Wednesday, December 31, 2003

happy new year!

Just got back from "boy, am I stuffed" dinner before all the fireworks begin (there's a huge event here at the Ortigas Center).

Less than an hour before 2003 ends and 2004 begins.

It's been a great year, complete with the "darkest before the dawn" and "ohmigod! I can't believe my good fortune" scenarios.

Thanks to all my family, friends, creative peers and businessfolk whose paths crossed mine and helped me grow.

Here's to an incredible New Year!

new year, new look

Nikki surprised me with a new look for my blog, with a masterful design courtesy of Eris - one of her advanced birthday gifts!

Ain't it cool?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

crying ladies

Some people have the mistaken notion that Nikki and I snub Filipino films. That's so far from the truth - we'll watch it if it's good. Like "Crying Ladies" starring Sharon Cuneta, Angel Aquino, Hilda Koronel and Eric Quizon. In essence, it is about 3 women who are hired as professional mourners for a Chinese wake.

I'm not in the habit of describing films in detail, so suffice it to say that we enjoyed this one tremendously. It was finely acted and written. Only two qualms: editing needed to stricter; and certain conceits simply did not work. But regardless, it is an excellent film, comparable with some mainland Chinese films I've seen in terms of quality.

Go and see it for yourself.
little lit

Just picked up the handsome hardcover - It Was A Dark & Silly Night; the third volume of the series featuring stories by Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman and Kaz, among others.

It's a definite keeper like its predecessors (the very first one was just so phenomenal in terms of content and design).

An anthology for children seems like an excellent idea, a Filipino grafictional children's anthology, even better.

There are many talented talented tellers of children's stories in the Philippines - just take a look at the generally wonderful children's books released annually by various publishers. What is lacking though are comics for children.

Comics that don't insult a young person's intelligence.

Comics that tell tales that are not cheesy or heavy-handedly moralistic or obviously promote some social agenda.

Comics that entertain and teach - much like the classic Uncle Scrooge, Junior Woodchucks and Gyro Gearloose of Gold Key.

Perhaps penned by the likes of Ma. Elena Paterno-Locsin (still my crush after all these years), Rene Villanueva, Eugene Evasco, Lakambini Sitoy, Cyan Abad-Jugo, Honoel Ibardolaza, Luis Gatmaitan, Luis Katigbak, Edgardo Maranan, Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete and my idol Butch Dalisay.

Perhaps illustrated by established children's illustrators like Pepper Roxas and Jason Moss combined with sequential artists like Carlo Vergara, Marco Dimaano and Andrew Drilon, digital artists Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, Moose Maravilla, Mimmon Vicente and Red Berger, and photographers Xander Angeles, Pierre Cruz and Erik Liongoren.

Perhaps three interlocking books of 40+ pages each, oversized and in full color. Stories for smart Filipino kids.


Monday, December 29, 2003

sea change

Boy oh boy - go and check out Nikki's new look!

My non-techie wife plowed refurbished her blog through sheer willpower.

Inggit ako.

the 2003 rinky-dink comics awards

And why shouldn't I give out my own awards?

Best short story (local): Negros Occidental, 1978 from Siglo: Freedom, by Honoel Ibardolaza (tough call, but Hai's great dialogue threatens the playwright in me)

Best short story (other): (TIE) Tuesday Night at the Jazz Club from Autobiographix, by Diana Schutz and Arnold Pander (and it's just 3 pages); and Michael Chabon's Mister Terrific story in JSA All-Stars (lovely structure, pacing and characterization)

Best original graphic novel (local): Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Collected Edition by Carlo Vergara (this is how the story was meant to be read)

Best original graphic novel (other): Orbiter by Warren Ellis (very visible structure with the usual Ellis sensibilities, but well-executed)

Best hero book (other): Runaways by Brian Vaughn (delicious)

Best anthology by single author (other): Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine (I always learn something new storytelling-wise from this guy)

Best anthology of previously published material (other): Asterix and the Class Act by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (rare short stories that are simply wonderful)

Best Online Comics: by Honoel Ibardolaza (so much to read and see)

Special Award for Excellence: Blankets by Craig Thompson (which goes to prove that one's earlier work is not cause for wishing that author would just give up writing forever - yes, that's how much I reviled his earlier misbegotten Goodbye, Chunky Rice)

Special Award for Controversy: (TIE) Darna by Mango Comics; and Gerry's blog post about manga (check out the comments on his blog - LOL)

Special Awards for Drivel (other): (TIE) 16ohno! by Neil Gaiman & New X-Men by Grant Morrison (don't get me started on the foibles by two of my favorite writers - oh Xorn!)

Special Awards for Drivel (local): that book about a guy who turns into turd (really, it's vile, ousting the WITCH-wanna be from this slot)

Most Disappointing Anthology (other): Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman (well, 3 out of 7 is disappointing, considering the great art in the book - but a story is a story is a story)

I've found that sometimes what hurts me more is when people close to me are hurt and hurt badly.

It's one thing to be able to handle myself and my own life circumstances, and another thing to watch helplessly as someone dear metaphoorically gets bitch slapped by life.

What can I do apart from giving advice and assurances of my own love?

It's especially painful when it's family, because apart from the ties of friendship, there's the flesh and blood you share, in addition to the fact that you've known each other and lived together for years under a single roof, sharing times good and bad.

Unlike fiction, life circumstances refuse to be nicely structured. Unlike a play, dialogue doesn't go the way you want it to - from beat to climax to denouement. Life is placid then rabidly unpredictable.

No wonder that some of us don't have a fear of dying. We have a fear of living.

After our phone conversation before the crack of dawn, I thought about you and your current situation. I just want you to know that even if things look deplorably untolerable, it won't always be this way.

Often, life deals us situations we don't want. Understand that things beyond your control are not your fault. How can you be blamed for something that happened just like that?

But what we can control is our attitude towards the circumstances.

Do not allow yourself to be defined by one person. The only person who should define you is you. I know this goes beyond a broken heart, but you've always had strength.

It's okay to cry, valid to be hurt, right to be angry. But don't hold those attitudes for long.

Be brave and pick yourself up. It is no use to just stay where you have been felled, remembering the good times. Believe me, opportunities for the heart will come your way. Or you create new ones.

Yes, it's difficult, and perhaps even overwhelming when you look at the carnage. But the wheel does turn - just make sure you're actively on it.

Remember that I love you and will always be here for you.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

arre nuptials

Nikki, Vin, Carl, Cams, Marco and I had the pleasure of attending the most awaited union of the year: the wedding of Arnold Arre and Cynthia Bauzon, two very dear friends.

Those that know this couple are aware that their togetherness was destined from the moment they set eyes on each other, each one complementing the other in a thousand thousand ways.

Both are talented artists - Cyn is still a big name in advertising, winning a rare Clio Award (the preeminent international award and design show for advertising) for the Philippines; Arnold is a back to back National Book Awardee. Nikki and I were privileged to work with Arnold on a number of occasions - he illustrated The Lost, as well as contributed stories to ab ovo, Isaw, Atbp and Siglo: Freedom. Cyn was our initial choice for Siglo: Freedom's book design but her wedding schedule prevented her from full attention - thus allowing Carl to create his wonderful design (by the way, if any book designer deserves mention at the National Book Awards, it's Carl for Siglo: Freedom).

But better yet, both are wonderful people, deserving of all the love in the world.

The wedding was held at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice at UP Diliman, our old alma mater.

The reception was at the Shangri-la Plaza Hotel, and the pair created a virtual indoor garden. Tim Yap mode: glad to have a chance to chat with Quark Henares, Ramon de Veyra and Neva Talladen, as well as Luis Katigbak.

It was an enchanting affair.

The barkada capped the night with coffee, discussing the perils of having a birthday conflict with someone's wedding (Happy Birthday, Cams!).


And my birthday's coming up too. But I didn't let my impending descent into middle age ruin the happy evening.

Some pix (yes, I wore a barong tagalog!).

Made us think of our own wedding eight years ago

My beloved wife and my best friend

Marco! Who are you looking at?

With Arnold at the church

Friday, December 26, 2003

thou shalt not play

okay, the situation is this: meralco fried one of our home PCs, the one that was jazzed up to play the games we love (the other one was crippled earlier by some sinister hardware issue). So I went and got my office PC, just for holidays, because apart from gaming, Nikki and I use the computer to write and surf.

I also planned to zone out with some new games (new to me, at least). So unflinching was my faith in my computer that I went out and got the entire Neverwinter Nights set (main game plus Shadows and Horde expansions), the new Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds plus a couple more things.

After much struggling and frustration, I managed to install only the NW set (the others simply refused, even after much cajoling, praying, internet research and fiddling around with things the Dark Powers only fully comprehend), only to discover that everything moved too slowly. Yup, my office PC doesn't have much power when it comes to these mammoth things that require all sorts of hardware.


No gaming.


This means I'll actually have to write to entertain myself.

I started on a new story, Pang Li's Garden, after devouring the entire short story collection of my new short form idol Jeffrey Ford (his long stuff is padded and very flawed). I was inspired by the second best story in his collection, "At Reparata" (the best one was, of course, "Creation", which went on to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story this year)>.

I'm also keeping myself occupied with the wonderful new non-fiction book by Giles Milton - Samurai William, courtesy of my lovely wife. Milton also wrote a pair of earlier books I enjoyed immensely: Big Chief Elizabeth and Nathaniel's Nutmeg.

So, for the holidays, it's back to the basics for me: reading, writing... and porn (sympre naman, what is the internet for?).
year in review: broad strokes

Basically, I'm about three things.

My family.

My business.

My writing.

Practically everything I do or think about can be broadly classified under one of these categories. The roles I play fall under these: husband, father, provider; businessman, partner; playwright, fictionist, comic book creator. If need be, there should probably be a category called "Sundry" to handle the occasional descent into PC Game madness or food cravings, but those are not very important.

Close friends fall under family, or contextually under writing or business. My love for comics and reading falls under writing.

So when I look back at this year, I look through those three lenses, basically.
year in review: family man

We moved from the condo in Greenhills to our new one in the Ortigas complex, basically so that that our daughter could have more space to run around in. After a little adjustments, we were soon happy with our new home.

Sage turned one and from there her growth snowballed, resulting in this fantastically clever little girl who knows how to pull my strings. So many highlights, so many pictures. I used to think that love was of the pie-chart model: finite percentages allocated among things I held dear. But this child shattered that illusion because my love overflows.

Nikki and I also celebrated our 8th year of marriage (with the bonus of not having another child - because that is something we prefer to plan for, though if one comes unexpectedly, then we abandon all previous convictions and embrace the new member of the family with open hearts). Eight years. It's hard for me to digest because a part of me is still a shocked young man.

There is no other person I'd rather share my life with than my beloved.

No one in the world. She is my partner, my lover, my confidant, my girlfriend, my ka-barkada, my kakampi, my confessor, my reason for being, my intellectual superior - everything.
year in review: writing

Discounting comics (that's an entire other entry), it was an unexpectedly fulfilling year for me.

At the start of the year, one of my stories, L'Aquilone du Estrellas, was published online by Strange Horizons. Earlier, I corresponded with my editor, Jed Hartman, whose incisive suggestions helped shaped the final version of the story. It was my first sale to a publication (in the "modern" era - I used to make a pittance with stories published in National Midweek and similar magazines in the early 90's), and made me love Hinirang even more than I already did.

Speaking of Hinirang, I was able to contribute a number of stories to our little online corner. Exercises in tone and manner that had mixed results but were valuable learning opportunities for me.

In terms of casual writing, I started posting fragments and vignettes on this blog, things that sometimes were products of guerilla writing or sometimes proto-versions of something I'd later complete, plus my occasional laughable forays into poetry. My blog turned one year old this year, and I hope to keep up the discipline of writing something - even if I skip into mundane reportage once in a while.

Around the second quarter, I held an informal writing workshop for my barkada, conducted via email and spiked by lengthy discussions over weekend dinners. I wanted to hone all our skills (my own included) as well as introduce a bit of critical thinking vis-a-vis the texts that we produce. The context of a "living workshop" is one wherein applications of things learned about craft are applied to living, current and dynamic texts, fiction or otherwise. It is about continuous learning, questions, and writing, writing, writing.

I was floored later when my one-act play The Onan Circle won a Palanca Award. I am fond of saying that awards do not really matter, but of course they do - in context, of course. My particular context at that time was that of a writer who felt that his writing days were behind him. One could always write in a vacuum, yes, but sometimes, the validation of peers becomes somewhat of import. I always say that a writer is only as good as his last piece, and almost a decade separated me from my four previous Palancas. This one was sweeter because I felt that I my rustiness could be shaken off, that there were still paper children that could be born of my brain, that I could still be creative despite needing to focus almost all my energies on my business and nuclear family. Perhaps wrong reasons for wanting to win, but it made sense to me.
year in review: business ending and business beginning

By time June rolled along, my partner and I took the painful action of shutting down Pipeline Media, the digital media company that we helped build with 3 other partners plus almost twenty employees at different times.

Pipe started after we left the company we all used to work for: two Directors from the Board, the group CFO, the Singapore GM, and the Hong Kong GM (me). We had high hopes, big dreams, and what we believed was a plan (in retrospect, it was more irrational exuberance than anything). We had funding to the tune of several million pesos, a fantastic crew and a huge office.

We had our good times, but the business model proved lacking, and in my capacity as Pipe GM, I tried several avenues but enjoyed only limited success. We lived on the edge of our teeth - and frankly, I'm surprised we existed for as long as we did (we entered our third year of ops). Overhead was no joke. At the beginning of 2003, I knew the end was in sight - at least for Pipe.

Marc and I closed the company with a heavy heart and parted ways with our partners.

But not soon after, he and I put up Kestrel IMC. A fresh start with a tighter focus, a much smaller crew and realistic model. To date, we have exceeded our personal expectations and look forward to a bright future.

I remember spiralling down into depression at around the time we closed Pipe. I had little else to fall back on and felt horrible about laying off my staff. I'd be unable to sleep and tell my wife I'd go out for a beer, hie off for some place that stayed open until the wee hours of the morning and try not to think.

But always, I'd tell myself that the wheel turns.

It's just a matter of braving the night and waiting for the sunrise.
year in review: the siglo manifesto

On September 9, 2003, I wrote this entry in this blog. I was talking about Siglo, of course, but didn't want to refer to it by name directly. The genesis of a dream to be relevant.

"I spoke to a friend about my new dream, small and stunningly large at the same time.

It seems enormous but if we pull it off, then there will something that can continue, almost indefinitely, for as long as there are stories to tell, storytellers to tell them and, well, funding.

At the start of things, we need to self-publish. I need to be able to create something that I can use as proof of concept. But thereafter, for the thing to perpetuate, we need to seek some entity's pockets- government, NGO, private organization, corporation, publishing house, university, whatever.

Ultimately, it is about expanding the notion of what comics (grafiction, sequential art, komiks, call it what you want) can do.

It is about imbuing the form with a sense of gravity, of place, of position - which does not run contrary to its spirit of freeform expression.

It is about creating a showcase of talent, for writing and artwork, for those for whom publishing (or self-publishing) is an absurd undertaking.

It is about encouraging others like us to create stories.

It is about aspiring to be toe-to-toe with the rest of Philippine literature.

It is about ceasing to cower in the dark corners, poisoned by the implications of inferiority, childishness and other simplistic vagaries.

It's about expanding the responsibility of the grafictionists, challenging them to tell well-written stories. Stories that bite.

It's about love and hope. Love for the form and the stories that can and should be told. Hope that by reading, other people will fall in love with the form, like we did.

And always, always, it is about the tale and its workings, whether serious or light, long or short, agenda-drive or politically-bereft.

In this day and age, what is the relevance of comics? What is a comics author? Are comics literature? Does it matter?

We exist in a specific time with its own context and reality. We need to make sense of things and provide answers that make sense - to us and to our readers.

Otherwise, those that come after us will look at the rubble of what we thought we had and sadly shake their heads at the opportunities their elders squandered.

So I'm dreaming and taking the first small steps.

We'll see."

And I'm glad that our group's little dream came true.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

merry christmas

Lovely Christmas, ultimately spent with my step-brother, Rick and his lover, downing an excessive number of wine bottles. Yes, I'm wasted.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ocho ocho

No one is safe from this popular song.

It's so pervasive, even Sage has gotten into the action.

The other night, at Nikki and my new favorite hangout, Komedy Bar, the hosts got a foreigner to get up on stage to do... you guessed it, the Ocho Ocho.

I swear, watching that big fat man do the motions got us rolling on the floor in stitches.

And Sage is infinitely cuter.

Oh, kwento:

Sage and I were reading her Pooh book and singing "Happy Birthday" (the song is triggered by an illustration of Eeyore's birthday party).

In the course of excitedly turning a page, she hits me in the eye.

"Sorry, Daddy", she says.

"It's okay, I'm okay."

She looks at me and without warning smacks me in the eye with her hand.

"Sorry, Daddy." Big-eyed sincerity and all.

I give her a dazed smile and we resume the song, ending the sudden exercise in apology and forgiveness.

siglo: freedom review
Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 22, 2003

'Brave, bold step'
by Ruel S. de Vera

"Siglo: Freedom"
Edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Vin Simbulan
Mango Books, Quest Ventures and Kestrel IMC, Inc.
2003, 140 pages

ONE look at the elegantly spare cover, and readers will know that "Siglo: Freedom" is unlike anything else out there. Nothing indicates that it is a collection of comic-book stories. The loaded title, the beguiling design -everything about "Siglo" says this is a project that takes itself very seriously.

And readers should take it seriously as well, because "Siglo" is a brave, bold step forward for Philippine comic books.

The first in what is intended to be a yearly series of anthologies, "Siglo" is the brainchild of the people who crafted the prize-winning anthology "Isaw, Atbp." They have evolved that narrative effort into a more mature, more daring form. The project challenges popular ideas of what a comic book is and isn't.

Pushing the envelope is an impressive and diverse collection of comic book talent: Gerry Alanguilan, Dean Francis Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Arnold Arre, Jason Banico, Marco Dimaano, Andrew Drilon, Honoel Ibardolaza, Lan Medina, Elbert Or, Vin Simbulan and Carlo Vergara.

"There are no men in tights flying through our panels, or young geniuses firing lasers from their giant robots to fight off alien invasions," the editors write in their introduction. "But that does not mean we have a shortage of heroes. On the contrary, you will find tales of the courage and heroism of ordinary people as they struggle to attain their own unique brand of freedom."

Escapist it isn't

Obviously this is very serious stuff, so readers looking for escapist escapades should head elsewhere. It's so literary, it would easily be considered pretentious if it didn't work. But work it does.

Each set in a different time and place in Philippine history (and future), from Jolo in 1913 to Manila in 2004, the 10 tales in "Siglo" tackle a different vision of the quest for freedom, told through the writers' and artists' unique perspective. Staged in black-and-white and told mostly in English, each tale showcases the creators' diverse strengths and distinctive storytelling qualities.

Dean Alfar and Drilon's opening story juxtaposes the learning of a new alphabet with the painful lessons of a people's subjugation. Nikki Alfar and Dimaano's second story puts one woman's quiet liberation next to a man's loud call to arms.

Banico and Ibardolaza's take on a stage magician's fateful trip to Cebu is a parable in the tragedy of smoke and mirrors. Simbulan and Or's post-martial law story is a personal journey of living beyond a father's considerable shadow.

Delivering a punch

The stories are accessible and well-crafted, but the solo tales, written and illustrated by a single creator, deliver a particularly palpable punch.

The most lighthearted of the otherwise heavy stories, Dimaano's romantic tech tale, is sweet and heartfelt, much like his "Angel Ace" high jinks. Alanguilan's gritty take on a collaborator's change of heart, however, is as violent and as illuminating as his best work in "Wasted."

Arre's foreboding look at the future is a bracing, hypnotic visual departure from his usual work, though the message remains vintage Arre, classic and new in its own way.

Ibardolaza, also an award-winning writer of children's stories, displays a stunning range of visual style by conjuring a playful, wistful and perhaps heartbreaking portrait of young friendship amid the sugarcanes.

It is only right to pay special attention to the solo stories from two young but prime talents. Or's subtle unraveling of the scenes behind an arranged Chinatown marriage in the 1950s is a study in generational differences and in the efficiency of clean, solid storytelling.

Drilon's chaotic, noisy, dark roller-coaster ride through a wired, tangled techno-trapped metropolis provides a rousing, disturbing, fitting finishing kick to this ambitious anthology.

A thoughtful trip

The 10 stories stand apart and yet obviously follow one another, leading readers on a thoughtful trip through these disparate eras in Philippine past, present and future. And though the tales are patently works of fiction, something does ring authentic and convincingly true in the creators' aching portrayal of how freedom has been sought, sometimes attained, sometimes denied. It all feels so real.

Beyond just the collective talent in this collection, it is the singular vision of, the big picture being drawn by, "Siglo's" creators that pulls powerfully at the reader. Honest and edgy, it is that big idea whose time has come; the kind of comic book other comic-book people talk about all the time but never actually make.

It will be valuable to note that comic-book fans and non-comic book fans will be able to recognize good work when they see it, as the straightforward yet inventive storytelling in "Siglo" will appeal to serious readers. Don't expect any fluff. Don't expect fantasy.

There are times when readers can immediately identify that crucial step forward in a genre's evolution. Behold the footstep. A powerful collection of tales from a journey that is both fragmented and yet undeniably connected, "Siglo: Freedom" is a passionate paean to a people's seemingly endless search for the many things that have proven both invaluable and elusive.

siglo: freedom on TV

Gah. I knew I'd look like Bouncing Boy.

But what a trip.

Watching us on TV was simply too cool for words.

And I realized why I was given the hard question about English versus Filipino: the news show on Channel 5 is in Tagalog.

Curiously, I was talking to Carl much earlier about the notion of another anthology, this time in Tagalog and perhaps even other regional languages or dialects.

We'll see.

siglo: freedom soft launch

L to R: Andrew Drilon, Marco Dimaano, Choy Cojuanco, Jason Banico, Nikki Alfar, Gerry Alanguilan, Dean Alfar, Carlo Vergara, Elbert Or, and Yang Vergara-Simbulan

So unreal. Almost like a dream sequence or an imaginary story.

Siglo's schedule was so important to me that I used it to mark the passage of time: December didn't mean Christmas, it meant that Siglo would be finished and released.

Nikki, Andrew and I arrived at Ice Vodka Bar and joined Carl. We were just reflecting on the amazing synchronicity of things when Marco and Jeremy turn up, followed by El, ( with Camy and Charles whom we bumped into earlier while perusing stuff at a bookstore). In due course, Gerry and his lovely wife, Ilyn, followed by Jason pull in, making all seven available creators present and accounted for, in addition to Yang Vergara-Simbulan whose botanical art made quite an impact.

The three others, though physically absent, were present in spirit: Hai in Silay City, Vin in Batangas, and Arnold spending his last week as a single man.

We started signing books outside (where people can smoke), but before we knew it, things started happening quickly. I got interviewed by Channel 5 (and asked a series of questions, the most difficult of which was "Why isn't Siglo: Freedom in Tagalog?"; thank goodness it was edited out of the final broadcast because in a very long-winded manner I explained that, well, we wanted it to be in English in the first place; that English is part of our culture and that we have a rich tradition of writing in English; and that a mass market edition in the vernacular was always a possibility). Another interview for a PR firm (ha! And this time I answered everything, and I mean everything, in the best Tagalog I could muster), fielding various questions from various guests, welcoming people to the launch, boy, I was moving around like a politician on the campaign trail.

I remember thinking how strange it was to have the soft launch of an ostensibly indie book at one of the hippest places in town, a place whose patrons read like a Who's Who of beautiful people. Surreal, really.

Then the photo ops with our generous publisher, Choy Cojuanco, who finally got to meet the creators involved. It still makes me shake my head in wonder at how things fell into place. There we were celebrating the completion of our work (and you should see the high-quality cover and paper stock) while people picked up copies and asked for autographs and sketches (I told Gerry that I wouldn't sketch anything so he wouldn’t feel insecure).

Of course, being the kind of person that I am, I took advantage of the opportunity and closed the deal of next year's edition. Yes, Siglo: Passion (not Midnight, after much agonizing, weighing and rationalization) will hit the shelves around September next year in full-color glory, if everything works out as I hope. Who'll be in it? Secret. Let's just say we'll raise the stakes and standards a little bit more.

Ricardo, me and Nikki (thanks, Gerry!)

Extraordinary moments:

Seeing the huge promo poster at the door with the line: Comic of the Century, which is true, but not in the most immediate sense.

Getting a request from a certain "Boyet" for a signed copy. That’s Christopher de Leon, one of my favorite Filipino dramatic actors, for the uninformed.

Sitting next to my brother-in-law, Ricardo Cepeda, and joking that for once, it was my autograph people wanted, not his. Hmmm. Should I get Snooky Serna to do some art for Passion?

Worrying that I'll look like Bouncing Boy on TV.

Realizing that certain creators gate crashed the party (but what the fuck, I was generous).

Hearing from the publisher and his friends how much they loved the book but felt it was too short - and couldn’t the next one be a little longer? I’m only too happy to oblige.

Talking to a cool 15-year old girl about penile reflections in certain urinals (I told you the evening was surreal).

Finding out about the perils of ballet dancing from a stunningly delightful editor from Mega Magazine.

Adopting a punching bag mien when a mother vented (ah, mothers).

Confirming that indeed all the bartenders and staff of Ice were women.


Thanks to everyone who came to the soft launch, too many to mention by name but all appreciated. Thanks for your support (special props to Christine of CCHQ who told me that Siglo was moving off the shelves).

Remember that the Grand Launch is set for the last weekend of January next year (and that notion kills me as well - wow!).

Everyone (that means you and your friends) is invited to join the fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

how siglo: freedom came to be

It was one of those nights in early September . The gang was waiting in front of Vin's condo as usual.

Conversation steered towards comics - what each of had planned for the last quarter of the year. In terms of output, we had written, illustrated or produced only a small number of books - TEXTMEN, HAINAKU, Carl's ZSA ZSA ZATURNNAH. A paltry few (which, of course, includes the National Book Awardee for Best Comic).

So what shall we do?

Something serious. Something mercenary. Something different.

An anthology. About freedom.

"Hey, what is the Filipino term for century?"


"That's it, then."

Plans for SIGLO hijacked whatever other conversation topics we had planned for dinner. In addition, Marco began solidifying details for ANGEL NEXT; and Jason for his own releases under PSICOM. We would end the year with a bang.

We all committed to contribute to SIGLO and pay for publication ourselves - because, contrary to what some people might think, we are really still small independent creators. and would be co-editors for SIGLO.

As part of the anthology's conceit, I wanted 10 stories set in 10 decades with 10 creative teams. It would held thematically by the notion of freedom. It would center on one character per story. It was to have gravity.

SIGLO: FREEDOM would be unlike anything we had ever done previously.

So we created the roster, inviting the people in our immediate circle, like Arnold, and extending invitations to the young turks that impressed me earlier, El and Andrew.

At the Palanca Awards, I took advantage of Hai and recruited him whether he wanted to join us or not (hi Hai!).

We were afraid to ask Gerry (because, well, nakakahiya naman), but asked him anyway - and said "yes". Thank you, !

After juggling and various creative decisions, the final story rosters were:

and for Jolo, 1913

and for Panay, 1925

and for Cebu, 1935

for San Dig, 1944

for Chinatown, 1957

for Baguio, 1966

for Negros Occidental, 1978

and for Batangas, 1983

for Pasig, 1998

for Manila, 2004

And so work began. And we had to work faster than lightning if we wanted to hit our goal of having the book out before Christmas.

Not counting production, we had two months to create the book from scratch.

One month for story pitches, scriptwriting, editorial passes and final approval.

One month for design, pencils, inks, letters.

Then off for post-production and printing, release target: 2nd week of December.

Did it bother us that the schedule was insane and had not been done before? Yes and no. The more important thing was that we wanted to do it.

Along the way, like the Princes of Serendib, fate smiled upon us and delivered a great publisher. Sometimes, the world helps those who help themselves. In the course of negotiating with Nautilus Comics (as they are known now), we secured the means to make SIGLO more than we expected.

And it all worked out.

toiled in Negros, balancing the demands of other books and projects, and coordinated with over the web.

went through a gazillion drafts, throwing away pages that did not satisfy him, while working on his thesis.

went through the experience of seeing betadine spilled on his finished pages, forcing him to restart - by the way, at 18, he's the youngest of the creatives.

juggled producing ANGEL NEXT with all the other things on plate, but managed, somehow.

took people to Batangas to look at stuff that pertained to his story.

We only saw once, because of his wedding prep schedule, and his pages arrived via courier.

was in the middle of Superman: Birthright and a thousand other things - but his pitch was so interesting we gave him leeway to do things as he wanted.

had to manage my own company and talk to the publisher and be the bad cop to the creatives (Vin, of course, was the good cop).

Only maintained her surreal calmness, because, as usual, she was the first to submit a complete script way before deadline.

There was a time when everything was just too much, but thanks to the quiet determination of to give the book the consistency we agreed on, we managed. We finished and sent the package to printers.

Then, in one week in December, all our books came out and SIGLO: FREEDOM, like an unbelievable miracle, was among them.

SIGLO, with its clean white, botanical look and heavy paper. It was too good to be true. But it there it was.

Thanks to everyone.

See you at the launch, guys!