Unlocking the potential of PH creative economy
It was the desire to express himself that led Jerito dela Cruz to pursue a career as a cartoonist. As a child, he was never without his pencils and crayons. Even then, he knew that making art would be a life-long love affair.
In 1997, he created a bi-monthly fanzine called “Newskaster,” where he first introduced “Punky and Skathy” as a centerfold comics for the fanzine. He funded the printing of this little passion project by saving part of his allowance and reviewing music content from record labels. But after 10 issues, it folded up because the money ran out.
Dela Cruz, 43, says he fine-tuned his style when he started working as a graphic designer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2005. But he noticed that his style was getting darker and more complex as he aged. He started longing for the good old days when his drawings were more childlike.
That’s when he revisited his old fanzine. To make the name more catchy, he simply called it “Punky Comix.” The lead character, “Punky,” became his alter ego. The theme of the comic strip has an underground and indie feel to it.
He discovered that digital platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can help “Punky Comix” reach a wider audience at a fraction of the cost of printing it.
Although he admits that “Punky Comix” is not yet a hit, he is proud of it because it is something that he can call his own.
No dearth of talent
Dela Cruz is now a senior graphic designer in Singapore. He is envious of how this city-state nurtures artists, animators and game creators. “Although I understand why the arts must take a back seat in the Philippines—there are bigger things that must be prioritized like job creation and food security back home—I do dream of the day when Filipino artists can be given a venue where they can show the world what they’ve got.”
“There is no dearth of talent in the Philippines. All we need is financial support and lots of opportunities to showcase our work,” he says.
He is among the many workers who form the so-called “creative economy.” The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development defines creative economy as “an evolving concept, which builds on the interplay between human creativity and ideas and intellectual property, knowledge and technology.”
Advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing and TV/radio are considered as “the lifeblood of the creative economy.” Together, they contribute an important source of commercial and cultural value.
In 2019, during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, a resolution was ratified declaring 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. With Indonesia as the main sponsor of the proposal, it was also presented by a global grouping of countries, which included the Philippines, Australia, China, India, Mongolia and Thailand.
The proposal aims “to raise awareness, promote cooperation and networking, encourage sharing best practices and experiences, enhance human resource capacity, promote an enabling environment at all levels as well as tackle the challenges of the creative economy.”
The declaration also emphasized the important role of creative industries as “a powerful force for good, livelihoods, social cohesion and economic development through the trade in creative goods and services.”
Cultural Center’s backing
In the Philippines, rampant violations of intellectual property (IP) rights as well as insufficient funding and support constrain the growth of the creative industries.
But there is a silver lining for local creatives.
The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) board of trustees has earmarked around P20-million development funding to generate original IP content that reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage with its folktales, myths and legends.
“This is the first time that the government is supporting this kind of program because there is a trend right now toward Netflix and digitalization efforts so it’s really high time that the government pursues these creative industries,” says Benedict Carandang, board of trustee of the CCP, in a recent interview with ANC.
By encouraging Filipinos to create original content, the CCP aims to produce a collection of original IP, promote deep understanding of IP rights and build a national identity in terms of original Filipino content development that will showcase the talent and ingenuity of the Filipino people to be at par with global standards.
“Global animation industry revenue is around $270 billion and the Philippines contributes to around $20 million to $30 million per year. We have an estimated 10,000 full-time artists supporting this industry. On the other hand, the global gaming market is around $174.9 billion and $1.38 million is the local contribution or [just] .008 percent of the market worldwide. The comics industry, meanwhile, we have around 1,000+ self-published titles, 266 published titles from 12 publishers and an estimated 5,000 original IP creators supporting this industry,” says Carandang.
Filipino content creators have a chance to win grants from the CCP through three categories: game development, animation and comics.
There will be seven winners for the game development grant, with a maximum cap of P1.5-million funding for each to create and complete a digital game project with a mix of creative, cultural and commercial outcomes, and content derived from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art.
The comic grant offers P300,000 for six winners and the animation grant will give P2 million each for four potential winners to create a five-minute animated short film.
Both the animation and comics output must be developed around the theme: Philippine folktales, myths and legends. A training component with leading industry professionals will be integrated for the winners.
The long road ahead
“The challenge right now is to create a sustainable original content industry. That is the goal of the government. Right now, we are pumping in P20 million or $400,000. But that is just a seed money. [We are] hoping future legislators after the elections will take notice of this industry. There is a lot of potential [in this industry] especially for the youth,” Carandang adds.
But the CCP wants to look beyond giving out grants. Its approach is two-pronged: build institutional capacity and human capability.
On the institutional side, the Department of Trade and Industry has initiated a program to support animation and computer gaming program.
The CCP grants seek to support human capability building. “Through this, it’s going to help convince private sector to pitch in more money. At the same time, we have to be more global in our approach for our stories to be more universal,” Carandang explains.
The CCP Grants program is supported by the Creative Content Creators Association of the Philippines, Game Developers Association of the Philippines, Animation Council of the Philippines and Komiket.
On May 2, the CCP will hold an orientation for grant applicants. The guest speakers are Tanya Yuson and Kajo Baldisimo, the producer and the comic artist behind Philippine anime series “Trese,” who are expected to share their professional experience and inspire applicants to come up with their pitches. INQ
Learn all the details at: Game Development Grant Application form: https://forms.gle/cvM1UNqLmWSEK6239; Animation and Comics Grant Application form: https://forms.gle/7P6PNASVPsXhtgUo9.
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