Print this page

Much ado about a teleserye


Much ado...

This week saw the pilot of the controversial Bagani. The ABS-CBN show was beset with issues even before it finally went on air last Monday, March 5.
When it was still in conception and only teasers were being shown, some netizens were already quick to react.
Some accused the show of being a copycat of GMA 7's hugely popular fantasy series Encantadia. It even escalated to a point where Encantadia's concept creator and head writer Suzette Doctolero and Bagani's head writer Mark Duane Angos had an exchange of tirades over Twitter. Just like any showbiz event, it was all taken in stride.
Then, netizens commented about the apparent "whitewashing" of the show's casting. They said that in an era where role appropriation has finally been given its due, perfectly illustrated by the Hollywood box-office hit Black Panther, here comes Bagani with its main leads caked with bronzers or sprayed with tanning sprays.
The show stars Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil and Matteo Guidicelli. These stars are known to be Amerasians or Eurasians: born of a pair of parents who have Filipino, American and European lineages.
The bone of contention was that Bagani is supposed to be a show inspired by the indiegenous groups of the Philippines. And no indigenous groups looked anything of the classic Caucasian features: pale skin, patrician nose, to name a few. And these stars' faces are just exactly these. But even with this, majority still dismissed it as just the usual showbiz since it has always been dominated by mestizos and mestizas fanyway.
A few weeks ago, however, things got serious when the Manobo, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Commission on Higher Education raised their concerns regarding the show.
This time, it became newsworthy as the Manobo, a indigenous group, aired their sentiments over the misuse of the word Bagani.
The Manobos hold the word sacred as it refers to the the "peace-keeping force of the Manobo indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples in Mindanao. It added the Bagani defends and protects lives, properties and territory."
"It is a sensitive position and class not lightly ascribed to just any person and never to those outside the ICCs/IPs," the NCIP statement said.
A CHEd commissioner, meanwhile, also released a statement regarding the show.
"I cannot tolerate the public showing of said teleserye as long as ABS-CBN would not revise the format and concept in order to render Bagani to become as educational, historically-accurate and culturally-correct as it can be," Commissioner Ronald Adamat said in a letter addressed to ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak.
ABS-CBN, in turn, issued a statement on the day the show premiered.
The network said it wanted to "feature warriors, protectors and heroes who espouse Filipino values and beliefs." After the creative team sought to find that "distinctly Filipino term" that embodies their concept, they thought Bagani would be a fit.
It highlighted that they did not "intend to malign or disrespect the beliefs of the indigenous peoples communities."
The statement ended with a disclaimer that they created an "alternative fictional universe with elements of Filipino mythology and folklore that simply serves as an avenue to creatively deliver and highlight Filipino values, beliefs and heroism."
Last Monday's pilot episode, indeed, started with a disclaimer.
Is the buzz about Bagani worth it? As showbiz kibitzers say, good or bad publicity is still publicity. And publicity always leads to sales, and in the case of Bagani, ratings.

* * *

Still speaking of Bagani, I caught the pilot episode out of curiosity (see, publicity does it!). The controversy helped, but in general, I like watching fantasy shows. The idea of being immersed in an alternative world where magical creatures, humans being bestowed with magical powers or possessing superhuman strength and acuity, an endless web of betrayal and conspiracy, and the never-ending journey to a world unknown, always lures anyone with a restless mind.
When written superbly (Hello, Game of Thrones. Can't wait for Season 8 actually), it creates a sensory experience of being transported into a world that one can only imagine to be in.
Shows like GoT might be high fantasy with its world-building as detailed and complex as the mind of George R.R. Martin, but the key to its success is neither the mythical dragons nor the explicit and shocking scenes it peppers its episodes. The core of its message is: no human or creature or character can ever be so one-dimensional that the viewer will easily hate on that character. It is very philosophical in nature; it questions the depths of a man's moral compass. You'll hate Cersei Lannister for her schemes and greed, but understand her maternal instincts. You'll love or hate Daenerys Targaryen for her genuine cause to end slavery and yet hate the fact that she has this messianic complex and employs means beyond what is accepted as morally and socially acceptable.

These kinds of characters and their development create the meat of a good story.
With the first episode of Bagani, I have a problem with how Dakim (Christian Vasquez) is written. From the start, he is already built as the character that the viewers should hate. He is already painted as the envious character out to do anything to destroy the reputation of Agos (Albert Martinez) and make the life of Agos' family including his son Lakas (Enrique Gil) unbearable.
In just the first episode, he already reveals to Agos during their fight scene his reasons for being him. It is just so anti-climatic because the viewers have yet to see the build-up of tension among the characters and then they see this Dakim already spilling the beans on his whys and hows!
This also made the pilot episode slow-paced. There were only few characters that appeared starting with the opening scene, with adult Lakas fighting a mythical dragon. After that, a kid is seen narrating to the audience how Lakas is his favorite character and even uttering fairly new words lodi and petmalu in his dialogue. I was hoping that they would stick to an old Filipino language or a modification of it as part of the world of Bagani, much like the Dothraki language in GoT. Language is crucial in any world-building stories, people!
The first episode was all about Lakas, when other characters should have been introduced since this is a show about a group of warriors.
The CGI will always be questioned as Hollywood has already set the bar quite high for that. Given that an episode of GoT is at least half a million US dollars, one can only imagine why the rest of the world can't keep up.
Hair and makeup have much to be desired as they looked like they were hastily done. The face and body tattoos, an integral part in the history of tribal Filipinos, which this show says it is inspired by, could have been painted more clearly and artistically. In the show, they look like the handiwork of an apprentice just learning how to trace a pattern as opposed to a professional makeup artist who would most likely have an inkling of how makeup looks alive and realistic on TV.
The on-location shooting, however, paid off for Bagani. It made the show pleasing to the eyes as the video quality was sharp and crisp. I hope they keep doing outside shoots, and will be able to use the many natural wonders of the country as the setting. Since ABS-CBN has a wide following of Filipinos living abroad, as well as a growing market of non-Filipino viewers in Asia and Africa, this would be the perfect time to feature the best spots of the Philippines.
Plus, the richness of the inspiration of the story is really something to look forward to. They just have to be careful treading with some historical facts. All it takes is a keen sense of mind and purpose to balance the elements of fiction inspired by facts.

I've always thought of Kristoffer Martin as a promising young lad since I saw him as the young version of Dingdong Dantes in the remake of Korean drama Endless Love.
His expressive eyes were his assets and I figured that in a world crazy for eyes that speak, he could have made it by now.
On the flip side, he still has to make it. By his account, he admitted that he was "napag-iwanan" or left behind, struggling with his acting career.
The 23-year-old sat with members of the press one luncheon as he spoke of the measures he is taking to make his lackluster showbiz career as brilliant as his contemporary Alden Richards, or even steady as Derrick Monasterio.
"Aminin na natin na napag-iwanan na tayo," he candidly admitted.
Did he have bad feelings toward his management when this happened? He says no, stressing that they have taken care of him just fine, and now have opted to do something about this.
He recognized that being an actor can be limiting, so now he has dabbled in recording. He just recorded and released the single "Paulit-Ulit." The catchy song about people tending to hide their real feelings and opting to run in circles about it was deemed to fit the Filipino theme song of the Korean drama Fight For My Way. The drama airs weekdays, Monday to Thursday, after The One That Got Away on GMA 7.
He shared that it is about time for him to explore his potential talents as it can help with his showbiz career.
He is making a calculated move especially since an actor who "can sing or has a voice that can pass" tends to make it longer in the biz. There are too many to mention, even including those who virtually do not have a passing singing voice but end up with double platinum albums, thanks to the sheer support of blinded fans.
In the case of Martin, he can carry a tune. He once did a cover of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift's "Everything Has Changed," and it was not bad. He sang it with Julie Anne San Jose, who also did the piano while they were on break at the set of their 2013 soap Kahit Nasaan Ka Man.
After releasing this single, Kristoffer hopes to harness his musical talents in addition to being able to play the guitar and drums.
Right now he is excited to be in the indie circuit again for a Cinemalaya entry to be helmed by Louie Ignacio.
"Paulit-Ulit" is available for downloading and streaming on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and other leading digital stores worldwide.


Latest from Kathleen A. Llemit

Unit 102, 1020 Bel-Air apartment, Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila Copyright 2000-2017 All rights reserved, The Daily Tribune Publishing Inc.