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Hermano Puli: Forgotten Hero

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‘FORGOTTEN HERO’ – That perhaps best describes Hermano Puli. Even his province mates in Quezon (then Tayabas) are hardly aware of the existence of Hermano Puli, his heroic deeds. History books hardly mention him.

Maybe not for long as there’s film bio on Hermano Puli, written by Eric Ramos, directed by Gil Portes, and produced by Rex Tiri under T-Rex Entertainment.

Matinee idol-turned-serious actor Aljur Abrenica portrays Hermano Puli – with much dedication and hard work.

WHO IS HERMANO PULI? – Who really is Hermano Puli?

Direk Gil and writer Eric tell us in this short piece and synopsis. The film bio is titled “Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli.”

On November 2, 1841, Apolinario dela Cruz – a 27-year-old religious leader from Lucban better known as Hermano Puli (Aljur Abrenica) – is arrested and turned over to Lieutenant Colonel Joaquin Juet (Markki Stroem), the vindictive new governor of Tayabas province (now Quezon)

During a summary trial the next day, he faces Juet and Padre Manuel Sancho (Menggie Cobarrubias), the indignant parish priest of Lucban.

The trial allows Hermano Puli and his inquisitors to examine his life, beginning in his formative years as a bright and pious child, who aspires for the priesthood but learns that religious orders do not welcome native Filipinos – a crushing reflection of the social order in early 19th century Philippines.

At 18, he is a fully grown man who finds his calling as the charismatic leader of the Cofradia de San Jose, a religious brotherhood that preaches love and equality for all.

The Cofradia grows steadily in its first four years, attracting followers from nearby towns and holding monthly masses officiated by Padre Sancho himself.

DEEPER – Around 1835, Hermano Puli leaves for Manila to pursue deeper spiritual enlightenment. He works as an orderly at the San Juan de Dios hospital, which leads to his acceptance as a lay brother of hospital’s own confraternity.

Later he is joined by Hermana Lina (Louise delos Reyes), a nubile devotee form Lucban who washes his laundry and tests his vow of celibacy.

As the Cofradia de San Jose continues to flourish, it begins to suffer persecution by church officials in Lucban.

Hermano Puli turns to his ally, Don Domingo Roxas (Archie Adamos), a liberal-minded industrialist who helps him pursue official recognition by the authorities in Manila.

However, his efforts at appeasement eventually fail and the Cofradia is forced to flee Lucban. Hermano Puli leaves Manila and reunites with his followers in Laguna.

From there, he leads them in a protest march, gathering numbers along the way. Finally, they reach the hills of Isabang in Lucena, where they build a religious commune six thousand strong. The governor, Don Joaquin Ortega (Kiko Matos), raids the commune with a ragtag battalion that is quickly overpowered by the Cofradia forces.

Infuriated by the defeat, the central government in Manila sends Juet and a strong army to crush the insurrection. As the commune moves to the foot of Mount Banahaw, Hermano Puli proclaims that the apocalypse is at hand.