“The General [Aguinaldo] has given me a platoon of available men and has ordered me to defend this Pass. I am aware what a difficult task has been given me. Nevertheless, I feel that this is the most glorious moment of my life. I am doing everything for my beloved country. There is no greater sacrifice.” 
Those were the poignant words that Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio, a brigadier general of the Philippine Revolutionary Army also known as “Goyo”, has inscribed in his diary, a diary that would soon belong to the scrimmage looted by the Americans the next day from the lifeless vessel of the person still basking at the glory as he transcended beyond loyalty and allegiance into making the ultimate sacrifice to attest his love to the country, as the blood spilt from the vessel served as permanent ink that wrote the most brilliant pages of Philippine history, at the time when that vessel of that departed soul rested upon Tirad Pass with the honor of having once belonged to the army of an independent Republic which was the first one in Asia to stand up against the colonial powers, having defeated and made prisoner nearly all the Spanish army against which it fought, and which resisted for over two years the military forces of the most powerful nation of Earth , a series of the patriotic call of duty on which led to Goyo’s sacrifice which cemented his legacy in the pantheon of heroes.
But…(sorry for my Gabo-esque writing style)
Should we just look up to those heroes and glorify them without question? Should we just treat them as the mighty eagles soaring up the sky? Does glorifying without question make us less than a thinking human being? Does glorifying without question make those people we look up to less of a human? Does glorifying without question remove the humanity out of those people? Does glorifying without question make not only those heroes but also us the people who look up to them lose the identity that make them and us humans? To where should our loyalties and allegiances reside? Should it be to the leaders to the point that we treat as idols? Or should it be to the patria, para sa ating bayan? At what ways should we express that loyalty? Is it losing our sense of free will in order to do what was being told to do? Or is it sharing the suffrage and making the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of what we’ve loved? What is a hero’s true worth?
Those are the questions that are being imposed to the movie-goers that have come to watch the movie that has started its screening to numerous theaters around the archipelago today. After the critically acclaimed Heneral Luna, the 2nd installment of Director Jerrold Tarog’s historical movie trilogy, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral takes off where Heneral Luna and the short film Angelito had left, following the events that surround Gen. Gregorio del Pilar (Paolo Avelino), who was also known by his nickname Goyo.
In writing this review, take note that for some people, what would be discussed here would be like spoilers to them. Let me remind you: there are no actual spoilers in this movie. All the events depicted in the movie were largely based from the actual events in history. Telling the content of the movie would not be a surprise at all. So, there’s no spoiler alert. As an avid student of history, the movie was for me just a live-action adaptation of a light novel that I’ve just read. I would be more of concerned on how the film interpreted the events surrounding Goyo and how the director, Jerrold Tarog, infused his motifs, themes, implied messages, and reflections of the present in the movie. Inevitably, the content of the movie will be tackled here as readers would be guided if there are inconsistencies from, condensation of, or misrepresentation of the chapters of history. And this movie review might ruin your first time experience of this chapter of Philippine history being presented to you. However, this writing piece intends to serve also as a guide in this 2hr-40min feature length movie.
I watched the movie the very moment it opened its screening to the theaters. With I was a huge notebook on which I inscribed my notes about the details from the movie while I was watching. The notes from the movie took 9 staggering pages from my notebook. I realized that I may be writing my lengthiest movie review yet, lengthier than my movie review on Your Name (9000+ words) and my writing piece about the Batch Valedictorian’s Girlfriend (11000+ words). So if you are reading this expecting a short and concise review which would encourage you whether the movie is worth watching or not, then you are on the wrong article. If you wanted to digest all what the movie was presented, then I encourage you into gritting with me as I write and you read this movie review.
The movie opens with the disclaimer, as its predecessor Heneral Luna had. Indeed, even though the movie was based from history, some of the details were tweaked for the sake of presentation and the incorporation of the themes and messages the writers had infused. It is then followed by the quotes from Teodoro Mariano Kalaw and Nick Joaquin about their criticisms on the timidity of the forces of the 1st Philippine Republic during the 5-month respite after the death of Gen. Antonio Luna (John Arcilla).
The following scene is an allusion to what Nick Joaquin has written about Aguinaldo and Luna in his Question of Heroes. The viewers were briefed just that over the captions…that the news of Antonio Luna’s death and the liquidation of his officers was just new at the time of the narrative for Goyo has started, however, the accompanying scene to those caption is a flash forward to Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado) fleeing helplessly in the mountains. I just lent my copy of the Question of Heroes to the principal of my alma mater, so I cannot provide the exact passage written by Daling Nick [I might include the exact passage in the subsequent edits when I got hold of my book back]. If Gen. Luna’s plan for an impregnable fortress in the Cordilleras materialized, then Aguinaldo wouldn’t have to run for his life in the mountains. Aguinaldo stumbles shamefully as a voiceover by Apolinario Mabini (Epi Quizon) quotes in his La Revolucion Filipina that Aguinaldo should have died fighting in order to preserve the honor of the republic, and to bask upon the same glory that Rizal enjoyed in his martyrdom at Bagumbayan.
We return the narrative where Angelito had took off. Miguel Laureano (Jojit Lorenzo), accompanied by his nephew Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor), proceeded to take photos of Gregorio del Pilar who was clearly distracted by the girls fawning over him.
Meanwhile, Angel Bernal (Tomas Santos) still keeps his mouth shut about the whereabouts of his brother Manuel (Art Acuña) and Jose (Alex Medina), enduring the whips from Gregorio’s brother, Julian (Rafa Siguion-Reyna), who is also a colonel. The adoptive brother of the del Pilars, Col. Vicente Enriquez (Carlo Aquino), implores Julian to stop the torturous treatment. Vicente plays the good cop and politely asks the whereabouts of his brothers, assuring Angel that they will not be harmed.
Angel’s tip leads them to the house of Don Mariano Nable (Robert Seña) in Dagupan. Don Mariano, at that time, was hosting the Luna brothers, the doctor Jose and the mischief Joaquin (Bayaw Rodolfo “Jun” Sabayton). Goyo finds out that the Luna brothers were tied like convicts and orders his men to remove them from their bonds. Goyo then proceeds to ask Don Mariano about the whereabouts of the Bernal brothers. Don Mariano inquires about the need to persecute such honorable men like the Bernal brothers. Goyo refuses to give an answer; or rather he is just not questioning the orders that were given to him. Manuel, who is actually hiding in Don Mariano’s house, also refuses to surrender, attempting to escape once more, but he is ultimately subdued and captured.
As Goyo offers his apologies to Don Mariano for the commotion, his interest becomes fixated to Don Mariano’s daughter, Remedios Nable Jose (Gwen Zamora). Joven writes to his father on how he finds it difficult to grasp Goyo’s behavior.
We move 60 kilometers southeast to Bamban, Tarlac. Orders to capture Luna, dead or alive, were circulating in the army. One fateful soldier boards a train and ask a general disrespectfully of his name, while also acting ready to pounce once he confirms that it is Luna. A fellow soldier is quick to inform him that the general that he is talking to is Jose Alejandrino (Alvin Anson). [Alejandrino recalls in his memoirs, The Price of Freedom, that it was actually Gen. Urbano Lacuna who mistook him as Luna and acted as he was about to kill him]. Alejandrino, in his well-known sarcastic behavior, reminds the soldier that he was late on the news. Alejandrino, being part of Luna’s Department of War (The film portrayed that he “succeeded” Luna in being the Secretary of War.[In reality, the position was never given to Luna, who in reality was the Director of War, at the time of his death]) was just spared from the liquidation because his brother Joaquin Alejandrino was one of the commanding officers of the formidable Tinio brigade.
Alejandrino sets out to meet Apolinario Mabini, who’s just been deposed from his premiership of the cabinet. In Mabini’s abode, they talked about the conspiracy that transpired leading to the death of Luna. Alejandrino suspects Goyo as the leading figure who executed the purge, being the one closest to Aguinaldo. Mabini just brushes off Alejandrino’s theories and tells him to set that aside for the sake of unity (Is it that the same set of words/rhetoric that the current government is saying when in face of criticism?). However, Alejandrino cannot simply comply as he also laments how they lost their own capable general (Luna) who has the actual knowledge and education on warfare. Now, the army is left with ineffective officers who were elevated to their post because of the padrino culture and their strong ties to Aguinaldo and not because of skills and merit, referring to himself being elevated to a general even though he was actually an engineer (Just like me, who’s also a civil engineer and should be doing his research and obligations to the Academe but instead finds myself writing this lengthy piece).
And that general with the strongest tie to Aguinaldo, his favorite general, Goyo, is now interrogating Manuel Bernal, also convincing him to join his brigade and be one of his officers. Manuel staunchly refuses, deploring del Pilar and Aguinaldo on what they’ve done with Luna. Goyo tells him that Manuel’s allegiance is now to a dead person. Continuing with the themes and messages discussed on Angelito, Manuel counters that his allegiance is to a principle, and not to a person. He points out that Goyo’s loyalty to Aguinaldo is like a blind fanatic is to an idol. He then likens Goyo to a dog that would follow orders without question. As he manically laughs, he ridicules Goyo further with imitations of a dog barking. Goyo finds the negotiation hopeless and he orders Manuel’s execution and the release of Angel who then witnesses his brother’s execution.
Goyo is visibly shaken by his exchange with Manuel. His brother Julian comes to comfort him with a regular dose of pills of narcissism – a routine where his brother remind Goyo who he is: an eagle.
He seems to have calmed down and proceeds to have dinner in the Nable household. There he starts flirting with Remedios, as he smiles at her glance, showing her his golden teeth implants and dentures (Kudos to the production staff for the attention to detail!). Don Mariano is aware that Goyo has his eyes on Remedios She then asks to clarify whether his nickname is Goyo or Goyong. He replies that it is both, only that the latter was used by those intimate to him, on which he proposed that she should use Goyong too, as she would soon be intimate with him. Goyo tells Don Mariano, who seemingly has his approval about Remedios, that this courtship would take long. His brother Julian tries in vain to flirt with the other sisters, but all eyes are on Goyo.
Indeed, all eyes are on Goyo, as Aguinaldo, whom Goyo affectionately calls Ka-Miong in a Katipunero-esque way, rewards him for being the “hatchet” with the appointment as the Commandant of Pangasinan. Goyo has no time to express his joy, as his mood was dampened by the presence of Aguinaldo’s sister, Felicidad (Empress Schuck), who happens to be his ex-sweetheart. Under Goyo’s command, entrenchments were made in Tarlac running perpendicular the Manila-Dagupan line and Lingayen Gulf, on which the Major Generals Elwell Otis (Ed Rocha) and Arthur McArthur (Miguel Faustmann) laughed off as a petty defense which can be easily overrun through pincer tactics.
As the Americans plan the offensive with precision and caution, the Filipinos, on the other hand, turn timid and slack off during this period of respite, indulging in banquets and festivities. In this period of respite, the Filipinos find themselves enjoying what their former colonizers (Spaniards) have done, like posing for photos, indulging in mundane activities, and also lamentably discriminating people that they deem different as the movie presented abuses against the ethnic groups, a build-up to their understandable betrayal to the cause in the latter years of the war. Now running the government themselves, the Filipino officers employ the two levers to move a man: fear and interest. As they taught that their loyalty, even though commendable, can justify any scale of tragedy (Read: Imperfect Beings: Hunter X Hunter And The Chimera Ant (http://wrongeverytime.com/2014/08/04/imperfect-beings-hunter-x-hunter-and-the-chimera-ant/))
In Dagupan, a festivity is being held in honor of Goyo getting the post as Commandant of the province. In the festivity, Vicente and Julian coax Joven into joining them in flirting with the ladies of the town. However, all eyes are on Goyo [Julian: Uwian na!], as he impresses the people with his horse-riding skills and his white military uniform.
The ladies fawn over him, but they are still cautious and well-aware of Goyo’s infidelity, having coined the term “na-goyo” which is synonymous of “being swindled”. Remedios is also aware of Goyo’s reputation and remains elusive as Goyo attempts to woo her with his sweet words. At this point of the movie, one would stop and thinking whether Goyo was indeed a hero. But what hero? A hero in display? Was he becoming less of a military officer as he convinces himself that he’s a hero soaring above the clouds? Sitting beside Remedios, Goyo watches the play dedicated to his honor, covering his days as the accomplice to his uncle Marcelo in distributing scathing pamphlets against the friars in his childhood years, to his days as part of the short-lived Kakarong Sili republic in Bulacan, on which gave him harrowing flashbacks as he was almost killed during those events.
Aguinaldo arrives with Gen. Isidoro Torres. Before Torres, Aguinaldo compliments Goyo on being the youngest-ever general of the revolutionary army on which Alejandrino, who has just arrived, corrects with the fact that it is actually Manuel Tinio who was 2 years younger than Goyo, already a general at 1897 at the age of 20. The people of Dagupan welcome Aguinaldo who greets them from the balcony of the house of the gobernadorcillo. He looks up to Aguinaldo from below. That gesture has served as a metaphor that reminded him of what Manuel Bernal has told him. That image has been haunting him since as he grows paranoid over a member of the crowd, which he mistakes as a member of the conspirators against him but actually is just a senile old man, as pointed out by Julian, having already interrogated the old man.
Julian psyches Goyo up again, into reminding that he is the eagle. But in reality, Manuel Bernal’s words strike more as he acts more like a dog wanting the owner’s sole attention as he become infuriated by the news of Gen. Torres making suggestions about the proper stance and posture of Goyo’s troops before Aguinaldo. He returns to his horse and impose himself on his troops once more, telling them to undo what Gen. Torres has instructed them. He then insinuates Gen. Torres [an actual event in history that happened in Malolos rather than in Dagupan as depicted] that “where Gen. del Pilar commands, you do not command.”
That incident scores negative brownie points for Goyo from Remedios and puts Joven in contemplation: “What’s a hero’s true worth? Why do we always look up and glorify without question.” Indeed, as Gen. Luna has once said that “those who have sentiments are not slaves”. However, fanaticism and blind loyalty can make an individual a slave to his own sentiment.
Aguinaldo, on the other hand, brushes the incident off and heads off to Mabini. He confers to Mabini, whom he intimately calls by his nickname “Pule”, about another round of negotiations with the Americans taking place, headed by Gen. Alejandrino. This is the third round of negotiations, if my memory served me right, after the commission sent by Paterno to negotiate an autonomous government on which the Americans had denied, leading Paterno, as premier of the Cabinet, a declaration of war towards the United States, and the envoy on which Goyo belonged.
Aguinaldo then offers to make Mabini the Chief Justice of the Philippines. Cayetano Arellano, the 1st Chief Justice of the Philippines, has already sided with the Americans that time. Mabini sees the promotion as a measure from the cabinet to prevent him from making further criticisms. Pule asks whether the Filipinos can listen to the truth without resentment. He then raises the same concern from Alejandrino about the true reasons behind Luna’s liquidation, on which Aguinaldo remains mum about it.
Julian has received the news of his appointment as the Governor of Bulacan. Don Mariano offers to hold a banquet as a celebration as he instructs Remedios to make the preparations. Felicidad catches wind of what’s brewing between Goyo and Remedios, and like a wounded ex-sweetheart, she indirectly confronts Remedios during her shopping trip. They try to hide their hostility to each other by using picking the right mangoes as the metaphor, casting further doubt into Remedios’ mind. Joven’s Uncle Miguel heads off to Manila to do photo business with the American customers, leaving Joven in charge of the contract with the del Pilar brigade and Goyo who is currently attending Don Mariano’s banquet which is followed by a ball. Joven is my spirit animal as he decides to sit still in a corner during social events. Vicente entrusts Goyo’s mail bag to Joven, where Joven uncovers dozens of letters from Goyo’s former sweethearts.
Distrust is casted upon the viewers as every sweet word that Goyo has said to Remedios has been countered by the cries of his former sweethearts from the letters. I have caught glimpses of myself on the events that followed. Goyo asserts his sincerity as he offers to marry her, and will be willing to wait for her response, even in a form of a sign. On the other hand, Joven has gotten enough signs to assert that he would not act blind anymore to Goyo’s atrocities nor to his timidity as Joven does not want to settle with this false sense of peace amidst the reality of an ongoing state of war.
The war is still ongoing. The battles and hostilities are taking place, not on the frontlines and the trenches but rather on diplomacy and negotiations. Despite Mabini’s advice against it, Alejandrino, is sent to Manila to negotiate with the Americans. The military government headed by Gen. Otis, just like what he did to Aguinaldo about the Spanish blockhouses and the defenses around Intramuros, he makes fool of Alejandrino, who is also feeling alienated with the situation and the assimilatory ambience in Manila, as the Americans express no intent at all to recognize the constitution that the Malolos Congress had drafted in the previous year. Otis instead negotiates the surrender of the revolutionary army on which Alejandrino, in his patriotic sense, has vehemently refused. Otis inquires further about Alejandrino’s resistance and patriotism. Alejandrino stumbles to find an answer as he is slowly beginning to realize that their cause is slowly losing its logical grounds. He then resorts to the over-misused “based on the constitution” rhetoric, which are often committed by those who haven’t read the constitution itself and just use the rhetoric as an easy way out in acting pretentious in giving the proper explanation. After concluding the negotiations as futile, Otis reminds Alejandrino that he and his aide-de-camp have 24-hour headway to leave the American-controlled areas before the US army starts their attempt into capturing him [This event in history actually happened at a later time at Arayat when Gen. Lacuna sent Gen. Alejandrino to negotiate their surrender. The negotiations ended futile and Alejandrino was given the same 24-hour headway. He outwitted the Americans by the river and evaded capture. Alejandrino would soon surrender after receiving the news of Aguinaldo’s capture.]
Confusion ensues as Mabini hopelessly waits for his appointment as Chief Justice, an appointment which Aguinaldo has shelved as his cabinet has more important nonsensical matters to discuss at hand as the revolutionary army along with its generals like Goyo, as he begins to frequently shirk his duties, is beginning to fail distinguishing itself as an army…an army capable to fight. That incapability further surface during the minor engagements with the American army in Nueva Ecija on which Goyo finds the casualties disproportionately numerous for a minor skirmish. Goyo finally gets a sight of the horrors of war as every death of his soldiers weighs down upon him as each attest to his incompetence as their commander. However, he tries to deny these growing realizations as he convinces himself to the contrary, arguing that the battle was just a minor engagement and that the Americans would not proceed to the next line of defense.
Joven pleads his uncle Miguel to take him to Manila instead of staying with the Del Pilar brigade. Uncle Miguel argues that he can learn a lot from the experience with other people, which goes beyond knowledge and into developing wisdom (Miguel: If there is none, then learn from their mistakes instead.). In a self-conscious and self-deprecating manner, the movie through Joven’s counterpoint is well-aware that little or none can be learned substantially so far from Goyo who goes to his flirting sessions with Remedios. Remedios is still doubtful about Goyo’s sincerity, but before Goyo can further explain it, the traumas from the previous battle manifest itself as Goyo’s hands shake uncontrollably. The traumas chase Goyo even to his dreams…ergo nightmares. Groaning to his nightmares startles the whole household, including Felicidad who attends Goyo to check whether he is fine.
Goyo tries to shake off those nightmares by inviting Julian, Vicente, and Joven into taking a evening dip in the river. Mabini then narrates on how he would like to prove that the Filipinos know how to fight with glory and honor, however as the Filipinos continue manifest their indolence, with the men Mascardo’s headquarters (where Manuel Quezon (Benjamin Alves) was stationed to) drinking the night away not aware that the American offensive has resumed, with coordinated attacks on Pampanga (Apalit-Guagua-Dinalupihan line of defense), Bulacan (Norzagaray-San Miguel Area), Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija, along with a invasion from Lingayen Gulf in the defenses of San Fabian, Pangasinan, on which the bathing Goyo has shrugged off as the sounds of thunder [The real incident was Goyo shrugging off the sounds from the enemy’s cannon as sounds of pounding rice.], Mabini concedes that maybe the Americans were right in treating Filipinos like children.
Soldiers who were instructed by Goyo himself to shoot any suspicious people suspected as Spanish spies find Goyo’s party and mistake them as the spies that Goyo told them to wary of. They begin shooting at Goyo’s party, as instructed [This incident in history actually happened months before the November offensive.] The one who instructed those soldiers, on the other hand, finds himself in a different peril. The eagle who is supposed to soar at his highest finds himself plunging into the depth of darkness as splatters of blood symbolize a premonition of death…a death which reveals the empty value beneath the exterior of a celebrated hero. Greatness is achieved by dying a hero and not living like a hero. Heroes pave way to the birth of a nation. However, to defend the newly-born nation, soldiers and patriots who are ready to fight and die for that nation are the ones needed, not heroes. Goyo, on the other hand, finds himself neither a hero nor a soldier, rather just a human who naturally fears death.
And death befalls among the ranks of the Filipinos soldiers as the lines of Filipino defenses are being overrun. It is no longer a war for victory, but rather a war of attrition, to protect what’s left of the republic that is currently convening into an emergency meeting at the headquarters at Bayambang, Pangasinan, where Alejandrino sarcastically receive the President and Goyo lying down [This act by Alejandrino, who’s infamous for his sarcastic streak actually happened the day that Gen. Luna was killed. Goyo was sent to Luna’s headquarters at Bayambang to arrest Luna, dead or alive. Alejandrino, who just received the news of Luna’s death, was the one present at Luna’s HQ, and sarcastically received Goyo lying down on his couch.]. Alejandrino’s sarcastic streak continues as he recalls that Aguinaldo’s plan to shift to guerilla warfare is the one that Luna had planned all along.
Indeed, Luna’s plan was to have retreating battles while preparing the impregnable fortresses in the Cordilleras for the subsequent guerilla warfare. However, the plan has never materialized. Aguinaldo and his government begin their retreat to the north. Goyo finds himself in charge of Luna’s remaining soldiers, commanded by Lt. Telesforo Carrasco (Matt Evans) who was a Spaniard mestizo [Luna recruited dozens of Spanish mestizos to the army.] The spirit of Luna prevails as his observations remain relevant as Aguinaldo himself decides not to leave his family behind. Goyo is separated with his brigade as he was assigned to the vanguard with Miong, his wife Hilaria(Che Ramos), and his sister Felicidad, and his brigade was designated as the rear guard carrying Aguinaldo’s mother(Perla Bautista). Alejandrino, on the other hand, was tasked to guard Mangatarem, in La Union, to cover Aguinaldo’s escape.
Since I first read these chapters of history when I was a kid, my image of the retreat of the republic to the north was just going along the coastline and the coastal towns. My mouth runs agape as I realize that their path to the north was through the mountains of Cordillera. I thought that Aguinaldo’s mother was just left behind [along with Felipe Buencamino who was captured with her]. The trek along the mountains is arduous as Joven has attested, as with the people who hiked for the first time. No wonder why the journey was too much for Aguinaldo’s mother. Even horses and able-bodied soldiers find the journey perilous, as some of them have fallen to their deaths.
The journey begins to exhaust the retreating army, both physically and mentally, as the forces of the republic are failing to consolidate as the formidable Tinio brigade was routed from ever joining Aguinaldo’s brigade. The exhaustion pushes Miong to the point of even taking Luna’s lead in the number of expletives blurted. Of course, Luna’s dead. There’s no way that he can compete anymore in that competition. Or maybe Luna’s words begin to sink in to the mind of Aguinaldo?
Exhaustion leads to frustration. The pent-up frustration from Luna’s troops begins to surface. Infighting within the Filipino ranks ensues. Rifts begin to emerge, not only among the troops, but among the officers, including Mabini who still waits for his appointment as Chief Justice. Goyo dismisses the rumors of conspiracy among Luna’s troops. However, his dismissal over things goes overboard as his dismisses the shots signalling the urgency to help the rearguard as mere sounds of bamboos pounding [In history, the fall of the defenses of the Del Pilar Brigade at Pangasinan happened because Goyo dismisses the sound of gunfire the same way.]. With no help coming, the number of the soldiers in the rearguard dwindles. But that is not what Aguinaldo is concerned about. He reprimands Goyo of his carelessness that has led to the capture of his mother. Felicidad confides to Goyo that he’s not the one that she used to know and love.
Who is the person he used to be?
Who is he in the first place?
That question was imposed to Goyo once more. However, his brother Julian is no longer by his side to remind him of the answer. He is all on his own now in his question to search for an answer.
Maybe, in his belongings? He has searched and searched…until he gets hold of the letter that Remedios gave before he retreated to the mountains.
Her words continuously ring out Goyo’s thoughts as he leads the vanguard high on the mountains, climbing over Mt. Tirad. As the sky seemingly touches the mountains, Remedios reminds him that the person that she wants to return in her embrace is not the hero sitting inaccessible in the clouds, the person that he is convinced to be, but the soldier who would defend his republic, the man who knows his limits for he has fulfilled his duty to his country, the man within the boy general.
(Tangina, brad. Pati ako nalilito na sa listahan ng mga babae mo. Remedios ba o Dolores?)[Side note: I remember now. It’s because of my confusion with Manuel Tinio]
Yes. A boy general. We are reminded that Goyo was still in his youth. Because of the instances that surrounded his life, he does not get to fully enjoy the innocent adventures of his youth. He was forced to grow up quickly. The adventurous energy, the mischievous tendencies, and the youth in him were pent-up. The innocence and optimism of his youth were taken away from him. He was a child at heart, yet he was forced to act like an adult. It was easy for him to get lost, to have his path in life go astray, because he still needed guidance. It is the counterpoint to Mabini’s narrative. Indeed, most of them are being treated as kids. But those kids, as with the energy of the youth, must need guidance. The youth is indeed the country’s hope, if they were guided accordingly. An ailing country can mean that those people in the youth have been misguided by the wretched. That was maybe why he followed Aguinaldo. And as the Filipino culture has told the young ones to do, the young cannot assert ascendancy over those older than them, for better or for worse. Maybe that is why he has followed orders without question. Locked in his youth, Goyo has yet to experience his coming of age.
Epiphany has come for Goyo as he finds the mountain pass on Mt. Tirad, the Pasong Tirad, a suitable place to set up defenses and delay the American pursuit on which he vows that the pursuit will only advance before his dead body. While Aguinaldo’s company rested at Cervantes where the locals have welcomed them warmly – with a ritual of dancing over a severed head of their enemy, which is unappealing to Aguinaldo, both literally and metaphorically – unlike the people from other towns who deserted their settlements the moment Aguinaldo arrived, Goyo musters some troops who will be with him at the defense of the mountain pass which overlooks the town of Concepcion (Ilocos Sur) below. Some of the men are reluctant to join him. Out of frustration in this reluctance, Goyo’s aide-de-camp, Col. Enriquez, mocks them of being a coward. It is a statement which earns the repudiation from Lt. Garcia (Ronnie Lazaro) who emerges from his house, revealing that he hails from Cervantes. Lt. Garcia, who has included his little boy for the task, has convinced the Ilocos Sur regiment to join him. They now constitute the total of fated 60 men who will defend Tirad Pass.
Goyo polishes his military regalia and dresses at his finest, his favorite khaki uniform, as he knows that he won’t be returning alive. He rides for Tirad Pass, and the Aguinaldos, Miong and Felicidad, see Goyo off for the last time.
Goyo, on the other hand, is beginning to catch the glimpse of his love to the country as Lt. Garcia tells him that even though leaders like Aguinaldo can be replaced, the Philippines which includes the breathtaking scenery of the valley below, is something that is irreplaceable.
Goyo finds the love of country, beyond leaders, loyalty, and allegiances. With that heart of his full of love, he addresses his troops that there are no heroes in this mountain, but rather soldiers who are full of love, not hate. He asks them two questions:
Do you love your country? Then embrace whatever fate befalls us in the name of this love.
Do you want to die like cowards or do you want to die fighting?
And to die fighting they choose as they set-up defenses along the mountain pass. There are three lines of defenses. The first line of defense is a set of barricades from two separate ridges. The second line rests higher on the road. The third line is rest upon the summit as their last line of defense.
On the evening of December 1, 1899, Goyo writes the final entry to his diary (the opening quote of this piece) as well as a written reply to Remedios’ letter.
Joven, who is asked by Lt. Garcia to look after his kid, covers the battle as it commences the morning of December 2, 1899. Goyo’s troops pin down the advance of the regiment led by Maj. Peyton March. Maj. March and his troops finds themselves stuck in the crossfire as the Filipinos trash-talk to them as they become confident of their strategic advantage, just like the famous Battle of Thermopylae.
Indeed, it is a replay of Thermopylae as March orders his sharpshooters to find another route…a route which was provided by the Ephialtes of the battle. Januario Galut, a native of the place and one of the tribesmen who find the treatment of the Americans to them way better than their fellow Filipinos who don’t even consider them as such, provides another route, which catches the Filipino defenders in surprise. Lt. Garcia, alarmed by the new frontline, rushes to aid the troops above, but he is shot dead in the chest before doing so. The battle is turning against the favor of the Filipinos, and Goyo, accompanied by Lt. Carrasco, goes down to check closer to confirm the worsening situation. He sees the breathtaking view once more, as if he’s looking to his sweetheart, the Philippines, as if asking whether he’s done enough. He looks up to the sky once more. There’s an eagle, but there are no heroes looking down upon him from the clouds, unlike his premonition in Pangasinan.
I have thought that that will be the moment that he will be shot. But nope. Lt. Carrasco calls the general. And Goyo proceeds to return to the battle…
A shot hits him in his nape, with the wound exiting on his lips. I read the books. I expected something like the 1st gunshot wound on JFK. I know that a shot coming from a lower elevation would definitely make a trajectory like that. But still, I’m not prepared to see this unfold. I was horrified on how violent Goyo’s death was. The same horror has also struck Lt. Carrasco who returns to the barricade to inform Col. Enriquez about Goyo’s death. The Filipino forces are now like a chicken with its head cut off. The beautiful exchange from the previous day becomes nothing. They begin to run away from the battle, despite Col. Enriquez’ threats. The Filipino defenses are overrun. The film throws a shade to the culture of violence the current administration promotes with an unarmed Filipino soldier surrendering but still shot to death. The Filipino soldiers scamper away. Joven and Garcia’s kid run for safety, until they encounter an American soldier. Joven signals his surrender, however the American soldier signals that he’s about to shoot. Thankfully, or not thankfully, Joven falls upon the cliff. The soldier, on the other hand, let Garcia’s kid go, as the battle concludes in an American victory.
Goyo’s remains are stripped off his clothing and belongings. Col. Enriquez, who surrendered to the Americans, buries the bodies of his fellow soldiers, including Goyo’s. [In reality, Goyo’s remains were left exposed to the elements for days, before being identified again by one of his sweethearts – through his golden dental implants – and buried.] Felicidad looks over to his grave and weeps. Maj. March mistakes her as Goyo’s sweetheart and is about to give Goyo’s letter addressed to Remedios. But Vicente corrects him, telling him that Goyo’s sweetheart resides in Dagupan.
Even though the Americans have won the battle tactically, the Filipinos have emerged strategically victorious as the primary objective of delaying the American pursuit of Aguinaldo has been achieved. However, that still doesn’t make up for the defeats of the Filipino regiments in other places. Gen. Mascardo, with Lt. Quezon, was forced to retreat to the mountains in Bataan. Mangatarem falls to the hands of the Americans and Gen. Alejandrino retreats to Mt. Arayat to continue the guerilla warfare.
Mabini, with his physical disability limiting his movements, cannot go far enough to evade capture. He is sent to exile in Guam. With him are dozens of letters of those people who make their complaints on how the revolution and the government was led, including a letter from Alejandrino narrating one how Aguinaldo makes him choose between him(Aguinaldo) and Luna. In his La Revolucion Filipina and on a bitter note, Mabini writes:
“The Revolution failed because it was badly directed, because its leader won his post not with praiseworthy but with blameworthy acts, because instead of employing the useful men of the nation, he jealously discarded them. Believing that the advance of the people was no more than his own personal advance, he did not rate men according to their ability, character, and patriotism, but according to the degree of friendship or kinship binding him to them; and wanting to have favorites willing to sacrifice themselves for him, he showed himself lenient to their faults. Because he disdained the people, he could not but fall like an idol of wax melting in the heat of adversity. May we never forget such a terrible lesson learned at the cost of unspeakable sufferings!”
He further narrates that Aguinaldo should have died fighting and defending the republic, in order to establish himself with the heroes. However, that hasn’t happened as he was captured in Palanan, Isabela, in March 1901. Aguinaldo has pledged allegiance to the United States right after, which earns a disappointed look from Lt. Quezon who surrendered in order to act as Mascardo’s emissary to him, now visiting him at Malacañan Palace.
We all know the history that follows between Aguinaldo and Quezon, on which the 2nd post-credits scene has shown. It dates to 1935 and Quezon has just won a landslide victory in the presidential elections against Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo, who looks old and rejected by the Filipinos, is being mocked by Quezon’s campaign jingle being played by Joven, now one of Quezon’s campaign personnels (Ricky Davao), in front of his house.
What about Joven? How did he end up there? The 1st post-credits scene provides what has happened to him. He regains consciousness after his fall, and finds Lt. Garcia’s kid and Capt. Eduardo Rusca (Archie Alemanya) greeting him.
Remedios, on the other hand, reads Goyo’s final letter on which he affirms that he is not a hero, for there should be no such thing, and he is a soldier who died for his country. Renato Constantino’s Veneration without Understanding rings a bell, does it?
The film has started with a question whether Gregorio del Pilar should be considered a hero and ended with a question whether there should be heroes that we should venerate in the first place.
The answers to those questions are left for the viewers to find. But I fear that many might overlook those questions and hidden messages as the film has unpacked a lot, maybe way beyond the span of understanding and attention of typical Filipino viewers.
Again, I reiterate that I intend this write-up as a guide for viewers to digest the tons of material that the film has presented, not as an evaluation of the movie itself.
My personal take about the film is to follow next week, hopefully. Even so, my personal take can be summarized into six words:
I RECOMMEND YOU TO WATCH IT.
. Kalaw, T. (1974). An Acceptable Holocaust: Life and Death of a Boy-General. National Historical Commission of the Philippines, p.61
. Alejandrino, J. (1951). Price of Freedom. Filipiniana Reprint Series.
. Joaquin, N. (date unsure). Question of Heroes
. Jose, V. (1971). The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna
. Mabini, A. (1903). La Revolucion Filipina