Amaya has yet to unravel on the TV screens, but superlatives – biggest, boldest and most expensive – are already being bandied about the forthcoming GMA 7 primetime series that casts Marian Rivera in the title role.
The STAR had an exclusive roundtable chat with the people behind Amaya last Wednesday, getting a glimpse into the depth and breadth of this production that vows casting, costumes, set locations and budget of epic proportions.
“It was such a bold move from the network to bankroll such a huge project,” began director Mac Alejandre. “But when we talk about huge, I would like to contextualize it because people may think it is only huge in budget. Well, yes it is. It is the biggest and most expensive, and when we say biggest, it is far, far bigger than the second biggest production – that’s how expensive it is.”
Direk Mac continued, “But when we’re talking about big, it’s not just confined to its expense. We’re talking about bigness in terms of daring, preparation and pre-production. We were immersed in this project since its conceptualization.
“For a historical fiction-based story that has never been tried on Philippine television before, it’s daring in terms of epic scope. Meaning, even if the central love story or drama is fiction, everything surrounding it is based on history – from culture, customs, demeanor to look.”
Set in the Visayas during pre-colonial Philippines, Amaya tells the journey of Marian Rivera’s character, who is born a princess but who suffers the misfortune of becoming a slave before rising to become a warrior and leader of her people.
Her co-stars Gardo Versoza and Daniel Fernando
According to Amaya headwriter Suzette Doctolero, who also wrote most of the network’s successful fantaseryes, most notable of which is the Encantadia saga, the idea of Amaya was pitched and given the go-signal last year, after a year of research and conceptualization. Initially, it was to be a historical series centering on the life of the Visayan hero Lapu-Lapu. But upon the advice of historians from UP Diliman, they instead pursued a historical fiction that would still give light to the pre-Hispanic ambiance and traditions.
“We also chose Central Visayas because the written materials about its pre-colonial history are more complete, and it’s very fascinating to read about how women lived and thrived during that era. Tapos sa Visayas lang yung may binukot, or mga princesang kinukulong at di pinapaapak sa lupa gaya ni Amaya. And we weaved these details into the story. But we believe that the beauty about Amaya really is that, if you take away the manner it is being told, it is still a soap opera,” Suzette said.
Direk Mac, on the other hand, said that one major challenge of mounting this TV series is how to present a period backdrop – a part of history that people are largely clueless about save for what they learned about it from scholarly literature or history textbooks – that doesn’t mask the very contemporary concepts it talks about such as love, integrity, lust, greed and honor.
And so, no stone is left unturned, especially for its production design department , which has branched into several divisions so as to be able to encompass the minutest details in terms of costumes, visuals, lighting, sets, technology, among others, to make Amaya as realistic as possible.
Take, for example, the fight scene that featured 250 warriors from the warring banwa (tribes) of Datu Mangubat (Gardo Versoza) and Datu Bugna (Raymond Bagatsing). They had to be dressed in full regalia but everything they wore – accessories, armory and tattoos – had to be distinct from each other. The whole process of just making this single scene ready to roll lasted from morning to dawn.
Dressing the women is another story, said costume designer Gino Gonzales, whose portfolio includes mostly Repertory Philippines productions plus the period US-produced film Amigo. The female characters, so as to evoke how they appeared in this particular past, are made to wear in intricate costumes and jewelry made of materials from Singapore and Malaysia, with handiwork done by weavers in Baguio, Ilocos and the Yakan and T’boli ethnic groups of Mindanao. The costume–making started as early as November.
Then there are the set locations, carefully chosen, and spread throughout Northern and Central Luzon plus Southern Tagalog. For the opening scene, which introduces the sea-worthy, reconstructed warship Karakoa, three locations were maximized – Pangasinan, Bataan or Laguna – and you wouldn’t even notice it in the seamless whole.
Direk Mac said that they are thankful that these physical challenges are being addressed by the organization and that the network is gambling hundreds of millions is more than enough to strengthen the production people’s resolve to deliver an original project that they can be truly proud of.
Plus, this early, historians involved in the project are excited because it teaches history in a medium that is accessible to the masses. "We wouldn't be surprised if it sparks academic discussions," said Neil Santillan, a UP professor.
“We can give 10 million anecdotes of how difficult this is, but at the end of the day, as much as we want to present a visual spectacle, the story that we want to tell is about the emotions and feelings of Filipinos during that period in history. This is the story of Amaya – how a woman transcended her time.”
As for the series’ star, Direk Mac said, “We will give them the Marian that they know and love in Marimar, Dyesebel, etc., plus more. They will rediscover that this waif-life beauty and spunky performer has still a lot to give.”
“After Amaya, I believe the people involved here – from cast to production staff – will be changed. We cannot give anything lesser after this.”
Amaya also stars Sid Lucero, Mikael Daez, Gina Alajar, Lani Mercado, Rochelle Pangilinan and Glaiza de Castro. It will premiere on May 30.
Labels: Marian Rivera