“Sana sa bawat paglipat mo ng pahina ay madama mo din ang mga emosyon na nadama ko noon. [I hope that every time you turn a page, you’ll also feel the emotions I felt during that time.]”
Ardie Aquino ended the blurb at the back of his latest release, Balik Tanaw, with this line. A low-key warning that the reader was in for an emotional roller coaster ride.
Conceptualized in 2019, the book contains six mini-stories – five redrawn versions of komiks Ardie created back in 2015, plus a new one which shares the same title as the book.
Contrary to the book’s colorful cover, the book actually gets serious and dark pretty quickly. Aside from it being his personal favorite, Ardie started off with Burn Baby Burn to prepare the readers for what lies ahead. “Pero yun na yung pinakamabigat. Para maghilamos ng lang sa ibang istorya. [But that was the heaviest. The reader can rinse it off with the other stories.],” Ardie adds.
Without spoiling what happens, it is worth noting that this first story deserves a trigger warning. The book has a table of contents to guide the reader to the start of the other stories if needed.
Following Burn Baby Burn is the relative light Ang Roommate Kong Aswang, which, according to Ardie, was inspired by an actual roommate of his. The mood shift here was excellently done and this story has some of the book’s most memorable scenes.
Things then become nostalgic with Sinigang: Kwento Ng Lumbay. Aside from the story being more relatable, the paneling on this one was also well thought of, especially in the pages where the past and the present intertwined.
The fourth story, Extra Rice with Extra Tries continues the somber mood, albeit in a more metaphorical sense. This seamlessly transitioned to the new story, Balik Tanaw, a thought provoking silent comic except for some “sound effects”.
Ardie ends the book Hipon Sa Hapon. Another silent comic which plays around with different perspectives. This one leaves a lasting impression – a perfect way to end this journey.
The emotions Ardie was feeling when he wrote these in 2015 are evident in the stories. He admitted that he was going through some things that year, a quarter-life crisis of sorts, and making these komiks became his escape.
A komiks creator since 2012, Ardie has gone from making ashcan comics (in a variety of sizes) to releasing his first book. He knew he was going to self-publish Balik Tanaw; what he did not initially plan for was crowdfunding the printing cost via pre-orders. Things still worked out well with the support of his friends and workmates who not only pre-ordered a copy of the book but also helped spread the word out.
When the book launched in August 2020, the biggest challenge Ardie faced was the logistics of shipping the books out. The neighborhood LBC branch was just a couple of minutes away from where he lived, but the lines have been notoriously long during the pandemic. The first time he went there, eleven books to be shipped in hand, he arrived at 4:30 AM and someone else was already in line ahead of him. That meant waiting in line for more than three hours until the branch opened at 8:00 AM.
A positive thing about the waiting time is that he also had the opportunity to tell others in line about the book. There was even a time when he had to rush back home to get an extra copy because the person beside him in line wanted to buy one.
Ardie has since added bundles for book, giving buyers the option of getting it with a Random Comics! Oh Yeah! ashcan, and/or facemasks he designed.
Ardie’s more regular Random Comics! is on hiatus during the pandemic. “Mahirap magpatawa dahil alam mo yung sitwasyon [It’s hard to make people laugh because you’re aware of the situation],” Ardie explains. This however gave him time to work on his other projects.
He is currently redrawing School Run, a collaboration with title’s creator Macoy. Initially released in 2010, the series is set in a world where zombie outbreaks are as normal as typhoons, complete with Signal numbers classifications!
Another project he is working on is titled Isang Taon Sa Isang Buwan. This one has anthropomorphic characters working in an advertising agency, with the protagonist needing to squeeze a year’s worth of experience into one month. “Kasi [Because]… Secret,” Ardie teases with a cliffhanger.
A third project, Doom Burger, has Easter Eggs scattered in the background of several stories in Balik Tanaw, a subtle indication that Ardie’s komiks are in the same universe. This one will be about a rock band.
“Dadalhin kayo ni Ardie Aquino sa isang magic carpet ride of emotions and stories na tanging si Ardie Aquino lang ang makakakagawa [Ardie Aquino will bring you in a magic carpet ride of emotions and stories that only he can do],” fellow komik creator Toto Madayag writes in Balik Tanaw’s foreword, an apt description of the kind of journey awaiting the reader.
***Balik Tanaw currently sells for 300 PHP plus applicable shipping fee. Check out the different bundles at Ardie’s Facebook (@Chikidude). More of Ardie’s work can be found at his website (ardieaquino.com), on Instagram (@chikidoodledoo), and on Youtube (Chiki Doodledoo).
// by Francis Abad