Book: BGMBYN Act 1

"BGMBYN"

AR-1896, Spain. For an empire whose fleets link oceans, whose armies bridge continents, and whose faith binds nations to a common will – the Philippine insurgency, is but a cloud within “The Empire of the Eternal Sun.”

Aimless. Transient. Futile

…yet clouds, hold storms.

1896: Bagumbayan – explores an alternate reality where thieves become soldiers, soldiers become heroes. And a people, become a nation.

I picked this book up a few Komikons ago. It was one of the purchases I immediately started reading as soon as I got home, but work and life conspired to stop me from writing about it. Until now.

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of how the book synopsis was written. Having read the book twice now, the synopsis doesn’t really sell the story inside. It gives you a vague idea of what to expect: an alternate reality, yes. But other than that? Thieves became soldiers in our reality. They even became heroes. As did the soldiers who believed in our future. We became a nation in this reality, no matter how tattered we have become since. So what sets the book apart from our world and our history? What makes it an alternative?

Author Redge Tolentino masterfully recreates a history that did not happen; reading BGMBYN feels like you’re reading information that really happened–and yet also know that it didn’t. The settings and characters he uses are familiar enough that it feels like we know where the story has come from and where it is going, until we don’t.

And, trust me. We really don’t.

It’s one of the more promising independently-produced book I’ve read in recent years. Like Naermyth before it, BGMBYN creates a Philippines that is fundamentally different yet feels the same; populated with characters that we are already familiar with–not because we’ve seen them before, but because we know their pain, their joy, and their dreams.

The story situates us immediately in the middle of conflict, allowing the characters’ actions define who they are. Trusting us, the readers, to pick up on what is happening through stock knowledge of Philippine history. It reveals differences not to twist the plot, but to define what sets this story apart.

BGMBYN is a story that yearns to be read. I just hope the sequel comes out before interest on the book dissipates.

Advertisements

Book: Tabi Po, Isyu 2

"Tabi Po, Isyu 2"

When I read Tabi Po the first time, I was amazed by the art that I didn’t really give the story a lot of thought. The story entertained me, and made me think–and that was enough because the drawing and the colors evoked emotions–and horror–splendidly.

But I don’t think it will be fair for the second issue of Tabi Po for me to continue waxing poetics about the art. Especially since this time, we finally see that the story does plan on going somewhere; and the destination looks good.

In “Isyu 2” of the series, we don’t immediately start with Elias–the main character we met in the previous issue. Instead, we are introduced to a different monster; a monster familiar to a lot of people, whether they believe in the supernatural or not. And, for the first time, we get to see Elias as something other than just an Aswang.

Elias continues to be a monster, but he is not THE monster in this story. That role falls to new characters who are a little familiar to anyone who has had to read Jose Rizal’s works: Pade Damaso, Padre Salvi, and even Quiroga. Characters from Noli Me Tangere.

Now, I don’t know what writer/artist Malonzo’s reasons were in deciding to use these characters, but it does ground the story in a very specific timeline–with a very specific political air. And putting the three Aswang we got to know in the first issue smack dab into a familiar tale, is very intriguing for me. Especially since they’re starting to have different views on how they should survive–without turning their backs to who they really are.

I am definitely very curious to see where Malonzo takes this story from here, but I’m sure that the road there will be very interesting.

Book: Maktan 1521

"Maktan 1521"

Ano ba itong mga Kastila? Espanya? Kristiyanismo? Bakit tayo ang kailangang magbigay-alay sa kanila? Wala silang karapatan dito sa ating isla dahil atin ito. Itinayo pa ng ating mga ninuno para sa atin at hindi para sa mga dayuhan.

Any kind of history is revisionist; with winners dictating how they are colored, with how they are preserved. How does that line from that one Wicked song go? “It’s all in which label is able to persist.” So if you think about it, historical fiction as a genre actually applies to the history lessons they teach at school. They just drop the ‘fiction’ part.

Well, in Tepai Pascual’s Maktan 1521, the artist does not pretend that this version of history is completely accurate–even though it has historical data to back it up. That’s because she has already added elements to the story that is based on speculation–and in trying to make logical sense of what had happened, and how things played out. And I’m glad that artist Pascual didn’t attempt a blow-by-blow account of what had happened. I liked that she gave the story her own spin–Maktan 1521 works because she made the characters relatable. She made them into people–and not just names on the pages of a history book.

This being a graphic novel, I feel like I should write about the art as well. But I’m not an artist, and I won’t pretend to know the first thing about art. For me, as a reader, the art did its job. It got the story’s points across, and that’s all that matters.

I do, however, want to point out that some of the colors are too dark. I don’t know if it’s because of the printing, or if the panels were painted that way. What I do know is that there were sequences that I had to go over a few times to understand what was happening, because the colors were too dark and I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be on the look out for. But hey, maybe it was the printing. Maybe Visprint made the colors too dark and the colors bled.

Whatever the reason, I hope that in future reprints, the art is made a little sharper.

Yes, future reprints. I did say that. Because Maktan 1521 is something I want to succeed. I want it to sell all of its copies, requiring Visprint to have a second printing, and a third one, and a fourth one. Because these are the types of Filipino books that I want to become popular, to become bestsellers, to have more kinds of.

Let’s make Maktan 1521 successful so we can have more books like this… Books with substance.

So, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a copy yet, please go out and buy yourself one.

Support local books with quality and value.