The renewed interest in Philippine history brought about by the film "Heneral Luna" has not just ignited the Filipino audience's sense of nationalism, but more so raised doubts as to whether former President Emilio Aguinaldo be revered as one of the country's heroes.
In the critically acclaimed biopic, Aguinaldo seemed to have plotted General Antonio Luna's assassination, an almost same act that led to the death of another hero Andres Bonifacio, whom he also allegedly ordered killed.
For De La Salle University Professor Michael Charleston "Xiao" Chua, Filipinos should not end resenting Aguinaldo only on the basis of the film, and should further their understanding of the past to know the real issues of the present.
"When we look at Aguinaldo’s role in Philippine history, we must consider that he was 28 or 29 years old when he became president, that’s one. He was surrounded by traditional politicians. Kung titignan mo, meron din naman siyang role eh in Philippine history. ‘Yung flag, ‘yung national anthem, we give him that. But also, may mga mistakes, and the mistakes must be taught. Matuto tayo dun sa mga mistakes ni Aguinaldo," he said on ANC's Headstart.
When asked about his own stand on the issue, Chua said he still sees Aguinaldo as a true Filipino, but with reservations.
"He is a great Filipino, but I am not referring personally to him as a hero," the history professor said.
Chua said recognizing the former President whether as a hero or a traitor would only make sense if the people are well-informed. He is also hoping that the hype over Heneral Luna is not short-lived.
"Kailangan ang mga bata ngayon, I hope that they will read the sources to make up their own mind. Kasi mas okay pa na sabihin mong traydor si Aguinaldo matapos mong basahin lahat ng mga nabasa mo kaysa sa nakita mo lang ‘yung pelikula at nakita mo lang ‘yung ibang mga tao tapos nakikisabay ka," he said.
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Chua added that apart from the questions surrounding Aguinaldo's role in Philippine history, it is more important for the Filipinos to be aware of present political issues, and address it with the upcoming elections.
"That’s why we have issues unresolved and that’s why we let people come back through elections. I think history is important na mapag-aralan natin ngayon para magbago na ‘yung voting patterns natin. Sana maghalal tayo ng mas maaayos na pinuno,"
Chua also encouraged people to maintain their enthusiasm toward engaging in intelligent discussions to promote objective teaching of history, as to discourage accounts glorifying certain political figures in the past propagated by their descendants who are in the government.
"Pero hangga’t may mga taong nandyan na hindi natin masaktan dahil nandyan sila sa kapangyarihan, let’s talk about this, let’s continue the discussion, ‘yun ‘yung pinakamaganda," he said.
READ: Aguinaldo great-grandson Abaya says Luna wasn't assassinated
Amid the alleged anomalies in history, Chua believes in the maturity of the Filipino audience to see the country's true heroes, with the help of films such as Heneral Luna.
"When we start to tell people na ito ang dapat maging stand mo, that’s not democracy anymore. So we have to make them flourish, but then in the end, the people will judge kung ano ‘yung sinasabi. It is based on the maturity of those who are listening that we will have a more mature understanding of our history," Chua added.