Jerrold Tarog Recommends These Books Behind 'Goyo'

Supplementary materials to an important film about our national history.
IMAGE National Historical Commission; Anvil Publishing; University of the Philippines Press

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is primarily a film about our nation's history. And while, like its predecessor Heneral Luna, it admits to taking liberties in its reimagining of the life of the Boy General, the film is still wholly grounded in real historical facts—disputed as they may be when it comes to Gregorio del Pilar himself, whom historians have viewed in different ways. And as a viewer of the film, you get a sense of how dilligently researched it is from the attention that's paid to the details. (One such detail that stands testament to the production's meticulousness: Throughout, Paulo Avelino wears a gold tooth, which is hardly visible onscreen, but true to historical accounts of del Pilar that claim he did in fact have a tooth filled with gold).

Book Recommendations to Understand Goyo's Background

If you'd like to appreciate the film better from a historical standpoint, consider partaking of the research that its writers did. Jerrold Tarog, who directed the film and co-wrote it with Rody Vera, has prepared a list of books worth reading—before or after seeing the film—to get a better sense of everything that Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral has on its mind.

"Admittedly, a lot of these books can only be found in libraries," says Tarog. "But going to libraries to dig up old books is an endeavor that holds its own analog pleasures." He also says that his main go-to is the Ortigas Foundation Library, but that some universities would have these titles as well.


An Acceptable Holocaust: Life and Death of a Boy General by Teodoro Kalaw

"This is the main book for all things related to Gregorio Del Pilar," says Tarog. "A later edition has extended appendices that include a detailed account of the battle [of Tirad Pass] from the American side. We referred to this account for most of the battle sequences."

General Gregorio H. Del Pilar: Idol of the Revolution by Isaac C. Cruz

Another historian and del Pilar biographer, Isaac Cruz, offers a similar peek into the life of the Boy General. "Many of its contents can also be found in Kalaw's book," the director says, "but Cruz offers some interesting details not found elsewhere."

A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History by Nick Joaquin

Here, writer and historian Nick Joaquin poses unprecedented questions about some of our country's well-known heroes (including Gregorio del Pilar) as a way of providing a fresh perspective on history. This was also one of the materials that Tarog referred to as he made Heneral Luna. Today, he has only this to say: "This book keeps getting me into trouble."

The Letters of Apolinario Mabini by Apolinario Mabini

The Sublime Paralytic features heavily in Goyo, often through voiceovers and conversations with General Jose Alejandrino. Many of the film's messages are also delivered through Mabini. "It's about 400+ pages of fascinating stuff," says Tarog. "Even mundane matters of Mabini sending money to people are worth reading."

The Philippine Revolution by Apolinario Mabini

This one's a more concise peek into the mind of the revolution. A version of it, translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero, is available online via the Presidential Museum and Library. It may be accessed here.

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Apolinario Mabini, Revolutionary by Cesar Majul

The director says this one "contains important insights on Mabini's life, thoughts and role in the revolution."

Sentiments: General Emilio Aguinaldo’s Response to the Accusations of the Sublime Paralytic by Emmanuel Calairo

Apolinario Mabini's The Philippine Revolution was critical of its titular topic, and did not mince words when it came to Emilio Aguinaldo. Here, Aguinaldo responds. Tarog marks this one as "MUST READ."

The Price of Freedom by Jose Alejandrino

Alvin Anson reprises his role as General Alejandrino for Goyo, the trailer of which hears him referring to del Pilar as "'Yung mayabang." Here's a better look into his perspective. Tarog says he "referred to this one a lot for Heneral Luna," and "revisited it for Goyo because Alejandrino's sentiments about the war run sort of parallel with Mabini's. Plus, the shade he threw at Goyo in one chapter had me giggling."

Aguinaldo's Odyssey: As Told in the Diaries of Col. Simeon Villa and Dr. Santiago Barcelona by Simeon Villa

Leading up to the Battle of Tirad Pass in Ilocos Sur, Aguinaldo's army had to retreat through mountainous terrain for weeks from Bayambang, Pangasinan—a torturous journey, by this account. Tarog says this one was "eye-opening, to say the least."

A Spaniard in Aguinaldo's Army: The Military Journal of Telesforo Carrasco y Perez by Telesforo Carrasco y Perez

There are several different accounts of Gregorio del Pilar's death at Tirad Pass—and of course, the movie had to choose one. This, according to the director, provided a more believable version than others.


The Devil's Causeway by Matthew Westfall

This one is about the Siege of Baler, which ended months before the Battle of Tirad Pass. But the director says he borrowed some of the details here for Goyo. "The level of research is nuts."

Insurrectos! by Jose Alejandrino

This one's fiction, by the descendant of General Alejandrino himself. But Tarog says it's  "worth reading, for its depiction of the revolution and our heroes." Available for purchase as an e-book.

Malolos: The Crisis of The Republic by Teodoro Agoncillo

This one should offer a better glimpse into the political context of Goyo, and what was going on in the Aguinaldo government, including an account of his negotiations with the Americans.

The Isles of Fear by Katherine Mayo

An account of the Philippines, Filipinos, and Filipino culture in the 1920s from the perspective of a visiting American journalist. "This gets outright racist in some parts," says Tarog, "But totally worth reading for details of how things were back then, from a colonizer's perspective." The entire thing is available online.

The Good Fight: The Autobiography of Manuel Luis Quezon by Manuel L. Quezon

"Might as well set up the third film. Crossing our fingers."

Apart from these, the production consulted U.S. Army documents provided by author Matthew Westfall, as well as interviews with Remedios Nable Jose by Carlos Quirino in the 1960s. The latter, Tarog says, were shown to him by historian Ambeth Ocampo, and eventually "became the primary inspiration for the characerization of Remedios in the film."


The director would like to thank historians Xiao Chua and John Ray Ramos, Bulacan history enthusiast Isagani Giron, Bong Enriquez, and John Silva of the Ortigas Foundation Library for their invaluable help during the research stage.

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