My friend and colleague, writer and U.P. Professor Emil Flores, and I have always enjoyed watching and talking about action movies. We’re both frustrated with the fact that VERY FEW Filipino movies are showcasing Filipino martial arts like arnis and eskrima. Since I was already doing animation, I thought it would be fun to make a film to showcase these fighting techniques.
I called up Emil one night in October 2013 to ask if he wanted to collaborate on a fantasy / action / adventure story. At first we dubbed it “the Katipunero project” because the story initially involved Katipuneros. It evolved into a group of Filipino martial arts fighters who travel to the past to fight in the Filipino revolution.
Later, we decided to set the story in present day Manila and just make them vigilantes who are keen on arnis and eskrima. Finally, we settled on the characters being Katipunero warriors who are brought to the present to fight crime using age-old fighting techniques and weapons.
I’m very honored to have worked on this story with Emil and here he is to tell you more about how the project came together.
I’ve always loved action movies. Martial arts movies are particularly fascinating for me because a fighting style can reflect the culture that developed it. I think that martial arts movies are good vehicles for cultural exchange and even cultural pride. I love movies like Heroes of the East that showcase styles from different cultures namely China and Japan. In a film conference I attended in Singapore, a scholar from Thailand included Ong Bak in his discussion of nationalism in Thai films. Indeed, that particular film put Muay Thai on the global entertainment map. Then The Raid showcased Indonesian Silat to the global audience to rave reviews.
The Filipino martial arts have been proven to be effective combat systems and have been successfully portrayed in Hollywood movies like the Bourne series and even 300. But that’s precisely what I find baffling. Why are Hollywood movies showcasing Filipino martial arts and not FILIPINO movies? I can bring in a host of colonial and postcolonial discussion here about our relationship with the US. But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll just say that as a fan of animation and anime, I am tremendously excited that Arnold Arre is doing an animated series that features Filipino martial arts! I’m also grateful that he invited me to work on the project with him.
Arnold had the premise of three warriors from the 19th Century. He showed me his character designs for three fighters, and I figured they should represent three types of Filipino martial arts: pre-Hispanic, Hispanic influenced and Chinese influenced. These styles are represented by the characters’ weapons. The styles and weapons in turn, define their character backgrounds. The leader uses a kampilan, a sword identified as a weapon used by chieftains. This defines him as the leader and as a man who has lost his noble line due to the Spanish invasion. He sees the revolution as a battle not just for freedom but also for his ancestors’ honor. The female character, a Spanish mestiza, uses Spanish daggers. She has the invader’s blood in her veins but she forsook her privileged status to join the revolution. The third character uses a rope dart as he is a Chinese immigrant to the Philippines who, while keeping his own culture, still identifies himself as a Filipino as he also joins the revolution. All three now find themselves fighting a different war, a more ambiguous war, perhaps, in present day Manila.
I hope that this series will not just showcase great action and entertainment but also remind us of the warriors of the past who fought for our country and who continue to inspire us to appreciate our own culture and history.
(Emil Flores, May 28, 2014)
And now, just in time for Independence Day 2014, here it is:
Sila ang mga matang mulat sa marahas na pang-uusig. Sila ang patuloy na sumasaksi at lumalaban sa pawang paraang kanilang kinagisnan: Pakikipagdigmaan.
Lakas ng Lahi
(English title: Blood Compact)
Directed & Animated by Arnold Arre
Written by Emil Flores
Story by Arnold Arre & Emil Flores
Music composed by Cynthia Arre / arranged by Arnold Arre
Opening text Filipino translation by Neva Kares Talladen