Saturday, December 21, 2019

Rest in Peace, Gerry Alanguilan

My relationship and friendship with Gerry Alanguilan is one of what could have beens.
We formed a group back in 1990 with the hopes of producing a comic book. We got half-way there when two incidents prematurely ended our dreams. Even as Gerry moved on to bigger things, we remained friends and I oft visited him at Starfire Studios in Balete Drive. 
When I returned from a lengthy sojourn abroad, it was Gerry who urged me to finally release my own comics books which I did for a few years before I stopped (I will return in 2020). He was supposed to draw my comic, Dante (that was eventually illustrated by Nino Balita), but his pro comics work got in the way. He did promise to eventually work on something for me.
A few weeks ago, we planned for a trip to his komiks museum in his beloved San Pablo, but we first postponed because of a typhoon and then because of the last komikon. We figured it would be after this Christmas except while I will make that trip to Laguna, it will be to see him off.
So it hurts, you know. It’s always, but not quite. This is why you should never put off things and do them because you will never know if it is that last parting.
Gerry and I go way back. We met in the old Filbar’s along New York Street in Cubao. We were looking at Marc Silvestri’s work on Uncanny X-Men (The Fall of the Mutants storyline) but bonded over the old Chris Claremont-John Byrne stories of the same comic book, and Daredevil (particularly the Frank Miller stories). 
Eventually, we formed Kressh Comics, a group that included Mark Del Rosario, Jaime Fornoles, Richie Ramos, Sandy Gonzaga, Carl Alagar, Ariel Atienza, Oliver Pulumbarit, and others. Later on, Francis Magalona and Michael V joined the gang (and that is another story).
Gerry oft came by my old apartment in Cubao. He’d be there twice, or thrice a week along with Mark Del Rosario, Jaime Fornoles (who I invited for that trip to San Pablo a few weeks ago), Richie, Sandy, Carl, and others. Sometimes, we’d hang out at his house outside UST and work on stories or just drink and tell stories. He related his struggles trying to please his parents and his desire to draw comics professionally. 
It was at my apartment where we mostly met and hung out. We had this balcony where we’d all kick back our shoes and talk. I tell you, that was the life! We had so much fun. 
One time, in the fading sunlight, we were there drinking sodas and some beers with some snacks to go. "Man, imagine what we could do," wondered Gerry. "Yeah," I answered. Two of us dreaming.
One time, Gerry showed us all his rejection letters from Marvel and DC Comics. In spite of that, we were so proud of him (for having tried). But we all knew that he was talented (the most talented among us as well) and that he would eventually make it. It was there where he first drew Timawa and showed me and Jaime his early work on Wasted.
I will not forget that day that he arrived and showed us the first pages of that work that would be Wasted. “I know you might not like this,” I distinctly remember him saying, “Because this isn’t super-hero comics.” 
Jaime and I plopped down on the sofa to read that first story. I loved it. I loved it so much that I featured it in the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Gerry reciprocated that love by reprinting the article in the first ever collection of Wasted. 
Those single Xeroxed copies of all the issues of wasted were some of my most treasured comics. I had them and brought them with me to the United States. I hand carried them when I came back home. Sadly, I lost them to Ondoy (that was a crushing blow to me in many ways). 
How deep was that friendship? Gerry was more than a guest; a real friend of the family. He was there during my wedding and for the baptism of my first born son. When my marriage fell apart, Gerry was so angry at me. He urged me to repair it as quickly as possible. Truthfully, that frayed my relationship with him although we repaired it over time. 
As our lives moved on in different arenas – Gerry in comics and his YouTube stardom and me in media, we occasionally remained in touch talking about music, film, and the initial thing that bonded me and him – comics.
When I saw Jonas Diego’s post yesterday about Gerry’s being in the ICU, I immediately got in touch with the former. I knew deep inside that this wasn’t good, and yet, I prayed for his return to good health. I awoke around early morning as my phone kept pinging. Friends were tagging me about Gerry’s passing. How do you return to sleep after that?
My mind kept racing to what could have been and never getting to finish what we set out to do. And that hurts. Doubly hurts.
All that I have left are pictures, his signed comics, and that bit of original piece of art from our Kressh comics days that pre-dates anything else he published. But does that even matter?
I guess not.
Gerry’s passing hurts. The what ifs and should have done this in particular.
As I sat down in my work station, my mind wandered back to the day that we met inside the old Filbar’s that we loved so much. “X-Men fan?” he asked as I leafed through that issue of Uncanny X-Men #227 (Go Tell the Spartans). “Yes, very much,” I answered. 
And we quickly realized that we grew up around the same time and read all the same comics. The next week, he brought to the store his copy of Uncanny X-Men #137. I brought that and my Neal Adams issues of the X-Men. We went to the eatery next to Filbar’s and has some sodas and pancit and talked about what the story meant for us for the next two hours.
Man, you should have seen how we emoted that time over the “death” of Jean Grey. And on how the Daredevil Born Again saga (that inspired Kressh Comics and its name) touched us to our very core.
Two lads with dreams in our minds and passion in our hearts.
I am going to miss you so much my old friend.
Hopefully, next time we get to do what we set out to do.
Your grieving friend.

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