The film start with a trailer with a black and white color which is tend to be an old film shows the Philippine National Symbols accompanied by a Filipiῆiana music. The purpose of showing our national symbols in the film is to tell us how it important and how it symbolized our country and through this, it come-up with our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. In 1997, director Mike de Leon had been working on a film project on the life of Jose Rizal with Cinemax Films (now known as GMA Films). Along the way, he invited screenwriter Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. to collaborate with him in the project. Problems during production eventually led to the project being scrapped, though it would later be completed by director Marilou Diaz-Abaya as the 1998 film Jose Rizal.
Despite this, de Leon and Del Mundo decided to proceed with producing an independently-financed film on Jose Rizal. The duo tried to conceptualize on a film different from that of the original film project they worked on. De Leon created his first draft of the script in the English language, while Del Mundo would translate the script in the Filipino language and add some revisions. The film entitled Bayaning Third World (roughly translated as 3rd World Hero) is a Filipino independent film from 1999 by Mike de Leon. The film was acted by Ricky Davao (1st filmmaker) , Cris Villanueva (2nd filmmaker) , Joel Torre (Dr. Jose Rizal) , Joonee Gamboa (Paciano Rizal) , Daria Ramirez (Teodora Alonso) , Ed Rocha (Father Balaguer) , Rio Locsin (Trinidad Rizal) , Cherry Pie Picache (Narcisa Rizal) , Lara Fabregas (Josephine Bracken), Lui Manasala (Maria Rizal) , Lawrence David (Rebel Leader) , Jay Espano (Pio Valnezuela) , and Padre Obach (Edru Abraham) . The film won numerous awards in the 23rd Gawad Urian Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. This movie was also dedicated to the late actress Charito Solis. Bayaning Third World is a film that investigates Jose Rizal’s life, heroism, love life and other significant facts that made him a national hero. Considered a complex “film within a film” (according to an essay written by highly accredited theologian, Antonio D. Sison), it loosely but firmly targets a controversial retraction document. The said document was supposed to expose the national hero’s renouncement of all his writing and works that are against the Catholic Church during the Spanish rule in the Philippines, of whether it was authentic or fabricated.
The film starts off with a monologue that if it is a sin to question Rizal’s heroism, then the men behind the film will sin greatly. At the opening of the film, veteran actors Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva who both play as the directors of the film within the film narrates certain facts and comments, some made in jest, about Rizal’s heroism, death and its effects on the media, currency, and even other businesses. They even mentioned the earliest films that raced the first premiere regarding anything about Rizal after his execution, notably Albert Yearsley who shot only the execution of Rizal and what Villanueva said was “the most exciting part of Rizal’s life”. The documentary-style opening then shifts to a conversation between the two directors of how they are going to approach the plot of their said film after much research on Rizal and other historical events and people revolving around the national hero. After many suggestions, including comical ones like questioning Rizal’s sexuality, the most reliable approach they could think of was the retraction controversy which was first considered by the second filmmaker (Villanueva) as a dead issue and will not be relevant on focusing more on Rizal’s life.
Yet, they still initiated further research on the said retraction and its possible causes if it happens to be genuine. One of their main suspects was Josephine Bracken, a woman of Irish descent, Rizal’s last lover, arguably the most beloved. They said that Rizal wanted to marry Bracken in a church but since Rizal was excommunicated, the marriage could not materialize and the retraction was the only way to save the marriage. Though this could be a probable cause for Rizal’s retraction, they continued more on their research. This research was illustrated by the film through different imagined interviews made by the filmmakers of most notable people in Rizal’s life, including Teodora Alonso, Rizal’s mother, Paciano, his brother, Trining and Narcisa, his most beloved sisters, and even Josephine Bracken herself. Teodora Alonso (Daria Ramirez), interviewed by the first filmmaker (Davao) supposedly before the execution of Rizal, was actually against the idea that Rizal was against the church but is also against his marriage to Bracken when asked. Paciano (Joonee Gamboa), who was perceived as a cool and calm individual, now deeply involved with the Katipunan, cited Rizal’s goals, martyrdom, how their family suffered in the hands of the Spaniards during Rizal’s exile, and his boredom in Dapitan.
He also had a negative response about Rizal’s marriage to Bracken. Josephine Bracken (Lara Fabregas) was next to being “interviewed”, divulging her sentiments regarding accusations of being a spy and Rizal’s family’s disapproval. She is also questioned more on Rizal’s conversation with Father Obach where in this moment, the retraction was submitted, though without Rizal’s signature, and was passed to the friar next to Obach, Father Balaguer. It is implied that Bracken was either lying or just plain blurred about the facts since she claimed she was not there. The said retraction on Dapitan stated by Bracken was the root of a certain and almost heated argument between the two filmmakers. With this, the second filmmaker “interviewed” Narcisa (Cherry Pie Picache), the only relative of Rizal who was fond of Bracken. As the conversation goes, it focused more on Rizal’s involvement with the Katipunan and how he was caught between their wars against the Spanish Rule, with Rizal being the casualty of an easy blame.
Further on the investigation, the filmmakers traced Trinidad or simply Trining, Rizal’s meticulous sister who can communicate in English, and her claims on Rizal’s retraction. She was inconsistent in her claims where one in 1922 in which she denied the retraction. Then in 1949, after the release of the copy of retraction as discussed by the priest who found it, she then believed that Rizal retracted. Rizal’s request to Trining to “look inside the lamp” was discussed as well wherein the said lamp was nothing more of an ashtray now to the first filmmaker. It also revealed that she spent her last years sad and alone and that all of the memorabilia of Rizal left with her was taken away one by one. With all the material they’ve received from the imagined interviews; they were still haunted by questions revolving Rizal’s heroism and works against the Catholic Church. It was then realized by the second filmmaker that title of the film must be “Bayaning Third World” after the other filmmaker broke a small bust of Rizal, saying it was of low quality, fit for a third world. Hence, they were left with the least person they’d want to “interview” in terms of finding the truth in the matter, Father Balaguer (Ed Rocha), the man who was responsible for the release of Rizal’s retraction. Almost immediately, he revealed to the first filmmaker that Rizal did, in fact, give himself back to Catholicism. As Balaguer continued, he said that Rizal, confessed multiple times, read his retraction letter to him and to other jesuits, requested for a mass in order to take communion, and ultimately married Josephine Bracken.
The filmmakers could only get what they expected of Balaguer and was still not certain of what national hero Rizal truly was. As if like a thought in both the filmmakers, they heard Trining and Narcisa checking out the lamp that Rizal has left for Trining where in the lid of the lamp contained the last poem of Jose Rizal, Mi Ultimo Adios. Josephine Bracken then suddenly appeared claiming the lamp was not for the sisters but was for her and had announced her marriage to “Joe” that morning. Trining was infuriated by this and demanded proof as the filmmakers while she called her a “Hongkong Bitch”. The filmmakers then returned to questioning Bracken, this time with more personal questions of whether she was molested by her stepfather, George Taufer, and that if the baby was really from Rizal’s seed. With Bracken shaken by the negativity towards her and unable to prove her legal marriage to Rizal, The second filmmaker humorously thought that a movie about Bracken could be more interesting than Rizal’s and that he still needs to answer many questions. With this realization, they focused their last “interview” on none other than the national hero himself. Because of all the seemingly unanswerable questions, there conversation with Rizal (Joel Torre), who they perceive to be fond of only riddle some answers and who smokes like them, was anything but meaningful. In fact, it was more a release of emotion for the filmmakers than an investigation.
The Jose Rizal the filmmakers have perceived was more like them, angry, confused, and a smoker. Nearing the end of the film, the filmmakers were in front a Rizal famous monument, contemplating on a dilemma in making Rizal’s film or not. The first filmmaker reasoned that there were truly many kinds of Rizal that we could perceive and that his life only belongs in a book. The movie ends with the second filmmakers saying “that’s a hard case to crack” (Mahirap basagin yan!). The filmmakers Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva in the film lead following facts that: • If Josephine Bracken love Rizal and if she was an accomplice with the Jesuit priest in spying Rizal’s family. • The family of Rizal doesn’t like Bracken because she is “makire” and lack of knowledge. • Rizal want to retract because he wanted to marry Bracken. • Rizal just wrote that retraction document because he wanted to first marry Bracken without his signature. • If Rizal know how Filipino’s admire him and praise him, will he agree to execute in Bagumbayan? • It is true that Bracken is being molested by his step father, that his blind was cause by syphilis. • Why Rizal have no child with Bracken, is he a gay?
• It is true that Rizal wants only to gain fame instead of joining the revolution. • It is true that Rizal is a genuine hero or not.
In the film “Bayaning Third World” catch my attention about the two filmmakers who try to create a film venturing on the life of Jose Rizal. Before they do that, they try to investigate on the heroism of the Philippine national hero. Of particular focus is his supposed retraction of his views against the Roman Catholic Church during the Spanish regime in the Philippines which he expressed primarily through his two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The investigation was done mainly by “interviewing” key individuals in the life of Rizal such as his mother Teodora Alonso, his siblings Paciano, Trinidad, and Narcisa, his love interest and supposed wife Josephine Bracken, and the Jesuit priest who supposedly witnessed Rizal’s retraction, Fr. Balaguer. Eventually, the two filmmakers would end up “interviewing” Rizal himself to get to the bottom of the issue.
The one who is being accused in the film was Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken because of their undeniable words. The film expressed the most vulnerable sides of Rizal and the people revolving around him. Though the film was shot in black and white and on a seemingly old film, the emotion from the characters the much life and drama in overlapping the lack of color. Nevertheless, the film tends to give a certain mystery in every viewer that we need to solve in order to satisfy ourselves, unlike the filmmakers. It also tells us that there are many faces, ideas, and portrayal of Rizal that we could think of (Kanya-kanyang Rizal as said by Davao’s character). Rizal can be the national hero we think he is, or the traitor/coward who renounced his works to satisfy his need that require the church’s approval. He can be the classic womanizer who, as again described by Davao’s character, has a taste for “white meat” or he can be the man who has finally found his soulmate in Josephine Bracken after a long search internationally. He can be an indomitable rationalist or an unmistakable deist. The film has successfully given a variety of images of Rizal to viewers as guide to their own personal truth in who Rizal really is to them. Other symbolic moments of the film, was the ghost-like appearance of Rizal, though it is not clear whether it’s a hallucination of the filmmakers or if it is a primer to the audience of the intelligent yet complex imagined interviews.
The movie presented some interesting arguments in which when reflected upon will surely create doubts about him. Questions such as: Does he really deserve to be named our national hero? What happened if he did not die? Did Jose Rizal retracted? With regards the retraction of Jose Rizal it was clear from the evidence that he wrote a statement changing his position about the church. (Or was the statement authentic? That is another question). No problem with that, what stimulated the conflict is whether the document was really signed by the national hero or was just forged by the priests, if in such case the latter is true the priests lied thus, he committed a sin. In that matter aggravating the abuses they have ensued to the Filipinos. I personally believe that, wherever our national hero retracted his membership with the Masonry and embraced back the Roman Catholic Church that does not change anything about his goal of liberating the country. It did not affect his nationalist ideals, it did not deter him from continuing to write about the abuses of the Spaniards, and above all it did not stop him from offering his life to the Philippines. If ever true, his retraction was motivated by his personal reasons of marrying the person he loves– that did not completely changed anything about him, why not give him a chance to pursue some interests and desires for himself.
To end, even if Jose Rizal has been found to retract from his religious beliefs (but not still proven true) a number of materials prove that he did not retract from his nationalist and patriotic goals. He did not change his strong opposition stance overnight but instead continued to express his desires through subtle writings with a humungous impact to the readers which until now resonates in our society– the overarching influence of his works and life. Not all persons are perfect, Jose Rizal is one. His life is also full of mysteries needing explanations but that mysteries cannot be answered now because the enigma has been cemented by his departure from earth. What we all have left to do is to build on what our history books say about him and embark on a quest to believe in the same goals he had leaving the doubts aside, for what is important is his contribution to this country and not about his personal life. Not about “chismis”! Generally, this film is educational and can be viewed by all. And by this, they can acquire knowledge and moral values in life. Finally, this film “Bayaning Third World” is enjoyable to watch, timely and does have historical documentary
background that embodies the entirety of our country.
Courtney from Study Moose
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