Coching at his
studio in Manila
Updated March 12 2008
Click Thumbnails Below for Larger Images
Francisco V. Coching easily stands out with the few who are revered and recognized as the pillars of the Philippine Komiks Industry.
A contemporary of National Artists Carlos (Botong) Francisco and Vicente Manansala, and Francisco Reyes, Isaac Tolentino, and Tony Velasquez, Coching was born into the art. His father, Gregorio, was then one of the more prolific and better known vernacular novelists and as a young boy, Francisco used to to with his old man to the Liwayway Publications. It was there he got the rare opportunity of watching prominent illustrators at work. Among them was a pioneer in the illustrated medium, Francisco Reyes, the creator of Kulafu. Reyes was to have a tremendous influence on Coching.
It was in 1934, at the very tender age of 15, that Coching thought he was ready for the comics world. He created Bing Bigotilyo, a cartoon character that saw publication in Silahis Magazine. The next year, he originated Marabini, an amazon warrior drawn so alluringly and involved in fast-paced action that it became an instant hit in the Bahaghari Magazine. The serial, however, was rudely cut by the outbreak of World War II.
Coching spent the war years as a guerrillero with the Kamagong Unit of the Hunters-ROTC resistance organization. It was his unit that conceived the clever idea of smuggling arms in coffins past Japanese checkpoints.
After the war, it was inevitable that Coching would return to his craft. Now a matured young man, he had several years of war experience behind him. It was surprising, however, that his first work was not about those danger-filled years - specifically the resistance movement of which he was part. What he produced was a character whose domain was the jungle - Hagibis, quite apparently inspired by Francisco Reyes' Kulafu and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan. Hagibis ran for 15 years in the Liwayway Magazine in 5 adventure-filled episodes, and was adapted for a motion picture.
Before Hagibis bowed out of the komiks scene, Coching was already into other serials, all action-adventures. Quite notable among them was Sabas, ang Barbaro, his first opus set against the background of the Filipinos' revolt against their Spanish masters.
During his peak years, Coching was doing 3 weekly serials simultaneously. That, by today's standards, would not be impressive enough. But given the fact that he not only wrote the stories but also pencil-sketched, inked, and lettered them as well - and turned into outstanding works of art each and every frame of each and every chapter, and you have an artist extremely in love with his craft and totally devoted to pleasing his readers.
Coching retired at the age of 54 in 1973, 39 years and 53 komiks-novels later. All but 3 of those novels were filmed. Among the more memorable of his creations, aside from Hagibis and Sabas ang Barbaro, were El Indio, Bertong Balutan, Don Cobarde, Ang Kaluluwa ni Dante, Pagano, Haring Ulupong, Dumagit, Lapu-Lapu, Bulalakaw, Waldas, Talipandas, Palasig, Movie Fan, Gat Sibasib, and Satur - all in the action-adventure genre spiced here and there with fantasy.
His last works included Dimasalang, Bella Bandida, El Vibora, Sa Ngalan ng Batas, and El Negro, his final opus which was published in 1974 and filmed in the same year.
Coching received the Makasining na Komiks Award in the Tanging Parangal for Comics Art from the Manila Commission of Arts and Culture in 1981.
In 1984, his peers honored him with the KOMOPEB Life Achievement Award. Illustrators like Noly Panaligan, Federico Javinal, Carlos Lemos, and Celso Trinidad learned the art from him. He influenced Emil Quizon-Cruz, Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Emil Rodriguez, among countless others.
The Pasay City Government gave him an Award of Excellence for his substantial contribution to the arts in 1998. In the same year, he died at the age of 79.
In 1999 and 2001, Francisco V. Coching was nominated as National Artist for the Visual Arts, the highest honors the Republic confers on the nation's artists.
Biography culled from A History of Komiks in the Philippines and Other Countries (1985) and Komiks, Katha at Guhit ni Francisco V. Coching (2001).