Movie Review: El Presidente on MMFF

On December 25, 2012, the annual 38th Metro Manila Film Festival was officially opened. Among the entries were the 14th annual segment of Shake, Rattle and Roll, One More Try, Sisterakas, El Presidente, etc. I have watched the historical based film El Presidente directed by Mark Meilly.

Considering the visual effects, musical score, the roster of actors and actresses, and the technical aspects of the movie, it was classy and above average. The cinematography was as I expected for a classic historical film but pretty much plain at some parts and overrated on other parts but the rest of the movie was enjoyable. The roster of actors and actresses were star-studded, some are known as politicians and others, known in the field of theater arts. Some of the settings in the movie were fictitious and far from the real deal like their battle position on the Tirad Pas and the shooting locations in Cavite but that’s not an issue worth prying into. It’s just that, for some reason, it’s misleading. The costumes and transformation of the set into the historical event period is quite correct but some little details that I’ve encountered like during and after the fights, it’s as if the actors haven’t even fought yet. The actors have no sweat or even the facial expressions are quite bland. The fight scenes are non realistic, quite slow motioned and boring.

One of the most intriguing scenes for me is when Emilio Aguinaldo was a Cabeza De Barangay when he was in his teen years and they’ve come across an old woman in the far and isolated parts of the province of Cavite. Did it really happen? And I still don’t get the symbolism of the item he was given. How was he protected by the said cloth? How has that helped him win his battles? Did he even wear it once? Moving on, the movie was too political. In reality, as we’ve known the real Emilio Aguinaldo was not really that interested in politics but in the movie, he concentrated pretty much on politics. His whole life as shown in the movie was geared towards politics.

The movie, as expected was commercialized and product placement is very obvious. Yes, sponsors are very much important in producing such expensive film and advertising via frame rate per second in a movie is one of the reasons there is product placement. And the movie is a very big political advertisement. I’ve noticed that the movie, almost the 2-hour period was focused on the face of Ejercito. It’s such a big factor for the Estrada family being the limelight of this movie because actors are not only involved in showbiz but in politics as well. They will be the benefactor of this because they can use this to lure more people into falling for their endeavors for the coming election. In short, the movie is one heck of political paraphernalia.

Critique: Guerilla Movement in Morong, Rizal

The author, Analyn B. Muñoz, is a UP Professor and a historian. I’ve heard nothing much about her but when I tried to research about her background, I’ve come across sites which showed that she’s also written articles about the Morongueño particularly the women’s roles in the guerilla movement. So I guess with that being said, she had much basis to say something about the article which involves the Guerillas in Morong, Rizal. The article involves an aspect in the Philippine history where in Filipinos engaged to battle to defend our land from the colonizers particularly, the guerilla way. The scope of the article however, focuses only on one particular location, Morong, Rizal at the time of the World War II. On a more detailed perspective, the scope also limited the time to when the Japanese Forces tried to invade the Philippines. At this time, the Guerilla Movement was born.

What is “Guerilaismo”? It is a borrowed term for the Spanish language “Guerrilla” which means “small battle”. It is not the usual battle that involves complete battle gears and what not. It involves wit, strategy and stealth in order to out brain the enemy (definitely the one who has more power). Basically, the Guerrilla movement was established because of the ideology of the Filipinos who suffered from the brutal hands of the Japanese colonizers. The people wanted to break free of the cruel fate that awaits them if nothing is to be done. Though the idea of it is kind of avenging their lost dignity and the suffering from the hands of the Japanese, the organization grew stronger because the underlying agenda is to achieve freedom from the colonizers, and the individual became collective. The members don’t just think of their own good but willingly sacrifices their lives for the good of the people.

The land of Morong is a part of the province of Rizal. In this article, the author describes the land area that it covered from the time of the Spaniards to the present era. The land of Morong was really big and therefore, it is an ideal hide out for a movement which later on became big in number. It is also ideal because it has a lot of resources like food a perfect place to build a camp—since it’s secluded from the central control area of the colonizers. From a really big land area (at the time of the Spanish era), the Morong lost control of some “bayan” in the coming of years as some of them like Binangonan and Cardona became a separate entity. People there also make a living as farmers, domesticators and fishermen. Thus, it makes perfect sense. They are unsuspecting because of their simple lifestyle.

Morong became the last place to surrender to the Spanish colonizers way back then even during the time of the Katipunan—before the founding of Guerrilla movement. Because of the undying love and passion of the Morongueños, they have fought once again for the country. The Guerrillas became part of the forces of the Filipino who fought the Japanese invaders at the same time being alert and vigilant on their territorial boundaries to protect their own people. This shows that the Filipinos are passionate and unselfish. They think of the collective good and willingly sacrifices for it. When the Japanese came in contact with the Morongueños, they introduced themselves as friends to their people. However, the Morongueños did not bite especially when they have heard of the story of the Bataan Death March. Those incidents of maltreatment and inhumane acts of the Japanese made the Filipinos rise and fight them more than they want to ally with them.

In the middle parts of the article, the author talked about the founding of the Guerrilla Movement. Marking’s Guerrilla was led by Marcos “Marking” Villa Agustin. He wasn’t a Morongueño but he was part of the USAFFE as a driver. He was just doing his job when the Japanese captures the convoys and he suffered a great deal at the hands of the Japanese. He was able to escape. During his escape, he met other people who had suffered the same thing and thus it gave birth to the group “Marking’s Guerrillas”.

The fact that the Morongueños opened their homes and helped the Marking’s Guerrillas made me think that the Filipinos still value our cultures and traditions from long ago. That even if the colonizers have invaded, changed our ways and stained our culture, we can still identify the cultures true to a Filipino. The selflessness, even in the face of danger, has made the Filipino stronger and bolder. Also, the youth also has something to contribute in the community. They are the most unsuspecting along with the women because they are viewed as incapable of harm to the colonizers. Perfect disguise indeed, however at such a young age, the youth have already been exposed to danger depending on their age and capacity, they work on what they could like doing house chores and helping the elders after a day at the mountains. That didn’t stop the Filipinos though. They still fight for the good of everyone. This also shows that the Filipinos are hard working and they don’t stop fighting until they meet their victory. Even at a young age, the youth are trained to be helpful and obedient. At a certain time, the youth also became observers and reports to the elders what is happening around them because as I’ve mentioned, they are unsuspecting because they look innocent with age.

Women have been equal with men too, in this organization. They have their own way of helping out. To prove they are as important, it is said in the article that the wife of Marking, Yay Panlilio has been by his side leading the women’s group. As mentioned, Yay became his ‘agimat’ because she’s lead well the organization and has been very efficient in terms of running the organization from the inside affairs. As Yay being a good example, the women are thought to be well respected and equal to the men in the organization. It shows how important the role of the women in the success of the group. That’s also one of the cultures of the Filipinos, the equality of both genders, unlike the practice of the Spaniards where the women were under the power of men. I think one of the highlights of this article besides the war and everything is the role and importance of women; Women empowerment and social responsibility in a sense that women can also do what men can do. They are the power behind men’s success. They also have the power at the democracy like in their organization, collectively as Filipinos as well.

When the Japanese found out about the organization, they ordered the putting up of a “bamboo army” in which it has not come to their knowledge that the people they have recruited are also the guerrillas they were hunting down. This show how cunning the Filipinos are even if they lack ammunitions and such. Before the Americans came back, the Guerrillas were given an order by Gen. McArthur to lie-low so that the tension between the Japanese and the Filipinos will cease. When the Americans saw that Morong was already at the hands of the Morongueños, the Americans fled the area. At this point, the Americans still respect the place as a Filipino territory and thus, they did not touch base.

So in the end, this article has talked about the intended scope and limitations specified above and it was well written and organized. There is no obvious bias in the article and it’s been validated with proper citing and facts relative to the version of history in some well known authors. It has also touched the importance of Guerrilla warfare in the Philippine history and the roles of the Morongueños—especially the focus on women and at some point, the youth—and the importance of their land in the establishment and the success of the organization.