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Reading up on the life of Filipino komiks (komiks with a "k" to differentiate it from the imported comics) legend Francisco Coching for work, I am beginning to remember my own love affair with komiks, from early childhood to adolescence. As a child, I read everything: English-language classics, Mills & Boon, Harlequin and Silhouette, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden, Valentine and Precious Hearts romances... and komiks. Superman and Batman I knew only from TV and the movies; komiks were the domain of purely Filipino characters.

The first komiks I can remember reading is the Funny Komiks, which was created especially for Filipino children. My aunts used to buy it regularly for me whenever they went to market day in the nearby town, on Sundays after church. It was always a bribe to get me to wake up in the wee hours of Sunday morning just to go to church with them at 7 a.m. --- promise me all the komiks I wanted. Someone from our barrio had a chucherias in that same market, selling dry goods and selling or renting komiks. I often ended up buying over a dozen komiks whenever I went to her store. I even tried to have a pen pal from the pen pal pages of Funny Komiks, although we stopped writing to each other after a while.

I grew up with the misadventures of Niknok; Bb. Bonita of the oversized eyeglasses, pigtails, and grown-up demeanor; Matsutsu and his master, the king Matsungit and his big lunk of a nephew Bardagol in the Planet op di Eyps; the wacky adventures of lovers Bing and Bam and the nasty tricks thought up by Bung to steal Bam away; Dario and his rooster that turned into a giant eagle whenever their help was needed, so that they became the heroes Darmo and Adarna; and the adventures of Mahimud Ali the carabao who was born with gloves instead of hooves on his front legs and became a boxer instead, his half-man, half-carabao son Kalatao, and Kalatao's wife the mermaid princess Irena. I eagerly tried to guess what Kalatao and Irena's child would be and what it would be named, and was sorely disappointed when Amphibia came out, wholly human but with half of her hair black like her father's and half blonde like her mother's.

When I entered high school, Funny Komiks was joined by Bata Batuta, Aliwan, Espesyal, Extra, Lovelife, Love Notes, Tagalog Klasiks, Pilipino Komiks, and all the others that came out during that period. The boarding house I lived in had a store in front, which also rented Komiks at one peso each overnight. I would rent a few at a time, whenever books got boring, and would finish the entire stock by the weekend, just in time for the next batch. When the owner finally sold the old komiks at two pesos each, I would buy my favorites to keep.

There was one very long serial I used to read. I forgot the title, but the main characters were Gomer and Nimfa, the latter with a scarred face because someone had thrown acid at her. It was long convoluted tale of love, lies and deception, and I'm pretty sure it had a sequel because later on there was a part where their children already took the lead parts.

I also loved anything illustrated by Vincent Kua because I liked the gothic intricacy of his illustrations. There was also another illustrator whose work I liked to copy in my own notebooks; I know I wrote his name down somewhere in those notebooks but I've lost it. He also had a distinct style I could immediately recognize. He drew hair differently, in stylized lines that looked like each tress was separate.

One story I'm sorry I never got to finish was the one about the little daughter of the rich heir to a mestizo clan who married a Muslim princess. His family refused to acknowledge the marriage, and when the child was born and his wife died, his mother gave the baby away to beggars. The story revolves around father and daughter's search for each other.

The covers of Extra Komiks were an obsession with me. I used to stay up late at night with pencil, ballpen and watercolors, reproducing them in my drawing book. I don't know where that drawing book is now, though.

Years later, my family threw out the boxful of komiks I had accumulated because they had grown tattered. I would not know that had I hung on to them, they would now be collectors' items, or that, more importantly, they would have preserved a part of our cultural legacy.

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