Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Amaya - Ep. 1

Premiere Episode

Kabanata 1 - Ang Mabagsik na Rajah
(Chapter 1 - The Fierce Rajah)

The drama's opening scene is that of boats -- caracoas-- coming in to shore, while a woman standing on the prow of one of them chants the exploits of Rajah Mangubat, who grew to manhood in a day after he was born, and who in his first full moon of life went out and conquered another village or banwa. Mangubat [Gardo Versoza, who has come a long way from his Machete days], stands in the prow, flanked by his warriors. A map shows the villages he captures, overlaid with battle scenes, until a big area is indicated to be under his rule.

On a beach, an old woman, a punong babaylan or chief priestess, stands with her apprentice and the datu they serve. The old priestess foretells the arrival of a mangangayaw, a conqueror who has never been defeated. The old datu doesn't believe her and orders that she be taken to her hut.

Rajah Mangubat then arrives, and his army faces off with the old datu's army. The old man stares in shock as his warriors are defeated. As Mangubat advances, the old man kneels and begs for mercy. Mangubat insults him, calling him a rat who takes fear upon seeing the sun. He says that he will give in (pagbibigyan), but then suddenly uses just one finger to punch the old man in the diaphragm and kill him. [Note: At first I wondered if he was going to let the old datu off, but the scene shows just how ruthless and treacherous he is. Also, I don't know if the pun was intentional: he says "pagbibigyan" which means to give in, but instead, he punches the old man in the stomach which is also colloquially called "binigyan."]

Kabanata 2 - Ang propesiya ng punong babaylan
[Chapter 2 - The prophecy of the chief priestess]

Sunset falls; in his house, Mangubat celebrates his victory by dividing the spoils among his warriors, including the captive women. His wife, Rahu Linangan [Ayen Munji-Laurel] and young son Bagani look on.

The old chief priestess speaks up and makes a prophecy: he should rejoice while he can, for one will come who will defeat him. Sneering, he asks who would dare. She says that he will be defeated by a woman, and he laughs. The old woman continues: He will be defeated by a woman warrior who possesses a strange power, for she was born with a snake twin. [Note: Filipinos believe, and there are reports of actual occurrences, that it is possible for a woman to give birth to an animal, or for a child to be born with an animal twin, and that the animal will bring them luck. This belief is also the basis for quite a few urban legends.]

One of Mangubat's warriors says that it is rare for a person to be born with a snake twin. The snake is believed to be an umalagad, an ancestral spirit who has returned to earth in the body of a snake in order to guide a person, generally its twin. The person born with a snake twin is destined for greatness.

Yes, the old priestess says, the woman will train to become a great warrior, and she will cause his downfall. The angry Rajah Mangubat kills her. His little son looks on and flinches.

In another village, slaves are planting rice. Among them is Dal'lang [Lani Mercado], who is unique in that she wears a blouse while the other slaves do not. Nearby, the datu of the village, Datu Bugna [Raymond Bagatsing], walks with his retinue. He and his older brother Awi [Roy Alvarez], who is also his adviser, discuss the benefits of being under Rajah Mangubat's protection. As they draw near, the slaves stop and bow, the datu tells them to go on with their work. He and Dal'lang exchange glances and smile.

As Dal'lang straightens, she feels dizzy and is brought to the side of the field, to an old woman or gurang, who says that she is pregnant. Asked by her friend Agang [Ana Capri] who the father is, Dal'lang looks across the field at the datu, who looks pleased.

In the other village, the old chief priestess is buried, mourned by her apprentice. Mangubat consults his own chief priestess as to the prophecy. She falls into a trance and speaks with a man's voice: the prophecy is true and the child has already been conceived. He asks where the child's mother is, but the spirit says that he cannot change his destiny, thus the spirit cannot tell him where the child may be found.

Dal'lang skinny-dips in the river, and is joined by the Datu, who expresses his joy over the child. Meanwhile, his wife Dian Lamitan [Gina Alajar], accompanied by her own retinue, is at the beach, bartering for goods with some Indonesian traders, in their own language. She mentions that she is pregnant and will tell her husband that evening. Someone then tells her that she is not the only one who is pregnant -- Dal'lang, her husband's slave girl, is pregnant with the datu's child too.

At home, she comes upon her husband whittling a top. She tells him that after a long time, she is pregnant with their second child. He wishes for a son that would be his heir. She assures him that she will give him one--if he gives Dal'lang some herbs to drink to get rid of their baby. She tells him that she knows of the slave girl's pregnancy. He objects, saying that he has a right to sleep with other women, and that he can even take other wives. She points out that indeed, she also had the right to choose those lesser wives from the free women. He refuses, for he doesn't want to give up Dal'lang. She says that if he doesn't want to get rid of Dal'lang's child, he should cast them off then-- if he doesn't, she will not let him see his heir.

Meanwhile, Mangubat broods, while his wife tries to soothe him. He explains that he was not afraid of the other datus whom he had fought; like the sun, he knew where they were at all times. But he doesn't know where the child of the prophecy is, and thus he plans to go out and seek it.

Agang tells Dal'lang that she is lucky, to bear the datu's child. The child would be born free, and might even cause her to be free as well. However, Lamitan comes upon them and tells Dal'lang in no uncertain terms that even if she gave the datu a child, she would never be free, for Lamitan would never allow her and her child to be raised above Lamitan and her own children. She then turns to Agang and orders her to hit Dal'lang in the face, hard, until her mouth bleeds, and not to stop unless she ordered it.

Datu Bugna's brother Awi reminds him that Lamitan is the daughter of their deceased uncle who was their former datu and a great one [he uses the term "amain" which has many meanings, including "stepfather"; I'd interpret it as uncle because it's a more distant relationship]. He points out that Bugna in essence owes his position to his wife, and advises him to give Lamitan what she wants. If she took away his heir, she would be able to take away his power as the datu.

When Bugna comes home, his wife coyly says that she knew it was him because she could smell his scent even when he was still outside. He acts as if to leave and she gets angry, asking if he was going to Dal'lang. Her sister speaks up and urges her to tell her husband what she did to the slave girl. She does so and adds that she will go on doing the same thing to Dal'lang every day until he sets the slave girl aside. Her sister also advises the datu that he knows his wife and what she is capable of doing, and says that he should do what was best for Dal'lang and the child and send them away.

Datu Bugna goes to pray to his anitos [ancestral spirits] for guidance, asking them to help him to do what was right for his subjects.

He then goes to Dal'lang, and when she calls his name, he reminds her of his position and hers, and tells her never to call him just by his name again. Thus he sets her aside. As he leaves, Dal'lang tells her unborn baby: "He's gone, he doesn't love us anymore."


The opening scene gave me chills, especially when I realized what the woman was chanting. It acknowledges that Filipino folk literature is mainly oral, and must have been chanted like that by the storytellers and record-keepers of long ago. Again, the chanter is a woman, although she cannot be a binukot as she is clearly visible to all. It reminds me, though, that the binukot were also the storytellers and record keepers of their villages,
required to memorize their people's history and legends.

Mangubat is well-named; he is a mangangayaw, which means essentially the same as his name: someone who goes to other places for the purposes of conquest. The two terms have been carried over to modern times, "manggubat" in the sense of seeking out another person to pick a fight, and "mangayaw" in the sense of going to another place to compete there, as with basketball teams playing on the opponent's home court.

Two aspects of the babaylan have been depicted: soothsaying and going into a trance to summon the spirits to speak through her. Note that all the babaylanes are women: this was strictly a woman's province, though I wish they'd put in a cross-dressing male babaylan at some point. The religion then was animism and ancestor worship. Bugna prays to the anito, the spirits of his ancestors, for guidance. Add to this the belief in the
umalagad, which is in a sense a familiar spirit, an ancestral spirit guide.

Although Dal'lang is a slave, she seems to have been more privileged than others, perhaps because she was the datu's lover. She wears a blouse, and is able to call him by name alone without the honorific, although he rescinds this privilege at the end of the episode.

The women in this drama are portrayed as powerful; Mangubat's queen is present at his victory celebration and speaks freely; Lamitan is depicted as an educated woman who is able to communicate in a foreign language, who has the power to take away her husband's claim to the throne since he only obtained it through her, who even has the power to choose who would be her husband's lesser wives. Bugna, for all that he is datu, is quite henpecked; no wonder he turns more to Dal'lang. It even appears that Dal'lang is so treated because she is a slave, not because of her gender.

Both Mangubat and Lamitan appear to be ruthless. That scene with the two slaves was sad; Lamitan knew it was cruel to order a friend to hit a friend, yet she did it to demonstrate to Dal'lang and even to her husband how powerful she was. That said, I wish Bugna would show more gumption than passive-aggressively getting his slave preggers, because as demonstrated, Dal'lang is helpless against any punishment the queen would inflict on her. He should've made arrangements to send her somewhere safe instead of refuse to give her up selfishly, then suddenly change his mind and think that setting aside his lover and child was "for the good of his people." So here we have two Filipino males, one a merciless bastard who rejoices in his power, and the other a husband with a powerful wife. I just wish for more character development. :D

I'm glad they kept using a lot of Visayan words in the dialogue!

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