Doon Po Sa Amin… A look into Bladimir C. Usi’s art

It was in 2007, when this author first saw Blad (Bladimer) Usi, framed at the door of the publication where I was working as a senior reporter.

Holding his portfolio, he asked if he can do comics for us. It was former UP College of Fine Arts dean, Leonilo “Neil” S. Doloricon, who was his backup.

In other words, the 5’7″, mulatto cartoonist was hired and graced the Samu’t Sari (Varied Features) page of Pinoy in 2007.

His main character was Tiktok Talakatok, a funny yet critical reporter who has always been with the masa and always had had a bad time with Madam-You-Know-Who.

I am Blad… and I am a cartoonist

“I am Bladimer Usi, 35 years old, married and will be having my third child in August,” his introduction, in Filipino, in our

Bladimer C. Usi's "Doon Po sa Amin" shows some beautiful characteristics of the Filipino like the spirit of camaraderie and also enlivens the dying traditions and customs due to aggressive development.

Bladimer C. Usi's "Doon Po sa Amin" shows some beautiful characteristics of the Filipino like the spirit of camaraderie and also enlivens the dying traditions and customs due to aggressive development.

 e-mail interview.

“Bata pa lang ako ay nakitaan na agad ako ng aking mga magulang at mga kakilala na may talento daw ako sa pagguhit. Kaya elementary graduate ako nuon na may honor bilang “artist of the year” (akala ko, artista na ´ko). At nasundan pa nung high school ako. Marami kasi ang tamad mag-drowing sa mga klasmeyt ko, kaya nagpiprisinta ako na ako na lang ang magdrowing, kapalit ay pera (I was very young when my parents and some colleagues saw my talent in drawing. That’s why, when I’ve graduated in elementary, I was conferred with the “Artist of the Year” Award, I thought I was already a star! (He said, jokingly). Then I entered high school. My classmates are too lazy to draw [school projects and assignments], so I offer them my drawing services for a fee).

The monetary gains which he receives from his drawing, motivated him to drop college and focus on illustrating. He is a BS Criminology student, he shares, at the Philippine College of Criminology (PCCr) in Quiapo, Manila.

“Mas lalo akong nagka-interes nung panahon na kalakasan pa ng mga komiks at konti pa lang ang may telebisyon nuon sa Obando,Bulacan. At kasalukuyan akong nag-aaral sa kolehiyo. Nung panahon na napahinto ako sa pag-aaral sa college, duon ko na sinimulang puntahan ang GASI Publishing at Atlas Publishing (I’ve got really interested at that time when comic books are the number one source of entertainment and there’s only a few households in Obando, Bulacan (where he lives by that time). By that time I’m still in college. When I stopped schooling, then I began visiting GASI Publishing and Atlas Publishing),” he said.

Denied by the monopolies

The two above-mentioned publishing houses were the ones who monopolized the comics industry then. GASI has ceased operations in 1997 and only in 2006, when Atlas Publishing had stopped printing its leading comic titles. (See the short history of both publishing houses, at the side bar: The Komiks Wars)

But entering the comic industry has never been easy for Blad. He continued his comic book like story to this American Chronicle:

“Akala ko, ganun lang kadali ang pumasok duon bilang illustrator o kahit cartoonist. Nang makita ko ang mga live drawing, lalo akong napahanga sa sobrang gaganda. Na-challenge ako. Pero sadya yatang mapagbiro ang buhay, sa dami ng reject sa drowing ko, halos sumuko na ko dahil wala di pa ako nabibigyan ng chance na mailabas mga drowing ko at ‘di ako mabigyan ng script.”

(I thought, it is that easy to get a job as an illustrator or a cartoonist there (Atlas and GASI). When I saw the live drawings, I was caught in owe, for they are so beautiful. I was challenged. But fate seems to play joke at me, many of my drawings were rejected and I almost surrendered because they are not giving me any chance to publish my drawings and I wasn’t given any script (to make illustrations).

Blad, the comic strip scriptwriter

“Pero minsang binigyan ako ng sample script, napansin ko na parang ganun lang pala kasimple ang gumawa ng short story. Kaya sa halip na ipagpatuloy ko gumawa ng sample illustration, gumawa ako script. At duon sa una kong gawa, agad na pinabayaran ng editor, natuwa ako. Kaya sa pagiging script writer muna ko nagsimula (But one time, I was given a sample script and I saw, it is just easy to make a short story. Then, I’ve decided to stop illustrating and doing scripts, instead. When the editor saw my first story, he told the publisher that I must be paid, at once—I feel elated! That is my first job in comics, a scriptwriter),” he said.

But Bladimer never forget his first love—drawing. While busy hitting the keyboards of his computer, he draws.

“At saka ko pinagpatuloy magdrowing. Pero, malabo pa rin ako makapasa sa kalidad ng drowing na serious. Sabi na lang ng editor sa akin, subukan ko na lang daw gumawa ng cartoons o kaya comicstrip sa jaryo. That time, may diyaryo na sa ATLAS (Then, I continued drawing. But my drawings didn’t pass the standard of “serious” drawings (which are for romance, thriller and other special interest comics). My editor told me, why not draw strips or cartoons for a newspaper? That time, Atlas had already their newspaper),” so his story continues.

His first comic strip appeared at People’s Balita (which is still in circulation right now) in 2002, Kalye Unggo (Unggo Street).

“Tuwang-tuwa ako! Dahil may daily cartoon strip na ako sa diyaryo (I was elated because I have already a comic strip in a daily),” he told Bulatlat.

From there, he got the idea of giving samples to other newspaper companies.

Then the pages which are locked, opened.

Because of his love and dedication, and a doze of professionalism, opportunities flooded, he said.

In January 2003, his comic strip titled “Unggutero” appeared in the pages of Inquirer Libre, a free daily newspaper of the Inquirer Publications, circulating in MRT and LRT stations.

The following month, Blad shares, when the The Manila Times of the Angs invited him to become their in-house cartoonist.

There he knew, the late Boy Togonon (1951-2006), then the editorial cartoonist of the Manila Times and then president, and one of the original founding members of the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas (Assocation of Cartoonists in the Philippines or SKP), which was founded in 1978.

The SKP is considered the leading organization of comic strip illustrators and editorial cartoonists in the country.

Larry Alcala (1926-2002), Hugo Yanzon Jr., Edgar Soller, Boy Togonon, Edd Aragon, Pol Galvez, Tito Milambiling (Kusyo at Buyok), and Roni Santiago (Baltic and Co., Planet Op Di Eyps), founded the group. Its current president is Boboy Yonzon III.

When he wanted to join the organization, “Sabi ni sir Togonon sa akin, na ang qualified member lang na makasali sa kanilang organisasyon nila noon ay may regular comic strip o editorial cartoon sa mga national tabloid o broadsheet. Naging hamon sa akin iyon. At dahil sa Manila Times na ´ko, they give me a chance na gumawa ng sariling comicstrip. At iyon ay may titulong TEKLAY, (Sir Togono told me, that to become a member of the SKP, you needed to have a regular editorial cartoon or comic strip series in a national daily or a tabloid. This becomes another challenge for me. And because, I am a regular at the Manila Times, the have given me a chance to run my own comic strip. The title is Teklay.)”

Today, Blad works for The Manila Times, Inquirer Libre, Remate (a tabloid circulating nationwide), Tulay news magazine of the Kaisa para sa Kaunlaran, Inc., Pinas The Filipino’s global newspaper by the Swara Sug Media, Pinoy Parazzi, CBCP Monitor of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, People’s Balita, Rising Star Publishing for their regular magazines, Pinoy Big Jokes and Big Hits song magazine.

It was in Pinas, that the cartoon (ala Larry Alcala’s a Slice of Life), Doon Po sa Amin (In my hometown), appears every week. Same theme, but in relation with the Catholic faith (despite Blad is a Jehovah’s Witness), appears in the page of CBCP Monitor, titled Buhay Parokya (Life in a Parish).

Aside from his “rakets” in different publication, Blad had already published three(3) compilations of his works, in pocketbook form, the Unggutero, Palpak-razzi and Joke,joke joke!.

Sharing some of his thoughts

However, Blad said, he is saddened by the current state of the Filipino comics industry.

“Ang sitwasyon ng komiks ngayon sa Pilipinas ay tila naging isang naglahong kultura na lamang na sadyang hindi iningatan at agad na binalutan ng isang mapagsamantalang lider, na matapos pakinabangan, ay agad na iiwanan na parang basahan (The situation of the comics industry in the Philippines today is, it is becoming an instinct culture, which is neglected, and has been opportunistically used by a so-called leader [in reviving the comic industry]; after he benefited from it, he just threw it out, like a dirty rug),” he sadly told American Chronicle.

He said, the rise of new technology is partly to blame to the sinking of the comic book industry.

“Nakalulungkot dahil sa pag-unlad ng ating teknolohiya, marami ang nasira tulad ng Komiks (It’s saddening, because of the technological advancements, there are good things that has been destroyed, one of which, is the Filipino comics),” Blad continued.

But to those who wants to become a comic artist, here is Blad wanted to say:

“Kung nais ng isa na maging kartunista sa diyaryo man o sa komiks. Maging dito man sa Pilipinas o sa ibang bansa, dapat niyang alamin kung ano ang nais niyang ipahiwatig sa tao. Kahit gusto mong mapatawa ang isang tao, dapat malaman mo ang kanyang kiliti sa iyong mga dialogue na makulit pero swak sa panlasa sa nais tumawa.(If you want to become a cartoonist in a newspaper or comics, here or abroad, first, you must know what your characters want to convey. If you want to make the people laugh, you must know how to find their funny bones, by using your funny dialogues. However, your dialogues must fit with your audience’s sensibility, so that you will know how to make him laugh).

“At isang sekreto, dapat magaling kang sumunod sa mga nagpapagawa sa ´yo sa diyaryo at on-time (And one secret is: you must always obedient to your editors and you must always submit your works on time).

He also shares some funny experiences that he has, while doing comics:

Ang nakatutuwang karanasan ko sa komiks ay, dati, galit ako dahil lagi na lang akong bigo na may ipagagawa sa akin. Ngayon, galit din ako, dahil sa dami nang nagpapagawa sa akin… Hehehehe! Joke lang! Pero masaya ako sa mga ginagawa ko. Kumita na ko, nagpasaya pa ´ko. (My happiest moments in doing comics, before I am very infuriated because nobody wants my works published. Now, I am still infuriated because, the orders are too many! (Laughs) I’m kidding. I am happy in what I am doing. I’ve been earning money, and I make other people happy.) (The American Chroncle)