Rawr the site won't let me post properly well let me try there.
Watched it a second time, I have to say its a lot "easier" to watch a second time around, in particular the first 3 hours of the movie benefit from it as you understand better the narrative hints that Lav Diaz uses to reference El Filibusterismo and weave it unto the revolutions of the time. Put simply, he more or less took the same route Jacques Rivette does with his films, it's a fantasy set in a world that, on the surface, resembles the real world. After a the third hour, once the mythical creatures come into the play, that is when I felt transported.
That said... I have to say I find the top-billed lead actors, John and Piolo, to be somewhat weaker as compared to the other cast in terms of pulling of their characters. I think they tended to stick out like a sore thumb, especially John-Lloyd as you wonder how he can remain so damned pristine through out (well ironed shirt, hair is well combed through out, really clean looking face, etc) he just stuck out in comparison to the other actors/actresses who were playing similar roles. Adding to that I never really saw this sort of intensity or internalizing of the role that I saw with the other characters, in particular Hazel and the three Tikbalang's or Qiroga's ladies. They never really convince me so to speak. Frankly, I was just looking forward for their particular narrative thread, whenever the episode came up, to end as I wanted to see more of Gregoria's group.
Moreover, I think that unlike his previous films I find there was less work to be done in terms of deciphering what the director wants to "say". In so much that he was more explicit about "history repeating itself" and the "youth is the answer" and "let go of hatred" in that its literally spelled out rather than teased upon, like we would his other films (think Norte as a recent example). I assume this was more because of what I said earlier, in that this feels like it was intended for a wider audience and was more of an introduction overall.
I don't see this as strong as his other films, e.g. Ebolusyon, Heremias, Florentino Hubaldo. It is still good, and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it, but I didn't feel as excited about this one.
As for what you mentioned as new devices, I'd actually argue that Diaz's use of lighting was more pronounced or better utilized in Norte where is plays such a pivotal role in communicating the state of the characters or bringing focus into them -- he was rather playful in using it there IMO.
I think the thing is, as I see with this film, pushing himself a bit more outside his comfort zone -- whereas as I see it this film more or less remains within that zone and arguably even moreso as it does appear this movie was meant to reach a larger audience (not that I have qualms against that). One thing I do particularly miss about his earlier works is the "western", as in the genre, that his earlier films have this air about them, Heremias in particular comes to mind. However, once he makes Death in the Land of Encantados, and it peaks in Siglo ng Pagluluwal, he starts to preempt the criticisms lodged against him, which I do think contain some good in them (just like Adrian Martin's for instance), and says he just wants to be pretentious that is a natural part of any artistic process.
I do agree with that but at the same time I feel that was when in particular his growth started to stifle itself, as it became too content with his comfort zone. That while its great his sticks to his guns, and admirably so we see it with this film, there is a double edge that he may be pardoning himself as well from trying daring to experiment a bit more with his form. From what I can see it is more his narrative that is changing, as it becomes more structured (Norte being a highlight of this) as compared to his earlier films. Whereas the form itself, the ability to "show" has slowed down. And between telling and showing I tend to prefer the latter, and this was a quality I particularly enjoyed with his earlier films.