The men behind Heneral Luna

Movers, Makers, Shakers
J. J. Calero

Posted on June 09, 2016

My article today zeroes in on the two men behind the Heneral Luna film, Eddie Rocha and Fernando Ortigas.

Who are they and what has led them to risk their time money and effort to make us proud of ourselves as Filipinos?

Let me start off with Fernando Ortigas. Who is he?

Typical of our custom its best to go to the family tree first!

His great grand-father Ignacio Ortigas a captain of the Spanish infantry. He sired Francisco Ortigas y Barcinas (1875-1935). Despite difficult beginnings, his impoverished mother Asuncion Barcinas was able to get him to be admitted as a scholar at the San Juan de Letran. There, he befriended future stalwarts of Philippine history such as Sergio Osmeña, Sr., Vicente Madrigal, and Manuel L. Quezon. He then went off to finish law in the University of Santo Tomas while working as an intern.

Moving forward, this young lawyer worked his way and established The Ortigas Law Offices before he died in 1935. But he left behind the Ortigas Law Offices still very much in existence today at Meralco Avenue Pasig City. And his son, Don Paquito, who together with his siblings’ family, established one of the finest libraries of Philippine history!

No wonder that Fernando readily took Ed Rocha’s invitation to co-produce Heneral Luna.

Fernando is a product of De La Salle, Taft high school known as the “Mighty 300”, they were the last batch to graduate from there!

I did some inquiries instead about him and this is I was able to find out:

Enrico Nicolas (Rico), the son of our 5th grade Math teacher. He spoke about Nando, for he was in the La Salle High School football team with him. He tells me Nando was very down to earth. Never flaunted his affluent family. (Rico was studying to be a Christian brother and the only extra curricular activity he had was going to football practice and the football games.)

I also had someone else tell me this story:

Bro. Cajetan, a blue eyed blond hair American-Mexican who left the Christian brothers (the last time I heard of him was his being a supervisor of truck drivers in the States. He was a very colorful Christian Brother.)

Bro. Cajetan asked the Class if anyone wanted to challenge him doing push-ups.

Nando took the challenge and did 100, thinking this was enough to beat Bro. Cajetan. Bro. Cajetan did 101 looked at Nando and said do you want me to continue? Which Nando refused. This happened in 2nd year high school.

From La Salle, he then went to take up Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Saint Mary’s College in California where he graduated with teachers’ credential for the mentally retarded.

One can discern from this a very strong social heart, and despite his family calling to take on some responsibilities in the business with as head of Concrete Aggregates and OCLP Holdings, Inc. and Ortigas Production and many other family corporations too many to mention, besides we don’t want to make this write-up appear as his curriculum vitae.

The second half of the equation is Eddie Rocha someone I have known for many years and his wife Annie Trillo, even longer.

But before I tell you a little about him, I think it’s best to review a bit of Philippine architectural history.

For this, let me bring you to the Malacañan Palace.

Did you know that the original structure was built in 1750 by Don Luís Rocha as a summer house along the Pasig River?

Eddie Rocha, now of Heneral Luna fame, is the son of Antonio Verancio Carlotta Rocha and Carmen Garchitorena Perez.

Eddie took his studies at the American School in the fifties and early sixties, and eventually went to St. Mary’s College and took his Bachelor of Arts at Santa Clara University, where he graduated cum laude.

He is presently executive vice-president and a director at C. F. Rocha Co., Inc., the deputy executive director for Self Enhancement For Life, and founder and was president of Phoenix Foundation.

Despite his very busy business interests, he has always found time for Philippine arts.

He made his theatrical debut in Spain in 1959 in the Spanish Sarzuela Molinos De Viento. He also made his Philippine theatrical debut at CCP for The Merry Widow in 1977, followed by the play Staircase in 1978, both of which were directed by Tony Mabesa. He then joined Teatro Fil-Hispanico and was the consulting director for Celos Del Aire. He came of his own when he directed El Agujerito, Florita, El Triangulo, Sleuth, starring Leo Martinez and Miguel Faustmann. Not satisfied with this, he became a producer and set designer for La Muñeca de cristal to boot.

He then went to do a Fil Hispanic original play inspired by The Glass Menagerie.

Being a man who can’t say “No,” he directed two high school plays which was the Charlie’s Aunt and Fantastiks. Interestingly, Fantastiks went out and had a run at the Hyatt Hotel and got nominated as the best play.

He then combined his directorial talents with Leo Martinez and Joel Torre in Caligula.

They were nominated at the Aliw awards for best actor and best play. This winning team; Eddie, Leo, and Joel, then founded Fringe Theater of the Philippines with Leo Martinez and Joel Torre, their first play The Jagged Edge of Being, which Eddie, produced and directed as well. I also did The Miracle Worker starring Betty Lalana, Elisa Rocha, Joel Trinidad, and Noel Trinidad. Lastly, I did my critically-acclaimed version of Caligula starring Joel Trinidad.

In the film industry, he was also involved with Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?.

He was Gawad Urian Nominee for best supporting actor in Bayaning 3rd World.

Along with Uro de la Cruz, he was writer, producer, director for Virgin Forest and acted in the film Noriega: God’s Favorite in 2000.

For the film, Heneral Luna he was co-writer/producer/featured actor. I could go on and on.

Needless to say that the stage has always been in his blood and together with Nando Ortigas, they set up Articulo Uno Productions.

He eventually met up again with an old friend, who, aware of Fernando’s having dabbled into script writing, was enticed to produce a script which Rocha wrote in English along with Henri Francia some 14 years ago and both set us Articulo Uno to produce Heneral Luna.

They promptly sunk in P70 million into the project, when it was originally estimated to cost him 40 million.

As I was watching the film, and later had some time to think about the circumstances of events about our history, it’s become very clear to me that a Filipino is not one who has the right color of skin, shape of nose, or slant of eyes but, what makes a Filipino a Filipino is what he carries in his heart!

This is so evident of the producers of this film Heneral Luna. They too are 100% Filipino, even if most of their lives they have been called Tisoy!

To be Filipino is what one has in one's heart! These two gentlemen and their parents before them are Filipinos!

Javier Calero is the chairman of Full Circle, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of UA&P and the Chairman of Tambuli Awards