Geekend Gladiators was able to catch the award-winning creator of the hit Komiks Series Tabi Po, Mervin Malonzo. He shares with us his history as a writer, how the idea for Tabi Po came about and what he thinks of the blossoming Komiks Industry in the country.
The Halloween season is upon us again, monsters, ghosts, and aswangs are lurking around the corner and on rooftops looking for prey. Every culture has their own folklore, each of them unique, and in the Philippines it involves the “lamang lupa.” No amount of colonization can remove our beliefs, that there are entities, seen and unseen, lurking everywhere. The aswangs are among the favorites. It doesn’t matter where you are, either in the city or in the province, if there are sudden deaths or unexplained disappearances, the aswangs are to blame. Folklore described an aswang as a flesh eating, shapeshifting monsters, believed to be the product of a Spaniard’s imagination to instill fear in the hearts of the Filipinos. It has fascinated many writers and storytellers, one of which is Mervin Malonzo.
Mervin Malonzo is the writer and artist of the award winning comic book series, Tabi Po. The series portrays the origins of the aswangs, how they came to be, where they live, and how they mingle with humans. It also tackles the issues of abuse and violence, religion, government, and humanity, issues that resonates through time. Due to its great appeal to the masses, the comic book has gained a fair amount of following that eventually led to it having a live action adaptation set to air on Cignal’s Sari Sari Channel which started on October 27, 2017. In this light we, the Geekend Gladiators, were priveleged enough to have an exclusive interview (of sorts) with Mervin Malonzo, to find out a little about himself, his work, and his take on Filipino comics.
Last APCC (APCC 2017) I met Mervin Malonzo and that became the highlight of my whole day. I thought of interviewing him then and there, but the noise was so loud we can barely hear each other, so I decided to conduct an “interview” by giving a list of questions to answer. It is somewhat informal but due to our busy schedules I have to make do with what I have. So here goes.
About Mervin Malonzo
Name: Mervin Malonzo
Birthday: September 12, 1984
Before all of this, who is/was Mervin Malonzo?
–Freelance web/graphic/motion designer.
When did you first start writing? In general, like before doing Tabi Po and your other works. When did you start writing Komiks?
– Matagal nang nasa isip ko ang kuwento ng Tabi Po. High school pa lang ako dinedevelop ko na ito. Pero nagpasya akong gawin na talaga ito nung May 2010. Web comic siya nung una tapos naging print nung 2014. Kinrailangan ko magresign sa trabaho para lang mapagtuunan ko ng pansin ito. Nung simula mahirap kasi kailangan ko balansehin ang pagkokomiks sa pagfreelance para may pangkain at pambayad ng bills.
(The story of Tabi Po has been on my mind for some time. Ever since I was in highschool I’ve been developing it. But I decided to go for it on May 2010. At first it was a web comic, then it was published in print on 2014. I needed to resign from my work just to focus on it. At first it was hard, I had to balance creatinrg comics and freelancing so that there would be food on the table and payment for bills.)
Did you always want to be a writer/comic book writer/artist?
– Oo! Pangarap ko talagang gumawa ng komiks. May hinahanap ako sa local komiks scene na hindi ko mahanap kaya nagpasya ako na ako na lang ang gagawa ng komiks na gusto ko basahin.
(Yes! Creating comics has always been my dream. I was looking for something in the local comics scene that I cannot find, that’s why I decided to create something that I would want to read.)
What is the first comic that you wrote? Not necessarily published. What was it about?
– Bata pa ako gumagawa ako ng komiks sa likod ng notebooks ko sa school. Ang naaalala kong una kong gawa ay tungkol sa mga langgam na mutants.
(Ever since I was a child I was already making comics at the back of my notebooks at school. I remembered that the first story I created was about mutant ants.)
In your comic book illustrations, what medium are you most comfortable with? (i.e. colored pencils, water color, oil pastel, etc.
– Watercolor ang latest kong gawa sa Tabi Po: Isyu 3 kaya dun ako naging komportable ngayon. Pero binabagay ko ang medium at art style sa concept at story kaya nag-aadapt ako ng ibang medium at style kung kailangan mapa-traditional man o digital.
(I used watercolor when I made Tabi Po: Isyu 3, that is why I became more comfortable in using it. But I try to match the medium and style that I would use in the concept of the story, that is why I try to adapt the medium and style that I use if needed, be it traditional or digital.)
Why the supernatural?
– Marami pang puwedeng gawin sa Philipine mythology at folklore na hindi pa ginagawa ng iba kaya ito ang pinili ko. Mahilig din ako sa horror at kaunti lang ang gumagawa nito na kasabay ko kaya naisip ko na ito ang contribution ko sa komiks scene.
(There are still so many things that can be done with Philippine mythology and folklore that was not done yet, that is why I chose this idea. I also like horror [stories], and there are only a few people who create such stories, that is why I decided that this will be my contribution to the comics scene.)
Personally, do you believe in aswang, dwende, tikbalang, etc?
– Hindi. Wala pa akong nakitang concrete na ebidensiya na nag-eexist sila besides sa imahinasyon ng mga tao at mga manunulat na tulad ko.
(No. I haven’t seen any concrete evidence of their existence other than the people’s and writer’s imagination.)
What is your advice to those who are planning to create/write comics? Like advice for up and coming pinoy comic book writers and artists, how or where would they start, in terms of publishing, or in marketing, etc.
– Kung gusto mo gumawa ng komiks, gawin mo lang. Huwag gumawa ng excuse para hindi magsimula. Humawak ka ng lapis at papel at simulan mo na ngayon. Huwag ring mahiya na ibahagi ang gawa ninyo. Madali na ngayon dahil may social media na. Huwag din matakot na magbenta ng gawa dahil kailangan na nating matutong magmarket ng sarili. Hindi tayo mabubuhay sa pagdrodrowing kung hindi natin ito pagkakakitaan.
(If you want to create a comic book, go for it. Don’t make any excuses. Hold a pencil and paper, and start on it now. Also, don’t be ashamed to share your work. It is now easy because of social media. Also, don’t be afraid to sell your works because we have to learn to market ourselves. We will not be able to make a living out of drawing if we don’t sell it.)
Given a chance to take-on a Mars Ravelo comic book or character, will you take it?
– siyempre! Baka meron na nga! Hehe! Abangan!
(Of course! Who knows, maybe there is already one! Hehe! Watch out for it!)
What do you usually do on weekends?
– Tulog at alaga ng baby.
(Sleep and taking care of the baby.)
Who is you biggest influence in comics or in art?
– Si Alan Moore ang paborito kong creator ng comics.
(Alan Moore is my favorite comic book creator.)
About Tabi Po and next/other projects
You were known for the Tabi Po series, how did it start?
– Dinevelop ko ang kuwento nung high school pa lang ako. Ito talaga ang dahilan kung bakit ako nag-Fine arts. Gusto ko gumawa ng kuwento tungkol sa mga aswang, multo, kapre, at iba pang creatures ng philippine mythology. Marami nang gumawa ng parehong paksa kaya naisip kong sa akin dapat ang pinakamadugo at pinakamaalindog na kuwento. Saka wala pang nag-explore ng posibleng origin ng mga creatures na ito kaya iyon ang ginagawa ko.
(I developed the story when I was in highschool. That is the reason why I took-up Fine Arts. I want to create a story about the aswang, multo (ghost), kapre, and other creatures in Philippine mythology. There are lots of people that have the same idea, but I want my work to be the most bloody and most sensual story there is. Besides, no one has yet explored the origins of the aswang, that is why I chose to create this story.)
Why Tabi Po? Does it have anything to do with the “tradition” of the Filipino people to give some “respect” to elements that we cannot see?
– Oo. Sa panahon ngayon na mas maraming bagay na galing sa kanluran na pinipili nating basahin at panoorin, gusto kong magfocus sa sariling atin. At isa sa nakita kong source ng identity natin bilang Pilipino ay ang ating sariling mitolohiya. Kaya Tabi Po ang title kasi tingin ko ito ang mga simpleng katagang sumasakop sa kabuuan ng ating mitolohiya.
(Yes. In these days, where many people patronize literature and watch shows from the west, I want to focus on what is truly ours. Our mythology is one of those sources of our identity as a Filipino. Hence, Tabi Po became the title of my work, because I believe that this simple phrase encompasses out whole mythology.)
Why did you chose the Spanish colonial period to tell the story of Tasyo, Salome and Elias? Is this your take on Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo or Noli Me Tangere? Just like what some writers would do to interpret Shakespeare.
– Back story kasi agad ang naisip kong ikuwento kaya sa past ito ginanap. At nais ko lang magbigay-pugay sa noli at fili sa pamamagitan ng paggamit ng mga pangalan at lugar na hango sa mga nobelang iyon. Hanggang dun lang naman. Ang Tabi Po ay may sariling kuwento.
(I was already thinking of thir backstory, that is why most of the event happened during that time. I also wanted to homage to Noli (Me Tangere) and Fili (El Filibusterismo) by using the names and places used in the novels. It was only up to that extent. Tabi Po has its own story.)
I was happy that you made the origins of the aswang so mysterious. I noticed that their origins is somehow similar with that of the legend of Malakas at Maganda, what is their significance in the story?
– Malaki ang significance nito. Nag-isip talaga ako ng posibleng origin ng mga creatures ng Philippine mythology at ito ang kuwinekuwento ko sa Tabi Po.
(It has a huge significance. I really thought of the possible origins of the aswang, and that is the story that I am narrating in Tabi Po.)
What would you tell those people who are comparing Tabi Po and Trese? For there should be no comparison, because the characters in your story live in different “worlds”, and the story have a different perspective, and the context is also different.
– Ok lang naman. May mga tao kasing ang re-introduction sa komiks ay ang Trese. Pero oo magkaiba ito kasi magkaiba ang idea at concept namin nila Sir Budj. Magkaiba ang atake nila sa mga aswang. Sa kanila mga halimaw lang ang mga aswang na salbahe na pinapatay ng mga bida. Sa akin naman ay mas may blur ang linya sa pagitan ng kung ano ang masama at mabuti. May human side ang aking mga aswang. At may kasmaan din sa mga puso ng mga tao sa kuwento ko.
(It’s just ok. There were people whose re-introduction to comics was Trese. But, yes, my idea and concept is different from that of Sir Budj. We have a different perspective on the aswang. For them they are monsters that are bad and must be killed by the protagonist. For me the line between good and bad is blurred. My aswangs have a human side. The people in my story also has evil in their hearts.)
Where you scared while you were writing Tabi Po? Something like, you would suddenly dream about Tasyo or Salome, or they would suddenly appear, or you would feel something scary.
– Winewelcome ko naman ang mg ganyan sa mga panaginip ko. Ang pinaka-memorable na panaginip ko ay yung mga nakakatakot talaga. Kadalasan doon pa nga galing ang mga ideas ko.
(I welcome those kinds of things in my dreams. My most memorable dreams are the scary ones. Sometimes my ideas came from those dreams.)
Now that the “First Season” of the Tabi Po series is finished, what are you up to this days? Are you starting on Season Two?
– Pahinga muna sa Tabi Po. Balak ko pong trumabaho muna ng ibang komiks bago bumalik sa susunod na Tabi Po.
(I will rest for a while from Tabi Po. I intend to work on other komiks before I return to the next Tabi Po.)
Who pushed you in doing a live-action series of Tabi Po?
– Happy na ako sa komiks na Tabi Po. Hindi ko naman talaga kilangan na makita ito na live-actiom series. Pero marami yatang nainspire sa kuwento kaya ginusto nilang gumawa ng TV series. Pumayag naman ako dahil maganda naman ang vision nila at nirerespeto nila ang original na material.
(I was already happy with the Tabi Po komiks. I really don’t need to see it as a live-action series. However, there were people who were probably inspired by the story that they wanted to make a TV series. I agreed to it because of their vision and respect to the original material.)
Are you not afraid that the series might flop and that the masses will not like it?
– Siyempre natatakot kaya marami akong gustong kontrolin sa production at script bago nila ishoot. Pero hindi naman lahat makokontrol ko. Kaya ipinagkatiwala ko na sa kanila. Buti na lang sa mga nakita ko naman ay okey naman ito. Saka iba naman ang komiks sa tv show. Yung komiks na talagang akin lang, dun talaga ako nakafocus at doon ako naninigurado na maganda ang kalalabasan.r
(Of course I am afraid, that is why I wanted to control the production and script before they shot it. But I cannot control everything. That’s why I entrusted everything to them. From what I have seen, everything seems ok. Comics is different from a TV show. Making comics is my forte, I focus my attention to it and make sure that the end result will be beautiful.)
What were your considerations in choosing the cast for Tabi Po?
– Hindi ako ang pumili ng cast pero happy naman ako sa mga napili nila. Magagaling umarte at posibleng maging iconic role nila ang mga characters ko.
(I did not choose the cast, but I am happy with them. Their acting was great and it’s possible that my characters will be their iconic role.)
As of now how is the shooting and production of the series? Is ti nearing its end, or is it still in the middle?
– Tapos na ang shoot. Editing at effects na lang.
(The shooting has ended. They are now working on the editing and the effects.)
Will there be any differences between the comic books and the TV series? Ala Game of Thrones.
– Mayroon. Sinundan nila mostly yung mga naganap sa libro. Yung panahon ng mga kastila. Pero gumawa sila ng timeline na present naman. Kaya makikita natin si Elias sa past at present at halos parallel ang nangyayari sa present at past.
(There is. They mostly followed the events in the book. The years of the Spanish occupation. But they created a timeline that was set on the present. We will see Elias in the past and the present, and the events in the past is parallel to the events at present.)
The comic book is very graphic, how will you or did you translate this into TV? Will there be some full frontal nudity, will there be full-on gore?
– May gore pa rin at nudity sa show. Hindi ko lang alam kung mababawasan ito sa editing pero sa shoot ay nakahubad talaga ang mga artista. Willing sila gawin iyon dahil iyon ang hinihingi ng storya.
(There is gore and nudity in the show. Although I am not sure if it will be lessened during the editing, but during the shoot the actors were actually nude. They were willing to do it because the story requires it.)
What’s the deal with the new character that you introduced in Isyu 3? Will the “Second Season” of the comic book revolve around him? Other than aswangs and tikbalangs, are you going to introduce other “creatures”, like the sigbin, sirena, or tiyanak?
– Oo siya ang magiging main character sa susunod na volume. Andun pa rin si Elias pero siya ang susundan natin. At oo mas mabubuksan pa ngayon ang pintuan para sa mga ibang creatures ng phil myth. Abangan!
(Yes, he is going to be the main character in the next volume. Elias is still in the story, but we will follow him [Simon]. And yes, the doors will open to give way to other creature from Philippine myth[ology]. Wait and see!)
Are you open to crossovers with other Filipino comic book writers/artist? Like Tabi Po and Trese? Something like Elias is talking with Darna or Capt. Barbel. Or the characters from Skyworld time traveled and met Elias. Or a tie-up with an up and coming writer.
– Ok naman ako sa idea. Pero kung gagawa man kami, kailangan idevelop ang kuwento para magmukhang posible talaga sila magkasama.
(I am ok with the idea. However, if we create something, we need to first develop the story so that it would be possible for them to be together.)
Are you planning to create a new comic book series? If ever you create one, what is it going to be about?
– May balak kami ni Noel Pascual. May iba pa rin kaming plans ni Adam David. At may ibang collab with other writers. Kung may gagawin ako na solo gusto ko naman mas set sa present o future. May horror aspect pa rin malamang lahat.
(Noel Pascual and I have plans. Also with Adam David. I also have collab[orations] with other writers. If ever I create something, I want to set it in the present or future time. There will still be a horror aspect to it.)
By making a comic book catering to mature audiences, are you limiting yourself to that crowd only?
– Not really. Ang maturity naman ay wala sa edad.
(Not really. Maturity is not gauged by age.)
About Pinoy Komiks
Do you believe that Pinoy comic book is dead? Many people are saying that Pinoy comic books died with Mars Ravelo.
– Buhay ang komiks. At hangga’t buhay ako magkocontribute ako para panatilihing buhay ito. May paraan para sa aming mga gumagawa ng komiks na mabuhay sa pagkokomiks lang at ito ang sinusubukan kong gawin ngayon.
(Komiks is alive. And for as long as I live I will contribute to it to keep it alive. There are ways for komiks creators to make a living out of making comics, and that is what I am doing now.)
Do you think that there will come a time that Pinoy comic books will enter the mainstream comic book industry, a breakthrough internationally?
– Di naman kailangan na maapreciate ng west para matawag na mainstream. Basta magfocus lang kaming gumagawa para magtell ng magandang kuwento at quality na artwork, tataas talaga ang antas at appreciation sa komiks.
(Western appreciation is not required to call it mainstream. For as long as we focus on telling a great story and great quality artwork, the level of appreciation for komiks will rise.)
In your opinion, why is it many of the Pinoy comic books, then and now, is inspired by paranormal beings?
– Kasi siguro magandang source of inspiration at identity natin bilang sambayanan ang philippine mythology. Saka marami pang puwedeng iexplore sa theme na ito.
(Maybe because Philippine mythology is a great source of inspiration and identity for us as a nation. Besides there are still so many things to explore in this theme.)
In your opinion, what should the readers do to let people know that “Hey Pinoy comic books is still alive”?
– Share niyo lang mga gawa namin. Share niyo sa ibang tao. Hikayatin din ang iba na magbasa at bumili ng gawa namin para masuportahan kami.
(Just share our works. Share it to other people. Encourage them to read and buy our works to support us.)
Is there someone, either an artist or writer that you want to collaborate with, local or overseas, to create a comics?
– Wala akong maisip ngayon. Basta gusto ko magandang kuwento. Kahit sino pa man ang magsulat.
(I have not thought of anyone as of now. I just want a good story. It doesn’t matter who wrote it.)
Are komiks the new and hip way of educating us Filipinos of our culture and heritage?
– Ewan ko. Haha. Magandang paraan naman talaga ang komiks para diyan. Sana rin maging paraan ang komiks para mamulat ang mga tao kasi parang nabubulagan tayo ngayon bilang isang bansa. Mas maganda siguro na maging tool ang komiks para maihatid tayo sa mas maliwanag na landas.
(I don’t know. Haha. Comics is indeed a great to educate. I just hope that komiks will be a great vehicle to enlighten the people because we are somehow blinded as a nation. Komiks is probably a great tool that will lead us to the right path.)
Any message to the readers of Geekend Gladiators?
– Salamat sa pagbabasa nito! Kung interesado kayo sa komiks ko, order na po kayo sa mervstore.com! Ako mismo nag-aasikaso ng mga orders kaya mapipirmahan ko ang mga libro. Salamat!
(Thank you for reading this! If you are interested in my comics, you can order at mervstore.com! I personally handle all your orders and I sign all the books. Thank you!)
Catch Tabi Po at Cignal’s Sari Sari Channel, for those who were not able to see episode 1 catch the replays on the following schedules:
Here is a preview of episode 2 that will be shown on November 3, 2017:
Are you a long-time Tabi Po fan? Are you just getting into the series? We’d love to hear from you! Also, jump over to our Facebook, Twitter , Youtube, and Instagram. or Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Mervin, Tabi and his other work by heading over to http://www.mervinmalonzo.com/
Phoebe is a lawyer wanna-be by day and moonlights as the Gladiators’ all around girl. She dabbles in arts and crafts and loves writing about the dark side of the moon. She believes that someday, she’ll learn how to draw a human being and her secret ambition is to be a chemist. She is a contradiction. #Awesome