A Cartoon History of the Republic
A look back at the classic editorial cartoons of Philippines Free Press illustrator Esmeraldo Z. Izon
Bato-bato sa langit,
ang tamaan, huwag magagalit!
-old Tagalog saying
In celebration of Independence Day, we revisit A Cartoon History of the Republic, a collection of now-classic editorial cartoons by the late great Philippines Free Press illustrator Esmeraldo Z. Izon. A veteran of that magazine from the 1940s until his retirement before the millennium, Izon captured through his art the tragicomic narrative of Philippine politics and society. His drawings complemented the raging, eloquent editorials of his old friend and colleague, Free Press editor-in-chief Teodoro Locsin Sr. But the cartoons also stand out as a trenchant commentary in their own right. "Mr. Izon was both witness and recorder in vivid images of the country's travails," wrote another of his long-time colleagues, Teodoro Locsin Jr., in his introduction to A Cartoon History. "The cartoons would serve as a reminder that nothing changes in Philippine politics-things are the same, only uglier with the passing years....Here, therefore, and better than any bad piece of historical writing, is the story of the Philippine republic as observed by an unerring moral eye, drawn with a fine artistic hand, and annotated by an unimpeachable moral voice."
We thank Teddy and Louie Locsin of the Free Press for their permission to republish the cartoons, of which we select 10 (apart from the lead illustration for this piece) from an impressive, prolific body of work. The cartoons cover key chapters in modern Philippine history-the postwar era of the Third Republic, the volatile time leading to martial law, and the post-Marcos administrations of Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos. A Cartoon History starts off with an apt Tagalog saying that also begins this introduction. Otherwise, the drawings below speak for themselves, and they still have much to say about our time.