THE VOICE: Heneral Luna: Reflections

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY (MindaNews/21 September) — Why look for unity when it’s not there…?

My eyes still stung long after Gel, Ruby and I left the movie house.  It’s been ages since I last saw one memorable movie; much less one memorable Filipino movie.

Raj texted Friday that we should watch Heneral Luna.  Okay…movies cost a fortune – well, maybe pittance – but it’s hard to part with hard-earned money on scripts and plots that just change titles, producers, locations and actors.  Maybe I could wait for the DVD; and since I abhor many things that occupy space – maybe an e-copy will do.

Ever the loving firstborn who makes things happen without being disagreeable, Raj just lets his movie-bored mom be.

With time on my hands I googled (where else to go but virtual) Heneral Luna.  Why, it’s been on FB at the time when Pacquiao and Mayweather were pummeling each other, and I didn’t see it?  Shame.  Unfolding in front of me were reviews that led to another; and another; and so on and so forth.  This may be worth my time so Sunday was a date; after church.


The ticket girl told us that religious services are held every Sunday at the same cinema where Heneral Luna was assigned.  I told her to convey to management that their schedules on the internet should be updated so as not to fool patrons.  Who cares if the message got across?

People were forming a beeline to another cinema dedicated to some movie – again, Filipino (arrgghhh) – about confused relationships.  Why do they love to create problems where there’s none, no…? So so first world let’s just discuss that later.

We had no choice but take the first screening the next day Monday.  And be there an hour early.


I can make out mostly silvery crowns from the audience; and under low lights I figure that Gel and Ruby were the only young people among dual citizens (Filipino and Senior), Honorary Seniors and oh, quite a number of Caucasians, too.  Heneral Luna was only on its 5th showing day and at least 60% of cinemas nationwide have pulled it out in exchange for run-of-the-mill high-grossing films.  We almost missed it then.

I was too dumbstruck to applaud on how fine a movie it was.  Images kept running in my head even after the closing credits.  No, I wasn’t watching a movie – I was watching history.  And when one is part of and in the midst of history, tears are not enough.  A hundred and fifteen years after the assassination, apparently more sweat and blood still did not unite the nation.  Hack and bullet wounds on a general did little to change the country’s politics and power struggles to date.  Like movies with boring themes, only the names and faces have changed in present-day Philippine governance.

So “The only real Filipino General” was a hot-head.  I can almost see fire spewing from his mouth as he squeezed patriotism among peers; and extracted discipline from soldiers.  I can only surmise that the characteristic of the Filipino of “ayaw magpasabi a.k.a. di magpatudlo, di magpasulti” already existed in those days.  What I know is that in my generation even ROTC commanders got shot for giving, er, shouting orders.  Mother Teresa couldn’t have built more than 150 houses of charity had she not given orders, as one author described her, like a drill sergeant.  Nah… she’s from another country.  Back to the Philippines…

Forget tribalism – this trait of aversion for being corrected is common among us.  Bless you if you don’t get slighted when someone comes across as brash, abrasive, dominant, loud-mouthed blah-blah even if you both have the same goals.  Whether ilustrado, bagong-yaman o masa – walang pagkakaiba.  What do you think is the reason why people spin off into factions?

Luna’s killers must have been oozing with hatred when they delivered those deadly blows and bullets.  I looked up the English equivalent of the word “dumot” and what came up on google translate was “hatred” which doesn’t quite give the intensity.

In Bisayadumot can be described as that kind of nagging need to get even for being wronged, or for feeling threatened.  It can stay suppressed until it sees the opportunity for revenge, usually bloody.  A person can act civilly towards his offender all this time the opportunity has not yet come.  I still have to come across written or oral accounts on how satisfied one got after executing revenge.  Can he now sleep well?  Will he always be on his toes?  Isn’t he scared for his kin?

The Filipino regionalism is attributed to why the dream of one-nationhood is elusive.  This is projected quite clearly in the movie that anyone who wants to conquer the Philippines need not lift a finger that much because Filipinos will bicker among themselves and implode. The same strategy is still being applied now by well-placed Filipinos towards their constituents by dangling millions in the guise of freedom from want (Negosyo o Kalayaan – HL).

Loyalty to one’s family, clan, tribe, party or organization has been said to get in the way to achieve collective good; in the same manner that many crimes have been committed in the name of the family, clan, tribe, party or organization.

If honesty is such a lonely word, peace is the most abused.  Peace is usually interpreted as something that benefits one’s interests only.  To think that almost everybody has interests! And sometimes one can only see the value of peace if he sees its contrast which is violence. Appreciation of peace cannot always be pabebe, pa-sweet-sweet, beating around the bush so as not to graze sensibilities, shielding young people from harsh realities with the beautiful, the well-scrubbed and images of perfection.  Why then, have we raised a generations of wimps, generations who would rather stay in their comfort zones?  To borrow more words: Pacification by Cappuccino?  (Hindi panlalait ang pagsabi ng katotohanan – HL).

I believe many who watched Heneral Luna transcended the blood, the brutality and the bed scenes.  Come on, children and young people these days are not naive having been exposed to these same B’s on digital gaming and computer generated movies.  Gel shared that Heneral Luna was very much like Game of Thrones.  And because Mom doesn’t have an idea what GOT is, she gets a crash course from this highly-wired teen.

What should scare us parents to shielding children from historical accounts executed on screen?  Paint them a rosy world?  Maybe the only possible reason that we will prevent our children and young people to watch it is when we can’t provide them with backgrounders and answers to their why’s.

I have long given up on Philippine movies that I don’t even bother reading reviews. In the same manner, I have long given up on hearing about and witnessing Philippine politics that no personality-centered news catches my attention anymore.  I have let others do the looking so that my mantra has become, “Wake me up when something is happening.” It better be really good for me to be convinced; and if someone has to convince me, it has to be someone credible.  It took my son to wake me up with Heneral Luna and spark some hope – at least on Philippine Movies.

One final note: It is striking to note that an actor was willing to play a relative who is written down in history as a traitor.  Will the rest of us have that magnanimity to be cognizant of past mistakes?  How far can we go not to take it against a contrite descendant the sins of his forefathers?  The word is contrite. As Saladin told Balian in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, “I am not one of those men.”

For public outcry to compel the movie to be back in movie houses is something.  Could it be that the Filipino audience had to settle for mediocrity on film (throw in TV and politics) is because only more of the same is offered?  Why do lousy productions get more promotion than substantial ones?  Will the Heneral Luna experience push producers to crowd-source promotions for better quality films?

It won’t be long — knowing our national penchant for euphoria – that the Lunacy that held a precarious spell on national consciousness will face the danger of being set aside for the next trending topic.

Unless we shed our misplaced loyalties to family, clan, tribe, party or organization, I’m afraid The Fiery General would still be shouting “punyeta!” (Aveen Acuña-Gulo posts herself on Facebook as a Monumental Operations Manager (MOM) and is now vacationing in Palawan not as a tourist.  She is a Bukidnon-born Cebuano mother of three (3) Maguindanao-Ilonggo-Cotabateño children; who will always be a child at heart even if she is a hundred years old. She wrote a column “The Voice” for the Mindanao Cross from 1991-2006. She likes to challenge stereotypes.  “Don’t worry about my opinions.  It won’t make a dent to the conventional,” she says.  “But don’t you think, too, that I should now remove those tribal identifications?”)