By Mary Joy T. de Lara and Jefferson O. Evalarosa
Just like his alter ego Polgas, Pugad Baboy creator and Thomasian artist Pol Medina Jr. loves to muse and ramble about Pinoy life over a cold mug of beer and a company of fellow beer-bellied friends.
Pugad Baboy is Pol’s way of reminding Filipinos that the best way of getting through all the political turmoil and social upheaval of Pinoy living is through a good hard laugh.
“Politics is just one of my sources of material. I make stories about everything Pinoy,” Medina told the Varsitarian.
After 20 best-selling volumes, two editorial cartoon compilations, his very own Pugad Baboy merchandise, and a graphic novel, Pol has achieved what every Pinoy cartoonist has aspired for but which only a few have managed to achieve: create and draw a best-selling cartoon strip series.
“Frankly, I didn’t think Pugad Baboy would even last a week,” said the Bulakaño.
Pol sheepishly admits that he does not have an uncanny talent of thinking up of bottomless witty jokes, unlike his affinity for good pulutan and soul food.
“(Sadly), I do not possess the lighting wit and spontaneity of my siblings,” Pol said. However, Pol came up with a good solution to that. He brought to life his sibling’s witty jokes through the sketch pad.
Born in 1960, Apolonio ‘Pol’ Medina Jr.’s delighted in drawing even as a toddler. Pol’s doodles would always cross the edges of the blackboard in his home, until the wall was filled with his grafitti.
always drew straight illustrations then,” Pol said.
Pol grew up in his hometown of Bulacan with his three other siblings, Renato, Irene and Nelson. He never thought of joining any student organization in college as he and his friends were too busy scheming to reach the UST tower and stand under the Main Building’s blue cross and climb over the hedges that surrounded the Arch of the Centuries.
“College was not a wild time for me. High school was,” Pol confessed. “I wanted to be an Illustrator. I was confused when I took up Architecture. It was a good thing that I liked it enough to finish college.”
After graduating from UST in 1983 with a B.S. Architecture degree, Pol immediately worked for Atlantic Golf & Pacific (AG & P), a construction firm. But a few months into the job, he decided to try his luck abroad, getting a job as a contract worker in TechniPetrol Corporation in Northern Iraq. It was 1986 then, the height of the Iran-Iraq war. Pol, like any other OCW, was exposed to the war, the monotony of a construction worker’s life, and the highly conservative Muslim traditional society.
“All the refineries were the color of the earth,” he said. “They were all in camouflage.”
It was during the Iran-Iraq war when he started conceptualizing a comic strip. During one of his many lonely humid afternoons, Pol would doodle under the shade of a palm tree near his quarters, with his pet dog as company. Unlike Isaac Newton, his inspiration did not come from an apple dropping to his head; it was his pet that made him think about a cynical talking dog for a comic character.
Down on his luck as an architect, Pol came home on March 1988, took his portfolio, and headed for Intramuros to pass his sample comic works to the Manila Bulletin. But on his way, Pol asked around for directions and a bystander pointed him to Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) instead. Pol landed in PDI and a few months later, he was filling up a space for its Comics section.
It’s a piggy world
Pol said that all his comic strips are a hodge-podge of what he sees and hears happening around him. All the characters from the strip are caricatures of typical Pinoys: the socialite collegiala Tiny; the ex-hippie Bab; the exotic food lover and xenophobic Dagul Sungcal, his wife Debbie and their smart son Utoy; the house maid Brosia; the OFW Hercules; the trigger-happy Tomas Sabaybunot, his feminist wife Barbie, and their mischievous son Paltik; the ex-convict Igno, their Chinese neighbour Mao and his gay son Pao; the corrupt Senator Cabalfin and his “Imeldific” wife; the communist neighbor Noli; the mechanic Joboy; the corrupt cop Sergeant Durugas; the wise elder Tata Madz; and Polgas, the talking dog.
According to Pol, all his characters are based on real people he knew from his hometown in Parañaque, such that the National Bookstore classified Pol’s creations as “non-fiction”. Tata Madz is Amado Pascual of Tanghalan ng Kampeon, while Tiny is Pol’s youngest sister, Irene, and Mang Bab is his brother Nelson. “’The others are my friends, officemates, and former colleagues in Iraq,” he said.
Pugad Baboy (literally, a nest of pigs), is a real village in Bulacan province north of Manila, notorious for its foul-smelling piggeries.
Pol said that he would often voice out his opinions through Polgas.
“Polgas is one of my schizo personalities,” he said. “I have dog characteristics—loyal, obedient and easy to please.”
There’s something aesthetically pleasing about Pol’s voluptuous creations. On a pad with 8.5 by 11 cm dimensions, Pol draws each strip meticulously, taking an hour and a half to finish one.
“I color my Sunday strips digitally. Everything else remains old school,” Pol shares. “My drawing style has evolved but the time it takes me to draw a strip remains the same.”
But Pol said if he is not busy babysitting his five kids, he can finish more strips.
Signed, PM Jr.
Pol’s uncanny talent for understanding the human psyche is the key ingredient that makes Pugad Baboy click with his readers.
The popularity of Pugad Baboy rose after GMA 7 decided to create a live-action TV show based on the comics, titled Rated PB (Pang-Bayan): Pugad Baboy Sa TV, which first aired on Sept. 23, 1993. The show featured Edgar Mortiz and Giselle Sanchez among other actors.
“It was surreal,” Pol reminisced. “But I guess it didn’t work because it did not capture the true flavor of the comic strip.”
Contrary to what most people think, Pol did not come up with a compilation of his comic strips. It was not until a De La Salle senior, Frank Aldana, compiled Pol’s strips in the early 1990s as part of his thesis that the country really took notice of Pugad Baboy.
Including Aldana’s compilation, there are currently 20 Pugad Baboy books. Pol also drew editorial cartoons for the PDI, which he later compiled and published as the Ink & Politics series. Pol also published a “magazine” of original strips by him and other artists called Polgas comics. He has also spawned his own Pugad Baboy merchandise, DogStyle Apparel and Polgas P-gurines, under the Pol Medina Jr. Novelties company.
“I intend to do a Charles Schultz—to die drawing. If my kids pick up what I leave, then Pugad Baboy might go on indefinitely,” Pol Medina said. He pointed to his eldest daughter, Maia Cecilia, who as a toddler filled the living room wall with her abstract doodles, much like her dad when he was a kid. Now 14, Maria Cecilia can well be on her way to becoming the heir of her dad’s pugad.