A primer on Gregorio del Pilar

I have to raise a toast to Jerrold Tarog, TBA Studio’s Fernando Ortigas, E.A.Rocha and actor Paulo Avelino for their audacity to produce a film based on some historical personality that has been granted the label as a national hero for, naturally, being a prominent personality during the Philippine-American war.

Like a pop star, he had been known as “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.”

A primer on Gregorio del Pilar
Paulo Avelino as Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral
In Philippine film history, costume dramas, of films loosely based on events in Philippine history, have long been considered box-office poison, suffering generally from comparisons to well-produced, better researched, brilliantly executed films from Hollywood and other western countries.

Yet, the local audience’s response to TBA’s Heneral Luna (that Tarrog also wrote, edited, and directed) three years ago, gave Ortigas and Rocha enough reason to invest in another historical screen tableau.

And last Thursday, Aug. 30, the film premiered at the SM Megamall Cineplex, screening in three cinemas for history enthusiasts, the movie press and bloggers, friends of the producers, members of the production (both crew and performers) and others who believe that the local film industry has hopes to be of global consequence, despite and in spite of the limitations local financial resources have given on any attempt to be at par with the world’s dominant film industries.

So, the audience in the three screens watched Paulo Avelino as Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, and Tarogs paean to possibly the best looking in Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army.

It has been three years after Heneral Luna, and Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral has been a much-awaited follow up.

Set during the Philippine-American war, the film picks up where Heneral Luna ends. It seems as if Tarog finds another subject worthy to tell the story, he shifts the camera’s focus on another personality of the revolution as it marches on against the Americans after the death of Gen. Antonio Luna.  

Unlike Heneral Luna’s dramatic flow of his narrative leading to his murder be fellow revolutionaries upon the orders of Aguinaldo, Ang Batang Heneral, doesn’t have the same intense conflict to make the audience cheer or hate him.

Tarog said in an interview, earlier that this film is “lyrical, like a poem.” Indeed, it is as the film runs for nearly two hours where Del Pilar has no major dramatic encounters with the films other characters. We relied on the musings of Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon) and scenes with Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado) to make out the narrative flow of the film.

“We expect people to get a terrific ebb and flow of emotional reactions that will deal in an indelible memory or experience,” Rocha said. “The Filipino audience can expect a world-standard, a world-class cinema I hope they appreciate and realize that we put out the necessary budget and effort to give the Filipino moviegoers the best film that we think they deserve.”

Tarog is no Oliver Stone (Alexander, 2004; Nixon.1995); JFK.1991) who agitates the audience to thinking critically whether the personality he is exploring needs empathy or indifference. 

Tarog simply lays out what he has found out about Gregorio del Pilar, and he infers he has demons that he had to confront and fears he had to overcome, like his own death.

“We had to give Jerrold his vision. We knew from the beginning that ‘Goyo’ had to be much bigger than ‘Luna’. It is an epic story,” Ortigas said. “As the producers, whatever Jerrold needed for the set, it was there.”

To put to life director Tarog’s vision for Goyo’s story to the big screen, production employed talents and a cast of over 2,000 and built an entire movie set to recreate a late-1800s town in Tarlac. 

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral was shot in 60 days in multiple locations like Tarlac, Bataan, Rizal, Batangas, and Ilocos, among others, in a span of eight months, with an extra year spent in pre-production. 

When asked why the story of Gregorio del Pilar is important to be told in today’s time, the director has this to say:

“In many ways, ‘yung kwento ni Goyo, para siyang a call to critical thinking. Kinukwestiyon niya yung sarili niya, kinukwestiyon niya kung bakit ginagawa ito. And in a way, ‘yun din ‘yung magiging tanong ng audience kapag lumabas sila ng sinehan,” Jerrold said. “Ano ba talaga yung pinaglaban ni Goyo? Pag-ibig ba? Si Aguinaldo ba? O yung bayan? I think magandang pag-isipan yun nung audience, especially ng kabataan.”

This film also marks TBA Studios’ first movie co-production with Globe Studios.

Paulo’s performance as Goyo is antithetical to Tarog’s vision of him as a pop star during the revolution. He seems an introvert, unassertive unless pushed to the ground, and as a general (thanks to Aguinaldo who recognized his loyalty more than his military skills (although he is known as the hero of Bulakan, Tarog doesn’t give the audience a hint why and how). In the climax sequence leading to his death as a marksman fells him to the ground, we see him as less stellar in military tactics; failing as he shouldn’t in understanding Tirad’s topography.

Memorable performances, apart from Avelino, were those of Carlo Aquino as Col. Vicente Enriquez, and Rafa Siguion-Reyna as Col. Julian del Pilar, Gregorio’s brother.

Gwen Zamora’s mestiza features are distracting as Remedios Nable Jose so were Empress Schuck’s as Felicidad Aguinaldo, although both are competent in their roles.

Mon Confiado as Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo is satisfactory, and Epy Quizon as Apolinario Mabini is remarkable.

The audience should watch Alvin Anson as Gen. Jose Alejandrino, and Art Acuña as Manuel Berna, delivering perhaps the most interesting performances in the film.

Though I can’t say much about Ronnie Lazaro as Lt. Pantaleon Garcia, Perla Bautista as Doña Trinidad Aguinaldo, and Benjamin Alves as Lt. Manuel Quezon whose appearances are very brief for me to absorb.

Arron Villaflor as Joven Hernando has a lengthy but unremarkable exposure. It reminds me of Steven Spielberg’s Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies) in Saving Private Ryan.

Also in the cast are Jojit Lorenzo, Tomas Santos, Carlo Cruz, Che Ramos, Matt Evans, RK Bagatsing, Karl Medina, Stephanie Sol, Miguel Faustmann, Jason Dewey, Bret Jackson, Ethan Salvador, and Robert Seña.

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is supported by several government agencies from across the country, including the National Council for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Department of Education (DepEd), and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).

At the film’s slated gala premiere, FDCP head Liza Diño-Seguerra, chairing its Invitational Committee, asked the audience to continue supporting Filipino films.

Topics: Jerrold Tarog , TBA Studio , Fernando Ortigas , E.A.Rocha , Paulo Avelino , Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral
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