Repeating Bonifacio’s tragedy


I WAS somewhat sad to see most moviegoers flocking to the horror flicks and Vice Ganda’s movie at the 40th Metro Manila Film Festival but only a few came to see “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo,” even after it won the most number of awards in the festival’s awards night.

Bonifacio won a total of nine prizes including Best Picture and the Gat Puno Antonio Villegas Cultural Award.

Sadly, that’s not enough to recoup investment in the film, which according to Robin Padilla (its lead star and producer) cost P100 million to make and another P150 million to promote.

In his acceptance speech for Best Picture, Padilla said the film had only earned P10 million and pleaded to the public to go see the movie.

I did.

The film is not the first movie about Andres Bonifacio. Back in the early 90s, when indie filmmaking wasn’t yet in vogue, Raymond Red made “Bayani” which was about Bonifacio.

Later, Red made another historical biopic, “Sakay,” which was about Macario Sakay, one of our unsung national heroes who fought alongside Bonifacio against the Spanish then fought in the Philippine-American War.

Padilla’s “Bonifacio” is worth seeing. It may not be perfect or as “entertaining” perhaps as “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin” (which reportedly is fast approaching a gross earning of P200 million), but it is a significant film that educates and provokes thought and stirs something in its audience, small though it may be so far.

Films can make statements and ask questions. Sure there are films that are pure escapist entertainment. But there are also many that can leave lasting impressions; that can move hearts and minds.

Even as they entertain and engross, they help us face certain realities about our society that perhaps we are afraid to face. They reflect and mirror our lives—our flaws as well as our virtues, our hopes and dreams as well as our fears, our most glorious humanity that inspires, and our most grotesque inhumanity that disturbs.

“Bonifacio” is such a film. Like Red’s “Bayani” it reminds us, quite disturbingly, that the founder of the Philippine revolution against Spain, the Supremo of the Katipunan, was murdered not by the Spanish but by his own men.

It tells us even then, we Filipinos, our leaders and our social movements, were wracked and ultimately defeated by factional dissent and bitter infighting.

“Bonifacio” is a movie that has a social agenda. It is more a means of national self-expression and reflection and less a means of escape.

So I do wish that more people would see it as we need more films like it.

Not many people are aware what a big risk making movies is. To recoup expenses, a film has to gross at least three times its budget just to break even. For a small market like the Philippines, this is tough, especially when you consider rampant piracy and the competition coming from Hollywood movies, especially the big-budget spectacle movies.

No wonder there is lack of financing for local movies. It is really a losing venture odds-wise, and only the big film companies can afford flops, maybe not even them.

The producers of “Bonifacio” are reportedly planning to make another biopic on Gregorio Del Pilar. They deserve our encouragement and the best way to do so is patronage at the tills.

I was surprised to hear from some students I asked that they were not required by their history or social studies teachers to see the film. I suspect this may be partly because of the controversial contention of Bonifacio being the first president (as the film’s title says so), which is not taught in our history books.

But it is quite natural for historical accounts to be varied and divided, as they are written from different perspectives. So it is natural for historical films to be just like so. For instance, last year’s festival had a biopic on Emilio Aguinaldo that depicted Bonifacio as a traitor who deserved his fate.

It is still important for today’s youth to become acquainted with events from the past, varied those interpretations may be.

We keep repeating the tragedies of history because most Filipinos don’t know their history and don’t learn from them.

Indeed, I find it appalling that most kids nowadays don’t even know what happened during Martial Law or don’t know about the 1986 People Power Revolution, which are only a few decades back.

Films that portray history can be an important part of the social studies curriculum. Analyzing and comparing the movie version to what actually occurred or what is written in our history books can only benefit our students and complement their classroom experience.

As classes resume this week, I hope teachers would ask students to see “Bonifacio” if it’s not too late.


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  1. When the national leadership including congress and the senate, failed to depend the Philippine sovereignty over the Chinese incursion of our territories, national pride and patriotism were gone with the wind. It was a tragedy when Bonifacio was killed by his men and another tragedy when we watch the Chinese occupy our territories without resistance. The new breed of Filipinos think that “trying to be a BAYANI is stupidity”. Lahat ng BAYANI ay patay na and when our national leadership cowered at the sight of the Chinese, it becomes normal to the citizenry to prefer watching horror flicks and the likes of Vice Ganda’s movie than a movie about our history because national pride has been eclipsed by corruption.

  2. Guillermo Hernandez on

    Your comments highlights the ignorance of the the Filipino people…I.e…..their preference of crowding to see ‘ the amazing praybeyt Benjamin ‘ or a vice Ganda movie
    versus seeing a class movie like ‘ Bonifacio, Ang Unang Pangulo ‘ .

    Take a quick glance at our elective officials……we have a disproportionate number of
    movie and TV personalities …..we do not elect our officials based on their stand on
    issues…..we hold popularity contests every four years !

  3. The public lack of interest on “Bonifacio” as indicated by the ticket sales speaks what is important to the Filipino people. It exemplify misplaced priorities or level of maturity and sophistication. The question to ask is “What will It take to open the eyes and hearts to what is most important as a people?” and grow up from the juvenile pursuits.

  4. albert R. Palafox on

    It is sad day for the Philippines, when comedy is more relevant than history. During our high school day our history teacher never mentioned that Andress Bonifacio was murdered by our own Filipino. For me AndresBonifacio is the Greatets Filipino hero for he stand up against the Spaniard to star the revolution, I guess when you are poor
    the elitist never recognized you. What About General Antonio Luna who was murdeered in Cabanatuan. Maybe Robin Padilla will produce a film about General Antonio Luna.

  5. Pilipinas forgets history very easily. Kung ang CBCP at Metro-Manila gobyerno, nakalimutan na ang SuperFerry Bombing, eh di Pilipinas follows the leadership of its elders.

    Martial law? Itinatanong pa ba ito? Nakalimutan na ng Pilipinas ang martial law!! eh kung si presidente Noynoy, hindi na interesadong iharap sa korte ang mastermind ng “Assasination on the Tarmac” ninoy-aquino-assasination, eh di Pilipinas follows the leadership of its elders.