Philippine history

[Newspoint] A corrective course in history

Vergel O. Santos

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[Newspoint] A corrective course in history

David Castuciano

Indeed, 'GomBurZa' is just the corrective course you need. It resets your sense of history.

The movie GomBurZa could not have come at a more opportune time.

Done in just the right form and medium, although set more than 150 years ago, it fills a crying need for patriotic inspiration and some understanding of why we remain a ways off our nationalistic and democratic aspirations. Its makers deserve our thanks not only for their timing, but also for being able to package thematic history in two hours without being unfaithful to it or shortchanging the audiences – for leaving out those distracting details school learners are made to memorize and tested for, before they are sent off with passing marks, although lost still in the forest of history, having missed it for the trees.

Indeed, GomBurZa is just the corrective course you need. It resets your sense of history. If you’re sensitive enough and openminded enough as a learner, you will realize that our history is a fateful run of events of our own making; that our past has prompted or influenced or even defined our present, and that our present, once it has itself passed, will do the same to our future; you will detect pivotal points in our nation’s life, and will begin to suspect, only sensibly, that what we are today, where we are today, has to do with the turns we took at those points, if we decided at all to make a turn and not simply stay in place and leave everything to chance. And then, you will also begin to suspect that all histories, all nations’ histories, could only have proceeded in the same way.

The martyrdom, in 1872, of Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora – the first syllables of their surnames were put together, again, as a memory aid, and I do find it quite fetching and useful myself – was precisely one such pivotal point in our history. Those three priests had been campaigning for the secularization, effectively the nationalization, of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, but were indicted for the cardinal crime of mutiny as a rationalization for their execution, Inquisition-fashion, by garrote. In any case, their martyrdom set the stage for the revolution that was to liberate us decisively from Spain – although only to deliver ourselves into the arms of another and even trickier colonialist, but that’s another movie.

Anyway, to continue with the one now showing: It also ties the three priests to our foremost hero, Jose Rizal. He is shown witnessing their execution and suffering the same fate 24 years later, in his case by firing squad. Whether his cinematic portrayal is true to history – a 10-year-old taken along to the garroting by his older bother, Paciano, as it happened a student of Father Burgos’ – is now a point of dispute, which I prefer to leave alone; Rizal’s spiritual connection to those three priests is good enough for me.

I’m similarly uninterested in the dispute over The Cry of Pugad Lawin, which signaled the start of the Philippine Revolution. The cry had gone out in the same year as Rizal’s execution, 1896, preceding it by four months, but its causal connection to Gomburza has never been at issue. That Pugad Lawin climaxed a series of local, regional, and otherwise limited uprisings provoked by the priests’ martyrdom has been established as historical fact. But still, again out of misplaced meticulousness, where and when exactly that signal cry was raised continues to be debated, insistently.

I myself have to confess, though, to a feeling, as I came out of the theater, of wanting more, but it’s not the movie’s fault; it is my own. It’s a feeling that comes from the impatience and sense of regret typical among old men who still haven’t got their special wishes this late in the day and now wonder whether they themselves failed to do their part and are, therefore, undeserving.

But the movie GomBurZa raises in me a new hope and, with it, a more plausible wish. Its makers could be challenged to follow the thread of history two centuries forward into contemporary times and to mount more GomBurZas.

Spared the truth about ourselves, we are deprived of its liberating power. Thus, we continue to suffer subjugation under plundering neocolonialists and their local surrogates, collaborationists, and sundry agents. And knowing all that only too well themselves, those subjugators and plunderers deploy every Information Age weapon at their disposal to falsify history.

That, apart from miseducation, is what we’re now up against. –

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  1. ET

    Thanks to writer Vergel Santos for another inspiring article, which is, this time, based on the Gomburza Movie. Surprisingly, President Marcos Jr.’s Disinformation Machinery could not immediately field a counter-movie, perhaps with the title: “Zaburgom.” So, now, does President Marcos Jr. miss his former adviser for Creative Communications?

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