Arts & Leisure

Of mermaids and men

Posted on September 11, 2014

IN JUNE of 1986, the Apo Hiking Society -- Buboy Garrovillo, Jim Paredes and Danny Javier -- donned rubber mermaid tails for a comic send-up of the popular Hollywood movie Splash for their TV musical/variety show NaKUH...EtonAPO sila. The episode, directed by Fritz Ynfante, was filmed entirely at the Puerto Azul Beach and Country Club in Ternate, Cavite, and also featured Kuh Ledesma, with guest stars Jacqui Magno, Miguel Rodriguez and a group of beauty queens.

Buboy Garrovillo, Jim Paredes and Danny Javier of the APO do a hilarious take-off from the movie "Splash" for their television show "NaKUH"…EtonAPO sila" on June 11, 1986.
Although the spoof tackled a Hollywood production, mermaids -- or sirenas -- have a long, colorful history in local culture. While the half-fish, half-human’s popularity may ebb and flow like the tide, it never disappears.

Sirenas have their place in Philippine folklore beside the aswangs, kapre, and nuno sa punso and are the counterparts of the siyokoy or mermen (unlike the alluring sirena, siyokoy is described as being unattractive).

That the sirena made the move from the sea of folklore to the ocean of popular culture is pretty much thanks to 'komiks' master Mars Ravelo who created a multitude of cartoon characters in the first half of the 20th century. Many of these found their way onto the silver screen, most notably Darna. His version of the sirena -- drawn by Elpidio Torres -- was Dyesebel, and her story was serialized in Pilipino Komiks.

It revolves around a child of regular human parents, who is born with a fish tail instead of legs (her pregnant mother obsessed over a mermaid picture in a calendar, thus affecting the development of her unborn child). The family runs away to live by the sea where Dyesebel meets up with real mermaids, falls in love with a human, and is involved in several adventures before she emerges in the end with real human legs in place of her tail.

Dyesebel was first filmed in 1953, and starred Edna Luna. Subsequent filmed versions of the story starred Eva Montes (Anak ni Dyesebel, 1964), Vilma Santos (Dyesebel at Ang Mahiwagang Kabibe, 1973), Alma Moreno (Sisid, Dyesebel, Sisid, 1978), Alice Dixon (Dyesebel, 1990; this was the first film shot with real underwater scenes), and Charlene Gonzales (Dyesebel, 1996).

Dyesebel and her sister sirenas eventually left the movie houses and made their way to the small screen.

In February 2004, ABS-CBN Corp. launched the fantasy drama series Marina, starring Claudine Barretto. In reaction, several months later, GMA Network Inc. came up with a fantasy-comedy series called Marinara, starring comedienne Rufa Mae Quinto.

GMA went on to air an adaptation of Dyesebel in 2008 starring Marian Rivera in the title role which ran from April 28 to October 17 that year.

Since then, ABS-CBN has produced three more TV series with mermaids as central characters including Dyosa in 2008 with Anne Curtis, Mutya in 2011 with child star Mutya Orquiza, and Aryana in 2012 with teen star Ella Cruz.

This year has been particularly good for the sea creature, with two shows on separate networks featuring sirenas.

GMA’s mermaid-themed drama series, Kambal Sirena, starring its contract stars Louise delos Reyes and Aljur Abrenica, aired from March 11 to June 27.

At about the same time, ABS-CBN aired its latest adaptation of the komiks character, its version starring Anne Curtis, Sam Milby and Gerard Anderson. It aired from March 18 to July 18.

The sirena has not limited herself to the small screen -- she can now be found swimming with the fishes at the Manila Ocean Park. And in a sign that bodes well for Dyesebel’s popularity in the future, many a little girl spent this summer learning how to swim like a mermaid -- tail included -- in some of the metropolis’ sports clubs. -- AAH with JOV