Remembering legendary cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo

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The Manila Times has produced distinguished editorial cartoonists who drew comic strips depicting the political landscape of the times and the social issues faced by Filipinos.

One of its exceptional cartoonists was Severino “Nonoy” Marcelo.

Marcelo was born in Malabon City in 1939 and graduated from the Institute of Arts and Sciences of the Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila.

At FEU, Marcelo ran a comic strip and was often given a page at the weekly FEU Advocate with an adviser in the name of the late Alejandro “Anding” Roces. It also had in its staff: artist, writer and editor Alfredo “Ding” Roces and editors Jose Buhain, Godofredo Camacho and Rene Bas, who is now the Publisher and Editor of The Manila Times and Dean of The Manila Times College. By then, FEU Advocate had a circulation of 40,000 per issue.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism magazine said he was considered an irreverent chronicler of his times.

His cartoon strip, “Tisoy,” which was published in The Manila Times, tackled the lifestyle of the youth.

“Tisoy” was “at the cutting edge of the 1960s youth culture, articulating the rebelliousness and raw idealism of his generation,” and was later adapted into a film.

Journalist Nancy Lu fondly remembers the cartoonist’s “creativity” and that his imagination knew no bounds.

In her blog, she recalls she was amazed by how fast the cartoonist cam e up with “brilliant ideas and tricks in playing with titles, texts and photographs at his disposal.”

After the EDSA Revolution in 1986, Marcelo won the Catholic Mass Media Awards for print journalism, which was usually awarded to reporters and columnists.

He was also the cartoonist who earned the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Centennial Artist Award in 1998.

For a few years before his death in 2002, in coordination with then Deputy Executive Editor Rene Bas, The Manila Times ran a weekly folio of original Marcelo cartoons in two colors and sometimes in full color. Marcelo died of diabetes and complications on October 22, 2002 but the comic strips he left will be a legacy and a source of inspiration for aspiring young cartoonists.

More trivia are written about the comic artist at “Kahimyang,” a history website that credits the Philippine News Agency archives as their source:

“Marcelo is best known for creating the character “Ikabod Bubwit” (small rodent) in the comic strip “Ikabod” which ran from the late 1970s to 2002. It was a satirical strip that re-cast the Philippines as a nation called “Dagalandia” and populated by mice.

“He often used the strip to portray known political figures and other personalities as caricatures, re-imagining them as mice.

“It also humorously depicted the socio-political woes of ordinary Filipinos, as represented by the tail-less mouse hero Ikabod — who became as iconic in his own way as that other popular cartoon rodent, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse.

“Marcelo’s other comic strips include: “Plain Folks,” which appeared in the Daily Mirror [the Times’ afternoon daily edited by Emilio Aguilar “Abe” Cruz]during the early 1960s, and “Tisoy” in 1963 for The Manila Times. “Tisoy,” which became a film in 1977, was about the lifestyle of young Filipinos.

“In Time Magazine’s September 12, 1988 cover story entitled “Mighty Pens,” Nonoy Marcelo was the only Asian cartoonist featured for his ‘oblique technique to criticize the repressive Marcos regime.’

“Despite occasional threats for his scathing commentaries, Marcelo still went on with his pursuit and passion.”

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