We all grew up reciting in the flag ceremony that we love our country without heart because we were all raised by parents who grew heart for the family before the country. I didn't expect I could finish watching the 8-hour Hele Challenge last Sunday at the Dolphy Theater with my first student Emong. 16 years ago, I taught him that Filipinos betrayed each other to survive hunger and he reminded me how it was true to events shown in Lav Diaz's Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis.
Without batting an eyelash, I savored every scene of darkness the Filipinos had to go through being colonized by Spain in the 18th century. The first three hours brought me questions why mythological creatures had to co-exist with the literary characters. Baffled by the fact that the history taught in schools overlooks at details witheld to the public, Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis brought the opportunity to engage in characters and reflect on realities the majority continues to be indifferent.
We have become indifferent because the family and the school we grew up with were also indifferent. Piolo Pascual as Simoun/Crisostomo Ibarra cries like the collaborators of the present day preying on the plight of the hungry Filipinos. Many of us are like Isagani (John Lloyd Cruz) and Aling Hule (Susan Africa) yearning for justice yet mum on drastic actions. The quest to find where Andres Bonifacio's body remained a quest in the end as Oryang/Gregoria De Jesus (Hazel Orencio) loses her mind eventually. Like the realities of today with politicians investigated for plunder, the culprit may be unearthed but the money remained kept and hidden. Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis moved me to hate Dr.Rizal's Simoun once again whose selfish revenge turned a failure of the revolution. Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis moves to awaken your soul as a Filipino. It is indeed a very important film.
Without a doubt the Filipino should not falter to realize they keep destroying fellow Filipinos. Greed aside from illiteracy brought by lack of the country's soul led to its repeating tragedy. It isn't freedom that heeds attention. Contrary to direk Lav Diaz's poetry towards the end of the film, we should raise more Mang Karyo(Joel Saracho), adept of the truth and fervent to helping with ardor regardless of rejection from the Katipunan cause. The hope lies on those Mang Karyo we have in the society. They may have been stricken with plagues of the country's corruption but they linger at will. Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis is an important film. It may not be a film for entertainment and appreciation but it is a significant film for Filipinos who want to believe in the country. If the majority will choose not to watch Hele, the movie had successfully transcended its message - that we choose to love ourselves more than the country.
The following are some of my most unforgettable quotes;
1.Magpakalunod ka dyan sa mga nobela mong walang silbi -Basilio to Isagani-
2. Oryang-Mahirap lamang tanggapin na kapwa natin mga tagalog ang berdugo at hindi ang mga kastila
3. Tikbalang Bernardo - Sa tingin ko ang kaluluwa mo ang mas nawawala
4. Tikbalang Angel- ang mga hakbang ng mahusay na kriminal ay parating nauuna.
5. Isagani - Hayup ka Crisostomo Ibarra
6. Isagani - Pano ililigtas ng sining ang bayan na gutom
7. Crisostomo to Isagani - Isa lang ang sinasabi ng sining, kalayaan.