Jerold Tarrog’s historical biopic couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s the perfect reminder that most of us have, somehow, disintegrated to individuals who are oblivious to the magnitude of sacrifice that went into the liberty we’re enjoying now and, in turn, takes the very essence of our freedom–any type of freedom–for granted, abusing it even, at certain times.
General Antonio Luna was a patriot. He’s an extremely intelligent and talented strategist. He’s so good President Aguinaldo can’t get rid of him, initially, even when he’s not entirely fond of his demeanor.
His patriotism is so great he becomes arrogant when faced with incompetence from cowardly soldiers, dubious cabinet members, and traitorous men.
He doesn’t care how others would react to his ways and words because of his moral compass. And while he’s on the right all the time, the people around him found it threatening, which eventually led to his demise.
But we’re not here to discuss the events that led to his gruesome and heart-wrenching murder. We have history books for that.
The movie is painful to watch.
Yes, it’s cleverly written and well made. The lines are compelling, funny even during several scenes. Funny yet realistic. But despite all those sequences that made us laugh when he curses “punyeta” when subordinates frustrate him or when katipuneros retreat during battle, there’s that sting that goes straight through your core when you realize that what you’re looking at isn’t just a product of one’s imagination, a make-believe situation that aims to call for attention but a painful truth that paints each and everyone of us in a bad light.
That jolt that makes us cringe when we realize that it’s us it’s embarrassing.
How is it possible that events that took place a century ago can speak to us so clearly it makes us question ourselves?
I guess history does repeat itself.
Or things haven’t really changed at all.
We live in a society full of privileged individuals–people who think they’re entitled to special treatments, making them feel they’re above most everyone else, even the law.
General Tomas Mascardo blatantly disobeyed General Luna’s orders because he felt his being a Caviteno makes him special and untouchable (because President Aguinaldo hailed from Kawit), which is why he’s not too scared of being arrested because he knew he won’t stay in jail for too long, which is what eventually happened.
This mentality trumps the most basic purpose of assigning a leader, in this case, General Luna.
Mascardo was arrogant and disobedient. Same with Pedro Paterno, the biggest turncoat in our country’s history, as per columnist Ambeth Ocampo.
Sadly, this still exists. A lot of people feel and behave this way. Even those who have the tiniest connection to someone in power feel above the law.
Just take the most recent example: the lady driver who disregards traffic rules because she claims she’s rich.
Even the simplest things like the lack of discipline, initiative, and disregard for rules speak so loudly.
Several times, General Luna castigated foolish soldiers who, while their fellow patriots are getting shot and blown up into pieces, are busy gambling.
As funny the scene was, it’s enraging. The thought of these idiots not giving a care in the world about others at the battlefield is so infuriating. How could these people be so apathetic to the plight of their fellowmen when they knew perfectly well the magnitude of what’s at stake.
You’d think we’d learn. But no. Think about the many times we didn’t follow rules when no one’s watching–like jaywalking or not doing what we’re tasked to do. How about the times when we refuse to help others just because we don’t want to be inconvenienced?
General Luna is the perfect role model for undisciplined, entitled, and arrogant individuals. His ways might be harsh but he knows what needs to be done to affect change.
Sadly, many of us are just like the people who hated his guts. For sure there are times when we despised that someone who stands up and demands to do what’s right.
Think about that straight-edge student who calls for everyone to shut up when the whole class is rowdy. Didn’t we use to be annoyed with that student because we thought he/she was too ‘sipsip?’
That’s how it felt to me after seeing the characters in the movie oppose General Luna’s ways.
And don’t get me started on the politics.
Clearly his life mirrors a lot of things in our society today–from the indifference of people to the spineless leaders who put personal interests over the nation’s welfare to warped mentalities that severely destroys rational thinking to the false sense of patriotism.
These are the hard truths that ‘Heneral Luna’ punched us in the gut with.
As painful as they were, we’ve no choice but to accept them. And, maybe, use these to challenge ourselves to move on from being entitled individuals to a people who’s willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of the entire nation.
Heneral Luna said it best: our love for family is our biggest blessing but it’s also our worst disease.
Sometimes, being too focused on enriching ourselves, we tend to forget the bigger picture. Our minds are clouded and we can’t think about how our actions (and the lack thereof) impact our nation.
And if we’re seriously concerned with our country, we should start asking ourselves if we’re ready to look beyond personal gain and be willing to suffer a little for the benefit of the nation.
Until we’re able to do that, we’ll never be genuinely free. Absolute freedom is only achieved when we’re free from things that pull us down.
Until that time comes, the lives of the REAL heroes, like General Luna and those soldiers who are unaccounted for, will remain in vain.
He might be looking down at us, still cursing, “punyeta.”