Written by Kiel Villamin
“Heneral Luna” (“General Luna” in English) is a period film bringing to life one of the most famous heroes Filipinos should look up to for courage and patriotism – Lieutenant General Antonio Luna.
The setting was the Filipino-American war. There was struggle in the transition of governments from the Spaniards to the Americans. The General had to deal not only with the American colonizers, but also the Philippine government officials, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, who had their own personal interests and ambitions. Not to spoil anyone who hasn’t seen this film, but from historic accounts, the death of the great General in the hands of selfish countrymen was just sad and tragic.
Seeing this film thrice, I saw how Filipino viewers came to appreciate an art form that ignited one’s love for his own country and heritage. Philippine cinema is experiencing a trend where films touch on certain values of having third-party relationships or slapstick comedy. They may be box office hits, but they are not quality films. “Heneral Luna”, like many movies from Cinemalaya and other film festivals, has given me hope that Philippine cinema can return to its glory days.
I thought that the movie would not last a week since the first time I saw it, as I could count with my fingers the people who were watching that Thursday afternoon. Through the power of social media and positive reviews, perfect timing propelled the film to pick up its momentum and remain screening in cinemas even until now. One of the more memorable viewings I had was a last full show during a holiday in a Makati central business district mall. People were laughing their hearts out and even clapping their hands once the movie was over. It was a great feeling to see Filipinos enjoying a movie that is different from the typical genres being released commercially.
With the bravery and courage Luna conveyed, this film reminded me that I must take pride in being a Filipino. Another takeaway for me was that incorruptible individuals who stand for what is right and just are the ones that deserve admiration. In this modern world, it’s a rare sight to see individuals who have unshakable ideals and who are not just in it for their own gain.
Luna showed how much he loved his country and defended it until his death. Indeed, our greatest enemy are ourselves. As what John Arcilla, the actor who portrayed General Luna, said about this film, we need to transcend this social transformation into our own daily lives. Watching a film doesn’t only end inside the cinema, but one must contribute to uplifting the condition of our own society, and that’s one of the greatest things this film can impress on us.
Visit HeneralLunaTheMovie.com for more details on the film.
Update: The original post referred to Antonio Luna as Brigadier General, a general with a one-star rank. It has since been corrected to Lieutenant General, a general with a three-star rank.