El Presidente (film)
Theatrical movie poster
|Directed by||Mark Meily|
|Written by||Mark Meily|
|Based on||Memoirs of a Revolution
by Emilio Aguinaldo
|Starring||Jeorge "ER" Ejercito Estregan
Christopher de Leon
|Studio||Scenema Concept International
|Distributed by||VIVA Films|
|Running time||165 minutes|
|Budget||P130 million |
|Box office||P560 million|
El Presidente (English: The President; Filipino: Ang Pangulo) is a 2012 biopic film based on the life of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippine Republic. The film stars Laguna Gov. Jeorge "ER" Ejercito Estregan in the title role, with Cesar Montano, Christopher de Leon, Nora Aunor, and Cristine Reyes in supporting roles.
It is one of the official entries for the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival and was released in theaters nationwide on December 25, 2012. The film was produced by Scenema Concept International, CMB Films and Viva Films, together in cooperation with the San Miguel Group of Companies, Petron, Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar and the Film Development Council of the Philippines. It premiered on December 18, 2012, at the SM Mall of Asia's SMX Convention Center.
The story is told in flashbacks as Emilio Aguinaldo thanks the US government for giving him the opportunity to attend the full restoration of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.
The film begins with his capture by Philippine and US forces under Frederick Funston's command in 1901, then flashes back to 1886, when an old woman gives Aguinaldo and his childhood friend Candido Tirona cryptic prophecies. Ten years later, Aguinaldo is inducted into the Katipunan and later assumes leadership of its Cavite chapter while becoming mayor of Cavite El Viejo. When the trouble breaks out in Manila in late August 1896, Aguinaldo tries to assure the Spanish provincial government of non-interference and covertly marshals his forces despite a lack of weapons. Learning that the Spanish mostly put their forces in Manila, Aguinaldo finally mobilizes his troops and take the command of the Katipunan forces in Cavite.
As the rebels gain ground in Cavite and several provinces, its Magdalo and Magdiwang factions convene to elect a provisional government. Andrés Bonifacio oversees the Tejeros Convention, which elects Aguinaldo as president, Mariano Trías as vice-president, and himself as interior minister. He storms out of the convention when Daniel Tirona objects to his election. Aguinaldo's brother Crispulo informs him of his accession and convinces him to leave his troops just as he was seeking to defend against the Spaniards at Pasong Santol. The rebels are defeated and Crispulo is killed. Meanwhile, an embittered Bonifacio establishes his own revolutionary government and is later arrested. Aguinaldo is concerned about Bonifacio's actions and wanted him exiled, but the War Council advises his execution.
Several months later, Aguinaldo leaves Cavite with most of his forces intact and makes it to Biac-na-Bato in Bulacan, where he signs the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and heads for Hong Kong. There he meets with US officials who approach him with offers of support and recognition of a new Philippine Republic amidst the Spanish–American War. Aguinaldo returns to the Philippines and formally declares independence from Spain. As the Malolos Congress convenes, Felipe Agoncillo tries to represent the new nation at the Treaty of Paris negotiations, but gets stonewalled at every turn even as US forces gradually arrive in the Philippines. The Philippine–American War breaks out in February 1899 and Antonio Luna is appointed commander of all the Filipino forces. He is assassinated three months later and the Filipino troops are gradually routed by the Americans. As a result, Aguinaldo's forces travel all over northern Luzon to escape the Americans. General Gregorio del Pilar volunteers to lead some troops in holding them off at Tirad Pass and buy Aguinaldo time to get away. His loyal courier is later captured by the Americans while getting some medicine for his son. Now aware of Aguinaldo's hideout, Funston plans his capture.
Having been made to accept the American occupation over the Philippines, Aguinaldo lives a quiet life, which is marred by Hilaria's passing in 1921. He meets and marries Felipe Agoncillo's niece Maria in 1930. Over the next few decades, the couple witness Philippine history unfold once more as he is defeated in the 1935 presidential elections, Japanese occupation and the restoration of full independence. In 1962, an elderly Aguinaldo and his wife comfort each other over President Diosdado Macapagal's decree to restore the actual date of the Philippine declaration of independence. In his final hours, the same woman who gave him his prophecy appears to him one more time.
- Jeorge "ER" Ejercito Estregan as General Emilio Famy Aguinaldo
- Nora Aunor as Maria Agoncillo
- Christopher de Leon as General Antonio Luna
- Cesar Montano as Andrés Bonifacio
- Cristine Reyes as Hilaria Aguinaldo y Del Rosario
- Ronnie Lazaro as Gen. Candido Tirona
- Bayani Agbayani as Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo
- Gerard Ejercito as Gen. Crispulo Aguinaldo
- Allan Paule as Gen. Tomás Mascardo
- Emilio Garcia as Gen. Pío del Pilar
- Wendell Ramos as Gen. Mariano Noriel
- John Arcilla as Mariano Trías
- Mike Lloren as Vicente Riego De Dios
- Ian de Leon as Artemio Ricarte
- Felix Roco as Gregorio Del Pilar
- Alicia Meyer as Inang Bayan (Motherland)
- Alvin Anson as Felipe Agoncillo
- Sunshine Cruz as Gregoria de Jesús
- Joko Diaz as Procopio Bonifacio
- Gary Estrada as Jose Tagle
- Sid Lucero as Gaudioso
- Troy Montero as Frederick Funston
- Ronnie Quizon as Apolinario Mabini
- Joonie Gamboa as Ambassador Felipe Buencamino
- Yul Servo as Pedro A. Paterno
- Lou Veloso as Julian Felipe
- Ian Veneracion as Gen. Ernesto Aguirre
- Dennis Padilla as Tal Placido
- Roi Vinzon as Lazaro Segovia
- Archie Adamos as Luis Aguado
- Soliman Cruz as Maximo Inocencio
- Jericho Ejercito as Young Emilio Aguinaldo
- Roldan Aquino as Maria Agoncillo's Father
- Gloria Sevilla as Maria Agoncillo's Mother
- Jhulia Ejercito as Lorenza Agoncillo
- Maita Ejercito as Marcella Agoncillo
- Lariel Castro as Cecillo
- John Regala as Padre Agustin
A 350-page script emerged in 1998, with the proposed film meant for the Philippines' Independence Centennial, but no production was made.
Ejercito said Meily was chosen to direct the film due to his knowledge of Aguinaldo, experience in large productions, and personal belief in him. Meily's appointment was made despite swearing never to helm a historical film again, after working on Baler in 2008. Ejercito's second choice for director was Mario O'Hara; the latter died before Ejercito made him an offer, on June 26, 2012. Ejercito ruled out picking Tikoy Aguiluz because a falling-out between them during the editing of his last film, Manila Kingpin.
Despite the existence of the 1998 script, Meily opted to create an entirely different script instead. He wanted to hire screenwriters at Ejercito's request, but volunteered to write it himself when no writers joined the project. Meily claims he tried to make the film as factually accurate as possible, and he describes the finished product as "95 percent" accurate to what really happened. Historians were on set to ensure full accuracy.
Ejercito described the film as much harder to make than Manila Kingpin because it "deals directly with our country's history." Over 50 professional actors and actresses were cast for the movie. He also described the "set, costumes, locations, and logistics" as "staggering by all Philippine cinema standards." He also claimed that it was the biggest and most expensive Filipino film ever, as the film was made on a budget of Php130 million. Shooting took place over 43 days at select locations in Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan.
El Presidente, along with seven other Metro Manila Film Festival entries, was released on December 25, 2012 in 54 theaters, although it was premiered on December 18, 2012, at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia. It went on to gross PhP4.2 million in Metro Manila, the sixth most among MMFF films. After the film festival ended, the Metro Manila Development Authority did not release the total box office gross of the film as it was not in the top four highest grossing films. Ejercito complained that the film's low box office gross was due to rigged theater distribution, as more popular films were released in as many as 130 theaters. While all eight film festival entries were released in the same number of theaters in Metro Manila via drawing lots, theaters in the province could decide whichever movies to show.
The movie garnered mostly positive reviews from critics. The Philippines' Cinema Evaluation Board graded the film an A, and it has been endorsed by the government's Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Film Development Council of the Philippines.
In a review, Phillip Cu-Unjieng of the Philippine Star said it "vividly recaptures" one of the Philippines' most turbulent periods in history by exposing the infighting among the Katipunan's members and how Aguinaldo wanted to resolve them. He noted that the film's quality makes it almost stand out as much as Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. Philibert Ortiz-Dy of ClickTheCity.com, on the other hand, gave the film two and a half stars out of five, describing El Presidente as "deeply flawed as an entertainment, but there's a lot in it to like." While he did note the film was ambitious, he also stated that the "lack of focus hurts it in the end", due to its large scope.
Rommel R. Llanes of the Philippine Entertainment Portal especially praised the performances of Montano and de Leon as Bonifacio and Luna, respectively. However, he also stated that Ejercito occasionally felt like Asiong Salonga, the main character of his previous film, Manila Kingpin. Maridol Rañoa-Bismark, writing for Yahoo! Philippines, highly praised the film for "its breathtaking cinematography, well-choreographed fight scenes, haunting music and brilliant acting", but mostly for it being about the "triumph of good over evil."
Columnist and radio show host Jessica Zafra, however, was critical of the movie's treatment. She said the depiction of Bonifacio's death raised questions about its authenticity. She added that the film itself "does Emilio Aguinaldo a disservice by portraying him as a victim of circumstance" and even highlighted the "amnesia" prevalent among contemporary Filipinos.
The movie garnered the most awards at the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival, winning the plums for Second Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Cesar Montano), Youth Choice Award, Best Float, Best Sound, Best Musical Score, and Best Make-up.
- ER Ejercito on El Presidente's P130M budget: "Ito na yata ang pinakamalaki at pinakamagastos na pelikulang Pilipino.”
- "Nora Aunor starts filming El Presidente". Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "2012 MMFF Official Entries: Official Website:". Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- Dolly Anne Carvajal (December 11, 2012). "E.R. hopes 'El Presidente' will replicate success of 'Asiong'". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- Edwin P. Sallan (December 26, 2012). "With 'El Presidente', Mark Meily depicts Aguinaldo-Bonifacio conflict in accurate detail". AksyonTV. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
- Jecelyn V. Macahindog (December 7, 2012). "Gov. ER Truly Proud Of 'El Presidente'". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Ruben Marasigan (November 19, 2012). "ER Ejercito on El Presidente's P130M budget: "Ito na yata ang pinakamalaki at pinakamagastos na pelikulang Pilipino." (This maybe the biggest and most expensive Philippine film yet.". Philippine Entertainment Portal. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- Edwin P. Sallan (December 26, 2012). "With 'El Presidente', Mark Meilly depicts Aguinaldo-Bonifacio conflict in accurate detail, page 2". AksyonTV. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Jeffrey O. Valisno (January 10, 2013). "Award and box office controversies: business as usual at the Metro Manila Film Fest". BusinessWorld. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Phillip Cu-Unjieng (December 27, 2012). "Aguinaldo and his story in 'El Presidente'". ABS-CBN. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Philibert Ortiz-Dy (December 27, 2012). "The Largeness of Life". ClickTheCity.com. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Rommel R. Llanes (December 27, 2013). "MMFF REVIEW: El Presidente: The Emilio Aguinaldo Story and the First Philippine Republic". Philippine Entertainment Portal. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark (December 27, 2012). "Lest we forget: An 'El Presidente' review". Yahoo!. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Jessica Zafra (January 4, 2013). "Metro Manila Film Festival 2012 Moviethon: Day 7: Bonifacio was NOT a traitor". AksyonTV. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Chuck Smith (December 27, 2012). "8th Metro Manila Film Festival winners". Yahoo!. Retrieved January 14, 2013.