Posted by: mensab | January 29, 2008

Locating Apocalypse Now in the Philippine History

Apocalypse Now           I have special fascination with the film, Apocalypse Now. One thing is that it is shot in the Philippines. Another thing is that the title, Apocalypse Now, captures the end of what is as described in the Revelation. The title itself is able to situate the dreaded future in the history of war/conflict in the mind of person. Boggs and Pollard (2007) has a better term for it, “crisis of conscience” (p. 134).


            The film was made in the Philippines during the dictatorial and martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s. I read that many international and popular events were held during these turbulent times in the Philippine history. Some of which were Miss Universe in 1974, the greatest boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier dubbed as Thrilla in Manila in 1975, world chess title match between Karpov and Korchnoi in 1978, Pope John Paul II visit in 1981, the filming of this movie, and other big events. While these international events were happening in the country, domestic events such as the growing rebellion by the communist movement, numerous human rights abuses, and massive corruption were being obliterated in the international and local media. I think that was the main objective of these international and big events – to project the Philippines as a land of beautiful things and wonderful events to the world. To the millions of Filipinos, hellish conditions surrounded them with grinding poverty, military violence and abuses, thousands of killings and disappearances, controlled media, and no fair and credible election since 1965. It was an apocalyptic period under Marcos in the Philippines.


In Revelation 13: 13-14, “And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.” [1] The “great and miraculous signs” can be the visitation of well-known people and stars including the Pope, and the people are deceived or blinded by these ephemeral fanfare. Marcos seemed to epitomize the beast coming out of the earth.


In his analysis of Apocalypse Now, Gow (2006) states that madness in many ways “is the perfectly rational and logical extension of the decision to apply violent means to political purposes” (p. 403). Marcos used this madness. The United States applied this madness when it went to war with Vietnam probably without knowing what it was getting into. Col. Kurtz had this madness. Capt. Willard exhibited this madness when he shot the dying Vietnamese girl. The film portrayed these as the nature of war.


Freud (cited in Barash, 2000) argued that human instincts cause the war-thinking of man. He presented two human instincts; those that care and those that destroy. The latter obviously is responsible to spark the war thinking of man. In the film, a French woman talked about man’s capability to love and kill. It presented the dichotomy of human capability.


Apocalypse Now is a film shot in the Philippines which also reflects the historical and apocalyptic moment of that country when the film is being made. Is it coincidental? I think Francis Ford Coppola is a genius.




Freud, S. (1959). Why War? In D. Barash, (Ed.). Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.


Boggs, C. and Pollard, T. (2007). The Hollywood War Machine. Colorado: Paradigm



Gow, J. (2006). Strategy Pedagogy and Pedagogic Strategy. International Relations.




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