Re­draw­ing the life of Philip­pine comics

An artist is try­ing to pre­serve and pro­mote the art of the comic book in Manila.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By KIMMY BARAOIDAN

IT was in 2000 when Filipino comic book artist Doro­teo Ger­ardo “Gerry” Alan­guilan Jr was ap­proached by young artists ea­ger to show him their work.

“They were all manga- in­spired,” he says, re­fer­ring to the Ja­panese comic art style.

Alan­guilan, who had worked with Amer­i­can be­he­moths M arvel Comics and DC Comics as an inker, quizzed the young artists on their knowl­edge of Filipino comics and artists: Did they know N ational Artist Francisco Coching or comic book artists N es­tor Re­dondo and Alex N iño?

H e was met with fur­rowed brows, as if he were speak­ing a dif­fer­ent lan­guage.

“I can­not blame them ... be­cause they do not know the his­tory of our comics,” he says in a re­cent in­ter­view in M anila.

That was when the artist, who is based in San Pablo City in La­guna prov­ince, just south of M etro M anila, be­gan to dream of build­ing a mu­seum ded­i­cated to Filipino comics.

W ithout a phys­i­cal space to show­case the col­lec­tion he wants to build, Alan­guilan turned to cy­berspace first and cre­ated a vir­tual mu­seum. H e col­lected vin­tage comics and art­works, which he scanned and up­loaded.

To date, The Philip­pine Comics Art M useum ( alan­guilan. com/ mu­seum) has more than a thou­sand pieces of art­work.

Rich his­tory

Even­tu­ally, Alan­guilan says, he planned to have a brick and mor­tar mu­seum. N ow, 16 years af­ter that en­counter with young artists, he fi­nally has one to ed­u­cate bud­ding artists about the rich his­tory of this genre of Philip­pine art.

Last month, Alan­guilan opened the doors of Komikero Komiks M useum in San Pablo, dis­play­ing the works of a host of Filipino comic artists, in­clud­ing his own. The mu­seum lo­cated in Tia M aria’s Sin­ing at Kul­tura ( Art and Cul­ture), a gallery café owned by ar­chi­tect Lau­rel M anuel Barte and his wife M ary­rose, in the city cen­tre.

The gallery fea­tures cre­ations by Coching, N iño, Re­dondo, Al­fredo Al­cala, Larry Al­cala, Dell Barras, Cris CaGuin­tuan, E. R. Cruz, Elmer Esquivas, Rudy Florese, Steve Gan, Jess Jod­lo­man, M ar Santana, H al San­ti­ago, Jesse San­tos, Tony Ve­lasquez and Ruben Yan­doc.

Alan­guilan’s works are dis­played on one side of the room, which also fea­tures those of Coching’s and Florese’s, an­other San Pablo- based artist. These will be per­ma­nent fea­tures of the ex­hibit, while the rest of the space will host a ro­tat­ing ex­hibit to fea­ture other artists.

Up­com­ing artists and those from other ar­eas out­side of San Pablo can hang their works on the walls too, says Alan­guilan, who is also the cu­ra­tor.

Past and fu­ture

“This is Ground Zero. [ This will help] peo­ple, who are start­ing to gain in­ter­est in lo­cal comics, see our past, where it has been, so they can see where it is go­ing,” says Lyndon Gre­go­rio, the artist be­hind a pop­u­lar comic strip known as Beerkada, dur­ing the mu­seum open­ing.

Marites Cas­tro, tourism ac­cred­i­ta­tion and in­for­ma­tion ser­vices divi­sion chief of the Depart­ment of Tourism in Cal­abar­zon re­gion, says the comics mu­seum could be part of des­ti­na­tions for stu­dents on ed­u­ca­tional trips. It can help cul­ti­vate cul­tural aware­ness so the youth would learn to ap­pre­ci­ate Filipino art, she says.

The 1990s saw the de­cline of the lo­cal comics in­dus­try. That was also the time when Alan­guilan and other lo­cal artists started pub­lish­ing by them­selves. W hen they learned that they were do­ing the same thing, they came to­gether to or­gan­ise a comic book con­ven­tion.

From their com­bined ef­forts, the comics in­dus­try was given a new lease on life, spawn­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of artists and en­thu­si­asts. Comic book con­ven­tions have since been held around the coun­try and pub­lish­ing one’s work on­line has be­come easy.

But Alan­guilan re­mains grounded. H e does not see Filipino comics to­day to match the pop­u­lar­ity that the in­dus­try reached dur­ing the 1980s, when gen­er­a­tions of Filipinos grew up read­ing comiks rented out by neigh­bour­hood sari- sari ( va­ri­ety) stores.

Comics fine art

For a long time, comics was seen as “throw­away en­ter­tain­ment”, some­thing to wrap smoked fish with, as Alan­guilan puts it. H e says it is un­think­able now that elab­o­rately drawn and de­tailed comics were eas­ily thrown away and dis­carded dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s.

Alan­guilan be­lieves that comics can be viewed as an art form, some­thing that is not dis­pos­able.

“They can have en­dur­ing sto­ries. They can have value as lit­er­a­ture. They can stand the test of time. They can be con­sid­ered on the same level as other forms of art, like paint­ing,” he says.

Peo­ple are start­ing to see the value of lo­cal comics now, Alan­guilan adds.

A quick search at a pop­u­lar on­line auc­tion site will yield works by Coching fetch­ing bids of up to 5,000 Philip­pine pe­sos ( RM 400) per is­sue, he says.

“The pos­i­tive thing ... is that peo­ple are now tak­ing care of their comics, even if it is only for fi­nan­cial rea­sons,” Alan­guilan says.

The In­ter­net has helped self- pub- lish­ing artists like Alan­guilan pro­mote their work. News­pa­per and tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments are costly, so the In­ter­net pro­vides a cheaper way for artists to take their work to the pub­lic.

W hen Alan­guilan made one of his works, Elmer, avail­able on­line, his au­di­ence grew and peo­ple started seek­ing out his other works.

The down­side to go­ing on­line, though, is piracy. H e says his work, Wasted, was free and avail­able on­line but than be­gan be­ing sold by “pirates” without his per­mis­sion. H e would rather that his comics are dis­trib­uted free on­line.

Alan­guilan says while computers and the In­ter­net have made cre­at­ing and dis­tribut­ing comics eas­ier and con­ve­nient, printed comics will not go the way of the di­nosaurs, at least not just yet. Peo­ple, he says, still want printed copies of his work even if they can ac­cess it on­line.

For Alan­guilan, printed comics will not go away, “as long as there are peo­ple who are will­ing to read it on pa­per and there are peo­ple [ who are] will­ing to make it on pa­per”.

“And I think there are many of us who still do,” he says.

Man on a mis­sion: Alan­guilan is de­ter­mined to record the his­tory of the art of comic books in the Philip­pines be­fore it is lost from mem­ory for­ever. — Philip­pine Daily Inquirer/ ANN

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