The last time I was with Gerry, he asked if I'd like to teach again. Got me thinking and remembering about the good 'ol LEARN days. Teaching for Whilce Portacio's comics creation course is one experience so dear to me. At first, when he pushed me almost literally to teach for his class. I was reluctant and nervous to face the students who have so many expectations coming there. Some were surprised to find that I was the one to continue the class. It was funny that when I finally started drawing, someone from the class asked if I was Gilbert Monsanto. I said yes, and like a sigh of relief some cheered that I was BIOTROG! Actually that meant I created Biotrog. Instantly some of them placed their trust that this going to be a great session. After six years working on the local komiks scene, that was the first time that people actually acknowledged that they knew my work personally. I have received fan mails during the early 90's in the publications where I worked but this is different. I was there in person as they were, and they are now giving their trust in me. Luckily, I was teaching in behalf of Whilce's teachings. It was easier that way. The first few sessions was tough and well, I felt just teaching by the book was enough. I am not sure they can follow all the techniques presented to them.
I then realized something. It is not like KUNG FU. If I teach them the snake style, they won’t come out using snake style. There are too many factors in comics that if we try to enumerate all they needed to learn it almost impossible. I then changed the focus of the class. Instead of teaching what they cannot possible do. I tried to explore what they are capable of now, and try to point them towards that direction. In one classroom I would ask them if there was a position in comics they wanted to be, what would that be? Guess, what is the popular answer? Almost all wanted to be a penciller. Every class it was the same. It was clear that most of them are into this because of two things, fame and money.
So, I would run some tests secretly to find out what they can do, how far are they with those skill. Some are so reluctant when I try to convince them to ink or write or try to change their precious style. In fact, some would just walk out. Luckily a few returned to finish the class. Some are rich kids who just can't seem figure out why the hell they have to work for the class; they have parties to go to. Some are poor but managed to save enough just to try his luck thinking he might find something along the way. Slowly, even if they are not so happy not being the penciller. I was able to find out who they should be at the moment. I told them, “Did you know that Whilce Portacio started as an inker? " Some still thought I was joking just trying to convince them to try something they don't want to do. The truth is I knew that after the class, most of them will turn their backs and will be working on different fields of work. Not for me to say, they'll just have to learn that for themselves.
For those I think deserves to be checked out? I usually scatter all their works on my table hoping that Whilce will see something there, who knows he might discover a few of them and could get a job doing comics. It did work; the lucky few are now successful doing comics. The best thing about LEARN located inside Megamall is that everyone is welcome. People from different schools, age, gender or even nationalities are welcome to learn there.
Actually, I found my beautiful wife there, it is always so funny when we get asked where we met and our reply would be in megamall. Maybe you are wondering, no. I did not court her when she was still my student, all the romance happened after, when she was studying aikido lessons, she was no longer my student so it was ok. She even ignores me during classes because according to her I seemed to be very cocky at times and even uncaring. I do that actually on purpose. I have this policy when I was teaching, ignore this class and you will be ignored by it. I will only remember your names if your work with your signature shows some promise. Because that is how comics work, we remember talents when their work interests us enough for us to look up their names on the credits.
In the end, a few made it big and some did not. I wish I could have done more for them. In truth, some of them might think that the school did not meet their expectations. But it was never about the Kung Fu, it was all about them, all unique individuals. Learning comics is not by knowing all the terminologies and all the tricks, it is by living it. Comics making needs only one thing... your heart.
I just hope that whatever they took from those classes have helped them in some small ways with the choices they make today.
As for teaching again? Want to learn? just ask me.