THE FILM – GOMBURZA
By Ari Cabello 🌸🌸🌸
Father Pedro Pelaez narrates the gripping story of Apolinario de la Cruz, also known as Hermano Pule, an Indio whose aspirations of priesthood were dashed by racial discrimination. Undeterred by this adversity, Apolinario establishes his own sect, only to confront suppression and execution by the Spaniards. This narrative unfolds in the presence of Pelaez’s student, Jose Burgos, and fellow secular priest Mariano Gomez. Together, they staunchly resist the efforts of friars, led by Padre Mosqueda, to take over parishes managed by predominantly Filipino secular priests. Tragedy strikes when Pelaez falls victim to the 1863 Manila earthquake, while Burgos perseveres in completing his priestly studies.
Skipping ahead to 1869, Burgos, now a teacher at the University of Santo Tomas, forms a strong bond with students Felipe Buencamino and Paciano Mercado. The arrival of liberal Governor-General Carlos Maria de la Torre brings hope, leading Felipe and Paciano to establish a group of liberal youths. However, their optimism is short-lived as Felipe is arrested, and De la Torre pressures Burgos to tone down his liberal advocacies in exchange for Buencamino’s release.
The year 1871 marks a pivotal turn as the repressive Rafael Izquierdo replaces De la Torre. Izquierdo investigates Burgos’ activities and abolishes tax exemptions for indio soldiers at Fort San Felipe. This triggers a failed mutiny led by Sergeant Lamadrid, manipulated by radicalized Filipino elites through Francisco Zaldua. Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora are unjustly implicated in the mutiny, facing a rushed court-martial with numerous judicial injustices. Meanwhile, the true instigators are sentenced to exile.
The trial reveals Zamora’s breakdown, falsely linked to an innocuous card game invitation, and the condemnation of the trial as a sham by Gomez and Burgos. Zaldua, bearing signs of torture, falsely accuses Burgos. The three priests, along with Zaldua, are convicted and sentenced to death by garotte. Padre Mosqueda, witnessing the manipulation, regrets their fate, realizing they were pawns of the Spanish government.
Before the execution, Izquierdo requests Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez to strip the priests of their cassocks, but Martinez refuses, believing in their innocence. The cassocks, confiscated during their arrest, are restored. The execution takes place at Bagumbayan, with Zaldua scorned as a traitor. A catatonic Zamora and nonchalant Gomez ascend the scaffold, while Burgos, accepting an apology from his executioner, proclaims his innocence. The grieving crowd kneels as church bells toll for their deaths.
In the epilogue, an adult Pepe dedicates his novel, El Filibusterismo, to the three priests, meeting his own fate at the same site in 1896. A former servant of Padre Mosqueda witnesses the execution, joining the Katipunan in the fight for independence against the Spaniards. This powerful saga serves as a testament to the resilience and sacrifices made by individuals in the pursuit of justice and freedom, resonating with audiences through its emotional depth and historical significance.
GomBurZa (2023), a film co-written & directed by Pepe Diokno
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