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