“Cartooning for Peace Manila 2015,” a joint project organized by Alliance Française de Manilla, Philippine Daily Inquirer, De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Liberal Arts (CLA), and the International Studies Department, was held last May 7 at the European Documentations Center, Henry Sy Sr. Hall to discuss the role of editorial cartoons in various social issues, cultures, and beliefs.
The event was part of a four-day series of lectures and workshops in the country with Filipino cartoonists, journalists, and students. Among the speakers were internationally renowned French cartoonist Jean Plantureux or popularly known as Plantu, Danish cartoonist Bob Katzenelson, Philippine Daily Inquirer cartoonist Manix Abrera, and freelance cartoonist Rob Cham.
Plantu works for the French newspaper Le Monde, and is the current president of Cartooning for Peace, an international movement with over 130 cartoonists from around the world. The four-day event is part of the movement’s initiative to recognize the diversity and freedom of expression of cartoonists worldwide.
DLSU CLA Dean Dr. Julio Teehankee led the program with an introductory speech, mentioning how important it is to have a more open mind given the presence of the internet and social networking sites. With the internet, sharing opinions and criticisms with different kinds of people has become easier. “Being open-minded also means the ability to adapt to change,” he added.
Cartooning in the media landscape
The first part of the event involved a master class with Filipino students from different colleges and universities. Plantu presented first by sharing an editorial cartoon he made hours after the Charlie Hebdo shooting last January 2015. When he uploaded the cartoon to Facebook, it was shared many times and caught the attention of people around the world.
Plantu also shared an editorial cartoon he made that aimed to help establish peace in the Middle East. He said that despite not being able to speak the language of Middle Eastern countries, his editorial cartoons can help bring across a message of peace that everyone would understand. “I thought maybe the cartoons are a good way for peace. If we’re not able to speak with one another or recognize the opinion of others, we can use cartoons,” Plantu shared.
The next speaker was Abrera, who shared his editorial cartoons, which tackled local issues like poverty, poor quality of education, and unemployment. “One of the powers of an editorial cartoon is to bring across a social issue to the readers,” he said in Filipino. “It’s also important to create a story and make your editorial cartoons funny. Once the reader finds it funny, it’s easier for them to recognize the issue being tackled.”
Katzenelson started his talk by mentioning how images and editorial cartoons, unlike before, have now become an important part of media. “Nowadays, pictures, images, illustrations, and photographs are everywhere. We can’t get a story without images. This is our life today. We, as cartoonists, are a part of that world,” he said. Katzenelson’s editorial cartoons are focused mostly on social issues in European countries.
The last to present was Cham, who talked about what it is like to be a young cartoonist in various social networking sites. Cham is an active user of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, where he usually uploads his work. “I’ve always used the internet as a tool to get my work out there. The most important thing for me in cartoons is that you have to get your message across,” he said.
The master class was followed by an open forum, where students, faculty, and DLSU administrators were given a chance to ask questions about the speakers’ ideas and experiences. One question raised to the Filipino cartoonists is if freedom of speech is still being threatened in the country because of religious and traditional beliefs. Abrera and Cham agree and say that media in the Philippines still suffers censorship, but has also became stronger now because of the internet.
After the open forum, students presented editorial cartoons they made, which mostly tackled social issues such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration, the dispute over the Spratly Islands, the Mamasapano clash, and the increase in number of overseas Filipino workers. The speakers gave comments later on, citing how they were impressed with how some of the editorial cartoons were professionally done.
Meeting with student organizations
In the afternoon, the speakers were introduced to the archives of student media organizations such as The LaSallian and Ang Pahayagang Plaridel. Newspapers dating back to DLSU events from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the more recent ones, were shown to the speakers.
The last part of the event was a Question and Answer activity between the speakers and various student organizations. The questions raised were mostly about the experiences of the cartoonists, such as what they do whenever being criticized for their work. For them, it is a natural part of their job as cartoonists, and in the long run criticisms can help them improve their craft.
With its goal of understanding cultural differences between various nationalities, Cartooning for Peace continues to organize meetings with cartoonists from around the world. Their four-day visit to the Philippines is one part of this goal.