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.
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.