El Presidente ; A Nation’s Saga on Film

The film is a visual feast for scholars of history and aspiring academic writers. Historians of a bygone era maintained an aloof, hyper-objective and antiseptic stance in their works. Readers were not able to grasp the scope of human emotion saturating the saga of Philippine socio-economic and political history. This film cannot be accused by local scholars who studied abroad of making a visual narrative with a “Fernando Ma. Guerrero” brand of nationalism.

This is one Metro-Manila film Festival entry that should earn some awards. Post-production editing could have been better but there are other aspects of the film deserving favorable reviews. Filmmakers and film experts may write a plethora of other comments about the craft. However, allow me this chance to write some of my observations about the film’s other aspects.

In one of Emilio Aguinaldo’s most trying moments, wasn’t local culture indeed a palliative? A few individuals in our history need socio-political redemption and the film will surely raise rancor here and there. This chapter of our country’s narrative is not easy to portray in visual terms. Despite this, the filmmakers succeeded in weaving a story that is thick with conflicting political allegiances & various personas of multi cultural backgrounds into one cohesive and comprehensive vignette-like movie.

On the other hand, we sense that a lot of technical challenges were involved in the process. Gender biases could not be avoided. Many events were shown as occurring on specific dates but all these did not lead to a conclusive postscript. Our expectations were somehow met when Aguinaldo is shown to be questioning (or setting) the real date of the granting of Philippine independence.

Nevertheless, the film has a lot of merits. It is good viewing for a mind that searches for continuity in our country’s unfinished recorded past. It generously provides the viewer with an understanding of the struggle under the overbearing yoke of colonial rule and the attainment of independence.

The film ‘El Presidente’ should encourage the current crop of filmmakers to work on expensive period films about local history. There is much to be explored in historical material and a lot of showbiz personalities now could very well bring to life long forgotten characters from musty archives. Going beyond the veneer of our socio-cultural fabric and beyond the political and economic structure in visual terms is as interesting as getting the significance of a historical episode appreciated.


About cathydeleon

I was a student of the late Constancio Bernardo and Jose Joya. I also had the privilege to have Rod Paras Perez, Napoleon "Billy" Abueva, Romeo Mananquil, Rafael Asuncion, Virginiaflor Agbayani and Lito Carating as my mentors. Larry Alcala's work at the Commission on Audit was done with a little help from me and another fine arts graduate. It was as well a privilege to meet many well known Filipino artists like Juvenal Sanso, Nena Saguil, Cesar Legaspi, Ang Kiukok, Onib Olmedo, Boy Rodriguez, Norma Belleza, Jerry Araos, Fred Baldemor, Esmeraldo Dans, Dave Aquino, and many other equally prominent visual artists. After a few years of working in a gallery, I took up graduate studies and finished my M.A. degree. Consequently I took up Philippine Studies (Philippine Society and Culture). The course was a consortium between the UP Asian Center, UP College of Social Sciences & Philosophy (CSSP) and the College of Arts & Letters (CAL). I finished my Ph.D. degree a few years ago.
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