Text and photos by: Kimmy Baraoidan
There’s a Filipino saying that goes, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay ‘di makararating sa paroroonan (He who does not know where he comes from will never get to his destination). In pursuing any art form, an artist must know the history of the medium, its masters and their contributions, and significant movements so he can gain a better understanding of the art form and know what direction he wants to take his art.
Such is the goal of the Komikero Komiks Museum in San Pablo City, Laguna—to educate aspiring comic book artists and fans of the medium about the history of Philippine comics. The museum opened one rainy August Saturday afternoon. Tia Maria’s Sining at Kultura, the gallery café where the comics museum is housed, was jampacked despite the downpour.
Doroteo Gerardo ‘Gerry’ Alanguilan Jr.—a San Pablo City-based award-winning comic book artist and writer, also known for his ink works during his stints at Marvel Comics and DC Comics—was seated in a corner, talking to guests, occasionally posing for photos. He was soft-spoken and very accommodating, and agreed to talk about the conception of the comics museum. Our conversation took place behind the closed door of the comics museum, still barricaded by the uncut red and white ribbon, away from the chattering crowd.
The comics museum walls are a lively yellow, and on them were panels of comics art made by some of the legends of Philippine comics like Alfredo Alcala, Larry Alcala, Dell Barras, Cris CaGuintuan, National Artist Francisco Coching, E.R. Cruz, Elmer Esquivas, Rudy Florese, Steve Gan, Jess Jodloman, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, Mar Santana, Hal Santiago, Jesse Santos, Tony Velasquez, and Ruben Yandoc.
Laid out on the tables were vintage comic books, which one would hesitate to touch for fear of tearing the brittle, yellowing pages. It was enough to ogle at them to transport one back to the past. As a kid, I grew up reading Ikabod by Nonoy Marcelo, and the then ubiquitous Funny Komiks, which arrived every Friday on our doorstep with the daily paper. I never got to read any of the vintage comics on display, probably because nobody in our house read Liwayway magazine and nobody in our house was a comics fan.
In one of the corners were framed book covers of Gerry’s original works Wasted and internationally acclaimed Elmer. In another corner was a single-seater couch, on which Gerry proceeded to sit, while in my head an image of Robert Baratheon on the iron throne popped up. Beside the couch were a couple of panels—one showing his artwork, and the other showing the work of his late father-in-law Rudy Florese.
Gerry told the story of the comics museum that he now curates.