The inspiring story of Kabang, the “hero dog of Zamboanga,” has been practically begging for dramatization on TV. After all, the askal mutt’s brave act of jumping in front of a speeding motorcab to save her master’s daughter from injury or even death rated media coverage not just locally but also internationally.
So, we weren’t surprised when GMA’s “Magpakailanman” recently telecast its dramatic recreation of the heroic act and its aftermath.
However, the docu-drama revealed some minus points inherently related to the otherwise worthy enterprise, which made it more difficult than usual for the production to come off well.
First, since the hero-protagonist was an animal, she could not be the active central figure in the dramatization, so the scriptwriters felt that they had to include the family of Kabang’s master, including his wife and their young daughter, whose life their pet dog saved.
Trouble is, it turned out that the dog’s master was an exceedingly flawed character, who started out as a dog-eater, and only later realized that pets should be cared for rather than consumed!
In addition, the reenactment showed that it was the dog’s owner who had chopped off Kabang’s upper jaw, for one reason or another. He was depicted to have enormously regretted what he has done, and did everything he could to find Kabang, who had disappeared after she had been severely injured.
This decidedly chiaroscuro back story made it difficult for lead actor, Ricky Davao, to limn a clear-cut portrait of his all-important character. Davao is a gifted and experienced actor, but he had his work cut out for him to make inspiring dramatic sense of his complex and sometimes even contradictory role.
Protagonists’ helpmeets are usually supposed to be part of the dramatic conflict’s solution, but the dog’s owner is sometimes part of the problem, so Davao’s best efforts to achieve force and focus are occasionally stymied by contradictory scripting.
To be sure, “contradictory” characters are sometimes a welcome challenge for the best thespians, since human beings are a bundle of contradictions. In this instance, however, the changes in tone and focus are too jarring and jagged to be made much thematic sense of, even by an exceptional actor.’
On the other hand, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Snooky Serna acting on TV again in the role of Davao’s beloved, even if her role is less challenging than what she’s capable of essaying.
For her part, child actress Jillian Ward plays the key role of Kabang’s young mistress. She’s older now and has lost some of her pudgy “pa-cute” antics of yore, but her portrayal is relatively listless, so she passes up a good opportunity to show that she’s capable of less predictably kawawa acting.
As for Kabang, she plays herself in the teleplay’s post-collision scenes, and the viewer is moved not just by the reenactment of her heroic act, but also by the fact that the severely injured and literally defaced creature was still able to survive her horrible ordeal, thanks to the succor she got from a number of caring surgeons and other saviors.