BEFORE the advent of free television for cheap entertainment, there were comic books.
A prolific figure during the Golden Age of comics, Francisco V. Coching (1919-1998) is acknowledged as the “Dean of Filipino illustrators.”
He began his career in 1934 with works that reflected Philippine history, society and culture. He produced 63 comic titles — 51 of which were adapted to film. Among his popular works include Pedro Penduko, Sabas ang Barbaro, and El Indio.
In 2014, he was named National Artist for Visual Arts. His citation, signed by former president Benigno S. Aquino III, reads, “Sa pamamagitan ng komiks at pelikula, tumulong siyang patnubayan ang pagsalita at biswal na pagkatuto at paggamit ng Filipino bilang wikang pambansa (Through comics and film, he helped guide speech and visual learning and the use of the Filipino as a national language.)”
As a prelude to the artist’s centennial year, the Ayala Museum is presenting F.V. Coching: Komiks at Kultura, a retrospective of the artist’s original plates of comic covers, character studies, interactive displays, and re-colored reproductions of his works.
According to his daughter Lulu Coching Rodriquez, having an exhibit of her father’s work had always been her mother’s dream. “Even before my father became a National Artist, my mother was in the forefront of all efforts to bring his work to belong to everyone, especially to the young,” said Ms. Rodriguez’s message, as read by her husband Jose R. Rodriguez at the opening reception last week.
“We tie up with whoever has the works, this time it’s the family. They were able to save a lot of these drawings — originals of the artist,” Kenneth Esguerra, senior curator of the Ayala Museum, told BusinessWorld.
Mr. Esguerra said that comics were very popular back in the day since it was the “cheapest form of entertainment.”
“You just go to a sari-sari store, you can rent a comic book if you don’t have money to buy it. It was reachable to the masses,” he said, noting that comics nowadays are quite expensive.
The exhibit is presented under the Ayala Museum’s Images of Nation program which was developed to showcase the “vision and excellence embodied in the National Artist Award.”
“Art has a purpose. Art is not for art’s sake only, but it is used to teach history and culture,” Mr. Esguerra said.
F.V. Coching: Komiks at Kultura is on view until Feb. 3, 2019 at the Ayala Museum, Makati Ave., Makati. Copies of the catalogue are available at the Museum shop for P1,500. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman