The nation commemorated yesterday the 119th anniversary of the execution of our national hero, Jose Rizal in Bagumbayan field which is now known as Luneta Park. It is a yearly ritual punctuated with the obligatory flag-raising ceremony at his monument in Luneta.
(The monument, by the way, was designed by Swiss sculptor, Richard Kissling. The contest for the design and construction of the monument was actually won by the Italian sculptor Carlo Nicoli. He also won the price of P5,000 which in this day and age is pittance but very respectable in 1907. But because Carlo Nicoli did not come to receive his price and build the monument, the jury decided to give the contract to the second prize winner Richard Kissling.
Incidentally, too, the Luneta monument is not the only Rizal monument of its kind. There is one which is almost as big in a park in Madrid. Story has it that the original plan was to put up a small replica of the Luneta monument but the proponents went ahead and built a much bigger monument. The Madrid authorities to their credit did not stop the construction and it stands there today for Filipinos who happen to be traveling in Spain can visit.)
One hundred and nineteen years on, the legacy of Rizal is still relevant. His life and work continue to inspire the youth who are the hope of the future of this country. We Filipinos look up to our heroes who fought for independence from Spanish colonial rule. They had great vision for the future of the country if they succeeded in their revolutionary undertaking. They even debated which common language to use, whether Spanish will be retained or use one of the native languages. They had foresight. Like in many fields, we started the ball rolling in Asia when it came to independence movements and had it not been for the intervention of the Americans, we would have been the first people during those times to have won independence from their colonial masters by force of arms. Most of our heroes of that period died young. Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Del Pilar, Jacinto and others died before reaching 40. Even General Antonio Luna who died at fifty was relatively young. The past couple of years saw the production of movies about the lives of our heroes. First was Andres Bonifacio then followed by General Antonio Luna. Both movies were commercially successful and both were also critically acclaimed. Even those who normally did not go and watch Filipino movies were impressed and felt very proud of both movies.
Now, the life of General Gregorio del Pilar who died at the age 23 protecting the escape of President Emilio Aguinaldo in Tirad Pass is now apparently in production.
Next in line would perhaps be the life of Apolinario Mabini, an intellectual giant of his time who died of cholera at the age of 39 upon his return from exile from Guam. Several years ago, another Spanish- era move was also produced to rave reviews. The movie was Noli Me Tangere of Dr. Jose Rizal. Judging from the enthusiastic and patriotic response of the public to these types of movies, they seem to be asking for more. And why not? The people must be scanning the political horizon of the current generation of leaders in the country and cannot see anyone to be worthy of adulation. This is perhaps the reason why we have to go back more than a hundred years in search of heroes.
Producers of biopic movies must also remember not to overstretch the use of poetic license in portraying their heroes. They must try to keep as close as possible to proven history so that movie goers will be left to discern for themselves how events transpired during those trying and turbulent times in our history. It probably is not worth it to open old wounds. There are still many gray areas of the dynamics among the leaders of the revolution that remain unresolved to this day. The most famous of course were the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and General Luna. Up to now, there are questions on who did it, the reasons, and under whose orders.
Of all our revolutionary leaders, Emilio Aguinaldo lived the longest, dying at the age of 95 in 1964. But even he became President of the country at a young age of 29. Unfortunately, it is probably because he lived so long that the interpretation of events that happened during the revolution are sometimes not kind to him. Leadership conflicts when waging a revolutionary war is common place not only in this country but in other countries as well. It is probably a lot better to simply study the lives of our revolutionary heroes for what they lived for and tried to do for the nation and less on the conflicts that transpired.
But why make movies only of our revolutionary heroes? How about our more recent heroes? Our leaders during the independence movement from the United States and our heroes in the fight against the brutal Japanese occupation also deserve historical portrayals in the movies. Except for what we read in history books, we have not seen biopics of leaders like Quezon, Osmeña and others. Surely, movies about these leaders and what they did can be better appreciated if depicted in movies. We can also find other Filipinos who lived in more recent times who can equally inspire not only the youth but every Filipino to be proud of their country.
Let us continue to search for heroes. Happy New Year to one and all.