CHED, IPs continue protests against use of ‘hallowed’ term
As “La Luna Sangre” drew near its conclusion and trailer of its replacement fantaserye was aired, viewers and stakeholders of the education and cultural sectors actively engaged on social media about the implications of “Bagani” and its faithfulness to Filipino heritage.
The term bagani may be alien to people in Luzon, but is widely used in Visayan-speaking regions and the indigenous tribes of Mindanao.
It means warrior – and not just one who holds bolo, spear, arrow or any other weapon to protect oneself, family or community – but a person who has killed at least 10 human threats to the community or ancestral lands or one who has killed 100 snakes (as 10 snakes killed is equal to one human), explained Melchor Umpan Bayawan, a staff of the House Representatives who comes from the Manobo ethnic tribe of Mindanao.
Members of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) group, including artists Bayang Barrios and Melissa Claire Icdang Barrera, protest the use of the term in the teleserye as it “does not even pay proper homage to real baganis, an outright disrespect to the history and [ethnic]culture when the use of the term contradicts the very essence of what it [actually]means.”
“Being a bagani does not only mean to ‘to have an exemplary fighting skills,’ but to be able to defend the people from colonizers and entities who are robbing us of our identity attached to our lands culture and heritage. So when you use the term bagani for a teleserye that is devoid of historical and cultural context, you are actually lambasting the memoirs and integrity of our warriors,” Barrera said.
She added that the artistic license cannot be claimed as the network airing the program is “using the indigenous culture for a different agenda, a classic case of cherry picking for the sake of profiteering at the expense of revising [ethnic]narrative.”
Barrios, speaking in a press conference, clarified, “We are not trying to pick a fight. We [just]ask that our culture that is very sacred be respected.”
Two weeks before the airing and while taping in the sand dunes of Ilocos were ongoing, netizens had hot exchanges of comments that the actors—led by Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil and Matteo Guidicelli—were not Filipino-looking at all—contradictory to what the story was supposed to represent, the evolution of the Filipino race based on folklore.
Soberano answered a netizen’s comment on Instagram: “And who says we’re not Pinoy? My father is full Filipino. I was raised by two Filipinos since the age of 4. I loooooove sinigang, I thinks that’s as Pinoy as Pinoy can get.”
Although the post elicited more comments about not looking Filipino enough, there were those who said that they understand that the show is what it is—a fantaserye no less, incorporated with Filipino flavor and not a historical or cultural representation at all.
On March 5 on the day of its first airing, ABS-CBN Corporate Communications head Kane Errol Chua sent a rejoinder to The Manila Times explaining the network’s side amid the statements issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that the show is violative based on IP perspective.
“The concept of ABS-CBN’s new fantaserye ‘Bagani’ is to feature warriors, protectors, and heroes who espouse Filipino values and beliefs.
“The production team did intensive research to determine a distinctly Filipino term that embodies a champion who fights for the common good of his tribe or family—somebody who is brave, honorable, self-sacrificing, and good-hearted. In the end, the team recognized that the term and concept of a ‘Bagani’ best solidifies the traits that the program wants to highlight.
“With all due respect, the use of ‘Bagani’ is not in any way intended to malign or to disrespect beliefs of the Indigenous Peoples’ communities, but instead hopes to propagate the values, morals, and ethics that are inherent in a ‘Bagani’—a Filipino warrior, protector, and hero.
“To be clear, the ‘Bagani’ fantaserye does not purport itself to be a historical account of Philippine history or culture. The program has always maintained that it has 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,” the statement read.
So as not to violate the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371), the IP group suggests that a disclaimer be placed in the beginning of the show if the story could not be re-written.
“The disclaimer should clarify that the use of ‘Bagani’ in the show is not associated with the real Bagani in Mindanao, describe for viewers what a Bagani is, and acknowledge that lumad groups have actual Baganis,” Barrera said.
Incorporated now in the program is the disclaimer that states, “Ang kuwentong inyong mapapanood ay kathang-isip lamang at kumuha ng inspirasyon mula sa iba’t ibang alamat at mitolohiyang Pilipino. Ito’y hindi tumutukoy o kumakatawan sa kahit anong Indigenous People sa Pilipinas (The story you’re about to watch is a work of fiction and is inspired by Philippine mythology and folk legends. It does not refer to and is not representative of any Indigenous People in the Philippines.”
Classic story of love, hate, revenge and redemption
Except for the colorful costumes and gorgeous cast, Bagani treads on the simple classic story of love, hate, revenge and redemption in an ethereal place called Sansinukob (the Filipino term actually for Universe) divided into five regions occupied by Taga-Patag (farmers), Taga-Laot (fishermen), Taga-Kalakal (traders), Taga-Gubat (forest people) and Taga-Disyerto (desert people).
Lakas (Gil)—son of Agos and Lila who come from different classes —had to know the reason why he’s called “anak ng traydor” and “taksil” and learns that it’s a clan issue after all.
Up until the final episode, it is expected that Bagani revolves around Lakas’ resolve to continue what his father started: “Ibabalik ko ang dignidad ng ating angkan, ang dangal ng mga mandirigma (I will restore the dignity of our clan, the honor of warriors).”
‘La Luna Sangre’ ratings maintained
Airing for almost nine months, La Luna Sangre registered a 13.4 percent on its final night, which was 4.7 percent higher than its counterpart, GMA Network’s “Kambal Karibal” at 8.7 percent according to AGB Nielsen in its report posted on March 6.
Bagani’s pilot episode, meanwhile, registered a rating of 12.9 percent, 4.4 percent higher than the GMA teleserye at 8.5 percent.
But based on the National Kantar TV Ratings of March 6 for the second episode, Bagani garnered a high 35 percent compared to its rival show that got 16.4 percent.