Heneral Luna: The Mothers behind Luna and Aguinaldo (Part 1 of 2 parts)

Heneral Luna: The Mothers behind Luna and Aguinaldo (Part 1 of 2 parts)

Sep 30, 2015

Heneral Luna is undoubtedly the most remarkable Filipino movie this year. It has struck a raw nerve in every Filipino who has seen it. It became an unexpected hit because it’s no longer just about what happened over a century ago but it is about us, right now, still happening in 2015! Every Filipino should see it.

A lot of reviews and commentaries have been made about the movie so I’m not going to discuss that anymore, but I wish to tackle the parenting side of the two main characters of the movie: Antonio Novicio Luna and Emilio Famy Aguinaldo. Note that I included their mother’s maiden names because these men were a product of how they were raised by their mothers.

In the movie, we saw both Luna and Aguinaldo as devoted sons to their mothers. I have always believed that mothers wield a special power over their sons. Even Jesus Christ, God as He is, couldn’t say no to Mama Mary when she asked him to turn the water into wine during the wedding at Cana. He said, “Woman, what has this to do with me. My hour has not yet come.” but we all know what he ended up doing. And this is why mothers must be very careful about this power. We can really make or break our sons.

To me, the most chilling scene in the movie was not when the soldiers butchered Luna, nor was it the head blown up during the war (maybe because my eyes were closed in most parts of the gruesome scenes). It was when a woman looking out the window (the mother of Aguinaldo) uttered the words, “Nagalaw pa ba ‘yan?” (Is “it” still moving?) What? The mother condoned this act? Was this an actual occurrence or artistic license?

So after watching the movie, I researched online and found out that this actually happened. And one link led me to another and another, and before I knew it, I find myself spending a good number of hours reading up on Philippine history for a few days now, trying to find out why Emilio Aguinaldo was depicted as a hero back in the day when I was studying History in school. But after the movies on Bonifacio and Luna, this is what social media says:

01 What Pinoys Hate
Taken from Prestigious Philippines Memes FB Page


The Mothers of Luna and Aguinaldo

Give me a successful or a screwed up man and I’m sure there’s an interesting childhood story behind him.  And that’s why I ended up researching on both mothers. Let me give you a gist of what I found out about the most influential women in the lives of Luna and Aguinaldo.

02 Mommy Luna
Laureana Novicio Luna, mother of Antonio & Juan Luna


Laureana Novicio Luna was the mother of Antonio Luna. She was the youngest of five children of military man and a teacher born in 1839 in Namacpacan, Ilocos Sur. Joaquin Luna, an inspector of revenues, met her during one of his inspections and pursued and married her. They lived in different towns in Ilocos, including Badoc, Ilocos Sur, where their more famous son, world-renowned painter Juan Luna, was born. They moved to Binondo and that’s where their youngest son, Antonio, was born on October 29, 1866. They had five sons and two daughters.

The Lunas were considered wealthy as they managed to send their children abroad to study. Antonio’s education also included years at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and University of Santo Tomas. He remained a bachelor until his assassination on June 5, 1899. Earlier, on his way from San Fernando to defend Calumpit on March 31, 1899 he wrote a will expressing his love for his mother and some last instructions, “I leave whatever I have to my mother. If I die, wrap me in the Filipino flag with all my uniform and bury me in the soil. I die satisfied for my country and independence.” (There are various unconfirmed accounts that say that the treasure left by Antonio Luna with his paramour Ysidra Cojuangco was the seed money of the clan’s wealth.)

03 Mommy Aguinaldo
Trinidad Famy Aguinaldo, mother of Emilio Aguinaldo


Trinidad Famy Aguinaldo was the mother of Emilio Aguinaldo. She was known as Kapitana Teneng, a former cigarette maker who rose to the position of teacher and directress of the factory. She married Carlos Aguinaldo. Emilio’s parents were a Chinese mestizo couple of relative wealth and power as the father was the gobernadorcillo. Trinidad was widowed when Emilio (her seventh of eight children) was only nine years old. She mortgaged some family-owned land in order to raise her children. Emilio studied at his town’s elementary school and continued his secondary studies at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran but did not finish because of the outbreak of cholera. Trinidad died at the ripe old age of 86.

The Parenting Styles of Mommy Luna and Mommy Aguinaldo:

These two influential women would have been my dream interviewees had I lived in their times. (Raising Pinoy Boys circa 1800s). I will attempt to describe their parenting styles side by side based on the readings that I did online. (Note: I don’t claim scholarly interpretation here but just an observant mother’s take based on the limited literature). 

  1. Allowing children to express. I’m guessing that Mommy Luna might have allowed her children to be expressive. Aside from instilling resourcefulness and the Ilocano trait of frugality, she was also instrumental in raising artistic and accomplished children. They had a painter, pianist, violin virtuoso, physician, pharmacist, among others. Even the pharmacist-turned-general Antonio was a poet and guitarist. I don’t know if Mommy Luna overdid this “allowing children to express” parenting style or the two Luna brothers were just born hot-tempered. In the movie, we saw several outbursts from Heneral Luna. His brother Juan killed his wife and mother-in-law in a fit of jealousy. I’m imagining that if I were an Ateneo mom during the Luna brothers’ time, I would be worried to allow my sons to mingle with them too! 

On the other hand, if we try to guess how Mommy Aguinaldo raised Emilio, she might have encouraged him not to show his anger in front of his foe. It’s also noteworthy that since her husband was a gobernadorcillo, Emilio might have been exposed to the workings of politics early on.

  1. Instilling confidence in children. Mommy Luna raised Juan and Antonio to be very confident. Maybe it was a product of no. 1 and her sons’ exposure abroad. They both studied in Europe and probably felt that they possessed important knowledge and wisdom from said exposure.

On the other hand, Emilio was not an Ilustrado. He didn’t finish his studies in Letran. According to historian Dr. Jose, he had not even read Noli and Fili, not until the revolution was ongoing.

Sometimes, an insecurity like this could make one always worried that he is looked down upon by his colleagues. This can be the reason why he was always afraid that someone was out to get his post. He was insecure and afraid of the threat of Bonifacio and he had him killed together with brother Procopio. Of course, it didn’t help that Aguinaldo was surrounded by cronies who were more interested in advancing personal interests. But here’s the thing, these bulong/chismis cronies flourish when they see a leader who’s weak and insecure about his position. (So we should watch out whom we vote for.)

  1. Overprotecting your children (especially sons). I came across a play that was staged in 2012 entitled Ang Pagpatay kay Luna, and Mommy Aguinaldo was portrayed as an overprotective mother, like a she-wolf protecting her cub. This most influential woman in Aguinaldo’s life was shown as being convinced, by the arguments of Paterno and Buencamino, coupled with Luna’s own violent actions, that her son’s position and life were both in danger. In the movie Heneral Luna, there was a scene when Emilio kissed his mother’s forehead while she was in bed, as if asking permission to carry out something. And this to me was concluded in the most chilling scene I earlier mentioned where she uttered, “Nagalaw pa ba ‘yan?”

I found literature that could explain this overprotection and maybe what developed into Aguinaldo’s skill in self-preservation. At the age of two, he contracted small pox and they thought he was dead until he opened his eyes. At age three he was bitten by hundreds of ants when a relative abandoned him in a bamboo clump while hiding from Spanish troops. He almost drowned when he jumped into the Marulas River on a playmate’s dare, only to realize he didn’t know how to swim! Maybe all these life-threatening experiences made him become skilled in self-preservation, and boy did he master it! He lived to almost a hundred years old. He died on February 6, 1964, just a few years shy of his centennial birth anniversary on March 22, 1969.

Emilio Aguinaldo in his senior years
Emilio Aguinaldo in his senior years

On the other hand, Mommy Luna was also protective. In a scene in the movie, she reminded her son to be careful by warning him about what Aguinaldo did to Bonifacio and his brother.

This brings me to the thought that balancing the urge to be a protective mother hen and allowing your children (especially your sons) to fight their own battles is really a challenge. And we start early on by teaching them how we deal with bullying, academic challenges, etc. Instilling accountability early on in our children is key to this. Let’s make them understand that each action has a consequence and we should be held accountable for the ones that we make instead of passing on the blame to others.

to be continued

(Please watch out for Part 2 tomorrow where I will discuss the rest of the parenting styles and why in our History classes Emilio Aguinaldo was always depicted as a hero worth emulating, and none of these traitor incidents we saw in Heneral Luna and Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo)



  1. I will speak at the Junior FINEX on Personal Finance for students at the Adamson University on October 3, 2015.
  2. I will speak at the St. Paul Pasig in their event My Profession, My Passion, My Service to Nation on October 16, 2015
  3. I will speak at the ADMU John Gokongwei School of Management during their JGSOM week on October 30, 2015.
  4. I will speak at the 6th PANA (Philippine Association of National Advertisers) Foundation IMC Youth Congress on November 27, 2015 at the Philippine Trade Training Center, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.

Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon. Her new book is the Filipino version of the latter entitled Ang Muling Pagsasalaysay ng Ang Pinakamayamang Tao sa Babilonya. Click this link to read samples of the books. Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is also the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards.


Attribution: Images from retrato.com, static1.squarespace.com, photos.geni.com,____ Prestigious Philippines Memes FB page.

Readings: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Emilio_Aguinaldo







This article is also published in PhilStar.com and RaisingPinoyBoys.com.