El Presidente: General Emilio Aguinaldo Story and the First Philippine Republic, or simply El Presidente (English: The President), is a 2012 historical biopic film written and directed by Mark Meily about the life of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippine Republic.
The film stars Jeorge “E.R.” Ejercito Estregan in the title role, along with Nora Aunor, Christopher de Leon, Cristine Reyes, and Cesar Montano.
The story is told in flashbacks as Emilio Aguinaldo (E.R. Ejercito) thanks the United States government for giving him the opportunity to attend the full restoration of Philippine independence on 04 July 1946.
The film begins with his capture by Kapampangan and US forces under Frederick Funston’s command in 1901, then flashes back to 1886, when an old woman gives Aguinaldo and his childhood friend Candido Tirona (Ronnie Lazaro) cryptic prophecies. Ten years later, Aguinaldo is inducted into the Katipunan by the Supremo, Andrés Bonifacio, and later assumes leadership of its Cavite chapter the Magdalo while becoming mayor of Cavite El Viejo. When trouble breaks out in Manila in late August 1896, Aguinaldo tries to assure the Spanish provincial government of non-interference and covertly marshals his forces despite a lack of weapons. Learning that the Spanish mostly put their forces in Manila, Aguinaldo finally mobilizes his troops in Cavite and takes on Spanish troops at Cavite El Viejo, Imus, and Binakayan.
As the Katipunan rebels gain ground in Cavite and several provinces, its Magdalo and Magdiwang factions convene to elect a provisional government. Bonifacio oversees the Tejeros Convention, which elects Aguinaldo as president, Mariano Trías as vice-president, and himself as interior minister. He storms out of the convention when Daniel Tirona objects to his position. Aguinaldo’s brother Crispulo informs him of his accession and convinces him to leave his troops just as he was seeking to defend against the Spaniards at Pasong Santol. However without reinforcement they were overrun and Crispulo was killed. Meanwhile, an embittered Bonifacio establishes his own revolutionary government in Naic and was later arrested during his act in the village. Aguinaldo is concerned about Bonifacio’s actions and wanted him exiled, but the War Council advises his execution.
Several months later, Aguinaldo leaves Cavite with most of his forces intact and makes it to Biak-na-Bato in Bulacan, where he signs the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and heads for Hong Kong. There he meets with US officials who approach him with offers of support and recognition of a new Philippine republic amidst the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo returns to the Philippines winning his military victory under the First Philippine Republic and formally declares independence from Spain. As the Malolos Congress convenes, Felipe Agoncillo tries to represent the new nation at the Treaty of Paris negotiations, but gets stonewalled at every turn even as US forces gradually arrive in the Philippines.
War with the Americans breaks out in February 1899, and General Antonio Luna is appointed supreme commander of the army. He is assassinated by disgruntled troops three months later, and the Filipino forces are gradually routed by the Americans. As a result, Aguinaldo flees to the north of Luzon. General Gregorio del Pilar volunteers to hold them off at Tirad Pass and buy Aguinaldo time. His loyal courier is later captured by the Americans while getting some medicine for his son. Now aware of Aguinaldo’s hideout, Funston plans his capture.
Having been made to accept the American occupation over the Philippines, Aguinaldo lives a quiet life, which is marred by Hilaria’s death in 1921. He meets and marries Agoncillo’s niece Maria in 1930. Over the next few decades, the couple witness Philippine history unfold once more as he is defeated in the 1935 presidential elections, Japanese occupation, and the restoration of full independence. In 1962, an elderly Aguinaldo and his wife comfort each other over President Diosdado Macapagal’s decree to restore the actual date of the Philippine declaration of independence.
As Aguinaldo lies on his bed, the same woman who gave him his prophecy appears to him one more time.
- Jeorge “E.R.” Ejercito Estregan as Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
- Jericho Ejercito as young Emilio Aguinaldo.
- Nora Aunor as Maria Agoncillo.
- Christopher de Leon as Gen. Antonio Luna.
- Cesar Montano as Andrés Bonifacio.
- Cristine Reyes as Hilaria Aguinaldo.
- Alicia Meyer as the Old Lady/Inang Bayan (Mother Land).
- Ronnie Lazaro as General Candido Tirona.
- Mav Lozano as Young Candido Tirona.
- Bayani Agbayani as General Baldomero Aguinaldo.
- Gerard Ejercito as General Crispulo Aguinaldo.
- Allan Paule as General Tomás Mascardo.
- Emilio Garcia as General Pío del Pilar.
- Wendell Ramos as General Mariano Noriel.
- John Arcilla as General Mariano Trías.
- Mike Lloren as Vicente Riego de Dios.
- Ian de Leon as Captain Artemio Ricarte.
- Felix Roco as General Gregorio del Pilar.
- Dindo Arroyo as General Macario Sakay.
- Ricardo Cepeda as Colonel Lucio de Vega.
- Lorenzo Mara as Dr. Dominador Gomez.
- Carlos Morales as General Leon Villafuerte.
- Alireza Libre as General Edilberto Evangelista.
- Richard Manabat as Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista.
- Gary Estrada as Commander Jose Tagle.
- Allen Dizon as Commandrr Simeón Villa.
- Will Devaughn as Commander Agapito Bonzon.
- Crispin Pineda as José P. Elises.
- Hero Bautista as Major Lazaro Macapagal.
- Andro Morgan as Major Eugenio.
- Yul Servo as Pedro Paterno.
- William Martinez as Dr. Santiago Barcelona.
- Ronnie Quizon as Apolinario Mabini.
- Epi Quizon as José Clemente Zulueta.
- Alvin Anson as Felipe Agoncillo.
- Lou Veloso as Julián Felipe.
- Sid Lucero as Gaudioso.
- Sunshine Cruz as Gregoria de Jesús.
- Joko Diaz as Procopio Bonifacio.
- Rommel Montano as Ciriaco Bonifacio.
- Archie Adamos as Luis Aguado.
- Soliman Cruz as Maximo Inocencio.
- Roi Vinzon as Lazaro Segovia.
- Dennis Padilla as Tal Placido.
- John Regala as Padre Agustin.
- Baron Geisler as Lieutenant Chacon.
- Ian Veneracion as General Ernesto Aguirre.
- Tony Mabesa as General Echaluche.
- Troy Montero as Colonel Frederick Funston.
- James Paolleli as General Arthur MacArthur.
- Recto Cantimbulan as Padre Cenon Villafranca.
- Joonee Gamboa as Ambassador Felipe Buencamino.
- Mark Meily as Presidente ng Indang.
- Roldan Aquino as Maria Agoncillo’s father.
- Gloria Sevilla as Maria Agoncillo’s mother.
- Lariel Castro as Cecilio.
- Darry dela Cruz as Igorot.
- Elaine Lozano as Sor Gallego.
- Maita Ejercito as Marcela Agoncillo.
- Jhulia Ejercito as Lorenza Agoncillo.
- Leah Villalon as older Lorenza Agoncillo.
- Jenny Javier as Delfina Herbosa de Natividad.
- Maylyn Enriquez as Felicidad Aguado.
- Melissa Yotoko as Consuelo Almiranez.
- Jess Evardone as Severino de las Alas.
- Bearwin Meily as Benjamin San Luis.
- Emmanuelle Ejercito as Gregorio Jocson.
- Brenton Metken as Rousenville Wildman.
- Stra Zalkowski as General Greene.
- Oliver Borlen as Théophile Delcassé.
- Allan Pérez as Governor-General Ramón Blanco.
- Ces Aldabe as Mariano Álvarez.
- Don Umali as Daniel Tirona.
- Arkin da Silva as Ariston Villanueva.
- Mario Capalad as Santiago Álvarez.
- Arian Labios as Pedro Girón.
- Jojo Gallego as Jose del Rosario.
- Eddie del Mar as Jacinto Lumbre.
- Romeo Edgar Ambrogar as Emiliano Riego de Dios.
- Sonny Alcantara as Pío Valenzuela.
- Jomar Daynt as Colonel Pedro Lipana.
- Jun Nayra as Mariano Riego de Diós.
- Rogelio Aldo Yadao as Colonel Paco Román.
- Perry Dizon as Captain Pedro Janolino.
- Eric Perez as Padre Fidel de Bias.
- Johnny Barnes as Felipe Calderón.
- Roger Clarico as Legarda.
- Ace Mangamon as Flavio.
A 350-page script emerged in 1998, with the proposed film meant for the Philippines’ Independence Centennial, but no production was made.
Ejercito said Meily was chosen to direct the film due to his knowledge of Aguinaldo, experience in large productions, and personal belief in him. Meily’s appointment was made despite swearing never to helm a historical film again, after working on Baler in 2008. Ejercito’s second choice for director was Mario O’Hara; the latter died before Ejercito made him an offer, on 26 June 2012. Ejercito ruled out picking Tikoy Aguiluz because a falling-out between them during the editing of his last film, Manila Kingpin.
Despite the existence of the 1998 script, Meily opted to create an entirely different script instead. He wanted to hire screenwriters at Ejercito’s request, but volunteered to write it himself when no writers joined the project. Meily claims he tried to make the film as factually accurate as possible, and he describes the finished product as “95 percent” accurate to what really happened. Historians were on set to ensure full accuracy.
Ejercito described the film as much harder to make than Manila Kingpin because it “deals directly with our country’s history.” Over 50 professional actors and actresses were cast for the movie. He also described the “set, costumes, locations, and logistics” as “staggering by all Philippine cinema standards.” He also claimed that it was the biggest and most expensive Filipino film ever, as the film was made on a budget of ₱130 million. Shooting took place over 43 days at select locations in Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan.
El Presidente, along with seven other Metro Manila Film Festival entries, was released on 25 December 2012 in 54 theatres, although it was premiered on 18 December 2012, at the SMX Convention Centre at the SM Mall of Asia. It went on to gross PhP4.2 million in Metro Manila, the sixth most among MMFF films. After the film festival ended, the Metro Manila Development Authority did not release the total box office gross of the film as it was not in the top four highest grossing films. Ejercito complained that the film’s low box office gross was due to rigged theatre distribution, as more popular films were released in as many as 130 theatres. While all eight film festival entries were released in the same number of theatres in Metro Manila via drawing lots, theatres in the province could decide whichever movies to show.
The movie garnered mostly positive reviews from critics.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Mark Meily.
- Producer(s): Maylyn Villalon-Enriquez and Leonard Villalon.
- Writer(s): Mark Meily.
- Music: Jessie Lasaten.
- Cinematography: Carlo Mendoza.
- Editor(s): Jason Cahapay and Ryan Orduna.
- Production: Scenema Concept International, CMB Films, and San Miguel Corporation.
- Distributor(s): VIVA Films.
- Release Date: 25 December 2012.
- Running Time: 165 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: Philippines.
- Language: English, Filipino, and Spanish.