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El Presidente
Directed by Mark Meily
Starring E.R. Ejercito
Nora Aunor
Cristine Reyes
Scenema Concept International
CMB Films
VIVA Films
Release date
  • December 25, 2012 (2012-12-25)
Running time
165 minutes
Country Philippines
Language Tagalog, Spanish

El Presidente: The Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Story is a 2012 biopic based on the life of Philippine President Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippine Republic. The film stars E.R. Ejercito in the title role, with Cesar Montano, Christopher de Leon, Nora Aunor, and Cristine Reyes in supporting roles as "Andres Bonifacio, Maria Agoncillo, and Hilaria Aguinaldo, respectively.[1] The film's two theme songs are "El Presidente" by of the Black Eyed Peas alongside the band Slapshock, and "Aking Inang Bayan" by Maita Ejercito, the mayor of the municipality of Pagsanjan.[2] The film was premiered on December 18, 2012, at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia.

The film is one of the official entries for the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival and was released in theaters nationwide on December 25, 2012.[3]


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 an account of 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 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 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 fight to Spanish troops in Cavite.

As the rebels gain ground in Cavite and several provinces, its Magdalo and Magdiwang factions convene to elect a provisional government. Andres Bonifacio oversees the Tejeros Convention, which elects Aguinaldo as president, Mariano Trias 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 his 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 Biak-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 Philippines 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 Filipino troops. Noting that some pro-autonomy factions wanted him out of the picture, Luna is assassinated three months later and the Filipino troops are gradually routed by the Americans. As a result, Aguinaldo's forces trek north to escape the Americans.

With US troops closing in, General Gregorio del Pilar volunteers to lead some troops in holding them off at Tirad Pass and give Aguinaldo's group time to get away. His loyal courier is 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 US rule over the Philippines, Aguinaldo lives life in relative quiet, 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.


Supporting cast[edit]


Research for the began in 1998, 14 years before the eventual release of the film. According to Ejercito, Mark Meily was chosen as director due to his knowledge of Aguinaldo, experience in large productions, and personal belief in him.[4] His second choice for director, though, was the late director Mario O'Hara. The director of Ejercito's prior film, Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story, Tikoy Aguiluz, was not chosen due to a falling out between the two during the editing process of Manila Kingpin.[5] Meily had previously sworn to himself to never make a historical film again, after making the film Baler.[5]

The film actually had a 350-page script in 1998, which was meant for the centennial celebration of Aguinaldo's Declaration of Independence. Meily said, however, that it was not the basis for the film El Presidente. Ejercito requested Meily to hire screenwriters, although the ones he wanted to work with him were busy. Meily eventually decided to write the screenplay himself and do all the necessary research. 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.[5] Historians were also hired to be on set to make sure all details are correct.[6]

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."[4]

Shooting took place over 43 days at select locations in Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan.[7]


El Presidente, along with seven other Metro Manila Film Festival entries, was released on December 25, 2012 in 54 theaters,[8] although it was premiered on December 18, 2012, at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia.[6] 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.[8][9] 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.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

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.[6]

In a highly positive 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. [10] Philibert Ortiz-Dy of, 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.[11]

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.[12] 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."[13]

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.[14]


  1. ^ "Nora Aunor starts filming El Presidente:". Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  2. ^ "What's not to miss in El Presidente". Philippine Star. December 25, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  3. ^ "2012 MMFF Official Entries: Official Website:". Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Dolly Anne Carvajal (December 11, 2012). "E.R. hopes 'El Presidente' will replicate success of 'Asiong'". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Edwin P. Sallan (December 26, 2012). "With 'El Presidente', Mark Meilly depicts Aguinaldo-Bonifacio conflict in accurate detail". AksyonTV. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Jecelyn V. Macahindog (December 7, 2012). "Gov. ER Truly Proud Of 'El Presidente'". Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ a b c {{cite web |url=
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Phillip Cu-Unjieng. "Aguinaldo and his story in 'El Presidente'". ABS-CBN. Retrieved January 14, 2013.  Unknown parameter |Date= ignored (|date= suggested) (help)
  11. ^ Philibert Ortiz-Dy. "The Largeness of Life". Retrieved January 14, 2013.  Unknown parameter |Date= ignored (|date= suggested) (help)
  12. ^ {{Cite web |url= |title=MMFF REVIEW: El Presidente: The Emilio Aguinaldo Story and the First Philippine Republic |author=Rommel R. Llanes |date=December 27, 2013 |publisher=Philippine Entertainment Portal |accessdate=January 14, 2013
  13. ^ Maridol Rañoa-Bismark (December 27, 2012). "Lest we forget: An 'El Presidente' review". Yahoo!. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  14. ^ Chuck Smith (December 27, 2012). "8th Metro Manila Film Festival winners". Yahoo!. Retrieved January 14, 2013.