1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas: The Spanish Film of The Siege of Baler

I have never heard of The Siege of Baler until I watched 1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas (a.k.a. 1898, Our Last Men in the Philippines). It’s sad when we don’t know parts of what happened in our (Philippine) history so I’m very happy to find this Spanish movie. Now I know something like it happened before and after Spain sold the Philippines to the United States of America.

If you haven’t seen this 2016 historical film then please do so before reading further. Otherwise I might spoil it a bit for you. Hehe.

1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas

🔸🔶 The Cast 🔶🔸

Here are some important and major cast members:

Luis Tosar plays Lieutenant Martín Cerezo
The eventual leader of the soldiers.

Javier Gutiérrez plays Sergeant Jimeno Costa
The eventual second in command of the lieutenant.

Alvaro Cervantes plays Carlos
Tha artist soldier.

◙ Raymond Bagatsing plays Commander Teodoro Novicio Luna
The Filipino revolutionary leader.

Alexandra Masangkay plays Teresa
She is the village whore who has a brother in the revolution.

🔸🔶 Trailer 🔶🔸

🔸🔶 Synopsis 🔶🔸

A battalion of soldiers came to Baler, Aurora, Philippines to retake a village. Most of them were young and inexperienced. The Spanish priest tells them the Tagalog “rebels” or local revolutionaries known as Katipuneros have already left. One day the young soldiers caught Teresa. Sgt. Costa was brutal to her until Lt. Cerezo stopped him. Before they let her go, he told her to send a message to her brother: They will be ready and will not surrender like the previous battalion if her brother and fellow Katipuneros return to town.

Everything was peaceful and okay until a wounded messenger came to them bearing news that Spain was at war with the US. The man had been attacked by the Tagalog rebels. With their supplies cut off due to the US attack of Manila and Cavite, the captain decided to get holed up at the church premises. It was the only solid stone structure in town so they fortified it further. They took whatever supplies they could in the suddenly deserted town and shut themselves in.

Katipuneros eventually launched an attack so the Spaniards had to retreat in the stone structure to protect themselves. When the battle ended, a Katipunero representative asked for their surrender since Spain was losing to America. The lieutenant refused thus they continued to “defend” themselves for 337 days.

Church from 1898 Los Ultimos De Flipinas
Source

In the end, Lt. Cerezo finally believed they had no reason to continue defending Baler. He surrendered and Commander Luna let them go peacefully. The war continues on for the Filipinos though.

🔸🔶 The Review 🔶🔸

Because of COVID-19, a lot of people are forced to stay and be quarantined at home. Well what’s there to do when you’re at home 24/7 right? Lots of posts on social media point out to websites or links to free movies and TV series here and there. What’s not to like when people have more time than usual?

And so back in March, I was able to see a post about this 2016 Spanish movie. I’m part of a Facebook movie/cinema group and it came up as a link or suggestion. I checked on the comments and what I read piqued my interest.

Usually I check the trailer of a movie before I watch it but this time I didn’t bother at all. I relied on the comments and hoped it’s good. Without expecting much as usual, I watched it. Here’s what I think about the film plus some side comments too.

◙ Characters & Story

Suffice it to say as the movie opened, I wasn’t paying attention to who the actors are as they flashed on screen but then I see a familiar face. If you’ve seen Money Heist before 1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas then you know who I’m talking about (Rio).

Wading in river : 1898 los ultimos de Filipinas

Anyway, the first half of the movie wasn’t too exciting. Maybe only the men will get excited seeing a Filipina singing and dancing. Several comments I read praised Alexandra’s performance. As for the middle portion, it’s quite boring for me but still sort of better than 2/3 of Fury in terms of pacing. You get to see the soldiers’ mundane life and pathetic situation. The climax and ending isn’t too satisfying but is enough to make you feel relieved they’re finally out of the church.

There’s a little bit of symbolism going on too. At least it tried to be original in some way. Or maybe not. The spider scene just goes to show how man and the natural world are not much different to each other. It can still be a dog eat dog world unless we show compassion to our fellow human beings.

Oh but what’s funny is in one scene it was raining and they were all shaking from the cold draft. I mean, the Philippines is a tropical country guys. I would have thought Spanish people are used to much colder weather.

Church argument 1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas

Near the end of the movie, something struck me the most. Did you know Spain sold (ceded) the Philippines (and other countries) to the United States for $20 Million!?! How incredulous! WTF right? (No it’s not the first time I learned of it.) I definitely agree with how the soldiers felt. At that point I didn’t care about how betrayed the guys in the movie were. I was outraged too!

Imagine, our country got sold after being colonized and treated like sh*t for more than 3 centuries. Americans then turned us into what? And now China is moving in on us next! Dear God. Makes you wonder, why the Philippines, huh? Why oh why? Is it the strategic location? Are we like a prime piece of real estate everybody’s salivating about and waiting to be fully developed? We’re so rich in natural resources but can’t even fully capitalize on it. Good lord. I had to stop watching and rant online. Hahaha. I mean come on, why don’t you big first world countries mind your own business and stop trying to rule the world for once?

Alexandra Masangkay

See that’s the effect of the movie on me because I am a Filipino who has been living in a former Western colonial country since birth. That’s my perspective. I’ve been watching the supposed Spanish historical events in the film unfold and that one scene triggered such a reaction.

1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas portrayed Filipinos as some sort of savages back then but hundreds of us died in that siege as opposed to how minimal the casualties were from those holed up in the stone church. At that point I wish we got back our savagery so more people will be braver and patriotic enough to fight for our sovereignty again. Especially now when it’s like we’re being baited to go to war with China or something. Or maybe China is baiting the USA through us? Who knows which conspiracy theory is true?

All I know is, most people complain and bicker online more often. I noticed how we’re mostly keyboard warriors and trolls now than actual changemakers. Instead of reaching out to the people responsible for something to change or happen we prefer to announce it to the world. We then hope it will go trending until the responsible people will finally notice. Some people are even paid to write fake news or even FAKE HISTORY! Tsk. Such is the world we live in now.

Anyway, back to the movie review… The film has bitterness written all over it that’s for sure.

One thing I like about it is how they showed cowardice. I’m sure it wasn’t impossible that deserters chose to live among Filipinos. They could never come back to Spain anyway otherwise they’d be branded a traitor or something. Not everyone is brave to go into battle and die for their country.

Another thing is, surprisingly, the lead character is an artist. There is a smattering of art incorporated in the film. At least it’s got other things going on other than the pathetic situation the soldiers put themselves in.

◙ Acting

Have I mentioned artistic nudity? Well someone got naked while being dramatic. Battling addiction isn’t fun so you’ll get to see something of that too. Nothing too emotional going on in the film so that’s probably the highlight of this movie.

Assault or war scenes doesn’t count as good acting for me.

Soldiers during Siege of Baler movie

Perhaps the best actor of the film is Luis Tosar, the Lieutenant. I came to admire his character even if he seemed too stubborn and stupid. He had his reasons; his role is definitely the best developed personality in the film imho.

Second best actor would be Alexandra. She portrayed a strong yet caring Filipina until the end.

◙ Cinematography, Production Design & Music

The costumes are great, at least to the untrained eye. Some say there are inaccuracies but everything up to the set design is good enough to a simple viewer’s perspective.

And can we just talk about how beautiful and cinematic each scene is? I mean even the close up shots of red rimmed eyes are just something to appreciate. Oh and yeah, watch out for two scenes with nudity, one artistic and another as part of the story. It’s rated R after all.

Apart from seeing that familiar actor in the opening sequence, the movie started out with breathtaking shots of nature. Apparently the set was not in Baler itself (or anywhere in the Philippines) but the natural world is still beautiful wherever we go.

Training soldiers during siege of Baler film

I’ve never been a mountain lover but I love the color of trees. Forests are so refreshing to the eyes. And of course the nipa huts are just so Pinoy. Hehe.

As for the battle scenes, well I’d rather you watch Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral instead. That’s if you’re into cinematic gunfights in the mountains during the late 1800s Philippines.

With regards to the music, well there’s not much at all. I mean I didn’t notice anything striking except for Teresa annoying the soldiers. Haha. She’s such a good singer.

◙ Rating

So, let me now give you the movie rating.

  • Characters & Story: 7
  • Acting: 7
  • Cinematography, Production Design & Music: 9

Final Rating: 7.6

Is it worth watching? Well it’s a starting point for us to find out what really happened in the siege of Baler. We have to rediscover Philippine history. It may be a Spanish movie but it’s something that will spark some sort of nationalism in you.

If you’re not a history buff and more into arts I guess you will enjoy some parts of it.

Also, after doing a few searches online, it seems like this is a reboot of a 1945 movie of almost the same title. I’ve seen some clips on YouTube and that one seemed like a love story. Anyway if only self studying Spanish was fun I’d probably understand what this video talks about without subtitle.

From what I’ve gathered based on the translated captions, those who returned from the siege became celebrated soldiers of Spanish history. Hah. Now we see the conqueror’s view or their side of the story.

How about you? What do you think of 1898 Los Ultimos de Filipinas?

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Originally posted on Steemit / Hive.

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