Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspiration: Amaya's Shipbuilding and Creature Lore

It seems that the TV series Amaya has been laying on the research pretty thickly. First off, they've been dipping into William Henry Scott's research work and built a ship -- the Karakoa -- based on his research and from other sources.

Furthermore, creatures such as the Bakunawa and Amaya's own snake twin are alse featured on the show.
Thanks, William Henry Scott. Now I have to buy your book from Ateneo de Manila (hello alma mater) Press. Fortunately the preview pages on Google books have a wealth of historical and cultural information.

The Karakoa

In this link we read from the tv channel GMA some of the material concerning their construction of the Karakoa. They didn't build it from scratch, but they did use some of the building techniques mentioned in the book to do it.

The karakoa was a type of warship / raiding vessel that was faster than any spanish galleon and was built without the use of a single nail. It is described as a
sleek, double-ended cruiser with an elevated fighting deck amidships, and catwalks mounted on the outrigger supports to seat as many as six banks of paddlers. They displayed tall staffs of brilliant plumage fore and aft as a sign of victory, called sombol on the prow, tongol on the stern.
If you're thinking the front looks a bit like the back, you're right. This was part of the karakoa's claim to fame for maneuverability -- to change directions, the rowing crew just flipped positions and the commanding party walked to the other prow and they went off in the opposite direction.

The ship wasn't without downsides, however. Because (1) it was built with a relatively lightweight, flexible hull; and (2) it lacks a central rudder, it was easily blown sideways on smooth seas and was easily frustrated by choppy waters.

In between some of the interviews of the actors and actresses, there's a shot of the constructed karakoa for the show in the video below:


The Bakunawa is a creature from Philippine mythology that was blamed for eclipses. I'd always thought of it as a giant monstrous fish, but WikiPedia calls it a gigantic sea serpent or a gigantic sea turtle. In ancient times, the people of the land would bang the floors of their houses, along with their cooking implements and metal weapons to scare the creature into spitting out the moon. Other stories claim that playing music helped calm the creature.

In Amaya, there's a slightly different take:
The night sky used to have seven moons, until the bakunawa — a giant winged sea-serpent in the spirit world — was entranced by their beauty and ate six. But one moon remains in the night sky because the gods punished the serpent before it could devour the last moon. Despite that, the bakunawa still gets tempted and occasionally attempts to eat the moon.

I like the concept of the six other moons being in the belly of this creature somewhere in the world, or perhaps already digested and remnants hidden somewhere in the waters surrounding the island as Moon Pearls. It allows for the creation of some pretty neat magical items (Bakunawa Balls? Nah.) too.

Indianna Jones wouldn't have liked her sibling

Amaya is born as a snake twin. This means that when she was born, she came out with a little snake which is considered her twin ("She's not my familiar; she's my sister!") and for the little background surrounding this I'll just quote the article directly:

A pregnant woman would be warned against viewing the red-hued moon or leaving the house during an eclipse, lest tragedy befall the child she carried in her womb. Traditional beliefs vary, with eclipse-touched children feared to be suffering from a wide range of afflictions, from black-spotted skin to disfiguration, even madness.

The circumstances surrounding Amaya’s birth were slightly more fortuitous, the eponymous heroine being fair-skinned but born with a snake-twin — seemingly bringing to fruition the prophesy of a woman warrior with a snake-twin destined to kill the ruling rajah.

Amaya’s snake-sibling is thought to be an umalagad, or spirit that escaped the bakunawa’s realm, that would protect and guide its human twin.
I'm going to have to do more research on the snake twins. It really works with the cosmology I'm working on and evokes wonderful ideas when contrasted with the mythological serpent in the Garden of Eden.


  1. Incidentally, I'm planning a post on the snake twin myself, as a PC theme for D&D 4E. I need to brush up on my WH Scott first, though - it's been a few months since I last read my own copy of Barangay (which I heartily recommend, btw. XD)

  2. I hear you, Nosfecatu. I don't have a copy, but it seems like by looking at any given page there's historical / cultural details galore.

  3. my respect for what the Amaya production people have done is growing!

  4. -- more research needed here, but good support for better navigation on sea earlier than most folks thought.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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