Fringe Benefits Cafe

This is the story of my comic strip.

It was 2002. I was 24. It was the year of the horse, my year and according to superstition, on your 24th year, whatever happens during that time will reflect your entire life. I got myself a comic strip.

I was still working for the newspaper. One of my childhood heroes died. It was tough that I first met the cartoonist (and basically the father of my alma mater’s Visual Communication department where I belong) Larry Alcala inside the coffin. At first glance, he reminded me of my late daddy.

We were celebrating his life the traditional old boys club way, smoking and drinking atop National Press Club next to the yellowing mural of Vicente Manansala. The chief cartoonist of Philippine Star Rene Aranda said he is looking for a replacement comic strip to keep his idela ratio of number of Filipino comic strips versus the syndicated comic strips.

I giggled and raised my hand jokingly, “Can I submit?”

Mr. Aranda said I have tomorrow to submit a stash of strips to be evaluated by the higher ups. Went home with a smoke and beer buzz but did some quick strips. Didn’t know what to call it except that at work my officemates would just be thankful that the office gave them scant fringe benefits and that it would be nice if the office could offer some free coffee, too, instead of buying it from the librarian/sari-sari store proprietress.

Hence, Fringe Benefits Cafe.

I submitted it the next day, thought nothing of it. I was pretty sure they would get something palatable to a mass audience. Imagine my surprise when I got the call that I am included in the roster of comic strips.

Let it be known that I had the following sentiment when I found out that I was accepted: Like I will REPLACE Larry Alacala. Nobody can replace the great one. I’m just a hapless space filler.

Since I was working for another newspaper, I opted to use the nom de plume Sic N Tyrd. Although the newspaper I was working for had no comic strips, ergo I was still in ethical bounds, I still decided not to give the wagging tongues of my enemies in the office more fodder against me and cozied up to my nom de plume.

So, about the strips…

work it.....

I just have a collection of three human characters, presumably in their adulthood, riddled with responsibility but would rather have their own definition of fun which is doing nothing at all. I just added a genetically-modified talking white bunny in my alcohol-induced haze.

I’ll just let you in some details from a questionnaire I answered a while back about the strip:

My comic strip delves into the disenchantment on young people in urban areas. Like when we were in collge, all those grand dreams will just be slapped to our faces as farcical youthful waste of time. At the end of the day, it’s all about money, work, consuming and comfort then there’s death. Somewhere in between could be hot sex, but I think the comic strips culture here in the Philippines isn’t ready for that one.

Thank goodness for this strip, this is my therapy. I mouth off what I find disturbing and disgusting within the constricts of the panel. I think, young people should be more sensitive about the issues that affect us and not buy more stuff to dull our senses. Humor is a great way to direct those issues to light.

All the characters of FBC are part of myself, my siblings and all my friends. Like the old rule of writing, write what you know. All of the characters are the same in their dissatisfaction and ennui over life. Yet, I made it a point to make them as individual as possible.

All the characters are bitches in various degrees, but of course with their distinct personalities.

Lee is a bitch, too, y'all....

Lee is the brave one who sports bangs eventhough people with contrived bangs should be shot. Her hair was inspired from the 50s Pinup girl Bettie Page. She may have the bangs of a pinup girl but a body built like an 18-wheeler. She has a weight problem but she does not seem to care about it. What she is more concerend is the cliched “I have so much love to give but nobody to give it to” type of pressure from society. Be that as it may, Lee is the level-headed one in the group although she sometimes play the “Why am I still single?” card to a hilt.

ho ho ho

The biological male in the group Amoz has his name came from two distinct figures, Israeli novelist Amos Oz and singer/songwriter/head case Tori Amos. I was reading his work at the time I created the strip haphazardly. And I’ve always loved Tori Amos. Amoz is a hypochondriac, panic-queen, concerend by his man-boobs, wants to be a success but don’t know the way to the top, or at least refuses to acknowledge the way to the top that is riddled with stress. He is gay also. So among all the characters, this is my “my most” alter ego.

I decided to make him come out of the closet because there are no gay characters that responded to me positively. I’m not saying that I am a role model. Please. What I’m saying is that the homosexuals portrayed in most strips here in the Philippines wear a flower on the head, scream with a limp-wrist and sashay into his beauty parlor and salivating for the straight macho men. Bitch, please! Amoz is better than that.

Both characters do not have specified jobs in the strips because I stick to my dogma that a job will not define a person. However, my favorite peeve is the office schemata so the cubicle purgatory stories are rife in my strips. Basically, this comic strip is about friends, more than a barkada out for a good time or party, this is a support group of like-minded individuals who do not necessarily like to deal with the real world but really has no choice on that matter.

And I got these two that occasionally pop up in the strip….although recently quite rare that these two show up…

bitch bitch bitch!!!!

Collette, named after the French erotica writer only I spelled it consciously with two “L’s”, this character is the no-nonsense one. Collette is Fire sign, ergo hotheaded and will take no bullshit. Her greatest accomplishments range from her exemplary academic performance to finding a great pair of designer jeans in the ukay-ukay. She like great food, good movies and hates morons. She has an astute sense of observation and is strong-willed that lesser men brand her callously names which she will not revel in because it is just a waste of her time.

and then there’s Poof…the genetically-modified rabbit.

I guess I seldom use these two because the two main characters constantly suffice.  I mean you don’t have to have an entire barrio to make your comic strip interesting, right?  Right.  Who knows?  Maybe they will show up.  But don’t hold your breath, my two readers of the comic strip.

Hence they are thankful for and celebrate the small mercies or the fringe benefits that come along with life. They just enjoy the conversation and occasionally wake up to savour the coffee and not just smell it.

To think, I don’t drink coffee at all, but I complain creatively….

Check out my strips, and download them for free, from this fab site.

Responses

  1. I never knew YOU were behind Fringe Benefits Cafe! That’s so cool! 😀

  2. Man, thank God you expanded your blog pages! I wish there were more fans of Fringe Benefits Cafe! Long live Amoz!!!

  3. your fan blogging drop by!!

  4. really dig your work, especially on Lee.

    i wish you could post more of your stuffs here. sure i can get my daily copy of philippine star, but most of the time, i just wanna read your stuff. (besides, i don’t think the online phil star keeps the comic section).

    keep it up man. god bless

  5. Hey! 🙂 Come visit my page on http://komiksdaily.blogspot.com You’re name and komiks are there! 🙂 See ya! 🙂

  6. Awesome. FBC is one of those things that give me the happies everytime I read the daily morning paper. Nice to meet you online!

  7. wow a kartunista!

  8. i can totally relate. thanks for coming up with fringe!Ü

  9. pls contact me as soon as possible.tel; 4043202 or cp#09285066900. . . rene aranda

  10. Fringe Benefits Cafe suck. It’s not funny. It’s not informative. The drawings are ugly. It’s the lamest comics ever created. It’s so dry and lifeless. I pity those who like it. The depressive characters who try to sound better than everyone else are so, sooo stupid. I wish you write down your real name Sic N’ Tyrd (even that pen name is shitty as the comics), so lots of people can tell it to your face what a no-talent loser you are. Gosh, do us all a favor by going to hell, man.

  11. dear good taste, you cannot please everybody. In your opinion, I may suck but I get paid doing it. How about you? Love lots….Sic N’ Tyrd

  12. Dear Good Taste,

    I salute you for making such a nasty comment. It takes guts to do that. More so, the truth of the matter is that you may not like the art, the characters or the content of Fringe Benefits Cafe — but the mere fact you even wasted several lines to comment upon it means you are affected by it. It is a known fact, even in Biblical Times — that people only speak up to something that has affected them. And if you think it is poor taste, then why be so affected by it?

    Isn’t that the whole point of Fringe Benefits Cafe — Life is Shitty. What more can you ask for? This isn’t Calvin and Hobbes, Good Taste. For an artist to write something so real that most people don’t talk about, I think that’s amazing.

    One of the things I hate about Philippine society is that most people can’t face reality. And when artists points out these things to us, we feel awkward that they have the guts to slap us on the face by the power of their art forms!

    I think that’s why you got affected by it.

    Also, why so bothered by the pen name? If the person chooses to use something that would protect one’s identity, then I think that’s a good thing.

    I guess I will end here saying that it was an unfair judgment that you gave about the comic strip. I congratulate you for being a reader. So what if there are only a few readers of the comic strip? Isn’t that the power of art? To transform and affect viewers and readers one person at a time? No matter how negative or pessimistic the comic strip may be, you got to laugh at it too because the characters can speak up to things that most people are even afraid to say out loud. Now that’s courage for you. So far, the only courage I see in you is that you can point at another person’s weaknesses in art forms.

    You know that statue of David done by Michaelangelo? Many artists gave up on that slab of marble because of the fragility of the marble. It just had too many cracks and air pockets. Only Michaelangelo saw a challenge and made it possible. In other words, people say it was ugly and can’t be done. Who knows, ten years down the road people will start praising Fringe Benefits Cafe for being avant-garde and ahead of its time for the Filipino society. So better watch out what you say…

  13. Hi! I’ve been reading your strip on The Philippine Star. It gives me and my sisters a good laugh especially during the time that Amoz is finding a hard time looking for the right pair of pants. hehe. A lot of people are relating to your strip. Keep it up! :))

  14. hi! i worship your site (uhh… too strong a word)… and your character development is really remarkable. for me, your quips rank up with Calvin & Hobbes, Ben, etc… so fresh and so fun and so sarcastic…

    Btw, i enjoyed your entries when you took a vacation to Negros… i see you enjoyed Calea very much! hahaha… too bad you missed out on their decadent chocolate ganache cake: ChocoPecan Cake…. let me know if you do come to Bacolod, i’ll treat you guys to dinner…

    p.s. you look like the Uva chef, Ferns Aracama…


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