TACLOBAN CITY-Jon Ivan Torreros, 19, a communications student, can’t help but feel the excitement as he and his friend trooped to a local cinema to watch “GomBurZa” here in the city.
The multi-awarded biopic featured the three martyred priests,Fathers Mariano Gomez, 72; Jose Apolonio Burgos, 35; and Jacinto Zamora, 36, who were publicly executed by garrote in Bagumbayan (now named Luneta) in Manila on February 17, 1872 on charges of subversion and treason against Spanish colonial authorities and friars.
Spanish authorities alleged that the three priests instigated the mutiny of some Filipino workers and troops at the Cavite arsenal on January 20, 1872.
“I have known GomBurZa (a better-known acronym of the three priests’ family names) since I was in elementary school, but it was only about their death. Now that I am in college, I learned that they are one of the biggest reasons why the Filipinos made sure of their independence, so they were the driving force especially since they were also the reason for the awakening of the nationalism of Dr. Jose Rizal,” said Torreros, a young filmmaker from the nearby Palo town.
Rizal, the country’s national hero, was also martyred on December 30, 1896 at the same place where the three priests were executed, and whose death helped ignite the spark of the revolution against the Spanish government, which ruled the country from 1565 to 1898.
“I also saw the reviews from historians who approved this film,” added Torreros on why he was eager to watch the film.
Pablo Virgilio David, the bishop of the Diocese of Kalookan and the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, also urged the Filipinos to watch the film.
“It is a well-researched historical film that will bring you back to the first spark of patriotism that forged the ‘Filipino’ identity that eventually united us Tagalogs, Kapampangans, Ilocanos, Cebuanos, natives, mestizos, criollos and all other inhabitants of these 7,000 plus islands into one nation in the last quarter of the 19th century,” the bishop said.
“It is a gripping retelling of the story of the martyrdom of these three secular priests from the perspective of a young witness—Jose Rizal y Mercado, who was mentored by his brother Paciano, who in turn, was mentored by Padre Jose Burgos, and who, in turn, was also mentored by Padre Pedro Pelaez. The adult Rizal would later dedicate his novel El Filibusterismo to the memory of these priests,” he added.
In his statement, David maintained that watching the film “will make you appreciate what it truly means to be a ‘Filipino.”’
Filipino journalist Howie Severino wrote that the film “is an epic reminder of our cinematic history.”
“Gomburza is among the most hallowed words in Philippine history, a portmanteau of the names of martyred priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, with Burgos the most famous. There is some general awareness of their relationship to what came after them — an inspired Jose Rizal and the rise of a Filipino consciousness that led to the revolution of 1896,” Severino wrote on his social media page on January 2, 2024.
Produced by the Jesuit Communications Foundation, the media arm of the Society of Jesus in the country, which was also behind the 2016 historical biopic Ignacio de Loyola, founder saint of the Jesuit order, GomBurZa harvested multiple awards in the 49th Metro Manila Film Festival on December 28, 2023.
The major awards include Best Actor, Best Director, Second Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound Design, and the special Gatpuno Antonio Villegas Cultural Award.
The film is starred by Dante Rivero as Padre Mariano Gomez, Cedrick Juan as Padre José Burgos, Enchong Dee as Padre Jacinto Zamora, and Piolo Pascual as Padre Pedro Pelaez, the mentor of Father Burgos.
International filmmaker awardee Jose Lorenzo Diokno directed the movie from a screenplay by Rody Vera.
(RONALD O. REYES)