Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Gallery of Philippine Original Cartoon Art

Bing Bigotilyo is Francisco V. Coching's first cartoon character. It first appeared in the Silahis Magazine in late 1930s, was censored during the Japanese occupation, and continued after the war. Although Coching was more well known for his serious comic art, which by the way influenced generations of Philippine comics artists, yet unknown to many, he started out his career as a cartoonist in the Silahis Magazine. His style of cartooning was different from the style of Tony Velasquez or Francisco Reyes, but more in the vein of style by Mauro Malang and Romeo Tabuena.
I happen to keep an extant, although badly damaged original of Bing Bigotilyo from the 1930s. Yet this in itself is a proof of Coching superior cartooning technique, as well as his hilarious sense of humor.

Mars Ravelo's BUHAY PILIPINO may well be the master's greatest work, and for a reason. It was Ravelo's most popular and enduring work. I really think that Ravelo was at the height of his writing prowess when he created Buhay Pilipino. It was more than a comic strip, it reflected the very life of the typical Filipino family of those golden years. More than any other cartoon strip, Ravelo manifested his deep knowledge of sociology and psychology in Buhay Pilipino.

Even Ravelo's former critic, the veteran writer Clodualdo del Mundo, was forced to admit that "Buhay Pilipino" amused him. "Ravelo's writing is admirable, his Tagalog is deep, and he has a great sense of humor".. "Buhay Pilipino" satirized Philippine life during the 1940s and the 1950s. The older generation of Filipinos will never forget its immortal characters Tekla, Gorio, Lola Belay, the spinster Kety, and a whole lot of others that Ravelo added to its roster as it made its success through the hearts of the Filipinos. Quite simply put BUHAY PILIPINO is a tour de force. If you can find an old copy of the Liwayway containg this strip, you will see what I mean.

When Ravelo left the Liwayway to concentrate on his own comic publishing, he could not bring with him his Buhay Pilipino because of legal reasons. It was continued under different titles by other writers like Pat Justimbate (who was a student of Mars Ravelo) and Andres Cristobal Cruz. The above featured originals are the only two known extant originals of Buhay Pilipino from the 1951 series.

One of Larry Alcala's most famous cartoon characters, Asyong Aksaya dubuted in the Tagalog Komiks in the 1970s. It was later adapted into a movie starring Chiquito in the extravagant title role.
Perhaps no other duo in Philippine cartoon history is more memorable than Larry Alcala's Kalabog en Bosyo, who debuted in the Pilipino Komiks in 1947 under the original title ANG KALABOG and the now famous byline "Kalambogesyones ni Larry". Made into several movie adaptations, kalabog en Bosyo is our everyday fumbling detectives who solves the crimes.....accidentally. Other duos that have been partially influenced by Kalabog en Bosyo include Bert Sarile's Ping at Pong and Max en Jess.

A contemporary of Tony Velasquez, Jose Zabala-Santos and J.M. Perez, Francisco Reyes great contribution to Philippine cartoon art is his immortal KULAFU. Of course, none of us younger geneartion living today will know that, because Kulafu existed only during the pre-war years of Philippine cartooning.

Influenced by Rice Borrough's Tarzan, Kulafu was the first ever cartoon strip to cover two whole pages of the Liwayway, and in full color! It was a very popular cartoon at that time, even competing with Kenkoy in terms of mass readership, yet after the war, Reyes surprisingly did not continue Kulafu, but instead created Talahib, another Tarzan-like character in the Halakhak Komiks. Yet despite his early demise, KULAFU will always be remembered as The Lord of the Philippine Jungles.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Kenkoy: The Beginnings

In the 1930s up to the 1960s Kenkoy entertained our lolos and lolas with his wit and humor, as well as his crazy antics, colonial mindset, and carabao english.

Wrote Tony Velasquez in his memoirs "It was all pure coincidence that I created Kenkoy in 1928. The original cartoonist assigned to create the character, Procopio Borromeo, was approached by writer Romualdo Ramos to start a series of cartoons for the Liwayway magazine. But Borromeo, busy with his other deadlines, could not come up with the character, so the job was given to me"

Where did Tony velasquez get his inspiration for Kenkoy's character?
"During those times (the 1920s), in our neighborhood in Paco, there was a group of ukelele-weilding young lads who called themselves Kalatog Pinggan. They would roam the streets up to the early morning hours, searching for wakes(lamayan), and beautiful girls to serenade(harana). They were quite naughty boys but they were all well-dressed in the style of the Jazz Age, what you would call today as "maporma". It was from them that I got the inspiration to create the character of Kenkoy".

So it is not true that Kenkoy was influenced by Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse?
"No, Kenkoy was not influenced by Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse and Kenkoy were born on the same year(1928), possibly Kenkoy was even older because I created him sometime in the mid of 1928, but the first issue did not come out until the January 11, 1929 issue of the Liwayway"

How much was he paid during his first years as cartoonist of Kenkoy?
"Romualdo Ramos (who wrote the earliest Kenkoy stories) and I received 20 pesos each for every issue of Kenkoy. And since Kenkoy appeared in the Liwayway four times a month, that means we have 80 pesos each every month..not bad for a beginner cartoonist like me, at a time when the daily wage was only one peso a day".

The first issue of the Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy consisted only of four frames. But later on, due to is success with the readers, the strip was expanded into six frames, and much later, half page. After three years, it already occupied a whole page of the Liwayway, with four colors to boot. A few years later, Kenkoy appeared in translation in all of the magazines of the Roceses including the Ilocano Bannawag, the Bicolano Bikolnon, and the Hiligaynon's Bisaya.
Thus Kenkoy was also the first character to transcend the language barrier of the Philippines, with his presence in some of the major dialects in the Philippines.

Unfortunately, after two years, Romualdo Ramos died, and Tony Velasquez was left to create the scripts as well. "Yet, I still gave the half of my earnings to Romualdo's widow for a full two years afterwards. It must be that way. Yan ang utang na loob, dapat lahat ng tao nakakaalam niyan".

Kenkoy, the first Filipino cartoon character, with his creator Tony Velasquez (aged 19) in the background, the recognized Father of the Tagalog Comics. (This is actually an old Kenkoy figurine doll from the collection of Tony Velasquez, and I placed his vintage picture from 1929 as a background)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Gallery of Rare Komiks

As an identification guide, I will regularly feature in this blog some of the rare pieces in my collection of Philippine comics.
"Komiks" from the 1950s and 1960s are especially hard to come by, as even local antique shops do not carry an inventory of them. Unlike in America, where they have catalogues of all their known published comic books, the Philippines has no such publication in existence.
The closest publication I know that features only a partial list of Philippine comics-magazines is the book "Catalogue of Philippine Periodicals", published sometime in the 1950s. And even that book only lists some three or four titles of komiks.

Through the years, the komiks has gained a somewhat nostalgic value, a look back from the time when Filipinos regard it as their "national book". Sad to say, only a few people in the Philippines have managed to save komiks in their collection. I remember that the National Library had a few nice bound komiks sets that included some of the early issues of Pilipino Komiks, but over time, these somewhat had been lost, or became part of the "discarded" books the National Library regularly sells to the junk shops. Of course, this is because the librarians there regard komiks as publications "without any research value".

Why the rarity? Some important factors led to the rarity of komiks materials: Human neglect, termites, floods, fires, and the humid tropical climate easily destroy the pulp paper of komiks.

People who visit my house often wonder why I collect these things, and the reactions I usually hear from them are "how have you managed to collect them?", "have you read them all?", "My goodness, this komiks is older than me", or "Your collection is unique and weird" hehe...

So for those who had been emailing me to start a continuing gallery of old komiks, here it is. Enjoy!