Insurrectos and Heneral Luna

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

If anyone told me in the past that the film “Heneral Luna” and the book “Insurrectos” would one day come together to inspire Filipinos it would be hard to believe. It was not possible.

“Insurrectos” was written as a historical novel by Jose Alejandrino in 1983. He is a descendant of the hero Gen. Jose Alejandrino y Magdangal who fought in the Philippine wars of independence against both the Spaniards and the Americans.

Imbued with that heritage he returned to the Philippines when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, resolved to do his part to topple Ferdinand Marcos. The three-phase plan led to Edsa I.

After he finished his job in the Philippines, he returned to Spain.

When “Insurrectos” was published, it was well reviewed and admired as book. It had touched a raw nerve among the Filipino elite who were his friends. They were unhappy about “Insurrectos” that pictured the elite as insensitive to the aspirations for freedom by Filipinos from colonizers. He narrates that while he used to be invited to their parties before the book was published, this stopped suddenly. He was removed from their guest lists. He lost his Filipino ‘aristocratic’ friends but did not regret writing the book. He felt the truth had to be told, no matter how painful, of what really happened as recounted by his granduncle Gen. Alejandrino who was an eyewitness to all the major events of that period.

He added, “The most satisfying comment I received came from Supreme Court Justice Ameurfina Herrera, the granddaughter of Emilio Aguinaldo. After reading the book, she invited me to Kawit for lunch and said to me, ‘You were hard on my grandfather but you were fair.’ She knew that was really how events unfolded.”

He was a facebook friend and entered into discussions in the social media – a foreigner as it were against the natives. When I founded BayanKo he was at my door, to cross mountains and sea to help once again, to be indignant and fight for a better country.  He would do many things but always working in the background, in the shadows.

He was obsessed with one thing – to emulate the heroism of his ancestors.

The story of “Insurrectos” is the story of two men, Miguel de Cordoba, a mestizo insurgent and Shawn O’Malley, an American officer as they met in the battlefield during the Philippine-American War and find themselves clashing even after the war. The two main characters are fictional interwoven with real historical figures and events. However, being a historical novel, some portions were romanticized.  “I didn’t want to write a history book,” the author said. “Otherwise it gets boring.”  You have to read the book and watch the the film “Heneral Luna” to make comparisons.

By an amazing coincidence, “Insurrectos” appeared online as an e-book a few days after the film “Heneral Luna” appeared in movie theaters. It was not intended that way. It just happened by an act of God. It is now available in Goggle Play, Amazon, Apple, and various stores and is being uploaded to Barnes & Noble and to Overdrive.

Here are the links for those who are interested: https://play.goggle.com/store/books/details/Jose Alejandrino Insurrectos? id=veWCgAAQBAJ&hl=en, http://flipreads.com/insurrectos, http://www.amazon.com/dp/BO15PCS8MO (please note Amazon increases price by USD2.00 if from PH), https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/insurrectos, https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1042504183.

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The film “Heneral Luna” has taken Filipinos by storm. I recommend every Filipino see the film and read the book.

Some of the postings in social media have compared the book and the film. But more important there were those who saw both as relevant to our times today. As a post read, Heneral Antonio Luna was the most brilliant Filipino general of the Philippine Revolution, as the Americans themselves admitted, but he was impatient with cowards, laggards, and traitors. There was only one word for them and that word is “Punyeta.” The word has become a byword as the only answer to the shenanigans of our politicians who don’t care for the country but for themselves. Fernando Ortigas says if the film is successful he will make another one. 

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On the other hand the heroísm of the Filipino-Spanish businessman Fernando Ortigas, the producer of the film, is to fork out P70 million from his own pocket without guarantee of return. He says it was worthwhile even if the film doesn’t make money. He told film director Jerold Tarog he considered the film a masterpiece in its own right. It is not just a film about our history, nor a simple biopic. At its core is a character study of one of our silent, commonly ignored heroes and an engaging discourse about our forgotten pasts.

Orly Agawin, film critic and organizer of the Book of the Month Club, says “Tarog equates our history with farce and sarcasm, making the experience quite delightful and engaging to watch. He doesn’t make his audiences dumb through a litany of speeches, nor boring through a repetitive lecture of what we already know. Instead, he re-tells Heneral Luna’s story through a narrative that is easy to understand, still without dismissing the essential points which led to where we are today. With its swaying performances, wonderful story-telling, captivating music and fascinating cinematography, I can say this is Philippine film-making at its finest.”

As Emilio Aguinaldo told Gen. Jose Alejandrino after the war, “Luna has become bigger beyond the grave.”

To me the significance of the book and the film is that it comes at a time when Filipinos, as Ortigas said, need an awakening. Some have already taken steps that this awakening is followed through by action, one of them being the founding recently of the Katipunan, a political party grouping the marginalized sectors, to unshackle them from the chains that the oligarchs have imposed. Here lays the relevance today of the book “Insurrectos” and the film “Heneral Luna.”












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