There’s not just one but two Philippine languages featured in the K-drama series “Arthdal Chronicles.” The Tausug and Yakan are featured in the series. Philippine viewers of the drama were surprised to hear familiar words in the opening of Episode 9 of the drama.
“Kaunahan tara isa kuma-on. Iban binug-tubig,” said a nameless character from the Wabi Tribe. The words were translated by the character Teodae, from the Wahan Tribe. It meant that he is asking for food and water to drink.
That character from Wabi Tribe is Filipino filmmaker Nash Ang. He got accepted in Korea National University of the Arts in 2012 as a scholar. He directed and written the film, “Seoul Mates” which was showcased in the 2014 Cinema One Film Festivals.
“Prior to my acting career here, I was active in the dance community and theater in the Philippines. I was able to utilize those skills whenever there are opportunities to showcase it here in front of the camera,” Ang said.
The Netflix Original series “Arthdal Chronicles” is about a progressive young nation with a very dark past. It is ruled by the “Arthdal Union” where the leaders are caught in a power tug-of-war between a religious leader and a political one.
The story is the fantasy beginnings of Korea. The greed of the Arthdal Union causes them to enslave neighboring tribes in the South of their nation called Iark. If we imagine that the fantasy world of Arthdal is located in Korea, then their south would be the Southeast Asian region which includes the Philippines.
“Native languages from Southeast Asia fit the narrative of ‘Arthdal Chronicles.’ They even filmed some parts of the series in Brunei. Luckily, my family came from Mindanao and speaks Tausug and Yakan,” Ang said. “The production team asked me to translate some dialogues to indigenous languages from the southern part of the Philippines. Some conversations featured Yakan. I had my mother and relatives translate the lines because the conversations are deep. They were memorized by the Korean actors.”
Yakan is the language in Basilan, while Tausug is the regional language spoken in Sulu. During the press conference of the drama in Seoul last May, the writers revealed that they created languages and map for drama. It is also practical to use existing languages for their narrative.
The Wabi Tribe is found in Iark along with the Wahan Tribe where Eunseom (Song Joong-ki) and Tanya (Kim Ji-won) belong to. In the latest episodes, Eunseom and his tribemates Dalsae and Teodae were captured. They were with slaves from other tribes. They were dehumanized in every possible way.
The character of Ang asks for water and food. His “owner” agrees if only he says that he is a lowly “dujumsaeng”, a person with two legs, can walk upright but cannot fly like a caged chicken. Someone beneath the “Sarams” (human being).
“It was not only difficult to watch but really difficult to shoot as well, not only as an actor but as a Filipino! We were filming in winter during the coldest time of the year. We were shooting on the top of the mountain. Temperatures were around -10 Celsius. I’m only wearing slippers,” Ang said. “Water was splashed on my face. We did it several times in different angles. I just had to endure and do my best on this week-long torture.”
He was dressed as such because the Iark is located in a warm area. He jokingly posts about the experience on his Facebook page. It was so cold. That the water made his wig to freeze. It needed at least 30 minutes to prepare himself to look like a slave. The production team took extra care with him because he had lines in the drama.
“Everything looks authentic even on person. They even made a real castle as you can see in my photos. I don’t know and how they made that but it’s definitely not CG!” he said.
Encountering Song Joong-ki
He talked about working with Song Joong-ki. They had closed-door script-reading together and they filmed for a week in a mountain near North Korea. After one of his scenes, Joong-ki tapped him on the shoulder to hand him some heat pack.
“You did a great job,” Joong-ki said to him and then left. Ang said he wasn’t able to say “thank you.”
The next day, the actors and the production staff were having dinner inside a tent. He saw Joong-ki but he was too shy to approach him to say his thanks, but their eyes met. Joong-ki stood up and went to where he was eating. He finally said his thanks and from then on, they started talking.
“I no longer felt shy talking to him. He always says hi and bows first when we meet. He is a very popular Hallyu star. I am just an extra. (But I found him) approachable and humble,” he said.