09 June 2008

Urduja and The First Filipino Full-length Animated Movie

Urduja (ca. 1350 C.E - 1400 C.E.) is a valiant warrior and woman ruler of Kaylukari city in the land of Tawalisi in Pangasinan (located on the west central area of the island of Luzon along the Lingayen Gulf) during the 14th century. Tawalisi is believed to be a kingdom with very extensive expanse that included the vast areas up to the fringes of the Benguet mountains and the Cordillera ranges in the east of Luzon.

Her legendary existence, however, remained the subject of argument by historians up to this day in time since the only first-hand documented story given for her through the travelogue of Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan born, Islamic lawyer turned writer, is not well accepted in view of the fact that it does provide only “unverified tales”. Scholars are still in unending search mode trying to discover apparent supplementary archaeological evidence to prove the content and chronicles of the manuscript as reliable and acceptable basis of history.

Whoa, it is a question of accuracy and it sounds very intriguing.

Given that as a premise, though,nobody has discredited Battuta’s texts to the point that any of his work is dismissed as fanciful or fiction. In fact, his work has been hailed in most quarters as a “valuable record” of South East Asia at that time.

Now, rather than giving you my own piece of historical synthesis, which by the way I am not an authority on the subject, as to whether Urduja is a fact or myth, I will refer you instead to some documented citations so as to further enlighten you on the accounts of this important figure in Philippine culture and history.Excerpts from these papers are vividly wrapped around this post while the complete and detailed content are compiled below and linked to their primary or secondary sources, for your guidance.

John Smart wrote the article The Case for Princess Urduja and published it in The Bay, a Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce Newsletter (Dec 2005 - Jan 2006). This was posted also in Pangasinan Blog by kingdom_tawalisi.

In Search of a Princess written by Chit Balmaceda Guiterrez was originally published in Filipinas Magazine’s June l999 issue. Although an on line site is available for the said magazine, this particular article is not available in the archives. It is re-posted at http://www.urduja.com/, with permission, under the inspiration sub-category.

Another interesting blog on this account is found at Igorotblogger. Bill Bilig reviewed Chit Balmaceda Guiterrez’s In Search of a Princess and highlighted Urduja’s “link” to the Ibalois.

The image (original painting details: oil on canvas, 16”x13”, 1956) above is a visualization of Urduja by the Philippines' 1st National Artist in Painting, Fernando Amorsolo. This painting is currently owned by Ms. Dorothy Francy while the digital copy was sourced from cream_529’s Flickr™ photostream.

Sigh! That was more than enough for a background. Let us now proceed to the second segment of this post. I hope I did not bore you with the prelude.

Urduja is coming “alive”, once again, via the first Filipino full-length traditional (hand-drawn) and digital animated movie adaptation of the legendary warrior-princess produced by Tony Tuviera’s APT Entertainment in cooperation with Seventoon and Imaginary Friends Production.

Early reports uncovered the many years of preparing this milestone project in Philippine Cinema. Urduja took 11 years in the making, including the time when it was first conceptualized by Mr. Tuviera. He disclosed in one of his interviews that he originally planned Urduja as a TV series in 1997. The high production cost, however, convinced him to transform his dream project instead into a full-length movie a decade later.

As a full-length animation, Urduja has a running total of 85, 000 drawings shown in almost 2, 000 scenes which is equivalent to 8, 771 reels of film. The work force behind it is composed of around 400 Filipino artists in both digital and traditional animation in studios that spanned from Makati to Palawan [1] [2].

The much talked-about animated film is made more special with some of the biggest stars in Philippine show business lending their voices to the characters. Urduja is voiced over by no less than the Songbird of Asia, Regine Velasquez while her loved one, Limhang, is dubbed in by Caesar Montano. Lakanpati, the patriarch in the story, comes alive through the voice of the FAMAS hall of famer, Eddie Garcia while his favored warrior, Simakwel, is done by Jay Manalo.Other notable characters in Urduja include Wang (Johnny Delgado), Mayumi (Ruby Rodriguez), Daisuke (Epy Quizon), and the talking animals Kukut (Michael V.) and Tarsir (Allan K.).

While the legitimacy of Urduja’s possible existence is clouded with doubts in the scholarly understanding of great historians, this animated film adaptation will allow us all to remember her as the first figure to receive a tribute from technologies never imagined when she was “alive” and reigning as a warrior-princess [2].

Meanwhile, the animators of Urduja would like to strongly convey that they are not rewriting history through this outstanding venture. The storyline is fiction and whatever resemblances to names and places and events formed, created in this film version, are completely coincidental [2].

Excited? Certainly, I am. I guess many Filipinos are equally excited and can’t wait to see Urduja.Here is a sneak preview, for your viewing pleasure.


WOW! I have nothing but praises to the people behind this arduous yet very rewarding endeavor.

So folks, I encourage you to watch Urduja to witness “history” as it unfolds right before our very eyes. The movie is set to grace the big screen this 18 June 2008.

TRIVIA
  • The name Urduja appears to be Sanskrit in origin, and a variation of the Sanskrit name "Urja," meaning "Breath."
  • Tuviera said he could have produced three or even four regular live-action movies with “Urduja’s” budget.
  • The first movie adaptation of Urduja was shot in black and white with Pedro Faustino, Mona Lisa, Fernando Poe, Sonia Reyes, Antonia Santos & Lupe Velasco in the lead roles. It was screened in 1942 with "Princesa Urduja" as the commercial title.
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