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MANILA, Philippines – The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has called on ABS-CBN to “immediately rectify” its portrayal of the Bagani in its teleserye of the same name, and warned that if the network fails to do so, the NCIP would exhaust all means available to protect the cultural integrity of IPs.
NCIP chairperson Leonor Oralde-Quintayo made the call in a statement, where she also lectured ABS-CBN on the Bagani.
“Bagani is real, not a fictional and not even a mythological group of warriors, which the ABS-CBN TV series would like the portray,” Quintayo told the network on Monday, March 5, the same day that the TV series premiered.
The said Bagani “is an exclusively indigenous term that refers to the peacekeeping force of the Manobo Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples…and other ICCs/IPs in Mindanao.”
Quintayo noted that the Bagani “defends and protects lives, properties, and territory” and that “its prime duty is to guard the ancestral domain against any intrusion from outside forces that pose threat to the lives of the ICCs/IPs.”
“It is a sensitive position and class not lightly ascribed to just any person and never to those outside the ICCs/IPs,” she said.
“By portraying Bagani as merely fictional or mythological, and without reference to the historical and cultural significance, the TV fantasy show distorts, misleads, and confuses rather than educates the Filipino TV viewers on the indigenous concept and term ‘Bagani.’ It is not surprising that members of the Manobo and other ICC’s/IPs took deep offense on the appropriation of the term Bagani on the show,” Quintayo added.
In view of this “injustice,” the NCIP chief said the network should act to correct the “misleading” portrayal of the Bagani in its series or face possible legal consequences.
“We call on ABS-CBN to IMMEDIATELY RECTIFY the injustice committed in using the word ‘Bagani’ and to prevent misleading or confusing the general public by giving false information about the concept,” Quintayo said.
“Otherwise, the NCIP, together with the concerned ICCs/IPs will be constrained to take all necessary remedies to protest and fulfill the rights of the indigenous peoples to their cultural integrity as guaranteed by the Constitution and by law,” she added.
The teleserye drew flak online when it released its teaser in February for casting actors and actresses with mestizo features, when the drama was set in pre-colonial Philippines. (READ: 8 actors and actresses we’d love to see in ‘Bagani’ and Bagani draws flak for casting, Liza responds)
The issue did not stop there as IP groups called out the TV network for “misusing” the term “Bagani.”
IP spokesperson Melissa Claire Icdang Barrera told Rappler in a text message on Wednesday, March 7, that ABS-CBN’s use of the term Bagani, which is held sacred among the Lumad in Mindanao, is culturally insensitive.
“Even if they have said several times that they didn’t get the term from a particular IP group – if they do some intensive research – they would learn that the term has its own Manobo roots and that it has relevance to their history and culture,” she added.
CHED weighs in
Meanhwhile, in a letter sent to ABS-CBN’s Karlo Katigbak, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Ronald Adamat slammed the network for misusing the word “Bagani” in its teleserye.
Adamat said that it was not enough for the producers and writers of the show 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.”
After the NCIP posted its statement on Facebook, Star Creatives, the business unit behind the teleserye, released a statement saying that the show is not in any way “intended to malign or disrespects beliefs of the Indigenous Peoples’ communities”
“To be clear, the ‘Bagani’ fantaserye does not purport itself to be a historical account of Philippine history or culture,” the statement read.
ABS-CBN also said that the “program has also 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, belifes, and heroism.”
But for IP spokesperson Barrera, this does not excuse the network for being culturally insensitive.
“They have to be aware that when they say inspired by ‘Filipino Mythology,’ they still must portray the teleserye – or any form of art – with reverence to its roots,” Barrera said.
Asked about her message to ABS-CBN Star Creatives, she said: “We do not denounce creativity. They just need to improve their storytelling skills by being aware of things such as cultural sensitivity, establishing the time, and setting.”
ABS-CBN is currently in talks with IP representatives regarding the show. “Bagani” premiered Monday, March 5, and reportedly gained a high nationwide rating. – Rappler.com