Amaya is a Filipino live-action TV series, created and aired by local studio GMA Network, with writer Suzette Doctolero as Showrunner. It premiered in early 2011, and put out 165 half-hour episodes, daily on weekdays (following a Telenovela or Soap Opera format), until mid-2012.
It is very notable for being one of the few recent examples of Filipino period dramas set during the late precolonial period of Philippine history: specifically, sometime in the early 16th century, shortly before the first recorded contact with Europeans: the 1521 arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish expedition in the Visayas, the central part of the would-be Philippines, where in Real Life he would lose his life fighting against warriors led by Datu Lapu-lapu at the Battle of Mactan Island.
It stars the (ironically Spanish-mestiza in Real Life) actress Marian Rivera in the title role. Amaya is the sort-of princess born, out of wedlock, to Datu (Chief) Bugna, who commands a banwa (roughly, community) somewhere in the precolonial Visayas, and to Dal-ang, an uripon ("slave") under his command. Because Amaya is the offspring of a high-ranking datu and a lowly uripon, her social status averages out to freeing her by default; and because a tiny snake followed Amaya out of Dal-ang's womb, Amaya turns out to be The Chosen One for fulfilling the prophecy made by a babaylan (priestess) that one day a child would be born with a snake for a twina sign of favour from their deities and ancestorsand will grow up to be a feared warrior, and defeat the powerful Rajah Mangubat, to whom her father, Datu Bugna, swore fealty via blood compact.
And therein lies the problem. For all that the deities and spirits might declare their favour for Amaya, there are actual, physically present people who are not okay with this, including Rajah Mangubat himself, and Diyan Lamitan, Datu Bugna's paramount or "official" wife, who on top of the pressure of needing to give him a male heir, dislikes his lavishing favours on the lowly uripon, Dal-ang.
- One-Word Title
- As You Know: The show tends to do this when explaining terms for various aspects of precolonial culture. Possibly justifiable since much about Philippine precolonial culture is little-known to modern, colonised, and Westernised mass audiences.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: The execution and funeral in the pilot of the first babaylan, or priestess, who predicts Rajah Mangubat's fate at the hands of the coming "warrior with a snake twin", is closely followed by news of Dal-ang's pregnancy with who else but Amaya, said would-be warrior (and, of course, the snake twin).
- Bling of War: The vast majority of characters wear a profusion of gold jewellery; the higher their social status, the more bling they wear (in fact, in Real Life, even slaves went about with some gold accessories). Leaders like Datu Bugna and Rajah Mangubat wear an especial lot of gold, befitting their status as warrior-kings; they also wear brightly colourful clothes.
- The Chosen One: Born of a slave woman and a datu, Amaya herself was the one destined to slay Rajah Mangubat.
- Ensemble Cast: A function of Loads and Loads of Characters, given the series' length.
- The Empire: The puod of Rajah Mangubat, formed from his wars of conquests and his network of alliances.
- Fallen Princess: Quite literally. Born a freeperson because she was the daughter of the Datu to a slave, Amaya was raised as a binukot (covered woman, an isolated eligible daughter) in her father's household and treated as royalty. Upon being made a slave by her stepmother Diyan Lamitan, she must climb the ranks of precolonial Visayan society to earn her revenge and put an end to Lamitan's machinations once and for all.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: A small-scale example in Diyan Lamitan, who has Dal-ang brutally punished for daring to receive Datu Bugna's affections and for also bearing him a child.
- The Good King: Datu Bugna is revered as this by his subjects, while Bagani, Rajah Mangubat's son, plans to be this early in his life.
- The Good Kingdom: The banwa of Datu Bugna.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: Most everyone is wearing some ensemble of brightly colourful, densely patterned, woven fabrics, and intricate jewellery of gold, precious stones and other materialseven slaves were entitled to some degree of this, but of course higher-caste members like the kadatuan, tumao, and warriors wear the most gold and the most intricate patterns. And even where people showed actual skin (more than you'd expect, considering this was the maritime tropics), it's often extensively tattooed; on warriors this was a sign of bravery and victorious conquest, but many non-warriors like babaylan sported full-body tattoos too. It's clear much of the series' budget went into the sumptuous costume designs and makeup.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Bahasa Melayu is used for some trade scenes. Truth in Television: Malay was indeed a commercial lingua franca even in the would-be Philippines in precolonial times, although it too likely differed a bit from modern Bahasa Melayu. Plus, being a regional lingua franca then, it technically wouldn't have been considered entirely "foreign".
- Heir Club for Men: Datu Bugna's main flaw was his desire to sire a male heir to inherit his realm. Both his daughters from Diyan Lamitan were girls, as was his child from his slave lover. He warms up to Amaya because she was born with a twin snake, and raises her in his household.
- Heroic Bastard: Amaya herself, since her mother Dal-ang isn't technically married to Datu Bugna, though "bastard" children don't quite have the stigma here that they do in subsequent colonial, and modern Western, society; they inherit less than children of a "primary marriage", relatively, but otherwise aren't generally stigmatised in principle.
- High Priestess: The chief babaylan of every polity is revered as this.
- Irony as She Is Cast: Marian Rivera plays a precolonial Filipino warrior princess. Dingdong Dantes, today Marian Rivera's real-life husband, cameos in the show as Ferdinand Magellan.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Made a Slave: Diyan Lamitan sells Amaya into slavery upon Datu Bugna's death.
- Meaningful Name:
- Rajah Mangubat, whose name basically means "warrior" in old Bisaya.
- Diyan Lamitan's second daughter is literally named "Binayaan" because she was "shunned" by Datu Bugna for not being the male heir he had hoped for.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Upon learning that he was destined to be killed by a warrior woman born with a twin snake, he undergoes a campaign to murder every pregnant woman in his realms. By the time he reaches Datu Bugna's banwa, the woman destined to defeat him was already born. It helps that Datu Bugna hid the truth from him.
- On the Next: Every episode previews the next when the credits roll (except, obviously, the Grand Finale).
- Period Piece: Set about a generation before early 1500s, a few centuries before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition. The Late Middle Ages and The Renaissance would be the equivalent European time period.
- Plays Great Ethnics: Many members of the cast are Filipino Mestizos, of mixed ancestry.
- Previously On : Except, obviously, for the pilot, all episodes show brief highlights of the preceding episode.
- Protagonist Title
- Proud Warrior Race: Really, practically all of the precolonial Filipino natives, though there are specialised warrior castes among them.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Rajah Mangubat is one of the more particularly warlike among them, wearing mostly red to show that he's killed many in combat. The opening of the series posits a legend about him; that he grew to a child in a span of a day and became a warrior since then. It's in fact how he rose to power as Rajah(King); by the time of the series opening, he was already an undefeated conqueror capable of killing people with his thumbs.
- Rags to Royalty: Amaya's story is this zigzagged. Fathered by a Datu and his slave, she was raised by her father but was made a slave, then climbs up the ranks again to become a Warrior Princess. Her father, Datu Bugna only became royal by marriage and holds her in high regard because unlike him, she was born special.
- Screw Destiny: In Episode 4, Rajah Mangubat basically turns his back on his deities and ancestors when they continue to tell him (via the babaylan) that he cannot kill the child with the snake-twin who was destined to defeat him.
- Seers: The babaylan function as this, in addition to being ritual healers and spirit mediums. The chief babaylan murdered by Mangubat in the first episode was said by her acolyte to have never once been wrong, and predicts Mangubat's demise from a soon-to-be-born warrior with a snake twin. Another is shown channeling a spirit that confirms Rajah Mangubat's comeuppance from this very warrior (i.e., Amaya) and flat out tells him that he cannot stop what has been ordained.
- Shown Their Work
- The series took great pains to depict the precolonial Visayas before the arrival of the Spanish. The costumes are based largely on those documented from the pre-Colonial Philippines by the Boxer codex, and the societal rules were drawn from accounts mentioned by the Spanish chroniclers of the period.
- A key setpiece shown in the series is the Karakoa, a large wooden light warship noted by the Spanish for its speed and maneuverability.
- The finale, which is set during the eve of Magellan's arrival, is based on an actual legend. One babaylan (in the show an older Alunsina) mentions a foreboding fate of the people who lived there. The priestess of the legend was from the island of Bohol, which pins a real-world location for Datu Bugna's realm.
- Supernatural Soap Opera: There are fantastical elements in this series, like Amaya's having a snake for a twin, and prophecies by babaylan carrying real-world weight.
- Translation Convention:
- In the Real Life Visayas of the 1500s, locals would likely have been speaking a melange of old Visayan languages and dialects, interspersed probably with Malay and Sanskrit loanwords. The show has them speaking mostly Tagalog, to cater first to majority Tagalog-speaking audiences in or near the capital of Metro Manila, where it's produced.
- The Tagalog the show uses has also been scrubbed of most of its colonial Spanish (and English) loanwords, to project a more "genuine" precolonial atmosphere, but some Spanish ones still slip through (e.g. gusto for "like", mas for "more"), if only because a pure Tagalog, without European loanwords whatsoever, would flow less naturally and be harder to understand (the same would go for a pure Bisaya). And that's not to count the evolution of local word usage.
- The Malay they use in the show contains loan words from European languages, such as keramik for ceramics.
- Tropical Island Adventure: Set in the precolonial Philippine islands, in fact exploring several banwas or communities based on several different islands, so
- East Indies: The setting is before any recorded Spanish (or other European) arrival in the islands, so in consequence the local cultures shown here have much in common with cultures and societies to their south and west, in would-be Indonesia. The series is set around the end of the Majapahit Empire as well, shortly before the Portuguese and Dutch began to colonise Indonesia itself.
- Warrior Prince: Bagani gets in trouble because he is secretly not this, at least at first. Played straight and gender-inverted with Amaya herself.