Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jose Rizal: Komikero

Jose Rizal (1861-1896)

In 1884, Dr. Reinhold Rost, editor of Trubner’s Record, a magazine devoted to Eastern literature, asked Jose Rizal to contribute some Asian fables. Rizal was more than delighted to comply and he submitted to Dr. Rost “Two Eastern Fables." One of the fables was titled “Matsing at Pagong”, which Dr. Rost published in Trubner’s Record issue No. 245 in 1885.

To complement his article, Rizal created the “Matsing at Pagong” in comic form, using the back of Paz Pardo de Tavera’s notebook to draw the originals. The original drawings still exist to this day, owned by the descendants of Paz Pardo de Tavera. If you must know, Paz was the wife of Juan Luna, and Rizal used to “tambay” in Luna’s atelier in Paris.

To my knowledge, this “Matsing at Pagong” comic strip was the very first known comic strip created by a Filipino—prompting the historian Ambeth Ocampo to regard Rizal as the Father of Philippine Comics.

I recently browsed my library and pulled out a 1913 book called Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, authored by the American historian Austin Craig. Considered the first English biography of the National Hero, the book is illustrated throughout with many drawings and sketches by Rizal. Towards the very end of the book is found the complete “Matsing at Pagong” comic strip as reprinted directly from the originals, and with the original letterings of Rizal.

In this comic strip, Rizal did not use talk balloons for the dialogues of Matsing and Pagong. He instead wrote their “talks” below each of the panels, which was standard practice among comic artists during the 19th century. It seemed that the early cartoonists avoided talk balloons because they too often clutter in the panel and get in the way of the drawings. Although invented as early as 17th century, talk balloons came into general use only in the 20th century.

Interestingly, very much later, Rizal adopted talk balloons in his “Mangkukulam” cartoon strip, although this remained unpublished during his lifetime. It was finally put out by the Jose Rizal Centennial Commission in the 2-volume Facsimiles delos Escritos de Rizal in 1961.

Undoubtedly, Rizal was a genius. He was a poet, novelist, a humorist, songwriter, linguist, sculptor, inventor, an illustrator, and maybe more than a hundred more things that we even do not know of. He was a polymath, a curious man who was into trying everything. Inactivity and complacency bored him and he used his tremendous talent to satisfy his desire to understand the world he lived in.

Drawing was a favorite past time of our national hero. He wanted to keep a visual record of the things he saw or the people he met. There were no portable cameras during the 19th century, so Rizal just drew scenes and views while standing on ships’ decks or while idly waiting for trains’ arrivals.

One could only imagine how lonely our hero had been during his travels to Europe and America. To escape boredom and homesickness, he carried notebooks which he filled with drawings and sketches: a view of the Manila coastline as it receded from view, a picture of a funny man, Voltaire’s head, a Chinese man, or just about anything that caught his attention and piqued his interest. Rizal would spend days and nights drawing humorous panels we now called comics. Fortunately for us, many of these drawings still exist and can give us a view of what Rizal may have seen at a given time.

In Germany, Rizal illustrated a hilarious panel in which he showed a gentleman curtsying to a lovely woman. While doing so, the gentleman accidentally emitted a fart resulting in chaos all around him!

While Rizal was staying with the Ullmer family in Wilhelmsfeld, he created a comic strip called “The Two Brothers,”which he gave Friedrich "Fritz" Ullmer as a gift. Fritz was the young son of his friend and host Pastor Ullmer. These comic strips, along with several other drawings and sketches done by Rizal during his stay with the Ullmers, are intact to this day. The Ullmer descendants kept these precious mementoes and were eventually discovered by Mrs. Paz Mendez (of then Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission), while she was traveling to Germany to retrace Rizal’s footsteps.

By a stroke of good fortune, the grandsons of Pastor Ullmer—Fritz and Hans Hack—generously donated the drawings to the Filipino people during their visit to the Philippines in March 1960 (upon invitation of the Philippine government), a year prior to Rizal’s centenary in 1961. These drawings are now part of the precious Rizaliana collection in the National Library.

While living as an exile in Dapitan in 1892, Rizal was asked by his friend Benito Francia to write something about Visayan witchcraft. In compliance, Rizal wrote an excellent article entitled “Notes on Witchcraft in the Philippines,” and even created a four-paneled comic strip to accompany the article. When looking at the originals, I noticed some bluish tint on the drawings. Rizal may have used a blue pen to make his work more attractive—making it the first comics in thePhilippines with color (so what if it is only one color?).

Now, I am not sure if this comic strip is to be read horizontally or vertically, since Rizal did not provide a number guide on the panels. I believe though that the panels do not conform to a continuing story. They are more of vignettes that have relation to witchcraft.

What is fascinating about this comic strip is that it was the only one written by Rizal in Tagalog. Rizal knew at least 22 languages, and he was fluent in some twelve of them, including, of course, Tagalog. Not only was Rizal the first Filipino to create a comic strip, he was also the very first one to create a Tagalog komiks!

I had the rare chance to examine many Rizal original drawings kept in the National Library. Seeing them close was such a thrilling experience that I when I went to sleep that night, I dreamed Rizal was drawing for Aliwan Komiks!

Meanwhile let us see what we can understand from these panels. Notes within parentheses are my translations as well as some of my own comments:

FIRST PANEL: -Ay inang mamatay aco! (Oh, mother!, I’m dying!) -Huag po cayo matacot at aco man ay bata, ay isang bantog na hilot (Be not afraid, I maybe a child but I am a good healer)

SECOND PANEL: -Itong cuto na ipinunla sa aquin toong malago ang pagdame (The lice planted on my hair are rapidly multiplying) -Tag-anas namang pirit(?) pati mga cuto mo a (Your lice are all like birds!)

THIRD PANEL: -Caeng, at cayo calvo!! (Caeng, you are bald!!) -Aa aa! Puga, puga ca! (the Tagalog word Puga means escape. The bald man may be saying to the boy to get lost for teasing him as bald!)

FOURTH PANEL: -Jesus! Aco’y nanglalata. Cung ano po ang naroroon sa loob, aswang yata (Jesus, I’m very weak. Whatever thing is that inside, maybe a vampire.)

In retrospect, Rizal’s drawings may be amateurish by today’s standards (although I found them cute). But one should remember that Rizal was not a professional illustrator. Also, he drew cartoons more as a hobby and distraction, in between doing several things of national importance such as writing his immortal novels and defending our country against the Spanish oppressors. The important thing was that he was the very first known Filipino to have drawn comic strips.

These drawings, sketches and comic strips are all proof of Rizal’s universal talent, which led the historian Ambeth Ocampo to marvel: "No wonder Rizal is the Father of this or the father of that. Rizal was into everything”. Yes indeed, except that Rizal was not the father of Hitler.

Rizal's self-portrait circa early 1880s

**This article was originally published by the author Dennis Villegas in the website Please visit our web tribute to our national Hero here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Malang's Kosme the Cop (Retired)

One of my favorites in my original comic art collection by Malang is this Kosme the Cop (retired) original from early 1950s. Published daily in the Manila Chronicle (from 1947 to 1963), Kosme the Cop was the most popular cartoon character of Malang even before he became one of the most acclaimed Filipino painters.

In this particular comic strip, Kosme moonlighted as a beat photographer, knowing exactly when to click the shutter to capture the moment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chnaged my email

Hi Everyone!

Just to let you know guys, that I no longer use my email. Please ignore any emails coming from this.

My old and reliable is my official communications email. If you have any inquiries, kindly forward it to this mail.

Many thanks,

Dennis Villegas

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vibal Foundation Launches Botong/Coching Art Books

The long wait is finally over! Philippine art lovers and connoisseurs will definitely treasure the two art books recently launched by Vibal Foundation, Inc., about two of the Philippines' greatest visual artists: Carlos "Botong" Francisco, and Francisco V. Coching.

The hitherto dearth of written and visual materials about these two contemporary towering giants of Philippine art scene has finally been solved by Vibal Foundation's authoritative biographies in the lavishly-illustrated art books The Life and Art of Botong Francisco and The Life and Art of Francisco V. Coching, both launched last Friday, December 11, 2009, at the National Museum of the Filipino People. Both books contain scholarly essays by renowned Philippine art historians, and contain hundreds of many never-before seen artworks of Botong and Coching. The books were edited by art historian Patrick Flores, Ph.D, of the University of the Philippines.

The launching of these two important books was highlighted by a visual presentation about Botong and Coching's immense contribution to Philippine culture and art, as well as a retrospective exhibit of their original works at the third floor of the National Museum. Among the hundreds of guests who attended the launch were the families of Botong Francisco and Francisco Coching.

The books are presently available at Vibal Foundation, Vibal Publishing House, Inc., located at Araneta Avenue, Quezon City, but both will soon be available at your favorite bookstores nationwide. Both books have limited runs only so be sure to buy your copies as soon as you can.

The Life and Art of Botong Francisco

The Life and Art of Francisco V. Coching

Gus Vibal, Executive Director and Publisher of Vibal Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Patrick Flores, edited the art books

The family of Carlos Botong Francisco. The man in red polo is Rodolfo Francisco, the son of Botong.

The family of Arnel Coching, son of Francisco Coching

Cultural icon Danny Dolor, Coching daughter Lulu Coching, almost National Artist Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, writer Virgie Moreno, writer Buenaventura Medina, Jr., society matriarch Esther Vibal, playwright Alberto Florentino, and Vibal Executive Director Gus Vibal

Bebe Gandanghari and Delia Razon

Komikeros hannibal and Randy Valiente enjoying the cocktails that were served

Maridel Coching

Manuel Rodriguez Sr., the Father of Philippine Printmaking, attended the launch. He is only 98 years old.

The great Jess Jodloman, legendary Philippine komiks illustrator

Michael De Leon and Gemma Cruz-Araneta

Alfredo Alcala, Jr.

Bebe Gandanghari, Gus Vibal, Joyce Taylor

Rodolfo Francisco, son of Botong, and Mrs. Filomena Coching, wife of Coching, cut the ribbon of the exhibit. Gus Vibal and mother Esther Vibal happily look on

Congressman Roilo Golez and Maridel Coching

Viewing of the Botong Francisco Coching Art Exhibit

Friday, October 16, 2009

The 2009 Philippine Blog Awards

I just would like to take a short moment to announce (belatedly) that my photoblog and this blog Pilipino Komiks made it to the finals of the recently held 2009 Philippine Blog Awards. This blog emerged as Special Award Winner for Best Filipiniana Blog. This was my very first blog established way back in 2004.

Meanwhile my blogpost in this blog The Diving Boys of Quezon Bridge was chosen as one of the Top Ten Blog Posts of the Year, out of the hundreds that had competed. I actually submitted a few posts including my Suicidal Jeepney Ride to Miagao, The Street Sleepers of Downtown Manila, Master Anos: The Exorcist, Petron Gonzales: Faith Healer and Rugby Sessions. But of them all, I thought that my Palito interview would have the best chance of winning. I still consider it as the best piece of writing and reportage I have ever done. But alas, the judges did not think it was my best post!

Honestly, I had not expected to win anything but I attended the event just the same so I can finally meet the people behind the blogs that I truly admired. Some of them are Sidney Snoeck of My Sari-Sari Store (Winner of Best Foreign Blog), Dong of Dong's Eskapo, Lino of Lino Photography, Ferdz of, and Allan Barredo of

Lastly, I would like to thank you my dear readers, followers, and fellow bloggers for visiting my site often. I would also like to thank the lurkers who sometimes email me (rather than post comments) that they like this post and that. You all give me me more inspiration and drive to write and report more about people, places, events and chismis.

*For the complete list of PBA 2009 winners, please click here

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For the Love of the Tagalog Komiks

For as long as I can remember, I have loved komiks and the entire experience of reading Tagalog komiks. When I was growing up, to help me in my reading, my father always bought me komiks. Our old house in Cubao was near the GASI offices in 18th Avenue, and there my father would buy back issues of Pinoy Komiks, Aliwan, Pinoy Klasiks, Pioneer, and those horde of komiks magazines being published by GASI.

There were plenty of horror komiks magazines during those times, with prices ranging from 75 centavos to 1 peso. I was very attracted to komiks with horrifying drawings. I remember quite clearly Devil Car by Vic Poblete, Cannibal by Jim Fernandez, Goomboo Roomboo by Mars Ravelo, and The Hands by Hal Santiago.

Yet, the beauty of Tagalog Komiks is the diversity it offered its readers. In an issue of Aliwan Komiks, for instance, the pages are alternately filled with horror serials, love shorts, fun page, cartoon strips, action, melodrama, etc. It catered to all people of different tastes and ages. Nothing is limited in the imagination and the komiks provide the reader to navigate their fantasies with them.

Tony Velasquez, Father of the Tagalog Komiks.
He created Kenkoy in 1929--the very first cartoon character in Asia.

(Dennis Villegas collection)

Sometimes when we didn't have enough money, we just rented komiks from a Sari-sari store in the neighborhood. The komiks were all lined up like sinampay in front of the store, and there we would rent for 20 centavos each for the latest issues. The rent time was only three hours so we better read immediately.

In the 1980s, with some money saved from my school allowance, I began buying komiks on my own. There really wasn't any value on them, but I thought I would like to put into folders my favorite komiks magazines. What fascinated me was the idea of having something tangible to be able to browse on rainy afternoons, rather than make them into pambalot ng tinapa or fuel for our cooking stove. I didn't realize then that I was starting a collection.

Ang Alipin ni Hogarta
(Dennis Villegas collection)

Basahang Ginto by Mars Ravelo and Elpidio Torres.
The 1950s komiks were excellent reading and visual materials

(Dennis Villegas collection)

Ironically, I stopped buying komiks during the mid 1980s. I may have been occupied with school, and certainly during those times, my interest in komiks somewhat waned, possibly due to the fact that there were other hobbies I could concentrate on. My father went to Saudi Arabia (and back then, it seemed that all other fathers were in Saudi Arabia). When my father came back, he brought with him chocolates, a stereo component, several cassette tapes, and a very interesting toy called Game and Watch, a pocket game in which a helicopter drops a marine solder into the sea and my task is to catch the guy in my boat or he drowns or eaten by an octopus. The game was the start of the computer craze that was to dominate the youth's interest in those times.

When I finally had a regular job, I went back into collecting komiks. As far as I know, very few people collected Tagalog komiks, and so I was challenged to collect only Tagalog komiks. I never cared for Batman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, or Superman. I wanted Darna, Bondying, Kenkoy, Tsikiting Gubat, Ponyang Halobaybay, Panthomanok, Kalabog en Bosyo, Zuma, or Mahimud Ali. My main objective was to collect the oldest possible komiks magazines.

Bomba Komiks: Adult-oriented komiks
(Dennis Villegas collection)

Since our house was just very near the GASI and ATLAS compound, I started inquiring if they had back issues willing to sell. But the General Manager Deo Alvarez bluntly told me that their back issues were not for sale. I was allowed to see the collection, though, and to my horror, I found that their great collection of komiks was stored in a damp and humid warehouse without proper ventilation. And so up to this day, Atlas compound has the largest un-inventorized Tagalog komiks collection in the world, where the komiks are already in a state of decomposition. I give a few years and this magnificent collection will be destroyed by the elements if not given proper care.

But then, fortunately, I had other sources of komiks.

Vir Redondo was a friend of my father's, and at that time, he was frequenting GASI to sell some of his old komiks. He sold me some of his collections before he died. I also purchased many bound komiks from the late Tony Velasquez, Tony Tenorio and Pablo S. Gomez. People told me I was crazy because I was spending all my salary into all these komiks magazines. Yet I give thanks to my parents who supported my passion and even loaned me money to purchase collections.

In the late 1990s, I discovered that some komiks were being sold in local auctions for 100-200 pesos each. I couldn't afford many but I thought this was my chance to build my collection. Thankfully, auction prices never went high than their initial prices simply because nobody, back then, was buying komiks. I was the only crazy one.

This general lack of interest in komiks has what led me to take interest in preserving this cultural richness of this unique literary and visual artform. As far as I'm concerned, the Philippines has the richest komiks culture in Asia, and possibly in the whole world. No country had a richer comics culture than the Philippines. Our komiks was not only a reflection of our people's fantasies, but a mirror of our mores, our sufferings, our history, our beliefs, and our religion.

By the start of the year 2000, I had accumulated so much komiks materials that I decided to sell the duplicates, and I used the money to buy more komiks and, this time, original art. In time I was able to open a komiks gallery in Cubao, was able to reprint the first comic book in the Philippines, and opened this blog--all for the benefit of cultural awareness of the importance of Tagalog komiks.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Early Philippine Cartoons

Jorge Pineda and Fernando Amorsolo belonged to the first generation of Filipino cartoonists to have emerged during the early years of the American occupation. Most of their cartoons were published in popular news magazines like the Free Press, The Independent, Lipang Kalabaw, and Telembang. Amorsolo and Pineda, of course, eventually developed into great painters that somehow overshadowed their massive body of cartoon works.

When art patronage became a fashion among the elite during the 1920s, Amorsolo and Pineda eventually gave up doing caricatures and concentrated on painting portraits of rich people and commissioned landscapes, which was of course, more profitable. This shift in art, though, can hardly deny the fact that in the 1920s, the Philippines may have the two most talented batch of cartoonists ever to have graced the pages of news and comic magazines.

The cartoon strips shown below are a typical example of elegant Philippine cartoons from these two great cartoonists. The first is by Fernando Amorsolo, and the second by Jorge Pineda.

Simbang Tanan by F. Amorsolo

Balasubas sa Diario by J. Pineda