‘Na-Goyo’ ka ba? | Review of Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral

The movie made its point. Don’t put your luck on heroes, they are just human. Fine. But the least the movie could have done was show why Goyo was a hero in the first place. It assumed that del Pilar is as popularly known as Rizal and Bonifacio whose lives can be dissected and debated upon by the public. Del Pilar is rarely known. Demolishing him even before getting to know him is a disservice to the film’s audience who, like it or not, get their education in history from films like Heneral Luna. Take it from the millennials.

By YANNI ROXAS
Bulatlat.com

Don’t we, as audience, want to see ourselves in our heroes? To be inspired by their achievements, their love of country and the common good?

Having been awed by Heneral Luna, I rushed to see Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral on day one. Too bad I did not read the movie’s blurb: “a ruminative study on why we should be loyal to country, never to an idol.” Poor Gregorio del Pilar. All I knew about him was what my teacher in high school said before the days of google — the youngest general who fought the Americans, the hero of the Battle of Tirad Pass. So there I was, all eyes and ears on screen, ready to grab everything about him… only to see this hero fall. All heroes die anyway. But this movie killed whatever greatness there is in del Pilar.

The movie chose to focus on Goyo’s (del Pilar’s pet name) foibles and flaws even before it could show him in some heroic exploits. Apart from being a Lothario, Goyo’s image became to me an ass-licking dog of Emilio Aguinaldo, a would-be assassin of Antonio Luna, a leader whose youth seemed to go against him, a conflicted person fighting his inner demons. Sure there were words about loving and defending one’s country from Goyo’s lips but all these came to me as hollow.

Even the much-awaited battle of Tirad Pass showcased the Americans’ ingenuity and smartness in military tactics more than the Katipuneros’ resistance; yet even in this, a good number of Katipuneros were shown running away from battle. Goyo himself could not muster enough military skills to lead the battle except to say the Filipinos should build trenches. In the fighting scenes he seemed lost and, true enough, showed himself so conspicuously that an American marksman simply got his head.

The movie made its point. Don’t put your luck on heroes, they are just human. Fine. But the least the movie could have done was show why Goyo was a hero in the first place. It assumed that del Pilar is as popularly known as Rizal and Bonifacio whose lives can be dissected and debated upon by the public. Del Pilar is rarely known. Demolishing him even before getting to know him is a disservice to the film’s audience who, like it or not, get their education in history from films like Heneral Luna. Take it from the millennials.

Searching into his past, I chanced upon the real Gregorio del Pilar, months before his 23rd birthday, who led the fight against the Spaniards in 1899 and liberated the town of Paombong. For this reason he was called the Hero of Bulacan. The movie Goyo opened with Goyo already known as hero by the townsfolk in Nueva Ecija. This preceded his battle against the American colonizers on Tirad Pass, where he died at age 24.

Apparently the film insinuates that Goyo – the most favored one –got his title and promotion on the basis of his closeness to Aguinaldo. Whether this is fact or fiction is for the audience to decide. Many other messages ring true today, foremost of which is our leaders’ act of treason and subservience to America, abuse of power, human rights violations, and elite privileges. But the most stinging rebuke came from the great paralytic Mabini himself who shredded Aguinaldo to pieces, and by inference against del Pilar too, for leading the revolution like a “child’s play.”

Another thing bothered me, though. It is the continuing portrayal of the national minorities as cowards and traitors who would abandon the Katipuneros at the sound or sight of the enemy or would serve as trail guide for the Americans in defeating Goyo’s troops and ultimately meeting his death.

That Goyo was done by the same director of Heneral Luna brought a lot of quality to the film. The production design was meticulous, the cinematography was marvelous, and the actors were passionate in their own roles. Except perhaps for Paulo Avelino who as hero lacked tikas but generous in good looks, though if this is the intent, he does it superbly. Over-all, Goyo is a proud addition to Filipino quality films but its reason for being has left me dispirited.

Coming out of the cinema I felt “na-Goyo.” I would have wanted to be “na-Goyo” to mean loving the film, being excited and mesmerized, like the ladies who were swooning over Goyo. But the other meaning of ”na-Goyo” is what we all know – fooled, deceived, cheated, disappointed. My expectations were too high. Bring me back Heneral Luna, anytime. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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5 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Haven’t seen this one but from the review and comments, I think it worth watching. Going to see it this weekend. Thanks.

  2. For those who got disappointed, you must watch it the second time and you’ll get the different feeling. They did not strip Goyong’s heroism. It was all written in the history. Yung timeline na ginawa nila is after Heneral Luna’s death to Tirad Pass.. So naturally what they can show is just those months and it is written in our history and told by the historians. Goyo made me think of so many things. He had a long and rough road to be the hero that he was but he made it there. If remember the scene where Joven accidentally saw Goyong’s last entry to his Talaarawan. You can see that he is willing to die for our country alam nya na possibleng mamatay sya (accdg. sa diary nya), but he willingly do it for our country. They humanized the hero, they portray that like us they are human too 🙂

  3. Overall? It’s a great film. Though let’s remember that there’s really just a handful of sequels that lived up to the first film (like The Godfather). Most people that are disappointed are looking for a Henral Luna film, instead, they were given a different tone.

  4. Well said, Yanni. Agreed.

  5. Yes, it is about what had become of the hero. How he handled fame. For me, it wasn’t a disappointing film. I’d rather see him as a soldier who had done something good but failed to sustain it because of his attitude after he was elevated to his position.

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