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Heneral Luna

Heneral Luna (lit. General Luna) is a 2015

Filipino historical biopic film depicting
General Antonio Luna's leadership of the
Philippine Revolutionary Army during the
Philippine–American War. It opens with
the beginning of hostilities with the
American colonizers, and ends with the
assassination of Luna on June 5, 1899 -
a period in which Luna served as
Supreme Chief of the Army under the
First Philippine Republic.
Heneral Luna

Official movie poster

Directed by Jerrold Tarog

Produced by Fernando Ortigas

Written by Henry Francia

E.A. Rocha
Jerrold Tarog

Starring John Arcilla

Mon Confiado
Arron Villaflor
Joem Bascon
Archie Alemania
Epi Quizon
Nonie Buencamino
Paulo Avelino
Leo Martinez
Mylene Dizon
Ronnie Lazaro

Music by Jerrold Tarog

Cinematography Pong Ignacio

Edited by Jerrold Tarog

Production Artikulo Uno

Distributed by Quantum Films

Abramorama (United

Release date
September 9, 2015
October 30, 2015
Running time (United States)
118 minutes

Country Philippines

Language Tagalog

Budget ₱80 million[2]

Box office ₱256 million[3]

Directed by Jerrold Tarog and produced

by Artikulo Uno Productions, the film
received critical acclaim from critics and
audiences alike, praising its
cinematography, writing, acting and plot.
The film was selected as the Philippine
entry for the Best Foreign Language Film
at the 88th Academy Awards but it was
not nominated.[4]

With a production budget of 80 million

pesos,[5][6] it is one of the most expensive
Filipino epic historical films ever
released. On September 29, 2015, it
broke previous record of ₱160 million to
become the highest grossing Filipino
historical film of all time.[7][8][9] Despite a
50% discount offered student viewers,[10]
by the beginning of its fourth week the
film was well on its way to reaching the
₱200 million gross ticket sales.[11] In
October 11, it was officially announced
that the film had reached its ₱240 million
break even point.[5]
A sequel, entitled Goyo: Ang Batang
Heneral, is scheduled for a 2018 release,
with Paulo Avelino reprising his role as
the titular Gregorio Del Pilar, the
youngest General during the Philippine–
American War.

President Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon
Confiado) together with his Prime
Minister Apolinario Mabini (Epi Quizon)
and the whole presidential cabinet are
debating the issue of the American
presence in the Philippines. Felipe
Buencamino (Nonie Buencamino) and
Pedro Paterno (Leo Martinez) support a
trade with Americans while General
Antonio Luna (John Arcilla) and General
José Alejandrino (Alvin Anson) want to
wage war to gain independence for the
Philippines. Luna asks the cabinet to
authorize a pre-emptive strike while the
Americans have yet to land their ground
troops. Aguinaldo however assured his
cabinet that the Americans had promised
to help win freedom from their Spanish
overlords. Unfortunately, the Americans
have invaded key cities in Manila,
indicating a possible war against the

Luna and his trusted comrades – General

José Alejandrino, Colonel Francisco
“Paco” Román (Joem Bascon), Captain
Eduardo Rusca (Archie Alemania),
Captain José Bernal (Alex Medina) and
Major Manuel Bernal (Art Acuña) –
embark on an arduous campaign against
the invading American forces. During an
intense battle against American troops
led by General Arthur MacArthur Jr.
(Miguel Faustmann) and General Elwell
Otis (E.A. Rocha), Luna asks for
reinforcements from the Kawit Battalion
but its commander, Captain Pedro
Janolino (Ketchup Eusebio), refuses to
comply because the order did not come
from President Aguinaldo himself. Luna
angrily rides to Janolino's camp,
humiliates him in front his men, and
dismisses the battalion for
insubordination. Luna then assembles an
army of 4,000 soldiers by declaring his
infamous "Article One", stating that all
who refuse to follow his orders shall be
executed without the benefit of a trial in a
military court. He also recruits Lieutenant
García (Ronnie Lazaro) after seeing his
marksmanship skills, and makes him
commander of his elite unit of

As the war drags on, Buencamino and

Paterno indicate their support of a
proposal by the Americans for Philippine
autonomy. Enraged by this, Luna orders
their arrest. Luna’s campaign is
undermined by General Tomás Mascardo
(Lorenz Martinez), who opposes Luna's
order for reinforcements, stating that he
will only follow the President's direct
orders. While the two generals are about
to clash in Pampanga, the Americans
advance steadily as other Filipino
generals like Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo
Avelino) retreat to the north. Luna visits
Aguinaldo and Mabini to file his
resignation, knowing that Buencamino
and Paterno had been set free. Aguinaldo
refuses to accept his resignation, but
agrees to let Luna establish a
headquarters for the Philippine Army in
the north.
Later, Luna is summoned by a telegram
to the President’s headquarters in
Cabanatuan. Although his officers are
suspicious, Luna rides to Cabanatuan,
bringing only Román and Rusca with him.
Most of the soldiers had already left
headquarters under Aguinaldo's orders,
with the exception of some elements of
the Kawit Battalion. Luna discovers upon
arrival that Aguinaldo had already left
and only Buencamino remains in the
office. As they exchange heated words, a
single shot is fired outside. Luna
investigates and encounters Captain
Janolino and his men, who attack him.
Luna is shot, stabbed, and hacked
repeatedly to death. Román is also killed
while a wounded Rusca surrenders to the
Kawit soldiers. Most of Luna's remaining
loyal officers are arrested, while some
are killed, including the Bernal brothers.

As ordered by Aguinaldo, Luna and

Román are buried with full military
honors by the Kawit Battalion - the same
men who killed them. Mabini, who is
among the mourners, notices a bloodied
Bolo of one of the soldiers; however, the
Kawit Battalion would be exonerated

While American newspapers quickly

blame Aguinaldo for the death of Luna,
after the war an aged Aguinaldo denies
his involvement on the assassination; he
acknowledges Antonio Luna as his most
brilliant and most capable general.
MacArthur and Otis acknowledge Luna
as a worthy adversary, laughing at the
fact that the Filipinos killed the only real
general they had.

In the mid-credits scene, General

Gregorio del Pilar makes ready to cover
Aguinaldo's retreat to the north. He
gathers Luna's remaining men and orders
his aide to select 60 of them.

Historical characters

John Arcilla as Gen. Antonio Luna

Mon Confiado as President Emilio
Members of Aguinaldo's
Presidential Cabinet

Epy Quizon as Prime Minister

Apolinario Mabini
Alvin Anson as Gen. José Alejandrino
Nonie Buencamino as Felipe
Buencamino Sr.
Leo Martinez as Pedro Paterno

Antonio Luna's general staff

Joem Bascon as Col. Francisco "Paco"

Art Acuña as Maj. Manuel Bernal
Alex Medina as Capt. José Bernal
Archie Alemania as Capt. Eduardo
Ronnie Lazaro as Lt. García
Members of the Cavite Faction
of the Philippine Revolutionary

Lorenz Martinez as Gen. Tomás

Ketchup Eusebio as Capt. Pedro
Anthony Falcon as Sgt. Díaz,
messenger of General Mascardo[12]
Other Philippine Revolutionary
Army personnel

Paulo Avelino as Gen. Gregorio

"Goyong" del Pilar
Benjamin Alves as Lt. Manuel Quezon

United States Army personnel

Miguel Faustmann as Gen. Arthur

MacArthur Jr.[13]
E.A. Rocha as Maj. Gen. Elwell Otis
Greg Dorris as Maj. Gen. Wesley
David Bianco as Maj. Peter Lorry Smith
Rob Rownd as Col. Boyd

Other supporting characters

Bing Pimentel as Laureana Luna,

mother of Antonio Luna
Allan Paule as Juan Luna, brother of
Antonio Luna
Marc Abaya as young Antonio Luna
Perla Bautista as Trinidad Aguinaldo,
mother of Emilio Aguinaldo
Dido de la Paz as Don Joaquín Luna de
San Pedro, father of Antonio Luna
Junjun Quintana as José Rizal
Nico Antonio as Andrés Bonifacio
Jake Feraren as Procopio Bonifacio
Carlo Aquino as Col. Vicente Enriquez

Fictional or composite

Arron Villaflor as Joven Hernando, the

film's POV character, a fictional
journalist interviewing Luna.[14]
Mylene Dizon as Isabel, a composite
character of several of the historical
Luna's love interests.[15]


The first draft of Heneral Luna was

written in 1998 by E.A. Rocha and Henry
Hunt Francia, who chose to write about
Antonio Luna after being hired by Cirio
Santiago to write a television script for a
television series in celebration of the
centennial of Philippine independence.
When the series failed to push through,
Rocha and Francia were asked to rewrite
the script as a feature-length film. The
film did not go into production, however,
and was shelved for seventeen years.[16]
Francia died before the film's release.[17]
Eventually, Leo Martinez convinced
Rocha to submit the script to the Film
Development Council of the

Jerrold Tarog, who had separately

developed an interest in making a film
about Antonio Luna after reading
literature about him, learned about the
Rocha and Francia script, and asked if he
could use it for his planned film. Tarog
got permission to re-write the script,
which was originally written entirely in
English,[19] and then asked fellow director
Alvin Yapan to help translate it into
formal Tagalog.[16] Tarog then tweaked
the script further, simplifying it, and
adapting it further for the appreciation of
modern audiences.[19][20]

Notably, one of Tarog's later changes

was to separate the Mascardo and
Janolino characters, which at one point
had been merged into a composite
character, "Mascolino", who would have
taken on characteristics of both
historical characters. Tarog indicated
that separating the characters would
help flesh the film out further, and give it
more highlights.[18]
The characters of Paco Román and
Eduardo Rusca, who were portrayed in a
character triptych with Luna in the film,
were written to be polar opposites.
Román would be a more controlled,
logical character who would help bring
out a more controlled side of Luna, while
Rusca would be a more passionate
character who could provide moments of
levity throughout the film.[21]

In an interview on Filipino music website

Radio Republic, Tarog, who has a degree
in music composition from the College of
Music at the University of the Philippines
Diliman,[22] indicated that he approached
Heneral Luna, as with all his other films,
from a musical perspective. He revealed
that he sometimes even did so literally -
using a musical staff to lay out scenes,
plotting out highs and lows, with notes
corresponding scenes, and the pitch of
the note corresponding to the mood.[19]

Among Tarog's references during the

rewriting of the script were Philippine
National Artist Nick Joaquin's A Question
of Heroes, which he used as a guide to
the film's tone and in humanizing the
character of the titular protagonist; and
Vivencio José's The Rise and Fall of
Antonio Luna, which Tarog used as the
primary source on Antonio Luna's life.[16]


Before meeting with Rocha regarding

revising the script for the film, Tarog
approached mainstream producers to do
the film; he was however met with
skepticism and doubts over the film's
marketability, as they assumed that such
a historical film "will be boring" or would
not appeal to a mainstream audience.
Tarog expressed difficulty into
convincing them otherwise, lamenting
that the local film industry has been
institutionalized into producing films
solely for entertainment, without taking
into account those that "contribute to the
minds of the people".[16][23]
The film was bankrolled by businessman
Fernando Ortigas' film production outfit
Artikulo Uno Productions, which takes its
name from the Philippine-American War
military directive, prominently referenced
in the film. Ortigas himself makes a brief
cameo in the film.[23][24] Ortigas and
Rocha served as co-producers of the
film.[23] Ortigas remarked that if he would
have received the script for the film a
week earlier than he did, he would have
just junked the script because he was not
in a good state of mind to work with films
at that time. He comments that the script
arrived "at the right time" and said he
enjoyed it.[25]
The film went through a long pre-
production phase, which allowed the
film's various departments to cope with
the challenges of filming a period film in
contemporary settings.[23] With roughly
90% of the film needing to be shot on
location, the film required extensive
location shoots in the few areas in the
Philippines which still matched the
architecture and environment of the


Speaking at a press conference for 2015

Quezon City International Film Festival, at
the beginning of the film's fourth week,
Producer and co-writer E.A. Rocha noted
that no expense was to be spared in
getting "only actors suited for the role"
instead of big-name stars. Tarog said his
experiences on watching John Arcilla's
performance in Raymond Red's short film
Anino and later in the feature film Metro
Manila later influenced him to cast Arcilla
as General Luna.[21]


To keep costs down and cope with the

requirements of shooting a historical film
in modern settings, the film hewed close
to its very tightly planned shotlist.[21]
Tarog revealed that he designed his
shots to reflect the two sides of Luna's
personality - mostly straightforward
shots to reflect his bluntness, and longer
steadicam shots in moments that
revealed his poetic side.[21]

Cinematographer Pong Ignacio drew

inspiration from paintings from the film's
period, including Antonio Luna's brother,
Juan, and referenced numerous films
portraying trench warfare, citing Stanley
Kubrick's 1957 film Paths of Glory as a
particular inspiration.[26] Ignacio recounts
that the flashback scene to Luna's
childhood, which was a single long
steadicam shot involving an elaborate
set, was the most challenging shot of the

Makeup and prosthetics

Makeup and prosthetics for the film

referred extensively to actual pictures of
the historical characters. Arcilla had to
grow out his moustache for the film,
while Confiado lost significant weight for
the role. Confiado also had to spend a
long time looking for a barber who could
render Aguinaldo's iconic haircut well.
Carmen Reyes, who oversaw the makeup
and prosthetics for the film, revealed that
the makeup for Bing Pimintel, who
portrays Luna's mother in two time
periods, was particularly challenging. She
also added that the choice to portray
General Mascardo with only a partially
formed moustache was symbolic,
reflecting his frustration about being
overshadowed by Luna.[27]

Visual effects

Visual effects company BlackBurst Inc

was tasked to take on the film's visual
effects, often in an effort to make a
scene shot in a modern location fit
seamlessly into the period storytelling of
the film.[28]

In many cases, BlackBurst removed

modern elements such as electric wires
from houses and other backgrounds shot
on location, or changed details, such as
roof shingles on buildings, to match the
period. In other cases BlackBurst added
digital set extensions, notably the ships
in the scene of the Americans arriving in
Manila, early in the film. All of the ships
were added digitally using Autodesk
Maya, and crafting that particular effect
took the entire production timetable.[28]

Background CEO Jauhn Dablo, who also

served as the film's visual effects
director, revealed that Tarog was very
meticulous about the effects, paying
attention even to the angle, power, and
timing of individual gun shots.[28]

Aside from taking on duties as the film's

director, co-writer, and editor, Tarog also
composed the score of the film,[16]
drawing inspiration from numerous
Russian classical composers, beginning
with Igor Stravinsky mentor Nikolai

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Ebe Dancel,

Tarog's fellow alumnus from the UP Rural
High School in Los Baños, Laguna, was
commissioned to write and perform the
movie’s theme song, "Hanggang Wala
Nang Bukas" (Until there's no Tomorrow)
which was published in October 2015
under Star Music.[29][30][31]

Pre-release screenings

Pre-release screenings of the film were

held at selected venues in the United
States; August 30, 2015 in Anthology
Film Archives Cinema in New York City
and AMC Rio Cinema in Maryland,
Virginia and Washington D.C.; August 31,
2015 in Marina Theater in San Francisco
and Krikorian Monrovia Cinema in Los
Angeles, California. The film was also
screened at the Philippine Consulate
General in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
on August 30.[17]


The film was released with the tagline

"Bayan o Sarili" (Tagalog, "Nation or
Self?"), a tagline later used by fans on
social media to criticize theaters who
had pulled the film out in favor of
mainstream films.[17][32]

Much of the public interest in the film

came from word of mouth and social

By September 19, the film's official trailer

posted on YouTube has garnered over 1
million views.

Theatrical release

The film's general release in the

Philippines nationwide began on
September 9, 2015.[17][33]

After initially opening in about 100

theaters, Heneral Luna was pulled out in
many theaters entering its second week,
mostly to make way for the Hollywood
and mainstream films that were
scheduled to open. Down to around 40
cinemas, fans of the film rallied on social
media and appealed to theater owners -
especially the SM, Ayala and Robinsons
cinema chains - to provide more venues
for the film.[32]

On the opening of its second week, the

film was shown to 79 theaters in the
Philippines and then was increased to 94
by the weekends due to the increase of
popularity. Word of mouth, critical
acclaim, and social media coverage
boosted the film's popularity, resulting in
sold-out theaters nationwide - prompting
cinema owners to show it again in their

Box office
Since its theatrical release on September
9, 2015, Heneral Luna has made ₱180 in
million gross sales at the box office - only
₱20 million short of the ₱200 million it
needs to be able to break even at the box
office, after cinemas' cut in ticket sales
have been considered. On September 29,
2015, it passed the ₱160 million mark to
become the highest grossing Filipino
historical film of all time.[7]

As an independent film, Heneral Luna had

a limited marketing budget, resulting in
relatively low sales in its first week - ₱15
million from September 9 to 15, 2015.[8]

Due to positive word of mouth, ticket

sales surged on Heneral Luna's second
release week, earning ₱44 million from
September 16 to 22.[8] despite the
reduction in the number of theaters
showing the film early in that week.[32]
The distributor of the film, Joji Alonso,
noted that “the 1st day gross of the
second week is way higher than the 1st
day gross of the 1st week. And to think
the number of theaters was reduced by
more than half!”[32]

On the third week, when even

mainstream films normally see a drop in
box office sales, Heneral Luna's numbers
surged even higher, earning
₱104,010,219 from September 23 to
By the beginning of its fourth week, the
film was averaging gross box office sales
of about ₱8.5 million a day.[34]

Home media

A nationwide DVD release of Heneral

Luna was done by distributor
Magnavision, Inc. on December 18, 2015.
Over 7,000 DVD copies of the film were
sold in less than a month since its
release making it the best-selling DVD of
any Filipino historical film in the
Philippines. Among the bonus features of
the DVD are English subtitle, a music
video for the film's official theme song,
"Hanggang Wala Nang Bukas" by Ebe
Dancel, a making of - documentary, and a
short film entitled Illustrado Problems
directed by JP Habac, which featured the
illustrado characters from Heneral Luna
in a comedic light.[35] On June 11, 2016,
the film was broadcast for the first time
on television through the ABS-CBN
network.[36] Artikulo Uno Productions and
ABS-CBN Corporation earlier announced
a partnership to distribute Heneral Luna
on all platforms of ABS-CBN including
free-to-air, cable, global, video on
demand, and pay per view.[37]

A forum dubbed as “The Heneral Luna
Revolution: Game Changer in Film
Distribution” was held at Cinema 1 of
Trinoma on October 27, 2015. The forum
co-presented by QCinema and mainly tackled about
the box office success of Heneral Luna
and how could other indie films replicate
this feat. The forum was moderated by editor-in-chief Roby
Alampay and led by panel members
director Jerrold Tarog and associate
producers Vincent Nebrida and Ria

Critical reception
Ambeth Ocampo, historian and former National
Commission for Culture and the Arts chairperson,
was among the people who made a critical r eview
on the film

Heneral Luna received mostly positive

reviews from film critics in the
Philippines[38][39][40][41][42] and historians

Historian and former National

Commission for Culture and the Arts
chair Ambeth Ocampo strongly
recommended the film,[43] calling it "an
engaging narrative, supported by
wonderful cinematography and grounded
on sound historical research." He added
that "When I previewed the film, I
commented that it should not open with
a disclaimer simply because it is a
cinematic retelling of what many
consider textbook history and is not a
doctoral dissertation."[43]

Comparisons have been drawn between

Arcilla's portrayal of Luna in the film, and
that of the character he played in John
Sayles' 2010 film Amigo, which was also
set during the Filipino-American War,
albeit on a much smaller scale -
depicting the war as it was experienced
in a single barrio.[45][46][47]

Philippine Daily Inquirer Arts and Books

editor Lito B. Zulueta suggests that "By
focusing on arguably the most rugged—
and therefore the most dynamic—figure
of the Philippine war against the
American invaders, Jerrold Tarog’s
'Heneral Luna' revives the historical
action movie and in effect, revitalizes two
dormant genres—the action film and
more important, the historical film."[48]
Michael Kho Lim from the Daily Tribune
also gave a positive review, saying
“Timely as it is significant. John Arcilla
breathes life to Luna. Complex. Poetic.

Rappler critic Oggs Cruz calls the film

“precise in its storytelling and in its
depiction of the major players of the
revolution," furthering that "John Arcilla is
excellent. Tarog makes his character
human… and creates an essay of
everything that is wrong with our
nationhood. Tarog’s Heneral Luna is
fascinating, beautiful to gaze at, and
genuinely affecting.” ClickTheCity critic
Philbert Ortiz Dy gave the film 5 out of 5
stars, saying "Beyond its obvious
technical achievement, Heneral Luna is
worth seeing for its audacious approach
to tackling our country’s tragic history. All
at once bold, artful, darkly funny,
informed and deeply entertaining, it
makes the revolution come alive in
surprising, delightful ways. This film
triumphs in capturing the spirit of its
subject, the whole enterprise fueled with
a heady mix of rage, irreverence and a
genuine love of country. It is everything
that an Antonio Luna biopic should be.”

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator

gives the film a score of 71% based on 7
reviews, with an average rating of 5.2 out
of 10.[50]

Heneral Luna received a Grade A from

Cinema Evaluation Board of the

List of accolades

Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result

Best Picture Heneral Luna Won

Best Director Jerrold Tarrog Won

Henry Francia, E.A. Rocha

Best Screenplay Won
and Jerrold Tarog

Best Actor John Arcilla Won

Best Supporting Actor Nonie Buencamino Won

Luna Awards 2016[52] Best Supporting Actress Mylene Dizon Nominated

Best Cinematography Pong Ignacio Won

Benjamin Padero and

Best Production Design Won
Carlo Tabije

Best Editing Jerrold Tarog Won

Best Musical Scoring Jerrold Tarog Won

Best Sound Mikko Quizon Won

Best Picture Heneral Luna Nominated

Best Director Jerrold Tarog Won

Best Editing Jerrold Tarog Won

Jerrold Tarog, Henry

39th Gawad Urian Best Screenplay Nominated
Francia & E.A Rocha
Best Cinematography Pong Ignacio Won

Best Editing Jerrold Tarog Won

Best Music Jerrold Tarog Nominated

Best Sound Mikko Quizon Won

Best Student-Oriented
2016 Platinum Stallion Jerrold Tarog Won
Media Awards[54]
Best Film Actor John Arcilla Won

Student’s Choice Award

Jerrold Tarog Won
for Best Film

Best Cinematography Pong Ignacio Won

14th Gawad Tanglaw
Gantimpalang Dr. Jaime
G. Ang
Presidential Jury Award John Arcilla Won
for Film

Best Actor John Arcilla Nominated

10th Asian Film Best Costume Design Carlo Tabije Nominated

Awards Benjamin Padero, Carlo
Best Production Design Nominated

Movie of the Year Heneral Luna Nominated

Movie Director of the Year Jerrold Tarog Nominated

Movie Actor of the Year John Arcilla Nominated

Movie Supporting Actor Noni Buencamino Nominated

of the Year Mon Confiado Nominated

Movie Supporting Actress

Mylene Dizon Nominated
of the Year

Movie Screenwriter of the Henry Francia, E.A.

Year Rocha, and Jerrold Tarog

Movie Cinematographer
32nd PMPC Star Awards of the Year Pong Ignacio Nominated
for Movies[58]
Movie Production Benjamin Padero and
Designer of the Year Carlo Tabije

Movie Editor of the Year Jerrold Tarog Won

Movie Musical Scorer of

Jerrold Tarog Won
the Year

Movie Sound Engineer of Mikko Quizon and Hit

the Year Productions

Hanggang Wala Nang

Movie Original Theme Wakas, composed,
Song of the Year arranged, and interpreted
by Ebe Dancel

Themes and symbolism

A number of
visual motifs
throughout film
have symbolic
particularly for
familiar with
the History of
the period and The scene
Filipino culture. which was
made to
A Philippine
the painting
revolutionary on the left. 
flag is displayed prominently in the film's
bookend scenes, becoming dirtier and
more ragged when the film reverts to its
framing device as the events of the film
unfold.[59] The burning flag during the
end credits is a poignant experience for
Filipino audiences, as flag-burning is not
legal under the 1987 Filipino

In a scene towards the end of the film,

the bodies of Luna and Román are
dragged across the courtyard in a
manner highly reminiscent of the
Spoliarium, a painting which has served
as artistic icon of Filipino nationalism,
painted in 1884 by Luna's own brother,
Juan Luna.[60]

Historical accuracy and

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