The pioneering publishing house that brought Bob Ong, Manix Abrera and “TRESE” to the mainstream Filipino reading audience will be ceasing its operations in 2021.
Visual Print Enterprises Inc.—better known as Visprint—announced the decision in a Facebook post last Jan. 13 after weeks of speculation. Visprint noted the retirement of two of its founders in 2021 as the reason behind the move. This marked the end of a remarkable publishing era.
The post went on to say that, while Visprint would no longer be releasing any new titles, the company would keep running to sell their existing stock until 2021. “We will be releasing our last four new titles, comics and lit, this year. The rest of the time will be spent finishing off remaining stocks,” Visprint publishing manager Nida Ramirez told the Inquirer. “A few of our regular best sellers will still be reprinted, titles with the fastest inventory turnover.”
“All authors will be released from their contracts as soon as their book stock is finished or by Jan. 1, 2021, whichever comes first,” she added. “They also have the option to terminate their contract anytime by buying out their remaining copies, which is an option stipulated in the agreement even from the start. We’ve always had an open contract with our authors, no exclusivity imposed. And they keep all their copyrights intact.”
Visprint did note they would still be attending events such as the Manila International Book Fair, Komiket and Komikon.
Visprint is best known as an independent publisher who pushed Filipino-language work in popular genres and Philippine comics into the mainstream. In 2015, Visprint was named Publisher of the Year at the 34th National Book Awards; it won four National Book Awards that year.
Visprint began life as a commercial press in 1984 in Recto, beginning publishing operations in Pasay City after Ramirez came on board as administrative manager in 1999. Ramirez was a big fan of an online writer with the pseudonym Bob Ong (not his real name). The first Bob Ong book, 2001’s “ABNKKBSNPLAko?!,” was also Visprint’s first title—and its first best seller, quickly racking up hundreds of thousands in sales. Ong has since published books regularly for Visprint, the latest being 2014’s “Si.”
The first Ong book, “ABNKKBSNPLAko?!,” received a big screen adaptation in 2014 with Jericho Rosales in the lead role. In 2016, another of Ong’s books, 2011’s “Lumayo Ka Nga sa Akin,” was also turned into a motion picture.
Visprint has been a champion of many other writers then, including Eros Atalia, whose 2009’s “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me,” was also adapted into a motion picture. Others include Edgar Calabia Samar, Eliza Victoria, Beverly Siy and Joselito delos Reyes.
While the vast majority of Visprint titles are in Filipino, the company has published in English. Last year, Visprint published “Twisted Travels: Rambles in Central Europe” by Jessica Zafra.
Visprint’s lasting impact can also be seen in its support of Filipino graphic fiction. One of its best-selling authors is Manix Abrera, whose “Kikomachine Komix!” strip from the Inquirer has been compiled into 14 graphic collections.
Visprint was also the publisher who published in collection form Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s “TRESE” series, which is set to become a Netflix Original Anime series.
‘Tabi Po,’ ‘Zsazsa’
Mervin Malonzo’s aswang saga “Tabi Po” was also first collected by Visprint. “Tabi Po” became a TV series on Cignal’s Sari-Sari Channel. That show was produced by Epik Studios, which is set to adapt Abrera’s “Kikomachine Komix” into live-action.
Carlo Vergara’s “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah” was another comic book series first published in collected form by Visprint. That property would become a movie and a popular stage musical.
Abrera, “TRESE,” “Tabi Po” and “Zsazsa” have all received National Book Awards and became best sellers.
Visprint is pushing its campaign #SaveFilipinoAuthors Komikeros, emphasizing the importance of supporting in any way as well as inserting into discussion Filipino writers, independent publishers and comic book creators.
“More than publishers, it should be the book creators who must be supported,” Ramirez said. “For every book, author or komikero that you promote and support, you are also supporting everyone who worked to bring that book into your hands.”
“Amazed, honored and very grateful,” Ramizrez said of how she felt about the response to the announcement. “We can never thank you enough, for supporting not only our books and authors, but for trusting us enough to read new/unfamiliar titles and authors that we recommend. May your love for books grow with you. And may you continue to support and love our writers, (comics artists), and local literature.”