Exploring Filipino Mythology: A Crossroad of Art, Culture, and Environment

Gubatbp. featuring Arnold Arre

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Episode Transcript

Bryan: Hello everyone! This is Bryan.


Onggie: Yep, and I’m Onggie. And welcome to another episode of Gubatbp. 


Bryan: Yes, hi sa’yo Onggie. At sa episode na ito, we’d like to explore more imaginative yet historical world of mythology dito sa Philippines. Very exciting. I say historical Onggie because the historical ties of mythology in the Philippine context, very sacred part of the ancestry natin, part of the vernacular, indigenous communities and yung interactions of course with the environment. And yung culture natin as Filipinos.


Onggie: Agree. And I think at a time where many people are revisiting connections to nature, to things that are spiritual, I think yung mythology, yung Filipino mythology ay something, affords us a window, isang pwedeng puntahan din natin para makahanap kung saan nga ba tayo nanggaling at maaring san pa tayo pumunta as a nation, as a society, and as persons, as Filipinos.


Bryan: Exciting yung concept na yun, yung listeners natin ngayon, would take you to another portal of reality, to exercise yung imaginative capacity natin sa other worlds na very connected doon sa reality na meron tayo ngayon.


Onggie: Although pwede mong sabihin na other world siya, I think many Filipinos still find yung connection sa mga cultural practices, belief system natin that are linked still to traditions and indigenous beliefs, to mythology in a sense. Tayo na nag-hihike, na umaakyat sa gubat, minsan may nadadaanan tayo ng bahay ng langgam or bahay ng anay, di ba may “tabi tabi” tayo. May mga puno na hanggang ngayon, kahit yung mga makikisig na bantay-gubat, ang paniniwala nila ay sagrado, hindi lang mahalaga, kung di sagrado at may mga diwata, may mga kakaibang nilalang na nakatira doon. At kasama nila sa pangangala ng kagubatan. Tingin ko hindi lang yung makalumang Pilipino ang naniniwala sa konsepto ng other worlds or other worldness, but pati mga modernong Filipino, kung natatawag mong moderno. But syempre ibang usapin na pag katutubo na, pag yung mga indigenous people na natin.


Bryan: Case in point actually, Onggie, yung sa Balete. Hanggang ngayon di ba, umaakyat tayo maraming kwento din about that. So kung titingnan natin yung idea, yung konsepto ng mythology, sobrang andaming pwedeng layers. Kung tutuusin, ang daming pwedeng lenses na pwede nating tingnan. May mga pinag-uusapan ‘yung mythology in terms of ethno-linguistics, may mga pinag-uusapan ‘yung mythology on community development, in relation doon sa culture talaga, at tied doon sa immediate environment, for instance doon sa specific na community na yun. I think dito na tayo, siguro tawagin nalang din natin yung ating guest for today, para mas makapag delve tayo dito sa exciting world ng mythology, specifically for this episode we’ll build on doon sa Philippine mythology context ng literature, at doon sa connection natin with the environment. So let us welcome ang ating guest for this episode. He’s an author, an illustrator, and he also won the inaugural graphic novel Philippine national book award in 2000 for The Mythology Class. Welcome sa Gubatbp. Arnold Arre. Hi!


Arnold: Hello everyone, thank you for having me!


Onggie: Welcome Arnold! 


Arnold: Happy to be here.

Onggie: Personal pleasure din na makausap ka. Before I geek out, perhaps by way of introduction to our listeners, maybe you could tell them a little bit about yung motivation, yung backstory ika nga, doon sa interest mo to pursue Philippine mythology and how it found itself in your excellent comic graphic novel, Mythology Class.


Arnold: I’ve been doing comic books for more than 20 years now, and Mythology Class was really a result of me, kumbaga parang love letter ko yan sa Philippine mythology because I got interested in it noong I was very small, siguro mga 70s, where puro Star Wars, DC, and Marvel. And then one afternoon after namin manood ng movie sa Quad, I think it’s Glorietta now, there’s a plaza, a small plaza with bronze statues, and one of them caught my attention. It’s yung Taming the Tikbalang. Someone sa Facebook told me about, yung name ng designer eh, yung sculptor but I forgot, but it’s called Taming the Tikbalang. It’s now in the Ayala Museum. So that was the first time na I got interested. That was the first time I knew… found out that we have our own mythology, kasi back then 70s puro Star Wars or puro robots, if you remember. It was the first time na parang, what is this creature? With this horse head. So yun, nag research ako and pretty much, that sculpture started it all for me. And I always reference it when I’m speaking sa mga schools. If you get the chance, go to the Ayala Museum and you will see that statute. 


So Mythology Class is really my first graphic novel, I have not done anything like that. In fact, I didn’t really plan on making a graphic novel on Philippine mythology. I wanted to read one, pero yung time na yun, that was 1996, there was no… I mean may mga ibang comics diyan, but it was not what I was looking for eh. The only… kumbaga parang surface level lang eh, I wanted something more in depth. So I was researching on Philippine mythology, reading books on kay F. Landa Jocano, The Soul Book, all that, kay Maximo Ramos, and sabi ko… Look, I have all this research, why not make my own? Instead of looking for comic books on Philippine mythology, ako nalang gagawa, and that’s what happened. I ended up making. I started siguro mga like 70 pages, that’s only chapter 1. By the 6th month, I reached 350 pages. Sabi ko, this is… I feel I was possessed. Dami nga nagsasabi maybe Bathala blessed you. So yun, that’s pretty much how Mythology Class came out and how I, yung impetus for coming up with the graphic novel like that. In fact yun nga, I’m happy rin when I created that book I wasn’t really competing with anyone. It’s a personal project, I just really wanted to share. 


Ang hirap din nung time na yon, kasi most of my peers, yung contemporaries ko sa comics, they were all into, that was late 90s, so mga superheroes. They were creating their own Filipino version of them. So I didn’t know how to, how do I market this? Is there an audience for Philippine mythology? And so I’m happy na it did as well as it did. And then yun nga, I found out that I was nominated sa National Book Award, and it won. And that’s when I said I’m glad I did this. 


Bryan: That’s great! Actually Arnold, curious ako din sa proses don sa research mo, gaano kahirap mag research on Philippine mythology back then. May mga pinuntahan ka ba na different places, libraries ganyan, to know more about it or explored some place else?


Arnold: Well not so much kasi in UP, sa Fine Arts kasi, for instance yung Soul Book, someone, I think batchmate ko, dinala niya sa school and sa… Kasi we were studying different types, how to draw yung mga indigenous artwork, and one of them brought yung Soul Book as research material. Ako, I didn’t see it as a research material. I was reading it. And sabi ko, wow! This is very comprehensive. Along with yung illustrations. Again, I forget yung artist. But during that time din kasi, parang books were already there. It’s just a matter of looking for the right subject matter. Kasi like there are books about yung mga folklore, yung mga legend. Since it’s there na, yung question mo kanina, ano yung process, well I would say the hardest part in making the graphic novel, yung Mythology Class, was yung story, yung plot. You have all this material, how do you blend them, how do you merge them into a coherent story and make people care for the characters. So yung research ko really was about how to make the book authentic, but yung writing the book itself, yun ang pinakamahirap talaga. If you ask any author naman, writing structure, writing plot, writing characters, yun mas complex sa akin. So I’m happy lang na maraming… There are materials out there that talk about… There was even a movie nung 80s, starring, I think may tikbalang doon, si Dolphy. It was called Once Upon A Time. Yun it was another chance for me to explore yung universe, yung world of Philippine mythology through that.


Onggie: One of the things that drew me to Mythology Class was yung use nung mythological characters. Yung mga tikbalang. But putting them into a modern setting, in the Metro. And at the same time being authentic. I think yun yung isa sa gifts na dinala nung graphic novel na yun. And a few, up until now, a few images still resonate with me, yung bilisan mo andyan na yung tikbalang. So it’s… Even my kids when they read it, it didn’t feel dated to them. Alam nila of course na sinulat yung during the 90s. 


Arnold: There were no smartphones.


Onggie: Yes! But still may sense ka na nangyari or nangyayari siya in modern times. One of the, puzzle yun sa akin when I first read it, paano ma naitulay yung… It was easy to situate yung tikbalang for me, probinsyano kasi ako. Sa probinsya madali ma situate yung tikbalang or diwata. Papaano yung thinking process, parang paano mo naisip na i-situate siya sa 90s Metro Manila?


Arnold: Well. Trivia lang. I think I wrote this, yung second edition ng Mythology Class sa About the Author section. Originally, kasi this is my influence sa Marvel and DC. Originally I set it in the far future, in the 22nd century. So meron na akong mga sketches. Somehow it didn’t work, nawalan ako ng gana. I was working at it, sabi ko hindi. Something was lacking. Yung personal touch and for me it will be a missed opportunity if you don’t set it present time. It’s the easiest thing to do eh. Kesa you’re going to create another world na sa future, and you’re already creating a fantasy world in Philippine mythology. You have to choose one. 


Perfect timing din during the late 90s, I think nagsastart na yung mga cellphone. And yung malls were… I think wala pa yung Mall of Asia. There’s a mall in the book that’s kind of like Mall of Asia now. So again, parang I guess I would say timing din. Kasi when I was researching on Philippine mythology, it was already parang yung time na malls were being built everywhere sa Metro, tapos yung cellphones, and then there’s cable TV, and then yung mga flatscreen. So parang it only made sense to set it today. And it is also a good opportunity to have a commentary about how things have changed now, as compared to say yung panahon ng mga Aeta, yung mga, the earliest Filipinos. If they were transported today, sa 90s setting na yun, how would they react? Syempre they wouldn’t be able to understand yung high tech gadgetry natin kasi parang how… I inserted that a bit. I pushed it even further with having legendary heroes like Suliman or Lam-ang, just imagine lang kung ano yung reaction nila. Lam-ang yung reaction nya sa book, it’s a strange place. For us, yung, Lam-ang he’s a legendary hero. Pero if we were living in sa time niya, we would find it strange. Pero now that nandito siya, sa mga overpass, yung mga flyover. For him, yun yung strange. So it was a fun way din to have those kinds of commentaries. Those kinds of reactions. And I found it really interesting lang, and also parang well yung obvious reason din is because we can’t be in the future. Like ako I lived in that time, so I can only write. Di ba write what you know. So I can only write about things happening nung time na yun. So that’s how I merged yung… the two. 


And also, I almost forgot. Because of that, yung technology and mythology, it’s like magic and technology. That’s one of the underlying themes of The Mythology Class. Yung tikbalang chase sequence, I thought of that while nakasakay ako sa kotse and we were driving sa south superhighway. Parang imagine a tikbalang running, di ba? Parang nakakatakot din eh. And at the same time it’s awesome. It’s awe inspiring. May makikita kang this huge creature running sa south superhighway faster than yung motorcycle. That’s one of the themes eh, it’s parang how… Who would fare better? Yung magic versus yung man-made technology. And another aspect of that, yung magic and technology, is the past and the future represented by Nicole and Kubin, and they fell in love. That’s one of the themes, the past fell in love with the future represented by Nicole and Kubin. Nicole is introducing Kubin to vehicles like automobiles and airplanes. And si Kubin naman would share his experiences sa fantasy world like sa mythology, like yung mga gardens ni Bathala and all that. That’s a very nice event to explore kaya natuwa ako, and I was right. It kind of wrote itself din kasi. That’s what happens when nag gel na lahat. All you have to do is to transplant them sa paper and visuals, that’s it.

Bryan: I really like the idea nung pag merge ng now and future, yung sa technology and sa magic. May favorite din ako na linya ni Nicole kay Kubin, parang sabi niya “The world has changed so much that we started creating our own magic.” Wow sobrang powerful! Grabe yung powerful ideology din non sa atin, like when we are talking about environmental action for instance, what sort of “magic” in the form of technology are we deploying to conserve or protect a certain area, for instance. 


Siguro apart doon sa temporal aspect ng now and future, what struck me doon sa Mythology Class ay yung spatial and geographical aspect. Parang nag merge din yung city doon sa provincial. Parang yung question na nag arise sa akin don, with the convergence ng creatures and the humans, parang napaisip ako, where does the city start? Where does it end? Where does it begin? Parang yung geographical aspect din nung relationships, creatures ng humans with the environment, parang isa din yung nag strike sa akin while reading The Mythology Class, and that’s very interesting din for me.


Arnold: Ano nga, since we’re talking about yung process. Most of it is based on what I experienced din. Like that part where si Lam-ang talks to one of the Aetas. I read kasi, parang there was an article. I forgot na, I read in the newspaper, this group of Aetas were in Cubao and they were being relocated I think. I felt that, naawa ako kasi it’s like they’re being pushed away from their homes. For me, again, the strength of writing something based on something you experience, you get to show in a way how you feel about things. I really felt sad for the Aetas. May picture nga eh, holding yung sign “help us” tulungan niyo kami maghanap ng bahay. So I had to do something and I included that sa book. Because it’s already affecting, yun nga, the technology is already affecting our indigenous people. It’s already affecting them. Something needs to be said about that.

Onggie: Interesting na, kasi ako I read some of your other work as well, written after Mythology Class. Pero even during Mythology Class, ramdam ko na yung social commentary. Kaya lang I felt na hindi yun yung purpose nung pagsusulat. And I think na affirm nung some of yung… Kasi nung time na yun, it was still the 90s. Marami pang uncertainty. We were still coming out of a long dictatorship. Dama pa ring yung impacts. And many of yung problems natin, environmental, social… You actually touched on them in the book. They were being felt. May social commentary within yung book. But I suppose nung time na yun, iba rin yung… When you were writing it, going now to the style. Kasi nung time na yun, puro superhero. Jim Lee was in his hayday. Sa Pilipino si, yung gumawa nung kay Bishop.


Arnold: Si Whilce Portacio.


Onggie: Si Whilce Portacio! Ikaw, meron ka ring style and kakaiba. Purposeful din ba yun to set it differently from all of those macho, cape-wearing…


Arnold: Yung spandex.


Onggie: Yung spandex!


Arnold: Actually, I already had a style na before Mythology Class. One thing I always tell students when I do mga workshops is that it’s okay to be influenced by other styles. Like ako, I’m influenced by anime. Well at least yung anime during my time. I don’t know kung alam ni Bryan to. Back in the 70s kasi there was this show called, yung anime, called Voltes V. So early on na influence na ako. I would draw characters. So large eyes, and yung buhok anime style. I would draw that. And then later on, nung college, I was introduced, friends introduced me to heavy metal. That’s how I discovered si Mobius, French artist. Ang ganda ng style niya, I fell in love with the drawings, inking style, and everything! Yung storytelling niya. And I figured nga, while I was drawing these, I was trying to copy yung style nila. It just happened na parang my own voice came out based on, I don’t know, could be yung experiences ko and all the movies and animations I’ve read and watched. It could be that. And it’s a good thing. 


I tell kids it’s okay to be influenced, it’s okay to copy at first. As long as later on you have to develop your own voice. Kind of like what I did. The advantages of having your own voice and your own style… Di  ba yung 90s puro Jim Lee style and yung X-men. It’s important to have your own style kasi if you’re drawing, if you can draw something a million other people can draw, you can be… parang replaceable ka eh. I’m just lucky na sa UP Fine Arts, di ba yung mga kaibigan barkada mo diyan, they can easily… Pag pinost kasi yung mga plates. Let’s say the teacher will post all the plates sa hallway, I’m just happy lang just lucky that most of my friends will say, hey gawa ni Arnoldd yan ah! Yun naka uno siya! That’s it. That’s how I got, yah it has to be! It will stick out. It’s so obvious na it’s your own style. And they immediately connect the drawing to the artist. 


Not to say naman na parang… I’ve seen students give me… Kasi during yung mga comic con, they would send to check yung mga artworks nila. One student even gave me a comic book, hindi ko maintindihan. Sir, baliktad yung basa. Oh, so he made it pala na parang manga, kasi the Japanese they read it from… Tayo kasi we read it from right to left, sila left to right. So medyo na ano lang ako don. So I had to tell him straight: okay this is nice, I’m glad that you are doing this. And I saw yung mga drawings niya, naka mini skirt yung mga students and it’s set in the Philippines. And so I told him, okay sige maganda to. Kasi you love anime, you love manga. Ako I started that way din. 


But here’s the thing. Yung left to right, that’s their culture eh. That’s how they read. We can’t apply it here, kasi tayo right to left, we can’t change that. And who is your audience? Next is, yung mini skirt. Look, I know it’s set in a fantasy. But where’s the logic? The logic is missing here. The mini skirt na manga school girl, that’s purely Japanese. That’s their culture eh. Okay lang yan, as long as you understand where it’s coming from. And later on, you create your own voice. Kasi nga, one of the hardest thing is trying to convince the anime fans, kasi ang hirap din eh. But I did it in a way na maintindihan nila and not too harsh. 


I told them look, okay lang gawa ka ng anime that looks really anime, that looks manga, you can’t even tell it’s Filipino. But here’s the thing, just remember this. If you show this to a Japanese publisher, hey magaling tong batang to. They would go hey, it’s close to our style. Okay, and then they will put it back, why? Because they already have their own. Why would they… They would probably say it’s cute, wow ang galing nila. But look, we have our own books  here, and we can read our own. And number two, you will be replaceable kasi you are drawing something that a million other anime artists can do. Yun palang talo na ulit. And number three is the most important, and this is what I always tell kids nga. And that is, let’s say again yung example na you give your work to a Japanese publisher, or any publisher naman, like European or American… They want to see your culture through your eyes. They want to see that. They want to see how is it living in the Philippines? How is life there? Ano yung mga fantasy stories nyo? Ano yung mythology niyo? They want to see that. And so I always tell that, pag yung argument medyo nakakalito na. That’s what they want to see. In the end, who else is going to tell our stories?


Yun nga I read somewhere yung kay Neil Gaiman. I was actually excited, he said he’s going to write on Philippine mythology. That would be interesting then! And here’s the thing, then. For instance if I were to write a fantasy story set in Europe, mahihirapan din ako kasi automatically hindi na siya authentic eh, no matter how much research you do. You can’t… Parang somehow it’s a snap, you can tell this is authentic, this is not. How do you become authentic? You write what you know. 


I urge yung mga young artists and writers to write stories here. Ako, excited ako to see how Neil Gaiman would write about the Philippines. I bet he’s gonna have an assistant then to tell him, to guide him to your world. Pero yun nga. If you’re gonna write something na Japanese, it’s gonna be difficult if you haven’t lived there, you don’t speak their language. It’s not gonna be authentic. It has to be authentic. So yun na nga lang yung meron ka eh. You have to show people that. And everytime there’s an argument about style, parang I love drawing anime, that’s fine. But try to have your own style, try to have your own voice, and tell our own stories din.


Onggie: Great! I was going to reference yung, one of the tweets nga ni Neil Gaiman, he kindly in fact deferred to create yung artists.


Arnold: Oh yes, I read that.


Onggie: Sabi niya I can’t do that, but you have many others who can probably do it better. And I agree. Yun nga yung authenticity mawawala. Last point siguro ang authenticity and art sa libro mo, Arnold. Yung expressions natin mga Pinoy, captured mo, nakakatawa. Ewan ko kung, of course I’ve read enough material to make comparisons. Pero kasi pag nakikita ko yung expressions, yung parang “ngeh?” Pilipinong Pilipino! Nakikita ko talaga. And I don’t see that in others na binabasa ko. Pati ba yun, kasama sa pursuit for authenticity. For that, yun yung authentic part.


Arnold: Well, the truth is there’s one part talaga na medyo hirap ako. Kasi yung language niya, I really initially, talagang English dapat siya. English naman talaga siya. Kasi I wanted my cousins who don’t speak Tagalog, lumaki na sila sa States, California. I really wanted them to read my book, and they could understand what Philippine mythology is. So it was written in English. The problem with that is when I was writing one of the characters, some of the jokes, ang hirap i-translate. It doesn’t fit. Okay you get the expression nila, but there are some Pinoy jokes na ang hirap i-capture. That’s why one of the characters, si Bob, speaks in Tagalog. I’m not gonna translate that, yun na yun. And I guess it’s not uncommon. 


In manga, there are characters who speak in Japanese kahit na hindi tinatranslate beacuse it’s part of yung character nila. There are towns na we haven’t heard about sa Japan but it’s okay. There are things that you don’t have to translate talaga. And the bonus of having a character that speaks in Tagalog, if you’re American for in stance, if you have a friend na Filipino, you could ask him, hey what does this mean? Matutuwa sila. Ah, ito pala yung meaning non. So that’s the extra bonus there. And that’s why one of the characters speaks in Tagalog kasi nga… In fact nagiging obvious yung problem when I was writing the tikbalang chase sequence kasi the reaction ni Bob has to be a mixture of fear. But for the reader, it has to be fun. Natatakot but you’re also excited. And I couldn’t capture that pag English, kailangan yung Pinoy na Tagalog na expression. Konting bilis pa, konting konti. It has to be that. Kailangan Tagalog yun. That’s the only way to work, and it worked.


Onggie: Yes! It obviously worked. I think I’ve spoken about yung some of my friends, isa rin yun sa mga scenes na, sequences na, that stayed with them. Bry?

Bryan: Siguro isa, we’re talking about doon sa Mythology Class. In relation din doon sa inspiration or purposiveness na binabanggit ni Onggie kanina. Yung isa sa pinaka striking din sa akin ay yung nasa forest sila for capturing for defeating yung kapre. Tapos ang pinaka nag strike sa akin don ay yung to defeat or make docile yung kapre, they have to do yung dance. Yung diwata to soften their heart, instead of using brute force. I think my parallel ideology kasi yun sa how we do yung mga advocacies natin, medyo related of course doon sa environmental work, na parang maybe doing art, maybe doing creative work, is like a dance of diwatas, to soften yung heart ng mga tao. May ganon din bang kumbaga conscious effort to really weave yung environmental themes doon sa The Mythology Class?


Arnold: Oh yes, There was a conscious effort to introduce environmental themes, yung protecting our forest, protecting nature. Philippine mythology was borne from nature, that’s how the indigenous people taught, how things worked, how the world works. They can talk to nature, that’s how nature is speaking to them, kaya ganito yung mga stories nila. Yes, it’s an integral part of the book, Philippine mythology, yung protecting and being an ally to nature instead of going against it. Again one of the themes di ba, kasi technology tends to go the opposite way. Hindi siya usually, it doesn’t really think about nature that much. It is usually for humans, so bahala na yung forests as long as we’re happy. But just imagine you working with nature, I mean that would be a great thing. Agin, that’s one of the themes ng book—Nicole falling in love with Kubin. Kubin represents nature, and Nicole is from a child of the future. So parang yung merging na yan. A lot of benefits come from that. 


I’m glad you asked me that din, kasi I wanted to add that kanina. It has to be about nature, and the dance of the diwatas is really me trying to say there is beauty here, hindi kailangan ng brute force, that we can work in peace, we can work through beauty and art. That’s the hidden meaning din don.


Onggie: I’d like to  go back to one of the points that you said kanina na you started the book so that your cousins who were in the States would understand it. Is that sort of your overarching goal in the work. I know may sequels na rin di ba? 


Arnold: I’m working on it now.


Onggie: Children of Bathala.


Arnold: Yes.


Onggie: So is that part of your overall goal to sort of enable others, especially yung mga Filipinos who may not be living here in the Philippines to understand and recall, perhaps, yung culture nila?


Arnold: Well, I guess for me, yes. I can’t speak for other artists. For me, that was one of the goals. Kasi nga that was a personal project. Like what I said earlier, I created this out of, talagang labor of love. I wasn’t competing with any other book. It’s a story that I wanted to share to people, and so naturally, that’s the next step. Who do you want to tell this story to? 


Parang naisip ko rin, it would be great to share this to my cousins who live in the States who have no idea about Philippine mythology. That would be a great way to introduce them. I know them back when we were kids, I was playing with them, marunong pa sila mag-Tagalog non. I remember now. One of them actually… Yung sa nuno sa punso. Before you step, dapat magpaalam ka. I think she was one of those who told me. Kaya it’s kind of sad din when they left for the States and she grew up there na. She’s forgotten about it. That could be a reason din I didn’t notice na maybe I really did want to share my stories with her at tsaka mga pinsan ko abroad who don’t know about what’s happening here. 


Again, each artist is different. These are just my experiences, talking about my novel. It’s a personal project. One of the nice things of having personal projects is you can do that. I wasn’t looking for money non when I made Mythology Class. I’m glad it did, but back then I just wanted to tell the story. One of the nice things din about making something personal is you got it out na and wala kang sama ng loob. You weren’t trying to compete, it’s all you. I felt really good when I released it, finally it’s out na. It’s doing well. It’s a first of its kind. I’m glad I released it. 


There were days na sinabi ko na, “What am I doing? Who’s going to read this?” Kasi lahat nga superheroes and superpowers, who’s going to read this then? So there were demons, I was battling demons then, everyday, thinking how am I going to produce this? If I do get to produce this, paano to? Am I going to make money out of this? I was broke nung time na yun. I quit my job in advertising. So parang, I’m glad I followed my instincts then. I’m glad how it turned out.


Onggie: Siguro one of the things na is even more rewarding to you is that it’s gained a new set of audience. With Tuttle coming out with the new editions. I just picked up also one of my favorite.


Arnold: That’s coming out this year! Yun din yung excited ako, this is a different ano naman, parang a different take on mythology. Ito mas adult, may love interest. It’s pretty violent. I’m curious of how yung foreign audiences will see Andong Agimat.


Onggie: I don’t know kung may insight ka dito, but yung Tuttle seems to have published a series of Filipino-written novels. A couple of them will be coming from you, or come from you. Is there a thought process doon? Do they sense a longing for understanding Filipino culture, and therefore here’s a great venue to do that?


Arnold: I think so. I don’t know nga if this has been going on for decades, and then ngayon lang naging obvious siya. Because there was… Disney came out, is it Disney? Or Pixar? I don’t know. There was a movie that came out that talked about Southeast Asian mythology called Raya. 


Onggie: Yes, Raya!


Arnold: Noong napanood ko yun, parang wait. There seems to be an interest in that region, yung culture nila and mythology. I think so, there is. I’m glad that it’s happening then. I sometimes… I wished this happened when I was working on Mythology Class. I want more readers at any age. It could be to welcome Philippine mythology kasi ang ganda eh. And we’re also very… We’re linked deeply to culture and because of that, we’re more connected sa nature. Parang that’s one of the things that our mythology teaches us, is that we have to be closer to nature. Don’t destroy it, be an ally.


Onggie: In terms of projects, if there’s this, do we expect a lot more? Or will there be more writing about Philippine mythology perhaps? Personally, some of the stories you’ve started?


Arnold: Yes, I hope so. I’m sure yung sa comic con, there are a lot of titles na. It’s like there’s a renaissance.


Onggie: Mga estudyante na ito ng The Mythology Class.


Arnold: I always find it really… It’s such a pleasure to hear from young people saying the reason I got into comics is because I read Mythology Class. Or the reason I wrote my fantasy novels is because of that book. So parang, I hope it continues. We still have so many stories na untapped. So much of Filipino mythology hindi pa na… It’s not being explored yet. There’s still no stories, but that’s okay. But at least andyan na. The younger generations are more aware of it now. 


The challenge really is how to maintain this. Kasi, I mean, we have to be proud of our own. Even though there are a lot of distractions, yung mga video games and anime. It’s nice din naman eh, it’s nice to be influenced by them kasi ganon din ako. I was influenced by anime. But at the same time you have to balance that, you have to love your own din. Write what you know. And I’m glad, I think that’s exactly what’s happening now, na parang the younger generations are writing stories about our mythology. If you grab any of the titles there, baliktad nung time ko eh. Most of the titles are superheroes flying around, or made with big guns or ships. Now you go to comic con, karamihan sa kanila may tikbalang, or stories about kapres, our gods. I’m happy with how it’s developing. 

Bryan: Yes super exciting! Ako I personally look forward doon sa mas vibrant na discourse or narrative about Philippine mythology. Siguro Arnold, speaking of mga aabangan pa, ano pang i-expect, siguro you can share with us ano yung mga works mo pa na lalabas in the future or currently working on para doon sa mga nagbabasa din sa work mo, or interested pa, na basahin pa at tingnan pa ang creative work na gawa mo.


Arnold: Right now I’m working on the sequel series of Children of Bathala. I’ve released two volumes na, the first one and second one last year. And hopefully this year yung third volume. That’s the one I’m working on right now. So it’s five volumes, after I release yung third, it’s two more volumes and tapos na siya. That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m happy with the reception of the sequel because sequels are difficult to do. You have to balance din what people liked about the first book, and then introducing new stuff para you’re not repeating what you did. Then, well the truth is I’ve been working on a sequel for Andong Agimat. 


Onggie: Yahoo!


Arnold: It’s just that naunahan siya ng Children of Bathala. Without Children of Bathala, I would be working on that. So after Children of Bathala, there might be an Andong sequel. Besides, yung Andong books, I plan it to be… Kumbaga for each book is just one adventure. So the second would be a new episode for Andong. We’ll see some of the characters probably introduced, new ones din. I guess the hardest part lang kasi is yung age ko na rin. I used to do two books at a time. I would be working one sa morning, and then working on another book sa evening. I could do that dati. Now parang pagod na ako. This is the age, I’m feeling it na. For that Andong sequel, I may have to finish this Children of Bathala so I can focus on it, and then touch on the sequel for Andong.


Bryan: Great, it’s really exciting! Arnold, if they want to know kung saan pwede makakuha ng updates from you, saan sila pwede pumunta na sites? 


Arnold: They can follow me on Instagram. Medyo hindi lang ako nagpopost masyado because of work, but they can follow me there. They can go to yung local… Yung Tuttle naman it’s out there, they can spot that. For the local edition, the nice thing about Children of Bathala, publisher ko here, sila yung mauuna. And that is Nautilus Comics, Chamber Shell Publishing. My publisher is Jamie Bautista. I’ve worked for him for almost a decade na, he’s a very good friend din. They can get in touch with him for orders din. The nice thing din is may local publishing hand din ako, for instance di ba, the volume three of Children of Bathla will be first released dito locally. So mauuna yung mga nandito. And then Tuttle will eventually release it. So mauuna tayo parati and that’s a good thing. And they can also visit Mythology Class Facebook Page. Yung team namin don, they have updates. I think every week there’s an update. May address don, they can check it out. From time to time, I would share yung mga artworks there, or upcoming mga page previews for upcoming releases. They can visit that. 


Onggie: Great, great! Siguro I will have a lot of other questions, but I’ll probably reserve it for later. It’s been great chatting with you Arnold.


Arnold: I enjoyed it din. Thank you.


Onggie: Yung history and yung present, yung past, present. Yung history, mythology, made relevant sa akin. Mythology Class yun eh. It’s been fun hearing yung process and yung motivation behind it. And I also appreciate yung stressing yung undertones nung Mythology Class, yung protecting nature, yung valuing culture over technology. You know in the old world, or in the new world, it seems love, friendship, always wins. Yun yung isang lasting na message that I always get from Mythology Class, so it’s been great sharing these few minutes with you, Arnold.


Bryan: Thank you, thank you! Actually, thank you din Arnold for sharing yung ilang advice mo para doon sa mga tagapakinig natin. Nag-start from a passion project tapos andito na siya ngayon. And yung telling our own stories and having yung authenticity doon. I think that’s a very powerful message na mas mag-focus or mas i-explore yung ganong klaseng opportunities kasi they’re already here. Sino bang best audience din to tell yung mga stories na meron tayo? So, yes! Thank you so much super na-enjoy ko yung conversation natin ngayon. 


Arnold: Thank you!


Onggie: Thank you, thank you! 


Arnold: Thank you! 

Bryan: Thank you for listening to this episode. Gubatbp. and Forest Foundation would like to thank our guest Arnold Arre. 


Follow his Instagram at @arnoldarre. You may also follow and like his Facebook page at @TheMythologyClass and join his Mythology Class at https://www.facebook.com/TheMythologyClass/ 


To see more of Arnold’s work, please check out his website at www.Arnold-Arre.com and his youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/arnoldarrefilms 


We’d also like to thank our featured musician for this episode, Lola Amour. Lola Amour is a rock band from Muntinlupa, Philippines that dabbles in the genres of modern rock, funk, and pop. The band consists of Pio Dumayas on lead vocals and guitar, Martin Kim on background vocals and keyboards, Raymond King on background vocals and bass, Zoe Gonzales on lead guitar, Angelo Mesina on trumpets, Joxx Perez on saxophone, and Renzo Santos on drums. 


We just listened to their latest single, “Dahan-Dahan”. Check out their latest EP The Lunchtime Special on Spotify. 


At www.gubatbp.forestfoundation.ph, you can browse through our maps featured on each episode and resource materials that you can read and check out after listening to our episodes.

 Curious about fantastic mythological creatures and where to “find” them? You can learn and imagine more about some of them!Click the icons on the map to see the mythological creatures infamous across some regions in the Philippines. You might discover mythical creatures you haven’t heard about before!

Exploring Filipino Mythology: A Crossroad of Art, Culture, and Environment

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Gubatbp. featuring Arnold Arre

About the guests


Arnold Arre

Arnold Arre is a Filipino comic book artist and writer. The Mythology Class, which combined contemporary urban legends with ancient Philippine mythology in a “genre-breaking” style, was the first graphic novel to win the Comic Books category of the Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards. Similarly, Trip to Tagaytay (2000), a one-shot future fiction short story, won the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award. Both were published by his own company Tala Comics Publishing.

His other works include the romantic comedy After Eden (2016 edition by Nautilus Comics; 2002 edition by Adarna House), the self-published Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat (2006), the Martial Law Babies (2008), and the 2015 release Halina Filipina, all of which were published by Nautilus Comics.

Join his Mythology Class https://www.facebook.com/TheMythologyClass/

Featured musician

Lola Amour is a rock band from Muntinlupa, Philippines that dabbles in the genres of modern rock, funk, and pop. The band consists of Pio Dumayas on lead vocals and guitar, Martin Kim on background vocals and keyboards, Raymond King on background vocals and bass, Zoe Gonzales on lead guitar, Angelo Mesina on trumpets, Joxx Perez on saxophone, and Renzo Santos on drums.