Bayan o Sarili: A critical review on the Film “Heneral Luna”

Bayan o Sarili: A critical review on the Film “Heneral Luna”
Jerone Avel S. Cansino
MAED Social Science Student



            It was July 4, 1946 when the Americans gave us our sovereignty. It is the power to exercise our own laws constitution. For the first time, Philippines was at last recognized as a sovereign political entity. We appeared to be the first Malayan republic. Ours is a colorful history. It came from regionalism to centralization and colonization to independence. Our history is a history of bloodshed, sacrifice and tears. Songs were sang poems were recited, trumpets were sounded and at last we became a recognized state exercising our own laws, protecting our own territory and we ourselves running our own government in the light of our own culture. It has been 7 decades we are now on our fifth republic and seated in the Malacañang is our 16th President. At last we are long free from foreign rule.
            While we can be sure that we exercise our independence, there is a big question mark in terms of Filipinos sharing a sense of nationhood. We became a product of colonization. Our concept of democracy is no doubt came from a western origin. The Spaniards left us with the culture of corruption and colonial mentality as they invoke their imperial motives in us along with their mercantilism. We are the only Christian country in Asia. Approximately 87% of our country’s population is of Judeo Christian related religion. As of now there is a thick ambiguous line that separates things that makes us Filipino and the things that does not make us as such. We admire everything that is imported and views everything that is local as inferior.

            The Theme.

(Heneral Luna, 2015) The movie started on an interview. General Antonio Luna. An award-winning scientist, a licensed Pharmacist have decided to lead Philippine Army against the Americans. One of his marking remarks is that unifying Filipinos for a common cause is nearly an impossible task. While in a cabinet meeting he shouted on one of his fellow cabinet members who makes remarks about protecting his interest “Negosyo o kalayaan, bayan o sarili mamili ka!” If there is a recurring theme all throughout the film is that we Filipinos should choose whether we choose to serve ourselves or make a radical change of mind to put our country in the center of our existence as a human person. The General was nicknamed “Heneral Atikulo uno” because of his excessive use of the article 1 of their constitution to impose his authority over the army and the civilians to aid him in his war against the Americans. There are scenes when he scraped of a ranks of high officials shaming them in front of their men in their failure to aid him in battles. The movie was able to show the millennial root cause of all the problems in Philippines. Our tendency to protect our self interest in higher than our love for our nation. We have been oppressed for a long time that oppression becomes an integral part of us. The primary reason we lost to the American is our failure to unite. Filipinos plot against each other for the sake of regional and personal prides. Caviteños pride about themselves, Ilocanos did the same as well as the Visayas cabinet secretaries plot against each other. Antonio Luna has a superb plan of bringing the war into the jungle where they can get the advantage. But, it still did not materialized. Politics.
Antonio Luna was killed when he thought he will meet with Aguinaldo but little did he knew that he would be nearing his death. There was a plot and he fell for it. At the end of the movie the American Generals are talking about the death of Luna admiring him and laughing about the Filipinos. “They killed the only true General they have.” “He is surely a great man. If we met on a different circumstances, we could have been friend” Said the Americans in admiration to him.

The death of Luna
            While there are different versions of his death I find Ambeth Ocampo’s version and interpretation agreeable (Ocampo, 2015) that it will never be an ordinary murder. More than thirty wounds from bolo and gunshots. It was executed by loyal men of Emilio Aguinaldo. And guess what, there was never an investigation about it. Gruesome is that a great general was killed by his fellow countrymen whose level of intelligence is nothing and is driven by nothing but unparalleled selfishness.



We are composed of a number of majority and minority ethnic groups. Different subcultures that composes a theoretical larger National Culture. Then there are Historians who argue that we Filipinos lack National identity on the basis of our strong regionalism. Even historians play a great part in this. A historian from Luzon would highlight historical events in Luzon lessening the emphasis on those that happened on Visayas and Mindanao the same applies on the other authors. The National Language is another issue. It is said to be a product of politics. It is evident that Cebuano was the most widely used dialect. Not only that, the Cebuano dialect is also richer in terms of words. But we know the story that happened a long time ago. Guess what? Our national Language was based on Tagalog. It shows that if we see something similar to a sense of Nationhood in the Philippines, it could be either a political product or a cultural remnant of our distant past.

            The Rule of Principalia.
When Spain conquered Philippines, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi brought only about less than a thousand soldiers from Spain. The former raja and datu that collaborated with the Spanish Conquistadors became the member of the Principalia class. They were given a piece of land where they hold power. They collected tributes that gave them influence. They placed them above the other Filipinos. This practice led to our deep rooted oligarchy that is still observable in the present.

Is the Philippines ready for Nationhood during Luna’s Time? To answer that question, we must first understand how the Filipinos view themselves in the context of their era. Who were the leaders of the revolution? For what reason do they join the revolutionary force? One of the premises of the Americans is that they do not see Filipinos being ready for self-governance. Not only that. Jose Rizal and his fellow compatriots in propaganda movement did not advocated for freedom. Maybe it’s because they have not seen Philippines to be ready for such thing. All the Filipino insurgencies that occurred earlier were provincial or religious in nature. There was never a concept of Philippines as a country before. One loophole of our war for independence is the failure of the Tejeros Convention that commenced the clash between the Magdalo and the Magdiwang faction of the KKK. If we give it a deeper attention, this could have rooted from crave of power. The Katipunan movement therefore is viewed as either a way of gaining independence from foreign rule, or maybe the Filipino oligarchs see this to be a feasible way of breaking away from the shadow of a foreign ruler and exercising the power for themselves and their own interests. Perhaps, some of our revolutionary leaders.

The Filipinos are indeed not ready for Nationalism and also not ready for democracy. Antonio Luna wanted to make a radical reform in our government but he failed. His miscalculations are that his dreamed the dream of making Philippines a great nation. His fatal mistake is that he dreamed of it alone. That the Filipinos were still not ready for such a radical change that the country needs. The Philippines will never be ready to set aside their personal interest for the sake of their country. He died. The republic that he fought for collapsed. His death was recorded the greatest Filipino general was murdered.


          Lesson from the past
We Filipinos are very fond of killing our own heroes. Heroes who gave their lives for the cause of giving us freedom and independence. We tend to either kill or dismember those who want to transform our country into a great nation. Disgusting as it is many Filipinos would still not care about our country. Our decisions we self-centered. Philippines could have been a great country but surprisingly we lag behind. Our economic development is just amazingly slow compared to Malaysia and S-Korea. The problem is not about our heroes. The problem of our country is the uneducated population who loves their pet more than their country. Not to mention those individuals who would not care to participate in democracy. What makes us pathetic is our aid to those who oppress us. We sell our votes to them and we in return we bury our country in turmoil. We never had a dream of making our country great. We never dreamed that someday, we will be able to see Philippines as one of the World’s economic Powerhouse par with the likes of China, US, Russia and United Kingdom. From the past up until now many of us are subjected to oligarchy. We believe their propaganda and then we fall to their trap.

 Bayan o Sarili
We have an option. Whether we put our country in the center or we put ourselves in. We are Filipinos. What should we choose? Taking Japan as a model, where had their patriotism brought them? One of the powerhouse of Asia. A military power to be reckoned with and an economic leader. What we need is educated citizenry who is willing to give his life for his country. We need a strong patriotic citizenry. A group of individual whose goal is making Philippines a great country. A shame on us that we existed a country for a long time but we lag behind everyone else. We have the resources but we never had the right perspective.

An instructional Material

The wealth of information that a book contains can hardly be equalled by a film with a limited running time. But a film can express, narrate, and capture experiences, ideas and emotions in a way that no book can possibly duplicate. The power of film lies in its audio-visual nature. When used properly, it can be a very effective companion to classroom discussions. However, if film viewing will be utilized as an approach in teaching history, it is imperative for the teachers to equip their students with knowledge and skills to guide them in analysing the film. (Campomanes, 2015)

This material can aid learning. It would be an excellent material in teaching History. With the aid of teacher guidance, it could elicit patriotism among students. It would perform best if the teacher will be able to point out that the true problem of the Filipino people is its strong sense of regionalism and the lack of National unity. He have been isolated and separated. The greatest resolve for us is the reason from our past. How the Spanish have conquered us, how the Americans defeated us, how we spoiled our chance of becoming a great Nation, and how we tend to wipe off the face of the earth those who dream big.

What Filipinos need is a strong leader who can unite our country. As of now we have a strong leader. What are we going to do? Shall we kill him just like what we did with our heroes? The problem and corruption is never being solved. Shall we let criminals run our country? We are fighting a war. We should choose our side and we should take our self-interest aside. Regionalism and oligarchy is the cause of the stagnation of our country. We could perform better. The key is unity and education.


Heneral Luna (2015). [Motion Picture].
Ocampo, A. (2015). Retrieved from Inquirer:

 Campomanes, A. D. (2015).