If the point about the study of history is to learn enough about the past so as not to repeat it, it should be more than obvious that what happened in Philippine history has never been quite understood or even widely known, the present being so obviously a repetition of the past. Those students’ wonderment after they had seen “Heneral Luna” over why Mabini was always sitting down speaks volumes about the current state of historical awareness among Filipinos—and condemns the country’s schools for their failure to impart to the young even the most basic information about the past.
Watching one movie won’t change that. But “Heneral Luna” is enjoying an unexpected, continuing run in cinemas across the country, hopefully indicating some interest in Philippine history, particularly that part of it that historians generally describe as the “second phase” of the Philippine Revolution.
TONDO is in the popular mind Manila’s workers’ district, although some sociologists point out, as they did when Manuel Villar was running for President in 2010 and hoping to win by passing himself off as poor, that it has never been all-proletarian, being home also to professionals and small traders. The myth persists, however, and Tondo-born Andres Bonifacio, whose birth the Philippines marks every November 30th with a holiday, is traditionally referred to as the country’s working-class hero.
The label’s both cliché as well as meant to distinguish him from such of the country’s heroes as Rizal the Ilustrado, and rural-gentry landowner Emilio Aguinaldo, whose own stature as hero has been diminished by his role in Bonifacio’s execution.
Jose Rizal had a girl in almost every port. Antonio Luna had a vile temper that cost him his life. Andres Bonifacio didn’t win any battles. And Ninoy Aquino was the quintessential trapo until the system he had served so well arrested, tried, and killed him.
Rizal’s intelligence, and quite possibly his charm, led to his, by pre-Joseph Estrada standards, phenomenal success with women — a multinational nine during his 35 years of life, according to historians. Certain worthies think a romantic, not to mention a sexual, side unworthy of heroism, and frown on this side of Rizal. But by common consent as well as US legislative fiat, Rizal’s not only a hero, but the national one as well (he was so declared during the US colonial regime).