Posted May 30, 2016 by Tonichi Regalado in Books

They don’t have to feel different with ANG MGA KWENTONG AETA

Blue Indie Komiks (BLINK), the premiere komiks and art organization of the Ateneo de Manila University, in cooperation with Loyola Mountaineers and Barefoot Philippines recently released an original cultural storybook entitled ANG MGA KWENTONG AETA by writer Kevin Rezume Samala and artist Sophia Demanawa. The book launch was held at the Rizal Library in line with the Ateneo Fine Arts Festival. FlipGeeks’ Tonichi Regalado got to talk with Sala and Demanawa on how the storybook came to life.

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What were the important aspects in the making of the storybook? What were the details you wanted and what did you try to avoid
Barefoot Philippines is very important to the story because they’re the ones who exposed us to the issues that were happening with the Aeta people. Because they wanted a story where the Aeta kids didn’t have to feel different from the other kids they went to school with because obviously if you’re an Aeta, you look different, you act different and you have a different culture. So I’m glad that for this story is that they gave me information to work with: pictures, and (information about) their culture and stuff. But I didn’t want to make it an encyclopedia of sorts that just listed down info like Aetas do this and Aetas do that. So when I started writing the story I wanted to be more closer to the target audience which would be the Aeta children. More importantly they’re the ones who experience the bit of loneliness and a difference between them and their friends.

What in your words would you say the story is about?
So the story would be about this aeta girl who on occasion would feel very lonely and what she would do is go up to her community after school and whenever she would feel lonely, a village elder would tell her a story about their rich culture. And the story is very similar to what a lot of storybooks would put out but i wanted to put on a twist on it in which the story would be about the girl’s parents. The story is about the girl and how her parents met. I wanted to make the story community-centered in a sense that the girl wouldn’t feel so alone. And as being a child of her parents and being part of a community, the girl would eventually be reminded that through the story of her parents: how they met each other and how their friends helped them get together and how their families were brought together,  that although she can never be like the other children, she will always feel special and belonged to the Aeta community.

What experience have you had with the Aeta community that inspired this book?
One experience I had was in Pinatubo in Zambales. On the hiking trail, we encountered some Aeta children and their parents along the trail, It felt weird because it looked like these children were photo opportunities: they were sitting on rocks waiting for tourists to take pictures of them and I felt that there was more to these children than posing for pictures on websites and Instagram. I jumped on the opportunity to learn more about the Aetas. Although I experienced it, I got a sense that I needed to do these children a service since they obviously different.


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Is this your first storybook? It’s kind of a ways away from comics?
This is indeed the first storybook I wrote. Most of the time, I’ve written for comics. It was a bit easier for me because I had an idea of how to storyboard a comic, I know what the comic would look like beforehand because I had worked on comics before. And it’s much more easier working on this since I’ve had experience working with illustrators already.

Did you have any trouble with the conceptualizing?
It was supposed to be landscape. We decided together to from it as portrait as to be more standardized as a storybook and to fit Sofia’s style.

Where is the storybook going to be available? 
It’s available here now at the launch. As far as I’m told, it’s going to be first be made available to the Aeta community and Barefoot will follow up on where specifically it is going to be available for selling.

How did you put yourself into this story?
Right now I’m a junior here in the Ateneo, I’m in BFA ID but i dabble a lot in writing. I feel like I’ve carried a weight of being drifting. I was from Claret then went to Ateneo High School. I’m supposed to be going to UST but I really didn’t want to move to a different school because I’d just be uprooted again since I already had my friends here. It’s a bit embarrassingly shown in the story because it’s a story about how someone feels different and they don’t feel like they don’t belong to a community.

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What works comics have you drawn inspiration from? 
Sir Enzo Flojo and Sir Frederick Tomas from the AHS really inspired me to write back in high school. Comics influenced more of my art style than my writing style though. But the ones I’ve read are Junji Ito and Sandman. I’ve tried to stay far from mainstream comics but I do read the one-off stories that feel interesting to me like Spider-Verse (Marvel Comics). Most of the time, I would read old comics like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Because of BLINK, I’ve been reading a lot of local comics, like Agila and Mono Kuro, I really like Mono Kuro. The art style and the fact that it doesn’t need words to convey a story. Rob Cham’s work and Mich Cervantes’ Itch. Those are the komiks that got me back into writing and illustrating.

What do you think is in the future for komiks and other original local works?
I think it is on the rise. And they need more avenues and events like Komikon and Komiket that really put them out there. I think the problem with a lot of writers and artist is that they’re shy. They have this cool story in their head but they fail to bring it out there. Sometimes I feel like that rin. People like Richard Mercado who recently put out a really personal komiks. I feel like people like Richard, people who have his bravery to put out komiks like that should inspire others to do the same thing. There are lot of talented artists and writers but sometimes they’re too shy and say Oh why would I write, there is someone better than me. So I think komiks are on the rise because more and more people are realizing that they could get their work out there.




The art in the book is a mix of children’s book sketch and there are traces of mature art. What style would you put your genre in?
I would put it in semi-realistic style. It’s more important for children’s storybook that represents Aetas because there should more emphasis on what they actually look like and not too smoothed over.

Tell me how you go through your creative process?
I had to research a lot more on this one and they gave me more reference pictures which I don’t usually do for my art. I do have to create based on the pictures especially since I’ve never gone on immersion so it’s sort of a peculiar thing. I have to draw around the things that I don’t know.

How long have you been working on your art? Do you plan to pursue it?
I have been drawing since Grade School which led to me understanding that this is what I wanted to take up in college. BLINK is an incredible outlet for artists like me. I plan to pursue this more. I feel like being published as a freshman is already incredible.

Do you take a lot of influence from cartoons or anime which maybe bled into this storybook?
At some point, it was very loosely based on Steven Universe and a lot of my work bleeds from what I watch. I’m versatile with my styles because I feel like you shouldn’t stick with one.

Tonichi Regalado

Tonichi Regalado is a Manila/Tokyo kid. Currently a business major in the business of fun! He's your resident comic book reviewer and feature writer. His secret mutant power: Pag-Ibig. 信仰