A few weeks ago, thousands of people flocked to the nearest cinemas to watch Jerold Tarog’s latest masterpiece, Heneral Luna. The movie immediately begins with a highly-dramatic scene wherein Aguinaldo’s cabinet are debating about the presence of Americans in the country — are they friends or foes? The scene sets the tone as to how each character will have an impact in the life and death of “Heneral Artikulo Uno”. More importantly, the first scene foreshadows how each character will shape Philippine history as important figures during that time. Several commentaries liken these historical figures to present-day Filipino politicians. Personally, I agree with some of the comparisons. Present day Philippine society is indeed no different from Aguinaldo’s cabinet back then. There are those who use their influence for their own personal economic benefit. There are also those who are so drunk with power that they will do everything to stay on top no matter what the cost may be. Of course, there are some who stand firm by their principles and are selfless enough to sacrifice their lives for the sake the homeland. The youth is also well-represented in the movie. The youth that is hopeful, curious and critical as exemplified in the person of Joven Hernando. And then there is the most important “character” in the film; the one that gives meaning to all of John Arcilla’s highly-emotional, poignant scenes — the audience.
Heneral Luna would not have been as big as it is now were it not for its successful conversation with its audience. The movie, through its script, actors, and cinematography, spoke volumes of the Philippines as a nation and how we must move forward. The movie leaves us with a bittersweet ending; a juxtaposition between the greatness of this nation and the corruption of Philippine society. Although not explicit, the movie obliges us to answer a question that we must ask ourselves — Bayan o Sarili? As future Atenean lawyers, the answer must be simple for us: Bayan. An Ateneo education will be put to waste if we do not harness our skills and talents for the benefit of our motherland. With the 2016 elections coming up, let us remember this compelling question. Regardless of who we support and vote for, let us ask ourselves whether, through our choice, we are emulating Heneral Luna by choosing Bayan Bago Sarili. P