I just received this letter from a former student of mine, I must admit it really is quite depressing. The more I believe it should be addressed.
The letter is written in tagalog so pardon for those english reading peeps out there.
Heto pa po ang ilan sa Drowing ko...
Sabihin ko lang po ang mga nangyari sa akin upang maibsan ang hinanakit ng damdamin ko...
Kahapon po noong nasa national bookstore ako, nabadtrip po ako...Nakapuwesto ako doon sa may Graphic Novels, may dalawang estudyante doon na nag-uusap at tapos bigla na lang sasabihin sa comics na "Kadiri! Uso pa ba iyan?"...Sa totoo lang po, talagang naiinsulto ako sa mga sinasabi nila!!! Hindi ko na pinansin (balak ko sanang lingunin) dahil pananaw nila iyon at wala naman po akong magagawa...Kasi lagi na lang ganito ang pananaw ng marami sa Komiks eh! Ganito ang napapansin ko po ngayon! Nalulungkot nga po ako kung bakit ganito kababaw ang pagtingin ng mga tao sa comics...Minsan naiiyak pa po ako eh!!! Lalu na, pag bumabalik iyong masama kong nakaraan noong hayskul...Kasi mahal na mahal ko po ang comics...Noong sinabi ko na gusto kong maging comic artist balang araw sa harap ng klase noong inenterview kami ng bago naming guro, pinagtatawanan pa ako ng iba (pero di naman lahat!)...Sama ng loob ko noon! Meron pa akong kaklase na pilit akong dinidiskurahe at sasabihin pa po "Alam mo noong bata pa ako, nagdodrowing din ako! Kaya lang, pinipigilan ako ng tatay ko dahil wala namang mapapala diyan kaya hindi na ako nagdodrowing!"...Hindi ko naman po pinapansin at tinitiis na lang ang pang-mamaliit sa akin...Ganun kababaw ang pagtingin nila sa akin dahil lang sa comics...Naalala ko tuloy iyong sabi ng mga kacomic geeks kong friends at iyong nababasa kong kwento ng iba sa forums...Tinutukso pa nga raw silang wirdo, isip-bata at autistic sa iskul pagdating sa komiks...Bakit ba ganun? Parang walang kwenta ang pagdodrowing! Hindi nakikita ng karamihan na magandang talento iyon...Bakit parang grabe ang pang-maliliit ng tao sa atin? Tayo pang mga artist ang lagi na lang napapasama?
Sa ngayon, wala pa talaga akong mapapatunayan sa mga ito pero blang-araw po sana...Kaya heto ako pilit nag-aaral magdrowing...Kaya talagang ang dami ko pang dapat pag-aralan...Pero ayokong mawalan ng pag-asa...Balang araw, mapapatunayan ko rin sa mga iyan...
Ang henerasyon nga po talaga namin ang talagang nakakaranas yata ng ganito...
Kaya noong highschool ako, ugaling-ugali ko talaga magdala ng mga comics noon...Lalu na ang mga gawang-pinoy tulad ng gawa ni Carlo vergara at iyong Lastikman ni gerry...Book month pa nga noon...Laking tuwa ko nga, nung nahilig silang basahin iyong Lastikman komiks kaya ipinagmamalaki ko iyon pati si Gerry..Sorry po talaga ah, nabadtrip lang talaga ako at kayo lang po ang alam kong makakausap dito...
Here is my reply to that:
Although it is true that comics are being viewed as the lowest form of entertainment here in our country and please take note, only in our country, I think that those people who do put down this medium of entertainment are those who haven't tried and experienced reading comics at all. They could be the die-hard book readers, scholars who think that everything that is not educational is not worth their time. Or the movie/TV people who think that everything now can be learned by watching and not from reading. I remember someone telling me about a story of a guy who tried to impress a girl on a bus. "Ang ganda pala nung Hunchback of Notredame no? Napanood mo na miss?" The girl replied, "No, but I read the book." Then the guy said, "Really? May book pala iyon?" Imagine people talking about the Spider-man movie and asking in the end, "Really? It was a comic book?" Will they then change their mind and say, "Yuck Kadiri! I don't like Spider-man anymore." Do you think they will?
I believe that whatever lured me into reading comics is not because it was hip at the time or uso. It has been there for years. I loved it because of the art and soon after because of the adventures inside each cover, cover after cover. The best part of the deal is, once I buy it, I can read it over and over again and with each read, I get more information that I must have missed when I first read it. Can you say the same with video games after completing the whole sets of stages? If you will compute the number of hours, effort and money after you are done with the game, you would have already spent a fortune, more expensive than a comic book that will be your possession, a treasure to keep, a memory that will last longer than the excitement of a noisy and quickie time playing a game that will go puff like air after. What memories will it leave you? You'll go, I pushed this button and this button the right time, then I pushed this one and this one-- blah blah.
I think the only mistake you really made is expressing it so loudly to people who would not know anything about comics and the stories and art behind it. When I was still in high school, I never told anybody I wanted to be a comicbook artist. No, I'll just sit in a corner and draw with such happiness that my classmates came to see what I was doing. They should ask first before I tell them the stories I am working on. Why? It was exclusively mine, my space and my world. In this world, I am the creator and I loved my creations. When it is time to talk or play with people, I do that. I am normal otherwise. You see comics to me was never an obsession. It was me, there I am untouchable. You'll be called weirdo if you try to mix this comics thing with reality. My advice would be, who cares if they don't like what you do, as long as you do.
I have to admit, the recent years of komiks were not so glamorous like the yesteryears. Artists and writers are not given the right opportunities to live the lives that they should have if we lived in a different country. Absence of royalties and instability are eating them up inside out. But we kept doing it no matter how low we've been paid. Why? Because we loved it. We love creating comics for people who don't even know our faces, but they do know us, for each art is unique. People can identify a Vincent Kua from a Hal Santiago. We tried our best to survive but in the end, one by one, each soldier got burned and wounded and moved on doing new stuff like animation, movies, pocket books and/or paintings. Yes, paintings. Many painters came from comics, even Malang I think, and Toti Cerda. Still, people dare say that we are not artists and our work, not Art.
I think we still need to keep our act together and finally establish a new and better Komiks. As for those who have never tried the comic reading experience? Well, it may not be your thing, but I believe there are still a lot of people who genuinely love reading comics and who would probably say the same thing that I write here today – you don't know what you've been missing. I encourage you to try it. There are no guarantees, but you just might like it.
Everything is nothing without a little Imagination.