June 17, 2024

For sure, there were others ahead of me. 

I started doing editorial cartoons and comic strips for the Baguio Midland Courier 35 years ago.

To this date, despite migrating to a foreign country, I continue sending them, over a fervent request by then publisher Dr. Charles Hamada before I left for Winnipeg, Canada.

Veteran newsman Eli Refuerzo, then a staff member of the Midland Courier, assigned me a comic strip named “White Dwarf”, aside from starting the editorial cartoons in the opinion page alongside the columns of journalism stalwarts Cecile Afable, Ben Rillera, and Bert Floresca, among others.

I left for Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, and then worked shortly with the defunct Baguio Reporter and SunStar Baguio before Charly took me back, this time starting the sports page and a sports column “Off The Bench” aside from the usual editorial cartoons and comic strip titled “Plus Juan”.

Thanks to the digital technology that allowed me never to miss an issue to draw even when I was on travel. I’m still old school when drawing my cartoons – with pencils and pens in tow wherever I went. Even with the availability of digital pens and tablets, I still find the same excitement of sliding my pens and feeling it scratch across a bond paper as that of a boy opening his brand new box of crayons.

Editorial cartoons are fun to do and issues abound that you will never run out of ideas. The problem really was how to present them in such a way it would make people think. Readers will agree or disagree just as any opinion is made.

Simply put, editorials are written by the best writers of our publication while editorial cartoons are created by the cartoonists presenting their own opinion on public issues – through drawings. I was in charge of that. 

I didn’t know how powerful editorial cartoons were until I had my first libel suit – then as a cartoonist. The case, however, did not prosper at the prosecutor’s level.

While I might just happen to be with a popular newsweekly, thereby gaining a wide audience even before social media in vogue, I think editorial cartooning began to blossom when the Campus Journalism  Act of 1991 came into existence.

Republic Act 7079 pushes for the development and promotion of campus journalism.  

The Department of Education was to sponsor periodic competitions, press conferences, and training seminars in which student-editors/writers and teacher-advisers of student publications in the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels participated. 

The competitions pitted campus journalists in news writing, editorial writing, feature writing, photojournalism, sports writing, copy reading, and headline writing, and editorial cartooning.

These competitions were held at institutional, divisional, and regional levels, culminating with the holding of the annual national elementary, secondary, or tertiary school press conference in places of historical and/or cultural interest in the country.

Today, they have added TV and radio broadcasting, column writing, and other categories in newspaper management.

The annual campus journalism competitions, as we call them in campus journalism pertaining to the contests, brought to fore the talents of artists in being able to depict social issues through drawings.

Lectures and workshops were usually done by resource speakers and eventually competing for the top awards – the highest honor was being able to win in the national level. 

As one of the regularly invited resource speakers in cartooning, it was an honor to be part of the discovery of cartoonists from elementary, secondary, and tertiary level through these press conferences – some who have become professionals in their chosen fields.

Teaching cartooning was fun and exciting for the participants that we had teacher-advisers sitting in with us whether in a jam-packed classroom or an open gymnasium. I was hands-on, doing actual drawings on a chalk board or white board. No slide presentations or projectors. Just chalks or markers.

While editorial cartoons are made to make one laugh, they also show various issues affecting the lives of the public. There was only one rule in winning the contest – the issue one is presenting through drawings must be easily understood in a few seconds. Never mind if one is for or against – which is the essence of the freedom of speech.

Editorial cartoons are not new. The so-called satirical political cartoons became popular in the 19th century in America. Newspapers regularly featured editorial cartoons to engage readers and influence public opinion.  With the advent of artificial intelligence and various social media platforms, editorial cartoons will still be a part of communication where every issue and  opinion will still be a favorite staple among readers hungry for news.