News about the movie Heneral Luna hogged the news in the days of its extended showing and entry into an international film festival. Thousands of people flocked to see it. I was regretfully not one of them at that time.
So when an unusual history and food tour called the Heneral Luna tour popped up exclusively on a discount buying site, I immediately booked a trip even if I had not seen the movie.
The tour was inspired by the movie. Going into the tour, my only knowledge of General Luna was that he was a brilliant but bad tempered military leader who was eventually killed by angry soldiers.
That much was correct but our tour guide, Greg “Lakbayani” Mercado, shared more tidbits – that Luna was an Ilocano, the son of an ilustrado (elite society) during the Spanish occupation, born in Binondo. His brother was Juan Luna, the famous painter whose work “Spolarium” was highly acclaimed in Europe. He was also known to have challenged our national hero Jose Rizal to a duel over a lady during a drunken haze (but apologized right after when he came to). He was also a chemist before developing an interest in military science and becoming one of the most brilliant generals the country had ever seen.
His complete story can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Luna
After getting picked up at Trinoma Mall, the Heneral Luna tour started off at Malolos, Bulacan, particularly inside the iconic Barasoain Church where Luna, along with a host of other important leaders in the First Philippine Republic or Malolos Republic (a revolutionary government), had sat down to draft the historic first Constitution of the country (the Malolos Constitution) as the culmination of the Philippine-Spanish War.
The constitution was drafted in 1899, just a few months after Philippine independence was declared on June 12, 1898. Of course, the Philippine-American War broke out right after and the said Republic was gone by 1901. Malolos was also the location of Academia Militar, a military school founded by Luna which would become the precursor of today’s Philippine Military Academy.
After the Barasoain Church lights and sounds show, we hied off to to Pampanga and stopped at Aling Lucing’s Sisig– the restaurant that invented the now world-class sisig dish.
Over lunch, we learned that Luna, after a swift career ascent and getting appointed as a general, led many successful battles. But he also gained the ire of many of his military peers who had been fighting in the revolution much longer than him.
He was noted for giving Americans a hard time in the battles he led and the Americans had actually considered him the country’s best general. At the same time, many men in the army ranks hated him for being tough on them.
Pampanga was the site of the battle of Santo Tomas which was where he was wounded. In this battle Luna was up against General Arthur MacArthur (the father of General Douglas MacArthur of “I shall return” fame). We found it strange that the main highway there is named after the younger MacArthur instead of a Filipino (calling on the congressman of Pampanga to rename!).
After lunch, we went on a 2-hour drive to Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija to visit the place where Luna was assassinated by Emilio Aguinaldo’s men. He had gone there upon receiving conflicting telegrams from Emilio Aguinaldo (the first president of the revolutionary government), one of which summoned him to Cabanatuan for a meeting. Luna traveled several days to the place. He arrived at the venue – a convent being used by the Malolos Republic (now reconstructed as the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral Parish) – where he learned that Aguinaldo was not there.
Frustrated about wasting time in getting there, he exchanged heated words with Aguinaldo’s generals when he was suddenly attacked by the men. It is said that Luna was able to drag himself out of the convent to the plaza across the street trying to shoot at his attackers and met a grisly death there. He had more than 30 stab wounds and 40 gunshot wounds from Aguinaldo’s men.Those men really hated him!
It’s a shame that Luna had to be murdered by his own countrymen instead of the hands of the country’s enemies. It’s a shame too, if we are to believe we are told, that the much honored hero Gen. Aguinaldo may have been instrumental in this death. But more on my thoughts on that in another article in the future.
The tour ended with a pleasant merienda at Hapag Vicentico’s at Cabanatuan, a rap number by tour guide Greg “Lakbayani” Mercado and dinner on the way back at Everybody’s Café in Pampanga.
With that, I really need to watch the movie. Here’s to knowing more about our country’s heroes!