Severino “Nonoy” Marcelo


Nonoy
(1940 - 2002)

The Philippines lost another great cartoonist this year. Severino “Nonoy” Marcelo, one of the country’s foremost cartoonists, died October 22 of complications from diabetes. He was 62.

His comic strips made Filipinos laugh back when the shadows of Martial Law cast a long shadow on the land till his death. Marcelo, whose strips have been carried by various publications, made people forget their problems and focus on the bigger social questions using wit and humor.

Marcelo, quite the precocious one, left elementary school for a year because he did not agree with the teacher’s view on Creationist Theory or how the world was made according to the Book of Genesis. At such a young age, he was more akin to believe the Darwinian Theory of Evolution and relied heavily on the merits of science. Yet, he did not pursue the sciences. As a student of Political Science at the Far Eastern University, Marcelo became a campus figure for his quirky comic character of the typical student named Ptyk. This stint caught the eyes of Anding Roces of Manila Times and the rest, as they is, history or in Nonoy’s case, major ink blots in Pinoy cartooning history.

Marcelo’s characters include Aling Otik, Tisoy, Blidit, and the character Nonoy will be most remembered for, the irreverent tailless mouse named Ikabod (shown on the left). In Time magazine’s September 12, 1988 cover story entitled “Mighty Pens,” Nonoy Marcelo was the only Asian cartoonist featured for his “oblique technique to criticize the repressive Marcos regime.” Despite occasional threats for his scathing commentaries, Marcelo still went on unabated. After the EDSA revolution, Nonoy went on to win the Catholic Mass Media Award for print journalism, a category usually given to reporters or columnists.

Dagalandia, where Ikabod stays, is an apt mirror image for the turbulent setting of the Philippines, then and now. From Marcos to Macapagal-Arroyo, Ikabod Bubwit (small rodent) still went on to burst the social tensions with punchlines and tirades of laughter. Cartooning proved to be popular for its sheer accessibility to the masses that once, Nonoy was told by a student that he understood the political situation more from his strips rather than reading the headlines. For his contributions, Marcelo earned the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Centennial Artist Award in 1998, the only cartoonist to do so.

His remains were cremated and put to final rest in his hometown, Malabon. Nonoy Marcelo is survived by his children Dario, Sarita, Ninay, Rajah, Jinoy and by the rolling laughter of the Filipino people.

Chong Ardivilla