Recently, someone pointed out to me that I’ve been doing political cartoons now for around 13 years. I started out with the Tri-City Voice, a community newspaper covering the east part of the San Francisco Bay Area. Then in 2012 I joined the Philippines Today, later renamed the Philippine News Today.
It’s been a wonderful experience for me to learn more about the Filipino American community and Philippine community. I haven’t really had many Filipino American friends since my college years, so I felt really estranged from the Filipino American community. So researching about the issues facing the Philippines and the Filipino American community gave me a chance to reconnect. I was what they used to call a “banana”: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. I’m proud of being an American, but I got a chance to learn more about and be proud of my Filipino heritage too.
Because I do political cartoons, I can’t hide my politics. Every once in a while, I encounter a conservative who hates my liberal views or a progressive who doesn’t think I’m progressive enough. That’s o.k. with me. These are my political cartoons and they reflect my political views only, no one else’s. Expressing my independent point of view is more important to me than falling 100% lockstep with any group or ideology.
I am very conscious of the fact that I am making political commentary on the Philippines when I’m a Filipino American who has been in the Philippines for only one month my entire life. So I feel an obligation to do extensive research to understand the issues. I talked to my parents, to activists and those who’ve been in the Philippines to get their perspectives. I try to make sure that I do not get stuck in an ideological bubble, so I try to read a variety of resources to fact check and get a diversity of views, from leftist activists and news sites, more conservative business sites, various news media like Rappler and ABS-CBN and Bulatlat, Catholic and Protestent news sites.
Even with all of the research that I do for my cartoons, I’ll be right some of the time and I’ll be wrong some of the time. I still see things from my American point of view. I realize I am looking at Philippine affairs as an outsider looking in.
I am to the Left of the political spectrum. But in these past few years, with the rise in authoritarianism in the Philippines and around the world, my cartoons have been focusing more on defending basic democratic values that we all should share, whether we’re progressives, moderates or conservatives. Defending the freedom of the press. The idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The idea that a person has a right to defend themselves in a court of law. The idea that the police should not have the power to act as judge and jury over a criminal suspect’s life, that extrajudicial killings and vigilante killings are wrong. The idea that we have a right to criticize our political leaders. Fighting against ideological purity tests and the cult of personality in politics. The idea that it’s important for diverse views to be able to debate about important issues and be willing to find common ground when the debate reaches an impasse.
I frequently encounter ideologues who think they’re always right and anyone who disagrees with them are always wrong. During my teen years and early twenties, I was guilty of ideological arrogance at times. But I’ve made enough mistakes and have been wrong enough times to be humbled by life. I always figure that at some point, most ideologues will be similarly humbled by life. They’ll see that there is a lot of grey in this world, that the issues of politics and life are not so black and white. I am worried about recent political trends in the Philippines and the U.S. But I’m lucky to have my editorial cartoons as my outlet for my worries and fears. I love doing the research and trying to come up with ideas, then doing the drawing and inking. It’s fun.
Here is a talk that I did on my political cartoons on March 20, 2019 with fellow political cartoonist Eric Garcia at the Art Boutiki in San Jose. It was cool to listen to Eric’s philosophy in creating his cartoons. We both share similar artistic influences and we both view our cartoons as a means to advocate for causes we care about.