On February 28, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conferred presidential medals of merit to six personalities who had greatly contributed in the propagation of the now extinct Komiks. The simple ceremony was held at the Malacañang Palace.
The lowly Komiks was one of the unsung educational tools where the masses had learned the proper use of the Filipino Language. Before the regime of the television, Komiks novels and short stories, presented in eye-catching illustrations, were the usual conversational pieces of market vendors, jeepney drivers and the rest of the common man in the streets. Fictional characters like Kengkoy, Zuma, Divino, Darna, Captain Barbell and Kampanerang Kuba can be likened to the prevailing TV soap personalities. Aside from giving color to the slow pace of life when television was a luxury and the internet was yet to be dreamed of, the Komiks industry provided not only employment but also a venue for artistic expression.
At the height of the Komiks era, Ace Publications was the leading publisher followed by GMS, Philippine Education Company and GASI which was owned by the Roces family. Bulaklak and Liwayway were also in the run for the money although they couldn’t be considered hard core Komiks because they’re more of a magazine with a variety of articles. Tagalog Klasiks and Pilipino Komiks specialized in serials while Wakasan, as the name implies, was the trademark for short stories done in suspenseful illustrations. Funny Komiks, intended for elementary students with humorous fairy tales in modern versions, was the last Komiks to be born.
With the demise of Ace Publications in 1963 due to labor strike, PSG Publishing was quietly born at the residence of Pablo S. Gomez. Its flag-bearer United Komiks came out with the maiden issue in January of 1964, mostly with stories from the pen of a prolific writer who became an entrepreneur by accident. Pablo S. Gomez, who was already an established Komiks novelist at the time, felt that Komiks was an industry in a sense that Komiks gave stiff competition to the radio drama and considering that the literary value of the Komiks was already a part of our culture.
Pablo S. Gomez with Manny Morfe, head of PDGP (Production Designers Guild of the Philippines)
So as not to be over-exposed in his own publication, Pablo used pen names such as Rene Rosales to give an impression to the readers that United Komiks has several writers. Pablo also utilized his equally talented brother, Daddie Gomez who sported the pseudonym Tennessee Francel and D. G. Salonga, all taken from his real name Dominador Salonga Gomez. The success of Pablo’s publishing house beckoned the best in the field with the names of Rene Villaroman, Greg Igna De Dios, Tony Tenorio, Rico Bello Omagap, Nestor Redondo and Mars Ravelo who used the alias Virgo Villa. Pablo also gathered renowned illustators Alfredo Alcala and Francisco Coching.
Pablo S. Gomez can be credited for starting the careers of Komiks artists like Alex Nino and the great Komiks writer Carlo J. Caparas who created the character Bakekang which was played by Nora Aunor in the film version. Carlo later on became a film director and ventured in film production together with wife Donna Villa.
Sooner than expected, United Komiks gave space to its siblings when PSG Publishing broadened its horizon with Continental Komiks and later on added to its menu Kidlat Komiks which centered on modern folklore and Planet Komiks which specialized in science fiction stories. With his inborn business savvy, Pablo decided to expand and moved his business to a four-story building in Balete Drive corner Aurora Blvd. to provide more employment to writers, illustrators, distributors and even sari-sari stores which rented out Komiks for five centavos.
It’s heartening to note that the government had finally realized the value of the Pinoy Komiks. In the recent awarding held in Malacañang, President Arroyo had instructed the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) to come up with measures on how to revive the Komiks industry. Cecille Guidote, NCCA’s Executive Director, instantly came up with the idea of a contest, a sort of a search for new Komiks writers and illustrators. The contest will be named Gantimpalang Carlo J. Caparas and is to be launched soon with a 300,000-peso grant for the prizes. Caparas is one of the six awardees of the Presidential medal of merit together with Tony Velasquez, the acclaimed father of Filipino Komiks and creator of Kengkoy; Francisco Coching, the greatest Komiks illustrator of their time; Larry Alcala, the famous cartoonist who created Spice of Life and Kalabog en Bosyo; Mars Ravelo, creator of Darna and Captain Barbell; and Emilio Yap of the Manila Bulletin. However, the ceremonies proved surprising for Komiks lovers with the missing name of Pablo S. Gomez in the awards list.
Aside from being a prolific Komiks writer and Komiks publisher, Pablo S. Gomez also made a name for himself as one of the local movie industry’s best scriptwriters. It is a known fact that Pablo was the favorite scriptwriter of the late Fernando Poe, Jr. Some his famous Komiks novels which saw life in the silver screen were Kurdapya, played by Gloria Romero, Eva Fonda which featured Alma Moreno, Pitong Gatang which caused the discovery of Fred Panopio’s singing talent, Kamay Ni Hilda, Recuerdo, Susanang Daldal with Susan Roces in the title role, Taong Buwaya, Batang Bangkusay and Pagbabalik Ng Lawin.
Pablo S. Gomez with Josefino Cenizal, head of the UFIMDAP (United Film Musical Directors Association of the Philippines)
In the last Luna Awards, Pablo Gomez was bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement award for his valuable contributions to the movie industry. At present, Pablo Gomez heads the Screenwriters’ Guild of the Philippines under the aegis of the Film Academy of the Philippines.
A year ago, Kampanerang Kuba and Mga Anghel Na Walang Langit, two of Pablo’s masterpieces, were revived by ABS-CBN for their primetime battle. The grand old man of the Pinoy Komiks acted as headwriter and consultant for the said TV serials. Aside, the Kapamilya Channel had Pablo deliver 30 stories, plots and concept for an unspecified amount in the seven-figure bracket.
Except for dwindling sales, there was no clear reason why Komiks vanished during the onset of Martial Law. But with the attention being given by the government at present, Komiks may yet do a proverbial phoenix or a Biblical Lazarus. And hopefully, Pablo S. Gomez, although already counting 73 but still with a mighty pen in hand, may join the fun and prove that writing Komiks is lovelier the second time around.
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