Animation Council of the Philippines honors Zabala



The Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI) is honoring Jose Zabala Santos with a posthumous lifetime achievement award in this year’s 3rd Animahenasyon Pinoy Animation Festival, which is slated to run on November 25-28 at the Gateway Mall, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City.


Two years ago, the lifetime achievement award for animation was given to Larry Alcala. The main objective of this award is to recognize the pioneers of Philippine animation, and the underlying motive behind this is discovering our own animation identity.


What is truly an original Filipino animation? Little has been written about Philippine animation. In fact, the prospect of writing a comprehensive animation history of our country is still in its abstract stages. Most archival magazine and newspaper clippings published in 1930 down to 1970 would inform and reveal the names of Larry Alcala, Nonoy Marcelo and Jose Zabala Santos at the fore. These artists are respected names in the local cartoon & komiks industry.


“Their resounding achievements particularly in animation served as obvious choice for candidates on the first three years of Animahenasyon,” explains Ricky Orellana, Animahenasyon 2009 festival programmer.


“Zabala,” as he is best known in the industry, was the uncle of equally famous cartoonist Severino “Nonoy” Marcelo. He and Marcelo first collaborated on the latter’s full-length animation production titled “Tadhana” in 1978. According to a magazine interview that same year, Marcelo mentioned that his uncle Jose has been in the field of animation ever since he was 14, and it was his uncle who was Marcelo’s closest collaborator.


Zabala officially began his career in 1932 with Sampaguita magazine when then editor Amado Hernandez saw his potential. The pre-war period saw the introduction of characters and cartoons such as “Titina,” “Lukas Malakas,” “Sianong Sano” and “Popoy.” In 1935, he popularized Lukas Malakas in Liwayway magazine.


The war put his career in the back seat in 1941. A year later, he ventured into the advertising world with the Manalang advertising agency. He was part of its art department until 1948. Advertising introduced him to animation in which he most enjoyed. A year after Manalang, he joined Philippine Manufacturing Company (PMC). The notable “Juan Tamad” animation that he worked with Francisco Reyes in 1955 eventually immortalized Zabala. However, the six-minute pioneering animated short film for a PMC product shot in 35mm and processed in the U.S., is believed to have never had a commercial run.


Through the years, Zabala has been associated with such big names as Vicente Manansala, Tony Velasquez, Mauro Malang Santos, and Francisco Coching, among others. He was a recipient of numerous awards and honors such as the Komiks Operation Brotherhood or KOMOPEB Life Achievement Award and the 4th Gintong Parangal ng Malabon’s Gawad ng Katangian both in1984.


Zabala was born in Calumpit, Bulacan on July 20, 1911. He is known as “Mang Pepe” to his neighbors in Kuatro Kantos, Malabon where he grew up. His innate talent and drawing skills may have come from his mother who was into painting. Zabala decided to take up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. When he learned that there was no course in cartooning which was his primary interest, he decided to quit. To fulfill his dream, he enrolled instead in a U.S. correspondence course on cartooning, which gave him his diploma.


Zabala left the industry that he loved most at the age of 74 on September 7, 1985.


At present, there are no written guidelines for the Animahenasyon lifetime achievement award. “In order to institutionalize the proceedings,” Orellana continues, “the succeeding lifetime achievement awards after this would require nominations from any animation/film historians or advocates representing the local animation industry, the academe, and the independent animation and arts community. A process shall be created and the proponent would present to a committee some documents or a list of contributions and achievements of his/her nominee. This committee will then decide whom to bestow the next lifetime achievement award for animation in 2010 and the years to come.”

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