Inquirer Super

The Philippine International Comics Festival: The Evolution

By: Ruel S. De Vera
The Philippine International Comics Festival logo

The pandemic wasn’t able to stop Paolo Herras, the mastermind behind independent Filipino komiks convention and publisher Komiket, from pushing through with the first Philippine International Comics Festival or PICOF 2020 last year.

Herras’ superpower is getting it done, no matter the situation and on the fly, PICOF 2020 became a virtual event, where “we planted seeds,” he said.

“We reached out to partners here and around the world.” Aside from local cultural agencies, they also collaborated with international comics festivals and cultural entities, all “to believe in us and support our cause–to showcase original Filipino stories that have huge potential for adaptation.”

Most significant was being selected as a PICOF Author, which would reward the creator with “a publishing contract with Komiket, and the full support of Komiket, attending a free Creator’s Lab to help develop their komiks pitches to a full manuscript, free access to the PICOF Comics Masterclasses, the PICOF Online Festival, and representation in international book fairs, comics, animation and content festivals.”

The webinars stretched out over an entire month: Week one focused on Filipino komiks. Week two on creator’s rights. Week three was on adaptation, and week four was world comics.

“We were all affected by the pandemic, and our PICOF authors needed to focus on the livelihood, the physical, emotional, and emotional welfare. That’s when we realized we needed to provide our creators more time to finish their work.”

Philippine International Comics Festival 2021 was both better planned and more ambitious. According to Herras, “This year we continued to innovate by applying the learnings from last year and improved our festival.”

A Creator’s Lab for pitches to be developed into full manuscripts as a second batch of PICOF Authors were selected with their work to be published in PICOF 2022.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines included PICOF Authors in the Philippine delegation to the Annecy International Animation Festival in June. “Thirteen of us were able to secure one on one meetings with international producers, distributors, and network executives,” he said.

“Our goal is to find producers and publishers outside so we can enjoy global rates for our intellectual property, just like ‘TRESE.’”

This year’s festival produced the British Council-supported “Ten Years to Save the World” anthology with 10 creators from the United Kingdom and the Philippines addressing climate change.

Philippine International Comics Festival ticket

A collaboration with the Game Development Association of the Philippines led to two titles being adapted into games, Rob Cham’s “Lost” and Cat S.’s “Little Wolf.”

The event includes a masterclass by superstar creator Whilce Portacio on designing characters and another one by #romanceclass’ Mina V. Esguerra on romance writing that sought to lead to more romance komiks.

Foreign creators and scholars from the UK, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and France exchanged ideas with Filipino creators.

Herras notes that “this year, we didn’t want to sell webinars, we wanted to sell more komiks! And we had five new comic books we could launch and an entire selection from our comics community available at the Secret HQ bookstore. So we changed strategy–everybody who bought a comic book would get an all-access pass to the PICOF 2021 online festival for free. And it worked! Readers were able to access 24 book launches, curated webinars, and masterclasses, and we ended up with two additional webinars.”

Tarantadong Kalbo comic book cover

There were standouts among the new books. There was the gorgeous, fan-favorite “Twinkle Twinkle” by Tori Tadiar. Jay Ignacio joined forces with comics legend Alex Niño with the impossibly detailed, action-packed “Alandal.” And perhaps the most anticipated launch was “Tarantadong Kalbo Vol. 2” by Kevin Eric Raymundo of #TUMDIG advocacy. It is the second collection of what may be the most relevant and funniest web strips we have today.

The third batch of PICOF Authors was already selected, with their work due in 2023, so the festival is making sure the pipeline continues to be full of original komiks work.

Despite of the exhaustion, Herras is already thinking of next year’s PICOF, which has arguably become the most important komiks event in the country today.

“If Komiket’s goal is to grow the comics community, PICOF’s goal is to grow readers for the comics community,” he says.

Philippine International Comics Festival Authors:

PICOF 2021 AUTHORS

“Alandal” by Jay Ignacio and Alex Niño

"Alandal" by Jay Ignacio and Alex Niño comic book cover

“Aswang High” by Macoy Tang and Cy Vendivil

“Balete” by Rayund Bermudez and Kahlil Baet

“Depikto” by Ruvel Abril

"Doobiedoo Asks" by Bambi Amago and Roland Amago comic book cover

“Doobiedoo Asks” by Bambi Amago and Roland Amago

“Little Wolf” by Cat S.

Little Wolf" by Cat S. comic book cover

“My Name is Agung” by Ma-i Entico

“Third World Power” by JV Tanjuatco and Jim Jimenez

“The Ticking Stone” by Vaughn Pinpin and Tristan Yuvienco

“Twinkle, Twinkle” by Tori Tadiar

Twinkle, Twinkle" by Tori Tadiar comic cover

PICOF 2022 AUTHORS

“Blight” by Yuri Pinzon

“Endangered” by Borg Sinaban

“Fester” by Dominique Duran

“Full of Grace” by Ren Galeno

“Godhark” by Sean Manaloto

“Hele” by Mitzi Bajet and Alexandra Sevilla

“Hiraya” by Fred Cabredo

“Patch” by Milo Galang

“Sitnalta” by Ray Magbanua

“Tablay” by Kat Olan and Paul Medalla

PICOF 2023 AUTHORS

“Anne E. Monnaie” by Patmai De Vera

“Agla” by Kael Molo

“Aso” by Macoy Tang and AJ Bernardo

“Epiko” by Marvin Ray Barmillo and Ryan Jay Agsawa

“In Her Skin” by Paolo Magtira

“Luna Variations” by Carljoe Javier and Jemuel Bernaldez

“Manananggal” by Electromilk

“Niño Bughaw” by CJ Reynaldo

“A Passing Bloom” by Kevin Ray Valentino

“P.S.” by Danyel Maxin Santos

“Sibol” by Patti Ramos and Viel Vidal

Philippine International Comics Festival ticket