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Local comic book artists imagine the future of Manila


What would the city of Manila look like in the future?

Some envision the sprawling city and its high-rise buildings to be half-submerged in water, due to flooding.

Others imagine Manila to be a clean and sustainable city that upheld its heritage and preserved its unique culture.

A few others believed that the fate of Manila was grim. The city in 2050 would face the same problems as it faced in the year 2019. Most of them were related to transportation in the country.

These ideas are just a few of what several Filipino comics creators and artists showcased on Tuesday evening, during the Manila 2019-2050: City of the Future Comics Contest at the CSB School of Design and Arts.

The contest was part of the French Embassy's initiative to bring together French and Filipino experiences in sustainable and livable urban development.

 

 

According to Martin Macalintal, the audiovisual attaché of the French Embassy, the embassy launched a series of dialogues and discussions about the future of cities. But they wanted to take things one step further.

"We thought that we should reach out to the normal, the average, the Filipino. And I think that the most effective means of reaching out to the people, is to get in touch with the artists so that they could express what is deep inside," Macalintal said.

Out of 20 finalists, two winners from the student and professional categories were chosen by a jury led by French comic book creator Benoit Peeters.

 

From L-R: Benoit Peeters, Rod Espinosa, Mario Macalintal and Komiket co-chair Paolo Herras
From L-R: Benoit Peeters, Rod Espinosa, Mario Macalintal and Komiket co-chair Paolo Herras

"It was a great pleasure to discover the city through the eyes of artists. Comics and cities fit real together. I think comics are very appropriate to this way of telling a story [of] how do people feel," Peeters said.

According to him, choosing the winners was tough because they were high-quality works with unique perspectives and a personal element.

After deliberation, the winners of the contest were announced during the exhibit on Tuesday evening. They are as follows:

  • Student Category: Isabella Hilario (“For the Future")
  • Special Jury Prize (Professional Category): Maria Nomorosa Hukom ("Manila")
  • Grand Prize (Professional Category): Rod Espinosa ("Broken But Still Beautiful")

'Accumulation of 20 years of work'

Espinosa, who won the grand prize, will be going on an all-expense paid trip to France to attend the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Fest.

 

 

In an interview with GMA News Online, Espinosa shared that his inspiration for his winning entry was the sea level rise that would affect the city in the coming years.

"And having watched movies like Water World...I thought it would be interesting to see Manila underwater but....nature came back...as you can see, it's now sustainable [with] vertical farming in all the buildings. That's the inspiration," the veteran comic book artist said.

In his detailed work, the main character was a scavenger with a robotic pet named Sarimanok, who acted as a narrator for the story.

Espinosa's work also featured real-life places like the Manila Bay, Manila City Hall and the iconic skyline.

He has been a comic book artist for 20 years and counting.

"It's a full time job so it's been a while. It's been a long time. This is, like, the accumulation of 20 years of work," he said.

His advice to young, aspiring comic book artists is to look for their purpose, and pursue it.

"Everybody comes into this life with their unique gift to give. Only you can give it, whether it's your art style or your vision or your dreams. With artists, you've got to use your gift and pursue it-  whether you do well or not," he added.

'Human element'

Renown comics book creator Peeters, who has taken interest in the future of cities around the world, said that there is more to a city than what meets the eye.

 

 

"The city is not only made of buildings and roads; it's also made of people...This is an important element because we cannot imagine a graphic novel or comic story without people interacting," he told GMA News Online.

Comics creators had more freedom to pursue ideas they wanted, as opposed to what architects and urban planners could do, he believed.

"Drawing a city, and telling a story about a city, gives you possibilities to imagine things without having a huge responsibility. When you are an architect or urban planner, [your vision] becomes reality, so you have a huge responsibility," Peeters said.

A comics professor based in the UK, Peeters shared that he grew up in an environment where comics were taken seriously.

To him, comics can be a source of entertainment, an art form or a serious topic.

Unlike in other countries, the situation of comic book authors in the Philippines is "a little difficult" as there seemed to be no real market for the comics industry, the French comic book artist observed.

Despite this, he urged local comics creators to remain true to themselves.

"There is difficulty to choose between the local market and the international market but I think you still have to be yourself. I think it's important to keep what is your specificity, your experience. People will be more interested by something specific," he said.  — LA, GMA News

Tags: comics, manila
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