‘What ifs’ of history

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

“Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” is Jerrold Tarog’s sequel to the 2015 box office hit “Heneral Luna”. I watched the movie with my wife over the weekend and found myself again reflecting: Will we Filipinos ever be able to build the foundations of a strong republic? One that can steer a steady course amid the external uncertainties of geopolitics?

While “Heneral Luna” was a rousing and heavy portrayal of the role of an army general caught in the stream of the parochial and self-centered impulses of a fledgling republic, “Goyo” is subdued but just as potent.

“Goyo” portrays more realistically Gregorio del Pilar, a 24-year-old Filipino general during the Philippine-American war who was killed in action during the Battle of Tirad Pass. We are quite familiar with this battle as it was described in our elementary books as a valiant stand of a 60-man Filipino rearguard pitted against a 500-man American infantry unit set out to hunt President Emilio Aguinaldo.

It’s a very good movie that I’d recommend and which had me filled with ‘what ifs’ about our country’s political course. Like, what could have happened if the two principal figures of the revolution, Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio, had agreed and succeeded in uniting their followers to form and preserve a respectable republic for the Filipino?

What if General Antonio Luna had not been assassinated? What if he had been backed by Aguinaldo in his plan to build a series of defense lines that would protract the war and culminate in a guerrilla base stronghold in the mountains of northern Luzon? Could we have won the Philippine-American war, gone through the birth pains of self-governance, and turned out fine like Vietnam today?

Vietnamese soldiers and the Viet Cong, in particular, knew they were no match against American might but they managed to protract the Vietnam War long enough to exact a heavy psychological toll on US troops and the American public.

Moving further, what if Sergio Osmeña had campaigned harder and won the 1946 presidential election against Manuel Roxas? Maybe a revered statesman like Osmeña could have made a big difference in defining the post-war reconstruction period than the politically-astute Roxas, dubbed by some historians as the first big turncoat in politics.

What if Sergio Osmeña Jr. had succeeded in denying President Ferdinand Marcos his second term during the 1969 election? Maybe President Serging could have contained the brewing political unrest during that period while steering the country’s course around the parochial and self-interested complexities of Philippine bourgeoisie politics.

What if Marcos had not declared martial law? What if Imelda Marcos had not been first lady? What if Ninoy Aquino had not been assassinated? What if the 1986 People Power revolt had not happened? What if Joseph Estrada had not been forced to resign from the presidency in 2001?

What if Fernando Poe, Jr. had won the 2004 presidential election against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo whose victory was marred by the “Hello Garci” scandal (which did not, by the way, show that Gloria could have lost to Poe)? What if the revered Cory Aquino had not died in 2009, and Manny Villar or Mar Roxas were then elected president in 2010? What if Rodrigo Duterte stuck to his October 16, 2015 statement not to run for president in 2016 as substitute candidate for a certain Martin Diño?

A series of ‘what ifs’ and many say don’t bother, it’s fate anyway that led us to where we are now. On the contrary, I believe that fate is what happens when we lack the willpower and the ability to work hard enough to make things happen.

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