The Cartoonist: Tony Velasquez and his “Kenkoy”
About The Cartoonist: Tony Velasquez
Antonio “Tony” Velasquez, the Father of Philippine Cartoons was born in Paco, Manila on October 29, 1910. He was the creator of Kenkoy, the very first serialized Filipino cartoon strip and considered the most influential comic strip in the Philippines. His journey in cartoon industry started when he was tasked to create a comic strip for Acme Printing’s Liwayway where he was employed as an artist. Tony Velasquez created the strip Kenkoy in 1928, starring a teenager named Kenkoy Harabas. The script was written by Romualdo Ramos. In 1929, Kenkoy debuted in Liwayway and was a huge success. The readers loved his honest carefree character. In 1932, Romualdo Ramos died and Velasquez was left to do the drawings and script by himself. Velasquez was a gifted writer too and later that year the Kenkoy strip was expanded to one half page with six panels. In 1935, Kenkoy occupied a whole page of the Liwayway with 12 panels and colors to boot!
During Velasquez’s career, he created more than 300 cartoon characters which became household names in Filipino homes, such as Kenkoy, Talimusak, Talakitok, Tsikiting Gubat, and Ponyang Halobaybay. Velasquez also established cartoon advertising. He created cartoon characters to personify consumer products . He had helped or assisted many other future artists in Philippine komiks get their works published in the magazine. These included Francisco Coching, Mars Ravelo, Jose Zabala-Santos, and J.M. Perez. Velasquez became the pioneer and founding father of the Philippine comics industry. He started different publications until 1961. All these comics magazines became bestsellers, making comics production one of the Philippines’ profitable industries.
So only time can tell when will another Tony Velasquez come along producing another Kenkoy which captured the eyes, hearts and laughter of the nation. He passed away in 1997 at the age of 86.
In 1929, an iconic Philippine comic strip surfaced under the pen and ink of illustrator, Tony Velasquez. The amusing character created donned a trademark hairdo of slicked back hair which is probably the most recognizable look of Francisco Harabas, more popularly known as Kenkoy. Influenced by the Western culture, Kenkoy was garbed in suspenders, charol shoes, and baggy pants. His language also became fashionable among the youth at that time, which was a mixture of Spanish, English and Tagalog. Thus were born Kenkoy’s trademark lines like “Halo, how is yu?”, “watsamara” (what’s the matter), “dats oret” (that’s all right), “nating duwing” (nothing doing), “okidoki” (okeydokey), “lets tek ewok” (let’s take a walk), “is beri nesesari”, and “bay gali”. Just like any other main character, Kenkoy has his own love story. His romance with Rosing, the flawless Manileña, was one of the most enduring and fascinating love stories in the history of the print media, a tale that had always been loved by the Filipinos. Kenkoy and Rosing eventually got married and they had several children and an adopted child. That would be the greatest difference of Kenkoy from other cartoon strips of his time was his ongoing story that grew along with the modern trends of Filipino culture.
In 1950s, Kenkoy was first adapted into the movies and has a remake in 1960s. In 1993, Kenkoy was made into a musical with Janno Gibbs as Kenkoy and Regine Velasquez as Rosing.