Bangsa Moro, current events, History

Federalism for All: Chance for lasting Peace

The Mindanao problem is ultimately a POWER problem – the power of one group over another. It is a problem of colonization. The fact that there was a law called the Legislative Act 4197 or Quirino-Recto Colonization of Mindanao Act, which was enacted on 12 February 1935 is very telling. The Commonwealth considered the Act as a lasting solution to Mindanao colony. The law enabled a massive exodus of settlers from Luzon and Visayas to Mindanao, with complete government support.

Partly in response to the Act, on 18 March 1935, 150 Maranao datus and sultans signed a manifesto, known as the Dansalan Declaration, and submitted it to the US President. The datus and sutans opposed the annexation of Mindanao to Luzon and Visayas.

A year and a half later, Commonwealth President Quezon signed into law Commonwealth Act 141 which classified all Moro lands as PUBLIC LANDS, thus making all the Moros squatters in their own homeland.

Today, the social reality constructed by the Filipino leaders since the Commonwealth, supported by the vast resources of the government, has now been fairly entrenched such that the word Colonization or Occupation of Mindanao seems out of place.

The Philippine narrative that is the bedrock of the imagined Philippine nation goes something like this:

The Philippines is one country and until recently, the only Christian nation in Asia. It has minorities, who are also citizens of this nation-state. The citizens are called Filipinos. They belong to one race, one culture, one psychology, one destiny, one history. Those who do not think they should be a part of this nation-state have no choice because there is only one country, the Philippines. The fundamental law of the land is its Constitution.

The media constantly reinforces this narrative. In “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao”(Q.C.:2000), top journalists Vitug and Gloria says:  “Mindanao was part of the Philippines ever since the Spanish colonizers came and created boundaries in what were formerly trading networks”


History is “the act of selecting, analyzing and writing about the past. It is something that is done, that is constructed.” (Davidson and Lytle 1982)

The grand historical narrative is this:

first massThe Archipelago is nothing but a bunch of barangays ruled by datus. “Mother Spain” came to the Philippines and gave the natives Christianity and civilization – education, language, the arts, architecture and even cuisine.

For 350 years, the Spanish nurtured the people and protected them from the murderous raids of the Moros – the pirates


Throughout the Spanish rule in the Philippines, the term Filipino was reserved for pureblood Spaniards, differentiated only as peninsulares (those born in the Spanish Peninsula) and insulares (those born in the Islands). The Christianized natives were never called Filipinos. They were referred to as indios or naturales. Even the mestizos (half-breeds) were not called Filipinos.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Governor-General Clavecilla ordered all indios (except Manila’s local nobility, i.e., descendants of Rajah Suleiman and Lakandula) to adopt Spanish names in pain of punishment if they refused to do so. Thus, present-day Filipinos bear Spanish names. Having a Spanish name does not make one a Spaniard.

When the Aguinaldo government appropriated the term Filipino for the indios, the

europeanized indios
Europeanized Indios

identification with the Spanish masters became complete. In one semantic stroke, the history of the Philippines became the history of the indios (the present-day Christian Filipinos) and not of the Spaniards (the original Filipinos).

This is a grave malady. By appropriating the name Filipino, the present-day Filipinos think that the Filipinos referred to in history indicate them and not the Spaniards. This makes them identify with the Spanish, forgetting that under Spain, their forefathers were virtual slaves – mandated to do forced labor and were considered eternal minors.

Leon Ma. Guerrero, one of the elites who constructed the “imaginary nation” called Filipino nation, had a hard time translating Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere. In the novel, Rizal used the word Filipino to mean Spaniards in the Philippines which was incomprehensible to most readers in the 1950s who were brought up to believe that the term Filipino meant them, i.e. Christianized natives. Benedict Anderson (1994) wrote :

“…young Filipinos would at once see, in any straight translation from the Spanish, that they do not exist within the novel’s pages. Filipinasof course appear, but they are exactly what today’s Filipinas are not: ‘pure-blood’ Spanish Creoles.”

Guerrero, in his attempt to fit the Noli into the elites’ “nation-state project”, effectively noli me tangererevised history. The Filipinos in Guerrero’s translation considered both Spain and Philippines as homes, worshiped European-looking deities, spoke foreign languages, alluded to Greco-Roman classical mythology and fell in love with Caucasian ladies. References to colonial abuse were rendered bland and ineffective. And since the modern-day Filipinos believe that they (or their forefathers) were the ones referred to in the book, it is but natural for them to imbibe the thoughts and beliefs of the Noli’s characters. In effect, Guerrero re-wrote theNoli. Jose Rizal must have turned in his grave when the translation was published and made required reading for Filipino students.

And so the confusion of the modern-day Filipinos’ identity continues. The historical narrative continues as such:

In 1896, Bonifacio and the Katipunan revolted against the Spanish. In 1898, with the assistance of Commodore Dewey, Aguinaldo defeated the Spaniards and proclaimed Independence. Soon after, the Philippine-American War erupted and by 1902, it was officially over. Philippines became an American territory.

New Filipino leaders – Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, etc. – emerged. America bestowed democracy to the Philippines. America pacified Mindanao. Quezon et al worked for Independence. America declared a Commonwealth and gave Filipinos self-government. World War II came and Filipinos fought side by side with Americans against Japanese. After WWII, America granted Philippine Independence. And the Philippines is now a democratic republican nation with a homogeneous people and culture, thanks to Mother America

In short, the Moros and Christian Filipinos were colonized by the Spaniards and Americans and they share the same colonial history. The only difference is that the Moros were mostly bandits and so had to be punished (Spanish “punitive expeditions”) every so often, as the grand narrative goes.

And since Philippine history books recounting events from 1521- 1886 were about the Spaniards in the Philippines including Philippine literature like Noli Me Tangere, the Filipinos identify with the Spaniards.

The Christianized Filipinos’ (or Indios’) historical experience with the Moros was fret with horrors. Caught between the Moros and the Spaniards, the Indios suffered terribly from both parties. Forced to side with the Spaniards, they bore the brunt of Moro retaliatory raids in their communities. And to ensure their cooperation against the Moros, the Spaniards demonized the Moros in their literature, church sermons and stage plays like the moro-moro where the Muslim is always the villain.


When America gave Moroland to the Filipinos in 1946, the Indios (now called Filipinos) found themselves, at least theoretically, masters of the Islands. The Colonization of Mindanao was pursued vigorously with slogans like “Mindanao, Land of Promise” to entice the Indios to settle in Mindanao. Finally, the Indios became colonizers.

Filipino leaders promoted the slogan, “Go South, Young Man!” imitating the slogan “Go West, Young Man” which the Americans used to promote the colonization of the Western United States which belonged to the American Indians. And to make the analogy even stonger, the Indios referred to the Moros as Tribes just like the Navajo or the Iroquois.

In constructing the “Filipino nation”, the Grand Narrative of the Christian Filipinos and the government is embodied in the “One-Nation Theory.”

One-Nation One-History Syndrome

The Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were established ca. 1400’s. According to “official” Philippine history, the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao) was discovered by Fernando Magallanes in 1521. However, historical accounts say that Mindanao and Palawan were already known to the rest of the world way before that time.

If one were to visit the Malacañang Museum, a guide would point out a 16th century map that he/she would describe as the oldest map that shows the Philippines. A closer look at it would reveal that the map indicates only Mindanao and Palawan. Luzon and Visayas were not yet “discovered”.

The official historical view claims that 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines included Moroland. Spanish attacks against the Moros were called “punitive expeditions against rebellions.” Moro victories over the Spanish were denied or ignored. Moro raids on the Christian natives were called pirate attacks.

This is what can be called “the one-nation one-history syndrome”. This syndrome propagates the myth that the present-day Philippines has always been one nation sharing one history. It is alleged that the only difference between the Moros and the Christianized natives (indios) was that the Moros continually resisted while the indios resisted only intermittently (Dagohoy Rebellion, Diego Silang rebellion, etc.)

There is a preponderance of evidence against this myth. While the Indios were under Spanish colonial rule, the Moro sultanates thrived. The Moros were considered sovereigns by European powers, including Spain, as proven by treaties between them. Even the US signed the Bates Treaty with Sulu thus proving that the Treaty of Paris was not sufficient or even valid in the case of Sulu. Primary sources abound in the archives not only in Manila but also in Madrid, London, and Amsterdam.

BANGSA MORO (Moro Nation)

In the late 1960s, the Moro Young Turks led by Abbas, Jr., Misuari et al, supported by their elders proposed another narrative: the Bangsa Moro nation as distinct from the Filipino nation.

This Bangsa Moro nation concept is steeped in history, with the Moros unconquered by colonizers and as great defenders of Islam.

Graeme Turner (1993) says that “implicit in every culture is a ‘theory of reality’ which motivates its ordering of that reality into good and bad, right and wrong, them and us, and so on.”(p.133) The belief system produced by this ‘theory of reality’ is called ideology.

Ideology and history are both social constructs. Turner says, “Ideology works to obscure the process of history so that it appears natural, a process we cannot control and which it seems churlish to question.” (Turner, Graeme (1993) Film as Social PracticeLondon: Routledge)

A nation’s collective memory is complex and in continuous flux. “It is basically made up of stories: the myriad stories which people tell each other; and, more significantly, the mass mediated narratives of a nation’s ‘official’ history, told in books and other cultural artifacts like television and feature films.” (Ituralde 1995)


In the Mindanao Conflict – two constructs are fighting – the “Filipino nation” construct as created by successive Philippine governments and the Bangsa Moro construct exemplified by the MNLF and MILF.

On the one hand, there is the “one-nation narrative” that asserts the indivisibility of the “Filipino nation”, proud of its Christian religion and Western heritage and identifies with the Spaniards of historical texts. This group believes in “democracy” defined as rule of the majority.

On the other hand is the Bangsa Moro narrative that gives prime importance to the Islamic religion and Moros’ historical fight against Westerners. Believers in this narrative hope to get back their former territory and freedom.

With two diverging social constructs, it would be very difficult to find a middle ground. A million dialogues will not accomplish anything if the premises of both groups are clearly divergent.

With number and over-all resources on its side, the Christian Filipino would not easily give in to any demands of the other party. The logical thing to do would be to convince the other party of the soundness of the “one-nation” principle and debunk the Bangsa Moro or Moro nation theory by emphasizing on the divisions of the Moro nation.

Appdurai (1996) says: “Through ‘print capitalism’ (Benedict Anderson 1991) and ‘electronic capitalism’ such as films and TV (Warner 1992, Lee 1993), citizens imagine themselves to belong to a national society. The modern nation-state in this view grows less out of natural facts – such as language, blood, soil and race – and more out of a quintessential cultural product, a product of the collective imagination.” With all resources at its command, the government can simply reinvigorate its construction of the reality of “One Filipino nation”.

The dominant group will insure that the received reality prevents an examination of the non-viability of present situation (one-nation principle).

The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF was junked as well as the BBL of Pres. Aquino because the dominant group refuses to consider that the status quo is not viable. In the Filipino grand narrative, there is only One Constitution for ALL citizens just as there is one “national language, one national anthem, one national dress, etc.” There is only one government, one security force, etc.

The BBL of the Pres. Duterte also falls short of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by MILF and the Philippine Government.

While the “Filipino nation” has been continually constructed since the Commonwealth, the “Moro Nation” concept came up only in the late 1960s. And because of lack of mass media and other resources, such concept has not yet taken root as much as the Filipino nation.

Also, for centuries, the Moro groups have been keenly aware of their own history individually – Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Buayan and the Pat a Pangampong ko Ranao. These were virtual nation-states and acted independently of fellow Moro states.Thus, many Moros are still not comfortable with the notion of one Moro nation.


changing narrative

Both sides must examine their theories, assumptions, axioms, etc

History is a construct. History is used as the “memory” of another socially and culturally constructed concept, the nation. But what is constructed can be re-constructed. For the Filipino nation to find its Identity and be at peace with the Moros, it is high time that it’s “memory” be re-investigated. Philippine history does not need re-construction. It merely needs re-discovery.

Using new approaches like microhistory, forgetting the grand narratives and keeping an open mind, Moros and Indios might find that they have many commonalities and that in many ways, they do have a shared history and be better off with a shared future, where power is equitably distributed and shared.

We don’t have to belong to One Nation. But we can belong to One State. There can be MANY NATIONS in ONE STATE or MANY STATES in ONE NATION-STATE. There can be many nations in a Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation) and many more in the Filipino nation just as there are many nations in a British or German nation and much more in a European Nation.

The dissolution of the USSR, Yugoslavia and other nation-states born after WWII as well as the many problems experienced by many other nation-states like Thailand, Myanmar, Iraq, Philippines, the Middle Eastern countries, etc. means that the “nation-state” project of the Western world has failed. A new system may be the way of the future: nations-state like the European Union – many nations in one state.

In a federal Philippine nation-state, we can have several autonomous states like the Tagalog State, the Ilocano State, the Bicol State, the Ilonggo State, the Cebuano/Binisaya State in the Visayas, the Binisaya State in Mindanao,etc. And we could have a Maranao State, a Tausug State (or Sultanate of Sulu) and a Maguindanao/Buayan State.

The Christian Filipinos do not have to begrudge the Moros having an autonomous region or a sub-state because they, too, will have their own federal states!!!


–       Study history – Moro, Indio, Filipino, Islamic, World history
–       Practice critical thinking – do not believe books or teachers unless their arguments are backed by proofs – documents and logic.
–       Look for points of convergence, commonalities
–       Disseminate what you have learned or concluded through whatever media – the internet (blogs, websites, social media network), printed materials like magazines, papers, journals, TV, radio, speaking engagements, etc.
–     Look for alternatives to the grand narratives and help create a new one that would embrace all.

For the first time in history, there is a REAL chance of having a Federal State.  This is going to be a long process. Not any region can be a federal state immediately. There will be a process to follow.

A Peaceful Philippines is a Prosperous Philippines. The Federal path may be the only path to lasting peace in the Philippines.

cinema, Film Notes, History, Media Studies Notes


 from Certeau, Michel de (1988) The Writing of History New York: Columbia Univ. Press (pp. 56-113)

(These Film Studies Notes are my one-page notes on various articles or books on Film Studies / Media Studies which might interest students and teachers of Film or Media Studies.)

Michel de Certeau

According to French Jesuit and scholar Michel de Certeau, historical operation means “the combination of a social place, “scientific” practices and writing (p.56) By social place, the author was referring to a prescribed socio-cultural and political environment, including the profession, the institutions and the historians themselves. History is written by a select group of people belonging to select institutions, which have particular ideologies. “The historical book or article … is bound

to a complex of specific and collective fabrication more than it is the effect merely of a personal philosophy or a resurgence of a past ‘reality’. It is the product of a place.” (p.64)

“ ‘Making’ history is a practice.” Historians “transforms the raw material (primary source) into a standard product (secondary source),… from one region of culture (‘curiosities’, archives, collections, etc.) to another (history).” (p.71) Historians separate nature from culture.  They “metamorphose the environment which changes the boundaries and the internal topography of ‘culture’. They ‘civilize’ nature – which has always meant that they ‘colonize’ and change it.” (p.72)

writing of history 2

Writing (ecriture) transforms the praxis into text. “Historical writing-or historiography – has been controlled by the practices from which it results; even more, it is itself a social practice which establishes a well-determined place for readers by redistributing the space of symbolic references and by thus impressing a ‘lesson’ upon them.” (p.87)

In other words, history is nothing but a construction, or even a fabrication upheld by entrenched institutions. In the film “Looking for Richard”, the co-writer Frederic vehemently opposes Al Pacino’s idea of asking an academic expert about the motivations of Lady Anne. Frederic believes actors are the real inheritors of Shakespeare, not the academics or historians. Frederic belongs to a rare breed that does not subscribe to the historical / academic Mafia.

cinema, Film Review, History

STONED – The Murder of Brian Jones of Rolling Stones

I found this among my files. I blogged this more than a dozen years ago.  But since that blog is gone already, am re-blogging it here, esp. because many people in social media are now debunking Brian Jones in favor of Jagger and Richards. I bet these people were not even born when Jones was alive. Here it is:

stonedSaw the film Stoned (2005) by Stephen Woolley. I thought it was an ordinary bioflick that would present the genius and tragedy of Brian Jones, the founder and leader of the band, The Rolling Stones.

By the middle of the film, I was ready to turn off the DVD player as the film was not only unfocused and topsy turvy, it showed nothing of the genius of Brian Jones nor of his music.

Two-thirds through the film, I wondered what was so special with the two hired help – Frank Thorogood and Tom Keylock. I suspected that this was just another fictitious film.

The finale was quite a surprise. Frank Thorogood, a builder hired to renovate part of Brian’s estate, killed Brian Jones in the swimming pool.


Brian Jones murdered? Now, that is an idea that I certainly could live with. In fact, when I first read about Brian’s death a long, long time ago, I was very suspicious about it. He was only 27. He would not be swimming if he was sickly. And what kind of coroner would put the cause of death as “death by misadventure”?

I had suspicions that Jagger and Richards had something to do with it. He was still the acknowledged founder of the Stones. In fact, I read that on one occasion, he talked to John Lennon and complained that the other members of the Rolling Stones wanted to do pop songs and not his brand of music – rhythm and blues. John reportedly told him to just go and form another band. If Jones would form another band, it would be a big blow to the Rolling Stones.

And of course, Brian was the star of the band. Keith was only no. 2 and Jagger was no. 3. Contrary to the movie which showed that Brian’s breakdown was partly brought about by Anita’s leaving him for Keith Richards, my impression back then was that Anita was simply handed down by Brian to Keith. And from Keith to Mick.


At the end of the movie, it is written that Frank Thorogood confessed in his deathbed that he killed Brian Jones. I searched the Internet, it appeared that there were reports of a verbal (oral) confession by Thoroggood to that effect. brian jones book

(See )

Also, Brian’s girlfriend Anna Wohlin, who was with him on the night of his death, wrote a book in 1999 titled Murder of Brian Jones where she wrote about her belief that Thorogood killed Brian.


Contrary to what some debunkers say about Brian nowadays, the genius of Brian Jones was recognized by his peers. The following is from wikipedia:


            Upon Jones’ death, Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled “A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day” (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on U.S. television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors wrote a published poem entitled Ode To L.A. While Thinking Of Brian Jones, Deceased

According to the film, the Stones free concert at Hyde Park in honor of Brian was attended by half a million people.

It would have been infinitely better had the neophyte filmmaker made the film Stoned a tribute to Brian, his music and his founding of the Rolling Stones, with the interesting twist at the end.

Perhaps because of this film, the Sussex Police reviewed the case in 2009 upon new evidence by investigative journalist Scott Jones. Unfortunately, the Sussex Police ended the review by saying that there really was no new evidence to change the verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ by the coroner.

It’s a crying shame that the murderer(s) got away with murder.


Film Review, History, Media Studies, Mr. and Ms Magazine

Historical Fiction on TV: Tudors & ROME

A couple of months ago, I was quite amazed when two friends, husband and wife, were singing praises on the TV series The Tudors. This was a TV series by Showtime Productions more than ten years ago. It is now being re-shown on cable TV.  My friends were so impressed by the series and thought everything in it was factual. When I told them that many characters in the series were fictitious, they were shocked. They thought that everything in the series was historically accurate, even the very words spoken by the characters! I was amazed that they, who are educated in the best schools in the Philippines, could be so gullible as to believe everything they see on TV.

In 2007, I wrote a review of The Tudors and ROME in Mr. & Ms. magazine. Afterwards, I uploaded it my blog, M-Reality. I had very interesting discussion in the comments section, mostly from British readers. Unfortunately, blogspot removed that blog allegedly due to third-party malware, whatever that means.

Anyway, here it is:

QC Rome smaller

This year (2007), Showtime Productions had its highest TV series debut in three years with the historical fiction The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII. Meanwhile, Home Box Office (HBO) with BBC aired Season 2 of Rome, another historical fiction based on the life and times of Julius Caesar.


In its opening credits, the narrator says: “You think you know the story but you only know the end. To get to the heart of the story, you have to go to the beginning.” But whose beginning? The Tudor dynasty began with Henry VII not Henry VIII.

Tudors            The title is a misnomer. The series is about a segment of the life of Henry VIII and not the Tudors. Henry VII, the first of the Tudors, was not even included in the film and so were the other Tudors – Henry VII’s other children – Arthur, Margaret and Mary. It also does not include the reigns of Henry VIII’s children — Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth I.

In the third episode, Margaret, Henry VIII’s sister appeared out of nowhere. She is played by Gabrielle Anwar. To my shock, the Margaret character was set to be sent to Portugal to marry the old King of Portugal and to be escorted there by Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. There was no such person in history! It was a fictional composite of the real Margaret and Mary Tudor.

Historical inaccuracies kept on compounding as the series developed.


While still in grade school, I saw the film Anne of a Thousand Days. It starred one of my favorite actors, Richard Burton as Henry VIII and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn.  From then on, I was fascinated by Henry VIII, with his six wives and his split with Catholicism and the Papacy.

Later, I saw Mary, Queen of Scots with two of my favorite actresses playing opposite each other – Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Queen of Scots and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth, Queen of England. The masterful portrayal of the actresses and the riveting story stuck in my mind. I also had a childish crush on Redgrave, who was Guinevere in the musical Camelot.

Young as I was, I pondered upon the fates of Mary and Elizabeth and related it to a question of Karma (Destiny) or Choice (Free Will). Mary, the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor was Queen of Scotland by birth, Queen of France by marriage, and Queen of England by right. On the other hand, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn, was born illegitimate yet ended up ruling England in a long and glorious reign.

In high school, I read one of my mother’s books – a historical novel about Margaret Tudor. I was so taken by the trials and tribulations of Margaret and his fight to insure that her son would be James V, King of Scotland. Margaret’s life had a lot of similarities with her granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots.

Through Shakespeare’s play, I learned of the Wars of the Roses (the civil war between the Houses of York and Lancaster). Henry VII ended the Wars of the Roses and started the Tudor dynasty.


With the choice of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII, the producers must have been eyeing a younger audience. If so, why did they start with an already mature Henry VIII? If I were the producer / director, I would have started with a teenaged Henry, hopelessly in love with the elegant Spanish beauty Catherine of Aragon.

Catherine was no ordinary princess. She was a daughter of fiercely ambitious and victorious parents — Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille — who united the Spanish territories and defeated the Moors. Ferdinand and Isabella were the “superstars” of Europe then.

For proper motivation of Henry VIII, the beginning of his marriage must be shown. A 17-year old Henry awed and in love with a regal princess, who was briefly married to his elder brother, who died without consummating the marriage. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers could be made up to look younger while a younger Spanish actress would play Catherine (perhaps Paz Vega).

Their love for each other must be shown because these would determine their future actions. This would also provide the necessary sexy scenes, required by the producers.

Henry’s insistence on divorce was not because of lack of love but because of a lack of male heir to the throne. He did not want to be the second and last Tudor.


Sam Neill (Cardinal Wolsey), Jeremy Northam (Thomas Moore), Natalie Dormer (Anne Boleyn) and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Katherine) gave good performances. Rhys-Meyers is a good actor. But somehow it seems Henry VIII’s shoes are literally too big for him.


In 2005, HBO with BBC produced a 100 million dollar 12-episode TV series titledROME Rome. The setting of the story was Rome at its grandest, during the rise and fall of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. The main protagonists of the series were Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, fictional characters based on real Centurions Vorenus and Pullo mentioned by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.

The best thing about the series is the magnificent production design. The setting is realistic and the costumes look authentic. The main stars (Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson) are “lovable” in their roles as lowly soldiers in the time of great men like Caesar, Anthony, Brutus, Cassius and Cicero. The supporting cast of Ciarán Hinds (Caesar), Polly Walker (Atia), James Purefoy (Antony), Tobias Menzies (Brutus) and Lindsay Duncan (Servilia) gave great performances.

Rome won Emmy Awards, was nominated at the Golden Globe and was quite a hit so HBO and BBC decided to continue the series in 2007.


Rome’s first season focused on the lives of Vorenus and Pullo, which revolved around the fortunes of the political leaders of the time – Ceasar, Anthony, etc. The second season was focused more on the battle between matriarchs – Sevilla of the Junii and Atia of the Julii. Sevilla was the mother of Brutus and mistress of Caesar while Atia was the mother of Octavian and mistress of Anthony. How interesting!

But of course, the stories are fictional and quite far from the truth.


Films are a big part of my life. While still in grade school, I saw two versions of Julius Caesar – the one that starred Marlon Brando as Anthony and the one that starred Charlton Heston as Anthony. I liked the Brando starrer better and I admired the dignity and strength of character of Cassius and Brutus as played by John Gielgud and James Mason respectively. And then of course, there was Cleopatra with Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor.

In a Westernized society like the Philippines, it would be hard not to be interested in the ancient Greco-Roman world, the wellspring of Western civilization.


Novels, by its very definition, are fiction. Films, however, are not as clearly defined. Many films are claimed to be based on true stories. Some are even filmed using documentary methods like Blair Witch. And of course there are the bioflicks. People watching movies about say, Muhammad Ali, expect to see actual people and events. If the film will have a scene say, of Muhammad Ali fighting Joe Louis, the 1940s champion, the viewers will not like it because it simply did not happen.

The movie U-571 (2000) which purports to be based on true accounts got the ire of the British. The film claims that the Americans captured the Enigma machines which led the Allies to break the German code and eventually win the Second World War. The British protested and declared that it was a lie. US President Clinton had to make a statement saying the movie was a work of fiction.

Yet when it comes to historical people, filmmakers get away with murder, so to speak. The TV series Rome and The Tudors have very little to do with historical facts.


Filmmakers may invoke dramatic license for their distortion or simple ignorance of historical facts. But dramatic license should be used to enhance the story not destroy it.

In Rome, by its very title, the viewers are forewarned that the city-state is the prime protagonist of the film and not the characters. Thus, the essence of ancient Rome is more important than the historical accuracy of the characters. And since the two leading characters (Pullo and Vorenus) are not well-known historical figures, the viewers are again notified that the story is fictitious. And what is more important, the distortions in historical facts created a more interesting story.

In The Tudors, the viewers get all the wrong signals. First, the series claim to let the viewers know “the beginning”. Yet the series did not start from the beginning of either the Tudor dynasty or the life of Henry VIII. Second, Henry VIII is a well-known historical figure. Several movies were already made about him, not to mention books. Third, Henry was big and fat not slim and fit when he was in his mid-30s. Fourth, the other historical figures in the show are also well-known like Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Moore.

Dramatic license should make a story more interesting not less interesting. The lives of Henry and the people around him were full of passion. The historical facts are much more interesting and relevant to today’s audience than the story contrived by the series’ writers.

If a writer or artist uses dramatic license, s/he expects the audience to acquiesce, tolerate or willingly suspend one’s disbelief. The audience, of course, can reject the work as unworthy.


Published in Mr. & Ms. magazine , Oct. 2007

documentary, Film Review, History, Media Studies

SEEING TREASON: Justifying a State of Emergency in a documentary

In February 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in her pursuit of a “Strong Republic”, proclaimed a State of Emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017 to give her government Martial Law powers. Malacanang produced a documentary titled Paglaban sa Kataksilan: 1017 (1017: To Fight Treason). The Philippine Journalism Reports’ (PJR’s) editor asked me to write a review of the government’s documentary.

I blogged this article before but for some reasons, my blog vanished from the cyberspace. Fortunately, the article is still in cyberspace — at the site of the Center for Media and Responsibility, the publisher of PJR.

This piece is important for me because it is historically significant. It was done at a time when the government was serious in its attempts to quell any democratic opposition to its policies. It is a good piece to show Media Studies students what a documentary is and is not. It is also a way of reminding people that the seemingly meek and sick ex-president languishing in a government hospital as a prisoner was actually an iron-willed President (“Strong-person”) of her “Strong Republic” who practically declared Martial Law.

PP1017 REVIEW PJRJournalism Review

REVIEW:  Palace Documentary justifies PP1017
POSTED BY || 30 APRIL 2006

REVIEW: Palace Documentary justifies PP 1017

By Datu Jamal Ashley Abbas

The movie Good Night and Good Luck (2005) showcased what many consider as television journalism’s finest moments when American broadcast journalist Edward Murrow and his team took head-on the Terror known as McCarthyism or the Red Scare that gripped America in the early 1950s. On March 9, 1954, Murrow aired in his TV program See It Now, a documentary showing clips of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s speeches. Murrow and his team used McCarthy’s own words against the senator.

The timing of the movie is very opportune for Filipinos in the grip of the 1017 aftermath. While Americans have sur-rendered some of their freedoms in the name of President Bush’s war on terror through the Patriot Act, the proclamation of a State of Emergency (PP 1017) in the Philippines has shown everyone that the freedoms that Filipinos regained in EDSA 1986 could easily be lost again.

To justify Proclamation 1017, Malacañang produced a video documentary titled, Paglaban sa Kataksilan: 1017.  The producers and crew of this documentary did not use Murrow’s techniques. Instead, they followed the tactics of Senator McCarthy.

McCarthy fanned the anti-communist hysteria and led the witch-hunt that destroyed the lives of many freedom-loving Americans. Whoever got the ire of McCarthy was immediately labeled a Communist. In the 1017 documentary, everyone against the Arroyo government is a leftist-rightist extremist.

The video opens to martial music with the camera tilting from the sky to a long shot of Malacañang.  President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo then explains in the vernacular the rationale behind 1017.

Apparently, the director wan-ted to show that the President is a person of authority. Her words and demeanor give the impres-sion of a “strong president”.

The narrator then declares that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) ordered the groups fronting for them to launch massive protest rallies on Feb. 24, the 20th anniversary of EDSA 1. Images of ordinary Filipinos rallying at the EDSA Shrine were shown.

To support this assertion, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Generoso Senga states that previous to that date, there were lightning rallies by supporters of former President Joseph Estrada and the late presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

Strange bedfellows
The voice-over then states that Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna declared a union of forces with Erap supporters, the Hyatt 10, and former President Cory Aquino.

Ocampo’s plan, according to the documentary, was to march with 20,000 people on Feb. 22 to convene at the People Power Monument on Feb. 23 and to march to Mendiola on the 24th.

Do the video-makers believe that the people would cower in fear because the leftist congressman had joined forces with supporters of former Presidents Aquino and Estrada and the so-called Hyatt 10? Are Aquino and Estrada rightists? If they are rightists, what does that make of the generals?

What about the Hyatt 10, a strange mix of government functionaries and politicians? Are they of the Left or of the Right?

Viewers would certainly be led to ask if it is against the law to march in the streets to celebrate the 20th anniversary of EDSA.

Marching in protest during the anniversary of EDSA 1 is well within the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. What then is so ominous about it?

The armed opposition
The video then segues to the armed opposition. The narrator explains that the NPA attacks against the military had inten-sified. Footage shows soldiers waging war against an unseen enemy.

The narrator then boasts that the NPA terrorists failed and that many of their members have in fact surrendered.

This micro segment begs the question, “So what’s the problem?” If the NPAs were defeated, then bravo for the AFP! So why is there need for 1017?

General Senga says that meanwhile, military components are moving against the govern-ment. Their alleged activities include recruitment of junior officers as well as spreading black propaganda to sow disunity in the AFP.

A newspaper headline announcing the escape of four Magdalo officers flashes on-screen. The narrator says that NPA spokesman Ka Roger Rosal has announced his offer to give sanctuary to the Magdalo officers.

Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon then explains that there was a Memorandum of Agreement between the CPP and the Magdalo or the Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan.

As further proof of the supposed alliance between disgruntled military officers and the CPP, the narrator states that on Feb. 21, Lt. Lawrence San Juan, one of the escapees, was recaptured together with two NPA members. One of them was lawyer Cristopher Belmonte who, according to the video, had been arrested in 1997 together with the Alex Boncayao Brigade leader Nilo de la Cruz.

Raising a Hackle
Viewers are bound to ask: If Belmonte, a supposed top leader of the CPP-NPA, had already been arrested before, then why was he out of jail? Was he freed? Or did he escape? Or is the military simply doing what McCarthy used to do—labeling perceived enemies as “communist”?

The only item in the video that could lead viewers to suspect an alliance between disgruntled military officers and leftists is the presence of lawyers Argee Guevarra and JV Bautista, both of Sanlakas, a leftist group. Senga pointed out that both were constantly beside Col. Querubin during the Fort Bonifacio stand-off.

Of course, the two lawyers could just be offering their legal services or they simply wanted to be on TV.

The video then went on to say that a document among Lt. San Juan’s papers indicated a supposed attempt to overthrow the government through Oplan Hackle.

But the viewers never get to see that document.

Oplan Hackle is allegedly a complex plan to overthrow the government by attacking various government institutions and media facilities. It comes complete with sub-plans carrying cinematic titles like “The Main Event,” “Sister Act 1” and “Sister Act 2.”

According to the documentary, the NPAs have failed in their attacks against the military and many have surrendered. Why then would disgruntled military officers with top-notch skills and high-tech weapons forge ties with an emaciated group whose ideology opposes theirs? It just doesn’t make sense.

What a documentary is
Throughout its history, the term documentary has always referred to facts, clues, proofs, or giving evidence about something. It refers to reality or something that is real. The 1017 documentary is really more like a Power Point presentation than a film documentary. Yet with its varied and numerous assertions, not a single document—whether written or filmed—was shown.

For example, the ringleaders of the military would-be rebels were supposed to be Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Querubin. According to the video documentary, Gen. Lim was the “over-all ground commander of the mili-tary component” of the alleged coup attempt and was arrested before the scheduled rallies.

Col. Querubin even had a very public tantrum when he protested the removal of his superior, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda.  But the five-hour or so “stand-off” at Fort Bonifacio certainly did not give the impression that Querubin was a man under arrest.

According to the video, PP 1017 was issued to prevent a coup d’etat. Using PP 1017 as the “enabling law,” police dispersed rallies, arrested citizens, and threatened the media. Yet the alleged leading coup plotters Lim and Querubin were not arrested and formally charged imme-diately. Gen. Esperon recom-mended that Gen. Lim be brought before a court martial almost one month after the issuance of PP 1017.

Again, it doesn’t make sense.

Curiously, while PP 1017 states: “Whereas, the claims of these elements have been recklessly magnified by certain segments of the national media”, the 1017 documentary is quite silent on the role of the mass media in the alleged coup attempt.

Yet one of the first things that the government did after Proclamation 1017 was to harass the media and instruct them to follow government guidelines.

Kataksilan: Fact or fiction?

Stanford University’s Henry Breitrose, in his essay “There Is Nothing More Practical Than a Good Film Theory,” argues that “one of the functions of the documentary is to truthfully represent how things are in the world by ensuring that statements correspond to facts.” He further notes that “the normative assumption is that the film maker tells the truth, and bias or untruth is open to determination by colleagues and critics in the public forum.”

Critical thinking viewers can easily determine the bias and untruth of Malacañang’s video documentary. Murrow’s docu-mentary used McCarthy’s own words against the senator. The 1017 documentary might end up indicting the very people it is supposed to serve.

Datu Jamal Ashley Abbas is a Media and Film Studies scholar, a documentarian and author of an award-winning article for journalism.  He writes a monthly column, “Quantum Cinema,” for Mr. & Ms magazine.


Astrology, Bangsa Moro, History, New Age

Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries : Big Brother vs Anonymous

big brother   VS



Remember, remember!  The fifth of November

 the Gunpowder treason and plot; 

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason

should ever be forgot! –  English Folk Verse (c.1870)

The world entered a new epoch in 2008, one that is changing socio-political reality as we know it. Pluto, that tiny planetoid in distant space, has the power to affect Earthlings in world-shattering ways. Pluto, in Greco-Roman mythology, is the powerful god of the Underworld. In astrology, Pluto represents Destruction, Rebirth, Mob, Dictators, Sex, Money, Earthquakes, Mass Movements and the Nuclear Bomb.

Pluto with Charon and 4 other moons
Pluto with Charon and 4 other moons


CapricornusPluto entered Capricorn in late January 2008, returned to Sagittarius in June, came back to Capricorn in November and will stay there until January 2024. And the world can expect disasters in the worst form as all hell could break lose.

First, Big Business and Strong Governments will take over. Instead of overt wars against other people, there will be covert war against one’s own people – the citizens, the workforce, the ordinary people. But instead of bombs, the weapons will be Rules and Laws like the Patriot Act or the Human Security Law (Anti-Terrorism Law) or Cyber Crime Laws or State of Emergency or Martial Law. The name of the game is Security and Surveillance.

And so this epoch will be characterized by the Plutonian Shadowy Power of Capricornian Big Business / Strong Government through Tight Controls. It will be George Orwell’s Big Brother come to life.


January 2008 started with the downturn of US stock market and ended with the highest price drop in home sales in 25 years. By Sept. 7, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which controlled half of the $12 Trillion mortgage market collapsed and were taken over by the US government – in effect, nationalizing the housing market.

And then huge investment banking firms like Lehman Brothers and Merryl Lynch collapsed. While Lehman Brothers was forced to close shop, the others were bailed out by the Federal Reserve – in effect, the government and its private banking partners took over the investment banking industry.

It must be noted that the US Federal Reserve System “is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by the Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms”. (source: Wikipedia) The Fed is actually owned by some 15 or so private banks which include JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America.

When Pluto entered into Capricorn, Big Business and Big Government created their coup and took over the banking, insurance and mortgage industries in the US and Europe.


The theory or rationale for State Control was put in place while Pluto was in Sagittarius. The laws were enacted. The media spin was delivered. This time, with Pluto in Capricorn, theory is put in practice.

The Pakistani president, who had proclaimed a State of Emergency in early November 2007, jumped the gun in the race to Strong Governments.

President Arroyo tested the waters in February / March 2006 when she proclaimed a state of emergency. Unfortunately for her, not only was it premature, but Pluto was also in close conjunction to the Galactic Center, a super black hole in the center of our galaxy, which some astrologers regard as a purging and transforming mechanism.

But President Benigno Aquino had perfect timing. As Senator Joker Arroyo said, with the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona, President Aquino obtained autocratic powers without even declaring Martial Law. He is now in full control of the branches of government – controlling the House, the Senate and Judiciary. And with his connections with the elite families who own major media organizations, he even controls the Media.


Pluto in Capricorn seems to have historical impact on the Philippines. Pluto entered Capricorn in 1515 and stayed there until 1532. Pluto in Capricorn creates states and humbles or even destroys empires.

In 1515, Sharif Kabungsuwan arrived in Maguindanao and established the Maguindanao Sultanate.

In 1521, official Philippine history began when Magellan was said to “discover” the Philippines.

But such “discovery” led to the humbling of the great Spanish Empire, which historians up to now try to keep secret.  The chronicler of Magellan’s voyages, Antonio Pigafetta, recorded that in the Battle of Mactan, Magellan was killed by the men of the local chieftain Cali Pulaco who is popularly known today as Lapu-Lapu. Afterwards, Cebu’s Rajah Humabon invited Magellan’s successor Duarte Barbossa and 25 of his men to a farewell luncheon where the Europeans were massacred. Pigafetta was fortunate to be wounded in the battle so he did not join his companions in the festivities.

Upon news of the massacre, the remaining men were not enough to take three ships. Hence, they abandoned the Concepcion and sped away aboard the Victoria and the Trinidad.  The Spaniards did not return to the Islands until 50 years later. And for 330 years, they made sure that the natives never heard of this massacre. In fact, until now, very few know of the massacre of Magellan’s men as historians, local and foreign, refuse to include them in their manuscripts.

At about the same time (1519 -1521), the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes arrived in the Valley of Mexico and started the systematic annihilation of the Aztec Empire.

Pluto returned to Capricorn on Nov. 8, 1762 up to Dec 1, 1778. This period saw the end of Europe’s Seven Years War. The French lost Canada and the West Indies territories to Britain and Louisiana to Spain. The fall of the French Empire paved the way for the French Revolution.

England, which had captured the Philippines and Cuba, returned these territories to Spain in exchange for Florida. England, however, managed to get territories — Balambangan (Cagayan de Sulu), southern Palawan and North Borneo – in the name of its business arm, the East India Company –  from the Sulu Sultanate in exchange for its rescue of Sulu Sultan Azim ud Din I, who had been held hostage in Intramuros, Manila by the Spaniards for some 15 years.

However, in the later stage of this epoch, it was the British Empire’s turn to be humbled. In March 1775, Datu Teteng of Sulu attacked the British fort in Balambangan and forced the British out of Sulu. Sulu also got back its territories in North Borneo and Palawan.

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared their independence from Britain.

Interestingly, 120 or so years later, when Pluto was in two-faced Gemini, the new power, the United States of America, decided to take both the Philippines and Sulu for itself through the 1898 Treaty of Paris and the Bates Treaty of 1899 respectively.


Capricorn represents the Earth, Governments, Big Business, Money, the Elites, Responsibility, Authoritarianism, Rules and Tight Control.

The Americans now have a very Strong Presidency courtesy of the Patriot Act as well as other laws that impinge on individual privacy such as the one, approved by US Supreme Court in 2006, requiring US companies to keep track of their employees’ email, instant messages and other electronic documents.

And through the economic crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve has taken over the banking, insurance and mortgage industries while making millions of Americans homeless in the process.

The American government may have forgotten that the last time Pluto was in Capricorn, restrictive laws – the 1764 Sugar Act, Quartering Act and Stamp Act of 1765,  Tea Act of 1773, and the five so-called Intolerable Acts of 1774 — led to the American War of Independence.

The Americans are now up in arms against Gun Control laws and laws restricting use of cyberspace.


In this era of the Internet, governments will exert all efforts to control cyberspace. The US pushed for Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) to have firm government control over the Internet. Fortunately, the American people stood up and fought against it.

In the Philippines, the netizens stopped the government from implementing the Anti-Cyber Crime Law or RA 10175.

Uranus, the ruler of revolutions, also rules the Internet and computers. And Uranus is now in Aries, which is ruled by Mars, the god of War.


Uranus or Father Sky and Gaia or Mother Earth
Uranus or Father Sky and Gaia or Mother Earth

After 84 years, Uranus entered Aries in May to Aug 2010, returned in March 2011 and will stay there until 2018/19. And it is in a “bad” aspect (square) with Pluto.

The end of 2010 saw the start of the so-called Arab Spring where revolutions in the Arab world caused the downfall of long-time strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; long drawn out civil wars in Yemen and Syria; and, revolutionary stirrings in Bahrain.

In all these Arab revolutions, the US has been firmly behind the revolutionaries (except in Bahrain). Most of the world applauded the US and Europe for helping the Arab people.

But the world started realizing that not everything is as black-and-white as represented by the world’s media. Egypt’s first democratically elected President was overthrown by the military, allegedly taking its cue from the people. And the US supports this coup d’etat.

The US and Europe’s support for the Syrian opposition is questioned by many since the Syrian opposition includes the al-Qaeda, allegedly, America’s number one enemy.

Although US President Barack Obama was elected on a No-More-War campaign, he is now vehemently campaigning for an invasion of Syria even though America is still embroiled in Afghanistan and has not thoroughly withdrawn from Iraq.g9510.20_Syria.Cover

But Obama had to stop in his tracks as he found himself without reliable allies England and Germany. Both refused to support Obama’s attack on Syria.

And Putin’s Russia has taken the role of “champion for Peace” and will not take an American attack on Syria sitting down. China is Russia’s ally in the United Nations Security Council, which refused to allow an attack on Syria.

While Uranus encourages (Arab) revolutions, a deadly war involving nuclear powers – USA and Russia, with England, France and China – is threatening the world at large. Pluto rules over nuclear bombs.

When Uranus (Revolution) is in Aries (War), and it squares (antagonistic to) Pluto (Death and Destruction) in Capricorn (Overly Ambitious Big Business / Big Governments), we can expect only the worse.


Pluto rules earthquakes and nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are owned by Big Business. When Uranus re-entered Aries in March 2011, the earthquake-generated tsunami devastated parts of Japan and destroyed the Fukushima power plant. The nuclear fallout of the Fukushima disaster continues as contaminated groundwater flows into the Pacific Ocean. According to the latest reports, contaminated water has already reached Hawaii.

With Pluto in Capricorn, the governments will continue to amass as much power as they can at the expense of their citizens.  These governments will push for strict gun control laws, stricter laws in the name of Security and control of cyberspace.   The elites of the lands will amass more money and power and the gap between the rich and the poor will further widen.

In this epoch, surveillance cameras, ID cards, wire-tapping, DNA monitoring and racial profiling will be the order of the day for the world’s inhabitants. The rich and powerful will try to have a tight rein on the world’s poor.

But the people will wake up, as many have already waken up. Uranus in Aries makes sure of that. Uranus in Aries is the “Awakener”.

The Pluto in Capricorn (Big Business/Big Government) will meet its match in Uranus in Aries (revolutionary change, an awakened militant populace).

The last two times Pluto was in Capricorn, the Philippines was invaded – by Spain in 1521 and by England in 1762. But the foreigners did not / could not stay long. Perhaps this time, it would be China’s turn because of the dispute over the Spratleys.

During the last two visits of Pluto in Capricorn, great events happened in Moroland. The first time, the Maguindanao Sultanate was founded and in the next, the Sulu Sultan was returned to Sulu from his cell in Intramuros, Manila where he was held hostage for some 15 years. In exchange for the release of the Sultan, Sulu lost some territories to the British but got some of them back shortly after.

Perhaps for the Bangsa Moro, Uranus will rekindle the revolutionary fires of the 1970s. It looks like this time, a Bangsa Moro state is in the offing.

Pluto in Capricorn destroys and establishes dynasties or empires. It destroyed the Aztec empire. And with the Age of Colonization, it gave rise to the European empires, especially the British Empire.

It replaced the Abbasid dynasty with the Ottoman dynasty / empire ca. 1517 and when it came back, the Ottoman lost a lot of territories during the Russo-Turk War in 1768 to 1774.

And in 1776, with Pluto in Capricorn, the American Empire was born — a big blow to its colonizer, the British Empire.

And yes, America is facing its Pluto Return. And America, which is essentially a plutocracy, is in danger. The plutocrats could very well face their downfall courtesy of the American people. The USA’s natal moon, which represents the people, is in Aquarius. And with the ruler of Aquarius in Aries, the Aquarian people may just wake up and move collectively, just like they did in 1776.

Could it be that this time around, with Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries, we will witness the American Empire’s fall?

Ultimately, it is up to the collective consciousness of the humans living today to decide what the Pluto in Capricorn / Uranuschangein Aries epoch will usher in. It could lead to a nuclear world war that will bring in Death and Destruction or it could herald a New Age of universal change for the better. One thing for sure: Pluto in Capricorn squaring Uranus  in Aries can only indicate very interesting and dynamic times.


This is an update of my article Pluto in Capricorn published in Mr. & Ms. magazine in June 2008

current events, Film Review, History

El Presidente, the movie

DECEMBER 29, 2012

Today, Carmen Pedrosa wrote in her column in the Philippine Star:

I have to see the film “El Presidente” to know if it does justice to Emilio Aguinaldo, a neglected hero. He offers many lessons to our present leaders. His role in the making of our nation has not been given its rightful place. Among the few who have kept hammering on the issue is Muslim scholar Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas.

Abbas agrees that revisiting the story of Emilio Aguinaldo is central to the history of the Philippines.

Correcting that mistake may be the key to understanding the complex relations we have with the United States of America today. The elections in 1935 in which Aguinaldo was defeated was probably the first foreign intervention on how we should be led.

“Rehabilitating Aguinaldo is a tall order. Quezon and the Americans had totally destroyed him in the minds of the masses,” Abbas said.

To French journalists on the scene the hero of the Philippine wars of independence against the Americans was General Emilio Aguinaldo. Abbas, who knows French, wrote on those reports.

“Yet Aguinaldo, who became a cause celebre in Europe during his time for daring to fight the American power, had such a bad press in his own country. He died in old age almost in disgrace . . . Rizal wrote only two novels and Bonifacio’s Manila revolt lasted for only about a week or so.

It was Aguinaldo’s army who subdued the Spaniards while the Americans looked on. It was Aguinaldo who proclaimed the Philippine Republic, whose centennial was celebrated with pomp and ceremony. And it was Aguinaldo who led the fight against two-thirds of one of the world’s strongest army at that time,” Abbas wrote. He puts the blame on the Filipino elite (the ilustrados) for reconstructing Philippine history.

The French journalist Gaston Rouvier described Aguinaldo as “even to his enemies, (he is) the greatest man of the Malay race.”

Rouvier wrote: “On May 19, hardly disembarked, Aguinaldo rekindled the embers of revolt across the Luzon provinces, thanks to his untiring work and a kind of magnetic influence which he exercised on his followers. He roused a rebel leader in every district. For the capture of all Spanish garrisons and outposts, he devised a campaign plan. He was Bonaparte, if his admirers were to be believed.”




I went to see the film today, and this is what I think of it:

First off, I must say, it is a very good movie in the sense that it is inspiring. This is a much better film than Sakay (1993), a film by Raymond Red, a Cannes Film Festival award winner. Sakay took over the presidency of the Tagalog Republic after Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans.

The almost 3-hour film was a paean to Aguinaldo, which is indeed quite rare in Philippine arts and letters.  The Americans and the first and second generations of Philippine leaders of the post-Aguinaldo’s Republic made sure that Aguinaldo would have a disreputable image.

The portrayal of Andres Bonifacio was quite good. He was shown in a very good light.  In the film, during the Tejeros convention, Bonifacio declared that he wanted a Republican form of government. Although, in real life, Aguinaldo described Bonifacio as a monarchist and Bonifacio allowed others to call him Hari ng Bayan. Bonifacio was fittingly portrayed as a tragic hero.

However, I do not like the demonization of Gen. Antonio Luna. Gen. Antonio Luna was the greatest Filipino general during the Philippine-American war. He was the only general who had formal studies in military science. As I wrote before, there is no use in debunking one’s heroes.


The films owes a lot to the musical score. The scoring insures an emotional response from the audience. It is the musical scoring, more than anything else, that gave the film a “bigger than life” aspect.

As with most, if not all period films in the country, the costumes are usually inaccurate and ill-fitting. Most of the characters wore over-sized shirts and coats.

The make-up is quite horrible. “Inang Bayan” (Mother Country) appears as an ancient lady. But she looked like a young lady with whitened hair and caked mud spread all over her face and neck.

Even the male characters have funny make-up. I don’t know if Ronnie Lazaro and Christopher De Leon were made-up to look younger or older. They should have been made up to look younger but it seems like they look even older.


The Philippine Revolution was led and participated by YOUNG PEOPLE. Aguinaldo was 28 years old when he was elected President of the Republic.  Antonio Luna was 32 when he was assassinated.  But in the film, practically everyone is old.

Felipe Buencamino, Sr. was around 50 years old at that time but he is portrayed in the film by a septuagenarian (Joonee Gamboa). Incidentally, the film insinuates that Buencamino engineered the death of Luna.  I wonder what made the writer/director think that. Did he get that from the relatives of Aguinaldo? Or does he simply dislike Buencamino? It is funny that in the film, Buencamino accuses Luna of siding with the Spaniards at the start of the revolution when in reality, it was Buencamino who sided with the Spaniards at the start of the revolution.


Does it give justice to Aguinaldo? It does.  But giving justice to Aguinaldo should not mean giving injustice to others like Antonio Luna.

Artistically or creatively, there is still so much room for improvement. The scene with a 94-year-old Aguinaldo waiving the Philippine flag in his balcony with a few people outside watching him and his aging wife shouting “Mabuhay si Miyong” or some such thing looks quite pathetic.  It would have been better if the scene were of President Macapagal declaring June 12 as the country’s Independence day with the ailing Aguinaldo in attendance – 64 years after Aguinaldo proclaimed Independence in Kawit, Cavite. Better if there is actual film footage of the event.