‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral’, a romantic elegy

The film we deserve, not the sequel we wanted: on ‘Goyo’ as essentially a romance, and how the historical film works against expectations.

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After the surprising success of Heneral Luna, that historical achievement of a film that came out at a time when historical epics appeared to be firmly things of the past, Jerrold Tarog embarked on a heroic campaign of his own, working on a sequel that is bigger in all the ways that mattered. Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is larger in scope, tougher in logistics, and more damaging in its budget. It is a riskier project, and not because the executive producers are financially more exposed—they have repeatedly claimed to not care about incurring losses, gallantly, for the sake of art—but because big-budget movies are less like banks (“too big to fail”) and more like warships: overlook one fatal flaw, one little vulnerability in its massive architecture, and the entire mighty artistic endeavor sinks.

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Sketches #2: Solitude

Exploration

For now, you are a satellite.

You place your hand on the white skin of the ship. You admire its rough, jagged texture, a surprisingly delightful quality, although you can only infer the surface’s character from the way the sharp sunlight casts shadows upon it. You take care not to put too much pressure against the vessel, because you don’t need your advanced grasp of physics to know that doing so will push you back more than you will push the vessel away, and you will have to spend precious micro-rocket fuel to secure your proximity to the ship.

You look above you (or should that be below?) and see what others before you have lovingly described as a blue marble. You admire the clouds, white and frayed, soft and seemingly still in a layer underneath the blue fringes of the planet’s atmosphere.

From where you are, the sun is an intimidating presence. It is a violently brilliant orb, and yet, in the emptiness of all that surrounds it, you can sense the clash between its intensity and the fragility of worlds. You look at the stars, and even them, their beautiful multitude, they cause you distress, because their lights will forever be only a dream beyond your reach.

You hear nothing but your own breathing, and the occasional beeping of the systems that keep your suit a habitable space. You listen carefully to this solitary sound. This, the voice of your body, is the only thing sparing you from the silence of space.

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Recreation

The book insists on closing itself. The pages themselves aren’t stiff, but the spine is more of a clamp than a hinge. Sometimes it feels like the book doesn’t want to be read. What would it be for then? A combustible bundle stuffed on shelves for ornamentation? Oh well. At least it’s light, it’s not tiring to hold up. Spots of sunlight fall on the pages, filtered through tree leaves. Go ahead, relax, lean a little backwards. Feel the grassy slope. This park is a nice place to be in, and few things feel as good as spending the time here just reading. The world is at peace, but another world beckons from the between the lines of the book. Now, if only cover’s a little more flexible and the book’s a little easier to keep wide open.

As far as I can tell, one thing all avid readers come to love about the act of reading is the profound calm that it brings. Of all the forms of entertainment available to the modern individual, reading is the least pompous. It is also subtle for it is, at once, the least engaging and yet the most demanding. And in this manner, it often provides readers with a deep sense of peace, an experience that few other activities can give.

In contrast to, say, a movie, which is a sustained spoon-feeding of full-color widescreen images and rich surround sound, a book is incredibly shy and will offer you only black letterforms on white pages. To transform these letters into rich mental images, a lot of creativity and experience has to be summoned. A book doesn’t call your attention out loud; it only hands out a quiet invitation to another world, with the clear disclaimer that you will have to put in a lot of work yourself.

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