Bayaning Third World

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Bayaning Third World (roughly translated as 3rd World Hero) is a Filipino independent film from 2000 by Mike de Leon which investigates Jose Rizal’s life , heroism, love life and other significant facts that made him a national hero. Considered a complex “film within a film” (according to an essay written by highly accredited theologian, Antonio D. Sison), it loosely but firmly targets a controversial retraction document. The said document was supposed to expose the national hero’s renouncement of all his writing and works that are against the Catholic Church during the Spanish rule in the Philippines, of whether it was authentic or fabricated. The film won numerous awards in the 23rd Gawad Urian Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. This movie was also dedicated to the late actress Charito Solis.

The Retraction Controversy

On the 18th of May in 1935, thirty nine years from the afternoon Jose Rizal was executed via firing squad, the first text of Rizal’s said retraction, it was announced that a curator from the archdiocesan archives in Spain, has discovered the retraction documents from Filipinos during the Spanish reign in the Philippines, this including Rizal’s. The “original” text reads as follows:

"I declare myself a catholic and in this Religion in which I was born and educated I wish to live and die.

I retract with all my heart whatever in my words, writings, publications and conduct has been contrary to my character as son of the Catholic Church.

I believe and I confess whatever she teaches and I submit to whatever she demands.

I abominate Masonry, as the enemy which is of the Church, and as a Society prohibited by the Church. The Diocesan Prelate may, as the Superior Ecclesiastical Authority, make public this spontaneous manifestation of mine in order to repair the scandal which my acts may have caused and so that God and people may pardon me.

Manila 29 of December of 1896."

Jose Rizal's retraction

It is reported that the original text was published in La Voz Espanola and Diaro De Manila, dated December 30, 1896, the very day after Jose Rizal's death. A second text appeared in Barcelona, Spain in a magazine called La Juventud where in this reproduction, it was revealed that the source of the copy was from a Jesuit, Father Balaguer, who has maintained anonimity for 14 years after its public release. For the original text, no one has actually claimed witness to the retraction document except La Voz Espanola, stating that they have read Rizal’s “own hand writing” and was given to the Archbishop. There is much debate and controversy towards the retraction, though most historians and have deemed it to be false. Ricardo Lopez, author of “Rizal Beyond the Grave”, concludes that the handwriting in the said document was not Jose Rizal’s. Furthermore, he said there was no justification that Rizal’s remains were buried in holy ground, nor was there a certification of marriage between Rizal and Josephine Bracken. Senator Rafael palma, the former President of the University of the Philippines and a prominent Mason, strengthened this argument and stated that the retraction is in proportion with Rizal’s character and mature beliefs. Other known anti- retraction prominents are Frank Laubach, a well-known evangelical Christian missionary, Austin Coates, a British writer, and Ricardo Manapat, the Director of the National Archives.

Some also still argue that Rizal’s handwriting on the document and his catholic gestures before his death was witnessed and authentic. Teodoro Kalaw, 33rd degree mason and handwriting experts, H. Otley Beyer and Dr. Jose I. Del Rosario, both of UP, deemed that the retraction is genuine. It has also been stated that there were 11 eyewitnesses present during Rizal’s recital of Catholic prayers, signing of a Catholic prayer book, and the writing of his supposed retraction. The same witnesses also saw him kissing the crucifix before his untimely execution. Father Marciano Guzman, a great grand nephew of Rizal, divulged that Rizal confessed four times and was certified by 15 witnesses, 7 newspapers, and 12 historians and writers including Aglipayan bishops Masons and anti-clericals.

Cast and Crew

Ricky Davao- 1st filmmaker
Cris Villanueva – 2nd filmmaker
Joel Torre Dr. Jose Rizal
Joonee GamboaPaciano Rizal
Daria RamirezTeodora Alonso
Ed Rocha – Father Balaguer
Rio Locsin - Trinidad Rizal
Cherry Pie Picache - Narcisa Rizal
Lara FabregasJosephine Bracken
Lui Manasala - Maria Rizal
Lawrence David – Rebel Leader
Jay Espano – Pio Valnezuela
Padre Obach – Edru Abraham
Mike De Leon – Director, Producer, Co- Writer
Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. – Co-Writer
Roy Lachica – Production Designer
Ding Achacoso – Photography Director
Lorrie Ilustre – Music (Based on the Musical Compositions of Lorenzo S. Ilustre)
Mike Guison – Costume Designer
Armando Jarlego - Editor
Noel Cruz Bruan/ Raffy Baladjay Jr. – Supervising Sound Editors
Ambeth R. Ocampo – Historical Consultant
Pinky Ibarra /Eliza Tamayo – Associate Producers

Plot Summary

The film starts off with a monologue that if it is a sin to question Rizal’s heroism, then the men behind the film will sin greatly. At the opening of the film, veteran actors Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva who both play as the directors of the film within the film narrates certain facts and comments, some made in jest, about Rizal’s heroism, death and its effects on the media, currency, and even other businesses. They even mentioned the earliest films that raced the first premiere regarding anything about Rizal after his execution, notably Albert Yearsley who shot only the execution of Rizal and what Villanueva said was “the most exciting part of Rizal’s life”. The documentary-style opening then shifts to a conversation between the two directors of how they are going to approach the plot of their said film after much research on Rizal and other historical events and people revolving around the national hero.

After many suggestions, including comical ones like questioning Rizal’s sexuality, the most reliable approach they could think of was the retraction controversy which was first considered by the second filmmaker (Villanueva) as a dead issue and will not be relevant on focusing more on Rizal's life. Yet, they still initiated further research on the said retraction and its possible causes if it happens to be genuine. One of their main suspects was Josephine Bracken, a woman of Irish descent, Rizal’s last lover, arguably the most beloved. They said that Rizal wanted to marry Bracken in a church but since Rizal was excommunicated, the marriage could not materialize and the retraction was the only way to save the marriage. Though this could be a probable cause for Rizal’s retraction, they continued more on their research

This research was illustrated by the film through different imagined interviews made by the filmmakers of most notable people in Rizal’s life, including Teodora Alonso, Rizal’s mother, Paciano, his brother, Trining and Narcisa, his most beloved sisters, and even Josephine Bracken herself. Teodora Alonso (Daria Ramirez), interviewed by the first filmmaker (Davao) supposedly before the execution of Rizal, was actually against the idea that Rizal wass against the church but is also against his marriage to Bracken when asked. Paciano (Joonee Gamboa), who was perceived as a cool and calm individual, now deeply involved with the Katipunan, cited Rizal’s goals, martrydom, how their family suffered in the hands of the Spaniards during Rizal’s exile, and his boredom in Dapitan. He also had a negative response about Rizal’s marriage to Bracken. Josephine Bracken (Lara Fabregas) was next to being “interviewed”, divulging her sentiments regarding accusations of being a spy and Rizal’s family’s disapproval. She is also questioned more on Rizal’s conversation with Father Obach where in this moment, the retraction was submitted, though without Rizal’s signature, and was passed to the friar next to Obach, Father Balaguer.

It is implied that Bracken was either lying or just plain blurred about the facts since she claimed she was not there. The said retraction on Dapitan stated by Bracken was the root of a certain and almost heated argument between the two filmmakers. With this, the second filmmaker “interviewed” Narcisa (Cherry Pie Picache), the only relative of Rizal who was fond of Bracken. As the conversation goes, it focused more on Rizal’s involvement with the Katipunan and how he was caught between their war against the Spanish Rule, with Rizal being the casualty of an easy blame. Further on the investigation, the filmmakers traced Trinidad or simply Trining, Rizal’s meticulous sister who can communicate in English, and her claims on Rizal’s retraction. She was inconsistent in her claims where one in 1922 in which she denied the retraction. Then in 1949, after the release of the copy of retraction as discussed by the priest who found it, she then believed that Rizal retracted. Rizal’s request to Trining to “look inside the lamp” was discussed as well wherein the said lamp was nothing more of an ashtray now to the first filmmaker. It also revealed that she spent her last years sad and alone and that all of the memorabilia of Rizal left with her was taken away one by one.

With all the material they’ve received from the imagined interviews; they were still haunted by questions revolving Rizal’s heroism and works against the Catholic Church. It was then realized by the second filmmaker that title of the film must be “Bayaning Third World” after the other filmmaker broke a small bust of Rizal, saying it was of low quality, fit for a third world. Hence, they were left with the least person they’d want to “interview” in terms of finding the truth in the matter, Father Balaguer (Ed Rocha), the man who was responsible for the release of Rizal’s retraction. Almost immediately, he revealed to the first filmmaker that Rizal did, in fact, give himself back to Catholicism. As Balaguer continued, he said that Rizal, confessed multiple times, read his retraction letter to him and to other jesuits, requested for a mass in order to take communion, and ultimately married Josephine Bracken. The filmmakers could only get what they expected of Balaguer and was still not certain of what national hero Rizal truly was. As if like a thought in both the filmmakers, they heard Trining and Narcisa checking out the lamp that Rizal has left for Trining where in the lid of the lamp contained the last poem of Jose Rizal, Mi Ultimo Adios. Josephine Bracken then suddenly appeared claiming the lamp was not for the sisters but was for her and had announced her marriage to “Joe” that morning. Trining was infuriated by this and demanded proof as the filmmakers while she called her a “Hongkong Bitch”.

The filmmakers then returned to questioning Bracken, this time with more personal questions of whether she was molested by her stepfather, George Taufer, and that if the baby was really from Rizal’s seed. With Bracken shaken by the negativity towards her and unable to prove her legal marriage to Rizal, The second filmmaker humorously thought that a movie about Bracken could be more interesting than Rizal’s and that he still needs to answer many questions. With this realization, they focused their last “interview” on none other than the national hero himself. Because of all the seemingly unanswerable questions, there conversation with Rizal (Joel Torre), who they perceive to be fond of only riddlesome answers and who smokes like them, was anything but meaningful. In fact, it was more a release of emotion for the filmmakers than an investigation. The Jose Rizal the filmmakers have perceived was more like them, angry, confused, and a smoker. Nearing the end of the film, the filmmakers were in front a Rizal famous monument, contemplating on a dilemma in making Rizal’s film or not. The first filmmaker reasoned that there were truly many kinds of Rizal that we could perceive and that his life only belongs in a book. The movie ends with the second filmmakers saying “that’s a hard case to crack” (Mahirap basagin yan!).

Critical Reception

The film gained mostly positive reviews, scoring 4.2 of 5 stars and a rating of 83% in and also received much praise at, On Our Shelves: Movie Section. As reviewed by Philburt Ortiz Dy, a writer from, Director Mike De Leon “managed to inject a good dose of humanity in the picture, their characters more alive than the description would suggest. The movie gains a lot from the performances in general”. The two filmmakers portrayed by Davao and Villanueva was also given praise for their consistent performance as they banter realistically, and go through stages of rage and betrayal, as well as joy and acceptance. The movie gains a lot from the performances in general. Joel Torre’s Rizal portrayal was also noted, especially his different portrayals of Rizal as percceived by other characters of the film. Though all performances have given much to the film, most praise may belong to Ed Rocha’s Father Balaguer and Lara Fabregas as Josephine Bracken. Rocha as Balaguer was nothing short of fantastic, as reviewed by online journals, giving a convincing character that was both disarming and terribly untrustworthy. Fabregas who shone as Bracken was viewed as the most humanistic image in the movie, portraying Bracken’s vulnerability with full conviction, displayed especially in her dramatic last scenes in the movie. There was also a blog post regarding film from the 90’s in that regarded Bayaning 3rd World to be the “best Filipino movie to come out since Lino Brocka’s "Orapronobis”. Though much praise were given to 3rd world, this deconstructionist and post-modern film received little praise from the on-going public due to it’s arty, almost translucent structure, very intellectual handling of the material, and probably controversy of the main subject as well. The film, although first to be released, was compared to the Da Vinci Code due to its mysterious, puzzling, and very controversial material that could affect history.


The film expressed the most vulnerable sides of Rizal and the people revolving around him. Though the film was shot in black and white and on a seemingly old film, the emotion from the characters the much life and drama in overlapping the lack of color. Nevertheless, the film tends to give a certain mystery in every viewer that we need to solve in order to satisfy ourselves, unlike the filmmakers. It also tells us that there are many faces, ideas, and portrayal of Rizal that we could think of (Kanya-kanyang Rizal as said by Davao’s character). Rizal can be the national hero we think he is, or the traitor/coward who renounced his works to satisfy his need that require the church’s approval. He can be the classic womanizer who, as again described by Davao’s character, has a taste for “white meat” or he can be the man who has finally found his soulmate in Josephine Bracken after a long search internationally. He can be an indomitable rationalist or an unmistakable deist. The film has succesfully given a variety of images of Rizal to viewers as guide to their own personal truth in who Rizal really is to them. Other symbolic moments of the film, was the ghost-like appearance of Rizal, though it is not clear whether it’s a hallucination of the filmmakers or if it is a primer to the audience of the intelligent yet complex imagined interviews.

Awards and Nominations

  • FAMAS Awards (2001)
    • Best Screenplay - Mike De Leon, Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (nominated)
    • Best Story - Mike De Leon, Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (nominated)
  • FAP Awards, Philippines (2001)
    • Best Picture (nominated)
  • Gawad Urian Awards (2000)
    • Best Cinematography (Pinakamahusay na Sinematograpiya)- Ding Achacoso (won)
    • Best Direction (Pinakamahusay na Direksyon) - Mike De Leon (won)
    • Best Music (Pinakamahusay na Musika) - Lorrie Ilustre (won)
    • Best Picture (Pinakamahusay na Pelikula)(won)
    • Best Sound (Pinakamahusay na Tunog) - Noel Cruz Bruan, Raffy Baladjay (won)
    • Best Supporting Actor (Pinakamahusay na Pangalawang Aktor)- Joel Torre (won)
    • Best Actor (Pinakamahusay na Pangunahing Aktor)- Cris Villanueva (nominated)
    • Best Editing (Pinakamahusay na Editing)- Armando Jarlego (nominated)
    • Best Production Design (Pinakamahusay na Disenyong Pamproduksiyon)- Roy Lachica (nominated)
    • Best Screenplay (Pinakamahusay na Dulang Pampelikula) - Mike De Leon, Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (nominated)
    • Best Supporting Actor (Pinakamahusay na Pangalawang Aktor)- Ed Rocha (nominated)
  • Young Critics Circle, Philippines (2001)
    • Best Achievement in Cinematography and Visual Design (won)
      • Roy Lachica (production designer) (won)
      • Ding Achacoso (director of photography) (won)
    • Best Achievement in Film Editing - Armando Jarlego (won)
    • Best Achievement in Sound and Aural Orchestration (won)
      • Lorrie Ilustre (musical director) (won)
      • Noel Cruz Bruan (sound engineer) (won)
      • Raffy Baladjay (sound engineer) (won)
    • Best Film - Mike De Leon (won)
    • Best Performance by Male or Female, Adult or Child, Individual or Ensemble in Leading or Supporting Role - Rio Locsin (nominated)


  • “Texts of Rizal’s Retraction”, Jose [1], (Accessed: July 02, 2011)
  • “A National Monument: Rizal Park”, Wattpad [2], (Accessed: July 04, 2011)
  • “Our Shelves: Bayaning 3rd World, Click the Movies [3], (Accessed, July 9. 2011)
  • “Third World Hero (2000)” The Internet Movie Database [4], (Accessed, July 9, 2011)
  • “Bayaning 3rd World(Third World Hero) 2000” Rotten Tomatoes by Flixster [5], (Accessed by July 5, 2011)
  • “The Examined Life”, Word Press [6], (Accessed, July 9, 2011)



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