Thursday, February 28, 2008


A commentary from one of the readers of this blog named ZANJO was fair enough: that there was rampant plagiarism in the old komiks industry.

I am with Zanjo on this one, for personally, this is also what I think – based upon what I saw in the old industry.

Many serials were lifted from either a best selling novel that the masses didn’t even realize existed; a Hollywood feature film that made a killing at the box office; drawings of well-known artists from western comics were sometimes copied verbatim, flaws and all.

All these above-mentioned aspects were in fact the absolute reason why critics of the old industry were too harsh and mean-spirited. They want the industry to clean up its act, and for once be more original rather than a mere copycat of the original western creations.

But, who's to be blamed for this? The publishers? The writers? The Illustrators? The readers?

It’s rather hard to pin point exactly who.

Because historically, the Philippines have always played safe in terms of economics rather than originality or creativity.

Berne Convention, or Bern Convention, or International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyright law)

The international copyright agreement adopted by an international conference in Bern (Berne) in 1886 and subsequently modified several times (Berlin, 1908; Rome, 1928; Brussels, 1948; Stockholm, 1967; and Paris, 1971). Signatories of the Convention constitute the Berne Copyright Union whose intention was to recognize and apply copyright laws to all authors, regardless of nationality and/or country, and thereby began a movement for some international accord. At Bern, Switzerland, in 1886, representatives of 10 countries adopted the Berne Convention (formally known as the International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works), which established the Berne Union.

Some nations acquiesced to this union, others did it whole-heartedly, but unfortunately, the Philippines flatly rejected it during its early years of its existence.

Lawmakers thought that there were more disadvantages than advantages joining this union. If the Philippines had joined the union, we would have been mandatorily adhering to the rules without ifs and buts.

And the price to pay was hefty!

Every song we play on the radio, TV, movies and stage presentations, we MUST PAY ROYALTY to the authors.

Every book, recorded song, other reading materials – we must pay royalty to the authors.

Every film or tv presentations we do, we must pay the authors, including playing music on juke boxes while you sip beer in a night club or restaurant.

This is the reason why the lawmakers of our land decided that we’re not that rich. We’d be more deprived of all these modern world inventions if we did.

Therefore, we remained free of obligations. For instance, we can play music, adapt foreign music and make it a tagalog one, quote poetry or prose from a foreign work, and the devil may care if the authors balk about it.

And the rest…as we all say… is history.

However, since we did not join the union, other nations can also play our music, copy this and that from our country, and we can’t do anything about it as well.

One example that comes to mind is: DAHIL SA IYO.

When Mike Velarde (not the El Shaddai guy but the COMPOSER), wrote the song DAHIL SA IYO and was recorded in the fifties, it became very popular in this archipelago. Its popularity overflowed like tsunami from the shores of our islands, and after Tony Bennett recorded it as BECAUSE OF YOU and became a hit, many other countries followed suit. It was recorded in France, Germany, England, Spain, etc, and the poor Mike Velarde didn’t even get a cent from all these shenanigans.

After Sylvia la Torre recorded Levi celerio’s lyrics of WARAY-WARAY, again, the song was translated to different languages and no one from RP received anything. Even Eartha Kitt had daringly recorded it in Tagalog! And this recording is still being played on the radio allover the world.

When Hollywood used to visit the Philippines to do all those smash hit war movies, most of the Filipino compositions used there were taken without permission. There were several of them used Filipino compositions, and one of them even unabashedly used AY, AY, KALISUD as the theme song of a John Wayne film! I could no longer remember exactly which one (BACK TO BATAAN, maybe), but it did happen.

But, let's face it. We raked in more advantages than disadvantages from this stand. If you listen to the songs recorded in the Philippines during the 50s and the 60s (try listening to TIA DELY'S program on DZRH) and you'll realize that during those years, we have recorded more tagalog songs based upon smash hit records from USA and UK, translated in tagalog. To name a few:

ANG KAWAWANG COWBOY by Fred Panopio (from Rhinestone Cowboy)
IKAW LANG ANG IBIGIN KO (from My Song of Love)
ROSANG TATTOO (from Rose Tattoo)

Meanwhile, it is so convenient to use recordings from other parts of the world in the Philippines. In the 70s, when the Philippines produced a glut of amazingly wonderful music (in fact the world produced really good music during this decade), when I was writing dramas for TV, I made sure that every episode I write, I specify recorded music that fits the theme of that episode to heighten the impact of a scene or story as a whole. I mean, can we afford to pay STREISAND, for instance, for her song LOVE COMES FROM THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES for an episode of ALINDOG? Even our own local recorded songs are free from any fee obligations. I had a feast using those wonderful, thought-provoking original ASIN MUSIC for my tv episodes in those days. I mean I feel bad that the composers didn’t get any remunerations from their work, but it's just the way it is and we can’t do anything about it. Besides, these musicians have no representatives, or publishers even, who would take care of all royalty matters. Say if you want to use AEGIS’ song for a film or tv drama, you can’t be chasing the band in Singapore or Tokyo or Hongkong to negotiate royalty matters. Besides, TV stations would rather not pay them in the first place.

The Bern Convention became a reality from the insistence of French author VICTOR HUGO (Les Miserables). The world moved on since then. However, we remained the same in the Philippines.

So, Zanjo… this is the sad reality of the status quo in the Philippines.

Therefore, as audience or reader, let’s just be discriminating. If a komiks serial is lifted from another Stephen King work, for instance, but claimed by the scriptwriter to be his… then, you know what to do: Don’t patronize his BALDERDASH.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


May panahon noong 70s nang i-suggest namin ni Vincent Benjamin Kua kay Mr. Tenorio na dalhin ang award winning modern world lit sa komiks. Isa ito sa mga na-brainstorm namin kung paano pa mai-angat ang lokal komiks. At dahil hindi makaabot sa mga masa ang mga panulat na tinuringang pinakamagagaling sa makabaong panahon, nakumbinsi si Mr. Tenorio na may merit nga ang suhesyon na ito.

Na-assign sa akin ang mga foreign works, kay Vincent ay mga local.

Later, gumaya na rin ang iba pang publications at gumawa rin ako sa kanila.

Narito ang ilang halimbawa kung paano ko ginampanan ang bagay na ito, sa pag-asang maibahagi, halimbawa, ang mga gawa nina O Henry at Leo Tolstoi. Ang nakakabigla, napakaraming sulat kaming natanggap sa mga adaptations na ganito at nagdulot ito sa amin ng tuwa, na kahi't ang mga tema ay hindi naman talaga pang-komersiyal ang appeal, pero kinagat rin ito ng mga mambabasa. Dito namin napatunayan ni Vincent, at maging ni Mr. Tenorio man, na may puwang rin ang HIGH-BROW na mga obra, basta't dalhin mo ito sa masa. Ika nga'y... i-extend mo ang iyong mga kamay bilang komikero, at malugod mong ipakilala kung sino ba, halimbawa, si Leo Tolstoi, o si Luigi Pirandello. Ang ilan ay napunit na ang mga pangalan ng awtor kaya hindi na nakasama.



Adapted from THE WILL OF ALLAH
from an African Short story

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Since time immemorial, I have been noticing how Filipino workers would generally succumb to the old cliché: DON'T BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU.

In the old komiks industry for instance, some talented people (writers and artists) tend to do whatever the publishers blatantly ask them.

Don't start a UNION!

Don't start a GUILD!

Don't create any work that the company thinks would be against its policies.

Many bowed their heads and let the monopoly thrived.
Very few progressive-minded talents disagreed and did EXACTLY what the bosses have forbidden them to do.
The meek ones remained in the publication. The bold ones were annihilated to kingdom come.

I have nothing but respect for these group who were so valiant enough to fight for what is right.
And for those YES MEN, I have nothing but disgust for you. In a court of law, an accomplice to murder is also guilty of murder. Therefore, this meek group of people, condoning the CONSTRICTION of these so-called monopolous publishers, became an instrument to aid the business men to treat the outspoken ones like excrement, to say the least.

Reasoning such as the following is the height of one's imbecillic thinking:

"Dibat ang taong pilit niyong sinisiraan na mang-gagamit ay siya ngayong nagpapakain sa mga nawalan ng trabaho sa komiks. At kahit sa sandaling panahon may kaunti silang panapal na nailagay sa matagal na nilang butas na bituka.
hindi obserbasyon o sour graping ang sagot mr. cool. aT DI PANINIRA! "

As long as we get people with such stupid reasoning and outlook, there will always be unfair practices involving treatment, salary, even artistic freedom.

Why can't these people see the light? Why can't they realize that without them as talent of a publishing company, THERE WILL BE NO BUSINESS? The publisher may be the hand that feeds you, but it's YOU who make it happen so that that hand will have something to feed you in the first place. Isn't this simple enough to be seen, felt, realized?

What's wrong with these group of senseless people, trying to denigrade themselves by believing they are actually SLAVES and therefore should just follow their MASTERS with closed eyes?

"That's BALONEY! Stupid is not written on my forehead," Judge Judy will surely say.

These meek and mindless creatures, have, what Philosopher Friedrick Nietzsche would call, THE SLAVE MENTALITY.

These people blindly believe that there is something virtuous about their own enslavement, and therefore they seek it and languish in it. They think there is something virtuous about self-belittlement and the psychological crippling that goes with it. The slave mentality promoted psychological feebleness; and it regarded all of this as honourable.

If you belong to this group, whoever you are, please wake up and smell the CHAMPAKA.
Do what is right. You are not BELOW your publisher. You are EVEN with your publisher. You work for him, he pays you in return. Symbiosis. Period.

Meanwhile, for those who formed a workers union, special mention for that well-known artist who reportedly SLAPPED AN EDITOR, and for those who defied the publishers for treating them unfairly – Let's all stand up and give them all a big hand of applause.

Never again should komiks writers and illustrators allow any monopoly in komiks publishing. The time has come that talent fees be upgraded according to the current standard of living. Komiks writers and Illustrators are human beings, too. Treat them fairly.