Movie and History

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I WAS at the cinema to see ‘El Presidente’, a film about Emilio Aguinaldo and the Philippine Revolution directed by Mark Meily.
I got two reasons. The lead role was played by a new friend, Laguna Gov. Jeorge E.R. Estregan Ejercito. His wife, Mayor Maita Javier of Pagsanjan, is a Silaynon and an alumna of Silay Institute. We met twice, in Silay and in Dakak. The next is I want to see how history is fitted in a movie.

Well, the movie is a movie. I was not expecting for the impossible. EP is a period movie, very expensive when it comes to production and props. I am not rating the movie just like what happened in the Metro Manila Film Festival. I enjoyed the movie. It is loaded with research in history (controversial or otherwise). It is peppered with fairytale-like situations, comic relief in serious scenes, good acting by veteran actors who were purposely inserted. I took pleasure in listening to Spanish conversations having weird accent sometimes. The prosthetics could also be amusing.

Nora Aunor of ‘Thy Womb’ fame had a surprising role as the second wife of El Presidente. She came as a gift or a curse. Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, the movie is a good marketing strategy for the re-election of Gov. E.R. To be fair with him, he brought the Province of Laguna to where it is now. In person, the Guv is very charismatic and he donated a handsome amount through Mayor Maita for the improvement of Silay Institute stage.

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The story of Philippine revolution is loaded with confusions, intrigues, political bickering, power struggles, backdoor diplomacies, midnight deals, heroic rivalries and there were amounts promised to be paid to the revolutionaries by Spain… 800,000 pesos in three installments: 400,000 upon the exile of Aguinaldo; 200,000 after the revolutionaries surrendered their arms; 200,000 when the general amnesty is declared in the country. Just like politics now, revolution was good business.

Just like in a drama, a revolution had a protagonist and an antagonist. Bonifacio or Aguinaldo could be the traitor. Events would always depend on who is writing history. Historians have their own biases. My favorite historian, Ambeth Ocampo, believes that June 12, 1898 marked the declaration of independence which is different from the attainment of actual independence. The year 1898 reminds us that it is one thing to gain independence and quite another to know what to do with that independence.

It was Pres. Diosdado Macapagal who changed the date of our independence from July 4 to June 12. Probably, Macapagal does not want that we will just be always under the baton of Uncle Sam.
Aguinaldo did not read the Declaration of Independence; his adviser Ambrosio Rianzares was tasked. There was no Independence Balcony in 1898. That was constructed in 1919 only. It can be argued that Aguinaldo was not the First President of the Philippines on June 12, 1898. He was a Dictator in a Dictatorial Government.
Andres Bonifacio was giving the impression that he was the president of the government, founder of the Katipunan, and initiator of the revolution. Of course, the Magdalo and the Magdiwang (as shown in the movie) had their meeting in Tejeros to establish a revolutionary government that would replace the Katipunan. That was very controversial and that controversy made our brave leaders very confused.

Historians and students of history may have their own interpretation. To agree with history, we must have the proofs. The late Teodoro Agoncillo said, “No documents, no history!” Read your history books. See the movie, ‘El Presidente’. Enjoy a good day. After all, the events in history may serve as the mirror of the future.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 05, 2013.

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