Lessons from "Heneral Luna"
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Freeman) - September 28, 2015 - 10:00am

Late afternoon last Sunday, I went to Ayala Center to see the blockbuster Tagalog movie by Jerrold Tarog entitled "Heneral Luna" with my son, Capt. JV Avila who last Saturday already saw the same movie in SM City but he insisted in accompanying me to watch this movie again because of its historical significance. I have never been a great fan of Tagalog movies, but I submit that "Heneral Luna" was a very well-made movie and yes, I hope it wins the Oscar Awards for foreign movies.

Indeed, history always fascinates me and watching this movie, I came to the realization the many Filipinos who watched this movie gave it rousing praise (moviegoers clapped at the end of the movie, a rarity with Tagalog movies) to this historical movie because a great majority of our young people never heard of Gen. Antonio Luna. We do have Juan Luna Ave. in what used to be the San Jose dela Montaña but that is named after the brother of Gen. Luna who was a famous painter who painted the "Spoliarium" which now hands in the National Museum of the Philippines.

First of all, let me point out that there were only two Filipino historians who wrote books on Philippine history that we read in our high school days. They are Gregorio Zaide and Teodoro Agoncillio and if I remember my history lessons well, most of our history books were written to show America's benevolence to Filipinos. These historians highlight American propaganda that the Americans embraced Filipinos as their "brown brothers." This was farthest from the truth.

In the book I recently got entitled "The Imperial Cruise: A Secret history of Empire and War" written by James Bradley, who wrote the national book seller "The Flags of our Fathers" the Americans tricked Gen. Aguinaldo's men and as the movie "Heneral Luna" depicted correctly, the August 13, 1898 so-called "Battle of Manila" which ended with the Spaniards surrendering the Intramuros, but in James Bradley's book, he even had a photograph of the "victorious" Americans taking over the Intramuros. But this was a mock battle, which was crafted by America and Spanish politicians in order for Spain not to lose face by surrendering without a fight.

But the story of Gen. Antonio Luna was not given the prominence in Philippine history. In fact, many of us know about the heroism of Gen. Gregorio del Pilar who died fighting the losing battle in Tirad Pass (in order to allow Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to safely retreat to Quezon Province) than the bravery of Gen. Antonio Luna. It is a fact that because Aguinaldo had Gat Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio executed after a kangaroo court convicted them of treason, and his wife Gregoria was raped by Col. Agapito Bozon, who arrested the Bonifacio brothers and had them executed.

But the movie "Heneral Luna" began after the execution of the Bonifacio brothers. But this movie gives its audience a glimpse of the political squabble amongst the Filipino leaders at the turn of the century - first, when they were fighting the Spaniards and later when they were fighting against the Americans. This was the comment of most moviegoers that today's politicians are not much better than their ancestors. Worse of all, there is always those people with their vested albeit selfish interests that they put as their priority to enrich themselves instead of helping the cause for freedom against our colonizers.

I totally agree with the commentaries of moviegoers inside the theater and many who put their comments or on Twitter or Facebook that politicians then and now only cared for their own political agenda's like the agenda of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who had his political rival Andres Bonifacio executed. When Gen. Antonio Luna demanded from Gen. Aguinaldo the support of his cabinet, he did not get it because many in the Aguinaldo cabinet secretly negotiated deals with the Americans. When Gen. Luna had these men arrested, Gen. Aguinaldo released them from prison and then we saw the most gruesome part of the movie, the brutal assassination of Gen. Luna.

While the movie started that it wasn't exactly historically correct as parts of the movie had some fiction in it but out of the blue, Department of Transportation and Communications Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya issued a statement that Gen. Luna was not assassinated. Why did Sec. Abaya make this remark? Well, he is the great grandson of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and he obviously wanted to cleanse the image of his ancestor.

It is for this reason why Gen. Aguinaldo was lost in ignominy, until the late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal resurrected him and declared June 12th as Philippine Independence Day. This is what happens when politicians change our history. This is why I exhort all those Filipinos who saw the movie "Heneral Luna" and was touched by it to read our history and demand a change in our present presidential system, which favors the political elite that has ruled our nation since we gained independence from the US in July 4,1946.


For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.



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