The General, The Boy, and The Flag

Heneral Luna is a historical film directed by Jerrold Tarog, narrating Antonio Luna’s experiences during the Filipino-American War. The film did not only depict Luna’s life, but also recreated the reality the Philippines faced during those times that strongly mirror present issues today.

The film begins with a young journalist interviewing the infamous general. In a dim room, we encounter the 3 main characters of the film.

First is, of course, the titular Heneral Luna. He is famous for his temper and occasional madness. He once rode alone in the middle of a battlefield, threatened his own men, gathered 4000 people to build a trench for him, got himself a train and threw out all the passengers inside it, and even arrested some of the first leaders of the country and his fellow general at one point. He feared no one and even the Americans were astounded by his character and thought highly of him.

He was a furious man and he directed his fury forwards in order to create change because he loved his country, furiously and grudgingly. He saw the real problem that we fail to see or perhaps, choose not to, but he loved his country all the same.

The second important character in the story is Joven, a young journalist of La Independencia (also published by Antonio Luna himself). He interviews the general and through their exchanges, we gradually understand the root problems of our country and culture. Joven was pretty much like the viewer himself or far more accurately, the youth, naive and innocent of the things happening behind the scenes.

We see him change as he travels with the general from stories to reality when he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a battlefield and witnesses what a real war looks like. His character was so powerful for me because at the end of the film, we see the young man almost in tears realizing what Luna had been fighting for and the precious ideal that died along him. He saw the real war before us; Us.

Last but not the least, the third character of the film– the Philippine Flag, first seen displayed on a wall behind Heneral Luna as he talks to the young journalist. His wore the flag’s sun on his uniform, believing that it will unite everyone. We first see the flag as clean and immaculate as Aguinaldo’s white suit but as the film progressed, it became torned and stained. As Aguinaldo’s cold face and lies fade from the screen, we see the flag to its final desecration as it burns into ashes.

The flag symbolized the people who fought for change, as Luna did; the people who hoped and were betrayed, as Joven had been; the greedy and coward, as Buencamino was; the self-serving, as Aguinaldo was.

‘We killed him,’ Joven cries to the flag.

The flag was us.

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