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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Portraits of a National Hero: Actors who portrayed Jose Rizal on the big screen

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Few characters are emblematic enough to the point of warranting multiple depictions just to map out their personality. Think of the likes of Batman or locally Darna. Icons so cemented in popular culture that the casting for their roles never fails to keep the public tuned in.

Not a superhero but a national hero, Jose Rizal led superlative lives in his brief 35 years in this world. That is why on the occasion of his 163rd birth anniversary, Manila Standard recognizes his role that has been reprised time and again through the motion picture.

Here are the multitude of Filipino actors who took to the big screen to show the bigger picture of Jose Rizal’s own story — a narrative so colorful that it takes a village just to map out.

Eddie del Mar

Eddie del Mar won the FAMAS Award for Best Actor for his lead role in the 1956 biopic “Ang Buhay at Pag-ibig ni Dr. Jose Rizal.” He is widely recognized as the first actor to depict Rizal, setting the bar for future screen performances. Del Mar was an active member of the Knights of Rizal and the National Historical Commission, even raising funds to produce Gerardo de Leon’s “Noli Me Tangere.”

Albert Martinez

Albert Martinez starred in the 1997 film “Rizal sa Dapitan,” focusing on the hero’s exile and the last four years of his life in Dapitan from 1892 to 1896. Martinez showed how Rizal remained resilient during his longest imprisonment, where he continued to study and socialize. The work won production, directing, and writing accolades at the FAMAS Awards and Star Awards for Movies, among others.

Cesar Montano

Cesar Montano starred in the titular role in the 1998 historical drama “Jose Rizal,” directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya. During its time, the film was the most expensive in Philippine cinema history and was also the record-holder for Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) award wins, including Best Actor for Montano. His depiction was regarded as both accurate and humanizing, showing Rizal’s good and bad traits alike during the film’s sprawling three-hour running length and complex narrative structure.

Joel Torre

Mike De Leon’s 1999 black-and-white mockumentary “Bayaning 3rd World” features two filmmakers discussing how to create a film about Rizal. A departure from its predecessors that tread the path of biopics, this critically acclaimed film instead is a meditation on mythmaking surrounding Rizal as portrayed by eventual Gawad Urian Best Supporting Actor Joel Torre. Interestingly, it is worth noting that Torre’s real name is José Rizalino de León Torre.

Jericho Rosales

In the 2014 historical “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo,” Jericho Rosales imagines a Jose Rizal who illustrates the polarizing concept of a peaceful revolution against Andres Bonifacio, portrayed by Robin Padilla. Here, Rizal is only a supporting character in Bonifacio’s story that is meant to visualize their contrasting principles.

Alexandre Lucas Martin and Khalil Ramos

Most recently, Alexandre Lucas Martin and Khalil Ramos respectively portrayed young and adult versions of Rizal, again a supporting role, in the 2023 historical biographical film “GomBurZa.” This depicts Rizal’s political awakening after witnessing the public execution of the eponymous priests. Thereafter he penned his classic works, “Noli Me Tangere” and as shown in the film, “El Filibusterismo” dedicated to GomBurZa.


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