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Last night, I watched this Japanese-language drama on cable, called Ryomaden (official site in Japanese). It's based on the life of Sakamoto Ryoma, an historical figure who played a key role in toppling the Tokugawa Shogunate from power and paving the way for the Meiji Restoration and Japan's modernization. I don't understand the language but I could pretty much follow what was going on. It's interesting, in the way that swords and samurai are always interesting. It also helps that the actor who plays the title character is not bad on the eyes.

This type of drama is called jidaigeki, a period drama that deals with real events, figures and way of life from Japan's history. And apparently, NHK airs one just like it every year, ensuring that Japanese people never forget where they come from.

I wish we had one like it on Philippine television. I know a period drama series would require a considerable budget for the costumes and set alone, but with the amount of nonsensical, derivative crap we see on Filipino TV and the cinemas these days, I think our studios can well afford at least one drama dealing with Philippine history once a year.

We have a lot of interesting figures from our history. Andres Bonifacio is one. We are so fond of Cinderella stories, well, this man's story exemplifies it. They could treat the story in such a way that academics will have a rowdy time going through the ever-present debate over whether or not Bonifacio should be revered as the true national hero of the Philippines, instead of Rizal.

Feminists will rejoice a drama series following the life of an authentic Filipina, Gabriela Silang, and not some rip-off of an American comic book heroine (yes, I'm talking to you, Darna). Or maybe, the series could be about some obscure historical heroine, like Marcella Agoncillo.

Or, because originality on TV these days is hard to come by, we could make a TV adaptation of Rizal's celebrated novels, Noli Me Tangere (I have zero memories about the 1992 TV series adaptation) and El Filibusterismo. Why make a TV show about Zorro when we have our own home-grown heroes right in our student's everyday reading material? Making a TV adaptation of these very materials would be like hitting two birds with one stone: we would be encouraging nationalistic awareness in our youth as well as fostering their learning by increasing academic interest in Philippine history as an area of study.

We also seem to have developed a huge appetite for fantasies. It's not surprising; fantasies are an escape from the realities of our hard life as a country. But even that can be exploited in order to strengthen our sense of nationalism and promote our ancient culture. We have folklores, myths and epics -- far more interesting than TV's current fodder.

We have a lot to offer, when we think about it. Why are we always looking out when we can look in? I present this as a challenge to our TV industry: make a drama series that would make me proud of being a Filipino. It's not so hard. Jose Rizal did it not too long ago.

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