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Tracing the hero’s steps at Tirad Pass

A research trip in preparation for the Heneral Luna follow-up film

It all started with the idea of inviting inspiring personalities to join a Meaningful Travels PH (MTPh) trip, a new travel brand I am developing. I wanted to come up with a trip that aside from traveling and making a difference, travelers would also have a memorable experience engaging with inspiring individuals while on the road.

I’d been to Tirad Pass in Ilocos Sur before and I want it to be one of MTPh’s destinations. I also knew that people from the film, Heneral Luna, would be interested in this location as their team is set to develop a follow-up film titled Goyo, which follows the life and times of the young general, Gregorio del Pilar, during the Philippine-American War era.

Tirad Pass is where del Pilar and 60 of his men made their final stand against 300 American soldiers. A key objective of this stand was to provide cover for President Emilio Aguinaldo so that he could escape further up north. At that time, the Philippine republic no longer existed, and the American forces were defeating the Philippine forces.

  • A bust of Goyo will greet visitors at the shrine

    A bust of Goyo will greet visitors at the shrine

  •  The first stop from Candon to del Pilar was at the town of Salcedo where the bones of Goyo were initially laid to rest, two  years after his death

    The first stop from Candon to del Pilar was at the town of Salcedo where the bones of Goyo were initially laid to rest, two years after his death

  • A peep into the small cave where Goyo wrote his final letter to his compatriots, the night before his death

    A peep into the small cave where Goyo wrote his final letter to his compatriots, the night before his death

  • Pong Ignacio, Macario Burgos, Bong Enriquez, Jerrold Tarog, Isagani Giron, and the author

    Pong Ignacio, Macario Burgos, Bong Enriquez, Jerrold Tarog, Isagani Giron, and the author

  • View of Tirad Pass peak from afar—taken while riding the jeep topload style and taking in these magnificent views.

    View of Tirad Pass peak from afar—taken while riding the jeep topload style and taking in these magnificent views.

Additional photos by
PONG IGNACIO

THE TEAM AND THE TRIP

After discussions with Jerrold Tarog, the director of Heneral Luna and who will direct Goyo, we decided on a one and a half day trip, with key members who would be able to contribute historical accounts and records, all essential to the research and development of the Goyo film.

One was Isagani Giron, a Gregorio del Pilar scholar from Bulacan who helped develop the Tirad Pass historical shrine in the year 1999. Another one was Vicente “Bong” Enriquez, the grandson of Gregorio del Pilar’s aide-de-camp Col. Vicente Enriquez. Jerrold also brought along Pong Ignacio, the cinematographer of Heneral Luna.

The group left Manila on Dec.16 in the evening, and arrived in Candon after an eight-hour journey.

There was a palpable sense of excitement and enthusiasm within the group.  Isagani and Bong excitedly shared their books of old maps, autobiographies, and stories passed down from their ancestors, some hilarious off-the-record stories, and all relating to the history and times of Goyo.

At  Candon, the group were welcomed by the tourism head, Macario Burgos. Mayor Luz Villabos’ assistant, Nick Prades, later joined us at the town of del Pilar. After a two-hour  topload ride on a 4×4 jeep, with magnificent open top views,  and a delicious Ilocano breakfast, we were ready for the two-hour ascent to the historical mountain shrine.

FILMMAKERS AT WORK

Jerrold and Pong were in their element once we started the trek. They took a lot of still photographs and videos, and made detailed notes.

All-important sites were visited and studied. We followed an old Spanish trail, checked the cave where Goyo wrote his last letter to his fellow compatriots, saw the ancient battlement structures, and trekked further on up the spot where he was shot and killed by a sniper about 300 meters from the Sniper’s Knoll.

Jerrold, who has composed several musical scores will also be unearthing old songs that were sang during the revolutionary day. Bong Enriquez has provided him with a list of songs that are still used in historical re-enactments in Bulacan to this very day.

 A CLOSER LOOK AT THE STORYTELLER

During the trek, Jerrold was mostly quiet and reflective.  At times, he’d distance himself from the group, and sometimes you would have that feeling that, yes, he’s there, but not really with us.

One might be seeing a terrain and its trees, but the mind of this filmmaker could be back in time, 116 years ago, on that fateful day when the Battle of Tirad Pass took place—seeing soldiers exchanging fires, and hearing their cries of desperation. All these men knew from the very beginning that theirs was a suicide mission with no hope of survival.

During our much-needed breaks, Jerrold would raise questions and share stories from his research. Most of the time he was like a sponge absorbing all the information provided to him, writing it all down in his small notebook or recording it on his mobile phone.

When asked if he felt under pressure to deliver more following the outstanding success of Heneral Luna, he replied, “Not pressure but excitement.  I just focus on the job.”  Although he does admit that achieving the right balance between creative dramatic portrayal and historical accuracy is a challenge.

The storyline of Goyo has already been written in less than a month following our research trip, and the actor, Paulo Avelino, will play the role of Goyo in the film.

It is interesting to see how Jerrold pieced all the facts and research he had collected to present the life story and history of Goyo. What messages will he highlight and perhaps more importantly, what questions will he leave his audience to think about?

From Heneral Luna, we were left with that brutal question “Why are we killing our own kind?” or that famous question that went viral, “Bayan o sarili? Pumili ka.”

“There is no hero worshipping,” he said in one of his interviews when asked. The culture of glorification has frequently blinded us to reality. A hero’s life is not all glory, bravery, gallantry, and self-sacrifice. His audience can look forward to a story that may not be far from ours, a story of a man who has struggles, fears, poor judgement, and ambitions.

On our descent from the trek with bodies drenched with sweat, Jerrold went toward a pile of wood and pulled a bottle of water. He apparently hid it on our way up.

“Oh wow, that was unexpected!” I said. He just smiled and satisfied his thirst.

Will he also pull the same trick when he leads the audience to his creative interpretation of the story?

(Fun Fact: He’s quite known for this).

Only Jerrold knows.

AN INVITATION

The film Goyo is planned to go into production in the summer of 2017 and it is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.  It is quite a wait for Jerrold’s avid fans, but meanwhile, you can see his other critically acclaimed films such as Confessional, Senior Year, and Sana Dati, all available in DVDs in stores nationwide.

The Tirad Pass shrine is open to anyone who wishes to visit. Contact the tourism office at 63 917 519 8803, look for Macario Burgos, and advise him of your planned visit. Aside from the Tirad Pass Historical Shrine, the town of del Pilar also has Payew rice terraces, Sibol hotsprings, and waterfalls to showcase to visiting guests. (ANN MARIE CUNANAN)

  • http://ideacrib.net/ Patricia Mirasol

    Had no idea Tirad Pass was so beautiful!! Looks like a tiring hike, though. Haha. How many hours does it take to trek up to those historical markers? :)

    Can’t wait for the film!