Historia Pampanga

Not a critic review: Goyo, the Boy General

February 10, 2019

Por fin! the film “Goyo, the Boy General” is now showing on Netflix. Here’s hoping that they add “Dahling Nick” soon.

So was the movie good? What about it was bad?

In my book, it’s right up there with Raymond Red’s Sakay and Heneral Luna, which by the way is from the same Director, Jerrold Tarog.

The film’s fascinating portrayal of Gregorio del Pilar caught many by surprise. Filipinos are used to seeing their heroes like FPJ characters, spotless men with remarkable inhuman abilities.

The young general was depicted as a womanizing, self-doubting person who acted as hatchet man for Aguinaldo. He redeemed himself in the end by accepting his fate and probably that of the revolution’s termination.

Ever heard of the phrase, “never meet you heroes?” Well, Tarog’s film introduced us to our text book heroes and many left their movie seats dumbfounded.



I read that Former Mayor Lito Atienza (who I’ll never forgive for destroying the art deco Sky Dome along Harrison ) claims the movie was so bad he bolted out of the cinema. The guy’s so full of himself. But I wonder if Mayor Alfredo Lim has seen the movie. He’s a descendant (from the Siojo line of San Miguel Bulacan) of the young general. He must have heard family stories about him.

The present Manila Mayor, Erap Estrada, has links to Bulacan too. Judge Arcadio Ejercito, his grandfather loaned his house in Malolos to be utilized as the office of Secretaria de Guerra. But Goyo took orders direct from Aguinaldo himself, not from the secretary of war nor the senior generals.

I suspect that the accounts Tarog and his team used were derived from various sources but they most likely based the film’s overall theme from Nick Joaquin’s work. To many he’s a fiction writer, but many forget that he’s one helluva historian.

Joaquin understood the language, history and culture of our hispano-filipino forebears like no other. Nick’s father, Don Leocadio, was a colonel in the revolutionary army.

Guillermo Gomez Rivera told me once that he asked Joaquin to write in Spanish. At that time Gomez still had his Spanish newspaper Nueva Era. Joaquin told him that he’s out to re-educate the English-only Filipino generation.

And they are today with films like Goyo.


It’s not the typical, romanticized, hackneyed Filipino hero film. Goyo reveals to us the ugly side of the generation of leaders that led the revolution.

Filipinos like to be entertained when they go see movies. Unlike Luna where there were several entertaining, even hilarious scenes, Goyo was straightforward in its depiction. The main protagonist’s character was not as complex as the mercurial Antonio Luna.

Also Goyo, didn’t live that long. He was shot in the head, among the first to die when the American assaulted their position. He was protecting the passage (Tirad Pass) Aguinaldo took heading north.

I saw a movie about him in college, played by Romnick Sarmienta, where he fought until the bitter end. Not true.

Another complain I heard was how Aguinaldo was unfairly portrayed as villain. Well, considering this film was from the same director that made Luna, that’s hardly surprising.

But was Aguinaldo really that bad?

The film gave us a peek at how cruel his men were. Some historians suggests that Aguinaldo was more humane to foreign prisoners than his Filipino enemies. Bonifacio and Luna were among the well known skeletons in his closet.

The revolution ended early because Filipinos failed to unite. How familiar is this story to us Filipinos?

Buencamino in his deposition in the US senate said, “Everybody lost confidence in the insurrection by this occurrence (Luna’s assassination). It can be said that from that time the insurrection had morally died.”
“The revolution like Saturn devours its own children”, a common saying during the French revolution that proved to be true for our revolution.

Roby Tantingco, from the Center for Kapampangan Studies, shared this historical snippet of the Macabebe townspeople at the turn of the century:

MACABEBE CHURCH IN RUINS, 1901 (photos available here). This is the price the people of Macabebe paid for their loyalty to Spain. In June, 1898, Gen. Aguinaldo sent 7,000 mostly Tagalog soldiers to destroy the town, bombing their beautiful centuries-old church and killing an unknown number of men, women and children. The reason–the townspeople had earlier protected hundreds of Spanish soldiers, friars and government officials, including the Governor-General’s wife and children, who had fled to Pampanga to seek refuge in the last town that remained faithful to Spain. Macabebe soldiers delayed the pursuit, allowing the Spaniards to jump into ships that had come to rescue them.

Three years later, in 1901, the Macabebes got their sweet revenge when the Americans visited the town to recruit volunteers for the operation to capture Aguinaldo. The recruiting officer, Lt. Matthew Batson of the US 4th Cavalry, only needed a battalion, but nearly got an entire regiment because the Macabebe women “were eager to have their sons, husbands and sweethearts to go with him.”

On March 23, 1901, the Macabebes, using a combination of acting skill, proficiency in Tagalog, and military genius, captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela, forcing him to swear allegiance to the United States “without any reservation whatsoever.” The newspaper Baltimore American called it “the bombastic, puerile, fawning, insincere statement of an opportunist in bad plight.

Philippine history is full of such stories.

We never learn.

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