Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Beginnings of the Philippine Komiks Industry

Although Ace Publications dominated the Philippine komiks industry in its early years, it did not monopolized komiks production because other publishers began to venture into komiks publishing as well, inspired by Ace's sucess.
The first publisher to break Ace’s monopoly in komiks publishing was Silangan Publications. In early 1950, it published the Silangan Komiks, the fourth komiks magazine in the Philippines, after Halakhak Komiks (1946), Pilipino Komiks (1947), and Tagalog Klasiks (1949). The Silangan Komiks was a few months older than the Hiwaga Komiks.

Silangan Komiks with a superb cover by Francisco V. Coching. Coching is well-known for his dynamic composition, which became the standard style in those days. Coching was often commissioned by komiks publishers to grace their covers even though Coching himself did not illustrate any of the stories inside them. At that time, Coching commanded the highest pay among Filipino artists, so that small-time publishers could not afford to hire him to illustrate for their regular komiks-nobelas. They were, however, contented to just having him as their cover artist.

Edited by Ben Cabailo, Jr., the Silangan Komiks' first issue appeared on March 15, 1950, and was afterwards published on a regular forthnightly basis. It boasted some of the youngest and most talented Filipino illustrators at the time: Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Nolasco "Noly" Panaligan, Elpidio Torres, and Antonio de Zuniga. Of particular interest among the nice stories from Silangan Komiks was Prinsipe Ahmad, Anak ni Aladdin, written and illustrated by the youthful Alfredo P. Alcala. Another rare issue of the Silangan Komiks, this time with cover art by Nestor Redondo. During those times, a Redondo cover art was a sure way to make the komiks saleable.

A few weeks after the first issue of Silangan Komiks, another komikbook entered the komiks scene in 1950, the Aksiyon Komiks, published by Arcade Publications. Like all others before it, Aksiyon Komiks was published forthnightly, with writer Eriberto Tablan as editor, and with Alfredo Alcala and Virgilio Redondo as chief illustrators.

An extremely rare copy of Aksyon Komiks, with cover art by Alfredo Alcala for a komiks-nobela ny Jose L. Santos, Haring Kobra

Since artists and writers were hired on a freelance basis, it was possible for them to contribute to rival publications. Hence, the indefatigable Alfredo Alcala worked as artist in many of these early komikbooks.
A few weeks after Aksiyon Komiks’ first issue, also in the year 1950, three more small time publishers entered the komiks publishing competition: F.J Quioge Publications, Social & Commercial Press, and All-Star Publications.

F.J. Quioge Publications published the first issue of Bituin Komiks sometime in April 1950. Edited by Kulafu creator Francisco Reyes, with Mauro Malang Santos and Menny Martin as his assistants, the Bituin Komiks was issued in an irregular basis.

An extremely rare copy of Bituin Komiks. This is one of the only two issues of Bituin Komiks found in the author's collection.

Owned by Dona Beatriz Guballa, known as "Dona Bating", the Social and Commercial Press later changed its name into Bulaklak Publications. It published three komikbooks: the Bulaklak Komiks in August 1950, Manila Klasiks in 1952, and the Extra Komiks in 1953.

A rare copy of Manila Klasiks with a superior cover art by Tony de Zuniga. Author's collection. As an artist, De Zuniga was like a chameleon, often changing his styles to match his writer's ideas.

All Star Publications meanwhile published the Pantastik Komiks in October 1950, also edited by Ben Cabailo Jr. This was a sister piblication of Silangan Publications which issued Silangan Komiks (FOOTNOTE: I had an initial feeling that Silangan Publications and All-Star Publications were owned by Ben Cabailo although the editorial box did not mention the name of the owner. But in a casual conversation with Frank Redondo (younger brother of Nestor and Virgilio Redondo) sometime in 2004, he confirmed to me that he remembered it was indeed Cabailo who owned these komikbooks.)
Pantastik Komiks#2 with cool cover art by the great Francisco V. Coching. This mermaid komiks-nobela by Hector Rey Arkanghel predates Mars Ravelo's Dyesebel.

Most of these publishers had very small capital, had no printing presses of their own, or lacked the appeal to attract big advertisers. No wonder many of them died a natural death after only a few issues. None of them had equalled the success Ace’s komiks.

Mabuhay Komiks #10 with cover art by Bes Nievera for Teodoro Virrey's classic komiks-nobela, "Borong-Borong".

In fact by the end of the 1950s the Silangan, Bituin, Aksiyon, and Pantastik Komiks had ceased publications. With very little capital and lack of efficient distribution network, these komikbooks suffered the same fate of the Halakhak Komiks. The only saving grace for these komikbboks was that they contained some of the more visually appealing artworks by some of the budding artists at that time, like the Redondo brothers, Alfredo Alcala and Hugo Yonzon.

Aksiyon Komiks, for instance, had some of the greatest komiks novels of its time, like Mario del Mar’s Prinsipe Amante, as superbly illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, and Ang Kamay ni Hugo by Nolasco Panaligan. For a time the Aksiyon Komiks’ Prinsipe Amante series became a serious threat to Pilipino Komiks’ popularity. At about this time, however, a young Mars Ravelo started the popular Darna series, and Prinsipe Amante and Darna became the two most popular series being anticipated by Filipino komiks readers.

The komiks industry continued to grow. Old publishers were closing but more new ones emerged in their place. Some komiks changed ownerships but they continued to be issued.

Atomik Komiks #1 with a gorgeuos cover by Sir Fred Alcala. What a cool title this komiks has!

By 1954, there were at least 20 or so komiks titles that were being sold in the newsstands. The Filipinos passion for komiks had reached an unbelievable peak. Komiks reading had become the Filipinos' national pastime. Marte Komiks#1 by Marte Publications Inc., Manila Philippines. Possibly the first all Sci-Fi komiks-magazine in the Philippines. Cover art by Nestor P. Redondo. I really loved the way Redondo composed this worms-eye view of the lead character! I am very impressed!

Tsampiyon Komiks #4. "Domino" character by Ruben "Rubeny" Yandoc. Champion!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Story of Ace Publications

One morning in May of 1947, Tony Velasquez received a call from Don Ramon Roces, publisher of the Liwayway. The publishing magnate wanted to publish comics-magazines, and he wanted Velasquez to manage it.
Said Velasquez: "I did not give him a chance to change his mind. I immediately jumped at his offer. Even before his call, I was already toying with the idea of publishing komiks-magazines. So I thought Don Ramon was heaven's reply to my dream"
However, Don Ramon, was a little apprehensive about its business success, since only a year ago, the first regularly-published Philippine komiks-magazine, the Halakhak Komiks, closed business after only ten issues, its publisher financially ruined.
"I am not sure if this will last, but I want you to give it a try" Don Ramon said to Velasquez, "Just see what you can do about it "
"It will last, Don Ramon. I guarantee you that it will last" replied Velasquez.
The magnate was impressed with the confidence and enthusiasm exuded by his favorite cartoonist, and from then on, he knew he had chosen the right man to handle his pet project.
Don Ramon gave Velasquez 10,000 pesos as initial budget for the company.
A small office in one of the vacant rooms in the old Liwayway building in Sta. Cruz was provided, and there Velasquez started his new company which he called Ace Publications.

"Ace Publications started out with one office table and one typewriter" Velasquez recounted in his memoirs, "We occupied a miserable corner in the ground floor of the Liwayway building in Calero st., Sta. Cruz. It was a one-man enterprise atfirst. I was editor, proofreader, retoucher, illustrator, advertising manager, messenger, and solicitor rolled into one. I don't recall having a janitor then, so I used to clean the office too. I remember working with my pants rolled up to my knees because our little office got flooded when it rained"
Indeed, this was the humble beginning of the future big komiks industry in the Philippines.

Being Ace Publications founder and first employee, Tony Velasquez got I.D. #1. It's the only Ace I.D. that carried his two signatures. The first signature as an employee and the second as General manager. Cool!

"It was just after the war" Velasquez continued in his memoirs, "my cartoonists friends were not so busy then so I recruited them to join me in Ace"

Velasquez appropriately entitled Ace's first komik-magazine Pilipino Komiks, the font for the word komiks, which symbolized only Tagalog komiks, he himself designed. The Pilipino Komiks was destined to be the first of the big komiks magazines that will dominate the mass media entertainment in the Philippines.

The first issue of Pilipino Komiks. A rare copy of this comic-magazine is now being preserved by the author.

The first issue hit the streets on June 14, 1947 with initial print of 10,000 copies. Published forthnightly, at twenty-five centavos a copy, the Pilipino Komiks was easily affordable even by the man on the street and the first issue sold like a hot cake.

Included in the first issue was one of the longest-running serial komiks novels in the Philippines, DI-13 (a take-off of the famous American cartoon Dick Tracy) authored by Tony's brother Damy Velasquez and illustrated by Jesse Santos. Also included were Vicente Manansala's washed paneled story of Prinsesa Urduja, Amadeo Manalad's Makisig, Cris Caguintuan's Lagim, Fred Carillo's Daluyong, Larry Alcala's Kalabog, and Zabala Santos' Lukas Malakas. Velasquez had his own contribution in Nanong Pandak's two-page strip.

As a partial homage to the Liwayway where he started as a story illustrator, Velasquez included a short hilarious prose by E.D. Ramos, called “Si Tibong at si Tibang”.

On the eighth issue of Pilipino Komiks, Francisco V. Coching joined the staff of illustrators with his cartoon strip Paloma, his first comic strip in Ace Publications. Pilipino Komiks #15. Yearender issue 1947-48. Cover art by Tony Velasquez. Author's collection.


The Pilipino Komiks prospered and the initial capital of 10,000 was increased up to 100,000 plus a little cash dividend enjoyed by the stockholders. Fortunately, I was one of the original stockholders!” remarked Velasquez.

Ten issues later, the print order for Pilipino Komiks reached 25,000 copies. This, plus the regular whole page advertisement of Pepsi-Cola and several other small advertisers, managed to pull the publication into a height not equaled by the Halakhak Komiks. For sometime Pilipino Komiks monopolized the comic book market, it had no competition.

Eventually as Ace Publications expanded and more staff were hired, they got “somewhat cramped up in our little corner at the Liwayway Building. So we acquired temporary accommodations in the sprawling compound of the Capitol Publishing House, Inc. where we paid a rent of P1,900.00 a month”

As we hired additional personnel, one by one, I lost my job as proofreader, advertising agent, retoucher, and janitor, although fortunately, I still retained my job as General Manager”, smiled Velasquez.

Pilipino Komiks was, and still is, the Philippines best-selling comics magazine. From its pages came the most memorable comics stories and serialized novels the Filipinos had grown familiar with like El Indio, Darna, DI-13, Bondying, Dyesebel, Kalabog en Bosyo, to mention a few.
By 1957, a mere ten years after the initial issue, the Pilipino Komiks had a print order from its distributors of 120,000 copies. Not bad for a once lowly comics that had an initial print of only 10,000.

Two years after its first issue and still the Pilipino Komiks was earning well and increasing its circulation. Indeed, Don Ramon’s apprehension that it would not last long was proven wrong. Certainly, Velasquez had proven to him that this was going to last long.
The success of Pilipino Komiks was brought about by what the previous Halakhak did not have: Big capital, a printing press, and effective distribution network (the nationwide agents of the Liwayway took the job as the Pilipino Komiks distributors).
About two years after, in 1949, inspired by the success of Pilipino Komiks, Velasquez created Tagalog Klasiks, the second komiks-magazine produced by Ace Publications.
Unlike Pilipino Komiks, which spunned original story materials of Philippine komiks writers, the first issue of Tagalog Klasiks contain Tagalog reprints of American comics classics such as the Arabian Nights, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and some other works mostly from stories illustrated by the American king of comics, Jack Kirby.

In its later issues, however, Tagalog Klasiks switched to original materials by such young writers as Clodualdo del Mundo, Pablo S. Gomez, Virgilio Redondo and Mars Ravelo. One of its more memorable runs was the komiks adaptation of Severino Reyes’ Lola Basyang stories, as rewritten by his own son Pedrito Reyes and illustrated by Jesus Ramos, and later on, Ruben Yandoc. Another popular series was Clodualdo del Mundo’s “Buhay ng mga Poon”. Tagalog Klasiks also became the venue for Mars Ravelo’s classic novel, ROBERTA, which went on to become one of the biggest box-office movies in 1951.

The second issue of the Tagalog Klasiks. The most popular series in the Tagalog Klasiks was Don Severino Reyes' "Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang", as scripted into komiks by his son Pedrito Reyes. Cover art by Maning de Leon.Author's Collection.

In 1950 another Ace Publications komiks was born, entitled Hiwaga Komiks. This komiks featured works by budding artists like Nestor Redondo and Alfredo Alcala. It contained mystery stories, as its title implied, as well as fantasy and horror stories. In this komiks, Virgilio Redondo and his younger brother Nestor would team up for the fantasy novel “Ang Signo” a tale comparable in story to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Another Mars Ravelo hit during the early issues of Hiwaga Komiks was Berdugo ng Mga Anghel, which was marvelously illustrated by Elpidio Torres.

The first issue of the Hiwaga Komiks. The cover features Coching's illustration for Mars Ravelo's Berdugo ng Mga Anghel". Its regular illustrator, however, was the equally talented Elpidio Torres. Author's collection.

In 1952, Velasquez, goaded by the great success of his earlier titles, created the fourth komiks of Ace Publications, which he entitled Espesyal Komiks. This komiks concentrated on action and detective stories. Particularly noteworthy among in its earlier issues was “Reyna Bandida” again by the Redondo brothers, and Binibining Pirata by the perennial team of Clodualdo del Mundo and Fred Carrillo. The cover of the first issue of Espesyal Komiks featured a novel by Virgilio Redondo and illustration by his younger brother Nestor Redondo:"Reyna Bandida"

In 1959, the fifth komiks-magazine of Ace Publications was born, the Kenkoy Komiks. This was published in pocket size, the first of its kind in the Philippines. In its later issues, however, Kenkoy Komiks was enlarged to regular-sized komiks magazine because elederly readers complained they could not read the komiks smaller fonts. Some even joked they could not use it anymore as pambalot ng tinapa (salted fish wrapper), or pambalot ng t--, since most Filipino homes during those times do not have private lavatories. Anyway those were just petty complaints. Tony Velasquez acceded to their request to transform it into a bigger size komiks.

An early issue of the pocket-size Kenkoy Komiks, Don Ramon's tribute to Velasquez' comic hero who made Liwayway a favorite magazine of the Filipinos. Kenkoy Komiks was later transformed into regular sized komiks-magazine.

The five-walled kingdom of Ace Publications was thus formed with the completion of the five komikbooks that Velasquez created for Don Ramon's publishing empire.

Hiwaga Komiks #29, 1951, with a magnificent cover art by Nestor Redondo. Author's collection.

For a time, there was a sixth komiks-magazine by Ace Publications, called Educational Klasiks Komiks, also published in pocket-size. This educational komiks was intended as a supplementary reading komiks magazine for private and public schools (again, the first of its kind to be published in the Philippines). This komiks contained only stories that have relationship to history, health, mathematics, science, and so on. This komiks did not last long, however, as it failed to gain the support of the government to make it a cumpolsory reading material in schools.

Tony Velasquez, the Father of the Philippine Komiks Industry

In 1962, Ace Publications was plunged into a crisis. Office and production staff of the company held strike in front of the Capitol Building. These workers demanded that they be given the same high salaries earned by komiks illustrators and writers. Since writers and illustrators were being paid in a per input manner (writers per story, and illustrators per page), the demand of the office and production staff was highly unacceptable. Don Ramon urged the workers to go back to work, but the latter held their ground.
In the following days, komiks production was virtually stopped, and Don Ramon was forced to close Ace Publications.
Thus was passed into the archives of history the greatest Filipino komiks-publications of all time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A History of the Liwayway Magazine

Don Ramon Roces’ figure loomed large in the history of popular publishing in the Philippines. If Tony Velasquez is recognized as the “Father of the Tagalog Komiks”, then Don Ramon Roces should rightfully be called its “Godfather”.

Of Spanish ancestry, Don Ramon came from an illustrious family that became prominent in the publishing business. His father, Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., was the recognized father of modern journalism in the Philippines.

In 1916, Don Alejandro purchased the fledgling Spanish language daily La Vanguardia and the Tagalog Taliba from their original owner Don Martin Ocampo.
The La Vanguardia was the descendant of El Renacimiento, a newspaper edited by Teodoro M. Kalaw, but the latter had to close it in 1923, in relation to the infamous libel suit filed by the American Dean Worcester.

By founding later the English Tribune in 1925(edited by the young Carlos Romulo), Don Alejandro had forged the links that established the newspaper empire in the Philippines. His newspaper triumvirate, Ang Taliba-La Vanguardia-Tribune, widely known as the T-V-T, had monopolized the newspaper industry of the pre war Philippines. The Taliba catered to Tagalog readers, the La Vanguardia to Spanish readers, and the Tribune to the English readers.

The T-V-T’s chief competitor was the DMHM (El Debate, Mabuhay, The Philippines Herald, and Monday Mail) newspaper chain of the Elizaldes, but these newspapers could not cope up with the circulation of the T-V-T, so that critics usually took the DMHM as to mean “Dito Muna Hanggang Meron”, to poke fun of the beatings these papers had to endure in comparison with the very popular T-V-T.

In 1922, Don Alejandro’s eldest son, Don Ramon, entered the reins of his father’s publishing empire. By building upon his father’s accomplishments, Don Ramon established a chain of vernacular magazines beginning with the publication of the Tagalog Liwayway in 1923.

The Liwayway was actually a re-issue of Don Ramon’s first published magazine, the Photo News, a news magazine jointly edited by Don Ramon Roces himself and the Filipino novelist Don Severino Reyes.

Don Severino Reyes, co-founder of the Liwayway. His "Kwento ni Lola Basyang" became the most beloved series in the Liwayway. His son, Pedrito Reyes, later took over the editorship of the Liwayway.

As its title implied, the Photo News was an illustrated magazine that contained news, essays, and prose and poetry.
Published forthnightly at 15 centavos a copy, the Photo News was written in trilingual sections: English, Spanish and Tagalog, presumably to cater to the major three language readers of the Philippines at the time, which were essentially the clientele of the T-V-T. Thus, English readers had only need of the Photo News’ English section; the Spanish readers its Spanish section; and the Tagalog readers its Tagalog section.
The readers who cannot read in any two of the sections thought that it was a waste of money paying for the other three-fourths of the magazine, which they could not understand. Thus the magazine did not sell very well and Don Ramon discontinued the magazine before the year was out. Frustrated, he went to Mindanao as a self-exile, and for a while, contemplated on establishing a coconut plantation there.
Being a vibrant young man, Don Ramon immediately felt homesick, and missed the hustle and bustle of city life. Three months later he was back in Manila. He learned his lesson, and now with a revived interest in publishing, called back Don Severino Reyes to resurrect Photo News, this time in pure Tagalog language. They established its new office in Calero St., a few blocks away from the Don Alejandro’s T-V-T building.

Don Severino adopted Liwayway as the magazine’s new title, which aptly means dawn, a new beginning.

On the front page of the first issue of Liwayway, dated November 18, 1922, Don Binoy greeted his past “patron” readers of the ill-fated Photo News, as well as the new magazine’s prospective sponsors, and announced the new look and contents of their resurrected magazine:

Katulad ng isang panauhing umalis muna sa bahay niyang tinutuluyan, bago nagbalik na muli, sa aming pagsipot na ito na bago ang bihis at bago na ang gayak, ay muli kaming nagpupugay sa lahat.
Sa Pamahalaang nakatatag ay inihahandog namin ang aming pamimitaganan, sa mga kapamahayagan ay ang malugod na bati at pakikiramay at sa mga tumatangkilik sa amin---ang bayang mambabasa at ang mga bahay kalakal---ay ang lahat ng mabuting nais sa kanilang kabuhayan”.

A 1923 issue of the Liwayway. Author's collection.

Don Ramon and Don Severino made every effort to ensure that the Liwayway would not suffer the same fate of their ill-fated Photo News. Published weekly, the Liwayway’s cover price was tagged at 12 centavos, or 3 centavos cheaper than the forthnightly Photo News. It also had 40 pages, in contrast to the Photo News’ 28 pages, and it carried more pictures and illustrations.

A 1931 original cover art of the Liwayway by Tony Velasquez. One can readily see a heavy influence of Amorsolo on Velasquez early style. Author's collection.

In its early issues, the Liwayway carried the same typeface and overall design of the Photo News, but it was a considerably enlarged magazine. It also featured local and foreign news, as well as an expanded section on essay, short fiction and poetry.

It was in the pages of Liwayway where Don Severino’s “Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” appeared. The “Lola Basyang” stories eventually became the most-widely read prose feature of Liwayway. For many years, readers mistook the real “Lola Basyang” as an old woman with loadful of ancient stories stuck in her ancient baul, only to find out later that she was actually a he, and a fat and balding one at that. This is the offset print of the original art shown above. Author's collection.

Don Severino recruited some of the literary giants of the time as regular contributors to the Liwayway. They included the poets Jose Corazon De Jesus, Florentino Collantes, Julian Cruz Balmaseda, Cecilio Apostol, and the writers Lope K. Santos, Inigo Ed Regalado, Romualdo Ramos, Francisco Laksamana, Fausto Galauran, and Don Binoy’s own talented son, Pedrito Reyes, who later succeeded his father to the magazine’s editorship.
Thus, even though the Liwayway was basically intended as a magazine for the man on the street, yet its prose and poetry was considered the best Tagalog literary output of the era. Some of the great Tagalog literary novels produced in those years were serialized in the Liwayway, many of which became classics in Tagalog literature.

To make the Liwayway more visually appealing, Don Severino recruited some of the best layout designers and artists of the time, which included among others Procopio Borromeo, Jorge Pineda, Jose V. Pereira, P. V. Coniconde and Antonio Gonzales Dumlao.

The Liwayway also became the vehicle for some of the Philippines early comic strips, like Tony Velasquez' Ang Mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy, J.M. Perez' Huapelo and Pamboy at Osang, Francisco Reyes' Kulafu, and Deo Gonzales' Isang Dakot na Kabulastugan. These became the starting point for the comics industry that later flourished in the Philippines/

The Liwayway gained the support of regular sponsors like Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Chesterfield cigarettes, Zamora’s Tiki-tiki, Chrysler-Plymouth cars, Esco shoes, Ang Tibay shoes, and Botica Boie products. These advertisements ensured the magazine’s survival in the future.

A 1931 issue of Liwayway with a beautiful cover art by Tony Velasquez. Looks like Velasquez was influenced here by the American artist Norman Rockwell. Author's collection.

The Liwayway’s commercial triumph prompted Don Ramon to launch a sister Tagalog magazine, Hiwaga, in 1926. A year later, an English weekly, The Graphic, was published. Soon, other vernacular magazines in the other dialects of the Philippines came out in succession: Bisaya in 1932, Hiligaynon (Western Bisaya dialect) in 1934, Bikolnon in 1935, and the Ilocano Bannawag in 1940.

So popular Liwayway had become that Don Ramon decided to publish a thicker monthly supplement called Liwayway Extra beginning in 1936. At this time, Tony Velasquez was already promoted as Chief Artist of the Liwayway. The Liwayway Extra had more pages and more comic strips than the weekly Liwayway.
Original Cover art of the Liwayway Extra for November 1937. Art by Tony Velasquez, this cover features Liwayway's greatest star, Kenkoy, and his pal J.M. Perez' Pamboy. Author's collection.

During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese Imperial Army confiscated the Liwayway. The Japanese continued Liwayway's weekly publication, knowing how much they could use the magazine to propagandize their occupation agenda. Kenkoy, the most popular comic strip in the Philippines at the time, was allowed to continue, but now the famous funny man would only mouth President Laurel's health and educational policies. In 1945, after the liberation of Manila, the Americans took over for a while the Liwayway, publishing it in pocket form due to the shortage of paper.

Liwayway after the Liberation of Manila. This cover poked fun at an American GI. Regarded by Filipinos as heroes, the GI had won the admiration of the Filipina women.

In 1946, the Liwayway was returned to Don Ramon Roces.

Don Ramon Roces, the "Grand Old Man of Philippine Popular Press"

In 1965, the aging Don Ramon decided to retire from publishing and sold the Liwayway to Hans Menzi, founder of the Manila Bulletin. Since then, it had changed ownership at least two more times, but still the magazine, owing to its popularity with the masses, continued publications. Surprisingly, this year the Manila Bulletin re-purchased the Liwayway. One can only wonder if in the future, the Roceses would also repurchase the Liwayway. Well, anything can happen indeed.

Now, the Liwayway is already 82 years old still going strong even if its already the oldest existing magazine in the Philippines. Throughout its existence it had become an indelible part of Philippine culture.It had witnessed events that are now a major part of Philippine history. If there is only such as a thing as a national award for a magazine, the Liwayway deserves one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tagalog Klasiks Komiks #1 1949

This is a specimen of the earliest issue of Tagalog Klasiks (isinalarawan), dated July 16, 1949.
Contents of this comics include:
-Isang Libo't Isang Gabi sa Arabia (One Thousand and One Nights). Tagalog reprint of the same story appearing in Classics Illustrated #8.
-Walang Laya (looks to me that this was taken from a different american comics, possibly illustrated by Jack Kirby, since the credit box was removed)
-Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang: Maryang Makiling by Severino Reyes and Maning de Leon
-Pusong Mapangarapin. Looks like another Kirby work.
Total pages:34. Originally priced at 25 philippine centavos.
Published by Ace Publications, Soler St., Manila Philippines.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Greetings from the Pioneer Filipino Cartoonists

Here is an all-star caricature of the pioneer cartoonists of Pilipino Komiks. This wonderful page was drawn by Jose Zabala-Santos.

First row: on the upper left corner holding the "K" in Pilipino Komiks is Liborio "Gat" Gatbonton, one of my all-time favorite cartoonists. On the opposite direction was the muralist Amadeo Manalad.

Second row: the man bicycling on the tightrope is Damy Velasquez; next to him is Vicente Manansala (now national Artist for Fine Arts). The fellow on striped sando walking on the tightrope is Mars Ravelo. At the other end of the rope is Jose Zabala-Santos.

Third row: Francisco V. Coching(still holding his brush and bristol); the fellow holding the roasted pig is Mauro Malang Santos; next to him is Deo Gonzales; the fellow with the shades is Lib Abrena.

Last row: Tony Velasquez is the circus impresario (being the founder of Pilipino Komiks!); beneath him is Lagim artist Cris Caguintuan; the man riding the carabao is Fred Carrillo; the fellow on the toy bike is Jessie Santos; last but not the least, the happy fellow walking the dog and holding a camera is none other than Larry Alcala, when he was a little thinner.

Merry Christmas to everyone!! And enjoy the season to the fullest!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Alex Nino's "Ang Akin ay Para sa Lahat"

One of the light-hearted illustrations Nino had drawn for Pablo S. Gomez' novel "Ang Akin ay para sa Lahat", during their tandem years in Gomez' PSG Publications. This komiks-novela was filmed starring Fernando Poe Jr. in the lead role as "Emong" who sort of adopted orphans into his care. Ironically, two of his adopted urchins were a twin named Susan and Roces, which makes people think that this novel was really tailored for FPJ and his wife, Susan Roces (who is Pablo's best friend)
Although Nino would be best known in sci-fi and fantasy illustrations, not many people know that he also excelled in humorous drawings, such as the splash page shown above. Published in the Universal Komiks, circa 1960s.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

King Kong in Philippine Komiks

I am such a big fan of King Kong that when a friend offered me an old Tagalog komiks with a King Kong cover, I just couldn't refuse, even if the price is way high on my budget.
This King Kong is different though. In this version, the giant ape is featured as four-armed and two-headed monster. Yet, just like the classic King Kong, the beast is holding his beauty right in his hand! Nice artwork by our very own komiks illustrator, Rudy Nebres.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pablo S. Gomez, Komiks Writer

Pablo S. Gomez is one of the Philippines' greatest komiks writers. A prolific writer, he has written innumerable komiks short stories and holds the record for the most komiks-nobelas written by a single author: more than 200 nobelas. (Mars Ravelo once held the record, but he died earlier and Pablo still writes to this day)
Pablo is the last of the great komiks-writers from the Golden Age of Philippine Komiks, an era when komiks writing reached its pinnacle because of Gomez' and his contemporaries (Clodualdo del Mundo, Francisco Coching, Mars Ravelo, and Tony Velasquez)writings.
Gomez' more famous komiks-nobelas were Kurdapya, Eva Fonda, Pitong Gatang, MN, Kamay ni Hilda, Recuerdo, Susanang Daldal, Taong Buwaya, Batang Bangkusay, Pagbabalik ng Lawin, and of course, Kampanerang Kuba.
"I was writing for as long as I can remember it", he smiles. "Komiks writing comes naturally for me, its just like a normal thing to do everyday, just like eating"
In 1963, when Ace Publications closed down due to labor strike, Gomez started his own publications company, the PSG Publications. It published such titles as United Komiks, Continental Komiks, Universal Komiks, Kidlat Komiks, and Planet Komiks. His publications company started the careers of many great komiks artists and writers like Alex Nino and Carlo J. Caparas, to name a few.
For a time, PSG became the biggest rival of GASI, until Pablo was forced to close the company due to the slump in the komiks business because of Martial Law. Yet, he never stopped writing. He has hundreds of stories and scripts still unpublished to this day, all of them he kept stored in his steel file cabinet, or on top of his table, or under his oval bed (which was a gift by his friend Ms. Susan Roces). Up to now, Pablo never gets tired of writing, and everytime I visit him in his home, I usually find him in front of his vintage typewriter creating new stories and plots for the younger generation of komiks readers. One can only wonder at the sheer force of his imagination and the vastness of his knowledge.
Indeed, like his craft, Pablo is ageless, and like his greatest works, he is immortal.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Carlos "Botong" Francisco's Siete Infantes de Lara

At last, I have found a copy of one of the most important comic strips in the history of Philippine komiks: Carlos "Botong" Francsico's Siete Infantes de Lara!
Serendipity indeed plays a major part in the building of my komiks collection, just as when the times I rediscovered the original first issue of Varga/Darna, (now happily enshrined in the Darna Website), the first issues of Kenkoy (now happily reprinted), Coching's Alamid, or Lib Abrena's Ipu-Ipo.
Now comes the Siete Infantes de Lara comic strip by our National Artist Botong Francisco. I kept hearing about this from my old komiks mentors like Virgilio Redondo (who once owned several of the original pages! He sold them to an unknown Botong admirer for 1000 pesos each during the 1970s!), Tony Tenorio, and Pablo Gomez.
I had been searching for it for the longest time, but could not find any copy: not in the National Library, not even in the Lopez Museum, which is a treasure trove of early Philippine magazines.
Then yesterday, as I was going through my usual rounds of my friends' antique shops in Ermita I saw by chance old copies of Bulaklak magazines stacked in the new arrival inventory. Since I know in the first place that Siete Infantes appeared in Bulaklak from 1948-49, I looked for the magazine corresponding to that year. Luckily, there was one copy for the year 1948, and upon checking the inside pages, uereka! The first issue of Siete Infantes is right in front of me. Botong's komiks nickname was right there: "Boots"
As a komiks collector, a Pinoy movie geek, and a fan of Botong, this find is doubly important for me. Now I am a little closer in making a partial catalogueing of komiks strips by the great masters of the glorious days of komiks.
Being a Pinoy movie fan, I can also relate to Siete Infantes, since it was later made into a movie directed by the great Manuel Conde. During my childhood years, I distinctly remember its numerous reruns in a local TV station during lazy afternoons. Back then, our TV set was a wooden encased 25 inch black and white Zenith with a dial knob to switch channels, and a screen that had a sliding door to boot!
Anyway, I love those Filipino movies about kings, princes and castles like Apat na Alas, Prinsipe Amante, and of course, Siete Infantes de lara.
I still remember that one of the Siete Infantes was Eddie Garcia in his first starring role. The other Infantes were Jaime Castelvi, George Sanderson, Albert Madison, Gil de Leon (dad of Christopher de Leon), Mario Montenegro, and Johnny Monteiro. It also was the first film appearance of Nida Blanca who was cast as a young girl in the movie (she would later get a full starring role in the film Korea, 1952).
Siete Infantes de Lara by Botong Francisco. A comic strip by one of our great National Artists. Next time around, I shall feature comic strips by Vicente Manasala and Fernando Amorsolo. Now, no foolish art critic would say that komiks is an inferior artists' trade, right?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Philippine Cartoons during the Japanese Occupation Part 1

Philippine Cartoons during the Japanese Occupation

(Note by the author: I have written this essay a few months ago. I have hardly have time to edit it so I beg your compassion if there are errors in grammar and composition. I have tried with great care to avoid errors in historical facts as they could be very hard to correct once read by people. This article is a much-shortened version of the 30 plus page I have originally written. My plan is to make this into a weekly installment article in this blog. People just tend to get tired easily reading long articles in the internet.
It is virtually impossible to trace the copyright owners of the images that will appear herein. What I have in mind is to make this blog a humble contribution to the growing awareness of our rich komiks heritage. Of course, everyone knows that a blogger receives nothing financially, so I ask the indulgence of everyone concerned)


Cartoons were put to effective use during the Japanese occupation as a tool of propaganda. The Japanese knew well that cartoons had a wide appeal to people, and they took advantage of its popularity to propagandize their policy of occupation.

A Need for Moral Justification

Throughout history, every conquering nation needs to come up with a moral justification for occupying another nation. In its history, the Philippines had been conquered three times by foreign powers. These conquering nations- Spain, the United States and Japan- need to make a valid and justified moral reason in order to win over the cooperation of the subjugated nation. This is an imperative colonial strategy in order to establish a moral ascendancy to rule, as well as to dissipate any future revolt by the conquered populace.
When Spain conquered the Philippines, the moral justification was that they aimed to spread Catholicism in a pagan country, to make Christians out of heathens. The tools of propaganda were the friars who brought with them religious rites and ceremonies to attract the population.
In the case of the United States’ conquest of the Philippines, its moral justification was the credo of colonial rule: “White Man’s Burden”: that it was the moral duty of the white people, being the superior race, to take care of his less-fortunate “brown” brothers, i.e, the Filipinos.

The Japanese, on their part, had to invent their own moral justification when they attacked the Philippines during the Second World War. They claimed that it was the Americans, and not the Filipinos, they were waging war against. Their propaganda was the credo Asia for Asians, Philippines for the Filipinos. They posed themselves as liberators instead of conquerors.
In order to better convince the Filipinos of their “friendly” invasion, the Japanese had to resort to the use of propaganda. In a propaganda war, the printed word is an effective weapon to convince, to manipulate, and to conquer. More so was the use of graphic images such as cartoons and comic strips, as they have mass appeal and can easily be understood by people.

Cartoons as Propaganda Tool

As soon as Japanese war planes hovered over Philippine skies, the Japanese already began to use propaganda tactics in order to justify their invasion. Japanese pilots dropped hundreds of leaflets from the skies in order to win over the support of the Filipinos against the Americans.

This leaflet portrayed that the Japanese were in fact liberators of the Filipinos from the American colonizers.

This cartoon leaflet was meant to remind the Filipinos of American atrocities during the Filipino-American War of 1899. Although there were indeed atrocities committed by the Americans during the Fil-Am War, yet this cartoon had errors in fact. Leonard Wood was not yet in the Philippine Islands when this war happened.

Dropped by Japanese war planes in the island of Corregidor during the intense bombing of the island fortress, this leaflet was meant to convey the message to the Filipino-American soldiers the futility of fighting, and to surrender, as their resistance was hopeless. The Filipino soldiers at this time were already demoralized by the lack of food and constant bombings by the Japanese, and the cartoons showing plenty of food waiting for them outside Corregidor was meant to take advantage of this weakness.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Alfredo Alcala's Zombie

This original page captures all the classic hallmarks of an Alfredo Alcala comic art. Intricate cross-hatchings, lush brush strokes, superior light and shade treatrment, and over-all magnificent composition. Published in the Universal Komiks, 1971. Story by Pablo S. Gomez.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Alex Nino's Mikrobyo (Detail)

One of my most favorite pages in my collection of original comic art: Alex Nino's first published artwork in the Graphic Arts Service, Inc.(GASI), circa 1966. In this amazing page Alex had summoned all the dark creatures of Philippine lower mythology for a story concepted by the Father of Philippine Komiks, Tony Velasquez. You can see them all here in this rare grand reunion ocassion: The Kapre, the Manananggal, the Aswang, the Dwende, the Tiyanak, and the Tikbalang. Tony Velasquez' opinion on this artwork: "A work of a genius".

Monday, November 28, 2005

Gerry Alanguilan's Wasted and Carlo Vergara's Zsa Zsa Zaturrnah

Two of my most favorite comic books are “Wasted” and “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zatturnah”. I remember I bought my first copies of these comic books in Comic Quest sometime in November 2003.
Back then, I was wondering if I could find newly-published local comic books by Filipino artists, since most of the big-time artists have gone abroad to work in foreign publications. So when I found Wasted and Zsa Zsa Zaturrnah displayed in Comic Quest, I bought them immediately.
Wasted was the creation of a very talented artist who, even at that time, was earning praise for his inking works in such prestigious titles as X-Men, Stone, Wetworks, High Roads, and Superman Birthright. His name was Gerry Alanguilan. Wasted is a comic book which I would like to call “classic”. It is one of the most violent and saddest stories I have ever read. It is a story of man who had lost his self-respect and went about in homicidal rage to avenge his frustrations against the world. My favorite scene in Wasted is the slow-motion fall of Eric from the building, after being hit by a sniper. Eric's panel by panel poetic epistle to his girlfriend Jenny-read as he falls from the building-was so dramatic and emotional. It is one of the most heart-rending letters I have ever read.

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, meanwhile, is created by Carlo Vergara. I did not know him then, did not even know how he looked like. But his comic book downright floored me through so much laughter. One of the scenes, in which Ada was about to swallow the stone for the first time (Isubo mo na), was so tremendously funny, I literally had tears in my eyes from so much laughter. Indeed, Zsa Zsa Zaturrnah is as hilarious as any comic book you could ever read, so I marveled who this Carlo Vergara was. I looked into the back page (which usually gave some info on the author)…but there was scarcely anything about him there, except mentioning that he was a graphic designer and a former university lecturer. There was a picture of him, too. Alas, it must have been his picture when he was two years old!
Anyway my curiosity got the better of me. I had been a regular follower of Gerry Alanguilan’s Komikero website since that time, and Gerry announced that his Komikero group was holding a Komiks Festival in San Pablo City on December 7, 2003, and one of guests was Carlo Vergara.
I thought why not go there, meet Carlo and Gerry in person, as well as meet several other outstanding artists like Leinil Yu and Wilson Tortosa. The event was to be held on a Sunday, which was perfect, because I didn’t have work. Yet, on the last week prior to the festival, I was contacted by my best friend, asking me to be one of the ninongs for his newborn child. Of course, I could not say no, but I explained I would be late, since I already made up my mind to attend the Festival.
On the early morning of December 7, true enough, I was on the way to San Pablo, carrying a backpack full of comic books: Wasted, Zsa-Zsa Zaturnnah, One Night in Purgatory, and several issues of Superman Birthright, which I planned to have signed by their artists.
I arrived in San Pablo a little over twelve in the afternoon. I admired the exhibit set up by the Komikero group, and was finally able to meet GerryAlanguilan. I had some reservations asking Gerry to sign my comic books, since I still picture him in my mind as “hot-headed” Eric. Yet, on the contrary, he was very kind, humble, and soft-spoken. Since there were several people waiting in line to have their comic books signed by him, I did not push with my plan of interviewing him, and instead said thank you, and went to the table they set up to sell various indie comics. Indie comic books have a special place in my heart. I bought a copy of each, including Jonas Diego’s excellent Book of John, and of course, the zany and hilarious Crest Hutt Butt Shop, again by Gerry Alanguilan.
It was about two o’clock in the afternoon when I met Carlo Vergara. He was wearing a yellow shirt and blue denims, and was sitting in one of the benches, doodling sketches on his notebook. I said “hi”, introduced myself, and told him I admired his work Zsa Zsa Zaturrnah and One Night in Purgatory. He thanked me for appreciating his works and we had a nice conversation. Then suddenly, he sketched a Zsa Zsa pin up in his notebook, and gave the page to me. I was very happy and told him I’d keep this memento of my favorite super gay heroine as long as I live.
I went back to Manila, happy and contented having met many of my favorite younger artists there. Indeed, I feel proud on having befriended such talented artists as Gerry Alanguilan and Carlo Vergara, two prime movers in the Philippine comics industry today. Of course, now you know I'm a big fan of them.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Kenkoy: Biography of a Pop Icon

“KENKOY is the Philippines’ first true pop icon. He is a ludicrous portrait of the Filipino…pathetically trying but barely succeeding in keeping up with his American mentors”—Nonoy Marcelo

KENKOY: 1. Isang nakakatawang karakter sa Komiks na nilikha noong 1929 na may maluwang na pantalon at plastadong buhok. 2. Isang mapagpatawang tao. – U.P Diksyunaryong Filipino, University of the Philippines Press

Long before the era of the movie stars and showbiz celebrities, there already was a Philippine pop icon named Francisco Harabas, or more popularly known as Kenkoy.
Kenkoy is your everyday funny man. He was a debonnair, bombastic, irreverent, hilarious, and best-loved.
Francisco “Kenkoy” Harabas was born on the pages of Liwayway on January 11, 1929. Unlike us, however, he did not go through infancy and childhood, but was born straight from the conception of Romualdo Ramos and the brush and ink of Tony Velasquez.
Kenkoy came into this world garbed with the latest fashion of his time, the Jazz Age of F. Scott Fitzgerald, where London-style checkered baggy pants (its hems as wide as one’s shoes), a sailor hat, and a double-breasted polo complete with suspenders, were the leimotifs of the age.
Says Tony Velasquez: “Kenkoy is always pusturyoso…He wore suspenders even before Frank Chavez made them fashionable”

Born during the American period when Western influences were beginning to encroach into Filipino culture, Kenkoy adapted to the changing of his times, making fun of the old mores, and up-to date in the latest trappings of Western fashion. He mouthed the "pidgin" language fashionable among youth at that time, which was a mixture of Spanish, English and Tagalog languages. Resulting in what was later known as “Taglish” and “Spangalog”. Thus was born Kenkoy's trademark dialogues like Halo, how is yu?, watsamara (what's the matter), dats oret (that’s alright), nating duwing (doing nothing), okidoki (okeydokey), lets tek ewok (let’s take a walk), is beri nesesari, and bay gali.
Even today, this mangling of the languages proved an effective technique of humor, recently used to comic effect by actor-comedian Jimmy Santos.

Kenkoy was always in a hilarious misadventure or “kabalbalan”: painting the town red, gate crashing into birthday feasts, attending carnivals and fairs, and, of course, courting Rosing, the immaculate and impeccable Manilena.
Rosing was the epitome of the ideal and much romanticized Filipina. She would not be seen in anything other than the traditional baro't saya or the Sunday camisa y panuelo. She displayed the typical characteristic of a "Maria Clara”: timid, shy and impeccable, carinosa yet selosa, but who can also be matampuhin, and often demonstrates the Filipino value of pagpapahiwatig, which is to show emotions through non-verbal hints, without completely revealing her thoughts.
The Kenkoy and Rosing romance was one of the most enduring and fascinating love story in the history of the print media, a tale that had always been loved by the Filipinos. It was a story made more interesting due to the conflict provided by Kenkoy’s perennial rival, Tirso S. Upot.

Tirso was not the stereotype rival, however, because unlike Kenkoy, he was "guwapo". This makes his character lovable instead of being loathed. There were times when Tirso would get the full attention of Rosing, stealing the show from Kenkoy, to the great anger of our hero.
Kenkoy and Tirso made elaborate schemes to trap each other, but for most of the times, these traps would always backfire to each other. Their comic rivalry for the attention of Rosing provided for most of the strip's early plot.
Kenkoy and Rosing eventually got married and they had several children: Dayunyor Dyulie, Tsing, Doy, Dalisyosa, Etot, Nene, and Piching. They also adopted a child, the wily mute but cute Tsikiting Gubat.
The Harabas family became the most read about family in the entire Philippines, and Filipinos loved to read their story. Their familial affairs mirrored the Filipino family in general, even before the time when Pinoy TV sitcom John and Marsha did the same in the 1970s.
This is possibly the greatest difference of Kenkoy and pals with the other cartoon strips of his time, both foreign and local. While Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Blondie, Lil Abner, Popeye or Bugs Bunny, would forever be the same in accordance with their respective creators' original conceptions, Kenkoy and his pals would grow with the times, because theirs was a continuing story. They would get married, have children, their mores and actuations grow in accordance to the current trends of Filipino culture.
Thus, in the 1960s when the suspenders, charol shoes, and the baggy pants became out of fashion, Kenkoy had shed them in favor of the more fashionable “beatles” pantalon, collared sport polo, and Converse rubber shoes.
Si Kenkoy ay laging nasa uso” said Velasquez.
One thing about Kenkoy has not changed, however. It was his hairstyle, which remained slicked back and plastado as before, forever reflecting a four-paneled window. In fact, it is Kenkoy’s most recognizable trademark.

Perhaps only Rosing would retain her original look just as she first appeared in the Liwayway. Up to the 1960s and well into the 1990s (Di Ritarn of Kenkoy), when the mini-skirts were in fashion, she would still wear the traditional bakya and baro at saya. Indeed, her provinciana character
could not be reconciled with the more outlandish attire of the modern times.

On October 29, 1991, on the 81st birthday anniversary of Kenkoy creator Tony Velasquez, a tribute was celebrated in Mnila Hotel to honor the great Kenkoy Harabas, with Senator Heherson Alvarez as Guest Speaker. The funny thing was that during the ceremonies, Senator Alvarez insisted on emceeing the tribute himself. He said “I am such a big fan of Kenkoy, and I won’t pass this opportunity to be an emcee to this important event”. He also pledged to sponsor Tony Velasquez as a National Artist of the Philippines. Today Kenkoy is already seventy-six years old, but he has not grown old, he is still here….debonnair, bombastic, irreverent, hilarious, and best-loved…..I could always figure him out from the great multitudes of other comic characters he had helped paved the way in the Philippine comics scene…He grins and says mischievously….”Bay Gali! watsamara?”