Beginnings of Philippine Animation
This means that as the national resources were exploited for colonial interests, so too were the modern areas of cultural life--health, sanitation, education, and communications--also engineered to provide a conducive system for American capital to take root. Just as the American colonial period endeavored to modernize the colony by introducing the rice thresher and artesian well (1904), electric streetcars and telephone system (1905), postal savings bank and electric iron (1906), it also introduced ice cream, movies and rat control (1899), public school system (1901), and golf clubs (1902). Side by side with the economic and political circuiting of the colony, its cultural transformation was also at stake. Today�s Philippine modernity has become indelibly inscribed in and by American colonialism.
Philippine animation takes root from two major sources, both grounded in American-introduced capitalism: service businesses and print capitalism. The two sources, however, started with a similar beginning in cartooning. Antonio S. Velasquez, known as the "Father of the Tagalog Komiks," began in cartoonised advertising, creating characters that personify consumer products and businesses being introduced in the American colonial era: "Isko" for Esco shoes; "Tikboy" for Tiki-Tiki, a children�s vitamin syrup; "Nars Cafi" for Cafiaspirinia; "Captain Cortal" for Cortal; "Castor" for Botica Boie�s Castoria; "Aling Adina Comadrona" for United Drug products, "Charity" for Philippine Charity Sweepstakes, and so on. The corporate and brand mascots created by Velasquez were concentrated in the health and drug industry, a major focus of American social engineering. Even the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes was founded to primarily subsidise health programs.
"Kenkoy" was translated in six other vernacular publications, enabling the character to reach a national audience. It also gave birth to other strips. Velasquez�s design for Kenkoy�s clothing was copied by readers. Poet Jose Corazon de Jesus, more famous as Huseng Batute, wrote a poem "Pagpapakilala" (Introduction), subtitled as "Ay introdius yu Mister Kenkoy" (I Introduce you to Mister Kenkoy). Composer Nicanor Abelardo wrote the song "Ay, Naku, Kenkoy!" (Oh my Kenkoy) and "Kenkoy Blues," a march. The character Kenkoy gave rise to spin-offs, depicting his family, parents, sweetheart, archival, community members, side-kick, children, and others.
Daniel Doeppers states, "By the late 1920s, the major avenues for career mobility were increasingly constricted." However, from 1920 to 1930, increased production of agricultural products surged--sugar exports by 450 percent, coconut oil by 233 percent and cordage by 500 percent. Such economic profits, owned by local elites, bolstered confidence in the American presence in the colony. With the popular sentiment wanting independence, the Commonwealth was inaugurated in 1935, paving the way for imminent Philippine independence. By this time, however, structures of American colonial capitalism were already institutionalised and wrecking havoc in the national lives of Filipinos because of the inequitable policies enacted during the earlier period of colonial rule.
The Sedition Law, passed in 1901, as historian Renato Constantino explains, "imposed the death penalty or a long prison term on anyone who advocated independence or separation from the United States even in peaceful means." It also punished any person who would "utter seditious words or speeches, write, publish or circulate scurrilous libels" against the United States government or the Insular Government. Through cartooning, with minimal use of the written word, Lipang Kalabaw provided for an edgy commentary on the colonial condition, usually, the contradictions of colonial rule that continues even in the postcolonial times: the perennial floods of Manila, the corruption of the police, the Frankenstein-growth of politicians sporting guns and over-sized egos, the Americanised manners of the emerging youth, the death of Spanish language and culture, the captive nature of the English language over traditional values, profligate lending scandals at the Philippine National Bank, public hospitals that denied citizens basic service, the gun-happy constabulary, and so on.