I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


Ok. So this is like the umpteenth version of Dyesebel, and I think Marian Rivera may be the prettiest yet. The girl actually has me considering turning lez. I admit, tho’ that I’m not really too knowledgeable about the Dyesebel mythology. A quick check of wikipedia, on the other hand, reveals that I really don’t need to worry about it. Apparently, Dyesebel is just a variation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale.

This is as close as we can come to a canonical version of the story:

Dyesebel was born of a human mother who, during her pregnancy, obsessed on mermaids. Wanting to hide their deformed daughter – after an unsuccessful attempt to ditch her – the couple move to where they can raise her in secret. Dyesebel eventually meets up with other mermaids and – at some point – with a sea-witch called Diangga.

Dyesebel also fell in love with a human man, Fredo. After an idyllic time during which she is somehow able to hide her nature, Fredo’s ex captures Dyesebel and dumps her in a carnival. Eventually, Dyesebel is rescued and gets her reward – feet.

Well, it’s not exactly stellar literature. But I hear the new series GMA7 will be launching tomorrow will cleave to the canonical story fairly closely. Which means, the story will remain strictly escapist fare. Nothing wrong with that – par for the course for primetime programming nowadays – but with all the Filipino talent just waiting to be tapped, you’d think that they could come up with a more imaginative re-telling. Unfortunately, GMA7 and its rival ABSCBN, are mostly concerned with beefing up the FX – which really just means making the tail look as fishy as possible, what with scales and all. Ironically, with all the money they’re pumping into the project, they’re still getting one major detail wrong.

Mermaids are said to be half fish. Which means that the tail should have a tail fin that goes up and down; on a human, that would be from front to back.

All our Dyesebels have had tail fins that go wide, from left to right. That’s a whale tail, not a fish tail. The difference is important because fish swim by sweeping their bodies from side to side.

Whales, on the other hand, swim by moving their tails up and down. So, if Dyesebel is half-fish and has the scales to prove it, well she shouldn’t have a whale tail, should she?

Am I nitpicking? Well, ok, so I am. Bite me.

Anyway, I guess my point is that accuracy matters. Which isn’t really a good point to make when you’re talking about fantasy stories, eh? Bwahaha.

Seriously tho’ I really wish this new version will have more to offer than FX. A new twist on the story would be nice or, maybe even a different plot altogether.

Here’s how my Dyesebel story would run:

The main character was born of a mother who, during her pregnancy, was obsessed with mermaid. When the child was born, she was named Thessa, and her deformity was hidden from all except the mother and the midwife. The father, an OFW seafarer, received only pictures of the baby from the waist up.

Living as they did in a remote village, Thessa grew up with very little human contact. Mostly, she spent her time in the water, swimming through corals with the teeny fish that lived there. At night, her mother would paddle out into the deep water in a raft and would sleep there, next to her daughter. The midwife, now living full time with the family, stayed in the on-shore hut and kept up the pretense of normalcy.

But, of course, rumors exist. Most have Thessa being retarded, a rumor actively if clandestinely, promoted by her mother and the midwife. But some rumors are darker, talking of Thessa as a freak.

One summer day, as Thessa is swimming idly, a freak storm capsizes a small canoe and a vacationing city boy – who had snuck the canoe out on a dare from his local friends – is in dire need. Mindful of her mother’s warnings about not being seen, Thessa grabs a handful of seaweed and other sea gunk and hides her face with it. She then speeds to the boy’s rescue and alternately pushes and smacks him (with her tail) into shallow water, all the while keeping her mouth shut. In the process, she opens a deep gash in the boy’s forehead quite unintentionally. When they’re in shallow water, the boy is so grateful at being saved by what he thinks is a piece of floating debris that he grabs it (not knowing that he is actually grabbing Thessa’s head) and kisses it. Beneath the seaweed, Thessa is dumbfounded. Fortunately, the boy has already started struggling up to the shore. Thessa swims away, forcing herself to go as slowly as driftwood. The boy, turns around for a last look and shouts “Thank you!” Without thinking (still aghast from the kiss), Thessa answers “You’re welcome.” Naturally, the sound of her voice carries and startles the boy who falls backward into the water.

Thessa, realizing what she’s done, dives.

It’s three summers later. Thessa is sixteen. She’s swimming around again, idly dipping into this crevice or that crack, when suddenly, she’s face to face with a guy in goggles and a snorkel. The first thing she notices, apart from the fact that he’s a man is the scar over the guy’s left eye; exactly where she had wounded him three years ago. She panics and swims away. The guy would not have seen her were it not for her sudden departure, but as it was, he was able to catch a glimpse of her tail and a pale shoulder.

At this point, the storytelling splits into two narratives.

The Boy:

He surfaces and tells his friends he’s seen a mermaid. Everyone laughs and eventually he shrugs it off. They head back to shore for the bonfire party. But the image of the pale shoulder haunts him and, long after the party is over, he wanders off into the water. Standing hip deep in the surf, he comes up with a plan. The mermaid saved him before (he’s sure of it), and would probably save him again.

So he swims out as far as he can go until he can’t anymore. Cramps hit him and he starts screaming and floundering. One part of him hopes someone on shore would hear him, but another part wishes that the mermaid would come to him again.


From her hiding place, Thessa sees the boy begin to drown. At first, she thinks its an act as she saw that the boy was a strong swimmer (to her mind, he looked weird and uncoordinated, but good). But as his struggles grow more desperate and then feeble, she panics. But knowing that it’s a trap, she speeds to shore instead where she sees some people asleep on the sand. She dives, picks up a handful of pebbles, surfaces, and starts pelting the sleepers. Soon enough, they wake and notice the boy struggling. A rescue is quickly mounted and the boy is brought in safely.

Thessa swims off, giggling.

The following day, before her mom paddled back to shore, they have a conversation. It’s the one her mother has been dreading for years; the one where Thessa asks about boys. Her mother tries to explain things to her about how boys and girls fall in love, but at the same time reminds her that she’s different. Thessa goes from wide-eyed to angry. She asks, “are there others like me?”

Not knowing the answer, her mother keeps quiet.

That night, Thessa is floating on the surface out at sea, wondering about her question. She looks up at the stars and is overwhelmed by loneliness. She swims back to her mother and asks for forgiveness from the sleeping woman. She is leaving, to find if there are others like her.

Quietly, she tows the house raft back to shore and starts on her outward journey.


Filed under: musings, science, television, vacuity, , , ,

14 Responses

  1. Mawe says:

    I’m just waiting to see what twists GMA has prepared for Dyesebel, the TV version. My guess is that the telenovela will follow the same tired route with only a few surprises to keep it interesting. I even posted my own prediction how the storyline will go. Check it out to see if you agree or not!

  2. cvj says:

    To a preadolescent boy in the late 70’s, the scene in tagalog movies where the mermaid’s fins turns into legs triggers an awakening similar in nature to when Aphrodite A launches her rockets.

  3. rom says:

    Mawe: welcome to the smoking room. Loved your site! I guess you’re not terribly impressed with ABSCBN reporting, eh? Same here. And I definitely think your predictions are gonna be spot on.

  4. rom says:

    cvj: as always, the breadth of your social experience astounds me! Aphrodite A?! That was Mazinger Z’s concu-bot, wasn’t it? 🙂 And about mermaids, you should have heard my brother and his friends go crazy over Ariel – yep, Disney’s Little Mermaid – getting her legs. They were endlessly replaying that split second in the movie, convinced that they saw a naked crotch! Ah me. Boys will be boys, eh uncle? 😀

  5. cvj says:

    That’s right. As the Scorpion said, “It’s [our] nature.”

  6. niki says:

    Another remake huh. I’m so bored with Philippine TV I don’t bother watching anymore. Uh. Not that our little TV at the apartments have cable anyway (thank god?) But I wish GMA and ABS CBN would give us something NEW. Really. Several good talents out there but not enough good material.

  7. Rod says:

    Science of Pinoy mythology? if there is such a thing…

  8. rom says:

    niki: hey, sister! how’s life in manila treatin’ ya? I totally agree with your observation on the way the networks just keep recycling old stuff. At first it was cute – kinda like paying homage to past works. But now it’s a kinda epidemic. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of that ole’ malaise – laziness.

  9. rom says:

    Rod: welcome to the smoking room! Hahaha. I get your point, hot-rod. But even in fiction, I think, there ought to be a certain degree of internal logic – if nothing else then to help maintain the suspension of disbelief. 🙂

  10. jona says:

    oooh. i like your version better. nabitin ako, kulang ang ending. haha!

  11. rom says:

    jona: welcome to the smoking room. glad you liked my version. it’s grown quite a lot since then, but i’m afraid my version won’t go over so well on teevee. 😀

  12. jayvie says:

    sana puwedeng maging background yung dyesebel

  13. -uh`uH`(.stP`000,1)lebeseyd`ー - -≧ekomS`

  14. rom says:


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