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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 10, 2018

Goyo, Batang Heneral: One Of The Year's Best Films, Better Crafted And More Polished Than 'Heneral Luna'

AFTER ‘CITIZEN JAKE’ and ‘SIGNAL ROCK’, “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” is the third local film we’ve seen this year that is of best picture calibre. This is a better crafted, more polished work compared to “Heneral Luna” (a sleeper hit) and Jerrold Tarog once again affirms his reputation as one of our most dependable young filmmakers today. We’ve seen all his works since “Confessional” and he doesn’t disappoint.

Although “Goyo” is meant to be a sequel, it is so different from “Luna” in terms of tone and temperament. “Luna” is hot-headed and bursting with energy. This one is more contemplative, exploring serious themes about warped loyalty, self-centered leadership and the fear of one’s mortality.

The short film “Angelito” shown a few months ago serves as a bridge in the transition from “Luna” to “Goyo”. After the murder of Luna, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s cohorts are searching for the Bernal brothers who have remained loyal to Luna. Angelito is the younger brother of the Bernals and he is captured and tormented by Goyo and his men to find out where his brothers are hiding. This brings them to Dagupan and they manage to get hold of Manuel Bernal (Art Acuna) who they torment and eventually kill.

“Goyo’s” first half dwells on the five months of peace and quiet while Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado) tries to sustain his revolutionary government up north after the Americans forces have occupied Manila. Gregorio del Pilar or Goyo (Paulo Avelino) , at 24, is one of Aguinaldo’s most trusted men and he’s promoted to the rank of general. He is a rock star in the eyes of the people, especially young maidens who swoon in the presence of his dashing good looks. He is said to have left a sweetheart in every town, like the sister of Aguinaldo, Felicidad (Empress Schuck.)

But in Dagupan, Goyo meets his match in Remedios Nable Jose (Gwen Zamora), who is obviously also attracted to him but knows how to play her cards close to her chest since Goyo’s reputation as a ladies man precedes him. She seems coy and distant and this makes Goyo more intrigued about her. But although Goyo seems enjoying his popularity and is busy with his tentative romance with the elusive Remedios, the film also delves into Goyo’s psyche while he’s haunted by visions of his own mortality after he had a near death experience in the battle at Kakarong de Sili.

Alongside the story of Goyo, we see the Americans preparing for their subsequent face off with Aguinaldo, who is obviously a tyro when it comes to handling affairs of the state, with members of his cabinet also quite incompetent. Apolinario Mabini (Eppy Quizon) has no qualms in criticizing him for his ineptitude. Tarog utilizes Mabini as the voice of reason who makes the most relevant comments about Aguinaldo and his actions.

Another unbiased observer who makes his own justified comments on the historical goings on is Joven (Arron Villaflor), the 19-year old assistant of his photographer uncle who was first introduced in “Heneral Luna”. Tasked to take photos of del Pilar and his men, he gets to see them up close and questions the validity of all their actions, including the blind adulation and patriotism of some people and the effects of fame on Goyo who, for a while, seems to drown in his own popularity.

One can’t help but see the obvious parallelism betwen Aguinaldo and today’s Duterte in that they both seem to give more weight to the perceived loyalty of their cronies to them than their true worth or capability in being able to serve the country efficiently. Aguinaldo had Luna, and also, even Bonifacio, murdered instead of trying to win them and getting their cooperation for the good of the country. Isn’t this also happening right now? Talk about the mistakes of history being repeated over and over again. So more than being a character study of Goyo and Aguinaldo, the film is meant to be a slap on our faces and an outright call for us Filipinos to open our eyes and not put much of our hope and expectations on our leaders who feel entitled and are just hungry for power rather than being true good leaders who will give us exemplary governance that will make our country really move forward, otherwise, we’ll never have a happy ending simply because we’re politically immature up to now.

This film really deserves our support not only because of its insights, but also because it is so well made. In terms of scale and scope, the production values are unparalleled in local cinema. The expensive period production design of the set and the costumes, nothing is spared to make sure that it will really transport you to another era.

Pong Ignacio’s superb cinematography, Tarog’s fantastic musical score, his insightful screenplay with Rody Vera, and the way the battle scenes is staged where you actually feel the bullets whizzing by around you (the death of Goyo is so quick, without any premonition or drama), they’re just all awesome. And the acting of the huge ensemble cast is also uniformly splendid. From Art Acuna in a short but unforgettable role, Eppy Quizon as Mabini and Gwen Zamora as Remedios, to Mon Confiado as Aguinaldo and Paulo Avelino in the title role, they all deserve a hug and a pat on the back, along with the producers who bankrolled this project that honestly doesn’t seem to have the potential to recoup their investment at the box office.

Don’t leave right as there’s a short preview of what might be next in store for us shown during the middle of the end credits. We all know they intend to do a movie on Manuel Quezon as the culmination of their planned trilogy. In the poster shown in the short preview, Quezon looks so Castillian with his prominent Spanish mestizo features, nothing like Benjamin Alves who appeared as Quezon in “Luna” and “Goyo”. Wonder what they’re planning to do.
#ShowbizPortal #GoyoBatangHeneral  #PauloAvelino #movie ##TagalogMovie