Geek Film Review Vol. 1 No. 7: Unmasking a hero’s myth in “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”

Director: Jerrold Tarog
Writers: Jerrold Tarog, Rody Vera
Cast: Paulo Avelino, Carlo Aquino, Mon Confiado, Epy Quizon, Gwen Zamora, Empress Schuck, Alvin Anson, Rafa Siguion-Reyna
Production: TBA Studios, Artikulo Uno Productions, Globe Studios
Geek Rate: Sun god worthy (4 out of 5 stars)

helios-256I was a bit wary ever since Gregorio del Pilar was introduced as the next protagonist in Jerrold Tarog’s sequel to the commercially successful Heneral Luna. Tarog’s portrayal of Luna on his film placed the hero on a level of fame and familiarity enjoyed by Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Andes Bonifacio, and other heroes. Well perhaps not with the level of fame given to Dr. Jose Rizal, but the man was featured in a P10 commemorative coin and that says something about the driving power of Tarog’s movie which made a less known hero be ingrained in the minds of modern Filipinos.

Then there was del Pilar, or Goyo as he was fondly known, in yet another movie. As a history student who devoured any history books I could reach, I detest the young general. I’ve read enough of historical accounts about the Philippine-American War to conclude that Goyo’s fame and the admiration he was accorded are underserved. That was a bit harsh, but I feel that other heroes deserve such fame and admiration he was getting from our history teachers more than him.

The famous portrait of Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar as recreated in the movie. Photo courtesy of TBA STUDIOS

I proceeded to watch the sequel with a frown on my face, but Tarog again surprised me with his honest and imaginative take of events during the war. True, I should be gleeful that Goyo was somehow mocked and turned as a clown on this movie. But that was not the intention of Tarog, I am sure. By painting Goyo as what he truly was, the audience gets to know him better. Goyo was a young lucky rich boy whose youthful brashness during the Spanish garrison attack in Paombong made him famous, plus a stroke of luck when he relieved the wounded General Pantaleon Garcia, thus ensuring the rank of general when the Revolutionary Congress was inaugurated.  The myth was unmasked in the movie and the audience was forced to swallow a true painting of this young general we long admire, and I felt them squirm in their seats. The nail in the coffin was when Tarog revealed that his death was really a non-event, the much talked about Tirad Pass Battle shown as just a laughable attempt of a last stand, not a brilliant military technique.


I think it was the best thing that could happen to Gregorio del Pilar. By throwing away the excessiveness of his story, the excessiveness that almost always turn our heroes into somewhat weird Hollywood version of DC Super Heroes, by unmasking Goyo, we get to know the real general and realize that he was just a kid burdened by great expectations, hungry to prove himself while really just want to have fun. He was like us. By pulling him out of the pedestal, Tarog made Goyo an ordinary person susceptible to weaknesses, not to mock him, but to show his true self, all the while telling the audience that hey, this is your hero, accept his shortcomings and rejoice his achievements. By doing so, he also opened up the idea that we, ordinary folks, can be heroes too.

Compared to Heneral Luna, the sequel Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral was a bore in most parts. This is natural, Luna’s storyline was filled with battles while Goyo’s last five months before the American attack were just the calm before the storm. The result is that the sequel is much lighter, with occasional fun moments devoid of the usual expletives from Luna. The setting of the movie was great, not to mention the wardrobes and props used which provided that certain authenticity that will make the audience feel that they are in that era, relieving the past with the actors.


The movie also benefited from the strong performance of its cast, from Epy Quizon as Mabini, Mon Confiado as Aguinaldo to the fictional character of Joven Hernando played by Arron Villaflor. Paulo Avelino as Gregorio del Pilar was impeccable in his acting and deserves an applause (if not an award).

Though the movie is not that loyal to the real events of del Pilar’s story, it did not diminish the real storyline. I especially like the creation of Joven’s character as the storyteller, a character who did not, as others did in the past, interfere with the realness of the portrayed events.

After watching the movie, I now appreciate Goyo’s life more, as I saw the things that I detested about him in a new light. I long ignored his bravery and dismissed him as I read his name in history books. The scene where he seemingly woked up from slumber after reading the letter from Remedios Nable Jose, and the subsequent activities leading to the Tirad Pass Battle, lacked emotion it should have but successfully portrayed the young general and the qualities that led us to venerate him in the first place.


Like Heneral Luna, this sequel shows the conflicts within the Revolutionary Government of Aguinaldo, the unprofessionalism of his army, which shows the worst qualities of us Filipinos even when facing war. It was another slap on the face of the audience who before this believe that all Filipinos were united against the invading Americans. We should know better, it is still happening today. By turning the events into a comedy, Tarog managed to let the audience be uncomfortable with the truth. Slapping the masses who are too proud of our past battles because of the grandiose way it was written in history books, shaking the core of Filipinos who are used to glorifying personalities even though they just dance in parties, or swimming in a river even when a war was happening, or hide during a storm.

It was hard to take but those events were the truth. The sequel Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, took out the myths that surrounded the story of a young general, and of a young nation hell-bent on being proud of the wrong story. The movie shows us a true account of the Philippine-American War, devoid of any Superman-like story. Some are hard to swallow, but we need to accept the true accounts of those events. That was what this movie was telling us, that we should learn from the mistakes of the past, change those that made us ashamed of ourselves and be proud of what we are, the freedom we earned due to those battles, and what we are planning to achieve in the future.

Cover photo:

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