A Review Of Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral
In the 2015 film Heneral Luna, Jerrold Tarog’s award winning piece about the fiery commander, opened the hearts and minds of the Filipino people to the possibility of an arrogant, boastful, imperfect, wild, and foul-mouthed leader but passionate about his love for country and would sacrifice everything against all odds. He defied any colonial master, political ruler, or even his very own countrymen for his motherland, even at the point of a sword or at the barrel of a gun. It won the hearts of every Filipino who saw the film and stirred a great sense of national pride in them.
Since the success of Heneral Luna, Director Tarog and his team now gives us Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, the story of Gregorio del Pilar (played by Paulo Avelino), the legendary boy General who rose to prominence becoming one of Aguinaldo’s top generals by a mixture of dumb luck, youthful brashness, unmitigated loyalty, nepotism that characterized Aguinaldo’s regime. Likewise, he also rose to prominence because of his courage, wartime exploits, and womanizing. Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is not just mere facts or entertainment presented by the story, but as a human being who explores the parameters of leadership, mortality, and fame. It also shows that heroes like anybody else are not without imperfections. No man is free who has not the command over himself, but allows his wrong sense of loyalty, appetites or self-interest to control him. He who is enslaved to his passions is worse governed than Athens was by her thirty tyrants. As a whole, this film is masterfully done. The cinematography is breathtaking and brilliant, and the production design is some of the best in Philippine cinema. The actors are great in their roles with topnotch acting, and Paolo Avelino, the lead character delivers a terrific performance as the baby-faced general. The only striking problem with Goyo is that it is a film that is not as inspiring. Most of the film drearily follows the titular general as he enjoys a false sense of peace following the death of Heneral Antonio Luna, and when he eventually flees with Aguinaldo pursued by the American forces. Despite one possible point of improvement being present, the film faithfully conveys Del Pilar’s life and the deeper meaning viewers ought to attain from it.
The story begins right after the gruesome death of Heneral Luna upon the orders of President Emilio Aguinaldo (played by Mon Confiado). The Philippines is under a new political climate, still in a state of war struggling to sustain the revolutionary government of the Philippines as the American forces takes every step, hatching its plan of taking a tighter hold in the country. As the time table and war pieces of the Americans are put into play, the Philippines experiences serene moments and quiet times. The cruelty, killing, and fighting have ceased, unaware that a bigger battle is coming its way in five months. It is at this time that the film introduces the character of Aguinaldo’s favorite general, Gregorio del Pilar, nicknamed “Goyo” (Avelino), who fought valiantly for President Emilio Aguinaldo and whose loyalty is only for him. Because of his bravery shown in the battle he faced, he was conferred by Aguinaldo the rank of a General, one of the youngest in the revolutionary government at age 24. He was depicted as a celebrity, the talk of the town, and being pursued by every young maiden in every town for his good looks. During this time of fleeting peace, Goyo is known as a womanizer, winning the hearts of women and leaving them in tears in every town he sets foot on, including Aguinaldo’s sister, Felicidad (played by Empress Schuck). He is confident, arrogant, obsessedand fascinated by his own hype. Goyo: “Ang Batang Heneral” will lead us to think analytically as the plot of the film runs in two sides.
First, it shows a political war drama when the Americans and the Filipino revolutionary governments are preparing for an eventual battle. Aguinaldo is trying to establish control over political community as his own cabinet members, many of them turncoats working only towards serving themselves while making it appear that they are patriots. Apolinario Mabini (played by Epy Quizon) who serves as sober voice of reasons and objectivity, exposes and criticizes them. Using Mabini’s famed persona as a great intellect, Director Tarog uses it as a means to look at Aguinaldo’s cabinet for suspicion for having Heneral Luna killed. In one scene, Aguinaldo pays him a visit begging him to be the Chief Justice of Supreme Court,Mabini asked Aguinaldo, “What happened to Luna?”, insinuating that Aguinlado and his own cabinet are behind the hideous murder of Luna, whom the Americans considered to be the Philippines’ best general. The second one within, is about the young General imagining internal struggles and his courtship of his last great inamorata Remedios Jose (played by Gwen Zamora), who is charmed by Goyo’s advances but smart enough to assert what she wants and renounces his playboy image. If Goyo succeeds in anything, it is in humanizing the lionized del Pilar. Goyo always remembers his near death experience from the battle that granted his promotion and that troubles him. Fear of death and fulfillment in his new-found fame and glory, and the outcomes of these two extreme forces come into play in the person of Goyo considering his level of maturity and young age in such trying time such as war.
Everytime Goyo thinks of his internal struggles, he will remember his kuya’s words (played by Sigueon Reyna) “tandaan mo kung sino ka. . . . Isa kang Agila!”, restoring his focus of who he is and reminding the task and weight of leadership and fame on his shoulder, and to remain in a strong character which brought him to where he is and set aside his fears. The plot jumps from place to place because it also follows Aguinaldo dealings with Apolinario Mabini (Quizon), who may well be the best character in the film. Quizon’s portrayal of the “ brain of the revolution,” easily one of the best parts of Heneral Luna, continues to be stellar by reminding Aguinaldo on how to save his dignity and reputation as a man and as a leader and how to run his government against the blatant oppression on the basis of truth, worth, and value. Goyo as a person, does not escape the scrutiny and inquiry of Joven Hernando (played by Aaron Villaflor), the photographer assistant who is tasked to follow and photograph Goyo and his troops. Only Joven’s character in the film questions Goyo’s popularity and fame who is brave enough to examine his real person. Joven’s intriguing questions bring the moviegoers to meditate on how we see our idols. The film exposes the concepts of blind patriotism and idolatry as seen in servingthe controversial characterizations of Aguinaldo and his cronyism. The filmmakers portray Aguinaldo as a leader and a man who values loyalty over true value and worth. It makes repeated attacks at Aguinaldo’s choice to have General Luna killed despite of its great love for country and the promotion of Goyo at a very young age to full General because of his loyalty and faithfulness as seen in his order to execute Luna’s loyalist Manuel Bernal (played by Art Acuna).
The inquiry of Joven Hernando on Goyo’s person is beyond the glitters and sparkle of glass, calling each and everyone of us to question the concept of nationalism instead of kowtowing to it. An inward observation of Goyo’s character is a man who was not ready for the weight that was put on his shoulder but more than that, the film is about our failing as citizens and as a country to put so much hope on leaders who crave power and attention more than actual leadership and good governance. The film exposes a lot of issues, making it courageous enough to tell the truth that everyone needs, and more importantly educate the viewers. It questions the hype of its lead character and shows him not being worth this adulation. It tells us past and present government’s cronyism and willingness to appoint positions of power to undeserving and unworthy people just for the sake of loyalty. Loyalty over love for country, self interest over the interest of its people, compromise over our country’s independence. And to establish this point and drive a huge impact, by depicting Goyo as a modern day celebrity, it really shows and calls out our present day’s weakness, partiality, and preference for blind idolatry. At the final act of the film however, Goyo finally understands the responsibility that has fallen on him, but it is too late. Facts of History after all and this film does not leave us clueless and does not shy away from telling us our leader’s faults in the series of time and events. The most astonishing and staggering thing about the film, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral that it is a film about patriotism, but instead of inspiring, it serves as a warning. It is not an encouraging film, It is about disappointment and facing it. It falls short in terms of plot and greatness of ambition and raises the question of why the film needed to have been made at all.
The answer however, lies in close scrutiny and evaluation of the entirety of the film. This film sends a very strong message and if one wants to learn he must empty his cup for this serves us a footnote to the Filipino people. Director Jerrold Tarog in Heneral Luna depicts the General’s supreme love for his country and the tragedy of the general’s murder by his countrymen, Tarog now shifts the attention of historical drama, which for decades has taught its country that they were united against its colonizers, towards the glaring conflicts that plague and continue to plague the nation as seen in Goyo. It is still pertinent today as if the characters it depicts are still alive today. In the rendition of Ernani Cuenco’s song Bato sa Buhangin, the film appears to be bent on carving potent humor out of the foolishness of nation’s infatuation with personalities. The film convinces in its efforts to turn history as a point of criticism rather than a source for superficial pride. There is a call to critical thinking. A call to question our heroes, ourselves, and how we choose love and serve our country. Mabini laments that “perhaps the Americans were right, after all— that we are but mere children trying to fight a grown man’s war. ” He says that“Filipinos ignite with passion very quickly, but burn out just as fast. ” It is a frightening but wise reminder that the Philippines may be doomed to follow the lead of people who put their own interest above the country’s. The film’s political commentary is pointed and incisive, with lessons as timely now as they were back then.
Like Goyo, we as a country need to be reminded to look back on who we are, so that we never lose sight of what we ought to be. This film review, despite some minor setbacks, ultimately insinuates that honor and virtue are not the same, though true honor is always founded on virtue. Honor may take her tones and textures from the prevailing manners and customs of those varied people around us. When honor is not founded on virtues she becomes essentially selfish in design, and is unworthy of her name. Then, that honor builds a lofty structure on the sandy foundation of the esteem ofthose who are, of all beings, the most subject to change. However, when honor is founded on virtues, her hopes become enlarged and magnified, thus any leaders with such kind of honor founded on virtue will surely animate the true essence and call of genuine leadership.
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