Rommel was born in tropical Philippines, which is an odd melting pot of Southeast Asian, Hispanic and American influences.
He loves smelling books and drawing people when they're not looking.
I’ve always wanted to do book covers, but I don’t get that many opportunities to really make them. I was lucky enough to recently get a simple redesign project from Anvil Publishing for one of their young-adult novels – Owl Friends written by Carla Pacis.
The novellette is set in the aftermath of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 when residents were forced to flee their homes and relocate to safer areas. The story centers around the unlikely friendship between a young girl and an Aeta boy despite the prejudices against the Aeta triebe. The Aetas are one of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.
Here’s the original book cover illustrated by Yasmin Ong.
In developing the studies, I tried two approaches – one similar to the previous cover where it focused on their faces, and the other used a wider shot that included the book’s setting.
The Ms. Universe Pageant was held in the Philippines this year, and during the commercial breaks, Boysen Paints aired a series of Koreanovela inspired Permacoat TV Ads. I was tasked by the production team handling the TVC to create the design of the mural artwork that was going to be used as a main plot point in the story.
The design went through several iterations before it was finally approved. Here are some of the studies along with the final design.
The story of Ibong Adarna – the mystical bird whose singing cures an ailing king – is part of any Filipino’s childhood storyscape. The epic was written in the 15th century during the Spanish times as a corrido, or a narrative song in the form of a poem. The story has been popularized by adaptations in film, TV, and other media. I confess that I may not have read the actual poem, since we discussed a different epic poem when I was in high school.
A couple of months ago, Adarna House, one of the Philippines’ children’s books publishers asked me to illustrate the cover and provide chapter breaks for a new edition of the book edited by National Artist Virgilio Almario. I finally got to read the entire text for the first time.
The initial direction for the cover art was more in line with 60’s Marvel Comics covers, that’s why the initial type treatment was more bombastic.
But after a couple of iterations, we settled on the direction below.
Before rendering anything though, I made some rough character studies for the main characters. The character studies served as a guide when I was making the comic page style chapter breaks.
Here are the chapter breaks for the book rendered in comics form.
Ang INK is now accepting applications for new members this 2017. If you would like to be an official INKie, complete the following requirements:
1. Five (5) sample illustrations from your portfolio.
• Individual images should be at least 1000px on one side and be not more than 72 dpi.
• Compile all 5 images in 1 PDF. File should NOT exceed 7mb.
• PDF name should follow the format: APP2017-YourName-PORTFOLIO.
2. Three (3) illustrations based on the PBBY-Salanga Prize winning story Dalawa Kami ni Lola by Genaro Gojo Cruz
• Read the story here: https://tinyurl.com/Dalawa-Kami-ni-Lola
• Individual images should be 9”(h) x 14”(w), and should not be more than 72dpi.
• Entries do not have to be based on consecutive spreads/parts of the text. You are not required to layout/include the text in your illustrations.
• Compile ALL 3 images in ONE PDF. Total file size of the PDF should NOT exceed 5mb.
• PDF name should follow the format: APP2017-YourName.
4. Compress ALL REQUIREMENTS as a ZIP file with the file name: APP2017-Surname-FirstName
Once you have finished the steps above, send your COMPLETE ZIP file to email@example.com with the subject line: APP2017-YourName
DEADLINE: March 18, 2017 (Saturday), 11:59 PM
All applicants will be notified of the results through email on the first week of April. For questions and clarifications, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Masasabi na ang Infinito Dios o ang Nuno (katutubong Bathala ng mga Tagalog) ay ang henyo o galing ng mga Pilipino na napasok sa bato o anting-anting, na kailan man ay hindi nakapamulaklak at nakapanaig dahil sa kahirapan at kawalan ng kapangyarihan.” – Nenita Pambid, “Anting-Anting: O Kung Bakit Nagtatago sa Loob ng Bato si Bathala”
I grew up listening to stories about anting-antings, sacred amulets that gave the wearer powers and protection. In movies, the actor Ramon Revilla popularized the idea of the anting-anting. I saw the old Ramon Revilla flicks on afternoon TV after coming home from school. There was Nardong Putik, the hoodlum turned folk hero in Revilla’s movies who became invisible when in contact with mud. I remember Kapitan Inggo, Kumakain ng Bala who made snacks of bullets. There were stories that you had to stand underneath a banana blossom (puso ng saging) at night while waiting for it open and eject a droplet of magical juice. The supplicant must catch the droplet in the mouth to receive magical powers.
My grandmother gave me a rosary and told me to keep it close like a sacred amulet. She had an old prayer book bound in black cloth, pages yellowed and smelling of age. And I imagined it to be an object of power, like an ancient book of spells. I took it to school and kept it in my pocket and I imagined it had magic.
In Quiapo, vendors sell amulets beside the Catholic Church. Supplicants touch the statues of saints with their handkerchiefs and rub it on their bodies as a kind of benediction.
The Filipino revolutionary Macario Sakay famously wore a vest with inscriptions as an anting-anting to ward of danger and harm. It didn’t work though; he was hanged by the Americans.
The idea of magical talismans permeates Filipino popular culture, even in our superheroes. Whereas, American superheroes were born out of science experiments, many Filipino superheroes possess magical objects that grant them powers. The superheroine Darna, who in her civilian guise is a crippled girl named Narda, accesses her powers by swallowing a rock that fell out of the sky. Then there’s Captain Barbell who transforms from his scrawny alter ego by lifting a magic barbell.
In the mythological landscape of the Philippines, it seems you can possess God through objects.
While preparing for my painting “Bathala sa Bato” (24 x 48 in., Acrylic on Canvas), I turned to Nenita Pambid’s book “Anting-Anting: O Kung Bakit Nagtatago sa Loob ng Bato si Bathala”
Scholarly research into anting-antings can be difficult to find. That’s why Pambid’s book is a gem.
Although it could have greatly benefitted from better production values and colored photos, it remains an interesting glimpse into the world of these mysterious amulets.
Books are receptacles of stories. They’re like sculptures of information – words and stories made into tangible objects. Books are also metaphors for people’s identities and memories. The pieces revolve around the idea of the breakdown of these identities and the slow dissolution of memories. Specific stories and personalities dissolve and run together. Singular identities lose cohesion until they become anonymous. The books try to depict that moment before all identity and story dissolves. In that moment, the object is in flux and becomes something new and different.
“String theory envisions a multiverse in which our universe is one slice of bread in a big cosmic loaf. The other slices would be displaced from ours in some extra dimension of space.” – Brian Greene
“If a coin comes down heads, that means that the possibility of its coming down tails has collapsed. Until that moment the two possibilities were equal. But on another world, it does come down tails. And when that happens, the two worlds split apart.” ― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
Last month, Sergio Bumatay and I had our second two-man show, this time held at Galerie Stephanie. Serj and I admittedly approach things differently, so coming up with a common subject matter was challenging. In the end, we realized that our work and our background in image making ran parallel to each other. Both us are heavily into illustration and visual narratives. In a sense, our bodies of work were like parallel universes to one another.
The Stuff of Science Fiction
I grew up reading science fiction and comic books. Science Fiction (or speculative fiction) has always been a home of weird ideas about the future. But as much as they talk about the next step in human evolution, SF also talks about the present, filtered through the lens of scientific allegory.
Many of the science fiction pulp magazines and comic book stories of the past are populated with characters whose origins stories were borne out of exploding planets and radioactive contaminants. Their covers have their own instantly recognizable visual iconography. In a way, these images are no less rigid than Christian iconography found in altars and religious icons.
Pulsars and Space Jesus
Having grown up Catholic, religious iconography is part of my visual landscape. And these images are not only confined to churches – they’re everywhere from public transportation to fashion. So I guess, that informs a lot of what I do.
In coming up with images for the exhibit, I wanted to use the theme of “parallel universes” to talk about personal relationships filtered through science fiction iconography. In fiction and in art, we can talk about exploring time and space, but in the end, these journeys are about exploring and understanding ourselves and each other.
“Identity is an assemblage of constellations.” – Anna Deavere Smith
“Inside a black hole time stops altogether. Whether or not this theory will ever be proved, I’m moved to believe this would be the perfect place to love someone.” – Shane Koyczan, Tomatoes
In my third novel there is an actual black hole that swallows everything you love. – Jonathan Lethem
“Within his orbit, I was nothing but a flat noodle. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.” – Dee Lestari, Rectoverso
Our Strange Gravities
“Sometimes I think gravity may be death in disguise. Other times I think gravity is love, which is why love’s only demand is that we fall.” ― Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants
“What is love if not the gravity of souls?” ― Courtney M. Privett, Shards of Chaos
For our collaborative piece, Serj and I worked on a quadtych, sharing a single horizon line.
Shoutout to our curator Ricky Francisco and Galerie Stephanie’s Abby Teotico for helping with the birthing pains of this show. I don’t have a photo of them, so here’s a picture of Sergio and myself, with a cameo appearance by Abi Dayacap.
I am currently represented by Galerie Stephanie. The gallery is located at Unit 1B Parc Plaza Bldg., 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City. For inquiries, contact the gallery at (02) 709-1488 or at email@example.com.