Jerrold Tarog’s sophomore bid at re-imagining Philippine heroes in the more contemporary context, is tamed by its restraint to underscore the chaotic parts. Like its predecessor, ‘Heneral Luna’, ‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral‘ thrives in both its moments of quiet and chaos, but it is in the former where it musters its more powerful sentiments.
This choice to keep most of the proceedings with a significantly subdued energy is what separates ‘Goyo’ from ‘Luna’ whose frantic and often dangerous verve essentially defined the character and the film.
It sort of lessens the excitement, but the tension it creates is equally compelling.
The film picks up immediately where ‘Heneral Luna’ left off, with Aguinaldo’s government experiencing an uncomfortably long period of peace, mostly unsuspecting of the looming battles ahead. Throughout this period, we meet the young general, Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino), as he sweeps across towns where he receives overwhelming adoration as a hero.
To most women, his piercing charisma is known to break hearts, that even Aguinaldo’s sister, Felicidad (Empress Schuck) couldn’t escape. In the film, the young general is portrayed as a staunch follower of Aguinaldo, who himself saw Del Pilar’s merits to be put along his highest ranking war generals.
Paulo Avelino’s quiet, self-conscious, and sensitive demeanor, makes him the perfect fit to play the dashing, but mysterious ‘Goyo’, whose arrogance and confidence often get preceded by his physical charm. Avelino’s character may be playing in a very limited emotional range, but he treads through its every layer with the distinctive tension he is demanded to deliver.
Surprisingly, the more interesting characters in ‘Goyo’ are the ones that represent who we are and who we should be as Filipinos. Joven Hernando (Aaron Villaflor) remains the vigilant observer whose curiosity practically mirrors the youth of today’s hunger and insatiable eagerness for answers.
Apolinario Mabini (Jeffrey Quizon) who may have a profound understanding of the structural flaws of his government, but has limited means to address them to the right audience, is cautious enough to never make a step ahead his intellect. Tarrog uses Mabini to its greatest extent, to carry his narrative’s conscience, but he draws more salient notions when he allows Joven’s scrutiny sear into the film’s titular character, Goyo, and makes him practically an anomaly who can look past Del Pilar’s facade of bravery and fame.
The film goes through the lengths of examining Goyo’s compromised humanity, treating it as a visceral representation of our moral struggle as Filipinos. It ultimately becomes a glaring reminder on how blind patriotism and idolatry can be as dangerous as doing nothing, while promoting cautious vigilance and a potent form of intelligent revolution.
Utimately, the film’s critical agenda are carried upon its bracing dissection of Goyo as a flawed character.
By identifying the young general as someone who stands between being a blind follower and a patriot, the film throws the inevitable question: ‘Where should our loyalty as Filipino people be served to?’ The nation or those who run it? How the film answers this question is utterly mindblowing.
5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Tolerable
1 – Terrible
‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral’ is now showing in cinemas nationwide #GoyoAngBatangHeneral