CHED Commissioner says the Bagani Teleserye is "Devoid of Real Meaning and Substance"
Even before ABS-CBN's new fantasy series Bagani airs on prime-time this March 5, the TV show already sparked discussion on social media.
Commissioner Ronald Adamat sent a formal letter to ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak regarding his complaints against Bagani.
In his Facebook page, Adamat explained why he sent the letter:
"I demanded for clarification on the historical and cultural bases of the same as it appears violative of the real meaning of BAGANI based on Indigenous Peoples perspective. It is noteworthy to state that BAGANI is an IP term and should not be used in a teleserye that is devoid of its true meaning and substance. We can not allow culturally insensitive movies and television series..."
Part of the letter reads: "It is not enough for writers and producers of movies and teleseryes to come up with concepts, titles, and characters that would sell and create blockbusters yet carry with them half-truths and lies that destroy and negate the real essence of an IP terminology, as in the case of Bagani, and instead bring injustice to the 14 million Filipino IPs.
"What is the historical and cultural bases of such if not of the IP's meaning of it? Being an Indigenous Person, I reiterate my demand for an urgent clarification and explanation as to how and why the IP word 'Bagani,' endemic only to the Indigenous Peoples, ended up on the storyboards of ABS-CBN.
"On the other hand, as Commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the undersigned foresees a negative impact among Filipino viewers especially the young students, and is deeply bothered about the portrayal of Bagani in a teleserye as being a 'bayani with magical powers' that is totally detached from what the term actually means to the Indigenous Peoples communities.
"Further, as CHED Commissioner, I cannot tolerate the public showing of the said teleserye as long as ABS-CBN would not revise the format and concept in order to render 'Bagani' to become as educational as it can be, and make the same as historically-accurate and culturally-correct presentation of what the real 'Bagani' is from an IP perspective."
The CHED commissioner did not define the word "bagani," but this term is used by Manobos to address tribal heroes who defend the tribe from outside threats.
According to the book Jamestown Exposition: American Imperialism on Parade, the title of bagani is given to a warrior who has killed more than one enemy.
BAGANI IS NOT A HISTORICAL SERIES
In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) last February 23, Bagani business unit head Lourdes "Des" de Guzman-Tanwangco stressed that contrary to netizens's observations, this show is not set in Philippine pre-colonial times, and that it is not a historical series.
She pointed out, "Hindi kami historical, we're a fantaserye. We created a world. And it's all fiction. Inspired by some Filipino mythologies pero we created a world. Just like Star Wars, we created a world. Nakita mo naman by the costumes, 'di ba?"
When asked about one netizen comparing Bagani to the Hollywood movie Black Panther when it comes to casting, Tanwangco just smiled and said, "Nadi-discuss namin minsan pero sabi namin, kailangan nilang mapanuod. Kailangan nilang manood."
The official synopsis of Bagani indicates that the show depicts the journey of five individuals who must transform into Baganis or heroes with supernatural abilities.
Here's the description of the epic fantaserye as provided by ABS-CBN's corporate communications department: Bagani follows the journey of Lakas (Enrique Gil) from the desert region, Ganda (Liza Soberano) from the farm region, Lakam (Matteo Guidicelli) from the trade region, Dumakulem (Makisig Morales) from the forest region, and Mayari (Sofia Andres) from the sea region—normal individuals suddenly turned heroes of Sansinukob.
"Each one of them has a particular skill that makes them a cut above the rest. Apart from their skills, they also possess good hearts that are willing to sacrifice even themselves for their families and for their people.
"That is why Apo, the benevolent and wise deity of Sansinukob, bestowed on them powerful weapons— ‘espada ni Minokawa,’ ‘pana ni Makiling,’ ‘palakol ni Bernardo Karpio,’ ‘arnis ni Liwliwa,’ and ‘kalasag ng Kataw’— they need to become Baganis and battle the evil forces of the Sarimaw."
CASTING ISSUES IN BAGANI
Another controversy cropped up when Liza and Enrique were chosen to top-bill the TV series. According to netizens, the LizQuen love team is "not Pinoy enough" to take on the roles inspired by a drama series set in a "pre-colonial" Philippines (Liza's mother is an American, while Enrique has German and Spanish blood).
This even prompted Liza to defend herself on Twitter, with her "Sinigang" tweet becoming a viral topic on social media. The actress posted on her Twitter account: "And who says were not pinoy? My Father is full filipino. I was raised by two filipinos since the age of 4. I looooove sinigang i think thats as pinoy as pinoy can get."
She explained, "Malayo, e. Hindi namin sila ginawang comparison, hindi rin namin sila ginawang reference. Fantasy siya, fantaserye talaga. Hindi siya historical. Inspiration of Filipino mythology."
When asked about Liza's "sinigang" tweet, the Kapamilya executive just said, "Siguro nasaktan siya, kasi sobra niyang mahal yung show at alam niya kung anong dinanas at pinaghirapan ng lahat para sa show. Siguro nasasaktan yung bata."
Another discussion about Bagani was when netizens compared it to GMA-7's fantasy series Encantadia, which recently aired a requel (remake + sequel) from July 2016 to May 2017.
It even came to the point when Encantadia creator Suzette Doctolero and Bagani creator Mark Duane Angos had heated exchange of words on Twitter.
How did Tanwangco feel about these discussions?
Frankly, she said, "Ako, masaya ako, kasi whether good o bad, basta pinaguusapan, may interes yung tao. So wine-welcome, okay naman kami diyan. Ako as part of the management, wala naman kami masyadong panic about it. Chill lang. Panuorin. Panuorin nila."
Bagani is under the unit of Star Creatives, which is helmed by Tanwangco and Malou N. Santos.
According to Tanwangco, cameras started rolling for Bagani during the second quarter of 2017.
"Matagal namin pinaghandaan. Nagstart kami magshoot, mga March, e. April, last year. We stopped for a while and then nagdire-diretso na yun."
Back then, reports indicated that Liza and Enrique's characters were only supposed to be seen during the pilot week.
In fact, in a past interview, LizQuen said that they are set to do a separate teleserye after their special appearance in Bagani.
PEP.ph then asked the Star Creatives business unit head why LizQuen became the main stars of the show.
She answered, "Meron kasi talagang LizQuen na project. So when the management saw the rushes, siyempre pinag-gastusan na namin, so might as well make this the LizQuen project na, kasi meron naman talaga dapat."