3 Facts About the Luna Brothers

It is quite disappointing that some of those who watched Heneral Luna had more than one question left in mind –“Why was Apolinario Mabini seated in the entire film?” and “Why did the film directors depicted Luna as a general when he was a painter?” – Questions suggesting that some have been skipping their History classes or have forgotten to read books.

These questions also signify the dire need of historical movies and biopic in this period when kids spend most of their time playing video games and watching television series. These movies can, at least, give them bits and pieces of historical lessons they can refer to when their kids ask the WH questions in Philippine History in the future.

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Going back: articles have been written to answer the first question, –“Why was Apolinario Mabini seated in the entire film?” The confusion on the Luna Brothers is also becoming a subject of memes and sarcasm in the social media. That is why we’ve written the differences and similarities of the Luna Brothers… just so you know.


  1. The Luna Brothers are both members of the Propaganda Movement

Caption: The Luna Brothers: Antonio and Juan (LR)

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Their affiliation is, perhaps, the reason why people confuse Antonio to be Juan and Juan to be Antonio.

While studying Pharmacy in Spain, Antonio along with Jose Rizal formed the Los Indios Bravos, a brotherhood which aimed to support the Filipino culture, arts, and sports in Europe. Then he joined the Propaganda Movement. He was a writer of La Solidaridad, who cloaked his identity under the nom de plume ‘Taga-Ilog.’ After La Solidaridad, Antonio organized the Masonry and Became a Master Mason. Then he ordered Pedro Serrano Laktaw “to organize Masonic Lodges in the Philippines and strengthen the Propaganda Movement”. Antonio later became the Chief of War Operations when Aguinaldo established a military government.

Los Indios Bravos was formed in the art studio of Juan Luna, who was also a good friend of Rizal. And just like Antonio, he became an active member of the Propaganda Movement. After his brother was appointed Chief of War Operations, he was asked to design the uniforms (rayadillo) for the Philippine Army. In addition, Juan was part of the delegation in charged for the international recognition of the Philippine Republic.

  1. Juan and Antonio have a history of violence

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Great men of history called “heroes” are often venerated as saints. This made people forget that they are humans, too. They have faults and flaws just like anyone else. That is why Heneral Luna, is a well-loved film; because it is probably the first Filipino biopic that depicts heroes as humans – that heroes can be their own villains.

Antonio, for example, met his tragic death because of his short temper. He was known as ‘cafre’ to his Propagandista friends. Many interpret that they call him that way because he was aggressive. True enough, he challenged his fellow propagandista, Jose Rizal, to a duel match because of a girl named Nelly Boustead.

In a Cabinet meeting, he slapped Felipe Buencamino, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who was 55 years old at that time, in front of the President. There were also rumors that he ordered the execution of a Frenchman and a Chinese without trial. His ferocity is evident when he attacked the Americans atop a horse during the Battle in Santo Tomas. Fortunately a coin saved him from a gunshot. He met his unfortunate death when he was stabbed 40 times by his fellow revolutionaries. Stories also have it that he called his assassins “cowards.”

Juan allegedly killed his wife, Paz Pardo de Tavera, because of jealousy in1892. It was also reported that Juan killed his mother-in-law Juliana Gorricho, and shot his brother-in-law Dr. Felix Pardo de Tavera. Felix miraculously survived the gunshot on his chest. However, the “family drama” became roaring news in France and in the Philippines. He was charged of parricide but was released because of “crime of passion.”

The Luna Brothers were both knowledgeable to military tactics. They are both skilled in fencing and sharpshooting. They even established Sala de Armas, a fencing club in Sampaloc, Manila.

  1. Juan was THE ARTIST while Antonio was THE SCIENTIST

Image 1 (Antonio, the Scientist)

Caption: Self-portrait of Juan Luna

Image 2 (Juan, the Artist)

After obtaining Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo Municipal, Juan enrolled at the Escuela Nautica de Manila to become a sailor. However, his seafaring lessons did not hinder his fascination to arts. While studying at the nautical school, Juan took art lessons from the prominent art teacher Lorenzo Guerrero. Then he enrolled at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura under the artist Agustin Saez.

In 1877, Juan studied at the Real Academia de Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. Then he won a silver medal at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes for his work The Death of Cleopatra (1881). His success was followed when he won a gold medal for Spolarium (1884) and Battle at Lepanto (1887) at the same competition.

While Juan and Manuel were artists, their youngest brother, Antonio, was a scientist. After finishing his Bachelor of Arts at Ateneo (with honors), he studied Chemistry at the University of Santo Tomas where he won a scientific paper. Then he went to Spain and studied Pharmacy at the Universidad de Barcelona. He obtained Doctorate in Pharmacy from the Universidad Central de Madrid, afterwards. He was the FIRST FILIPINO WITH A DOCTORATE degree.

His dissertation El Hematozoario del Paludismo earned various recognitions and was published in 1893. Then Luna went to Paris and worked and researched at the Institut Pasteur. In Belgium, he was trained in medical chemistry.

He returned to the Philippines to treat contagious diseases but he was deported when the revolution broke out. He was imprisoned in Madrid in 1897.  When he was discharged, he studied military tactics under General Leman in Belgium. When he came back to the Philippines in 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo appointed him Chief of the War Operations. He also established a military academy in Malolos the same year.

THUS, Juan was THE sailor-turned-painter while Antonio was THE scientist-turned-general.