Gerry Alanguilan, one of my closest friend is turning 50 today and I wanted to greet him a Happy Birthday.
It’s not everyday that someone turns 50 so I wanted to write something about him to commemorate the occasion.
I first encountered Gerry through one of his Timawa stories, the one published in Alamat 101. I’ve never seen anything like it and was blown away by the detail and beauty of his line work. As I was reading the story in class, waiting for the professor to arrive, my friend and classmate Johnny Danganan noticed what I was doing and volunteered the information that he knew Gerry personally.
“Kilala ko ‘yan! Taga San Pablo ‘yan!” he exclaimed enthusiastically.
“Oo! Alam ko pati telepono nila sa bahay. Heto, tawagan mo!” he said while scribbling the number down in a piece of paper torn off from his notebook.
It didn’t strike me as weird at the time. It was only until much later when I’ve already dialed Gerry‘s purported number and the phone was ringing on the other end of the line did I suddenly remember that I am a complete stranger calling a man who didn’t know me from Adam. I mean, what was I going to say to him in the event that he does pick up?
I decided this was a bad idea and was about to put the phone down when someone picked it up.
“Puwede po ba makausap si Gerry Alanguilan?” I finally managed to blurt out.
“Si Gerry ‘to.”
“Ah. Fan ninyo po ako.”
I can’t remember the rest of the conversation that we had that day but Gerry turned out to be very accommodating and we chatted for quite a bit before what little modicum of decency I had kicked in, prompting me to end the call and let the man get back to whatever he was doing before picking up the phone and taking my call. By rights, that should have been the end of it but I had the gumption to bug Gerry a few more times and he continued to entertain my questions about his craft and the industry he was a part of. Funny story: he swears he doesn’t remember meeting Johnny before much less giving him his number. Johnny of course refutes this version of history.
“Ano ako, stalker!? Don’t answer that!” Johnny would say.
Gerry got me into making comic books and taking it seriously as an art form. He was even kind enough to once say that he really liked my early work, a bunch of experimental psychedelic stories based on wet dreams that made no sense to anyone except maybe to Gerry.
It still surprises me to realize how far we go back (we met sometime in 1996, if memory serves me right).
I knew him when he was a long-haired angsty artist with a scowl on his face and I was there when he became the guy with a perpetual silly smile because he finally met the love of his life (to be fair he also knew me when I was a long-haired trench coat wearing cyberpunk wannabe). Together with Johnny we made comic books, joined/organized comic book conventions, and made videos talking about (what else) comic books. I even asked him to be my son’s godfather which he accepted, making us actual “kumpares”.
So, from the fan who called you from out of nowhere: thank you for taking my call and being my friend.
Happy 50th, manong! May you have many more to come!