The Armchair Critic

(Pretending to know everything)

1/05/2009

Baler

Posted by Lee i.


Baler the love story of Feliza Reyes (Anne Curtis) and Celso Resureccion (Jericho Rosales) set against the backdrop of the 337 days Siege of Baler. Feliza is the daughter of a Filipino rebel commander while Celso is a soldier of the Spanish Army, the son of a Pampanguena and a Spaniard. Amidst war, Feliza and Celso struggle to keep their love alive. Feliza defies his father (Phillip Salvador) who hates the Spaniards with a fervor. Celso is a soldier loyal to the Spanish Army, even as his love for Feliza pulls him in the other direction.

The Siege of Baler is one of the more famous battles between Spain and the Philippines. By itself, it is an interesting and remarkable story. There are many human interest stories that happened during the siege, but what better than a love story? As Lope (Mark Bautista), Celso's friend says, "Love is difficult in times of war." It is these difficulties that the movie explores more than the historical events of 1898 - 1899.

I am quite surprised with the restrained acting of Anne Curtis. I initially resisted at the image of ABS-CBN's Dyosa playing a full-blooded dalagang Filipina. I didn't really believe that her mestiza looks and cutesy acting would do justice to the role. I am happy to be proven wrong. I didn't see the other entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival but I can understand why she won Best Actress. She was believable as the young woman in love with his father's mortal enemy. Did I say restrained?

For his acting skills, Jericho Rosales is no surprise. But again, my prejudice kicked in high gear when I learned he was playing a Spanish soldier. "But he's too dark! He's an indio!", I protested to my husband, who calmly tells me that perhaps Jericho was playing a half-breed (half mestizo, half indio). It galled me that my husband was right. Yet, again. It's too bad that Jericho didn't get any acting awards because he portrayed the beleaguered soldier so well. Although that part when he learned his pet dog Bravo's fate was a bit too contrived for me. Actually, the whole scene struck me as contrived. Parang pilit.

The movie's production is one of the best I've seen in awhile (although I must confess I do not watch too many Filipino movies as I sometimes end up just wanting to kill somebody...anybody.) Viva Films spent for the costumes and the props. The Filipino insurgents were authentically dressed in their rayadillos, as were the Spanish soldiers in their military regalia. Husband noted one glaring error though - the Filipino soldiers wearing their rayadillos a year before the siege. He's something of a history buff so he reminded me that during that time, there was no Pact of Biak-na Bato yet. The fledgling Philippine republic has not yet been born. Thus, no organized army. Ergo, no uniforms.

The script is good enough. Sure, there are some inconsistencies. For example, I think the mention of Manuel and Pedro Quezon was irrelevant. Maybe it was for the benefit of the Quezons' living descendants, some of whom still live in Baler. Joel Torre's character's reason for being back in the fray was also largely unexplained. Still you could almost believe that the fictitious characters of Celso and Feliza existed as their love story intertwined seamlessly with the events of the Baler siege. Or at least, they were supposed to be fictional, that is why the annotation at the end of the movie about the fate of one Celso Resurreccion, Jr. threw me for a loop. Husband is researching on that and I will share his findings with you soonest.

If you are going to see only one Filipino movie this year, let it be Baler and learn a bit more about our country's history in the process.

14 comments:

Arvin said...

I do hope your husband finds something about the "jr.", if Celso and Feliza were in fact true persons, that makes the movie more heartbreaking that it already is...

Au Lim said...

i haven't watched this one yet, but i shall be because of your review. ang tindi rin ng Toym, historian pah!...haha! tuloy mo lang 'to ha! love the new look of the blog too :-D

beecool said...

i have seen parts of it in youtube
the story 1) your husband is right about biaknabato
2) this was a typical 1898 story ..
my grandfather was in the battle of manila
( on the spanish side ) the spanish officers was well fed food
sent over by their filipina wives.
3) a lot of the spanish soldiers stayed in the philippines
4) my grandfather married a filipina girl whos father was a katipunero who was executed by the spanish
all is fair in love and war!!

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Anonymous said...

i love baler.....

i cried because they ate bravo...

Webster Twelb said...

have you found out anything about Celso Resurreccion Jr.? Can't find anything....I'd probably ask when I go and visit baler.

Great review!

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Ichthus Janz said...

The Film ends with Feliza clutching the lifeless body of Celso, then flashes back to the execution orders for aiding the deserters.

However, a history website does not include the name of a Celso Resurrecion among those executed a day before the surrender.

Of the fifty-seven men who entered the church of Baler on June 27, 1898, thirty-five survived the siege that lasted for 337 days. Nineteen men died, fifteen from diseases. Only two men died from wounds, the only battle casualties. There were five deserters from the garrison: Filipino natives Corporals Alfonso Sus Fojas and Tomas Paladio Paredes; and the Spaniards Felipe Herrero Lopez, Jaime Caldentey Nadal, and Jose Alcaide Bayona. Two men – Antonio Menache Sanchez and Vicente Gonzalez Toca – were imprisoned at the baptistery of the church for helping in the desertion of Alcaide, and executed on orders of Martin Cerezo on June 1, 1899, the day before the surrender.

http://www.spanamwar.com/Baler.html

Clearly, Celso and Feliza are fictitious characters carefully woven into the historical backdrop of the film.