Text and photos by Kimmy Baraoidan
There is a need to arouse historical consciousness in each individual Filipino because we are drowning in neo-colonial culture, writer and civic intellectual Epifanio San Juan Jr. said in a recent forum. With Philippine history vanishing from the school curriculum and the alarming ignorance among the youth about the martial law years during the administration of Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, they are bound to grow up indifferent to and detached from our history more than ever.
Where do we start to teach history to the people who need to learn about it the most in this ephemeral world of unlimited selfies, diminished attention spans, merciless trolls, ‘alternative’ facts, and historical revisionism of epic proportions? Art. More specifically graphic literature.
Artist Emiliana Kampilan, also known as Dead Balagtas, recently launched her comics adaptation of Leona Florentino’s essay La Mujer Filipina during Elbikon 2017 held this month at the University of the Philippines Los Baños in Laguna.
Leona Florentino, who is considered to be the mother of Philippine women’s literature, was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the latter half of the 1800s. She was a lesbian feminist who wrote both in Spanish and in Ilocano. During her time, women were expected to be submissive to men. Due to her feminist leanings, she was exiled from her family and later on died at the young age of 35.
It is no coincidence that the cover of Kampilan’s comics is in purple, which is the symbolic color of the LGBT community. Her black-and-white drawings are a product of her artistic influences: from Tony Velasquez to Osamu Tezuka to Riyoko Ikeda, to name a few.