Simply Moi Moi

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BACOLOD – One of the earliest memories of Moi Moi as a child growing up in one of the urban jungles of Bacolod was his father burning his collection of komiks.  

Why?  The usual.  Pop wasn’t pleased with kid’s academic performance.  Pop blamed it on, well, pop culture: computer games, movies, taksi, cartoons or — in the case of Moi Moi – good ol’ komiks.

“I used to have this really large collection of komiks that was this thick,” he gestures a height that is roughly a foot tall, as he recounts to DNX how he used to collect all of ‘em – from Funny (with dem Eyps and that kid who likes to eat chicken), to Horror (“I’m a huge fan of that genre!”), to Aliwan, to Horoscope, to Thriller.  In other words, the collection that features what would now be considered a lost art, a veritable stack of illustrated and artistic gold mine that any comic collector worth his/her salt would be happy to shell out the ducats for.

That, however, didn’t dampen Moi Moi’s love affair with sketches and scribbles and doodles which he started at five-years-old (or maybe younger).  In fact, that incident could have fanned the spark and pushed him to practicing his craft later in life.

MOI THE CARICATURE ARTIST

Moi Moi has done what others his age – he is really at the young side of 36 – would give their right arm and half their easel for, and that is be commissioned to make a caricature of the most powerful person in the land (or rather of this country).

The President of the Republic of the Philippines approves. The commissioned artworks of Moi Moi gets a seal of approval from the President himself. | Image courtesy of Moi Moi
The President of the Republic of the Philippines approves. The commissioned artworks of Moi Moi gets a seal of approval from the President himself.

“I feel so honored,” he responds when asked about the commissioned work on President Rodrigo Duterte, adding, “I feel so proud of myself, somehow, because the President likes my work.  So, ano pa na man (What more could you ask for?).”

Because that is what Moi Moi the Artist does best – sketch, draw, make caricatures.

For him, making a caricature is more than making a sketch, or say, a cartoon. The point of his caricature is incorporating an important aspect of his subject, whether it’s the subject’s profession, personality, passion, or fashion preferences.

In the case of the latest commissioned work with Digong, he wanted to capture the man not as President but as a father “as it was a belated Father’s Day gift”.  So he captured Duterte’s image as a tatay surrounded by his kids.

The President of the Republic of the Philippines approves. The commissioned artworks of Moi Moi gets a seal of approval from the President himself.
The President of the Republic of the Philippines approves. The commissioned artworks of Moi Moi gets a seal of approval from the President himself.

Anybody with at best a basic knowledge of caricatures would see that Moi Moi’s works hover between realism and the actual, true-to-form caricatures with all its exaggerated features and (sometimes) satirical bent.

“That’s how I want caricatures to be – because that’s the point of caricatures; they’re meant to exaggerate,” he shares.

However, he notes that THAT kind of purist style of the craft could not be applied, unfortunately, in the  Philippines, the natural habitat of catfishes, fading noses, and filtered-out pock marks.  

Nope. No sireee.

In fact, Moi Moi nearly got in trouble with one client who felt that her daughter was sketched in a rather unflattering way.  Well, to Moi Moi’s defense, the model pic needs a little clarity.

Broke the poor man’s heart, that negative feedback did (but of course!).  So what Moi Moi did was ask for 15 different photos as reference and re-did the portrait FREE OF CHARGE.  That did it, apparently.  That satisfied the client.  

Which is why Moi Moi has learned to adapt his style: it’s a fusion of realistic portraiture and caricature, and the artist we know as Moi has so far struck the perfect balance between the two.

MOI THE CARTOONIST

More than the caricature, though, Moi is slowly but surely making buzz because of his cartoons.  Looking at it his impressive collection – the clean strokes, the likeable main character patterned after the artist himself, the humor – it channels the spirit of modern memes, Gary Larson, and Pugad Baboy.  Think Larson minus the cynical humor, and the clean lines of early PM Jr. and you get the drift.

THE EDITORS' FAVORITE. A sketch of Anthony Bourdain is the favorite among all the artworks of the artist.
THE EDITORS’ FAVORITE. A sketch of Anthony Bourdain is the favorite among all the artworks of the artist.

Which is not surprising once you realize that he counts among his artistic inspiration PM Junior, Manix Abrera (Kikomachine), and of course, the Great Ely Santiago, arguably one of the biggest names in Philippine cartoons, and the inventor of Coffee Cats.

He recalls meeting Ely’s son, Lee, who gave him a mini heart attack with the declaration: “You remind me of my dad.”

To be compared to his one of his idols – whom he unfortunately wasn’t able to meet – by no less than the son was the cherry on top.

MOI THE HUMORIST

Let us be made clear: Moi Moi does NOT fit the starving artist stereotype:  the gaunt look, the tortured soul, the holes in the pockets, the long hair.

Well, except for the hair.  

For one, he is an undergraduate of Interior Design — what he lacks is the thesis, but he has gained credits for everything else (“I still practice that, but for friends and friends of friends.”). Even sans the degree, he has a potentially lucrative career in the area should he decide to retire his pencils.  He also admits to being spoiled by aunts and uncles, and his lolos and lolas dote on him. In fact, one of the unforgettable memories he had growing up in one of the subdivisions here in Bacolod are of him running and playing along the neighborhood streets with his fellow kids.

He grew up in a “loving household”: a father who influenced him in his taste in music and medium (“I grew up listening to AM. I still do!”), and a mother who nurtured his love for the art by buying him all sorts of materials like colored pens, and pencils.  He was weaned on the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (the grimmer ones, not the Disneyfied versions), and Aesop’s fables.

And that could have influenced his humor, and indeed, his art.

His humor is decidedly wholesome, which reflects on his cartoons which is a quirky amalgamation of memes, slice of life themes, and his known disdain for pretentious bloggers and “influencers”.

It’s observational humor at best, and he admits that he gets ideas his while listening in on convos he overhears in restaurants or coffee shops.  

Moi Moi’s sharp observational humor is apparent in his comic strips that some enthusiasts say hark back to the satire of a great Negrense cartoonist Ely Santiago.

There’s a real-ness to Moi Moi’s art, which reflects on the person.  He has no qualms about admitting his gender preference, for instance, and his weakness skills-wise (“I’m not a very good writer! I want that as a skill, but I don’t!”).  

He also seems to have a bad case of Imposter Syndrome.  You know that psychological condition afflicting really talented people, who despite the quality of their work, still feel inadequate? 

Moi Moi has that.  He can’t seem to see himself as “talented”; he has a nagging feeling that someone out there is more talented, deserves a bigger break.  

Moi Moi's sharp observational humor is apparent in his comic strips that some enthusiasts say hark back to the satire of a great Negrense cartoonist Ely Santiago. | Images  courtesy of Moi Moi.
Moi Moi’s sharp observational humor is apparent in his comic strips that some enthusiasts say hark back to the satire of a great Negrense cartoonist Ely Santiago.

And that is also the reason why he is scared of committing to have HIS own comics published, saying he does not want to put out “half-baked” work.

Still, DNX was honored that Moi Moi allowed us into a glimpse of his genius, his art, his humor.

At the end of the day, he muses, it is all about entertaining people, lightening their day, making them smile.

And that, for Moi Moi, is enough.

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