Sionil Jose on ‘Heneral Luna’: Filipinos are arrogant, shallow, but heroic
IF there was one thing that Jerrold Tarog’s highly acclaimed film “Heneral Luna” revealed, it would be the failure of Filipinos as a people.
In his opening remarks during a special screening of the historical movie on Saturday, National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose said the biopic should spark some “soul-searching” among Filipinos to identify “what is wrong with us.”
“The conclusion of many who have seen this film—actually I don’t have to see it but I want to—is one, kasalanan natin lahat. In the end, it’s all our fault. That requires us to engage in real soul searching and ask ourselves what is wrong with us,” Jose told about 80 moviegoers, mostly students, at Glorietta 4 in Makati City.
But Jose, who researched on the Philippine-American War for the historical setting of his novel “Po-on,” said he long knew what Filipinos had been doing wrong all along.
“Matagal ko nang alam ang sagot diyan. Number one, we are sobra nang yabang. Mayabang na mayabang ang Pinoy. Number two, as if corollary to that, we are very shallow,” Jose said.
A reflection of this shallowness, he said, was the country’s political system, particularly the electoral process.
“We have shallow people wanting to be senators and presidents. Itong mga tao na ito, hindi nag-iisip. But the people themselves are also very shallow because they vote for them,” Jose said.
The 90-year-old national artist said the same arrogance and shallowness caused revolutions in the past to fail.
“That to me explains why the revolution of 1896 failed, why the Hukbalahap uprising in 1949, ’53 failed, why the New People’s Army has failed, and why even the Moros themselves nagkakawatak-watak sila. We are a very, very divided people. So we must look in those areas where we can be united, not those areas that emphasize our separateness,” he said.
But noting that “there is no nation without memory,” Jose said there was one trait that Filipinos could be proud of, as also revealed by history.
“In spite of all these and I hope this picture will show to you how right I am, there are several things going on for us. Number one, we have a revolutionary tradition. Number two, we are a young people and a young nation full of fire in our bellies, and finally, the distinguishing value of us as a people, of this we can be proud anytime, we are heroic,” Jose said.
“It’s up to us if we want to develop this nation, to hold its memory preciously, and have it embedded in our subconscious,” he added.
Jose was editor in chief of the Solidarity journal, where historian Dr. Vivencio Jose’s articles on Gen. Antonio Luna appeared. The latter Jose is the author of “The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna,” a book where Tarog based his film.
Produced by Artikulo Uno Productions, Tarog’s Heneral Luna has been chosen as the Philippines’ bet in the 2016 Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Now on its third week of screening, the film breached the P140-million mark in box office on Monday despite initial fears that it would be pulled out early to give way to foreign and more mainstream local films. Yuji Vincent Gonzales/AC
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