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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Genius Of Ely Santiago

Article by: Hannah A. Papasin

I remember Coffee Cats.

I remember how two disembodied heads are talking to each other about practically anything under the sun, even the sun itself.  I remember the snark.  I remember the sarcasm of the guy on the left (always on the left) as he comments about the idiosyncrasies of life and the idiocy of the people running it.

Most of all, I remember the genius of Ely Santiago.

It was the 90’s when I first gotten hold of The Philippine Daily Inquirer.  I had this habit of discarding the front pages and going straight to the Funnies (yeah, I was quite the intellectual).  Then I noticed it.  At the bottom left of the paper, just above the Crossword Puzzle.  Two guys sharing coffee, talking about the Spratleys.  Pure coffee table convo  – with a punchline.

That was how I was introduced to Ely Santiago – and I immediately became a fan.   For a fan, though, I know so little about him.  I didn’t know, for instance, that he was the one who coined the term “MassKara” for the Bacolod festival, or that he was president of the Art Association of Bacolod.  I don’t know him as much as, say, his brods in the Beta Sigma Fraternity or his classmates in UP Diliman.

Still, that does not mean that I couldn’t pay my respects to the man, the genius who unfortunately left us in 1993 at the not-quite-ripe age of 52.  Which was a pity because the man could have done more, so much more than most run-of-the-mill cartoonists.

Fellow blogger and graphic artist Lee Santiago, Ely’s son, said Coffee Cats was his father’s “advocacy, his voice”, his own means of making a statement to the world.

“My father always did cartoons and comic strips since his college days at UP Diliman,” Lee shares, adding he had always admired Ely’s brand of wit which he describes as “biting sarcasm and the humor” that is, alas, conspicuously absent in most cartoonists.

Bacolod recently paid tribute to the man – along with other artists who made contributions to the celebration of the yearly MassKara Festival – in a group exhibit titled Lagaw-lagaw sa MassKara at the New Government Center.  The exhibit opened during the second week of October.

It was just right.

After all, very few artists can lay claim to the title “genius”.

And clearly as caricaturist, painter and social commentator, Ely Santiago deserves (that’s with the present tense) the label more than any other.

see also: Remembering Ely Santiago

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