Monday, March 12, 2007

Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang: Classic Tagalog Tales in Komiks

I have been re-reading old issues of the Liwayway recently, the oldest existing Tagalog magazine in the Philippines. I am a big fan of the Liwayway, especially the older issues from the prewar up to the early 1970s.

It's really hard nowadays to find vintage copies of old Liwayway. Like Tagalog komiks, Liwayway was very popular back then, but very few Filipinos managed to collect them; the old Liwayway copies have suffered the same fate of the old komiks: pambalot ng tinapa (dried fish wrapper).

I liked the Liwayway not only because I enjoyed the stories in it, but also because I learn so much from it, the most important of which is my understanding of the Tagalog language. I have a deep admiration for the Tagalog language, and by reading Liwayway, my own Tagalog communication skills are enriched.
Yesterday, while browsing an old copy of Liwayway, I found one of the classic anthologies in Tagalog literature: "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang".
Don Severino Reyes, the famous Tagalog playwright of the early 1900s-who wrote the immortal "Walang Sugat" play- was the man behind the Lola Basyang stories.

"Ang Hari sa Bundok na Ginto" Tagalog Klasiks #7. Written by Severino Reyes, comics adaptation by Pedrito Reyes, illustrations by Jesus Ramos. Cover art by Maning De Leon.

Popularly known as Mang Binoy, Don Severino Reyes, was also the co-founder and editor of the Liwayway in 1923. The very first years of the Liwayway was a struggle, and there was scarcity of literature to include in its contents, so Mang Binoy created the "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang" in 1925 as filler. He did not sign it with his name though because he thought it was unethical, while still serving as editor of the magazine.

And so Mang Binoy used the byline "Lola Basyang" after a friend's neighbor named Gervacia Guzman de Zamora, who was known as "Tandang Basyang". It was from her where Mang Binoy took the inspiration to create"Lola Basyang".

In real life, Tandang Basyang was described as an old bespectacled woman in baro't saya, seated in her famous silyon, and reading her timeless classic stories- dug from her ancient baul- to her fascinated grandchildren.

The grandchildren were more than eager to hear stories about faraway castles, heroic princes, lovely maidens, giants, and elves. Always, at the end of each story is a moral lesson to be learned.
The first story of the "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang" was entitled ang "Plautin ni Periking", a wonderful story of a kindhearted kid who has a magical flute and flying carpet.

It was the first of the more than 400 "Lola Basyang" stories to have graced the Liwayway, and only discontinued because of Mang Binoy's death in 1942.

Ang Sirena sa Ilog Pasig. Tagalog Klasiks #5.

In 1949, Mang Binoy's son, Pedrito Reyes, decided to revive the "Lola Basyang" stories. Working on the original scripts of his father, Pedrito transformed Lola Basyang's stories into komiks form, appearing in the earliest isuues of the Tagalog Klasiks. The illustrations were done by Maning De Leon, Jesus Ramos, and later on Ruben Yandoc and Jess Jodloman.

Ang Sinsing na Tanso. Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Illustrated by Jess Jodloman.

The "Lola Basyang" stories became more popular with its komiks versions, because now, Filipinos can visualize the stories by means of the illustrations. Later on, in the early 1950s, based on the komiks versions, a succesful movie adaptation was created. Now, GMA Channel 7 is adapting the stories into a television series.

Well, that's just goes on to say that a classic never goes out of style.
And the Liwayway and "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang" never will.

Haring Tulisan. Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Illustrated by Ruben Yandoc.

Ang Prinsipeng Unggoy.Tagalog Klasiks #3.1949. Author's collection.