Mildred German (left), Czarinna Tabobo, and Levi Bustos of the zine group table called “FOB” (Filipinx of Bandcouber). (Photo provided)

Updated: Sept. 23, 2019, 10:11 PM

Vancouver, B.C.

Filipino-Canadians take on comedy, self-expression, self-publishing, and the DIY culture

Mildred German

Vancouver, BC – With comedy, zine, and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture becoming more trendy, and with many mediums to DIY and topics or personal stories to self-publish, Filipino-Canadian artists participated in the 2nd Annual Unibrow Arts Festival  (August 22-25, 2019), and brought Philippine-inspired zines, artworks, and performances to the audience and zine lovers. Unibrow Arts Festival is Vancouver’s first comedy and zine fest, and were held at many different venues in the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil- Waututh) Nations.

Filipino-Canadian comedian Tin Lorica, from Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines, was one of the curators of this year’s Unibrow Arts Festival.  Lorica, who was on tour with Rae Spoon and Kimmortal earlier this month, also organises the Millennial Line, which is a monthly comedy and poetry show that happens every third Thursday of the month at the Red Gate Arts Society venue.  A show that features diverse and queer-forward lineups of Vancouver’s emerging and established poets and stand-up comedians, Millenial Line has become one of the regular comedy events in Vancouver.  According to the Millennial Line’s Facebook Page, “Millennial Line is not affiliated with Translink”. Good to know!

Tin Lorica at Red Gate Art Society. ( Facebook photo)

As Millennial Line was one of the highlight events of this year’s Unibrow Arts Festival, it also featured Ivy Ruthless, a spoken word artist and an international student from the University of Santo Tomas, Philippines, and currently attending Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Ivy has participated in many spoken word and poetry events, including the Filipinx Poetry Night event in April 2019 at KPU Surrey Campus.  For the 2019 Unibrow Arts Festival, Ivy read some of her poems from her newly self-published chapbook called “Tahanan” (Home). “Tahanan” is now available at Spartacus Books (spartacusbooks.net) located at 3378 Findlay St, at East Vancouver’s Commercial Drive Area.

Ivy Ruthless’ ‘Tahanan’ (Photo-Mildred German)

Filipino-Canadian zinesters and artists Levi Bustos, Czarinna Tabobo, and Mildred German of the zine group table called “FOB” (Filipinx of Bandcouber) also participated in the Unibrow Arts Festival 2019. A group of 1st Generation Filipino-Canadians, FOB showcased artworks from zines, ceramics, woven products, jewelry and accessories on August 25, 2019 at the Unibrow Arts Festival’s Public Zine Market. The anticipated Public Zine Market took place at the Anti-Social Social Club Skateboard Shop at Main and East 8th in East Vancouver. This event was also part of the Vancouver Art Book Fair, which is an annual international event since 2012 showcasing local and international authors, book artists, and publishers.

Hangganan (Border) by Lee Bustos (Provided)

Bustos, who studied Fashion Arts in the past, brought DIY Philippine-themed jewelry and accessories for the Unibrow Arts Festival. He also showcased his collaborative zine project with Tyler Scott called, These Bodies Between Us, featuring Hangganan (Border).  According to Bustos, Hangganan (border) “is about transition, words, crisis, family, loss, found, new, love, hidden, open, closed.” 

Visual artist Tabobo brought her zine creations, ranging from topics on pizza and racism which have been published in California, USA.  Tabobo is also a peer navigator and an art mentor with a community-based art therapy group, and an eager weaver.

Zines by German. (Provided)

German is a multi-disciplinary artist who showcased her creations from zines, stickers, cards, and ceramics at this year’s Unibrow Arts Festival. As a zinester, German creates zines with English and Pilipino to preserve her mother tongue and teach the Philippine language to fellow Filipinos in the diaspora. Her work can be found on her DIY website: http://www.mildredgracegerman.wixsite.com/website

Dollar Slice by Czarinna Tabobo. (Photo by Mildred German)

Half-Filipino Serisa Fitz-James who also participated at the Unibrow Public Zine Market 2019, started zine-making as a young kid. When asked what is the inspiration for making zines, Fitz-James answered, “A lot of it is just inspired by play and fun, a lot of colours.  In a lot of my art I use a lot of colours and humorous kind of drawing.”

Zinester Serisa Fitz-James. Photo by Mildred German.

“Love-of-comics” culture 

Interests on comedy self-expressions, self-publishing, and the DIY culture by the Filipinos in Canada also trace back to the “love-of-comics” culture in the Philippines. Filipinos are known to be avid readers, with comic books, pocket books, and chapbooks become very common and accessible. In fact, many convenience stores in the Philippines rent or lease comic books and pocket books as an additional income. For many Filipinos, reading comics and daily periodicals is one of the regular past times. 

Chapbooks and zines have been gaining popularity in the mainstream culture that the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) Central Branch has a special section for self-publications, DIY zines, and chapbooks.  In the VPL record, the first Filipino zine/chapbook is a compilation of writings of 1st and 2nd generation Filipino youth members of Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada (UKPC) BC / the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance of BC with the publication of “Mga Tinig / Voices”.  Published by the VPL and Canada Council for the Arts in 2007, “Mga Tinig/Voices” was a collaborative project by UKPC/FCYA with award-winning Japanese-Canadian author Hiromi Goto, then VPL’s Writer-in-Residence in 2007/2008.