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

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Filipino Comics as a Medium of Communication: An Example

It is nice to know that there are still some people out there who look beyond Filipino comics publishing as not limited to mere commercial and juvenile entertainment. The following news article that appeared in the January 12, 2004 issue of the Manila Times newspaper entitled: "CAR health experts print Ganas comics" by Thomas F. Picana (Chief, Northern Luzon Bureau), reports that a non-government organization (NGO) called "Piecad" have engaged in comics publishing with a predominantly social objective: population control through proper reproductive health education. Full details are as follows:

"BAGUIO CITY--In the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) you will be surprised to chance upon a colorful comics publication called Ganas, or enjoyment in Ilocano.

However, its pages are rife with stories, not of titillating sexbombs but of curious reports of men getting pregnant, lusty potato farmers learning the hard facts about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and a woman karatedo expert who always get bad dates. And the center spread features a primer about the different contraceptives.

"Ganas comics is our way to reach out to the youth about reproductive health," explained Marites Raposas, president of Partners in Information, Education, Communication and Advocacy for Development (Piecad).

"We named our line of comics as Ganas, or pleasure or enjoyment because we want to tell the youth and other readers that sex is not a bad thing (and) not to be guilty about all the time. You should know when and where to be careful (about it)," she said.

Piecad published two issues in Ilocano in November last year. Raposas said four more titles are to be printed in the next eight months. She said the comics will deal with the 10 aspects of reproductive health including STIs, reproductive tract cancers, male involvement in reproductive health for adolescents and the elderly, contraceptives, violence against women and post abortion counselling.

That Raposas and Franklin Cimatu wrote the articles in comic book form in Ilocano should not intimidate non-native speakers. The drawings by Hubert Cabanban are colorful and fun, so the readers would get the message.

'We don't want the gloom-and-doom style of conveying the message. We wanted it to be hip and funny," said Cimatu, information officer of Piecad.

"When I first attended my gender sensitivity training eight years ago, the government doctor showed horrible pictures of gonorrhea and other STIs," he said. "These make people think that sex is terribly bad. And yet the Cordillera, particularly Baguio, has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country. What does that mean? (It means) the Catholic Church and government officials cannot instill fear about sex in the youth. The best way is to tell them what to do and to make them take charge of their lives."

It has been said that the total output of Filipino comics is not confined to the commercial and entertainment-based kind as traditionally exemplified by the defunct Roces comics publishing monopoly, and the prevailing "globalized" Filipino comics currently circulating amongst the children and apathetic young adult elite of Metro Manila.

Even as this entry is being typed, there are unbeknowest to us all, circulating in the far flung rural provinces, printed Filipino comics similar to Ganas that are tinged with social, religious, educational, and even political themes. This small but quiet movement is testament to the fact that printed Filipino comics can be varied, mature, and respectable when used as a medium of communication for social development.

Unfortunately, few of these titles benefit from wide public exposure, creative development, and funding. Nor will one find samples of these in online comics museums or even comics/toy fan conventions. A pity considering their social if not historical, significance.

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