Trac­ing the hero’s steps at Ti­rad Pass

A re­search trip in prepa­ra­tion for the Hen­eral Luna fol­low-up film

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - Text and pho­tos ANN MARIE CU­NANAN Ad­di­tional pho­tos by PONG IG­NA­CIO

A re­search trip in prepa­ra­tion for the Hen­eral Luna fol­low-up film

It all started with the idea of invit­ing in­spir­ing per­son­al­i­ties to join a Mean­ing­ful Trav­els PH (MTPh) trip, a new travel brand am de­vel­op­ing. I wanted to come up with a trip that aside from trav­el­ing and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, trav­el­ers would also have a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence en­gag­ing with in­spir­ing in­di­vid­u­als while on the road.

I’d been to Ti­rad Pass in Ilo­cos Sur be­fore and I want it to be one of MTPh’s des­ti­na­tions. I also knew that peo­ple from the film, Hen­eral Luna, would be in­ter­ested in this lo­ca­tion as their team is set to de­velop a fol­low-up film ti­tled

Goyo, which fol­lows the life and times of the young gen­eral, Gre­go­rio del Pilar, dur­ing the Philip­pine-Amer­i­can War era.

Ti­rad Pass is where del Pilar and 60 of his men made their fi­nal stand against 300 Amer­i­can sol­diers. A key ob­jec­tive of this stand was to pro­vide cover for Pres­i­dent Emilio Aguinaldo so that he could es­cape fur­ther up north. At that time, the Philip­pine re­pub­lic no longer ex­isted, and the Amer­i­can forces were de­feat­ing the Philip­pine forces.

The Team and the Trip

Af­ter dis­cus­sions with Jer­rold

Tarog, the di­rec­tor of Hen­eral Luna and who will di­rect Goyo, we de­cided on a one and a half day trip, with key mem­bers who would be able to con­trib­ute his­tor­i­cal ac­counts and records, all es­sen­tial to the re­search and de­vel­op­ment of the Goyo film.

One was Isagani Giron, a Gre­go­rio del Pilar scholar from Bu­la­can who helped de­velop the Ti­rad Pass his­tor­i­cal shrine in the year 1999. An­other one was Vi­cente “Bong”

En­riquez, the grand­son of Gre­go­rio del Pilar’s aide-de-camp Col. Vi­cente En­riquez. Jer­rold also brought along

Pong Ig­na­cio, the cin­e­matog­ra­pher of

Hen­eral Luna.

The group left Manila on Dec.16 in the evening, and ar­rived in Can­don af­ter an eight-hour jour­ney.

There was a pal­pa­ble sense of ex­cite­ment and en­thu­si­asm within the group. Isagani and Bong ex­cit­edly shared their books of old maps, au­to­bi­ogra­phies, and sto­ries passed down from their an­ces­tors, some hi­lar­i­ous off-the-record sto­ries, and all re­lat­ing to the his­tory and times of Goyo.

At Can­don, the group were wel­comed by the tourism head, Macario Bur­gos. Mayor Luz Vil­l­a­bos’ as­sis­tant, Nick Prades, later joined us at the town of del Pilar. Af­ter a two-hour topload ride on a 4x4 jeep, with mag­nif­i­cent open top views, and a de­li­cious Ilo­cano break­fast, we were ready for the two-hour as­cent to the his­tor­i­cal moun­tain shrine.

Film­mak­ers at Work

Jer­rold and Pong were in their el­e­ment once we started the trek. They took a lot of still pho­to­graphs and videos, and made de­tailed notes.

All-im­por­tant sites were vis­ited and stud­ied. We fol­lowed an old Span­ish trail, checked the cave where Goyo wrote his last let­ter to his fel­low com­pa­tri­ots, saw the an­cient bat­tle­ment struc­tures, and trekked fur­ther on up the spot where he was shot and killed by a sniper about 300 me­ters from the Sniper’s Knoll.

Jer­rold, who has com­posed sev­eral mu­si­cal scores will also be un­earthing old songs that were sang dur­ing the revo­lu­tion­ary day. Bong En­riquez has pro­vided him with a list of songs that are still used in his­tor­i­cal re-en­act­ments in Bu­la­can to this very day.

A Closer Look at the Sto­ry­teller

Dur­ing the trek, Jer­rold was mostly quiet and re­flec­tive. At times, he’d dis­tance him­self from the group, and some­times you would have that feel­ing that, yes, he’s there, but not re­ally with us.

One might be see­ing a ter­rain and its trees, but the mind of this film­maker could be back in time, 116 years ago, on that fate­ful day when the Bat­tle of Ti­rad Pass took place—see­ing sol­diers ex­chang­ing fires, and hear­ing their cries of des­per­a­tion. All th­ese men knew from the very be­gin­ning that theirs was a sui­cide mis­sion with no hope of sur­vival.

Dur­ing our much-needed breaks, Jer­rold would raise ques­tions and share sto­ries from his re­search. Most of the time he was like a sponge ab­sorb­ing all the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to him, writ­ing it all down in his small note­book or record­ing it on his mo­bile phone.

When asked if he felt un­der pres­sure to de­liver more fol­low­ing the out­stand­ing suc­cess of Hen­eral Luna, he replied, “Not pres­sure but ex­cite­ment. I just fo­cus on the job.” Al­though he does ad­mit that achiev­ing the right bal­ance be­tween cre­ative dra­matic por­trayal and his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy is a chal­lenge.

The sto­ry­line of Goyo has al­ready been writ­ten in less than a month fol­low­ing our re­search trip, and the ac­tor, Paulo Avelino, will play the role of Goyo in the film.

It is in­ter­est­ing to see how Jer­rold pieced all the facts and re­search he had col­lected to present the life story and his­tory of Goyo. What mes­sages will he high­light and per­haps more im­por­tantly, what ques­tions will he leave his au­di­ence to think about?

From Hen­eral Luna, we were left with that bru­tal ques­tion “Why are we killing our own kind?” or that fa­mous ques­tion that went vi­ral, “Bayan o

sar­ili? Pumili ka.”

“There is no hero wor­ship­ping,” he said in one of his in­ter­views when asked. The cul­ture of glo­ri­fi­ca­tion has fre­quently blinded us to re­al­ity. A hero’s life is not all glory, brav­ery, gal­lantry, and self-sac­ri­fice. His au­di­ence can look for­ward to a story that may not be far from ours, a story of a man who has strug­gles, fears, poor judge­ment, and am­bi­tions.

On our de­scent from the trek with bod­ies drenched with sweat, Jer­rold went to­ward a pile of wood and pulled a bot­tle of wa­ter. He ap­par­ently hid it on our way up.

“Oh wow, that was un­ex­pected!” I said. He just smiled and sat­is­fied his thirst.

Will he also pull the same trick when he leads the au­di­ence to his cre­ative in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the story?

(Fun Fact: He’s quite known for this).

Only Jer­rold knows.

An In­vi­ta­tion

The film Goyo is planned to go into pro­duc­tion in the sum­mer of 2017 and it is ex­pected to be com­pleted some­time in 2018. It is quite a wait for Jer­rold’s avid fans, but mean­while, you can see his other crit­i­cally ac­claimed films such as Con­fes­sional, Se­nior Year, and Sana Dati, all avail­able in DVDs in stores na­tion­wide.

The Ti­rad Pass shrine is open to any­one who wishes to visit. Con­tact the tourism of­fice at 63 917 519 8803, look for Macario Bur­gos, and ad­vise him of your planned visit. Aside from the Ti­rad Pass His­tor­i­cal Shrine, the town of del Pilar also has Payew rice ter­races, Si­bol hot­springs, and wa­ter­falls to show­case to vis­it­ing guests.

One might be see­ing a ter­rain and its trees, but the mind of this film­maker could be back in time, 116 years ago, on that fate­ful day when the Bat­tle of Ti­rad Pass took place—see­ing sol­diers ex­chang­ing fires, and hear­ing their cries of des­per­a­tion.

A HERO’S TREK From top: The first stop from Can­don to del Pilar was at the town of Sal­cedo where the bones of Goyo were ini­tially laid to rest, two years af­ter his death; A bust of Goyo will greet vis­i­tors at the shrine; A peep into the small cave...

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