The question of whether comics is alive or dead in the Philippines is a puzzling one. To me it is obvious. Philippine comics *is* alive and well, and I’m baffled why it’s even questioned at all.
The problem lies with history. The Philippines has had a very long history of comics where people grew up knowing comics to exist only in very narrow terms: Comics are Tagalog, they come weekly, they come cheap, and they can be bought and read easily on the sidewalks and your neighborhood sari sari stores.
For a long time, that is the only kind of comics people knew. And unfortunately, to this day, a lot of people simply cannot accept that comics can be anything else. If comics do not satisfy those characteristics, then they couldn’t possibly be comics.
But the thing is, comics CAN exist beyond those characteristics. All it takes if for people to open their eyes.
It’s tough to adapt and change, specially if one has gotten used to a certain way of doing things. There are many things that have changed in our lives as Filipinos. Technology has transformed us and changed us. Looking back at us in the 70′s and 80′s we really can’t believe we could ever be so primitive. We can’t imagine life without cable, home video, cellphones and the Internet. Many kids today don’t even have a clue what “45 rpm” means.
Change has come to comics as well. BIG changes. The comics today are very different from what they were 30 years ago. Some of them are in English for example. They don’t come weekly but come rarely, but in one big complete package in one drop. They can’t be found at sidewalks but in bookstores, and can be rather expensive. If they are ever serialized, they come out monthly, and only in bookstores and convenience stores. One of the biggest changes is this: they no longer sell in the millions.
Comics has SPOILED us. We grew up expecting them to be everywhere and sell in the millions. We have learned to expect a lot from our comics.
But now I think we have to learn to accept that comics are no longer going to be what they were. They can no longer sell in the millions, and they can no longer be as freely accessible as they were before. And yes, they can no longer be cheap, like a lot of things you buy today can longer be as cheap as they were in 1980.
But that doesn’t mean that comics is dead. If we applied the same expectation from poetry and prose books then we’d be proclaiming them dead as well. Can you buy Filipino poetry and prose books on your local sidewalk? Are they cheap? Are they all in Tagalog? So, therefore, are Filipino prose and poetry DEAD? Of course not.
They’re in bookstores. Along with comics. Where they are both freely available. They many not be comics that you grew up reading, but hey, like it or not, accept it or not, they are still comics.
And don’t keep having expectations of “reviving the komiks industry” from every person who just wants to come out with his comic book. That’s unrealistic and stupid. We should be thankful for every single individual who spends his own money just to create these things, because they are the people who are keeping comics alive, no matter what.
The Filipino comics industry as it is now is no longer the giant as it once was, but now it’s just one of the guys, hobnobbing with the prose and poetry books at your local bookstore. And I think that’s just all right. The industry is small, but it is alive and well and in the hands of people passionate about CREATING them.
Go into your local National book store and more likely than not you can buy comic books by Arnold Arre, or by Carlo Vergara. You might see Budjette and Kajo’s TRESE. You might even see a SIGLO book here and there. At the magazine section you might see the many comics that Sacred Mountain publishes: Bayan Knights, Tropa, Rambol. Then there’s those comics by the Mangaholix. You might even see Private Iris by Arnold and Jamie Bautista. And yeah, once ELMER is compiled, you will be able to see it at National Bookstore too. And there’s plenty more in there.
If you are looking at all these comics and you think it’s not good enough, wanting comics to be as huge as it once was, as freely available as it once was and as cheap, then you’ll just end up disappointed and bitter every time. But if you will loosen up, take it easy, and pick up one of these comics or two, you just might end up enjoying yourself.