Friday, May 16, 2014

This is Maktan! (on Tepai Pascual's awesome Maktan 1521)

This is Maktan
by rick olivares

There’s a moment when one of the local datus confronts Lapu Lapu. The chieftain of Maktan is on a short leash.

“Bakit tayong mga datu ay kailangan magbigay alay sa kanila,” Lapu Lapu angrily asks Zula. “Wala silang karapatan dito sa ating isla dahil sa atin ito. Itinayo pa ng ating mga ninuno para sa atin at hindi para sa mga dayuhan. Sinunog nila ang mga anito, tirahan at pati na rin ang mga tao. Pinatay nila si Pasla, ang mga babaylan at buong balangay nito. Sinaktan nila anak ko! Sa tingin mo ba… may lugar pa ba ang pakikipagkaibigan sa isip ko?”

I half expect Lapu Lapu to kick Zula into some bottomless pit and scream in defiance, “This is Maktan!”

My thoughts of Frank Miller’s 300 aside, Tepai Pascual’s highly romanticized retelling of Lapu Lapu’s heroic repelling of Spanish colonialism in Maktan 1521 is a milestone in Filipino komiks. It’s groundbreaking because there aren’t many local komiks that re-tell historical events. Right now there’s Steve Magay’s and Dax’s Kayaw that is a fictionalized story of Kalinga warriors fighting the Japanese occupation in the Mountain Province. But that’s it.

As a history buff, I highly appreciate Pascual’s work. While a lot of creators mine our country’s rich folklore and mythology, she chooses to delve into a pivotal moment in our country’s history. Well, technically, the Philippines wasn’t a country just yet. Nevertheless, the events that led to the Battle of Mactan are firmly entrenched as a crucial moment in Philippine history as it put into motion the gears for a more concerted colonization.

We all know how the story starts and how it will end. What Tepai does is provide a story in between. Remember… this isn’t a historical re-telling but a highly romanticized version so that means there’s some love in the air ala Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (Sawili and Mawo/Maya) and touch of Braveheart and the betrayal of Robert the Bruce (Paril and Sawili) as we can see how the arrival of the Spaniards creates tension that simmers and then boils into a conflagration.

Although recorded history shows us that Lapu Lapu’s forces learned the weakness of the Spaniards when they had to wade through the low tide under heavy armor (thus removing other metal parts that would only slow and drown them), Pascual depicts how an angry Sawili learns of this Achilles Heel when he attacks a squad of Spanish soldiers who just shot and killed Kino.

The first part of Maktan 1521 tells of entreaties to submit to the Spanish King and initial skirmishes. It ends with a pissed off Magallanes ready to put the stubborn natives to the sword.

Pascual’s pacing is good. Even while introducing new characters into this story, she doesn’t let it drag into non-essential stuff. As a result, it keeps you glued to the story and by the time you get to the last page you wonder when the conclusion is coming out.

Black and white art is an acquired taste. If you’ve been reading Filipino komiks for a while now, then Wasted and Trese should have opened up your taste buds already. Pascual’s Maktan 1512 is offers different fare in an increasingly delicious menu of storytelling fare.

And Tepai’s art is clean and save for a few panels where there’s too much shade/black that you take a few minutes to try and figure out what happened or what is being conveyed.

The wrap-around cover is in full color and teases at what Pascual can fully accomplish given the resources to produce a comic book.

Maktan 1521 is not only a feather in Tepai Pascual’s cap but for local komiks. If you are a fan of local komiks then this should be in your collection.


You can find Maktan 1521 at Comics Odyssey in Robinson's Galleria!

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