From manga to ‘serye’: Finding the cool, relatable Rizal | Inquirer News

From manga to ‘serye’: Finding the cool, relatable Rizal

By: - Desk Editor / @ruelsdevera
/ 05:46 AM January 01, 2023
From manga to ‘serye’: Finding the cool, relatable Rizal

VARIATIONS ON RIZAL The country’s national hero continues to inspire a diversity of creative works, from a manga novel from Japan republished by Anvil to the “Rizal in shades” trademark by design studio Team Manila, to the GMA television series taking off from “Noli Me Tangere.”

It is not easy being the most important Filipino to ever live—and die for his country.

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda or simply José Rizal (1861-1896) is widely considered the Philippines’ national hero, although no law declares him or anyone else as such.


Yet he is the subject of the most famous statue in the country—the Rizal Monument in Luneta, where his bones are interred—even as various statues of him stand (in various scales) in front of countless public schools.

His two novels “Noli Me Tángere” (1887) and “El Filibusterismo” (1891) are required reading in classrooms. His life story is the subject of reverential, prestige productions like the late director Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1998 film “José Rizal.”


He even has his own holiday, the just recent 126th commemoration of Rizal Day on Dec. 30, when he was executed by firing squad in 1896 at the age of 35.

But all these details might have also made Rizal a little too unrelatable to the youth whom he desperately sought to write for. At least, until recently.

No one has done more to make Rizal relatable than historian Ambeth Ocampo, also acknowledged as the country’s top Rizal expert. In his popular Inquirer column “Looking Back,” he writes about the everyday Rizal things we don’t know about, and almost anything apart from the “Noli” and “Fili.”

Ocampo has written the bestselling series of books compiling his columns, the top-selling being the first book, with the revealing title, “Rizal Without the Overcoat.”

‘Hero who wrote a lot’

In a recent column, Ocampo points out why this kind of writing is important, why one should read Rizal’s work beyond the two novels: “Rizal wrote way more than these; his compiled writings fill 25 printed volumes. We have a national hero who wrote a lot for a nation that does not read him. From his jottings, one can pick up many bits of condensed wit and wisdom.”

In terms of widening Rizal’s audience beyond his country—after all, the patriot was a globetrotter who published his writings abroad—credit should also go to New York-based Elda Rotor, vice president and publisher of Penguin Classics, the venerable imprint at publishing giant Penguin Random House with the iconic black trade dress.

The Filipino Rotor was instrumental in getting “Noli” and “Fili” released as Penguin Classics in 2006 and 2011, respectively. “With Rizal, … I prefer ‘Fili’ over ‘Noli,’ I think, because I love revenge. It was like I was going to be very violent in my head but in a good way,” she told the Inquirer in 2019.


“There is a level of a craft that deepens your respect and your knowledge of the Filipino storyteller,” she said.

Rizal manga

From manga to ‘serye’: Finding the cool, relatable Rizal

“Jose Rizal: A Hero’s Life Illustrated” manga–ANVIL PUBLISHING

As far as reaching the younger reading audience is concerned, you can’t do better than Rizal manga.

Torico Co. Ltd. publisher Takuro Ando once noticed a statue of Rizal in Hibiya Park and asked why there was a statue of a Filipino in Japan.

After finding out Rizal’s story, he thought, “Rizal would be a good subject to let Filipinos and people all over the world see the appeal of manga.”

The statue Ando saw was built in 1998 on the former site of Tokyo Hotel where Rizal had stayed. Rizal lived in Yokohama and Tokyo in 1888.

So Torico published the Rizal manga, written by Takahiro Matsui and illustrated by Ryo Kanno, on the site in Japanese and the site in English. The manga was released online on June 19, 2018, Rizal’s 157th birth anniversary.

Anvil Publishing Inc. acquired the rights to it, and a year later, published “José Rizal: The Filipino Hero’s Life Illustrated,” in English with a new cover, and to accommodate Filipino reading habits, switched the pages from front to back.

But it kept true to the manga format by keeping the panels right to left. Anvil will soon release a Filipino version.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Filipinos are buying more Rizal books than ever.

Rizal in shades

From manga to ‘serye’: Finding the cool, relatable Rizal

This newfound interest in Rizal among the young goes beyond the printed page.

The perfect symbol of young Filipinos embracing Rizal would be Rizal wearing sunglasses, the signature of the design studio that championed it, Team Manila.

Originally formed in 2001 by creatives Jowee Alviar and Mon Punzalan, Team Manila rolled out its merchandise and a design aesthetic that celebrated Manila and its area code (+632), everyday Pinoy life and, of course, Rizal in shades, now the studio’s trademark.

Its design aesthetic has been aped endlessly, and Team Manila continues to thrive with a graphic design studio, an online store, several lines, and a brick-and-mortar store in Makati.

‘Noli’ as ‘teleserye’

Now, creators are finding new ways of reinventing Rizal. GMA Network proved this with their excellent teleserye “Maria Clara at Ibarra,” where Klay (an adorable Barbie Forteza), a student struggling to get through “Noli,” finds herself literally trapped in the events of the book.

The series, starring Dennis Trillo as Crisostomo Ibarra and Julie Anne San Jose as Maria Clara (both well cast), turns the book on its head by keeping “Noli’s” internal plot moving forward while the Gen-Z Klay learns more than she bargained for but also stands up against the same injustices Rizal wrote about in her quest to escape from the book.

So young Filipinos, Rizal’s dream audiences, must be finding him more relatable than ever through these creative approaches. The patriot would have been proud.

As Ocampo quotes Rizal: “I want to give an example to my people that I do not write for myself or for my personal glory, but for my country, and so I prefer the truth to my fame. May my countrymen also sacrifice their passions on the altar of the country!” INQ


Marcos enjoins Filipinos to embody Dr. Jose Rizal’s patriotism, perseverance

Rizal’s song immortalizes affair with Leonor Rivera

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: manga, Rizal, teleserye
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.