by Junelie Anthony Velonta | Feature Writer
“Strive to live, strive to fight, but in the moment of certain death do not be afraid to be selfless.” -Major Manuel Bernal, Angelito
What does it really mean to be a hero in this generation? In today’s context where there’s only a thin line separating mockery and glorification, when and how do we recognize a hero? Both of these questions were given answers during the “Bayani Ba’To?” forum. Held last July 16 in the Audio-Visual Theater, the forum parallels modern heroism with the upcoming historical film “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.”
The forum started with the short film titled “Angelito.” Following the death of General Antonio Luna in the film “Heneral Luna,” the short film follows the brothers Manuel, Jose, and Angel Bernal and the journalist Joven Hernando as they attempt to escape martial incarceration. Angelito connects the final moments of “Heneral Luna” with the antecedents of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.”
The film itself provided both a glimpse of the theme of the event and a historical update on the events following the assassination of Luna. Major Manuel and Captain Jose Luna, formerly of Luna’s general staff, were being hunted for high treason. During their escape, they discussed idolism and leadership. With a background of existential and ideological doubt, they reflected how idols create radical and close-minded minions while leaders inspire their followers through ideology, without necessarily worshipping the man behind the said ideology.
Being Critical of our Idols
The short film was followed by a lecture on critical thinking on the context of heroism presented by Professor John Ray Ramos of Far Eastern University Diliman. Focusing on the humanity of Filipino figures, the lectures started with the comparison of the Filipino bayani and the western héroe.
Juxtaposing the bayani and the héroe reveals a flaw on how the common Filipino idolizes an icon. The héroes of western traditions are extraordinary individuals that, while flawed, still maintain their status as they are above man. A good example of a héroe is the demigod Hercules who is still hailed a héroe even after killing his family. On the other hand, the bayani is an ordinary individual who has done extraordinary deeds for the benefit of his kapwa – his fellows. Being ordinary implies that the bayani is capable of committing blunders. A bayani is not above his kapwa.
Treating these said bayanis like they could do no wrong, however, essentially makes them idols. Even worse is when the mistakes these bayanis made are justified by those who follow them. The heroism done by the bayanis then devolves into veneration without understanding.
Ramos reminds us that it was the failure to be critical that became the downfall of the republic. Calling out what is wrong with the bayanis-turned-idols is a product of critical thinking. Two questions must always be asked. “Bakit ganon?” (Why is it like so?) asks for both the context and precedent of an event or action. Asking “So what?” is attempting to bridge the events of the past to its effects in the present. These questions allow the objective revelation of the mistakes of the Philippine bayanis through the context of why they did them without omitting their contributions. Our bayanis, after all, aren’t perfect.
Goyo and Modern Heroism
After a brief look at the behind-the-scenes footage of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral,” Daphne Chiu, the movie’s producer, gave a glimpse on the inner workings of producing an accurate historical film. With a focus on research, logistics, and budgeting, Chiu tells of heroism both behind the silver screen.
Taking 60 filming days in a span of eight difficult months, Goyo was nothing less than a logistical feat. Transporting, feeding, and dressing more than a thousand became very big responsibilities throughout the whole duration of the filming. As Chiu would later reflect, the efforts of the people behind the camera reminded her of what true heroism is. From the staff’s collective effort to pursue historical accuracy to the individual efforts of the transport drivers as they brave through the difficult mountain passes, heroism isn’t just the grand and extravagant ones the movies portray most of the time.
“Why create Goyo?” The TBA Studios promise of education through entertainment stands strong with Goyo. With the focus of demoting the high-rising idol to manhood, the movie intends to portray the idea of the self in heroism. To know one’s self is to know one’s fellows and one’s country.
Heroism and Art
Opening his talk with a piece titled “Ten Easy Steps to Become a Filipino Hero,” spoken word artist Alfonso Manalastas discussed the role of art in modern heroism. The poem, which describes the steps taken by a certain man to be proclaimed and buried as a hero, reflects the thought of Manalastas on the contributions of art.
“Perhaps art is at its most political when it is not political at all.” Art promotes critical thought in ways that a rigid instruction cannot. With today’s political climate, not everything could be taught or expressed in one’s classroom or one’s home. This is where art plays a big role. Be it written, spoken, drawn, or painted, art is an extension of ideas that is easily noticeable and easily absorbed.
While this may not be the idea of heroism to some, it should be stated that it was the art of Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, and other Filipino artists that showed the world that Filipinos are not savages. Many of our bayanis are artists. Some chose to use their art to fuel the revolution, while others used their art to educate their kapwa.
Tandaan Mo Kung Sino Ka
“Only when we know who we are can we realize who we can become.” Bayanis, as grand and magnificent as they are, are also humans. It must not be forgotten that however high their pedestals are, they are still capable of making mistakes.
Dr. Zeus Salazar defines a bayani as someone who willingly helps, without compensation, in the community’s undertaking. The common Filipino has the potential to be a hero too. What defines a bayani, after all, is not their persona but their extraordinary deeds. Simple acts, when made by many, could do more for the community than a single person trying to accomplish something magnanimously bizarre or unreal.
In the context of modern society, it is the common Filipino that has the most potential to become a . Bayanis are not exclusively the people one finds in the history books or in newspapers. To become one, however, one must first remember who he or she is. It is not enough to blindly die for the symbol of one’s country anymore.
“Ang mabuhay nang dahil sa iyo.”