Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Juan de la Cruz: What Made It the Current Rage on Philippine TV and a Huge Success, A Review by James U. Sy Jr.

Since its premiere on ABS-CBN and on TFC on February 4, 2013, Dreamscape’s Juan dela Cruz has become a sensational hit among Filipino televiewers. So successful was the teleserye that its cast embarked on a multiple-city tour nationwide starting in about the second quarter of 2013 with the masses welcoming them with relentless cheers and admiration. The only other teleserye I can remember that had this kind of multiple-city tour and intensity of welcome may well be GMA’s historically-researched epic Amaya, which starred Marian Rivera. What’s more Juan de la Cruz has spawned a prequel, My Little Juan, which is shown earlier in the afternoon, and gave rise to novelty items such as JDC DVDs, soundtracks, and Tagabantay toy swords as well as public-reminder type informmercials by Nescafe where Juan de la Cruz lead star Coco Martin gives the message to the televiewers, and civic events where the cast go to schools and give out items to indigent students. If I’m not mistaken and if my memory serves me right, this kind of reception and widespread publicity/promotion for a teleserye is unprecedented in the history of Philippine TV. This is why I am taking this opportunity to write a commentary about this epic masterpiece by Director Malu Sevilla. So what makes Juan de la Cruz tick? I believe it is because it touches the very essence of being a Filipino. We are all aware that Filipinos are well-attuned to their emotions; that’s the reason why soap operas, be they Filipino, Korean, or Mexican, click with Filipino televiewers. However, Juan de la Cruz is not in the usual mold of face slapping and crying buckets of tears most often associated with Philippine soap operas. If we look back, GMA’s Amaya was a huge success because it was a perspective outside the box and its research team presented to the public a cultural base of the Philippine Islands and the Filipino people, before unknown to many of the new generation, except for the learned strata of society; it made Filipinos proud to be Filipino, just as when Manny Pacquiao wins a match. The same formula has been applied to Juan de la Cruz, albeit in a less than obvious manner. Let me expound on this. Some have asserted that Filipinos are culturally confused. They don’t know if they are Malay, Chinese, Spanish, American, or some other race. Others have pointed out that Filipinos have a colonial mentality, thinking that anything foreign is better. This phenomenon is easily explained by the fact that the Filipino race is a fusion of different races that have inhabited and invaded the Philippine Islands through the centuries, and by extension, their distinct cultures and histories, things that ultimately define an ethnic group. Since the cultures that comprise the Filipino race are so diverse, it is very hard to define and describe the Filipino psyche in a few, simplified generalized pronouncements, as there will always be exceptions. But then it is this diversity that makes the Filipino race unique in itself. As an amalgation of different cultures, the Filipino race through the centuries has evolved its own distinct culture, with regional variations, that despite having been descended from different cultures has over time evolved into something uniquely Filipino. The Philippines is the third largest English speaking nation in the world and the only in Asia that speaks both English and Spanish (Zaide 20). It is the only Catholic nation in Asia (Zaide 24). Dr. Sonia M. Zaide wrote, “Our history is indeed unique for the variety, the intensity and the duration of our historical, cultural and scientific relations with other nations” (Zaide 3). So what do these anthropological facts have to do with Juan de la Cruz? A lot actually. Juan de la Cruz represents what a Filipino is, a character the televiewers can relate to and proud to embody the Filipino psyche. Let me elaborate on this by first giving you a historical background on the name Juan de la Cruz. Juan de la Cruz, the symbolic name for the Filipinos, was not actually coined by a Filipino, but by a Scottish born journalist, R. R. McCulloch Dick, who was working for the Manila Times in the early 1900’s. He discovered that it was the most popular name in police blotters and court dockets in and around the city (Barrameda “Inquirer Trivia: Juan de la Cruz”). Juan de la Cruz has highlighted several positive Filipino values which televiewers may remember being ingrained into them by their parents and elders. The typical close knit Filipino family ties is exemplified in Juan de la Cruz where Juan always strived for the good of his family and worked hard to protect them from harm. This is further highlighted when Amelia (Mylene Dizon), Juan’s mother, had to go to hiding to protect her then unborn son; when Juan got to know his lolo Julian “Jules” dela Cruz (Eddie Garcia) and when he started longing for his father; when Rosario Galang (Erich Gonzales) had to give up her love for Juan after he killed her father Mang Pepe (Joel Torre); and when Samuel Alejandro (Albert Martinez), Juan’s father, started sacrificing his duties as Haring Aswang for his son. Clearly, these manifestations of the close knit family ties is often seen in Filipino families, which is in direct contrast to American culture where children have more informal relationship with their parents. Loyalty to friends is simply the extension to the close knit Filipino family ties, as friends and teammates work together to battle evil. After Juan de la Cruz got support via the media, the Filipino spirit of bayanihan has been shown as average people reach out to help Juan and the Kapatiran. The teleserye had also shown manifestations of respect, not only to elders but to one’s fellow man as well, which is very Filipino. Being a Catholic nation, Filipino televiewers can easily relate to the teachings given by Fr. Ramoncito “Cito” Gonzales (Jaime Fabregas) and the other elders to Juan. Being good to one’s fellowmen, and to control one’s anger are just some of the Christian values that Filipinos would be familiar with. The Bakal na Krus itself is symbolic of righteousness the continuing struggle between good and evil in this world. Juan, depicted in several scenes praying to “Bossing,” exemplify the deeply religious nature of Filipinos, full of faith to the almighty. The numerous setbacks experienced by Juan along the way helped him grow from an orphan boy hated by the townsfolk for his innocent shortcomings into a more matured and responsible person idolized by many, especially the younger ones. It exemplifies the resiliency of the Filipinos, their struggle of being strong in the face of adversity, hardship, and sufferings and to come on top of a difficult situation. Certain aspects of Filipino courtship and romance have been provided by Juan and Rosario, who also gave life to the usual quarrels between Filipino lovers. Prinsesa Mirathea (Shaina Magdayao) symbolizes the silent admirer but who would not do anything to harm her friends’ relationship. Bagno (Martin del Rosario) represents the Filipino guy who will fight for his love. While not expressly mentioned, Arnis/Eskrima had been featured in Juan de la Cruz through the trainings and fight scenes depicted in some episodes involving swords, sticks, and knives. Warriorship has always been part of the Filipino people, even before the Spaniards set foot in the islands. The four weapons of the Bakal na Krus symbolizes some of the more important values of a Filipino warrior. Katapangan and kagitingan are without a doubt the primary traits of the Filipino warrior as he fought against different kinds of invaders through the centuries. Kataraungan, a word borrowed by the Tagalog language from the Cebuano word tarung, represents the warrior’s ethics of only using his weapon and skills in defense and as a last resort and not in unnecessary killing. This was best exemplified when Tonton (Zaijan Jaranilla) told Juan that his job was killing aswangs; Juan replied, “Ang misyon ko ay hindi para pumatay ng aswang, kundi para protektahan ang mga tao laban sa mga aswang.” Of the four weapons of the Bakal na Krus, the espada and the sibat best represent warriorship in pre-Hispanic Visayas. Prof. William henry Scott wrote that Visayans were experts with the bangkaw. In certain scenes of Juan de la Cruz, Coco Martin wields the espada like a kampilan, a standard weapon in early Visayas. A more obvious attention-getting feature of the teleserye is its portrayal of supernatural beings immortalized in Filipino folklore such as the aswangs, diwata, and tikbalang. While there are variations in the teleserye’s depictions of these characters from the traditional descriptions, such as the appearance and some qualities of the aswangs, the production did a good job in putting life into these depictions, such as the aversion of aswangs to bawang and the use of buntot pagi against them. Ultimately, Juan de la Cruz symbolizes the Filipino people, their values, their thoughts, and their culture. This is the reason why it is a huge success. Every Filipino who watch the series see something in him/her that is in Juan de la Cruz. This is one work worth congratulating ABS-CBN nad Dreamscape. 9th Bakbakan of Eskrimadors Held in Pta. Taytay Part I by James U. Sy Jr. DEMONSTRATIONS. Founder/Grandmaster Romeo Postrano and members of the Mandatus Arnis Sikaran Kali (MASK) demonstrated various Arnis blocking, striking, disarming, and anyo with elements traceable to the teachings of Grandmasters Hortencio Navales and Teotimo Buenaflor. Jason Clyde Guarra Poral, grandson of President/Grandmaster P/Sgt. (Ret.) Estanislao T. Guarra, represented Guarra Style Modern Arnis with a solo nunchaku form. Founder/Master Roy R. Flores and Instructor Matthew Slade Cabiles of Tribu Hangaway Philippines gave a demonstration of various defenses against hold up situations. Founder/Master James U. Sy Jr. of Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. with the assistance of Master Joselito Guzon of GACS demonstrated knife and gun disarms, punch defense, and seated defense. Founder Remer Decripito, Chief Instructor of the Siete Pares Arnis Club, performed a solo anyo. Host Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS) demonstrated kids’ solo baston, doble baston, and pangamut by Janber Guinabo and Jerwin Palma, solo espada y daga by Rene Cyril Endonila, knife flow drill by Endonila and Vincent Española, espada y daga by Janber Guinabo and Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo, and disarming and locking by GM Guinabo and Christian Decena. 10th Bakbakan of Eskrimadors a Success Part I by James U. Sy Jr. The 10th Bakbakan of Eskrimadors was successfully held by the Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS) of Founder/Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo in cooperation with Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. of Founder/Master James U. Sy Jr., Gaisano Grand Bacolod Mall represented by Advertising OIC Vergil Pama Sausi, Negros Occidental Baston Federation (NOBF), Inc. of Founder/Grandmaster Atty. Col. Marcelo C. Jalandoon, Ph.D., and President/Grandmaster P/Sgt. (Ret.) Estanislao T. Guarra, and Intercontinental Federation of Filipino Martial Arts Schools (IFFMAS) Inc. under President Grandmaster Elmer V. Montoyo last July 27, 2013 at the Atrium Area, Gaisano Grand Bacolod Mall, Araneta St., Bacolod City. DEMONSTRATIONS. Grandmaster Romeo Postrano led members of his Mandatus Arnis Sikaran Kali (MASK) in demonstrating their interpretation of anyo and street self defense using methods desce3nded from Grandmasters Hortencio Navales and Teotimo Buenaflor. Rev. Gaudencio Lingamen Jr., Founder of Garrote y Lanza and the representative of the Philippine Integrated Martial Arts Academy-Filipino Tang Soo Do Assn. (PIMAA-FTSDA), Inc. for San Enrique, demonstrated solo forms for talibung (28” long, 525 gms.), sosetsukon dos palos (40” long, 500 gms.), and talibung y dos palos. Masters Stephen Roy and Stephen Rey S. Dedel, Founders of Pangamut International (PI), an affiliate of Lapu-Lapu Viñas Arnis Aficionados, demonstrated sequences for the knife as well as defenses against it. The Ramon Torres National High School Arnis Team under by Coaches Brian P. Martir and Roel B. Pineda and Trainors Wilson and Randy A. Alvarado was represented by Christian Reyes, 2011 (Capiz) Regional Meet labanan champion and solo anyo bronze medalist, with a DepEd likha anyo (creative form). Founder/Master James U. Sy Jr. of Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. performed a live blade anyo and with the assistance of Senior instructor Noel Emmanuel Arendon of GACS, demonstrated knife and gun disarms, punch defense, and chair vs stick. Host Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS) demonstrated kids’ solo baston, doble baston, and pangamut by Janber Guinabo and Jerwin Palma, solo espada y daga by Rene Cyril Endonila, knife flow drill by Endonila and Vincent Española, espada y daga by Janber Guinabo and Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo, and disarming and locking by GM Guinabo and Christian Decena.

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