A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Filipino Komix' finest hour

Besides chronic political instability and debilitating poverty, there is one other significant social development that should be considered if we are to estimate possible consequences affecting the Philippine comics scene today. We are talking about the yearly mass migration of Filipinos for jobs abroad. This is symptomatic of an economically and culturally demoralized nation.

The Philippines is ranked below India and above Mexico as having one of the world's largest migratory labor forces. As of this writing, one tenth of the nation's approximately 80 million population, or eight million adults, are overseas and their number is growing.

Half of the Philippines' middle class in fact are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The middle class in the country therefore, has been considerably reduced. With a reduced middle class, the economic classes remaining are the very rich few and the low-income masses. This is aggravated by a situation of unequal distribution of wealth.

Composed mostly of information technology workers, health workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, business managers, engineers, architects, and other professionals, this batch of OFWs come mostly from the Philippine middle class and are expected to bring in by the end of 2005, an annual remittance of $12 billion from last year's $8 billion. The yearly remittance earnings of OFWs is what keeps the Philippines afloat, preventing it from teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy.

This $12 billion remittance may be good news to the families left behind and for the present administration of embattled President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is cash strapped with an approximately $3.36 Trillion deficit. But taken in proper perspective, this carries adverse consequences on the OFW's family ties and on the long-term survival of the country.

Specifically, many children are growing up without a father or mother (sometimes even both). This causes a disruption in family ties and the emergence of independent led lifestyles among the young who face adult situations and responsibilities at an early age. Also, seeing the economic success of relatives and neighbors abroad have fueled the desire of many people to leave the country and work overseas thus fomenting a deterioration of national pride.

What do all these mean and what are their implications on the Philippine comics scene particularly?

A disruption in family ties coupled by a loss of national pride makes one's mind pliant and receptive to the language, dreams, aspirations, achievements and promises of other cultures. This is what is happening right now to both OFWs abroad and to the Filipinos left behind here in our country. Like it or not, there appears to be an ongoing abandonment of our culture and heritage.

Applied particularly to the local comics scene, we see this cultural escapism manifest itself through the unabashed patronage by mostly elite consumers of expensive and imported foreign comicbooks, licensed imported comics, and assisting in the promotion of these two groups, locally produced comics that assimilate "foreign touches" in their look and execution. All these "globalized comics" primarily cater to the rich and few class A demographic and reduced middle-income class B demographic. The class A and B demographic after all, have a high globalized orientation and possess the more relevant purchasing power than the lower income C, D, and E demographic.

From a cultural point of view, this may not bode well. New, original, daring and innovative local Filipino comics face an uphill battle if they seek to be acknowledged by a highly discriminating and elite globalized audience. At most, the few and largely unknown Filipino comics of today may thrive in small quantities within the non-commercial and enclosed sub-culture being developed around them, similar to what is happening right now to the so-called "indie" comics scene.

Regarding the "indie" comics scene, there is as yet no data made available of its organizational set-up (if ever there is one), no data as to its size or significance so as to warrant any serious cultural, business and investment consideration. More importantly, there is no data made available regarding the objectives of this group, i.e., whether or not their comics creating activities are intended solely for non-commercial "art's sake" purposes, and whether or not their largely photocopied publications are circulated only within their youth-oriented demographic. At any rate, the success of this particular group is an open question the answer to which will depend primarily on whatever objectives they may have collectively set for themselves.

Overall however, and speaking from an economic point of view, the prevailing comics scene in the country continues to be conducive to foreign and foreign-influenced comics that cater to a limited but "globalized" target audience with high purchasing power. This is also reflective of the Filipino's present social and cultural state as a demoralized, cynical and depressed people. In short, it has lost faith in itself. It has turned its back on our bleak and deficient culture, closed its eyes, and is dreamily seeking escape inside the idyllic cultural landscape of other foreign countries through the latters' media, the comics being one such media.

Seen on a broader canvas, the conflict is ultimately cultural. A battle of the minds. This is not solely an "art" contest. It is more than that. The stakes are much higher. It is a media war that will involve a lot of players besides comics creators. The hearts and minds of our people, the Filipino audience have to be won back and comics as an alternative media can play a significant and initiatory cultural role in that. If only it can look beyond its self-enclosed and limited "art world", realize its inlfuence as an open media, and address the above outlined scenario with craft and intelligence, do we stand a chance.

This is indeed a defining moment in the opening years of the 21st century. The challenges facing today's generation of Filipino comics creators is daunting. More daunting than those faced by their predecessors. For one, there is no Filipino komix industry to begin with. Second, it has virtually no audience. Third, it is up against a formidable array of cheaper, more accessible entertanment media. Fourth, almost everybody is economically challenged. Fifth and last, the players are few in number. Faced with these obstacles one indeed wonders if today's generation is up to the task, in this, their finest hour.


Blogger Reno said...

By "globalization," what exactly do you mean? It seems in the context you present it, is being influenced by external (foreign) forces that we lose our cultural identity.

Pero puwede kang maging global without losing your local identity or flavor. At hindi ba dapat mag-aspire tayo na maging katapat ng ibang bansa ang produkto natin? If we think small, then hanggang doon na lang.

At ang indie scene ngayon na lang ang medyo bumubuhay ng local komiks. Oo, may mga pangit na gawa. Pero meron ding maganda. At talagang walang collective objective ang mga iyan. Different indie creators have different reasons for doing what they do. And as you yourself pointed out, economically (as well as in other things) nasa low point ang Pilipinas. That's why these indie creators are also strapped for cash. Pero most of them (at least those whom i know personally and those that I've talked to) do what they do simply because they love the medium.

Nobody knows the solution for our present national dilemma. Kung meron man nakakaalam, baka hindi sila empowered to bring their ideas forward.

So far, there has been a lot of bitching about komiks and the country in general in this blog. But then, sana kasabay ng mga "facts" that you put forth ukol sa mga problema na ito, may naisip ka ring mga pamamaraan para lutasin ang mga ito.

Madaling magreklamo, pero kung puro reklamo lang ay wala ring mangyayari.

4:30 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home