Heneral Luna: Reliving history creatively

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya - The Freeman

Mounting a period film requires massive research works. The challenge lies on making sure that such film is a dedicated portrayal of the story. Therefore it must be based on factual accounts. As commonly perceived, history with socio-political underpinnings, borders on the blunt side, and so, is not widely appreciated. Another challenge is on how a period film can be presented with superior aesthetical value without necessarily compromising truthful integrity.

But Heneral Luna, a historical epic film directed by Jerrold Tarog, is a total exception. The production is making sure that research is a major component. From the selection of seasoned casts, production design, costumes and the sound effects of the firing of riffles and guns are well-researched and deliberated. Even the make-up was profoundly precise, especially for Aguinaldo, who looked almost exactly as the historical photos.

The polished cinematography made the film breath-taking.  Its ending is one of the most beautifully made conclusions to a movie. It is one of Filipino's cinematic treasures. 

Though it happened more than a century, but it is brilliantly and artistically executed. Not the usual period films, one can easily relate its lessons to the present times, even with the alternating humor brought about by the main character, played by John Arcilla, can be very much refreshing that such a strong character, at times, have moments that show his vulnerability. It shows a "lunatic" character bursting his emotions in front of his military men to a very soft spoken character when in front of his mother.

The issues raised in the movie, though years had passed, are still very much relevant and true at present. We are still looking for more men and women who would prioritize individual concerns over the general interest of the people, of the country. In our fight for foreign dominion and influence, we fail to see that among ourselves we are fighting for conflicting interests. Transcending such love of our family to our love of our country is difficult to achieve. One needs to be sacrificed for the greater glory of the other. And only a few would heed the challenge.

The regional mentality of the Filipinos, for example, divides us. It makes us hard to unite and be willing to sacrifice for the nation as a whole. We didn't have to worry about the Americans or any other invaders for that matter because our own regional mentality will destroy us. Truly, Luna's downfall, as emphasized in the film, reaffirms his claim that the Filipinos' greatest foe is ourselves. A claim that is challenging the present generation to disprove.

 The big question is why we still commit the same mistakes that happened so long ago? This is so because some of us also don't even know what happened in the past. Or how history is being translated, interpreted and taught or simply we fail to value the lessons of the past.

Some would even claim that the Filipino's tendency to be divided into pieces is because of our geographical situation. We are so physically dispersed. This creates regionalistic divisiveness that could hurt our aspiration to be one as a people and as a nation.

Film's executive producer Fernando Ortigas aptly said for this film "the assassination of Luna happened in about 120 years ago, what struck me was that, that was 120 years ago, we're still the same. Hopefully one day something can cut that cycle and maybe this just awaken our senses."

Come next year for the election, may the issues raised in the movie be tackled once more to those aspiring for public service. Whose interest will they be serving? Are they really for the good of the Filipinos? Or will they only serve their very interests and bow to the dictates of the powerful few? 

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