If, like everyone else, you've gotten into Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the pandemic, you'll know that Japanese and cottagecore islands are a dime a dozen. But ACNH player Byron goes against the grain with Cabbage, an island that brings the worlds of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo to life.
It all began when Byron set out to create an island-inspired by his hometown in Cavite. While the game has an abundance of Japanese and Chinese decor, he realized that the clothesline and washtub items could be used to make a Filipino-style sampayan and laundry area.
He started by creating a panaderia and took inspiration from Hilaga, a breathtaking contemporary Filipino island created by his friend Anna. Over the next few months, he made a church inspired by the Imus Cathedral, constructed the houses of the principalia, and turned his character's house into a bahay kubo-inspired Airbnb.
With its nipa huts, rice fields, and a talipapa, Cabbage had all the elements of a rural Filipino town. It even had an area with traditional Filipino textiles on display. See more photos of the island below.
As he continued to build his island, he began to dress his characters in Filipiniana costumes created by other Animal Crossing players like Arby of Bonita Isle. And that's how he got the idea of making a Noli Me Tangere-inspired film called Isla. The level of visual detail incorporated into each scene, along with the editing and production value are seriously impressive, and this short is an absolute must-see for any Filipino Animal Crossing fan.
Isla is something like an alternative universe version of Jose Rizal's novel—what if Maria Clara was a Katipunera instead of a delicate dalagang Filipina? What if Ibarra and Elias were lovers? What would happen if Padre Salvi was a pedophile? These changes update Rizal's iconic work with themes and issues relevant to the present day.
"I am really into exploring the what-ifs. And the whole island itself is more of a creative outlet of what if I do this, what if I do that. I was always curious," Byron explains. "There are some unwritten things that the novel maybe didn't [explore], but I also don't want to put too much into it because I might not do Jose Rizal's novel justice."
At first, Byron was worried about how the film would be received given these changes, and he's careful to emphasize his respect and admiration for Rizal's novels. "Initially I was scared of putting that boys' love element or Maria Clara [because it might be] like, you know, tarnishing [Rizal's] creation," he explains. "But oh well, why not? It's something that I wanted to explore. And to be honest it really started as a whim. Also, as I said earlier, maybe it's better suited to the contemporary audience with its relatability."
In our humble opinion, if Taylor Swift can get away with changing the ending of the great bard William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it should be fine to explore alternative storylines in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. And it looks like local Animal Crossing fans agree, seeing as Isla quickly went viral on Facebook with 20,000 views, 494 shares, and 1,100 likes.
With Isla, Byron wanted to drive home the point that Rizal's novels are still very relevant to the present day. "My fellow Filipinos, #NeverForget," he writes in an Instagram post. "I hope it can spark something in you. In [the] Philippines, the fight is not yet over. The colonizers are still here. They never left."
The film was definitely a labor of love—Byron took two to three months building the sets on his island and made the storyboard in about a week. For interior shots, he used Harv's Island, an in-game location with a photo studio where you can build rooms and do photoshoots with your animal villagers and fellow players. "You can fully control the elements and the furniture, and the camera angles in Harv's Island are better because you can twist and turn," he says.
Byron enlisted his friends Anna and Shasha of Hiraeth Island to play Elias and Maria Clara, while he played Crisostomo and Padre Salvi using two controllers. He says filming was the toughest part, especially since Anna and Shasha are both based in the U.S. and they had to coordinate their schedules. Once the filming was done, he edited the footage using Adobe.
Isla was such a success that when Byron announced the making of a second film based on El Filibusterismo, his Instagram followers clamored to be a part of it. He decided to determine the casting with an island treasure hunt: Players had to visit his island using his dream address and look for Doña Consolacion's missing rosary beads. The players with the best times got parts in Isla II.
Isla II was a much bigger production with Filipinos living in the U.S. and Austria, plus a Vietnamese player from Singapore and an Indian from the U.S. as part of the cast.Â
There's a budding romance between Basilio and Isagani, who is in line to become the next gobernadorcillo. Simoun's plan for revenge still involves planting a bomb, this time in the form of a grandfather clock that will explode at a party held by Doña Consolacion for Isagani.
Isla II is just as impressive as its predecessor, and Byron continues to expand the world of the two films through his Instagram account. There are posts explaining the encomienda system and the role the Catholic church played in colonizing Filipinos, introducing each character's backstories, or simply showing them hanging around the island.
If you'd like to make your own Filipino-themed island, Byron has a few tips. Animal Crossing has lots of bamboo items you can use to give your island a more tropical vibe. "If you're doing Spanish colonial, try to mix the bamboo with wooden elements—the antique items, the rattan items, the brick tiles. Imagine Intramuros. Mix and match those materials with browns and whites and plants," he says.
For a modern Filipino island, Byron suggests looking at Anna's Hilaga Island for inspiration. "There's a lot of retro elements to it. Fans, banig, lots of custom patterns, but the formula is almost the same: the yero, the iron bars, the wood, the bamboo. If you look closely at the environment around you in the Philippines and you try to access the [item] catalog, it's a matter of pulling them together," he adds. "Whatever you create, give a bit of yourself into it… if you put yourself into it, you will love it knowing it's your own creation."
You can visit Cabbage Island at this dream address: 0749-9412-1502.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.