GMA-7 is all set to air its most ambitious TV project to date: the historical epicserye Amaya, which is set during the 1500s. Mac Alejandre directs this series, which will air weeknights starting May 30.
The plot of Amaya revolves around the binukot, a tribal princess played by Marian Rivera. Her character is a noble princess who turns into a slave (uripon) before finally becoming the greatest female warrior of her time. She is Amaya, the epicserye’s central heroine whose journey will transcend fictional boundaries and recreate a moment in the nation’s cultural history.
Joining her in in this grand TV spectacle are Sid Lucero and model-turned-actor Mikael Daez. Sid is cast as Prince Bagani, the son of Rajah Mangubat (Gardo Versoza).
Sid reveals, "The setting is during the time when blood is honor [pre-colonial times]. My character does not believe in the same philosophy as his father. He is able to meet Amaya during his quest for a binukot. When you’re a princess kasi, you’re hidden from everybody and our paths cross and I see a star. I fall in love and I look for the star."
Mikael plays Lumad, an uripon warrior and Amaya’s loyal protector who falls in love with the beautiful heroine and will do everything for her.
Marian takes pride in starring in her first original TV series after starring in GMA-7’s past remakes of popular programs: Marimar, Dyesebel, Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang, Darna, and Endless Love.
Marian told members of the press in an interview earlier today at GMA Network, "First time ko gagawa ng original story. At walang kapangyarihan na nakikipaglaban. Sariling training ko at ako lang ang babaeng warrior na makikipaglaban sa lahat ng lalaki."
Just like the other princesses, Marian’s character led a very privileged life. "Binubuhat ako [bilang binukot]. Imagine n’yo, parang duyan na may apat na hawakan at apat na lalaki ang bumubuhat sa akin. Nakaupo ako sa duyan at nakatago. Bawat kaming prinsesa may ganun....ako, si Rochelle [Pangilinan] at Ms. Gina Alajar. Except si Ms. Lani Mercado na isang uripon, isa siyang alipin ng nanay ko."
She also reveals that she is an uripon for only a month and for the duration of the show, she will be a warrior who’s adept in sword-fighting. To prepare for her role, she studied arnis.
Production designer Rodel Cruz of Encantadia fame, among others, reveals that they recreated an ancient battle ship known as Karakoa that was used during the 1500s. It was built by 50 artisans for more than a month and cost over P1 million. He reveals, "Ni-lease lang namin ito sa gumagawa ng fishing boats sa Olongapo, inayos na lang namin ayon sa research."
The Karakoa even has an engine installed to facilitate its voyage, because the real Karakoa had 100 rowers that made its movement possible. He says that they were lucky they found a hull that closely resembles the hull of a karakoa and credits the team and historical consultants for ensuring that each part of the ship is as close to the real thing as possible.
The Karakoa took over a month to build, with one team working on the hull and other technicals, another team working on the trimming and other details. Rodel explains that it was a collaborative effort that got the ship up and sailing.
Rodel shares that their directive is to create a grand historical epicserye and raise the bar for TV productions. He says, "Napakalaki ng standards na inano sa amin, ang buzzword namin ay raise the bar, so hopefully it works."
"From what we see, promising that we’ll make it."
Rodel confides that the Karakoa, with all its complexities, is actually one of the smaller "sets" they had to make. They had to create entire villages where most of the action will take place. There is one village dedicated to the kingdom of Rajah Bugna (Raymond Bagatsing) who plays Marian Rivera’s father as as well as another village for Rajah Mangubat (Gardo Versoza). Gardo plays the father of Sid Lucero and Mikael Daez and the husband of Ayen Laurel.
It’s so extensive that the exterior and interior parts of the village are in two different locations. The exterior shots are to be done in Pagsanjan, Laguna where they shot Marlon Brando’s Apocalypse Now. The battlefield is set in Bolinao, Pangasinan.
Rodel pointed out that with sets this big and complicated, it wouldn’t have been possible to produce the whole set design inside an airconditioned space like Encantadia. He says that given the limitations, they did their best to create authentic worlds for the characters of Amaya to move in.
Rodel explains that because the 1500’s centered on trade within the region, he made sure to include details such as Rajah Mangubat owning rare Chinese artifacts, silks, etc.
"Mas mahirap gawin ang Amaya dahil may point of reference. Sa Encantadia, kung ano yung nasa imahinasyon ko, puwede ’yan gawan ng paraan upang maging reality. Dito, visual and scholastic research kailangan."
Amaya’s production team reaches anywhere from 60 to 100 people for the different sets.
"Personally, I’m happy na kaya natin gumawa ng ganito in spite of all the limitations such as: the budget, having to work within a specific point of historical reference, and more."
To prepare for the battle scenes, the cast members took martial arts training. They employed arnis-inspired moves for their sword-fighting sequences.