Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ang Kuwentong Ilog -- Ang Ilog Book Two


After ANG ILOG Book One was released, quite a few people asked why the setting of the story was in the early years of the American occupation at the turn of the 20th Century.

First of all, I am a history buff and routinely devour books about the genre. The Philippines’ colonial past is rich and really hasn’t been mined for stories save for usual historical figures. What I mean is, if you look at American history and the Wild West in particular, there’s the Kevin Costner film, Dances With Wolves; there’s the incredible Image Comic book, Manifest Destiny that is a fictionalized account of the famous Lewis-Clark Expedition; and the Lone Ranger and Tonto to name a very very few.

If you look at the late great Roman Empire, you have the Ridley Scott film, Gladiator, there are the excellent line of Centurion-themed books by Simon Scarrow; and Hal Foster’s magnificent classic, Prince Valiant.

I am sure you get the drift now.

My fascination for the period of Philippine history began during my elementary years at the Ateneo de Manila when our sections were named after famous datus, historical sites, and national heroes to name a few. I read what books were available about that period and there really wasn’t much. How I wish there was so much more about that period and the Katipunan! The only ones I read where the history books by Agoncillo, Fr. Arcilla, and Zaide.

When I was working in the advertising industry, I promised myself that first opportunity to sneak in some Philippine history in my work, I’d go for it. And that came in 1996 during the Philippine Centennial. Telecoms giant PLDT was our biggest client and they wanted a campaign that also connected the telephone to our history. I initially wrote a script about Gregorio del Pilar writing a letter to a woman he loved right before he headed for Tirad Pass in what would become our own version of Thermopylae. It was about communication from that time and through the years to the modern telephone.

Perhaps because of the scope that included a massive battlefield scene, it was scuttled. It was revived in a toned down form in a commercial titled, Liham,” that featured a Katipunero writing a letter to his ladylove. It was shot at the La Mesa Dam with Peque Gallaga directing it. While I was happy that the basic idea was used, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. I had visions of doing a Filipino version of the Edward Zwick film, Glory, set during the American Civil War. Now you can see why PLDT chucked it because of the costs! Hahaha.

Conceiving and writing ANG ILOG, I decided that the setting would be after the Philippine-American War. I think is perfect for that period is filled with mystery and adventure as the country was far from its highly industrialized and progressive self today.

I imbued ANG ILOG with elements of horror and the supernatural without going overboard. This is where Foster’s Prince Valiant plays much of an influence. In his classic comics strip, he scaled down on the magic and supernatural and simply played more on the frailties and capriciousness of a person living during those times. How big an influence is Prince Valiant?

Pablo’s dog is named… Valiente.

Some wondered about Lawin looking a lot like Francisco Coching’s El Indio. To be honest, I never read any local komiks. Not one. I never knew anything about them. In fact, I only learned of Coching late 2014. I only began to read and follow local komiks after that Summer Komikon. ANG ILOG with its characters was written back in 2004; a good and full decade earlier. However, the story was first formulated in my mind as kid growing up in the 1970s when I would take a raft ride down the Tarlac River with my grandfather. At that time, all I had in my mind were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Then I discovered Roy Thomas and George Perez’ Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Captain America, Neal Adams’ X-Men, and Steve Gerber and Val Buscema’s The Defenders and my world was never the same.

The real push to publish my own komiks was only by the 2014 Summer Komikon after which I dusted off ANG ILOG for publication and I have to say that it is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

This 2015, Eikon Komiks will publish four issues of ANG ILOG; one for every quarter. The first two books tell of Pablo’s journey and as you saw by this book’s end, we introduced Lawin and Gabriela. Their adventure will take place in the next two issues before we reunite the two with Pablo in time for the November Komikon in a closing one-issue tale we call, ANG ILOG: APOKALIPS.

Then we will collect all the five books into one tome by early 2016.

In the next issue, we will do a feature on the book’s artist, Rey Asturias.

That’s all for now and safe journey down this river of dreams.

Rick Olivares
February 2015

Pablo comes across the evil river troll Bandarandung.

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