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)

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