Freeman Cebu Entertainment

After fiery ‘Heneral Luna,’ a quiet and introspective ‘Goyo’

The Freeman
After fiery �Heneral Luna,�  a quiet and introspective �Goyo�
Director Jerrold Tarog, cast members Mon Confiado, Carlo Aquino, Empress Schuck, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Stephanie Sol, Jason Dewey, Gwen Zamora, Paulo Avelino and producer Daphne Chiu graced the red carpet premiere of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral,” Sept. 1 at Robinsons Galleria Cebu Cinema.
Photos by Joy Torrejos

CEBU, Philippines — One of the biggest Filipino films ever made, “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” takes viewers back to the 1980s as they reintroduce Gregorio “Goyo” Del Pilar – one of the youngest generals in the Philippine revolution against the Americans – to the world.

A red carpet premiere for the film was held Saturday at two cinemas of Robinsons Galleria Cebu, graced by lead star Paulo Avelino alongside cast members Mon Confiado, Carlo Aquino, Gwen Zamora, Empress Schuck, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Stephanie Sol, Jason Dewey, director Jerrold Tarog, and producers Joe Alandy and Daphne Chiu.

“Palagi akong masaya pag may screening sa Cebu,” Tarog began. “I made my first feature film [‘Confessional’] here. That was in 2007 so I started here. I’m happy to be back and excited to show the latest. Maraming, maraming salamat Cebu.”

Centered on the life of war hero Gregorio Del Pilar, “Goyo” is described by Tarog as a coming-of-age film set in the historical genre. Taking place during the Philippine-American war, the film leads to the Battle of Tirad Pass where Goyo fought his last, buying President Emilio Aguinaldo time to outrun the Americans.

Reprising his role as the titular character, Paulo presents the inner struggle of a young man realizing his priorities, duties, fears, and mortality despite his youth and popularity. He also questions the definition of bravery and the makings of a hero, while presenting the vanities of historical figures as much as their achievements.

“The challenge mostly was to recreate the Tirad Pass battle,” revealed Tarog. “Sobrang struggle ang magpaakyat ng more than 200 people up a mountain during rainy season. Shooting from different point of views, iba-ibang hills, so we kept moving around on different areas of the mountain. The logistics of trying to recreate an entire town, 1899 Dagupan…managing the scale as people keep saying na ito ang pinakamalaki na pelikula.”

“Goyo” took seven months to film and was treated in post-production for a year. Producers Joe Alandy and Daphne Chiu quipped that they spent more for this sequel than for “Heneral Luna” starring John Arcilla.

Chiu said they will let “Goyo” walk the talk when it comes to it being one of the biggest Pinoy films to date.

“We’ll let the product speak for itself. Mapapanood, malalaman at mapapatunayan natin kung bakit siya biggest epic Filipino film in movie history,” she added.

Chiu and the rest of the production are praying for the success of  “Goyo” so they can move forward to the last of the hero trilogy. An entirely privately-funded film in collaboration with Globe Studios, “Goyo” is produced by TBA Studios.

“The scale of  the film was challenging. We wouldn’t have done it without the creative team, the department heads, the men and women behind the cameras down to the utilities and the drivers who supported us,” said Chiu.

“Our logistics crew, production manager, location manager, camera operators, cinematographers...Production design pa lang, roughly 120 people, set design, 30. I think the largest number we had in one day was a thousand. We had to feed, give them shelter, tents, chairs.”

The research for “Goyo” involved going up the Tirad site and reading historical biographies. Tarog, whose current read is one on Quezon, said they will soon release a reading list of more than 15 books which they studied in the making of “Goyo.”

“Yung early research namin, umakyat kami twice. Na-realize namin na medyo inaccessible yung site. Hindi puwede mag-shoot doon so we had to look for another mountain. Para siyang ensemble na pelikula with Goyo at the center. Para mas mapalawak ang mundo,” Tarog shared.

“I always start with the facts first, definitely. Once na arrange na, doon na ako nag-iisip kung saan ako puwede maglagay ng fiction. It’s part of my job. As a storyteller, I’m kind of allowed to do that. In a way, it’s tricky. I have to strike a balance between fact and fiction while minimizing the chance of offending anyone. But I’ll offend people nonetheless.”

And upset filmgoers he did, with some calling out his ambiguous portrayal of  President Aguinaldo, who is yet to show his true colors and motives in the films.

“Naiintindihan ko naman. May point of view ang pelikula, and when you take one, maiiwan ang isa. That’s why importante masara yung kwento para may chance yung isa na magsalita. Yung sinabi sa pelikula na ‘Sasagutin ko si Ginoong Mabini sa tamang panahon.’ He [Aguinaldo] actually did that when Mabini died,” said Tarog, promising a rebuttal from Mon Confiado’s Aguinaldo and making the fictional Joven (Aaron Villaflor) more human.

Post-screening, Tarog shared how, in a way, he sees himself in every character. Among his favorites is Joven’s uncle Miguel Laureano (Jojit Lorenzo) – Goyo’s official photographer – for being a survivor.

For the third film, Tarog said it will have a different kind of warfare.

“That one would be more on politics. Yun lang masasabi ko ngayon. I have to do a lot of research. Parang nagsiraan sila doon eh. Naisip ko na maganda  i-expose ang kultura ng siraan,” he said.

In previous interviews, Tarog likened “Heneral Luna” to fire, with Luna’s power and size as a soldier and a Filipino. “Goyo,” meanwhile, leans into the element of water, with its introspective tone that Tarog likens to a mournful elegy.

“It’s more of actually yung tone. Yung character ni Luna was this brash fiery person, wala siyang pakialam kung sino ang makabangga niya. The entire movie was designed to emphasize that character,” he points out.

“This time, ang tema is more on the introspection, pag-iisip, critical thinking. I think mas inward ang process, mas tahimik siya compared to ‘Heneral Luna.’ So keep that in mind when you watch the movie. It was designed that way na iba ang experience this time and mas malawak kesa naman ‘Heneral Luna 2.0’ ang ipakita namin.”

Asked what element the Quezon film will symbolize, Tarog said: “Nag-iisip pa ako ng metaphor. Ang alam ko ngayon, I know how it begins and ends. It’s going to be different from ‘Heneral Luna’ and ‘Goyo.’ Alam ko for now, kasi nagsisiraan sila, more on the comedy side.”

The “Bliss” director, who is unsure whether he can make a film in between the hero trilogy, tries not to think of the pressure in following up the critically acclaimed box office hit that was “Heneral Luna.” He might lose his mind in the process, he quipped.

“Happy ako na natapos namin yung film and we came up with something that the cast and crew were of kind of proud of. Sa ibang levels beyond that, if mag-succeed siya September 5 onwards, bonus na sa akin yun,” Tarog said.

Like  some of the cast members, Tarog became interested in history when he stumbled upon the life of General Antonio Luna.

“It started with Luna. The same with everyone. I wasn’t really interested in history until I read up on Antonio Luna and his life,” he said. “Sabi ko sobrang astig nito. Might as well do it, might as well make a trilogy if mag-succeed.”

For now, Tarog is in the “process of taking a vacation” and will likely spend it going through his reading list for the Quezon film which will tie loose ends in the story.

Until then, Tarog awaits with bated breath the reactions and talking points that will arise after “Goyo” opens in cinemas tomorrow.

“I’m waiting to see what they’ll talk about. Ang daming sinasabi ng pelikula. And the fact that it’s a very different film from  ‘Heneral Luna,’ I’m waiting to hear their reactions.”

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