There is a prevailing belief that there is no exact English translation for the Filipino word “kilig.” No one word quite captures it. It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016 as the exhilaration, thrill or elation caused by an exciting or romantic experience. It can either be your own or vicarious, alone or shared.
It could also be a book. Or a comic book. Or both.
That’s because it is the working title of a collaboration between two creative communities. The first, #RomanceClass, writes and reads delectable romances in English. The other, Komiket, is the leading independent Filipino comic—yes, komiks—incubator. Both communities hold events and are massively productive, so maybe it was inevitable they would wind up together, so to speak.
It was a meeting of the minds between #RomanceClass founder Mina V. Esguerra and Komiket president Paolo Herras.
“We were part of Komiket in 2016, and though we eventually started our own events and sold our books there, as readers and buyers, #RomanceClass did keep going back to succeeding Komikets to support local artists,” Esguerra says. “One of those times, I ran into Paolo Herras and we talked about #RomanceClass possibly being part of their anthologies, or creating an all-romance comics anthology. In 2021 it became much easier to set a quick meeting on Zoom and put it all together, rather than have to be reminded when running into each other while busy at an event.”
“Mina and I have always been bumping into each other, and we always say that our communities should collaborate,” Herras says. “Now, we’re finally doing it!”
Both #RomanceClass and Komiket are constantly looking for the perfect partner to grow their reach. Komiket runs the annual Philippine International Comics Festival (Picof). “We asked Mina to teach a master class in romance writing last Picof2021, to see if there is any interest. The response was great.”
It was also a natural fit. “#RomanceClass and Komiket have similar journeys, and very similar values—we’ve both survived and thrived because of our community spirit, and Mina is an awesome community leader,” Herras says.
It’s yet another chance to do something relatively new for both communities. “Prior to this, we only had a few romance comics available, so it’s mostly uncharted territory,” he explains.
Esguerra and Herras opened up the registration for interested writers and illustrators, including illustrators who write, or existing writer-illustrator partners. They also held a speed pitching session where writers pitched their concepts, and illustrators shared their portfolios within five minutes—like speed dating or matchmaking, take your pick.
“I’m super interested in this process because most of us writers usually write entire manuscripts by ourselves and then get feedback and editors involved later,” Esguerra says. “Here they’ll be working together practically every step of the way.”
“Everyone emails the organizer the partner they want to collaborate with,” Herras says. “For all collaborations, the writer and illustrator co-own the romance comics they create.”
Yes, it’s an anthology called “Kilig.” “But Mina and I haven’t put much thought into the title yet,” Herras notes. “Everything else about it is still flexible at this point,” Esguerra seconds.
The creators have to finish their eight-to-24-page comics by July 1 so they can launch the anthology at Picof2022 this September.
And if the first date goes well, you can go on a second one, right? “If we have a lot of great entries, and if the readers love the book, we can have a second volume out by February 2023,” Herras says.
Herras says things have been going very well: “The writers and illustrators are all fired up. We’re just the lucky ones to get to see them create.”
Among the #RomanceClass writers involved are Tara Frejas, Carla de Guzman, H. Bentham, Suzette de Borja and Danice Mae P. Sison. “We’re also working with people who are new to romance writing and I’m excited to see all of it,” Esguerra says.
Interestingly enough, Herras says there are actual couples among the komiks creators: “We have real-life sweethearts Criselda Santos and Milo Galang working on a comic book together. There are fan favorites such as Marianie, Hench Dulin, Alexandra Sevilla and Cy Vendivil.” Like Esguerra, Herras says some first-time komiks creators have been discovered along the way.
With “Kilig” just underway, the biggest challenge is simply getting everything done. Esguerra says, “So far it’s been scheduling—just making sure that people have enough time to do what they need to do, knowing that some are working on this while in school, or working, or taking care of themselves or their families, or not having reliable power because of a typhoon.”
Herras looks at “Kilig” as “another opportunity to grow more romance komiks, and Komiket would love to publish a full-length romance graphic novel!”
Esguerra sees it a little differently: “In the case of romance komiks, I don’t think we’re starting anything new. After seeing everyone talk about their ideas and their previous work in romance novels/komiks/fan fic/web toons, what I hope is that we’re finding people who believe in the same thing—that the romance we publish can be empowering and affirming especially now—and give them a chance to reach a new audience.”
There was a time when the weekly komiks industry was alive and kicking, and serials included love stories, before that industry completely died out.
“Yes we did, and we also had action, bomba and fantasy, and many great work,” Herras explains. “But komiks during that time was published under different circumstances. And most creators didn’t pass on their knowledge to the next generation of creators. Which is why komiks today is mostly created by self-learned creators. I think ‘Kilig’ is more of rediscovering romance komiks told in our own way, and in our time, than it is an effect or connected with that period.”
“Kilig” then represents the best chance for two passionate creative communities to find one way of going steady.
“I hope readers discover a new author to love,” Esguerra says. “We have amazing Filipino authors writing romance. I hope fellow authors and creatives get to see that we can create romance fiction and still contribute to causes that matter to us. The art we make that gets us through a tough time can help people beyond the author and the reader.”
Herras concludes by saying, “We want readers to discover that we have good storytellers here, and we deserve more support to read more komiks, more romance novels, more romance komiks.”