MANILA, Philippines - Dyesebel is swimming its way into the ABS-CBN Primetime Bida, premiering tonight with Anne Curtis in the title role. On small and big screens, Anne is the seventh actress who gets the chance to play the iconic half-human, half-fish character. It was first introduced in the 1953 movie starring Edna Luna and Jaime dela Rosa.
The teleserye version is a perfect way to usher in the summer, but it also reminds the young that the Mars Ravelo’s work is both a literary masterpiece and cultural artifact.
“The renaissance (revival) of the pop culture of a prior generation is like bridging the whole family’s viewing experience from the parents to the children,” says Deo Endrinal, ABS-CBN TV Production business unit head and Dreamscape Entertainment Television head, of the network’s effort to wed culturally-sensitive programs with original ones. “It’s a good experience if they can relate it (Dyesebel) to the younger generation.”
The effort speaks of the Kapamilya network’s family-orientation. In the case of Dyesebel, it will be an “entertainment for the whole family,” says Deo. “But we also do originals which are for the young. (But) the older generation can appreciate (them as new concepts).”
Dyesebel is a classic concept that people of all ages and from different generation can relate to. This is true since many of us grew up reading children’s tales that captivate our innocence and imagination.
“It’s actually the journey of one woman who tries to unite two worlds, being the only one who is half-human and half-mermaid,” relates Deo. “The objective of the character is to be able to create harmony between the two opposing worlds that she represents.”
The latest re-imagining of Dyesebel goes beyond the character’s desire to be part of a man’s world. It will also introduce the public to some present-day pressing issues.
“In the past, global warming was not a concern,” says Deo. “There was not much environmental interest in protecting the seas. (Thus) we created a mythology that the creatures in the sea and the people on land lived harmoniously until time came when (the latter) started to destroy the environment of the sea, and eventually affecting the sustenance of its creatures.”
With that, literature proves to be a rich source of stories to be told on TV, and a potential platform to educate audiences.
Recreating Dyesebel on TV is a daunting task. The ABS-CBN-Dreamscape team had to do “character brand essence,” an advertising activity. The members tried to understand and view Dyesebel in a new perspective.
They did a survey on who could best embody the character among Kapamilya young actresses. The people’s choice was Anne. After, the story was drafted with close coordination with the Ravelo family. It provided the team a style guide on concerns such as the color (salmon orange) of the tail and the design of the clam shell (kabibe). From there, the story developed and so was the character.
“The effort to buy the whole catalogue is to be able to introduce (Pinoy pop culture) to Filipinos, not just in the Philippines, but also (those who are based abroad),” says Deo. “It is a conscious effort (on the part of the network) to infuse something cultural, something environmental. (It’s an effort to) show the (country’s) tourism, the places (people can go to). (Injecting) a little of history (is something) we also do in other programs, not just in fantasy stories.” The Dyesebel team scoured the best beaches in the country for its setting. Palawan and Batangas topped the list.
Since an engaging fantasy story is also better interpreted with digital technology, the team works with a group that “takes care all the requirements as far as the effects are concerned,” says Deo. “It includes the actual enhancement of underwater scenes, recreating (them) in a dry scenario. It is not necessary that all shots should be done in the water. We have to be very competitive because we are not just being viewed by Filipinos in the Philippines, but we are also viewed globally through the Filipino Channel. We have to admit that we have to be competitive enough when we are (watched) side by side with an American production. We have to be world-class, we have to reinvent ourselves and bring a new (viewing) experience to television.”
If entertaining people means bringing “film experience to television,” count Deo and his team to be in front of it.
(Dyesebel also stars Gerald Anderson, Sam Milby, Gabby Concepcion, Dawn Zulueta, Gina Pareño, Ai-Ai delas Alas, Albert Martinez, Eula Valdez, Andi Eigenmann, Bangs Garcia, Ogie Diaz, Neil Coleta, Bodie Cruz, Markki Stroem, David Chua, Young JV, Nico Antonio and Erin Ocampo. The fantasy-dr is directed by Don Cuaresma and Francis Pasion.)