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Heneral Luna (2015): Not Just Another Filipino Biopic

Updated on March 25, 2017

Today, I watched a biopic movie entitled “Heneral Luna”, a film about one of the not-so-popular Filipino heroes and the Supreme Chief of the Revolutionary Army during the Philippine-American War, General Antonio Luna. He is not as famous as the Philippine’s National Hero, Dr. Jose “Pepe” Rizal or the Father of National Revolution, Andres Bonifacio but this does not make his contributions least significant nor his sacrifices can be undermined. Jerrold Tarog’s interpretation and re-telling of this man’s life is worth mentioning and indeed, a remarkable addition to the Pinoy’s latest quality movies.

Heneral Luna Movie Cover Photo
Heneral Luna Movie Cover Photo

Movie Profile

  • Title: Heneral Luna
  • Tagline: “Bayan or Sarili?”
  • Genre: Action; History
  • Rating: PG- 13
  • Director: Jerrold Tarog
  • Writers: Henry Francia; E.A Rocha; Jerrold Tarog
  • Release Date: September 9, 2015
  • Languages: Filipino; Tagalog; English; Spanish
  • Run Time: 118 Minutes

Who is Heneral Luna?

Antonio Luna was born October 29th, 1866, in Urbiztondo, Binondo. He was the youngest of seven children to parents Joaquín Luna de San Pedro, a salesman who later became a merchant from Ilocos Norte, and Laureana Novicio Ancheta, a Spanish mestiza from La Union.

He started learning how to read and write at the age of six. After completing his education under his first teacher Maestro Intong, he completed the Bachelor of Arts degree at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1881. He also studied Literature and Chemistry at the University of Santo Tomas. Furthermore, he also learned pharmacy, swordsmanship, fencing, military tactics and sharp shooting.

Antonio was sent to Spain because of his brother’s invitation, the famous painter and political activist, Juan Luna. In Spain, he became one of the Filipino expatriates that actively joined the Propaganda movement and wrote for La Solidaridad hence commencing his many struggles and challenges until he became a General and the Supreme Chief of the Revolutionary Army under Aguinaldo’s presidency.

Heneral Antonio Luna
Heneral Antonio Luna | Source
  • Nickname(s): "The Fiery General", "General Articulo Uno", "Antonio", "Cafre"
  • Born: October 29, 1866, Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines
  • Died: June 5, 1899 (aged 32), Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippine Islands
  • Service/branch: Philippine Revolutionary Army
  • Years of service: 1898–99
  • Rank: Lieutenant General
  • Battles/wars: Philippine–American War; Manila, Caloocan, Second Caloocan, Malolos, Pulilan, Calumpit, Apali, Santo Tomas
  • Awards: Philippine Republic Medal

Source: Wikipedia

Heneral Luna, the Synopsis

To save face since they are already losing the war, Spain sold Philippines to America. The Americans then started colonizing the country, their hostile forces taking over one province to the next with the aim of annexing the whole country and officially making it a part of the American territory.

Aside from the clash with the colonizers, a massive conflict came in between Filipinos who got divided into two sides; those in favor of “befriending the enemies” and preferring peace, mostly businessmen who has something to gain, and those standing and fighting for the Philippine Republic believing that the Filipino people deserves to be free – with the Revolutionary Army being led by General Antonio Luna.

The conflict worsens due to the indecisive President of the Republic, Emilio Aguinaldo, being influenced and persuaded by his treacherous advisers and the pro-American businessmen. In the end, Aguinaldo ordered some of his trusted guards to carry out Luna’s assassination.

The actor, John Arcilla, playing Antonio Luna.
The actor, John Arcilla, playing Antonio Luna.

The Heneral Luna Characters and Casts

The Main Character:

General Antonio Luna was portrayed by the actor John Arcilla. Romeo John G. Arcilla, born June 24th 1966 in Quezon City, Philippines, is a respected Filipino actor with several acting nominations from different award-giving bodies, and won the following acting awards; Best Actor in a Supporting Role in the film Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin (1998 Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino/Urian) and Best Actor for the films Mulanay (1996 Manila Film Festival) and Halaw (2010 Cinemalaya). He was also casted a role in the international action thriller The Bourne Legacy which was partly filmed in the Philippines in 2012. He works in both movies and television and active since the 1990’s until present.

Historical Characters:

  • Mon Confiado as President Emilio Aguinaldo
  • Epi Quizon as Prime Minister Apolinario Mabini
  • Joem Bascon as Col. Francisco "Paco" Román
  • Archie Alemania as Capt. Eduardo Rusca
  • Alvin Anson as Gen. José Alejandrino
  • Nonie Buencamino as Felipe Buencamino
  • Paulo Avelino as General Gregorio del Pilar
  • Leo Martinez as Pedro Paterno

Fictional Characters:

Arron Villaflor as Joven Hernando, a journalist intervewing Luna

Mylene Dizon as Isabel, a composite character of several of the historical Luna's love interests

Click to see the list of all the characters.

Heneral Luna Official Trailer

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The Clamor for a Biopic

The movie Heneral Luna got my attention after the first week of its release when a number of friends in social media had expressed their approval of the film. It sure got me curious but when I finally got the time to watch, to my disappointment, I found out it already got pulled out of most of the theatres to give way to some international releases. Good thing social medial rallied and requested for the film to be shown again or I might have missed something really awesome. In my opinion, this film is not just depicting the life of a so called unpopular hero. Here are my thoughts on why "Heneral Luna" is worth watching and why I think this film is just the beginning of biographical films' rise in the Philippines:

1. It can help revive the production of historical films.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a historical film like Heneral Luna and I’m usually not too eager to watch either. Though it’s really significant for us to learn and look back at our roots through this genre, historical films tend to be boring, dragging and dull. And it maybe due to low demand that there’s not much of it being produced and released in the theatres. Heneral Luna is no different at first. It’s one of those films that also started slow in the box office but slowly trended in the social media and through word of mouth because the first few batches of viewers think it’s awesome for a lot of reasons. This goes to show that quality historical films can still thrive in these modern times especially with the help of social media. Maybe this is the push the producers and filmmakers need to move forward. I really hope so.

2. Though a historical film, the overall theme is so current.

Gen. Antonio Luna’s struggles and battles were in the late 1800’s and a lot of things already happened since then. We’ve progressed so much that we might think his struggles were a thing of the past but really, it’s not. He fought against colonizers for our freedom and struggled against the disloyal group slowly consuming and corrupting the country’s leadership. Nowadays, we struggle against greed, corruption and self-service in the government. We continue to fight for our country to be free from these so-called “anay ng lipunan”. The theme of Patriotism will never go obsolete.

3. The protagonist was depicted as a hero with flaws and imperfections.

One of the things I like about this movie is Heneral Luna’s humanity. Our hero is far from perfect. Antonio Luna, in history, is branded to be a proud person and is well-known for his temper and this movie showed just that. He was portrayed as an obnoxious and ill-tempered general who’s always cursing. The cursing was noted to be the director’s personal touch to appeal to its target viewers and I personally think it was a brilliant idea. It made our protagonist more human and more relevant.

4. The cinematography was remarkable.

I would like to commend Heneral Luna’s team for this film’s cinematography. It’s brilliant and truly worth mentioning. The settings were realistic and not over the top. The camera shots, movements and color quality used were appropriate, absolutely complemented the theme and genre. General Luna’s death and the battle scenes were too real to watch, a bit too morbid for my taste but really, what can I expect in a war scene? Furthermore, adding the cryptic messages all throughout the movie was smart, made me smile and nod my head in recognition in some instances.

The movie Heneral Luna was chosen as the Philippine’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of Academy Awards 2016.

5. The dialogues pierced like an arrow to the heart.

Finally, whoever wrote the script for this movie should suffer the consequence of leaving its mark in its viewers’ hearts. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

  • “Negosyo or kalayaan? Bayan o sarili? Pumili ka!”
  • “May mas malaki tayong kalaban sa mga Amerikano; ang ating sarili.”
  • “Para kayong mga birheng naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng isang p*ta!”
  • “Ganito ba talaga ang tadhana natin? Kalaban ng kalaban. Kalaban ng kakampi. Nakakapagod.”
  • “Walang naka-aangat sa batas… kahit pa presidente.”
  • “Ang taong may damdamin ay hindi alipin.”
  • “Nasubukan mo na bang hulihin ang hangin?”
  • “Ingles-inglesin mo ko sa bayan ko?! P^&*%$a.”


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    • SheilaPornan profile image

      Sheila Pornan 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hello, Ate Charito! Yes, you should see it. :)

      This movie made me feel proud of being Filipino. And I think I'm becoming too passionate I already signed a petition for this movie to be shown in schools hehe... Anyways, thank you for checking out my review. :)

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hi, Sheila! I missed this film in the cinema, but I'll watch it once the DVD is out. My son saw it, and he thought it was a good production.

      Thanks for the review!

    • SheilaPornan profile image

      Sheila Pornan 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Great to know that, CrisSp! As of lastweek, it's officially the highest grossing Filipino historical film so I hope you'll enjoy the movie when you see it. Thanks for dropping by! :)

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Like you, I am curious and can't wait to see this film. So, on to my watch list! :)