By YANNI ROXAS
I thought I was going to another historical film na pinatay na naman ang bida (where the protagonist was killed) and leave me sad, sour and hopeless. Had “Gomburza” the movie not won second place at the 49th Metro Manila Film Festival I would not have bothered. But curiosity got the better of me.
“Gomburza” lacked the flair of “Heneral Luna” and the romanticism of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.” Neither could it be compared to “Gomburza” the rock musical some decades ago that mesmerized its audiences with the power vocals and charisma of the legendary Boy Camara, combined with the talents of Ray-An Fuentes and Marco Sison to complete the trio.
“Gomburza” the movie, however, was closer to history as much as it could, even using Spanish as the predominant language that could put one’s 24 units of Spanish credits to shame. However, the English captions and the Tagalog words injected into the conversations (yes, even a smattering of Latin) put the patriotic message across in the most authentic way, marking the film indeed as a tribute to “Los Filipinos”, once called the creoles and the Indios in the islands of the Philippines.
Though despised by their full-blooded Spanish conquerors, the indios and creoles claimed the right to be called Filipinos, citizens or nationals of the country to which they were born.
From the very start, the film was a no-nonsense and brought back viewers to the dark days of the country’s history under Spanish rule. Even the cinematography was quite gloomy as it foreboded despair and sufferings for its heroes. Women roles were also minuscule as the era signified patriarchy in all types of authority from the state, church, school to home. Attempts at reforms and liberalism were no match to colonial dictates, friar abuse, and forced labor.
Beneath all these was a a deep-seated cultural disdain by conquerors for half-Spanish Filipinos, but far worse treatment for indios or native Filipinos. They were never seen or treated as equals by Spaniards who prided themselves as being born in motherland Spain.
Hence secularization of parishes by local priests, even by creoles, was seen as a threat to the wealth, dominion and power both of Spanish-led religious congregations and Spanish royal authorities in the Philippines. Any movement towards autonomy, self-determination or independence must be nipped in the bud. Slander, fake news, disinformation, violence, arrests, jails and death by garrote (strangulation with an iron collar) awaited those who were deemed defying authority, unjustly tagging them as rebels, even if they were men of cloth.
In a dictatorship, any cry at reforms is ultimately deemed an insurrection or rebellion. The Gomburza priests were charged with such but were never involved, never instigated, never planned nor masterminded the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. It was a military revolt by some 200 Filipino soldiers and workers in a Spanish garrison in Cavite because, being originally not covered, were ordered to pay personal taxes and render polo or forced labor.
The revolt was immediately quelled but gave reason to Spanish authorities to suppress all those suspected of opposing the Spanish crown, including the Gomburza priests who were advocating secularization. The mutiny triggered the series of events that led to the founding of the Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the success of which ushered the first Philippine Republic under Emilio Aguinaldo.
The last few minutes of the film, at the execution scene when Fr. Jose Burgos was the last to be garroted but stood up and shouted a stirring “Walang hustisya” (no justice) – then followed by bursting scenes of Jose Rizal turning towards the firing squad as shots rang at Bagumbayan and the Katipuneros racing towards victory with flag and weapons at hand –a frenzy of patriotic fervor somehow swept the movie crowd and erupted into applause. Right on the screen, too, was an 11-year old Jose Rizal with his brother Ponciano Mercado, a dutiful student and admirer of Fr. Burgos, witnessing the public killing of Gomburza.
Years later, the martyred priests certainly affected and inspired Rizal to the point that he dedicated his book El Filibusterismo to Gomburza.
The movie is filled with the learnings of history. More importantly, it resonates with the current situation in the country today, such that youths were seen flocking to the theatre. “This is the kind of history that I wanted to see,” a millennial was heard saying.
At the awards night Pepe Diokno emerged as winner of best director while lead actor Cedrick Juan was adjudged best actor. Thanks to its stars and crew, not only is “Gomburza” an artistic success but becoming a popular choice as well. Truth is, patriotism draws audiences. Hopefully this inspires the production of a slew of historical films that not only raises the bar of Philippine cinema but continues to educate audiences and nurtures love of country as well.