By: Excel V. Dyquiangco
Pol Medina Jr. may be better known by his sidekick, Polgas, but the artist-illustrator certainly needs no introduction himself. Excel V. Dyquiangco gets to know the man and his best friend.
It was a series of fortunate events. In the case of Pol Medina Jr, there was a dog, a guard’s misdirection, and a wedding.
“My inspiration for Polgas started when I tried to look for greener pastures outside the country – in Iraq to be more specific,” he says. “My dog Dado would interestingly bring me anything I wanted such as Italian shoes (which he stole) and food. Apparently he seemed to understand me and that was how I began to imagine a talking dog. This was how Polgas started.”
Aside from Polgas, he also came up with two other characters from his Pugad Baboy series, Dagul and Bab, based on himself and his older brother. The characters had bulging tummies, which make them so popular among the readers. “My immediate and extended family members were my templates,” Pol says jokingly.
After the Marcos era, he came home to work on more cartoons and added more characters to his comic strips. Admittedly when he first started, he didn’t know anything about cartoons but imitated the likes of Jess Abrera and Larry Alcala. “At first my cartoons had proportioned bodies and then I studied the characters from the Peanuts comic strips which have huge heads and smaller bodies. I wanted the bodies to have expressions so I made them fatter and fatter until the time when I realized that this could work.”
After creating a story he was bent on having his comic strips published in Manila Bulletin in Intramuros. But because of a guard’s misdirection, he stumbled into the Philippine Daily Inquirer instead. There art director Jess Abrera saw him and reviewed his strip. At that time there was a strip they were thinking of removing and Inquirer decided to give Pugad Baboy some space.
“I did not experience rejection even once,” he says. “My comic strip was accepted the day I submitted pilot strips. The establishments I took my books to be published accepted them for printing right away. It all boils down to good luck and right timing.”
And so began a cult following led by the man and his best friend.
The Comic Strip Challenge
The first Pugad Baboy compilations were published under New Day Publishing and then Anvil Publishing. Pol’s wife, whom he met in 1993, helped with the distribution of his books as he had decided before to publish his books on his own.
“The original print for Book 9 was 100,000 copies with at least 30,000 reprints per batch,” he says. In the long run Pol and his wife decided it was better to invest in their a printing machine of their own.
Pol first began to realize that he had a following when he started receiving fan mails and when students as well as reporters started to ask his for interviews. “It felt good and I can’t be more specific than that,” he says.
In his work as a cartoonist, though, not all of his strips received positive reviews. Though he may not have experienced rejection in his career, Pol was not spare from the criticism of readers. In 1991 the women’s group Gabriela wrote a derisive letter in his response to a rape joke comic strip. Earlier in his career as a cartoonist, he was fired after two cartoons for making parodies of a parish priest and the church choir, which he remembers he was a member of.
Still, Pol says that the success of his comic strip lies in the fact that people can relate to his work. These are people that they know. These are issues that they encounter. These are emotions that they recognize. “All of the situations are true even if they are satires,” he says. “But the truth hurts, which is why I get criticized.”
Because he really can’t please everyone, he considers himself as an artist who tries to be original all the time. This is what makes him different from all the others out in the world.
“My fans’ support and loyalty keeps me going,” he says.
The Online Chronicles
Now, Polgas is settling into a new home on the Rappler social news network website. Pol is embarking on a new medium and the newest technologies and is confident that the future of Polgas, Ambrosia and the whole Pugad Baboy clan will now be even more exciting.
Readers are most certainly appreciative of the possibilities offered by digital technology. On the Rappler website, Pugad Baboy now offers three different endings and readers are invited to cast their vote for their favorite ending.
“The possibilities are limitless when you cross the digital divide,” he says.
A cult following that clamored for the return of the Pugad Baboy when it seemed like the beloved comic strip was no longer going to have a home in print, recognition as the cartoonist with the ability to capture the nuances and essences of Philippine culture and humor in a few strokes, what does Pol Medina Jr think his secret to his success is?
“I never drink and draw,” he laughs good-naturedly. “And I can outdrink an Irish pub owner. I also do my best to please nobody else but myself.”
In the background, on his side of the comic strip, we think even Polgas would agree.