Exploring Philippine Graphic Novels: My Thoughts About Sixty Six by Russel Molina (Book Review #122)

What would you do when wake up one morning and you found out that you suddenly possessed superhuman strength? Here’s the catch, You’re already sixty six years old.25787335

Its been a while since I last read a Filipino graphic novel. Well, let me rephrase that, its been a while since I last read the Trese graphic novel because that’s the only Filipino graphic novel that I’ve read so far. I devoured all its six volumes and sub-volumes and if you’ve been following this blog for quite some time now, you probably know how I love that graphic novel series to pieces. And for me, it’s a shame that I have failed to read other graphic novels by Filipino artists considering how rich and lively the Philippine graphic novels scene now. And that’s what I am slowly trying to correct now. On my Manila International Book Fair 2016 book haul, I hauled two Filipino graphic novels. I picked up Sixty Six and Ang Subersibo.

This graphic follows the story of Celestino “Tino” Cabal, a sixty six year old man living with his wife Aura who suffers from dementia. She always needs to be reminded of their their life to be reacquainted with what’s happening. They have a daughter who works abroad. Being a former Overseas Filipino worker himself, Tino made the readers easily understand the hardships of being one. The book was able to made me feel the emotion of how it feels to be away when you’re mother is sick but you have to do it because they need your support. The panels successfully conveyed the emotions of each of the characters.

From there, the book immediately dives into the plot with the readers being introduced to Mang Tino’s superpowers and him becoming an instant unconventional hero to those who are oppressed and maltreated, hunting down criminals and providing justice. The story then moves to its main plot that totally left me very intrigued.

Despite tackling a very heavy topic, the book did not shy away with adding some funny moments like for instance Tino throwing a basketball high up into the air, high enough to be seen by two pilots of an airplane and the numerous movie line references at the start of the story. Then there’s Donat, who is like a sidekick of Tino in the story, never failed to make me laugh with his quips in every panel that he’s in.

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I like how the book was structured in a way that it tugs your heart with every turn of the page. Each chapter starts with the letters Aura wrote to Tino while his working abroad. It added more drama to the story because as the book is nearing it’s end the letters also moves with it. The sequence of letters start from the letters Aura wrote to Tino during his few years stay abroad to eventually a couple of months before he comes home.

I also like how the story felt so close to home. I am familiar with quite a few local superheroes like Captain Barbell, Darna, Lastikman and Zsazsa Zaturnnah among others. I have watched them on television and I’ve been told numerous stories about them growing up but there’s really something when you read about them. I don’t if it’s just me but I felt the connection stronger. I appreciated the story more and I understood the characters and feel for them. Maybe this is the time for me to search and look for copies of those comics and immerse myself into their worlds.

This is a very short book but it’s really good. I was able to actually finish it in less than hour. It has very little dialogues and I actually spent more time gazing at the illustrations. It’s a mix of drawings and photography. It’s really a visual treat. Ian Sta. Maria’s realistic style of drawing worked perfectly well Russel Molina’s dialogues. Even the frames that doesn’t have that much dialogue, readers can still follow the story because of the cleanly drawn and detailed illustrations. It was not hard to be taken away by the emotions of the book. On Molina’s part, the dialogues are so natural and straightforward. If you’re a Filipino reading this book, you won’t doubt that this this book does book does not have any pretensions to the point of trying so hard to become that “Filipino” feel.

So let’s talk about the ending. When the story ended, I was like, is that it? It was a total cliffhanger. Not to discourage those who would want to start reading the book because the journey towards the ending is totally worth it but it’s just that I’ve been so engaged with the book and I was so upset when I realized that I already reached the ending because I really want to know more. The biggest question for me was where did Tino got his power and what’s the scene inside their house when Tino reached home that made him so shocked? Please, I need answers!

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I like how the author’s new take on superheroes. That becoming a superhero does not come with age. An unassuming character can be someone we won’t imagine he would be. The book also talks about the complexities of life: growing up, starting a family, your children leaving your house to start their own, your spouse getting sick and just dealing with your everyday life. Life can surprise in many ways. We never know what will happen next and there’s nothing that we can do but be brave and be prepared.

Looking forward in reading more Filipino graphic novels in the future! 🙂

4 stars out of 5.

BOOK SPECIFICATIONS:

Author: Russell Molina
Illustrator: Ian Sta. Maria
Format: Paperback
Part of a Series: Yes
Release Year: 2015
Publisher: Adarna House, Inc.
No. of Pages: 145 pages

About the Author

1469179Russell Molina is a Filipino children’s book author with over a dozen books to his name.

Reflecting current Filipino realities and mirroring the local milieu and culture, his stories embrace a wide range of themes: From difficult issues like discrimination and apathy to real-life experiences like sibling rivalry and the reinvention of the family structure. With books like “Madyik Silya ni Titoy” (Titoy’s Magical Chair) and “Sampu Pataas, Sampu Pababa” (Ten Up, Ten Down), Molina has inspired children to conquer physical disabilities with a dose of creativity and imagination.

For his stories, he has won in numerous awards shows, including the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, The PBBY Salanga Writer’s Prize, The PBBY Alcala Illustrator’s Prize and the National Children’s Book Awards. (Goodreads)

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