Posted September 29, 2014 by Drew Bagay in Comics

LET’S TALK KOMIKS with Bong Redila

Bong Redila

Bong Redila is a Filipino artist now residing in Miami, Florida. He has worked on several children’s books including Jerry, the Boy who Cried Monster and Ann Page’s Maggie and Chester series. He continues to create short-story comic strips on his blog Fables in Melag, and also single panel stories called Borderline.

We had a chance to do an interview with Bong and talk about his life, work, and how he got into the industry.


FLIPGEEKS: How far back do you remember when you started drawing? What made you interested in art?
BONG REDILA: All of us loves to draw as a child. We all start drawing or doodling once when we have crayon, pencil or anything… a stick or whatnot that makes lines on a surface. Kinda like a caveman. It’s the curiosity and wonder that drives all youngsters to draw.

But at a certain age in our lives we separate from that wonder, I think. I don’t know for some reason the artist in all of us hides somewhere in our subconscious. I think [Picasso said] that we are all born artists.

As a child, I often get in trouble because of drawing. I remember my brother and I used our auntie’s lipstick to draw monsters on our wall. Nahuli kami, tapos napalo (We got caught, and then got scolded). We were like 6 years old then.

I agree, I used to draw during classes as well. But in your case, you made it into a career. Back then, did you want to be a professional artist?
No, I haven’t thought of using my craft as a career when I was young. Back then all I ever wanted was to be someone else, something different. Like maybe throw paper planes for a living. Or count sheeps ’til I fall asleep yet still get payroll.

But somehow I became rather mature and enrolled at the University of Guam majoring in Fine Arts. Then I became immature again, got bored, first semester lang nagdropout na ako (I dropped out during first semester).



Would you say that a formal education is needed in becoming a good artist/illustrator? Based on your experience, you dropped out but still managed to make it in the industry.
Oh, yes. Education is always good to sharpen an artist’s skills. We have to be a student for the rest of our lives in order to create. Nahirapan akong makapasok sa industry (I had a hard time breaking into the industry). As a matter of fact I am still penetrating. I am not that good to be accepted immediately. I need to work harder.

Let’s talk about your move to Guam. You are a member of a group called The Saturday Group of Guam, correct? How did you join the group?
I was new back then in Guam. I was homesick. I’ve got no friends. *sigh* So, one day I saw this article about a group of Filipino artists meeting on weekends. Sketching, painting, relaxing to get away with all the pressures of their normal weekday jobs. Most of them in advertising.

So I went there on time, introduced myself and from then on, I became an instant member. And it was such a great experience hanging out with a bunch of talented painters, sculptors and writers on the island. I was the youngest back then.
I owe them a lot. I’ve learned a lot from them. And luckily, because of Saturday Group of Guam, I met the late Ben Afuang, a writer, poet and an editor for a newspaper there. He hired me as an artist – doing editorial cartoons, making my own comic strip. That’s when my job as a graphic artist started.

Was that after you dropped out of college? How old were you then? It’s a nice surprise that there is a group of Filipino artists in Guam.
Yes. I was like 19? [It felt great] hanging out with veteran artists.

That’s great. Is the newspaper still being published? And do you still do editorial cartoons and strips for them?

Wala na (It’s gone), unfortunately.

PNR Title Page by Bong Redila

Title page from “PNR 2AM.”

You said you do both editorial and strips. Are there any major differences in the process of doing them?
The reason I decided to create a single-panel comics was for me to make more time on doing other things, like finishing up my deadlines on other projects. But the OCD in me dictates me to treat a single-panel art same if not more complex than multiple paneled sequential art. And it’s getting worse actually. So in a way, the process are the same.

The thing is, it is “Borderline” that sometimes inspires me to make stories on “Fables in Melag“. [Sometimes I could create a] story just by looking at the image. For example, “PNR 2AM” originally came from “Borderline.”

So in a way some of your stories inspire other stories.
Yes. And sometimes, actual events.

Are the short stories in Fables in Melag published in print? Or are they just for the blog site? Sort of like an outlet for your shorts.
Only in the blog, but hopefully if I have enough material, I could compile them for printing. Mayroon namang kaunting nangungulit na tao (There are some people who request for a printed version). At least I know someone would buy them. At least 5 people I guess. Hahaha!

Plus, I still love the printed books. Who doesn’t?

Agreed. Prints are really the way to go. Even in today’s digital age, there’s just something special in the printed format.
There is this sweet sensation that you get whenever you enter a library. It’s like orgasmic, especially old books.

So, you do short-stories, but have you thought about doing a full length comic story?
Ah, yes! I’ve thought about it before. As a matter of fact there’s already a story brewing in my head. It’s just slowly cooking. But right now I’m trying to concentrate on two kiddie books.

Why did you decide on doing children’s books? Most of the artists today tend to do more mature stuff.
I’ve been a huge fan of children’s literature ever since I started reading. Well, all kids are anyway. Like I said before, we all separate from that wonder at a certain age. Some just refused to grow up.

I’m working more on children’s stories now because it is what’s driving me to create at the moment. I have so many stories of these kind to tell maybe because I really had so many great adventures and memories of my childhood. And it’s not that I refuse to do superheroes. I just don’t have any superhero stories to tell. Now if these stories just keeps on inspiring me to create, why would I stop and force myself to do something that’s not going to make me happy.

The thing with children’s books is, it’s more risky to work with. Hindi basta-basta kasi ang paggawa at pagsulat ng librong pambata (It’s not that easy to do children’s books). You have to be very careful with what your write or draw. Since your like a teacher to these fragile, innocent minds.

And if you’re lucky, or if you have a good story to sell, you have more audience than in mature books. Both kids and adults are allowed to read children’s books. While in books with mature stories there are boundaries. Give that to a child and you might get sued.

I just have a problem drawing colors for kids, since they say it needs to be colorful. But the problem is I’m legally color blind.

Oh, is that why your work are mostly done in black and white?
Well that’s not actually one of the reasons I sticked to pen and ink. I just looove the medium. I can still do colors, just a matter of guessing if it’s good to look at in normal vision.

I have guides on all of my watercolors [to know what colors they are].

Bong Redila Watercolors

Bong’s labels on his watercolors.

It’s pretty rare to find artists these days that still do traditional coloring. What are your thoughts on digital coloring? Have you tried it?
Digital coloring is great! I have nothing against it. Palagi kong sinasbi, kanya kanya trip lang yan (I always say, to each his own).
I’ve done 7 children’s books digitally. But I still prefer doing stuff the old school way.

Moving on, you now reside in Miami. But you’re still pretty active in the Philippine comics industry. How do you keep in touch with the scene here?
Mainly on Facebook. I am fairly new on Facebook, but I owe a lot to (Rommel) Omeng Estanislao for inviting me as a member of Indie Komiks Manila. If not for him, I will be just posting my stuff without viewers, except of course my wife. Because I’m so bad at promoting myself. So bad that up to now I’m still kinda hesitant about posting my stuff in IKM.

Kinda bad at talking to other people actually. I don’t know, I just gradually developed into this introverted person as years have gone by. It’s terrifying for me to converse with others in person.

So whenever I’m imagining, when I’m done with the children’s books, we will be doing some school tours, library reading in front of all these kids and parents. Give me cold sweats, man.

Anyway, yeah, because of IKM, I was accepted in the Filipino comics community. Met some cool creators and writers. Met some great komikeros from my province: Mark Rosario, Dex Soy, and Mel Casipit from Pangasinan. Eventually did Sikami Anthology. Then contacted by D.J. Legaspi and Josel Nicolas to be included on QBCCC. Also contacted by Rob Cham for Abangan.

Have you visited the Philippines since you moved?
I haven’t been to the Philippines since 1994. I really wanted to at least attend one Komikon and meet some of the creators there, geekout and be a real fan. Would love to buy so many books.

And to end this interview, my last question, do you get mistaken for the local actor Bong Revilla? :)
Hahahaha s**t, man! Yeah, most Filipinos who read my name have often mistaken it to that smiling guy in jail. While here in US, Americans often tease my name because it’s the same as that of the “recreational paraphernalia” that make us laugh all night long and gives us munchies.

Sana nagstick na lang ako sa Jose (Wish I just sticked to using Jose).


You can check out more of Bong Redila’s works by following him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Drew Bagay

Drew is a lover of comic books, movies, and all things pop culture. He enjoys crime/thriller/noir fiction, playing the guitar, and taking long walks. He also doesn't like talking in third person.