ELMER (Gerry Alanguilan)

“There’s this story of chicken that I really liked and felt good about, and if in the end nobody liked it but me, then I would have no regrets.  As with anything I have ever done, I always did what I wanted, and what I felt was right.  I trusted that feeling.”

–Gerry Alanguilan

elmercoverElmer, a comic book, is now on its second edition and was published two years ago, around 2011, coinciding with the release of the fourth issue of Trese, another comic book created by another Filipino authors.  Back then, I wasn’t interested.  Knowing that the characters are chickens, I assumed that I wouldn’t like it.  And knowing that the creator is not a good-looking middle-aged guy, I thought I would just ignore it.

So the one that caught my eye was Trese 4, and when I bought my own copy of it for the first time it has already gained a cult following from comic readers.  Until I got hooked as well to the episodes of Trese 4 (it’s a plus factor that the lead protagonist is a girl) and as soon as I have saved enough money, I bought the three previous issues of Trese.

About two weekends ago, I read a review about “Elmer” in Philippine Daily Inquirer.  I regret not cutting out that article because now I forgot the name of the author whom I would like to thank for.  It’s because, thanks to his article, he encouraged me to finally buy my own copy of “Elmer” by Gerry Alanguilan.  And it was good timing that it was payday just days prior.  I also wanted to buy Alanguilan’s “Wasted” but it’s not available.

Now, this comic book about chickens.

Turns out the characters here aren’t just chickens.  There are also humans which made it all weird right from the start.  Can you imagine living in a world where chickens could talk?  Where chickens have the right to fall in love not just with their own kind, but also with humans, and vice versa?  How about fighting for your rights as a chicken just to gain acceptance from humans who rule the world?  And how did they deal about the unexpected phenomenon that just out of the blue, these chickens woke up blessed with “intelligence and consciousness of humans?”

For me, what made the story relatable to me is the interaction between the members of the Gallo family, a family of chickens, the lead protagonists of the story, and their dealings with their human counterparts.  If this were a movie, Elmer, the father, turns out to be just a supporting actor to his eldest son, Jake, the surprising main character of the story.  But as a reader, this isn’t just a fictionalized story of humans and chickens living side by side in a world that is “complicated, dangerous and yet beautiful” that was drawn in black and white which what became now as “Elmer,” a comic book.  I may sound so simple, but those chickens in the story are US.

In this world that is filled with lies and contempt and con artists, “Elmer” is refreshing for its honesty. I am deeply drawn to how the comic story was meticulously and beautifully drawn, so beautiful that I could feel the emotions of every character in the story that sometimes I felt that I am Jake.  Sometimes I felt I am Elmer.  Sometimes I am farmer Ben.   Sometimes Michael.  But most important of all, I was deeply touched (with tears in my eyes) with the loyalty and friendship that was formed between a human being and a family of chickens.  So touched that upon closing the book, I suddenly miss them.

To Mr. Gerry Alanguilan, I’m so sorry for being judgmental.  You looked like a goon but you turned out to be an angel in disguise.  And you did the right thing.  Thanks for sharing the story of Elmer.

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