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Saturday, September 26, 2015

What The Movie Heneral Luna Shows About Filipinos

September 26, 2015
by Vladimir Santos
It was the 25th of September, 2015. It was Eid’l Adha, a holiday, perfect time to watch Heneral Luna. My sister and I went to TriNoma around 20:30 to watch the last show at 22:55 thinking that since it was the last show, there would not be so many people, especially since it was a Filipino movie. Three more customers and it would have been our turn to buy the tickets when the guard shouted “Sold out na po Heneral Luna! Sold out na po Heneral Luna!” Wow, I was so unexpectedly wrong! I even brought my school ID to get the 50% discount, which I will talk about later as well. I told my sister that we should check out SM North Cinema, which is right across TriNoma. She was hesitant, but since the price of the movie was much lower at SM (P230 vs. P196), I knew that SM would attract the lesser minds, which, presumably, meant less would watch this sort of movie!
Fortunately and unfortunately, I was right. We got to SM North just in time to buy tickets for their 22:30 show. A lot of people were in line to watch a movie, but not Heneral Luna. It was a bittersweet moment for me: sweet because that meant more and better seats to choose from because the cinema we chose offered “free for all seating”, and bitter because it turned out to be a great film that the people missed for some cheap, quick fun, chick flick shit! I am not surprised that I am stuck with the lesser minds. After all, the movie here is cheaper compared to TriNoma where I would have been if not for the selling out of tickets, where the better part of society was, or at least the ones who possessed a little more breeding. More on this in a while! I don’t mind the occasional profanity if it would help prove a point, nor will I waste time with making my statements “politically correct”. So, if you are one of those sensitive liberals who do not like people judging others, then stop reading because it is about to get ugly!
I became a part of history as I was seated in Cinema 4, X15 to be exact. The start of the film was great. A heated argument wasted no time in showing Heneral Luna’s character. There were moments that were supposed to be serious, but somehow the audience found them funny. Apparently, that can only happen when the audience does not take the film seriously, mistaking it for another one of those cheap local films relying on cheap slapstick humor to try and please the audience for a good thirty seconds. It was forgivable for a few moments, but the repeated laughter at scenes that were not meant to be funny showed me how doomed I am to be stuck in a cinema with these fools! If you were part of that audience that laughed, I am not saying that you should not laugh if you really feel like laughing. That would be the equivalent of not being true to yourself. However, if you were one of those people who did not find those scenes funny, then perhaps there is hope for your wisdom. Of course, an exception would be the scenes where it was obviously meant for comical relief. By all means, laugh your heart out as I did! Just to be clear, I am not belittling all people who shop at SM; that would be utterly ridiculously and serve no purpose. To be clear, I am referring to those annoying people at the cinema at the time I was watching the film. My favorite part was when Heneral Luna said something like “Kapag pamilya, kayang ipaglaban hanggang sa kamatayan, ngunit kapag prinsipyo, hindi! Sakit yan ng mga Pilipino!” I love how from boisterous laughing the crowd suddenly shut up, as if they were hit with a rock. Guilty, anyone?
The next sequence, which was a battle between the white American forces and Heneral Luna’s army, showcased his skill and bravery in war tactics as well as leadership. It also showed scenes where some of his soldiers abandoned their post out of fear. The crowd in the cinema laughs! Do they think they are any better? A similar situation occurred in World War 2 in Russia. Stalingrad ordered “not one step back!” which meant that any soldier who abandons the battlefield will be shot by a commissar. Of course, that was possible because there were more soldiers than guns, but then again if you are nothing but a common Filipino wasting his days watching Aldub, cheap local series, or noon time shows trying to exploit people to generate revenue, then I would not be surprised if you are not familiar with this part of history, and that is coming from someone like me who admits to not being smart. Going back, this boosted the Russian soldiers’ morale. Fear is contagious, you see. If one soldier abandons his post, there is a high tendency that others would follow. Too bad Heneral Luna cannot just shoot those who abandoned their post simply because he could not afford to He was legally protected with Artikulo Uno, in which if he commanded a soldier to stay and the soldier did not, then Heneral Luna could have killed that soldier. Instead, he was forced to rely on his wit and what little knowledge and interest in Politics he had.
What annoyed me most were the two girls seated behind me to the right, occupying Y14 and Y13. Not only was their laughter inappropriate, it was also loud and annoying. Obviously, these two were as lightheaded as the rest of the Filipino youth engaged in multiple forms of ignorance and kalandian. Instead of being shocked at the plot, they are startled by shallow details such as a soldier getting shot and they will say “ay nabaril!” Wow, you think? Somewhat in the middle of the movie, they lost track of the story completely. “Sino ulit yung naka-blue?” “Si Mabini nakaupo lang buong magdamag, hahaha.” Such ridiculous observations make me wonder how they deal with life outside the cinema. Good God, please do not let them breed!
The businessmen in the movie, who Heneral Luna despised because of their lack of courage and patriotism, possess the common attitude of a rags-to-riches type of Filipinos who forgot to take their nationalism and morality with them. Their exchange of words were perfect. Of course, like most Filipinos who are family-oriented, they justified their betrayal for the mercy of the West by saying “paano natin mapapakain ang pamilya natin?” Heneral Luna mentioned earlier that our being family-oriented, which until now is prevalent, is a sickness. This can be seen in the news when criminals are arrested. They justify their actions as “para may pangkain lang po sa pito kong anak”. When you see local TV series run around the plot of the protagonist working to help the family, it just goes to show that Filipinos are not passionate in their work most of the time. They simply do it for the money to feed their family. How cheap!
There was never a dull moment for me. Everything was as realistic and dynamic as it could have been. If I were to give it a rating from one to ten, I would give it a nine. The “one” I left out is for a little bit of room for improvement. While I do not mind the occasional comical relief, movies look more high-budget when its plot is completely dark, somewhat like the American TV series 24 and Homeland, which contain virtually no comical relief. While I did benefit from the 50% discount and am very grateful as an individual, I discourage that type of cheap ploy for the next movie of the trilogy. It is obviously a desperate move, especially when you have your audiences begging others to watch the movie so that it would earn and stay in the cinemas so that people like Jerrold Tarog would not be discouraged from making great films like Heneral Luna. It is a move done with good intentions, but nonetheless cheap!
Like a good diet and workout program, doing it in one day will not make you fit the next, same as ruining it in one day will not make you fat the next. The same goes for the movie. One good movie will not lift the current image of Filipino films. It will take a lot more great films than that as well as time. Likewise, a film industry with a good reputation will take more than one rotten movie to ruin the image of the whole industry. Consistency is key here! Of all the cheap films that Filipinos produce that gross highly, it is only expected that every once in a while, there would be enough money to fund a movie produced by someone as passionate as Jerrold Tarog and John Arcilla, not by cheap producers who live with the motto “okay na yan” and “basta ang importante kumita”. We also cannot blame the audience. Much to the disappointment of seemingly patriotic historians who, God bless their souls, seem to worship films like this, no, it is not our “patriotic duty” to watch films like this. We will watch it only when we want to, and it is not our responsibility to force ourselves to want to watch this, but the responsibility of film producers. So, instead of limiting the audience to what movies they “should” be watching, focus on controlling the quality of movies that producers make. Make sure that whoever holds the camera, the script, and the funding, be someone like Jerrold Tarog, and not some wannabe producer with an “okay na yan” mentality, because seriously, that is all it takes to ruin the whole film.
An interesting note for me is that prior to the film, I was working on a book called “Crossfire”, which depicts the situation of the Philippines in the midst of a cold war between China and US in a fictional setting in 2018, and one of the main characters there, President Emilio Baltazar, possess a similar aggressive nature as Heneral Luna. For those who have seen parts of my book, you may have noticed that as well.
The closest comparison of the film is with 2012’s El Presidente, a biopic film of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo. But that does not even come close! Everything wrong with El Presidente is gone by the time Heneral Luna appeared. I have always hated how some scenes in El Presidente that were patriotic were visualized in an exaggerating way. Whenever something patriotic were to take place in a scene, the music would become nationalistic in a “corny” way, the actors would exaggerate their lines, and the infamous cheap camera slow down trick would be used. I also hated how at the start of the film, there was an unrealistic scene of an old woman giving some sort of “anting-anting” and prophecy. It was cheap how they obviously used a young woman to portray an old woman! Filipinos are poor when it comes to make up, or simply looking for someone genuinely old to portray the role. Once again, “okay na yan” mentality is at play here! I also hate how they use Filipinos to portray Spaniards, as if we would not notice the brown skin. Well anyways, “okay na yan”, right? All of that is gone with Heneral Luna! Each scene was simply picture perfect!
If everyone reading this know me like my friends do, then the readers would know how annoyingly picky and judgmental I am with movies and TV series. That is because I got used to great films like the Bourne trilogy, James Bond movies, Inception, etc., TV series like 24HomelandSuits, and House of Cards that I no longer respond to anything below that quality. So, would I recommend Heneral Luna? Hell yes! It is not because I am some “feel na feel” nerdy historian who, because of the lack of physical strength and mental fortitude, cannot show patriotism by joining the military and instead shows it by teaching with such passion and voice, but because I really see it as a good movie, and a waste if people would not see it. Never mind the historical references! Never mind the lead actor or the 50% discount! Never mind the feeling of “patriotic duty”! Watch it for the reason you watch any other movie: simply because it is that good!

Vladimir Santos

Vladimir Santos is currently an undergraduate student at De La Salle University - Manila School of Economics taking up BS in Applied Economics major in Industrial Economics and BS in Commerce major in Management of Financial Institutions. He participates as a delegate at youth conferences that cater to national policy changes such as Philippine Model Congress and Model United Nations. He has a keen sense of patriotism and is also an advocate of agricultural development in the country.

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