Finally, after three long years, the wait is over and local moviegoers can now head to the cinemas and watch the the sequel to “Heneral Luna”– “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”. True to the first film, this one continues to criticize the bad habits and ways of thinking that still plague the Philippines today. While “Luna” serves to wake us up from our slumber, “Goyo” deconstructs one of the nation’s youngest heroes, and Philippine leadership during the last few phases of the Philippine-American war by showing us how blind idolatry of our leaders is another problem that we as a society have. This is a movie that should be watched by the nation and fans of the first film. It boasts breathtaking cinematography and solid performances, but is also at times slow and plodding, just like the false sense of peace that the Americans gave the Filipinos for several months before they struck again.
Video Source: Globe PH YouTube
“Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” was released in Philippine cinemas on September 5, 2018, with the short film “Angelito”, which bridged the gap between the two films, was released on February 15, 2017. “Goyo” was written by Jerrold Tarog and Rody Vera; and a score that was also composed by its director. The film’s cinematography was handled by Pong Ignacio, who also did the cinematography for “Heneral Luna”.
The film picks up right after the events of both “Heneral Luna” and “Angelito” and shows us the last phase of the Philippine-American war. The movie follows two threads- the life of the 23 year old “Boy General” Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino), in the months before he died at the Battle of Tirad Pass, a loyal soldier and favorite of President Emilio Auginaldo’s (Mon Confiado); and Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon), who was the sobering voice of reason criticizing Aguinaldo’s leadership especially in the aftermath of General Antonio Luna’s (John Arcilla) assassination. It also follows the courtship of del Pilar with one of his last great loves (among others), Remedios Nable Jose (Gwen Zamora), the retreat of Aguinaldo and his forces, and the Battle of Tirad Pass, where the boy general fell.
Moviegoers, however, should not leave the cinema after the movie has ended, as there were two post-credit scenes that set up the last installment of the planned trilogy, which will be about the second President of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon.
The performances that were in the movie were all strong, even if I didn’t really buy the relationship between Zamora’s Remedios and Goyo, as it felt too rushed.
Quizon was once again brilliant as Mabini, who served as the main voice of reason who was relentless in pointing out why the Philippines suffered defeat at the hands of the Americans- the lack of strong, good leadership by Aguinaldo.
Confiado was also great here, and instead of the almost villain that he was in the first film, we see him here desperately trying to salvage not only his dignity but the last few dreggs of the war.
Avelino was perfectly cast as the brash, reckless young general and how he went on his own journey of self-doubt and finally discovered what he was fighting for and what was most important to him in the end, although it was late in the game.
Villaflor, once again, served as the audience surrogate, which he played well, especially as we went alongside him in figuring out our own feelings for what was happening and dealing with this new and young general coming from the more experience man of action that was Luna.
Schuck was a delight to watch here, as she stole the scene every time she was on screen, and gave us better and more believable chemistry with her former lover.
The movie did a wonderful job of presenting us with the idea that our leaders shouldn’t be worshipped, as they are human too; and how governments fail because of nepotism, self-interest, and a blind loyalty to those whom they are a loyal to.
It did feel a bit large in scope and in scale, and the cinematography was even more breathtaking at times than “Heneral Luna’s”. However, I did feel that the movie was a bit too long, and there were moments, especially during the final battle, that I thought could have been taken out or given a montage treatment instead. The dialogue of the Americans still feels clunky, something that I hope will be resolved in the upcoming film. On that note, I do hope that the final installment will be greenlit, as that is set during the ’30s, with a more established Philippine government, and with it being a few years before World War II.
The result is a film that isn’t perfect, especially as the score was sometimes jarring switching from more modern instrumentals to more classical ones, and as there were a lot of moments when the energy dipped and it felt like it was slow and plodding.
However, the film has a lot of good points to it, and is definitely a must watch as it deals with other issues regarding how our country views heroes and leaders, and how our leaders operate today.
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
Creatively speaking, having Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor), our audience surrogate, be the glue that ties these films together, was a smart decision, as we are able to go on the same kind of journey with him, especially as he bears witness to all of these events unfolding in front of him.
Here, just like Joven, we wonder as to how we should feel about Goyo, especially as Luna was very different from him. And just like Joven, we too, feel powerless and useless to do anything, especially during moments when there doesn’t seem to be anything big happening, but just like him, we should strive to still never forget what we stand for and what we are fighting for.
I will be very interested to see Joven as an actual journalist if the third movie is greenlit, especially as he will be much older at that time. Maybe, we’ll be able to follow everything happening in politics then with him being a seasoned reporter.
The film did a great job at deconstructing and stripping down the hype and legend that surrounds Goyo, and humanizes him as it depicts him as a womanizer and a young man who suddenly had a lot of responsibility that was thrust upon his shoulders that he probably really wasn’t ready for. He was also shown as arrogant, brash and reckless, and who will not hesitate to kill if it was ordered of him to do so by Auginaldo.
I did like the journey of self-discovery that he went through throughout the film, with his self-doubt being the catalyst for him starting to question whether he is following Aguinaldo and fighting because of principle and love of country or blind loyalty to the President. In the end, even though it was too late, he ended up realizing that what was really most important to him was his love for country. It was also interesting that they didn’t glorify his death, but was almost like a blip or a usual occurrence that happens during battle.
I didn’t really buy his (rushed) relationship with Zamora’s Remedios, but I did appreciate that we were given a strong female character who knew exactly what she wanted and refused to engage in petty rivalries with other women. However, I did buy that Schuck’s Felicidad Aguinaldo and Goyo did have a past. Schuck’s performance was amazing, and at the same time, her character helped him realize a bit that he had changed for the worse and not for the better. He had changed into a brazen general instead of the dutiful soldier who loved his country.
Here, Aguinaldo is shown as a desperate man trying to salvage what was left of his dignity and the war. However, just like many leaders who came after him, instead of heeding Mabini’s advice, he continued on putting his faith in his favorites and looking for peace without true freedom. In the end, his lack of good leadership, with those who were truly able dying under his watch, caused the country’s defeat. I find it interesting that Aguinaldo survived all the way to witness a new administration, and I want to see how the final installment will treat this character.
Mabini was the voice of reason throughout the entire film, reminding us that nepotism, blind loyalty our leaders, and placing our leaders on pedestals is not a good thing at all. He also reminds us that we have a tendency to be quick to be passionate about something, but that also quickly fades. Aside from him, Ronnie Lazaro’s Lt. Garcia also reminds us about the impermanence of leaders, as leaders and presidents will rise and fall, but our country will always be there. He also reminds that what is important isn’t one’s loyalty to a particular group or leader, but our loyalty to our country.
While the cinematography was breathtaking, the fight scenes in “Luna” were executed better; and the score, while good, was a little bit inconsistent as it moved from more modern instruments to a score that felt more classical. The direction was good, but I felt that the story could have been tighter, and that there were some scenes, such as showing us the side of the Americans during the Battle of Tirad Pass, that I felt could have been cut instead.
“Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” is a sombre reminder of why Philippine leadership fails time and time again, and reminds us that the only loyalty that truly matters is our loyalty to our country, no matter who our leader is, while tackling other pertinent issues that still plague our society and politics today. And because of that, although the film isn’t perfect, this film is a must watch, and hopefully, some of these lessons stick with us as we learn from the past to make a better future.
Have you seen “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”? What did you think of it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: Goyo Facebook Page