Freeman Cebu Entertainment

‘Goyo’ actors on how they prepared for their roles

Karla Rule - The Freeman
âGoyoâ actors on how they prepared for their roles
Carlo Cruz, Rafa Siguion-Reyna and Mon Confiado
Photo by Paul Jun Rosaroso

CEBU, Philippines — As the highly-anticipated sequel to the historical biopic “Heneral Luna” makes its way to theaters nationwide next month, the cast of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” spoke about what it took to work on the film.

Presented by TBA Studios, “Goyo” is arguably  among the grandest productions yet, with sets built from the ground up, complete with church facades, an alcalde’s house, a market, and everything it took to make a convincing plaza, shooting on hillsides under unpredictable weather conditions to bring the past back to life.

“Goyo” opens in the aftermath of General Antonio Luna’s assassination, and centers on Gregorio “Goyo” Del Pilar played by Paulo Avelino, who appeared in the prequel, reprising his role as the titular Goyo.

Goyo, a celebrated hero and among the youngest generals during the Philippine-American war, becomes the incarnation of the heroic struggle as the “Boy General” goes through his turbulent youth during turbulent times. Leading up to the Battle of Tirad Pass, which would buy President Emilio Aguinaldo time to outrun the Americans during his retreat, “Goyo” also introduces prominent historical figures like Apolinario Mabini, Manuel L. Quezon and personalities from the other end of the war.

Following an advanced screening of the film at the Large Screen Cinema of SM Seaside City Cebu last Saturday, cast members Carlo Cruz, Rafa Siguion-Reyna and Mon Confiado discussed their preparations for the film. The trio was joined by lead actor Paulo Avelino and director Jerrold Tarog via live video stream and phone patch, respectively. Avelino and Tarog, along with cast members Epy Quizon and Gwen Zamora, could not make it to Cebu because of flight delays caused by the runway closure in NAIA.

Carlo and Rafa, both new characters in the series, were in Cebu prior to the screening for the “Goyo” school tour to promote the film. The two play characters behind Gregorio del Pilar, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have their work cut out for them. With Tarog reading up on biographies and visiting the Tirad Pass trail, he sent materials to the cast, sharing how he wants them to be portrayed.

“Ginampanan ko po si Kapitan Juan del Pilar,” Carlo, who portrays Goyo’s cousin, says. Unlike other characters, there isn’t much information on who Captain Juan Del Pilar was, so Carlo had to find a way to see what role Juan played.

“I based it mainly on what I learned from the script. What I felt he represented in the film. One of the things he epitomized is the young Filipino adolescent. Someone who is a little bit older who has his own  aspirations. Kung iba yung situation, siguro hindi siya nagsundalo. I used that a launching pad – how this person is trying to figure it out and step up to the plate like his cousin Goyo, maybe on a smaller scale but the same challenge,” Carlo says.

Rafa, who portrays Colonel Julian Del Pilar, the older brother of Goyo, reveals that he had been a last addition to the cast. So he had to rush to see what was said about Julian in literature and history. But being a direct participant in Goyo’s life, Tarog had an idea for Julian Del Pilar.

“I found out that there wasn’t a lot about him. Jerrold emailed me on how he wanted the character, how he wanted the relationship. He was an outer expression of Goyo’s vanities, and reminds Goyo of how great he is and how he deserves what he has. And that he has a lot of respect for his brother,” Rafa says.

For him, the older Del Pilar must have felt like a rockstar, being a revered war hero, who had an even more celebrated hero for a brother.

“And I look at Paulo as someone who has achieved a lot as an actor,” adds Rafa. “I want to be someone as respected as he is. And I used that in our scenes.”

Rafa shared how incredible it was working on “Goyo” and the responsibility they felt: that they owed the viewing public for working on something as fundamental as our country’s history.

“I just want to say kung gaano ka special itong project for everyone involved. Napakalaki ng scale. I’ve never been part of a project na ganito kalaki. Everybody on set felt a sense of responsibility especially because it’s about a hero like Gregorio Del Pilar,” Rafa says.

Mon, a returning cast member who plays President Emilio Aguinaldo, admitted that he wasn’t into history until he worked on “Heneral Luna.”

“Yung totoo, hindi ako masyado mahilig sa history. Nahilig ako after Heneral Luna. Nagulat ako sa ganda ng kasaysayan natin,” Mon confesses.

The veteran actor recalled how for “Heneral Luna,” he visited the revolutionary’s home in Kawit, Cavite to get a feel of the kind of person that lived there all those years ago.

“Hindi ko kasi kilala si Emilio. Hindi ko alam kung paano aatekihan yung character. Nagpunta ako sa mansion. The whole day nag-immerse ako, pinakiramdaman ko ang bahay kung ano yung feeling. Isa siyang tahimik na bahay pero may maraming lagusan, secret passages, secret rooms. At yun ang ginawa ko sa ‘Heneral Luna.’ Si Aguinaldo tahimik pero maraming laman ang isip niya na hindi natin alam,” Mon shares.

For “Goyo,” Mon says that apart from keeping up with the ambiguous and mysterious character of the military leader and politician that is President Aguinaldo, he had to make sure he looked like he went through what Aguinaldo did during the timeline of Goyo’s story. That included the hike from Pangasinan to Tirad Pass as the vanguard covered for Aguinaldo and his family from the Americans who were right on their heels.

“Sa ‘Goyo,’ more on the physical yung binantayan ko. Unang-una, sabi ni Direk Jerrold na kailangan ko magpapayat. Kasi almost two months silang hindi kumain, from Pangasinan to Tirad Pass nilakad nila, ubos yung kabayo nila. Minentain ko rin yung trademark na flat top [hairstyle]. Habang paakyat, humahaba, wala ng porma,” Mon says.

Many of us have seen these historical figures as mere names and photographs, a series of dates and interlacing timelines, but with “Heneral Luna” and “Goyo” showing their own interpretation of the causes and effects, these black and white figures have been reimagined into moving, feeling, thinking people.

Among the most interesting characters is Mon’s as he portrays someone who knew what warfare was on the battlefield, and also the kind that politicians play. Asked about his views on Aguinaldo, Mon quips that for the film, the most that he could do was not think of Aguinaldo from the eyes of anyone but Aguinaldo himself.

“Lagi po tinatanong sa akin kung ano daw ang pananaw ko kay Aguinaldo. Ang sagot ko ay laging sa point of view ng actor. Being an actor, laging positive ang tingin ko sa character ko. Hindi ko siya pwedeng sabihin na masama siya. As an actor, lahat ng ginagawa ko sa pelikula, lahat ng iniisip ko ay tama sa aking pag-isisp para mai-portray ko ng maayos at tama,” Mon explains. “Otherwise, parang magkakaroon ng kahon. Kaya positive lang ang pananaw ko.”

Mon joked that his visit to Aguinaldo’s home before “Heneral Luna” was his first and his last, in fear that the locals might beat him up for his portrayal which not only showed Aguinaldo’s seat of power but also the repercussions of his and his cabinet’s decisions when it came to the political playing field.

“I don’t know kung ano ang pananaw nila ngayon bilang pagkakaganap ko,” Mon says.

As an actor, getting a reaction from audiences is the cherry on top of a character well made. “Nakakatuwa. Parang yung mga tao nagre-react na ganoon pala siya [Aguinaldo]. Siya pala yung nagpapatay kay Luna, Bonifacio, etc. Laging sinasabi na: ‘Galit kami sa’yo! Pero pa-picture!’ Yun ang konswelo bilang actor.”

Historian Alvin Campomanes, who did a keynote speech following the screening, reminds people to see both sides of the coin when it comes to analyzing the behavior of these figures who are not just characters in a film but are real people whose decisions made real changes in the country, and whose impact can still be traced to this day.

“Kung titignan natin yung pelikula, yung hindi nag-research, maaaring negative yung imahe na kuha natin kay Aguinaldo. I think that family and loyalists wouldn’t like the image of him na tumatakbo sa pelikula but mabuti na may historical source ang pelikula,” Campomanes says.

The professor insisted on the importance of doing your own research, and also seeing the merits that make these personas like Ka Miong (Aguinaldo) worthy of their recognition, while also being critical of their mistakes but not stripping them off of their achievements and contributions.

“Kung itatapon si Aguinaldoo pati the foundations…ang kwento ng pagsisimula ng bansa can be traced back to him. Like what Direk said, it could also be mournful, kasi ang pinagmulan nakatali sa problema ng lipunan na nagpapatuloy ngayon. Dapat hindi iniiwasan yung pag-uusap sa kung saan ba yun nanggaling. We can be fair by showing both his mistakes and his achievements. Yun ang pinaka-fair at tama na paghusga kay Aguinaldo,” Campomanes advises, as he also cautioned viewers that films are for informal education and must be reinforced with critical thinking.

Tarog, who, apart from saying that “Goyo” is a “coming-of-age film set in the historical genre,” also likened it to an elegy that mourns the revolution. He assures that characters will have their turn to speak as they had, following the appropriate historical timeline. Promising a third film, Tarog says that a Manuel L. Quezon biopic will complete the trilogy, and Aguinaldo will get to give a rebuttal of sorts.

“Importante mabuo yung trilogy. Malaki ang point of view ni Aguinaldo pagdating sa ‘Manuel’. This timeline, doon na yung sagot ni Aguinaldo kay Mabini sa mga bintang sa kanya,” Tarog says of the last film that will star Benjamin Alves as Quezon.

While “Goyo” prods at our conscience and sensibilities the same way “Heneral Luna” did, it also wishes to pin down on what really makes a hero.

Paulo gave his two cents about the query, saying that heroes come in all sorts of merits.

Rash Catativo, OIC-Executive Director of Dakila, one of the proponents who brought “Goyo” to Cebu alongside the Coalition for Better Education and TBA Studios, asserts that “Goyo” wishes to spark talking points on heroism and what it means to be a hero in this day and age.

“Finding heroism in this generation is a big challenge especially that the mere idea of being a ‘bayani’ or ‘dakila’ either invites sarcasm or self-righteousness. This screening was organized to spark conversations on our history as a people, of our idea of heroism, and of nationhood,” she says.




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