Vox Populi PH
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Vox Populi PH

Figures of Crisis and Calamity in the Philippines

Editorial Cartoon Highlights

(PHOTO | VOX POPULI PH)

Imagine this: you are one of six children of a low-income family somewhere in Tondo, Manila. While your family tries to make ends meet with a daily wage of 150 pesos, you realized that people have begun wearing facemasks and face shields, too. Your family realizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, and the virus is now lurking everywhere. Local officials repeatedly tell the public to stay at home, wear protective gear, and sanitize yourself. Your parents are prohibited from doing their daily “sidelines” to “promote” social distancing. At the seventh month of the pandemic, barangay officials suddenly carry out forced evictions. Your family tries to seek shelter in different places. Your family needs a place to sleep, some food to eat, and safety gear as protection during the pandemic. One day, you overhear that people are preparing emergency food and other supplies for a predicted storm surge.

For some time, people believed that this story is overly dramatic. However, it’s not — because countless Filipino families are trapped by similar stories. As a country with seriously frightening fault lines and being part of the Pacific typhoon belt, the Philippines is prone to months of typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other calamities. These calamities can cause massive floods and landslides. Raging rivers of mud and water threaten properties and livelihood both in urban and rural areas. Injuries and deaths commonly follow.

While the Filipino community is constantly submerged by calamities, the national government is often nowhere to be found. The nation is now experiencing rapid deterioration due to neglect. Duterte’s lack of urgency, topped with his cronies’ garish propaganda and “dolomite posting,” reveals the current condition of this ill-fated country: we are doomed.

The lack of proactive crisis management speaks volumes. Local editorial cartoonists depict these figures of darkness, neglect, and collective pain of Filipinos. After the horrifying chain of storms (Rolly, Siony, Tony, Ulysses) hits the country, these cartoonists used their creative skills to reveal the nation’s true face.

NETH offers his radical viewpoints for his fellow Filipinos. From the numerous crisis toll in extrajudicial killings, media oppression, and the government’s lack of intuition — Kenneth’s editorial cartoon challenges the need of his “fellow Filipinos (to be) awakened by the government’s maltreatment to its citizenry.” (CARTOON | KENNETH I. BESSMONTE)

NETH

Kenneth I. Bessmonte (artist name: NETH) is a BS Architecture student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila. He has been sketching since age 5 and has been designated as an editorial cartoonist in his school publication. He’s been making editorial cartoons for a while, creating various expressions of the nations’ most urgent issues. For Kenneth, his school publication participation is “not only for recognition or medals” but to “lead people to see the truth of society.”

Kenneth offers his radical viewpoints for fellow Filipinos in his latest editorial cartoon. His inspiration for this cartoon is the summation of the many crises created by the Duterte regime; from extrajudicial killings, media oppression, graft, and corruption. Kenneth also shows us the government’s incompetence and unwillingness to serve the Filipino nation. His cartoon also “reflects on how worthless the current administration” is with dealing with disasters and pandemic.

“Accountability, not resiliency. We deserve better. Sobrang nakakaawa na kasi ang kalagayan natin. After all the calamities, we’ll depend on humanitarian mobilization again? When will this unending story of resilience be stopped? We should not allow being ravaged by another storm,” the artist said.

This is the core of NETH’s message to the Filipino people. He emphasized that the government should begin using the nation’s fund — for the nation, and not for anything else. He also calls upon LGUs and the national government to see and listen closely to what Filipinos demand.

Get to know more of NETH’s opinions and cartoon by visiting his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Philippines’ topographical location is prone to natural disasters. With that, ZACH’s editorial cartoon gives a glimpse of how the Filipino people “had to deal with the damage” of seasonal calamities and the COVID-19 crisis. His cartoon, entitled “The Power of Prayer,” negates the idea of prayers and sheer resilience of the Filipino as ‘shields’ enough to conquer these events. (CARTOON | ZACH)

ZACH

ZACH (full name withheld) is an illustrator and cartoonist pursuing his graduate studies. He’s a regular contributor of numerous local and international publications, including CBCP Monitor (national publication of Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines), Assortedge (online youth-led media organization in the Philippines), Today’s Carolinian (student publication), Cartoon Movement (online platform in the Netherlands), and Cartooning for Peace (international cartoonist network based in France). ZACH’s editorial cartoon recently appeared in several international media outlets such as Courrier International (France), 5 Media (Netherlands), and FRANCE24 (France).

At age 4, he developed his interest in the world of arts. He became the editorial writer of their official school publication at age 12, where he was allowed to release his first editorial cartoon. ZACH reiterated that his first cartoon was about the dangers of using substandard Christmas lights. “Because I enjoyed as a cartoonist more than being a writer, I decided to become a cartoonist on the student paper of the secondary school that I attended,” ZACH added. This leads to his greater engagement with editorial cartooning, from campus journalism competitions, online publications, and several organizations — slowly leaning as his life-long advocacy.

Editorial cartooning has been ZACH’s “bread and butter.” His editorial cartoons depict the current local and international events. He focused on the “satirical depiction of injustices” in the hands of the authoritarian regime. His cartoon shift methods throughout time; from using traditional drawing during his early years, ZACH switched on using digital drawing. “The whole process usually takes two to five hours, depending on the difficulty of the topic or drawing,” ZACH explained.

“As a person who lives in the Pacific typhoon belt, I know how it feels to live in harsh conditions during the onslaught of typhoons,” ZACH stated. He further shares his personal experience during storm surges, with floods taking the insides of their home. With this situation in hand, plus the current situation on the COVID-19 pandemic, ZACH expressed his grief seeing the aftermath of disasters — worrying that it could lose lives, homes, and livelihood.

His featured cartoon showcases solutions that Filipino people are capable of. He presents that “disaster preparedness and quarantine measures” can barely protect anyone against the massive joint destruction from the typhoon and COVID-19. ZACH’s religious stance is also highlighted as he included prayer as a ‘third weapon’ against the monstrous calamities and crisis. His cartoon, entitled “The Power of Prayer,” negates the idea of prayers and the Filipino’s sheer resilience as ‘shields’ enough to conquer these events.

“Of course, we have to demand accountability from the government officials because obviously…meron talagang pagkukulang,” ZACH reiterated.

ZACH encourages the Filipino people to offer their prayers “for the safety of those affected” during and after the typhoon. He suggests coordinating with humanitarian organizations to “donate in kind or in cash for the unfortunate victims.” Despite Filipino resiliency seeks through, ZACH reminds everyone to “demand accountability from the government officials,” most especially that the president himself “has little action” with the crisis management. To “make things right,” ZACH reminds everyone “to register and vote for the 2022 election.”

Visit ZACH’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Maria Kristelle C. Jimenez works as a freelance writer, layout artist, and website specialist in Pampanga. She is the founder of Rebo Press Book Publishing, the current Associate Editor of Filipino of Revolt Magazine, and the Editor-in-Chief of Vox Populi PH. Leave her a note: maria@voxpopuliph.com.

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