November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Mulawin flies again

IT’S been 13 years since the first Mulawins took to the sky in a fantasy TV series about winged humanoids which became a hugely successful franchise, spawning a film, a mobile game and, now, a sequel.

“[Mulawin] did not sleep in our heads [in those 12 years], I dream about the characters often,” said Don Michael Perez, the show’s creator, head writer and one of its directors, during the launch on May 15 at the Hive Hotel in Quezon City.

He added that he kept dreaming and thinking about what had happened to the characters after the main story, which culminated in a movie in 2005, ended.

“This is a sequel, not a remake,” emphasized Dominic Zapata, the show’s director since its original run which started in 2004.

Now titled, Mulawin vs. Ravena, the show takes off eight years after the events in the movie -- the world is in relative peace after the saviors of both the Mulawin and the human race, Aguiluz (originally played by Richard Guttierez) and Alwina (originally played by Angel Locsin), successfully defeated the Ravena tribe. But the peace is short-lived as the remnants of the fallen tribe are gathering power, ready to rise up and do battle once again.

This time, the Mulawins must deal with the Ravena without the help of Aguiluz who sacrificed himself at the end of the movie, which leaves Alwina (now played by Heart Evangelista-Escudero) and new characters to fend off the Ravena.

Reprising their previous roles in the original series are Dennis Trillo as Gabriel, the former prince of the Ravena and now its king; and Miguel Tanfelix as the Mulawin Pagaspas.

New to the series are Carla Abellana who plays the Mulawin Aviona (originally Bianca King); Tom Rodriguez as Rodrigo the human who married Aviona; Ariel Rivera as Panabon, a representative of the Mulawin half-bloods; and Regine Velasquez-Alcasid as Sandawa, the immortal goddess of nature and keeper of Mt. Apo; among others.

But not everything is in black and white this time around as Mr. Zapata said the show has adapted to the tastes of audiences who have influenced by what they see in cable shows and streaming services.

“The audience’s taste -- I think -- has evolved, so you need to make characters that are a little more complex,” he told BusinessWorld shortly after the launch.

“I’m not even thinking about competition with the other networks. I’m thinking about what the audience is accustomed to and what they expect when they watch television,” he added, explaining the goal is to make a show that will make people switch on their televisions at a time when many of them prefer to get their entertainment on the Internet.

As it did take more than a decade for the sequel to be made, Mr. Perez noted since technology has advanced enough to make this “the perfect time to do a sequel.” Mr. Zapata made it his mission to create a “visually epic and massive show.”

Mulawin vs. Ravena is his attempt to “elevate Filipino entertainment.”

Mr. Zapata did admit that he might have drawn inspiration from epic series like HBO’s Game of Thrones, Netflix’s The Crown and Jessica Jones, and ITV’s Downton Abbey but not intentionally as “there’s so much stuff you get exposed to that you can’t help but be influenced by it, by the way they tell the story,” but he assured that ultimately the show is very Filipino.

“[It’s so Filipino] because it has its inspiration from local folklore. I find it very original,” he said, adding that unlike Superman who has a local counterpart Captain Barbell and Wonder Woman has Darna there are no foreign counterparts to Mulawin.

And because they wanted to make a show so massive and epic, Mr. Zapata said they have an equally massive set: “the sets alone would easily be more than twice [in size and cost] as Encantadia’s,” referring to a remake of another fantasy series which revolved around fairies who tried to protect their world, the titular Encantadia, from the encroaching evil kingdom of Hathoria.

Encantadia, which initially aired in 2005, was a spin-off from Mulawin as both shows co-exist in the same imaginary universe (think of it as the Philippines’ version of the Marvel Universe). Encantadia was remade in 2016 and will conclude its run this Friday, giving way to Mulawin.

The Mulawin vs. Ravena sets are located at the Shooting Gallery Studios in Makati which Mr. Zapata said they’ve “closed down for the next few months.”

He added that some of the changes in the show include the flying style of the avian humans as well the use of a lot of drone shots and visualizing scenes from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Back when it launched in 2004, Mulawin was a show which gave breaks to the careers of not only its actors but its creators. Mr. Zapata recalls the show as kind of his “mother.” “This put me on the map -- my career was born here,” he said.

Mr. Trillo and Mr. Tanfelix also started their careers on the show. Mr. Zapata said that in the years after Mulawin the two actors’ skills have matured, making it more fun to work with them.

“First, he looks a lot better now. He has a bearing now,” he said of Mr. Trillo, whom he calls one of his favorite actors. “As an actor, he’s not only deep but the way he attacks [his character] is so nuanced, and then when I talk to him now, we really understand each other. I can set him precisely where I want him and it’s more of a give-and-take [relationship],” he added.

Mulawin vs. Ravena will air for 20 weeks starting May 22 at the GMA Telebabad timeslot after 24 Oras. -- Zsarlene B. Chua