i’ve begun to call the saturday inquirer Nestor Torre Day: open it on any given Saturday, and there he is dishing it out about local TV and celebrities. now this would be fine, though a bit shameless (isn’t it, to have your name appear so many times in one section of the paper, on any given day?), were he obviously keeping in touch with popular TV and contemporary culture. but this, as he himself reveals, he doesn’t do.
recently Torre raised two things in separate articles (of course) about the epic serye Amaya: (1) Marian Rivera’s acting and whether or not she deserves the title “queen of teleseryes” and (2) Amaya‘s storytelling as predictable over and above a setting that’s nothing but exotic. on the latter, Torre says:
<…> after some weeks in play, the series’ plot line is turning out to be a mere variation on teleseryes’ generic penchant for love, perceived betrayal, revenge, and all sorts of strife and convoluted conflicts.
really now. Torre obviously missed a chunk of this show if this is his assessment of it. he seems to have missed that wonderful father-daughter relationship between Datu Bugna and Amaya, one that was anything but simple, one that was informed by the complexities of honor and trust, of woman power and oppression. and what of Amaya’s refusal to be tied to her hut as binukot, her insistence on being brought out into the night by her uripon, and knowing enough to take responsibility for it when they got caught?
and where is romantic love here, really? Torre makes it seem like this is nothing but a love story, when in fact Amaya hasn’t been shown to care much for Bagani’s fascination with her. in fact, the kind of focus Amaya keeps on her struggle for liberation after her father’s murder is what resonates here: love isn’t on the table, and her heart is not a topic of conversation.
and yet Torre’s saying this is nothing but cliche, and is completely unhappy with this story, which makes one wonder: how much of it has he seen? this tells us how much:
To be fair to Marian, she works really hard to make her latest TV starrer a success—to the extent of “going backless” in some scenes to show how cruelly her character has been punished and degraded. She also shouts and expresses anger with greater unction than ever.
Unfortunately, she looks too fair and soft to be believable as a “warrior princess” in the making. Her crying scenes are still too “hagulgol” to be truly touching. And, her training scenes as a warrior are patently nominal and phlegmatic.
first of all, ser, the bare back is culturally grounded in the epic’s pre-colonial setting: a sign of Amaya turning from binukot to uripong. she is not the first or only one who’s backless in this show, which should tell us all that it’s symbolic for something bigger than just, uh, going backless. second of all, and more important, ser, fairness is a trait of the binukot, a product of her being kept inside her hut, her feet never touching the ground, her face unseen.
as for Marian’s acting, i do wonder what the peg is for good acting as far as Torre is concerned. because i’d like to think that i’d scream too were my father being murdered in front of me; i’d scream too were i being lashed with a stick; i’d cry and scream in defiance when my servants-turned-friends are being lashed as well. were Torre watching this show, he might have a sense of how this louder voice Amaya’s now using is but logical in light of her voice as daughter: playful and loving in equal turns, too intelligent for her own good, smarter and kinder than her half-sisters, hidden as she was. were Torre watching, he would’ve seen this as an evolution of the lead character versus just the one truth about her character.
as for whether or not Marian is the “queen” of teleseryes, it seems but logical doesn’t it, that we look at the terrain of soaps in recent times: lead female characters are few and far between, as the male leads have begun to take on equal if not the more central roles in soaps and seryes across both networks (Coco Martin in Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin, Robin Padilla in Guns and Roses, Richard Guttierez in Captain Barbell, for example). in this sense it’s easy to see that Marian as queen is premised on the fact not just of a network investing in such a huge project for her, but that she’s in this title role at a time when there’s no other show like it.
but too, what Torre fails to consider is Amaya as a show, period. he fails to see how this show’s pre-colonial reality actually works and is difficult to dismiss, which of course would only be apparent if you’re actually watching the show. this is a show that had obviously prepared to take itself seriously, at the same time that it was careful in dealing with its fictionalization of history. and of making sure to create a story of one binukot that can only be powerful as it highlights the possibility of a powerful woman being part of our roots, if not as historically viable ideological truth.
now if all that a reviewer can see in Amaya is simplicity and cliché, then that barely seems like the show’s problem.