“Life is not one damn thing after another. It is one damn thing over and over.” — Edna St. Vincent Millay
It was fun to watch Heneral Luna, but it was not easy.
It was fun to watch a Filipino film that did not feature worn and hackneyed plots, screaming drama queens and slapstick comedy. It was fun watching serious acting, witty dialogues, impressive costumes and brilliant cinematography. I never was a history buff. To my shame, I went into the moviehouse not really knowing who Antonio Luna was — except that he was a street name in Davao, and perhaps the brother of the painter, Juan Luna.
But when I came out of the theater, I will never forget who he was.
It was not easy watching the film, though. The enjoyment of watching a well-crafted film carried undercurrents of anger and despair — anger at how people could be so callous, greedy and selfish, and despair that the problems our forefathers faced are still the very same problems we face today. 150 years of history has not done much to eradicate regionalism, political ambition and backstabbing, and abuse of power.
I need not convince you of this. Simply going through the national and local daily news should be enough. It is disheartening to read about the Intellectual Property Office stealing its logo from a design proposal, but it is no longer surprising. In our country, it seems normal for our lawmakers and law enforcers to be themselves the lawbreakers. How many videos have we seen of kotong cops flagging down vehicles for imaginary violations? How many photos have we seen of police cars turning left with a No Left Turn sign in full view, or of policemen riding motorcycles without helmets? Even a presidentiable was captured in a campaign trail photo driving without a seatbelt.
It is probably only in our country where we have ejected a dictator who has stolen so much from our national coffers, and yet his family has come back, unashamed and unapologetic, and once again occupying key leadership positions. It is only here where we have impeached and imprisoned another president, only to have him released and serving as a mayor of the nation’s capital city a few years later. Like Buencamino, Paterno and Mascardo, these people seem to have an unlimited supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards that they keep playing, and none of the other players seem to mind, and applaud them even.
And what’s worse is that some don’t even need to get out of jail, but win as elected officials while serving time. I mean, seriously, how ridiculous is that? Why hasn’t a law been made against that after all this time? Even a fictionist would be hard-pressed to come up with such an implausible plotline as this.
Yet this is our reality, and this is why the film was so hard to watch.
Since we watched the last full show of the movie, I went to bed with a heavy heart and I woke up still disturbed and perplexed. What can I do, what can we do, to solve the intricate mess that we have put ourselves in? How long must we suffer and be doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers? When will we wake up and realize that it doesn’t really take much to change — just a little more patience at intersections, giving way to others and preventing unnecessary gridlocks; just a little more effort in picking up our own trash — throwing that candy wrapper or cigarette butt in the wastecan instead of the street; just a little more responsibility in doing our jobs properly — showing up to work on time, being courteous and considerate, and finding ways to get things done instead of looking for others to blame; just a little more self-respect — not asking for or giving bribes or taking short cuts, but taking pride in a job well done; just a little more love for others and for ourselves; just a little more encouragement to others to not give up, to continue fighting the good fight, to press on and not lose heart.
We all need it. I need it. You need it.
It is not easy, but it is a worthy goal.
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” — Walt Kelly
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.