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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Tale of 2 Pinoy Comic Books on Christmas Day

On Christmas eve, a perfectly preserved, mint-copy and rare issue of a 1950 Filipino comic titled HIYAS with a price tag of Five Thousand Pesos was magically brought to life. It slipped past the glass case where it was kept, and roamed around the room admiring the high prices of other comics collections kept inside protective wrappers, tacked to the wall and displayed in other glass cases. The mint-copy HIYAS was proud that it was in such an elite and illustrious company.

As it looked to the side however, it noticed a big wooden chest. Assuming that it too housed rare and perfectly preserved Filipino comics, the mint-copy HIYAS jumped down and lifted the chest’s lid. What it found came as a surprise.

Piles of worn-out, partly torn and creased copies of rare, old Filipino comics of the 1940s to 1960s with a price tag of Twenty Five to Thirty Centavos printed on their covers, were laid on top of the other. They were the same issues as those displayed in the collection room. The mint-condition HIYAS could not believe that someone would treat these copies in such an uncaring and callous manner.

Gently, it examined each one until it came upon a damaged copy that looked exactly like it. This damaged HIYAS copy had rounded and folded edges, its cover and pages were creased and yellowing with age, its spine was covered by scotch tape because it was missing a staple, and it had one or two inside pages that were water damaged.

As the mint-copy HIYAS tried to gently lift it up away from the pile, it too, magically came to life. “What are you doing? Who are you?”, the damaged HIYAS copy asked. The mint-condition HIYAS copy was taken aback but quickly regained its composure and said: “We are copies of the same issue. You’ve been terribly mistreated and I’m here to help you.”

“Oh?”, asked the worn-out copy. “How is that, exactly?”

“The heat inside the chest is activating the acid in your pages. You’re disintegrating already. Pretty soon, you’ll be turned to powder. There are protective wrappers inside this room. We could put you and the others inside to delay the process. You will be preserved for generations to come and live longer.”

But the worn-out HIYAS shook its head, “No one would be able to read me then and enjoy my stories.”

“In that worn-out condition?” scoffed the mint-copy HIYAS.

“You’d be surprised. The owner, his friends and family often drop by just to read and check us out; reliving their “good old days”. We’ve been passed around through the years, others in here have been rolled up as fly swatters, used as table mats, and as cover for the rain.”

“I’ll bet some of you had pages that were torn and used as toilet paper, fish wrapper or as implements to help fire up wood on a burning stove somewhere.”

“AFTER we’ve been read,” corrected the worn-out HIYAS, “AFTER we’ve been passed around to so many hands and given readers a few minutes or hours of feeling good. No one lives forever, you know. What they do to us later is of no moment because they’ll be coming back for more and others will be taking our place. It’s the experience and goodwill flowing from all this repeated activity that counts, not the object itself.”

Now it was the mint-copy HIYAS’ turn to shake its head, “You’re gluttons for punishment. You’re willing to be abused and disposed of, just so you could give many insensitive, unappreciative casual readers a few minutes of happiness and camaraderie? That’s what you’re saying? Comics are NOT disposable. They’re ART BOOKS supposed to be read only by a few, select, careful hands; collectors’ hands.”

“Well, its our reason for living. Its our purpose in life. What’s yours, anyway?”

Just then, the room’s door opened and human voices could be heard approaching. The worn-out HIYAS copy quickly dove back into the pile and stayed still. The mint-copy HIYAS meanwhile jumped out, closed the lid on the chest and ran back towards the glass case. It slipped back the case, resumed its previous position and stood still.

From its position behind the glass case mounted on the top corner of the room, it could see from above the door open. In came their master, the 68-year old comics collector and owner, Gerardo, together with group of seven male and female teenagers, who were all his nephews and nieces.

As the teenagers looked around the room, they were visibly awestruck at the sight of printed nostalgia laid before them. They were particularly impressed by the high prices marked on each of the copies. Not being comics enthusiasts, they could not believe that such items could fetch astronomical prices, and that only a few, like-minded, rich people like their Uncle Gerardo, could afford them.

But their admiration quickly turned to frustration as they could not open, much less examine, the insides of these rare, and valuable Filipino comics sealed within protective wrappers and locked inside glass cases. Sensing this, Uncle Gerardo took out the big, wooden chest and called them to gather round. As he flung open the chest’s lid showing off the damaged and worn-out copies, everyone was laughing, hemming and hawing as they actually touched a copy and opened its pages, perusing each one.

It did not matter that the copies were worn-out, their pages missing, or some scotch tape plastered over torn edges. The important thing was for them to actually see, touch, and even smell what was inside these rare, printed comic books. Pretty soon, copies were changing hands as Uncle Gerardo spun stories of bygone days relating to them the stories he read, the great comics artists of his era, anecdotes and recollections of his life richly lived, and of his passion for the medium.

The group was so animated and involved in their discussion that sometimes the worn-out copies were being rolled up and slapped around while emphasizing a joke. This at first appalled the mint-copy HIYAS who was observing the proceedings, but then was dumbfounded when he saw the owner, Gerardo, actually doing it himself. All were obviously having a merry and wonderful time until they were called to come down and have dinner.

Reluctantly, Uncle Gerardo’s young guests obeyed but not without being allowed to take out several of the worn-out and damaged copies. When the door was locked behind them and silence once more filled the room, the mint-copy HIYAS began to reflect as it stood still behind the glass case.

"When was the last time I was actually opened and read?", it tried to remember. “In all these years that I’ve been locked and preserved, I’ve never been touched by anyone. Is this how its supposed to be?” It then fell silent, its thoughts wandering and reflecting until it realized that its being magically alive may not last long either. This gift of life may only be fleeting and momentary as is with Christmas with each passing year. He is not even sure if coming to life will happen again. Surely, there must be a reason for all this. But what? What must it do? Why did it come to life on this particular day? What was its purpose for being?

For hours, the mint-copy HIYAS kept looking down at the wooden chest thinking of all the worn-out copies inside and the kind of life they led. Voices can then be heard at the other end of the door. There was music, and people were singing Christmas songs, laughing and giggling.

The mint-copy HIYAS thought for a moment. Finally, it took a deep breath, slipped out of the glass case and ran back towards the wooden chest. It opened the lid and peeked inside. “Sure hope you guys have room for one more,” it joked. The worn-out and damaged copies looked up, smiled back, and waved at it to jump aboard.

It did.


Anonymous Rommel M. Fabian said...

Yeah! it did!!! Kaya mamatay na sila sa inggit!!!:)

11:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

parang yung sa toy story 2 :)

9:54 AM


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