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A special villain in 'Sahaya'
By Elson T. Elizaga, June 17, 2019. Updated January 31, 2021. Layout revised October 18, 2021.
Eric Quizon Xi Jin Ping
Filipino actor Eric Quizon.   Chinese president Xi Jin Ping.

Most of the main characters in the GMA Network's teleserye "Sahaya" resemble their parents and their younger selves. But Jordan (Migo Adecer, who is half-Australian) and his father Hubert Alvarez (Eric Quizon) are mismatched. Jordan has strong Caucasian features, while Alvarez can pass as a native of Hong Kong.

But choosing Quizon to play the role of Alvarez might have a secret purpose.

Alvarez is a Manila coral miner who wants to buy and convert an island in Tawi-Tawi into a quarry, just like that. A Badjao community, however, live on the island, so Alvarez negotiates with the aging, docile leader of the tribe named Alari (Pen Medina).  But Alari refuses to give up "the land given to us by our ancestors." He doesn't seem to know about the Indigenous People's Rights Act.

Humiliated and angered by Alari's rejection, Alvarez hires the sly and vindictive Salida (Snooky Serna), a rich Badjao trader who has a running feud with Alari's daughter Manisan (Mylene Dizon).  Using P50,000 from Alvarez, Salida convinces a gang of pirates to kidnap Sahaya (Bianca Umali). The pirates sell Sahaya for P10,000 to a captain of a ship to be raped. From the remarks of the captain, it appears that human trafficking is common practice in this part of the seas.

Despite being guarded by about 10 men, Sahaya miraculously escapes.  She jumps from the ship after giving a brief speech, and none of the pirates, presumably excellent swimmers, decides to pursue her as she dives into the water. Instead, they attack the ocean with their assault weapons, and conclude that she is dead after she fails to resurface.

Underwater, Sahaya bleeds profusely from a bullet wound.  No shark comes to investigate. Otherwise, the story would end right there. She looks unconscious and progressively sinking into the dark deep, but shows up later on the bright surface, clinging on a piece of driftwood (possibly attached with buoys). She is found by two tourists, Jordan and her cousin Lindsay (Ashley Ortega). They bring the "Badjao girl" to a hospital.

Meanwhile, following Salida's instruction, the same pirates arrive on the beach of Alari's island and open fire. The intention appears to be psy-war, but Alari is wounded, and one boy is killed. (In a later episode, the boy's mother  would viciously attack Alvarez.)

Despite these events, no member of the police, the military, the coast guard, and the mayor's office arrives in Tawi-Tawi to investigate the incident. Lawyers, however, help Alari and Manisan with their personal cases.

So, the pirates reappear on the beach of the village like they are having a picnic. The leader gives a persuasive speech, releases blank bullets, thereby convincing the tribe to leave and seek shelter in another place. Alvarez's private army then quickly occupy the island. But it doesn't take long for help to arrive. A sympathetic TV journalist, not an employee of the DSWD, interviews Alari. The broadcast rattles Alvarez because he and his company are mentioned in the report.  Alvarez then decides to feign friendship with Alari to prevent further media coverage. He assures Alari he is no longer interested in occupying the island, and that Alari and his tribe are free to return.

Relieved and overjoyed, Alari and his tribe board their boats back to their village, unaware that Alvarez has conceived of a plan: "divide and conquer." This time, Alvarez directly sends people to use dynamites in the fishing grounds frequented by Alari and his tribe, decreasing the catch of the already poor Badjaos. Alvarez also bribes traders so they will stop buying fish and handwoven textiles from Alari's clan. This ploy puts the whole tribe under severe economic strain. They are running out of money, and they have no alternative livelihood. Moreover, nobody from the Bureau of Fisheries and the coast guard seem aware or concerned of their plight.

Are these issues not familiar to us – harassment of fisher folks, stealing of their hard-earned catch, and massive destruction of coral life? Alari was even tortured by Alvarez's hired goons, to force him to sell the island. And in episode 66, the lawyer handling the ancestral claim of the Badjaos is assassinated, again by men hired by Alvarez. The only events absent so far in the TV series that would make this story further closer to current events are the poaching of sea turtles and giant clams. In June 12, 2019, a Chinese ship rams and sinks a Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank, which is part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

So, why is Jordan's father Eric Quizon? Why not Gabby Concepcion or someone else? I have a hypothesis: GMA Network chose Quizon because they can't afford to hire Xi Jin Ping or Winnie-the-Pooh. End

  • Tawi-tawi nickel island mined out (Manila Times, Jan. 20, 2021): "ZAMBOANGA CITY: A satellite photo of the southern Philippine island of Tumbagaan in Tawi-tawi’s Languyan town shows the devastation caused by nickel mining there ...

    "Photos of nickel mining operations in Tumbagaan Island posted on Facebook also showed huge trucks and barges hauling off red soil, which was allegedly being shipped to China where it is processed." 

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