Modern Heroism: Finding Answers in Heneral Luna


“Bayan o sarili, pumili ka?!”  

Gen. Antonio Luna asked the question towards his fellow Philippine government officials, including Pres. Emlio Aguinaldo, during a heated scene in the movie HENERAL LUNA. The question was met with stunned silence. Not only did the fearless Antonio Luna question the officials’ true intentions, but the president’s leadership as well. It was one of the most gripping scenes in the film.

I, along with other SAFAD faculty and students, were fortunate to be invited for the special screening of ‘HENERAL LUNA’, two months before its theater’s release on September 9.

Here is the official trailer:

I was sat beside the historian, Alvin Campomanes, and the director, Jerrold Tarog. As soon as the closing credits rolled out, the movie was met with a standing ovation. I congratulated Jerrold and told him I enjoyed the film so much. It made me think.

I liked the movie because it felt pure in intention. It didn’t feel like a movie motivated by hidden agenda. It was a film made by creative freedom, not to push certain propaganda or political biases.

It made me think of the right questions, it disturbed my thoughts. It challenged my current perceptions of humanity and heroism. What is a hero? Do we need to die to be considered a hero? The concept of heroism in the Philippine context is always related to martyrdom, where death is necessary as a ‘means to an end’. Hence that line in our national anthem, ‘ang mamatay ng dahil sa’yo…’
Ang Mamatay ng Dahil Sa’yo

Look at our heroes: Gomburza. Dr. Jose Rizal. Andres Bonifacio. Ninoy Aquino. Leon Kilat. Fallen 44. What they have in common is a gruesome and untimely death. Would they have been considered a hero if they succumbed to something else, like cancer, or smallpox? (Well, Mabini did die of cholera, but you get my point)

How do you show your love for your country? Is it only by giving up your own life to fulfill an act of heroism?


Leni Velasco-Bicol, DAKILA Executive Director, could not have said it better: “Hindi na ito ang mamatay ng dahil sa’yo, pero ‘ang mabuhay ng dahil sa’yo… Because it is in the living that we can act and do something.”

Bayan o Sarili?

In the climax of the movie, Luna dramatically points out that there is a bigger enemy than the Americans: ourselves. It is ironic how fast forward to now, we are still posed with the same problems. Gen. Mascardo doesn’t want to follow the orders of Luna because he is not a fellow Caviteño. Military officers excused themselves from their positions because they need to attend a town fiesta. Filipinos prioritize their family first. Problems such as regionalism and crab mentality are shown in the film, proving that not much has changed in over a century.

History repeats itself—or is it us that unknowingly repeats history?


“We want to cultivate a generation of thinkers who care about where this country is headed.” Jerrold Tarog said. We awaken the youth to prevent the mistakes of our past. To disturb the peace, and stir the mind to ask the right questions.

And this, my friends, is the film’s greatest challenge.

What is DAKILA?

DAKILA is an artist’s collective founded by Lourd de Veyra, Noel Cabangon, Ronnie Lazaro, Buwi Meneses (Parokya ni Edgar), the late comedian Tado, and Leni Velasco, the executive director of Dakila.

DAKILA is a group of artists, students, and individuals committed to working together to creatively spark social consciousness formation towards social change.

DAKILA, along with Heneral Luna director Jerrold Tarog, historians Xiao Chua and Alvin Campomanes, professors and some cast members, has embarked on a nationwide roadshow and visited 40+ schools to hold the Bayani Ba To?: Heroism for Millennials school tour. The forum was held from June 24 – August 2015 and focused on history and heroism in today’s generation. Students were given a 12-minute preview of the film, official trailer and Ebe Dancel’s music video ‘Hanggang Wala Nang Bukas’.


Heneral Luna is a historical epic indie film directed by multi-awarded Jerrold Tarog (Confessional, Shake Rattle & Roll 12, 13, 15). The cast is led by John Arcilla (The Bourne Legacy) who portrays the main protagonist Gen. Antonio Luna; followed by some of the country’s seasoned film, TV and theatre actors: Joem Bascon, Ketchup Eusebio, Archie Alemania, Nonie Buencamino, Epy Quizon, Mylene Dizon, Art Acuña, Ronnie Lazaro, with special participation of Paulo Avelino as Gregorio del Pilar.

The film follows General Antonio Luna as the military commander trying to defend the country from a new and hungry colonial master: the Americans.

Heneral Luna is a planned trilogy, which hopes to tell the stories of Gregorio del Pilar and Manuel Quezon next. Heneral Luna opens on September 9, 2015 in theaters nationwide.


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