by Louanne Calipayan
The AlunAlun Dance Circle (ADC) joined the final episode of GMA 7’s Sahaya telecast on 6 September 2019. The ADC participated in the production by dancing on the show during the celebratory ritual scenes, where the Badjao/ Sama Dilaut community gathered together for thanksgiving and feasting. Sahaya is the first primetime drama series that boldly tackles the struggles of the Badjao or Sama Dilaut–one of the most discriminated indigenous groups in the country. The story is set in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, Palawan, Southern Tagalog Region, and Metro Manila as it follows the arduous life journeys of the lead characters. The title role of Sahaya was portrayed by Bianca Umali while Miguel Tanfelix essayed the role of the lead male Sama Dilaut character named Ahmad.
Since the airing of the highly-rated show in March 2019, the ADC had been tapped as performers in the essential scenes that exhibited Sama Dilaut culture such as music and dance. Among the “regular” dancers on the show were Mannex Siapno, Lyndie Literal, and Arafa Biste, who, together with Levi Azarcon, were also utilized as musicians. One of the memorable performances was an episode wherein they performed the magjinn, a ritual to appease angered spirits or to cast away bad fortune.
Louanne Calipayan appeared on the last episodes, while Joy Cruz was able to join a shoot, though the taping of the scene didn’t push through. In two taping days, UP TUGMA musicians of the UP College of Music were also tapped by ADC to play traditional Sama Dilaut percussion music.
As the daily drama series approached its exciting final episode, the ADC members fondly recalled their experiences while taping the episodes of Sahaya, most of which were done at the show’s specially-constructed Badjao village in Calatagan, Batangas. Mannex Siapno recalled how they had to wake up around 4 a.m. to catch the GMA van to Batangas, the long hours of waiting, giving his best during the shoot, then watching the episode on TV to discover only shots of his fingers made it to the show!
Meanwhile, Lyndie Literal shared how excited and nervous she was during the shoot and was happy to have experienced how it was to be on the show with the actors, directors, and the production team. She found it to be a challenging experience that was well worth the long hours and the effort. Levi Azarcon also echoed these sentiments. He said he was happy to be part of it, and welcomed the chance to show igal / pangalay on mainstream TV and have it appreciated by the viewers. He also noted how kind the production team was, and how the directors were still able to stay calm and smile even when they were already tired.
One unforgettable experience for the ADC performers was dancing on a boat, when the sea was a little turbulent. The waves made them appreciate pangalay / igal all the more. Arafa Biste, a Tausug / Sama from Tawi-tawi who is also part of ADC, shared how he appreciated the lessons on the value of hard work which is one of underlying themes of the story of Sahaya.
Joy Ricote shared that although the taping of the scene didn’t push through when she was there, she enjoyed and appreciated being on the set, because it was really well-researched and the effort by the production team really paid off. Being part of the production of Sahaya was truly one of the ADC’s most unforgettable projects.