Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amaya - Ep. 2

After a short flashback to the previous episode we move on with the story. And Bagani gets the award for character development! Little boy's got a mind of his own, it seems.

Bagani asks his mother why his father has to hurt the baby. He does not buy her explanation that the child will grow up to threaten his father's power, and insists that it's just a helpless little baby. So he gets a lecture on how the baby is like a wild animal that can look very cute and helpless when it is little, but that will bite him, perhaps even fatally, when it grows up. [Note: I am loving Ayen Munji-Laurel in her role as Mangubat's wife. Perhaps it's the costume; perhaps it's the knowledge that she was once also a real-life princess. Who married one of my favorite guys to crush on! Although she looks like a loving mother, she seems to totally subscribe to the stuff she's telling her child. Perhaps being the Rajah's wife requires a bit of hardness? Then again, this was a time when the old laws prevailed, survival of the fittest, an eye for an eye.]

Dal'lang gets her things together, preparing to run away. She is forestalled by Agang, who reminds her that they are slaves, the property of the datu. If she runs away and gets caught, she would be severely punished and it would not be good for her child. If, on the other hand, raiders catch her, her child would also grow up a slave. If she stays, her child would be born a timawa or freeman.

Mangubat bids farewell to his family. He especially tells Bagani to take care of his mother, his warrior brothers, and his binukot sisters. A lot to lay on the shoulders of a little boy, but Bagani accepts it gravely. Mangubat and his men then sail away in their caracoas, and man, they are a beautiful sight.

Dal'lang receives a summons from Dian Lamitan. She finds her mistress on the beach, negotiating with the Indonesian traders, having sold Dal'lang to them for some gold. Bugna's brother Awi intervenes however, saying that although Lamitan can sell Dal'lang, she cannot sell the child in Dal'lang's womb, who is not only a freeman but the child of a datu. According to their law, while Dal'lang carries the child she cannot be sold. Later, the Datu thanks his brother for intervening, and Awi says that he did it to keep peace between the datu and his wife, since Bugna would be very angry at Lamitan if he found out that Dal'lang had been sold. He then exacts a promise from the datu to never take up with Dal'lang again.

Agang wonders why Lamitan is so angry at Dal'lang when it is legal and customary for the datu and the free men to take lovers and even other wives. Dal'lang however says that she understands how Lamitan must feel to have a rival. She thinks the situation must be very hard for Lamitan to take. For Dal'lang, her only consolation now is her child.

Meanwhile, Mangubat is walking in the forest, and comes upon a woman holding a big snake, her back to him. He challenges her, asking if she is the one destined to destroy him. When he throws his spear at her, however, she disappears, and instead a giant snake leaps at him and devours him... and he wakes up. It is clear that the situation has become an obsession for the once-invincible rajah.

After three full moons have passed, Mangubat reaches the vicinity of the island of Sugbu (present-day Cebu). He has conquered many villages and killed many women and children, but he has not found the child he is seeking. His warriors are tired of it and ask when they are going home, but he says they will not go home until they have found the child.

In Datu Bugna's village, the harvest is ongoing. Dian Lamitan comes out to the fields to supervise, carried in a sedan chair. Her sister remarks that Dal'lang's belly is also big now; perhaps she is nearing her time, like Lamitan. Awi also observes that Dal'lang is there; perhaps thinking to spare her the hard work, he asks Lamitan if they should also send the men to help, as it seems that there are only a few harvesters. Lamitan answers that it is customary that only women do the harvest, or the rice will rot. Her sister snootily observes that the harvest would go faster if the slaves weren't, you know, sooo slooow. Lamitan picks up her cue and says that only one of the slaves is slow, and tells the overseer... to whip Dal'lang. Uh-oh. Of course, Dal'lang gets labor pains as a result. Seeing this, Agang calls for help, but Lamitan issues an order that no one should help Dal'lang.

Datu Bugna is holding court, hearing a case. A man has complained against another man for touching his wife's hair without her permission. Note that the husband's argument is not that the other man has trespassed on his property rights, but that he had not respected the wife's womanhood. Since the act of the other man was against the law, Bugna fines him to either indemnify the couple with silver or be their slave until two full moons have passed. As he winds up the case, Lamitan arrives. He asks her if the harvest is over, since she had gone out to supervise it. She says that she left it to the overseer, and he says that there should be someone there to oversee the harvest; it should not be left to slaves. He then gets ready to go to the fields, but she stops him. [Well, she should, because if the datu goes to the fields and finds out her newest cruelty to Dal'lang he would once again be very angry.] They have a short exchange of I-should-really-go-no-don't, until Lamitan tells him that of course he cannot go since she is in labor. And we can see where this is going.

Meanwhile, Mangubat has reached the village of one of his allies, and stated his quest. They discuss the other nearby villages and islands, including Datu Bugna's territory. Mangubat dismisses the topic of Bugna, since the latter had already chosen to ally with him through a blood compact. The ally says that blood compact or none, he had heard that both Bugna's wife and slave girl are pregnant with his child, and who knows but that one of them may be the one he seeks.

The old woman who had earlier diagnosed Dal'lang's pregnancy, Agoy Gurang, now examines her and says the child is all right despite the beating. She says that it is strange, however... although it is not yet Dal'lang's time, her child seems to be in a hurry to get born, for it is moving into position. Dal'lang is about to give birth.

At the datu's house, Bugna prays for a son from Lamitan. He promises the spirits that he will give them anything just for a son. Suddenly, someone cries that the moon is being eaten by a bakunawa, which is not a good omen.

Mangubat's warriors also view the eclipse as a bad omen, suggesting to their rajah that perhaps they should not venture out. But Mangubat doesn't care for omens, and says that they will go to Bugna's village.

Mangubat's wife and son are also viewing the eclipse. Linangan tells her son the story of Bakunawa, the giant winged sea serpent who is the god of the spirit world. In the beginning there were seven moons in the sky, and they were so beautiful that Bakunawa wanted to eat them, so he leaped out of his ocean home and devoured them one by one. By the time he was punished for it by the head of the gods, only one moon was left. Even then, sometimes the temptation is too great for Bakunawa and he tries to leap out of the ocean and eat that remaining moon. To stop him and drive him away, people make noise.

It is clear that Bagani still has not been convinced by his mother's earlier lecture, for he observes that his father is just like Bakunawa. The snake wants to devour the moon, while his father wants to kill the innocent baby.

Bugna sees the eclipse pass, and gives thanks that Bakunawa has gone away. He then hears the cry of a child: Lamitan has given birth. Bugna rejoices at the thought of an heir.

Meanwhile, Dal'lang also gives birth to a baby girl.

Lamitan calls for her child, eager to see the heir that will restore her to her husband's favor. Bugna enters and asks the midwife what the child's gender is-- is it a boy? "No, Datu," the midwife says, "your wife has once again brought forth a girl." Bugna is disappointed. Upon hearing the words, Lamitan also turns away and tells them to take away the child for she doesn't want to see it.

This is in sharp contrast to Dal'lang, who cuddles her newborn daughter lovingly and names her Amaya. Agang says that she should rest, but Dal'lang refuses for she is very happy with her child. The old woman says that they should indulge the new mother for a while and clear away the afterbirth. As she reaches to touch it, Agang cries out, for it moved. The old woman looks at it and finds a baby snake. She says that this is a good omen: Amaya is one of those rare persons who was born with a snake-twin!


Looks like the writer is setting up Bagani as someone who doesn't always conform to the norm. His mother can't shake his conviction that what his father is doing is wrong. He also has a sense of responsibility, it seems, promising his father gravely that he will take care of their people and their family in the rajah's absence. Hrm. Interesting. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for more character development here. Kudos to Suzette Doctolero! Keep it up please!

The part about Lamitan selling Dal'lang is a nice touch. I was thinking "so soon?" but Awi intervened and I gave a sigh of relief. I'm still wondering though if mother and child will get separated afterwards. On the other hand, I wonder why Awi keeps intervening...

The old woman or "gurang" is also a nice touch. It seems that she is a healer or midwife of some sort; she reminds me that when I was little, many of the old women in our barangay were considered hilot or healers of some sort, and were able to apply such folk remedies as massages and herb poultices. I got taken to the hilot often, instead of the doctor, for coughs [remedy: poultices and steam tents], fevers [remedy: poultices and massage], and even a swelling on the eyelid [remedy: "gurot" or draw lines across the eyelid with the back of a heated knife].

Bakunawa legend! Being Ilonggo, I had already heard this story in my youth. It makes a nice foreshadowing of the birth of Amaya and her snake-twin. Also, after seeing Mangubat's dream sequence, I realized that in a sense this is why Amaya is destined to defeat him... he is a man, and she is... a woman with a snake. Symbolism anyone? In this sense the snake makes them equals? Oh please. I wished that she'd be able to defeat him as a woman, not as a woman made into a symbolic man.

References to the laws of the time abound. We learn that a child can be born to a station above that of its mother, if the other parent is of a higher station. Married men can take lovers and have more than one wife. Disrespect for women is punishable; as noted earlier, the husband premised his complaint on disrespect to his wife and not violation of his rights as a husband. Alongside these, slavery still exists and slaves are nonentities whose fate depends on the whims of their masters.

Was Bugna and Lamitan's marriage one of convenience, since he wanted to be datu and she was the datu's daughter? They only have two children, and a huge gap between them. Also, Bugna's sole interest is whether Lamitan bore him a son. Uh, yeah, right, way to go, buddy.

Lamitan is getting downright scary and power-mad. On one hand I can view this as the desperation of a woman who is in danger of being supplanted by one whom she views as her inferior in every way. She's Lamitan, a princess, a datu's wife... and she has to stand aside and watch her husband fall for a slave? Of course she would feel inadequate and lash out, questioning what she lacks. Unfortunately, she seems to be so shallow she will not look for her own self-worth and instead externalizes her anger by heaping it on Dal'lang, and she is vindictive enough to take satisfaction in hurting one who cannot fight back. She even rejects her own child when she finds out it's a girl instead of the boy she wanted. In contrast, Dal'lang is presented as the understanding one; despite her status, despite being maltreated, she can still find the heart to try to understand Lamitan. Unlike Lamitan, her child's gender doesn't matter to her; she cuddles Amaya after she is born. Um, er, let's not be too saintly please.

Are we going to see Amaya as a little girl next episode? I hope so!

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