Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tony Velasquez' Kalibapi Family Cartoons



During the Japanese occupation (1942-44), Tony Velasquez created a series of cartoons called “The Kalibapi Family” published weekly in the Japanese-controlled Tribune newspaper. These cartoons told the everyday life of a typical Filipino family in Manila during the Japanese occupation, and as such, should supposedly portray the new social order of the Philippines under the aegis of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese knew well the influence of cartoons on the mind of people, and they intend to utilize it to propagandize their occupation agenda.

The Kalibapi Family’s title was derived from the KALIBAPI or the Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (Society for the service to the New Philippines), a Japanese sponsored socio-cultural-political party for serving the new Philippines under the aegis of Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It was founded in November 19, 1942, under Executive Order No. 109, issued by Jorge Vargas, the Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission. All other political parties were dissolved.

The party’s ultimate aim was to “unify the Filipinos, regardless of social class, sex, rank, or religion, in order to achieve, with the cooperation of the Japanese Military Administration, the reconstruction of the country and to reinvigorate in the people oriental values such as faith, self-reliance, respect and hard work” Source: A.V.H. Hartendorp, The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, Bookmark, 1969

Like all others employed by the Japanese, Velasquez became member of the Kalibapi party. By 1943, there were already some 500,000 members of the Kalibapi. Source: Augusto De Viana, Kulaburetor! UST Press, 2003

The Kalibapi Family cartoons first appeared on a January 1943 issue of the Tribune. As earlier mentioned, these cartoons were supposed to be a propaganda material to serve the Japanese purposes, but Velasquez wisely managed to evade portraying it to be such.

In my readings of the Kalibapi cartoons, I have not seen anything that would make it appear as pro-Japanese or even remotely a propaganda material.


The first cartoon depicts the Japanese policy o "Philippinizing" the country, an attempt to throw away the acquired materialistic values we inhereted from the Americans. It is an attempt by the Japanese to empahsize on their propaganda "Asia for Asians, and Philippines for Filipinos"
The second cartoon show what can possibly happen if one is to hoard things to make profits in the future.

Actually, Velasquez “cheated” the Japanese Censors in this comic strip--and he got away with it. Instead of creating propaganda cartoons that portrayed the moral justification of the Japanese occupation, he portrayed the inherent qualities of the Filipino people in times of distress.

This cartoon escaped the supposedly keen eye of the Japanese military censors. By using an analogy to a captive bird, this cartoon plainly stated the Filipinos' desire for freedom. Had the Japanese noticed this, Velasquez would surely have been incarcerated in the Fort santiago.

Filipino values like pagtitiis, pagtitipid, and pagiging magalang were recurring themes in the cartoons. These, of course, did not conflict with the original aims of the Kalibapi Party, which only vaguely benefited the interests of the Japanese.

Another frequent theme in the comic strip focused on the malicious profiteering of some greedy Filipinos who took advantage of the current scarcity of basic necessities.

These two cartoon strips depicted the malicious profiteering of some Filipinos' during the hardest days of the Second World War.

It was remarkable that this strip was able to pass the approval of the Japanese censors. In fact, had it not been a time of war, the Kalibapi Family may well have passed for an educational comic strip intended for Filipino school children.

Velasquez’ fellow writers in Liwayway also tricked the Japanese. They would weave stories of heroism of Filipino guerrillas in between lines and pages that contained Japanese propaganda. Since these stories were written in Tagalog, the unwary Japanese thought they were publishing “excellent” propaganda materials.

Working for the Japanese was not particularly pleasant to Velasquez, and he still harbored hopes that the Americans would soon return to liberate the Philippines.

He admitted though that the Japanese showed some deference to him presumably because of his reputation as an artist, and not the least because of his popularity with the reading masses. For the meantime, he decided that it was best to serve the country in the best way he could, without compromising his patriotism. The complete originals of the Kalibapi Family that were published in the Japanese-controlled Tribune newspaper. Author's collection.

13 comments:

Manilaboy said...

Funny how the Japanese Money was treated by the Filipinos with contempt during the Japanese occupation. Thery laughed about, joked secretly about it when no Japs were listening. Despite the fact that one could pay with his life if caught in possession of Philippine money, many risked their lives by stashing them away, precluded from the eyes of the Japanese Imperial Army. An award-winning Filipino actress (now deceased) told me how her adoptive relatives would sew on the hems of her clothes, silver pesos. Then, they would let her sit in-front of the cart in Batangas as a "distraction" for the Japanese soldiers, who were so amused of her "cuteness". May laban ba ang HAPON sa CREATIVITY ng mga Pinoys? Huh!

Gerry Alanguilan said...

I know I may be delving into a potentially controversial topic, I assure you that I will be sensitive with my opinions with regards to this matter. Has Tony Velasquez ever been castigated as collaborator during the war for working under a Japanese-controlled publication? Such persecution of journalists who had worked for Axis controlled publications were common, specially in Europe.

One example would be Herge, who had been hard at work at TINTIN during the outbreak of World War 2. Even though Belgium was annexed by the Nazis, Herge continued to do Tintin under the Nazi-controlled Le Soir. The story that he was doing "THe Seven Crystal Balls" was not a propanda material for the invading forces, but rather just a ligh hearted mystery that brought the heroes across the globe. It certainly gave much needed respite for the populace under a terrible regime.

And yet, after world War 2, Herge lost his job and was barred from employment anywhere. The Inter-Allied High Command issued an order proscribing from work those who had been employed by the collaborationist prss during occupation. It stipulated that "any journalist who had helped produced the newspaper during the occupation was barred from practicing his profession."

Herge was arrested four times and spent at least one night in jail. He would not have the opportunity to work on Tintin again until two years later.

It seems it did not matter what his intention was, all that mattered was he helped produce a Nazi controlled publication and he suffered a lot from it, albeit unfairly, for a long time.

Dennis said...

Manilaboy: Nice side history there hehe! You mentioned that it was Charito Solis right?

Gerry: This is a very delicate issue that is still being debated by historians.
The list of honorable Filipinos who chose to work for the enemy (i.e., collaborate) is long. Among them were Claro M. Recto, Jorge Vargas, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Benigno Aquino, and so on. They maintained that we cannot all flee to the mountains and become guerillas. Someone must face the enemy(and rightly so). Someone must establish a communication with the Japanese in order to bargain better terms for the Filipinos in the face of enemy conquest.
It is an established fact that President Laurel opposed many of the directives of the Japanese that he knew would be unfair to the Filipinos, thereby risking his own life.

As for the artists:interestingly, Tony Velasquez was not the only artist/cartoonist to work for Japanese-sponsored publications. In addition, there were Vicente Manansala, Victorio Edades, Francisco Reyes, J. M. Perez, Liborio Gatbonton, and many more...Most of them have families to feed so it is understandable.

But then, it seemed that the artists were not as severely criticized as those who held important posts in the Japanese puppet government. In fact, right after the liberation, none of these artists were held in prison. They continued working without any of the problem encountered by Herge.

Only those who held high positions in the government were tried and imprisoned, like Laurel and Vargas (but were later pardoned by the newly-elected President Roxas who earlier also collaborated with the Japanese).

Those who pressed charges against them were either former guerillas or those who lost loved ones during the occupation. The focus therefore is toward those who are on the top ranks. The artists are too small a fry for these people.

Manilaboy said...

Dennis:
LIBORIO GATBONTON was my relative on the Filipino side, my father's. And Cartoonist GAT was my dad's cousin. They're from Nueva Ecija. Another aunt of mine from the Gatbonton side is the singer/actress Yolanda Guevarra (Gatbonton). I remember my dad telling me about Liborio and GAT. Liborio actually endured a little scorn from his kababayans after the war, but it didn't last long. I guess everyone realized that many artists and government officials were forced by the JIA to work for them and saying no would be tantamount to losing one's life.

Wylz said...

Tony Velasquez is totally Great!!! I think Veleasquez had influence the Japanese Cartoonists! He is so Intelligent to use his Creativity to tricked up those evil Hapons!!! Hahaha! Kung alam lang ng lahat iyan ngayon...Before Ozamu Tezuka had came up with his manga Cartoons there's this Filipino Cartoonist known as Tony Velasquez...Parang katulad din ni Rizal na nagsulat at hindi gumamit ng dahas upang mabuksan ang diwa ng bayan laban sa mga mapang-aping Kastila...

Dennis said...

Jom: Liborio Gatbonton is one of my favorite cartoonists. He is brilliant, witty, and hilarious. During the Japanese occupation, he also created a series of cartoons called "Jappy Days" which, like the Kalibapi cartoons, was intentionally veiled to make it appear as pro-Japanese but were actually anti hehe. Grabe ang galing nyang si Gatbonton, kaya lang konti lang nakakakilala sa kanya ngayon, pero noong panahon nila kasing sikat yan ni Tony Velasquez at Jose Zabala-Santos.

But here's a surprise for you Jom: Liborio Gatbonton and "GAT" are actually one and the same person. Liborio never used his full name in his cartoon strips, only his nickname GAT :) You were younger then, so it is understandable. You can confirm this with your surviving relatives, so you would only have "one" uncle instead of "two" hehe.

I have some original drawings by Gat in my collection which appeared in Pilipino Komiks. I plan to feature them in this blog soon.

Manilaboy said...

Wow. Thanks for explaining to me the whole thing. It's true, I was a tot when I heard my dad talk about Gat. He also told me that he had an uncle, also a Gatbonton, who was a writer, and another a Journalist. Probably during ancient times. My Lola, VERONICA GATBONTON had 10 CHILDREN! One of them was my dad. My Grandpa was Chinese-Portuguese from Macao. I know I have so many relatives in Nueva Ecija (all the Gatbontons), but I have never been there. Ang na-meet ko lang noong maliit pa ako ay si Yolanda Guevarra, minsang nagpunta siya sa bahay namin sa Bikol. Mas close kasi ako sa mga relatives ko sa mother side ko.

Nagdusa rin nga raw si Gat during those times dahil nagalit din sa kanya ang ilang kababayan. Pero hindi katulad ng nangyari kay LAUREL. Kung ilang taon siyangtinawag na TRAYDOR ang ating mga kababayan.

Salamat sa pagpapakilala mo sa aking kamag-anak. Isa na lang sa tiyahin ko sa father side ang buhay pa, siguro mga 88 years old na ngayon. Too late for me to ask questions about our other relatives. At saka alam mo bang hindi ko pa nakita ang cartoons ni Gat. Baka naman PUWEDO (galing ito sa iyo, ha? he-he) mong i-post minsan.

Dennis said...

Wylz: Sometimes cartoons can convey more meanings than a written word because a picture paints a thousand words. In this sense, cartoonists can truly say that the pen is mightier than sword.

Dennis said...

Jom: Grabe, galing ka pal sa maharlikang angkan! Do you know that the Gatbontons were actually part of the aristocracy of the old Tagalog provinces(Nueve Ecija and Bulacan)? During the pre-hispanic period, the maharlikas(the aristocrats) used the royal name GAT to signify their social status, thus the first in line among your ancient reltives was actually named Bonton(Gat Bonton). The descendantrs(down to your grandma) used the name and title of your ancestor GATBONTON as their family name. It would really be interesting to trace your lineage Jom. Kindly check this link if you know some of these Gatbontons:

http://groups.msn.com/GATBONTON

Other well-known Tagalog aristocrats during the pre-hispanic times were the Gatmaitans and Gatdulas.

BJ Gatbonton said...

Hey! I'm BJ Gatbonton. You don't know me, but we're probably related. I was just reading through your blog and I don't know if much research has been done on our family tree.

The latest information that I got, though, was from my History Professor at the university where I graduated. He was researching on the old families (or old family trees) in the Philippines. And when he found one that has 'Gatbonton' in it, he showed it to me.

In his research, he found that GAT actually means "great." And "bonton" is actually derived from the word "bondok" (or bundok). So, GAT BONTON actually means, "Great Mountain." Now, that's not the only interesting part. GAT BONTON's father was actually LAKAN DULA, a well known aristocrat during that time. Lakan Dula named all of his children (mostly sons) GATs: GAT BONTON (Great Mountain), GAT MAITAN (Great River), GAT DULA (Great Song/Speech/Sound), GAT CHALIAN (Great Fire), etc.

Now, of course, I'm not sure whether this information is really that accurate. I've been doing some of my own research, however, there's not really much information on the oldest families in the Philippines since most of it (like books, titles, newspapers, etc.) were either burned or destroyed.

I'll see what else I can dig up.

jmacam said...

dear BJ, I am the great grandson of Doña Simeona Gatbonton,
the GATBONTON the First, is not a son of LAKANDULA but a daughter of Dayang Lahat pronounced as Lahad, daughter of Rajah Sulayman de Salila I. Dayang Lahad's brothers are Raja "ache el viejo " Matanda Sulayman II and Lakan Dula, in which His son Dawid changed it to Dulay.Gat Bonton was married to Macayabong Dili the son of Queen Panginoan, sister of Dayang Lahad, Queen Panginoan was married to the Sumatran Datu Pansunum who later became the datu of calumpit with a title as Gat Ytim who latter change his name to Malang Balagtas. Macayabong and Pampalong had a son named Tuni Pamapalong Gatbonton who married his Aunt, younger sister of the old Gatbonton, Gat Balite...i dont know where you get facts..when my lola died she left us the titular plates and the family tree, i have it!

jmacam said...

the gatbontons escaped to candaba to avoid persecution by the spanish, via Pasig river my ancestor Pampalong Gatbonton escaped together bringing him his royal servants the Macapagals.. when he was growing up he used the alyas Macapagal to deter execution..now this is how GLoria arroyo perceived as a member of the clan..of course she is not!!!!the real Gatbonton is Fernando Kelley Poe- gatbonton(fpj) the grandson of Martha Gatbonton..again Gloria is trying to steal our legacy..

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=105924689491676&set=a.105924109491734.12683.100002224368879&type=1&theater
click to see the picture of my lola. feliza gatbonton corrales

Unknown said...

Victorio Edades, Botong Francisco, HR and Galo Ocampo were all imprisoned for awhile. They were also given amnesty.