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Fantasy series focuses on Philippine heroine

AFTER its success with historical series Maria Clara at Ibarra, GMA Network again turns to the country’s past — again with a twist of fantasy — with Mga Lihim ni Urduja which premieres on Feb. 27, replacing the earlier time-travel tale based on Joe Rizal’s famous novel, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

The drama, set in a pre-colonial world, showcases a modern adventure.

It is loosely based on the legendary warrior princess — or hara – Urduja. She is mentioned in the travel accounts of Ibn Battuta in the 1400s, where he was impressed by her military exploits. She is believed to have been from the province of Pangasinan.

The stars of the show Encantadia — Kylie Padilla, Gabbi Garcia, and Sanya Lopez — reunite in the new series. as Gem, Crystal, and Hara Urduja, respectively.

Gem, a modern-day police officer, and Crystal, a jewelry designer, recover priceless jewelry known to be the magical amulets of Hara Urduja. To defeat a nemesis that they never imagined to be so closely linked to both of them, Gem and Crystal must deal with personality problems as well as the astonishing realization that they may be long-lost half-sisters and gifted descendants of Urduja.

“I’m surprised that I was included in the cast,” Ms. Lopez said in a press conference on Feb. 15 at Le Reve Pool and Events venue in Quezon City. She added that she is happy that she reunited with the her fellow cast members from Encantadia.

“Si Urduja ibang klase siya at magandang role siya para sa akin, kaya ko siya tinanggap (Urduja is a unique role and for me it is beautiful, that’s why I accepted the role).”

“It’s my first time to play a policewoman, so it’s a very different place in the craft,” said Ms. Padilla, who has previously done action scenes in fantasy shows.

Also in the cast are Arra San Agustin, Michelle Dee, Vin Abrenica, Kristoffer Martin, Pancho Magno, Jeric Gonzales, Rochelle Pangilinan, and Zoren Legaspi.

Co-director Jorron Lee Monroy, without stating any figures, said that the series is also a big-budget project which utilizes filmmaking technology that will include graphics as if living in a virtual world.

The series tackles the theme of women empowerment and the narrative of how women held positions of power during the precolonial period.

“Sometimes, we are wrong about how we think of ourselves and how we belittle our strengths,” concept creator and head writer Jojo Tawasil Nones said of the show’s message.

“Matagal na tayong pinapaniwalang hanggang biktima lang ang ating pwedeng gampanan. Pero tayo ang lahi ng mandirigma na palaban at matatapang (For a long time, we were made to believe that we could only play victims. But we are a race of warriors who fight and are brave),” he said.

“Whatever you are into, you should be proud of it. We are happy to be creating something for the Filipino audience and hopefully something for the international audience that we can be proud of,” associate director Ralf Malabunga said.

Also in the show’s creative team are director Aloy Adlawan, senior creative consultant Agnes Gagelonia-Uligan, content development consultant Ricky Lee, senior writer John Roque, writers Renei Dimla and Patrick Ilagan, and contributing writer Jai Shane Cañete.

Mga Lihim ni Urduja premieres on Feb. 27. It airs weeknights at 8 p.m. and at 9:40 p.m. on GTV. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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