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Lumads speak out against ABS-CBN’s “Bagani”

The moment I saw the preview on TV a few weeks back, my interest was piqued which was a first considering that I’ve never really liked or followed any of the local TV series’ based on Filipino folklore/history/culture/mythology from both ABS-CBN and rival network GMA 7. I am of course referring to the newest offering by ABS-CBN the now controversial ‘Bagani’ – billed to be ‘drama fantasy series’ conceptualized from elements of Philippine history.

The first criticism thrown at ‘Bagani’ was the casting of actors and actresses that had Caucasian blood to play characters that were supposedly from the pre-colonial times. It is inappropriate and awkward to see fair-skinned actors playing characters that were supposedly dark-skinned. Using make up to darken their skin just made the whole thing worse.

The second and more profound criticism against ‘Bagani’ is the misappropriation of the word used as it’s title. It turns out that the word ‘Bagani’ is of Manobo origins and has a deep meaning for the Indigenous Peoples. To explain further, I borrow the words of several individuals who are from the IP community.

First up, is Melchor Umpan Bayawan, a staff at the House of Representatives, hails from Mindanao and is himself a Manobo:

TO MARK ANGOS, THE WRITER OF THE ABS-CBN, BAGANI TELESERYE TO BE LAUNCHED ON MARCH 4, 2018 LET ME SHARE A SHORT BACKGROUND ABOUT THE BAGANI FROM A MANOBO PERSPECTIVE IN MINDANAO Bagani are tribal defenders of their territory or ancestral land. They are not selected by anybody to become a Bagani, but they are anointed by a spirit called “Mondaangan.” A group of Bagani is composed of seven (7) men; always ready for a fight to defend their community. They devote themselves to Mondaangan who watches-over them, but they submit to the authority of their chief Datu as the head of the community. Most of the time they fought against individuals with bad intentions and group of people that creates trouble to the community – the “Mongayow.” Each Bagani brings with him a weapon, iether a sword (polihuma), bow and arrow (pana), spear (pongassu) coupled with a wooden shield (kaasag). Before they go to face an enemy, it is their practise to do a ritual to pay respect to Mondaangan and request to bless their weapons. It is said that Baganis with the blessing from the Mondaangan posseses fierce looking face with blood-red eyes. It is a blatant disrespect committed by this writer; taking advantage of our culture and traditions for thier selfish interest. May a devine retribution befalls on you!

TO MARK ANGOS, THE WRITER OF THE ABS-CBN, BAGANI TELESERYE TO BE LAUNCHED ON MARCH 4, 2018LET ME SHARE A SHORT…

Posted by Melchor Umpan Bayawan on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Next is Melissa Claire, a Lumad from Davao City:

AN OPEN LETTER TO ABS-CBN AND THE PRODUCTION TEAM OF BAGANI: As a Lumad, I take offense in the use of the term ‘Bagani’ as the title for your upcoming teleserye that doesn’t even pay proper homage to our real Baganis. It is an outright disrespect to our history and culture when the use of this term contradicts the very essence of what it means to be a Bagani. Being a Bagani does not only mean ‘to have exemplary fighting skills’, but to be able to defend the people from colonizers and entities who are robbing us off from our identity. An identity that is 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. The writers of the said teleserye (headed by Mr. Mark Angos) cannot hide under artistic license, or the claim of fictionality, because they are using a part of our culture for different agenda. This is a classic example of cherry-picking cultures for the sake of profiteering at the expense of revising our narratives. This does not mean that one cannot take inspiration from diversity. But I deem that there is a proper way to do it. Big corporations such as ABS-CBN are capable enough to do extensive research for productions that are inspired from indigenous stories or as how Mr. Angos puts it, ‘Philippine mythologies’. For others, this may seem to be a minor error. But it’s already 2018 and Lumads are still victims of cultural misappropriations. Shows like this—especially those that are broadcasted nationwide—perpetuates the continuous trivialization of our history and narratives. It furthers the haze that prevents Filipinos from knowing and relating to the different ethnolinguitic groups of this country. I stand that if ABS-CBN continues to air the said teleserye on March 4, THEY MUST REFRAIN FROM USING THE TERM BAGANI AS ITS TITLE. However, it would do more justice to all Filipinos that THEY HALT THE AIRING OF THE SAID TELESERYE AND OVERHAUL ALL ITS ELEMENTS INCLUDING THE CASTING , THE PLOT, THE PHILOSOPHY/IES AND LENS/ES USED FOR THE STORY.

Lastly, Ferdausi Saniel Cerna, a Lumad living in Butuan City reminds us all of a provision from Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act:

Just a reminder: SECTION 32. Community Intellectual Rights. — ICCs/IPs have the right to practice and revitalize their own cultural traditions and customs. The State shall preserve, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures as well as the right to the restitution of cultural, intellectual, religious, and spiritual property taken without their free and prior informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.- IPRA

Just a reminder: SECTION 32. Community Intellectual Rights. — ICCs/IPs have the right to practice and…

Posted by Ferdausi Saniel Cerna on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

For its side, ABS-CBN has claimed that it’s not trivializing any tribal groups and that ‘Bagani’ “takes place in an alternate fantasy universe unrelated to pre-colonial Philippines.

‘Bagani’ has premiered today, March 5, 2018. Should ABS-CBN heed the call of IPs and make changes to the show? How this controversy will play out remains to be seen.

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Bloggers for Freedom

It grabbed headlines last January 15, the SEC has come out with a ruling revoking Rapper’s Certificate of Incorporation for allegedly violating the Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities in the Philippines. The alleged violation is its issuance of PDR or Philippine Depository Receipts to Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

While other media entities in the Philippines have also used PDRs to receive investments from foreign entities, what makes Rappler’s case stand out is the following:

In the run up to the SEC decision, Rappler has already been at the receiving end of attacks from the Duterte administration for its critical reporting, with no less than President Duterte himself calling the news outfit a source of fake news while the President’s closest allies have repeatedly labeled Rappler as a propaganda machine for the Liberal Party. The Duterte Administration, just like the President himself, has not taken criticisms all too well. Threatening the imposition of martial law, filing of cases and even downright violence against media personalities critical of the government.

And so while the SEC’s decision does raise the legitimate issue that Rappler’s PDR arrangements with Omidyar Network may have run afoul of Constitutional limits – which also means other media entities using the same financial instrument for foreign funding might also be needed to be scrutinized, the SEC’s decision to revoke Rappler’s Certificate of Incorporation outright, effectively shutting it down, is a textbook case of government attack on press freedom and free speech for both are fundamental Constitutional rights.

And whenever our fundamental Constitutional rights are under threat from the government, one must not simply sit idle and watch from the sidelines.

So I join my fellow bloggers and citizens in responding to this threat, initially with the collective statement below:

Bloggers for Freedom

We concerned Filipino bloggers stand for the rights to free expression and to free speech. And our first responsibility is to protect these rights.

We thus stand with Rappler, its right to exist, the rights of its working journalists and contributors, and the rights of its community of readers.

We stand against moves to silence and scare journalists, bloggers and media practitioners just because the President and his ardent supporters dislike their news and views.

Now is a time for making choices amid battles between truth and lies, debate and dissonance, democracy and dictatorship.

We sign our names here to tell everyone we have made a choice. We are bloggers for freedom.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado
Tonyo Cruz
Dale Bacar
Marcelle Fabie
Myk Mykapalaran Cruz
Rod Magaru
Ely Valendez
Jeman Bunyi Villanueva
Alex Lapa
Tess Termulo
Zena Bernardo
Jover Laurio
James Romer V. Velina
Ramon Nocon
Flow Galindez
Helga Weber
Mc Richard Viana Paglicawan
Raymond Palatino
Loi Landicho
Saul de Jesus
Karlo Mongaya
Ricky Rivera
Mark Will Mayo Magallanes
Eyriche Cortez
Julius Mariveles
Yusuf Ledesma
RJ Barrete
Dino Manrique
Peachy Tan
Rhadem Camlian Morados
Julius Rocas
Jon Limjap
Markku Suguerra
Jam Ancheta
Estan Cabigas
Enrico Dee
Acee Vitangcol
Stefan Punongbayan
Jesus Falcis
Hancel Reyes
Czarina Maye Noche
JM Mariano
Reginald Agsalon
John Clifford Sibayan
Jane Uymatiao
Johnn Mendoza
Carlos Celdran
Christian Melanie
Jann Medina
Carlo Arvisu
Inday Espina Varona
Eugene Alvin Villar
Melo Villareal
Brian Ong
Fritz Tentativa
Fitz Villafuerte
Tina Antonio
Mykel Andrada
Reynaldo Pagsolingan Jr.
Renz Daniel de Vera

Published on January 19, 2018, Black Friday

You can join us, sign the statement here then post it on your blog or social media channel. Include the hashtags below. Better yet, join us at Boys’ Scout Circle, Timog/Morato Quezon City at 6PM and together let us stand for and defend press freedom.