s dialogue, “Ang kaaway ay ang ating sarili (The enemy is ourselves).” This may be construed that Luna was referring to personal weaknesses. Although this may be true, it could be only up to a certain point. In all probability, Luna was referring to society and social classes and class interest. Because it was very clear to Luna that the main enemy was the American invaders.
Perhaps, the most positive outcome that “Heneral Luna” brought about is that interest in history has been spurred, specifically on the Philippine-American War. Now, that is a blockbuster!
—JULIE L. PO, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, firstname.lastname@example.org
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