Will you read manga in Filipino?

It’s been a long dream of mine to see manga widely distributed in the Philippines. In fact, if people asked what I would do if I won the lottery, I will say that I will establish a manga publishing firm in the Philippines.

Not that I have issues in seeing manga in English (I’ve been thankful that this is available to me), but see, I’m a little envious that our Southeast Asian neighbors have easy access to manga.

Meeting people online as well as traveling to places has shown me how late the Philippines is in the manga game. Almost every major Southeast Asian nation has a manga industry. Ten years ago, I managed to go around the region thanks to my father and back then, localized manga from Thailand and Malaysia were thin tankoubon formats printed in newsprint. The Chinese editions were a little different, with paper closer to a thicker version of parchment.

In my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I took a shot in buying manga from a 7-11 store. It was the Malay version of Gokudou Twins and I cannot vouch for quality of the translations but I can share that the publishing quality is quite good. It even mimicks Japan’s double cover! The best part yet was it was sold for RM7, just a little over PHP 98, or $3.50.

Upon seeing that edition, I return to what I had reflected on about the five years that came and went since I started this blog. In it, I had high hopes that manga is on an upswing in the Philippines however, can it be as widespread as it is in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia?

The problem of audience

Just who would benefit from localized manga in the Philippines? Most kids would rather watch anime, but who will be reading the manga? Will it be the masses? The regular kids who play in the streets? Will it be the working class? Will it be the middle class? Maybe the elite?

It was my own personal failure to easily assume that not a lot of people in the Philippines read. It’s kinda true and kinda not true. In 2008, the the NSO conducted a FLEMMS survey, basically to see the nation’s position in literacy. Around 86% of the population is functional literate, meaning they can read and write for various purposes. In their 2003 survey, only an average of 41% of the population actually read printed material. That’s at least 2 out of 10 people in the Philippines. The rest turn to the television to do their reading.

If I think about the social classes, the upper middle class and the elite is none of my concern. These are the people who can buy manga off the shelves at its current prices. I do have friends who would read scanlations but eventually buy the title once it has been licensed. But I can only cite 2 who do. I can site 3 who buy the Japanese editions, and that’s including myself.

Based on my research, only 4.7% of scanlation readers do buy the manga in the Philippines. There are currently 30M internet users in the Philippines. If you put that against 1,710,000 Filipinos who visit a website like Mangafox.com, only 80,370 people will definitely buy the manga they read scanlated. And even then I can’t guarantee that they will buy since 1.2M people responded that they would occasionally buy it. Perhaps 2-3 volumes in a year or two. 19% of Mangafox readers (324,900 people) will definitely never buy the title. At least there’s an intention to buy, right? In my survey, and looking at website statistics, most of those who read from Mangafox and Onemanga are women ages 18-24.

Bookstores are well and alive in the Philippines and there are people who buy books. The most accessible bookstore to the masses, National Bookstore, has a limited selection of books but contains books for all kinds of needs, even public school text books.

I remember attending a book convention and listened in on a panel about romance novels. Apparently, romance novels is one of the top selling books in the Philippines that can sell as much as 5,000 copies or more. Priced at PHP 37/novel, these books are highly accessible and widely read by lots of women, primarily from the working class.

My staff in the office has one romance novel kept in her bag everyday and I see her swap and exchange notes  on these novellas with some other staff members in other offices. I was particularly amused with their interest that even I had my share of reading a romance novel and thought… well… it’s all right. If I’m not irked by the continuous code switching and the small grammatical errors, it’s actually a fun read. In fact, midway through the book, I just wanted to see how it ends!

This same staff saw me reading manga in the office once and asked if there’s an easier way to read them. By principle I told her that she can buy the comic at the bookstore across the school. The next day, she returned with a romance novel, telling me that the book was much too expensive that she’d rather buy 10 romance novels.

I found this exchange quite interesting because it made me wonder, can manga reach the same casual appeal as these romance novels? Can manga be localized in the Philippines in such a way that girls like my staff can reach for it with ease in the bookshelf and enjoy it?

The problem of language

The Philippines’ national language is Filipino. It’s actually Tagalog with a mix of words from other dialects. For me, I cannot exactly distinguish the blend of other dialects in my Filipino. I just speak how most people speak. And that’s really… a mix of Filipino with a splatter of English.

Last week, questions about publishing manga in Filipino surfaced in my life again as my friend and I were doing research on the local manga industry in the Philippines. I did say once that there’s manga in the Philippines as published by Jline Comics.  They print mostly Doraemon and currently they are at their 25th volume. What’s interesting is that this company of 3 have published this manga in Filipino, however, their Filipino is closer to a Visayan/Cebuano Street-level Filipino, thus some small grammatical errors in their text. However, it’s still pretty readable as a title. In fact, it’s a very fun title to read! The funny thing is despite its presence in bookstores, nobody’s bought it. Based on some people’s reactions when I asked over twitter, nobody has even heard that it existed.

I always have a couple of volumes in my room and when my nieces and nephews come to play, they will often reach for my Doraemon volumes more than they would my English titles (they said it’s because I had weird tastes. I told them not to touch my BL). The kids love it. Well, my nieces never really bought them but we had a guest once who ended up loving the book so much that I ended up giving it to her. Of course there must be a universal reason why kids love Doraemon, but this small experience gives me a glimpse of how having manga in Filipino can be nice.

But what kind of Filipino? I asked people in my timeline if they would buy manga in Filipino. They said they would but on certain conditions. For example, some would buy it only if it is in perfectly straight Tagalog.

I don’t mind reading that but I will confess that reading something in straight Tagalog can be a little vexing. Yes, people can speak in straight Tagalog but in everyday parlance, people interject borrowed English words that have become second nature to conversations. At times, people could also get lost in the vocabulary. More so, manga is not exactly high literature. As manga entail conversations, I personally believe it should be based on conversational Filipino. And that… is… quite… questionable.

Everyday parlance can be grammatically incorrect and often condoned for its codeswitching behavior. Taglish is seen as a deterioration of the language, and yet I speak this in front of people. Even my staff converses with me in Taglish. I’m surrounded by people who speak like this and at least until we’re out of high school, nobody really gives a damn if you mix in your Tagalog with your English. As long as people can understand you, it should be fine. But I understand that this language is in no way proper Filipino but this is one that many understand. This casual language is often used in many television dramas and even in translated anime.

I’ve taken the liberty of making a sample translations in order to understand the language. First up is a page from Ouran High School Host Club. Here’s the page in straight Filipino.

Here’s the more casual Filipino.

There are benefits in both but on a personal end, I’d rather read the more casual Filipino. For one, it’s an easier language and quite believable in terms of conversation. More so, there are some terms that really doesn’t have a perfect Filipino match. If you force the more grammatically correct language, it sounds horribly awkward and antiquated that no one can relate to it because no one talks like that.

Over at twitter, I was asking people if localizing tone is also appropriate. For example, Domyouji of Hanadan perfectly fits the profile of a rich spoiled brat that studies in a private school. A boy like Domyouji would probably speak in mixed Filipino, stressing his English more than his Filipino. I also did a translation of Hanadan and rather than slipping up on his English, I made Domyouji slip-up on his Tagalog as this would be more difficult for him. In that sense, readers who catch up on such misses will notice Domyouji’s difficulty and immediately know (beyond the obvious) that he’s quite a rich dumb guy.

I made a sample chapter of Hana Yori Dango in Filipino and showed it to a couple of friends and of course to my staff for reading. The reactions were mostly of amusement. For the translation, I played a bit with a more casual language. If I remember it, I’ll follow a stricter grammar. That said, despite the positive reactions from my test audience, they had mixed reactions about buying it. Some who were unfamiliar with the title would like to buy it. Others won’t and would possibly invest on an English edition rather than this tagalog version. Given a chance, they will still read it, but probably not buy it.

I did ask my staff as part of the general audience, and she was more than happy to see it in Filipino and wished that my sample chapter was taken from Sailormoon rather than HanaDan. My staff’s part of the romance novel demographic thus she has more grasp of what the working class girl would rather read. She said, in a heartbeat, she’d rather read her manga in tagalog, in the same casual language as this. I showed her the sample chapters of Ouran and even she found the straight tagalog to be far too deep that she’ll get bored with it. According to her, it’s more fun to see English mixed with Filipino as there’s a comedic beat to it. It’s “Kenkoy,” if I may quote her correctly.

So what do you think? Please give my horrible sample chapter of HanaDan and tell me what you think and feel about reading manga in Filipino.

Do you think, if a manga was sold in this kind of language, you will buy it off the shelves?

Link to sample HanaDan in Tagalog: http://goo.gl/QqQqz

34 thoughts on “Will you read manga in Filipino?”

  • I thought the same thing too it would be nice if there is a manga sites for Filipinos. I have a friend she’s turning 16 this year she’s an artist and she has many fans in deviantart. There are a lot of talented Filipino/Filipina, It’s such a waste if their talent didn’t recognize. Her manga is Glitch its a fan fiction of the youtuber Markiplier and Jacksepticeye.

  • Where is a good site to read Tagalog comic or manga? Either Filipino original graphic novel or Tagalog translation? I tried searching it up and found nothing.

  • I know this comment is too late. Hehe. But reading your article is so much of an eye opener to me. You and I had the same dilemma.. that “dream industry” for the country. But unlike you who dug deeper in researches, I came about these questions and just observed. Poor me. wahhhaha

    In theory, I think its not impossible to actually do it here. I guess the reason why japanese manga with filipino subtitles looked awkwardly amusing is because their storytelling approach is strongly grounded on their culture. That’s how japanese talk to each other. That’s how they process ideas. That’s how they react. I’ve seen the difference with Manhwa (Korean manga) and no matter how similar they look, their differences in terms of conflicts, environment and characters are way too obvious for me. And I am sure that I won’t commit a mistake if ever I’d be ask whether a material is manga or manhwa.

    The stats you presented regarding the readership in the Philippines is well… really bothering. But your facts gave me insight. If people here are much more into TV, I think one avenue for our “dream industry” to penetrate the Philippines is to start with the channel that filipinos love the most–video.

    And since national TV is expensive, thanks to the booming tech industry, the idea of considering social media as a starting stage for a “Filipino Manga” isn’t scary… or should I say.. Filipino Anime?

    There were a lot of times I started reading a manga right after I watched its ongoing Anime. And Oh boy, I really followed this flow ever since.

    I’ve already worked with VFX, Marketing, Comm and Fine Arts, but I still hold this same dream of yours in my heart.

    • Hey! Thanks for your reply! A comment is never too late. It’s a matter of me reply too late as I’ve been quite busy.

      Well, the “dream” industry is slowly happening, isn’t it? Now, you have publishers like PSICOM who are distributing tagalog translated manga in the Philippines. I have not read the translations. Have you? Are they good?

      As for penetrating video, I think Hero must be doing a fairly good job to provide Anime to Filipinos. In fact, I think the fact that anime has been widely available in local TV is quite helpful. Of course, with the dirge of Korean dramas on local TV and anime shown at a time when kids are actually in school, general interest in anime may be a lot smaller than before. I remember back then that I’d have trouble picking which channel to watch from 4:30 to 6 because all the major channels were showing interesting anime shows at the same time. I feel sad that the We are Anime block has also disappeared. Or is it still around? I have not noticed.

      Manga and anime do compliment each other and I think foreign localisers should take advantage of that. However, given that Japan’s own content industry is shifting media mixing away from original manga, I do wonder if that is still a feasible model.

    • “. I guess the reason why japanese manga with filipino subtitles looked awkwardly amusing is because their storytelling approach is strongly grounded on their culture. ”
      Maybe but if that were the case why would an English translation be more justified? Wouldn’t a Spanish translation also not work? They do. I wonder if it’s because of the dominance of English over all languages there that makes seeing Taglog in some arenas seem too colloquial?

      Now imagine US comics in Tagalog, Spider-man anyone?

  • Wow! A big kudos to the sample translations you made. I think they’re pretty awesome!
    And I’m quite embarrassed to admit this… but this made me realize that yes, reading manga in Filipino/Tagalog can be quite fun. To be honest, with all the pocketbooks for young adults being published in the Philippines these days, which are mostly in Taglish, I kind of thought I’d rather read my manga in straight English. I just couldn’t imagine the characters in the manga speaking in Taglish just like in those pocketbooks. (They’re just terrible and reminded me of the irritating joke “Manong, can you make tusok-tusok the fishball?” :< ) However, after reading your sample translations, I think you've made a really good point. It is also rather awkward if everything is in straight (and proper) Tagalog. It gave off a text-book-ish feeling IMHO. XD

    But this actually made me remember of Culture Crash comics. Since they closed shop years ago, I'm not sure if a lot of people still know of them. I think their comics are also in Taglish but not too much that it sounds too awkward already. Perhaps if the translations would be like that, more people would like it.

    TBH if ever they do publish mangas in Filipino, I just wish they can distribute them at a lower price because buying them from US publishers (while the price has already been lowered) still has a tendency to burn a hole in my pocket. Why is this hobby so expensive?! ;____;

  • Cebuano isn’t a street-level dialect. For your information my dear elitist, Cebuano is the official language in Cebu while Bisaya is the dialect used by the street people.

    • STUPID! bisaya is not a dialect used by street people it’s the dialect of butuanons if i were to say that cebuano is a street dialect would you get mad and disturbed? it’s the same for us that we have the right to say what is correct and what is not -_- I’m not really good in English but please do understand

  • Sa kung anong dahilan, ang mga nabasa kong komento sa ibaba (‘di lahat), ay parang nagpapakita na may pagaka “kulang” sa pagbasa ng wika natin… Ibig sabihin… Dapat ayusin ng gobyerno ang ating tagalog class, puro ingles ang ginagamit na lang eh!!! Nasa’n ang pambansang pagmamahal? At oo nga pala, mapapangit iyung audio at voice actors ng mga anime noon, grabe nainis nga ako eh, kulang sa skills ng pagpili ng mga tamang tao.. at least ngayon, may pagka-improvement… Pero oo, mas babasahin ko iyung mga tagalog kaysa sa ingles o taglish na ‘yan…

  • I had goosebumps while reading your translation of Ouran High School Host Club in Filipino. Sa kasamaang palad, mas gusto ko siyang basahin sa English kesa sa Filipino…

  • Mmm.. I don’t think so. It’s sounds like ridiculous, you know.. better not translate it in Filipino. I love our language but still, if the other words in English will translate in Filipino, it is not good to hear/read.

  • maybe but i want to see the transformation of philippine komiks into a form of japanese manga with filipino dialog… that would be interesting if i say, anime form of darna… so interesting

  • A manga in Filipino~ hmnn… Maybe? I’m just probably used to reading English scans/manga so that’s why my mind is rejecting it. I definitely WOULD NOT read anything that’s pure Tagalog (I know sounds harsh). Pure Tagalog = Noli, El Fili high school days /dies

    Manga is written in conversational Japanese right?

    I think it would still be successful though. A story in pictures is much easier and enjoyable to read than blocks of text. I think if they want to sell it to the masses though, it shouldn’t just be available in bookstores but in more accessible places like convenience stores & magazine stands.

    I love your blog!!! *clicks subscribe* (^-^)//

  •  I remember buying funny comics when I was 5 years old (combatron, tinaypinay, eklok, tomas and kulas, etc.). It’s in tagalog. It’s cheap (15-20 pesos back then) and updates weekly.

    If you ask me, I would rather read a manga in english. I’m used to it and find some tagalog much more complicated than an english one (tagalog nosebleed as someone can describe it). I don’t know why, but I see localized version of the text a little bit hilarious. Maybe because the idea is very fresh for me. It’s better if you make funny comics. I currently miss it.. It has been a long time since I’ve read one.

  • Yes, I would still buy. I enjoy reading manga a lot. I like Doraemon very much too, and I can relate better to the Filipino comics than the English ones. I have lots of Filipino Doraemon manga. xD I buy them in bookstores here in the Philippines. They’re quite cheap and very entertaining. So if or example, they would release a Filipino version of, say, Gakuen Alice, I would definitely buy! I don’t like straight Tagalog too much though. Tagalog with a dash of English makes the manga light-hearted and not easier to read.

    I think the English manga here are quite affordable. I buy mostly from Booksale,  one manga per month. Or sometimes, when I reaaally like the volumes, I immediately buy them so I won’t be left hanging. For me, one very big problem when it comes to buying manga here is the availability of the volumes. Like one of my favorite manga, Zodiac P.I. I have volume 1, 3, and 4 but I couldn’t find volume 2 anywhere! So I was forced to just read the scanlation online. It wasn’t as fun as having a real book in my hands though. :p

    As for your HanaDan in Tagalog… it’s pretty good! Not too formal, which is pretty nice. Haha, I can easily relate to it well because of the language. xD If only we could have real manga like that. I really like reading manga in the English language, but I think I still like Tagalog better. Specifically in Doraemon. x))

    • Thanks Roan for your encouragement! 

      And yes! I’m actually going to do a feature of Booksale soon on their cheap manga! I buy some English manga there, if there’s a title that I chance upon and like a lot! I think I bought Planetes, Moyashimon, and a sprinkle of other manga. I’m think of getting ES soon after hearing that it’s a really good manga. 

      You can also try going to Komikon which is coming soon. There’s a store there that sells manga for PHP100! 

      • Your welcome! 😀

        Haha, yes, I buy manga there all the time. But recently I’ve been buying some manga from NBS. They sell Tokyopop manga there for only P69.00! Really awesome if you ask me. Although they only have very few stocks, at least there are still cheaper manga I can buy there. Heehee~!

        Hm, I have never gone there before. Maybe I should try coming this year. xD Thanks for the information. 🙂

  • Based on my observations and personal experience- 

    When I was younger internet is not popular among the countryside. Only few people know how to use it. So most of the people there watch television for their entertainment. That’s how I got hook in anime. The problem is that some tv network here in the Philippines doesn’t give much attention to anime. So when  I first learned how to use
    the internet in 2007, I started watching online. After 2 years of exploration in anime world, yeah it took me 2 years to discover that manga exist. At first I don’t like it especially reading shounen manga. “How am I supposed to understand this fighting scenes?”, I always said that but I didn’t give up since reading manga has it own advantages. After years of reading I came to like it and it became my hobby. Now I’m saying that anime is a rip off of manga hehe… Then I found out that this kind of situation is the same as other kids here in the Philippines, I wonder why.Well why did I wondered? Normally in Japan kids there are exposed first in manga than anime. Some kids there grab a pen at six, starts to draw and dream to be a mangaka someday. I thought that my otaku friends  would be like that but I was wrong. Then I came up with 2 conclusions. First, the manga influence here is weak. Second, when they heard manga they compared it to Philippine comics like Darna, Capt. Barbell and other stuffs like that. My reaction to the second theory was,”What??? Manga is way more interesting than komiks!!!”. I raged a little bit so I was hyped up when you thought of establishing a manga publishing house. I hope it will come true ^_^.

    Buying a manga…
    Buying a manga is a big problem for me. There’s no problem when it comes to money since my allowance is kinda too much for me but the real hustle is asking my parents to lend me their credit card. So I really hoped that someday a great publisher will license my fave mangas. 

    As for the language…
    I have some Filipino Mangaka cyber Friends. Their manga are sold nationwide. I’ve read some of them and the language they are using is english or balbal like punchlines and pausong salita.

    So that’s it. Whew… 

  • I’m sure most people here are able to talk freely and fluently (very) in Filipino but have trouble reading them. It was kind of painful reading the tagalog translations you posted above (even the casual translations) because Filipino manga readers are just really used reading licensed or scanlated titles. 

    Siguro yung mga nagbabalak na magrelease ng Filipino translations iniisip na hindi na nila kailangan makipagsabayan sa Viz, etc. Dehado kasi talaga sila, mas madaling basahin yung english, lalo na sa mga manga enthusiasts (ang market at target audience) na aminin na natin, mostly middle-class. Yung may kayang bumili, baka hindi naman bilhin, kasi there are better options. Hindi pang mahirap ang hobby na to e, diba? Pero may potential na market sa lower class yung mas sikat na titles tulad ng Naruto, Sailormoon, ganyan. 
    Taglish titles? Go ako dyan. I still have no clear position on the whole formalist idea of Filipino, purity of the language blah blah, so I can’t speak as articulately as possible but if I had to choose between ‘proper’ Filipino over Taglish, then of course Taglish. To reach more readers, of course we have to use their language. 

    Saka sa tingin ko mas bebenta kung pa-magazine kesa tankobouns ang serialization, at kung newsprint siguro ung paper. Okay lang icompromise yung quality para mabili. Yung story naman ang hinahanap. Think song books (?), a lot of people buy them for chords and lyrics for songs, even though they could actually just google them. It’s very popular especially for the working class. Also those horror story anthologies, they’re printed in magazine format with a number of short stories per issue. The paper is low quality and an issue maybe sells for 50Php-100Php. If there could be something like that. 

    Personally, I would buy Filipino titles if they are actually titles that I love. Fat chance naman na magrelease ng Ikuemi Ryou or Akiko Higashimura or Iketani Rikako titles dito diba? XD 

    Sorry ang haba nito, hindi pa coherent!

    • This is also the first time I came across your blog (actually the second, I was looking for Akiko Higashimura raws when I came upon your blog for the first time… I can’t remember)! You have the coolest blog and I definitely would be coming back from time to time.  

      • Thank you for your kind words, amatsu! And I look forward to conversing with you in the website! 

        That’s quite interesting and that assumption is half-correct in a sense that most Filipinos who access anime and manga online would have definitely read manga in English and is kind of used to it that way. I think it also stems from the fact that a good number of upper middle-class youth are actually well-versed in English as well because of school. 
        Magazines are a good options. That’s how comics used to be distributed here as well. But there is a “death” of sorts in that format and people are currently looking for something more cohesive. A couple of people have expressed the need of continuity rather than parcels. I heard, as long as it’s below or at 50 pesos, people may consider buying it. 

        You’re actually the first person to tell me your own personal difficulty in reading tagalog. Not to isolate you, but doing that as a trial page, even I had problems wondering if it reads all right because I too found it odd to read it in tagalog. Even for me, typing in tagalog can be quite taxing, yeah? 

        I do wonder if it’s a matter of getting used to it? I find it weird sometimes to read something in English after having read it in Japanese because the tone changes a lot. If I read it in English first, it’s also problematic when I read it in Japanese. 

        At most I’d like to think that whoever has this idea if bringing manga to the Philippines will be able to distribute to all markets. If manga becomes an avenue to rid social differences and stratifications and make entertainment consumed by everyone without judgement, wouldn’t that be great? 

  • Even though I converse more in Tagalog (the street/casual type that mixes Tagalong with English), I have a hard time reading it. I have friends who write Tagalog romance but sometimes I have trouble reading their work if they use deep Tagalog words. They do use a mix of that and English, making it more readable. If manga would be reprinted here with casual Tagalo, I’d be more than happy to collect them, especially if it’s going to be a lot more affordable than the English translated ones being sold here.

    • Yeah, printing it into pure tagalog is really out of the question, given that not a lot of people can really understand it. I honestly suffer the same problem as you and I really just tend to grasp some deeper tagalog after hearing it from some old folk. 

      That said, affordability is an issue. Hopefully the prices will be down. According to my staff, she’d buy the manga if it’s 50 bucks. 

  • I read scanlations and buy the ones I like once they’re licensed. Sadly, not all of the ones I follow are ever licensed. In the photo I’ve attached, you can see the original manga versions of Hana Kimi and Hanadan, which I bought because at that time (around 2003-2004), licensed English titles weren’t widely available locally. I guess I’m the kind of reader who would get any version of her her favorite titles. If you tell me there can be a licensed Tagalog version of Yuki Yoshihara’s Haa Haa in a couple of months, I’ll be sure to buy that! 😛 I prefer casual Tagalog/Taglish over straight though.

    • OMG! That’s just crazy! XDDD I can’t promise Haa Haa Haa… sabi doon sa article on Romance Novels, bawal daw immoral actions! XDD 

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