Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goyo:_Ang_Batang_Heneral
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More commonly known by his nickname Goyo, Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino) was the youngest Filipino general during the Philippine-American War. After the assassination of Antonio Luna, President Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado) gives the young general the assignment of rounding up all troops still loyal to the fallen general in an effort to beef up their forces against the Americans. As they move the capital farther north away from Manila, hearts of young girls flutter at the sight of the playboy, his reputation often preceding him. He sets his eyes on pretty Remedios (Gwen Zamora), one of the daughters of a wealthy merchant but their romance is cut short by the arrival of Felicidad (Empress Schuck), the president’s sister and his ex-flame. As the Americans make headway in capturing more and more provinces, what remains of the revolutionary forces seek refuge by hiking the Cordilleras, where Goyo decides to build fortified trenches to delay the advance of the enemy.

It’s good that the death scene is kept abrupt and short, which is both a tribute to the nasty and brutish nature of life itself as well as staying true to historical facts. After all, the history books are very clear regarding del Pilar’s death. He gets shot in the neck and dies instantly. Regardless, there is no shortage of foreshadowing anyway and this is not even a spoiler if you didn’t sleep in class when this particular chapter in Filipino history was discussed. We appreciate the accuracy, although the film still uses its artistic license.

A simple Google search of Gregorio del Pilar will reveal that he does not look like Avelino at all. In this day and age when representation has become the battle cry of the entertainment industry, why the heck would you cast a mestizo to play a fair-skinned Filipino at a certain point in history when the delineation between the white conquerors and the brown-skinned conquered population couldn’t be any more demarcated? But they are both said to be good-looking, so perhaps that justifies it. This is obviously a marketing decision.

I have nothing against Avelino, who also happens to be one of the film's producers. From Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa all the way to I’m Drunk, I Love You, we have witnessed the evolution of this young actor from protégé with potential to seasoned thespian. As del Pilar, looks aside, he makes sure to highlight the emotional struggle within. More than gunshots and flirtatious looks, you see a conflicted young adult whose psyche is manifested onscreen by virtue of artistic sequences that torture the mind. Thanks to that emotional depth, you get to know del Pilar in a more fleshed out manner, a more nuanced presentation that goes beyond his playboy image and his death at Tirad Pass, which are often the limitations of people’s general knowledge about him. For that, Avelino earns my respect.

The first half of the film is dragging, making you think that there are unnecessary scenes that the narrative could have done without, like those scenes where del Pilar arrives on his horse and all the girls just couldn’t wait to toss their panties at him, at least in a figurative sense. But perhaps let’s give the guy a break? Here you have a 23-year-old whose career has peaked early, except that he’s facing the likelihood of dying in battle instead of an OD. Different eras, different burdens.

In one scene, Apolinario Mabini (Epi Quizon) asks Emilio Aguinaldo: “But are Filipinos ready to hear the truth without ending up being ill-humored or bad-tempered?” Apolinario, my dear, if you were alive today you’d only have to sign up for a Facebook account and you’d get the answer to that question in 10 seconds. Watching this film is not a satisfying experience. It’s not because of the violence or the gore, but rather the realization that most Filipinos nowadays are just as childish, naïve, and idiotic as most of them were back in 1899. A bullet, you can probably dodge, but that inconvenient truth is such a bitter pill to swallow. #shotsfired


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