Immortalized in history books, statues and monuments wielding a bolo in one hand and the red KKK flag on the other, the life of Andres Bonifacio—the Supremo of the Katipunan—has been a favorite plot of the silver screen, with three notable movies thus far: the theatrical Ang Paglilitis Ni Andres Bonifacio helmed by Mario O’Hara in 2010; the indie film Supremo produced and starred in by Alfred Vargas in 2012; and the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Picture Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo starring Robin Padilla.
Today, on the 153rd birth anniversary of the brave hero, The Manila Times recalls this trio of biopics, which, through time, have uncovered more facts in history to make him more beloved to Filipinos.
‘Ang Paglilitis Ni Andres Bonifacio’
Ang Paglilitis Ni Andres Bonifacio is the untold story of the trial of Andres Bonifacio under the revolutionary government of President Emilio Aguinaldo. The two leaders had the same mission—to fight for freedom for Filipinos from Spain—but only under one ruler between them.
Incorporating the myth of Ibong Adarna, Alfred Vargas plays both Andres and the youngest prince in the Filipino mythical tale. The Adarna introspection ends when Andres and his brother Procopio are killed by Aguinaldo’s men. With this, O’Hara shows death as the equalizer of humans and the most effectual means to silence men. Unlike the feat of the youngest prince who captures Ibong Adarna and cures the king, the death of the Bonifacio in the hands of his fellow Filipinos leaves a chasm in the country’s history.
While Paglilitis failed to win an award at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in 2010, it successfully encouraged viewers to investigate history, leaving them to conclude whether Bonifacio was guilty of treason or not.
Paglilitis was O’Hara’s last film. The director succumbed to heart attack on June 25, 2012 due to leukemia.
Vargas decided to explore Andres Bonifacio’s two years after the O’Hara biopic by producing and starring in Supremo, an exhibition film at the CinemaOne Originals Film Festival in 2012.
Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB), the Richard Somes movie opens with the death of Bonifacio’s second wife, Oryang or Gregoria De Jesus.
Betrayal is the main theme here—that even one’s own countrymen can be one’s worst enemies for the sake of power and authority. The film also shows the other side of Emilio Aguinaldo—his vulnerability and weakness.
Supremo has been praised as a production borne out of genuine dedication from a group of consummate craftsmen. Its greatest value as a teaching tool is offering future generations of Filipinos a different look at Bonifacio as Andres Bonifacio, the man and the hero.
‘Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo’
Undoubtedly the biggest movie about Andres Bonifacio, the 40th Metro Manila Film Festival entry Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo had action superstar Robin Padilla in the hero’s role.
The story starts with the garrotte execution of the three martyr priests of the Cavite Mutiny—Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinot Zamora—collectively known as Gomburza. Young Andres was among the crowd that witnessed the tumultuous public execution. He picks up a soiled handkerchief presumably owned by one of the priests, which will later figure as an affirmation of the mature Bonifacio’s revolutionary resolve.
As the story progresses, Jose Rizal (Jericho Rosales) organizes the peaceful reform movement La Liga Filipina. One of the members is the youthful Bonifacio. When Spanish authorities uncover the organization and arrest Rizal, Bonifacio forms the Katipunan. He meets a woman from a well-to-do family, Gregoria De Jesus (Vina Morales), also known as Oriang.
The Supremo rallies members of the Katipunan, triggering a revolution with the symbolic tearing of cedulas in defiance of Spanish rule, known in Philippine history as the Cry Of Balintawak.
The director and co-writer of Unang Pangulo is young Filipino-American named Enzo Williams.
Graded A by CEB, the movie won Best Picture and swept most of the technical awards in the 2014 MMFF.