Arts & Entertainment

End of An Era: Visprint, Home of Bob Ong and Manix Abrera, is Closing

Here are the books you must buy now.
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News that local publishing house Visprint Inc., the home of Bob Ong and Manix Abrera books, among many others, is closing down made the rounds on Facebook last week. 

On January 14, the company confirmed the news in a statement released on its Facebook page.

"May katotohanan ang balitang napipintong pamamahinga ng Visprint sa darating na 2021. Kasabay ito ng pagreretiro ng mga haligi ng kompanya matapos ang marami at mabungang mga taon ng buong-puso nilang pagsisilbi rito," the statement read.

[There is truth in the news that Visprint is closing down in 2021. This comes with the retirement of the pillars of the company after several fruitful years of heartfelt service.]

The company said it will no longer be publishing any new titles. However, it will continue selling the books it's published over the last two decades, while supplies last. 

With its closing, the company is also calling on all of its patrons and readers to continue to support independent publishing companies, but most especially local authors and comic artists. 

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"Pangalagaan at pahalagahan natin ang bagong henerasyon ng mga alagad ng sining sa larangang ito—ang mga manunulat at komikero. Hindi na sapat na basahin lang sila, mahalagang maging katuwang din tayo sa pagpapalaganap ng kamalayan tungkol sa kanila at kanilang mga akda," the company added. 

[Let us take care and give value to the new generation of artists of this craft—the writers and comic artists. It is not enough to just read their works, it is important that we become their allies in raising awareness on the work that they do.]

The now popular home of contemporary and award-winning Filipino writers started as a printing house in 1985 and was known as Visual Print Enterprises. In 2001, it forayed into independent publishing with the book ABNKKBSNPLAKo?!, the autobiography of the then-unknown Bob Ong. The company’s gamble into this new territory proved to be worth it as the book was a massive hit and introduced the humorist to a much wider audience.

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By 2009, Visual Print Enterprises renamed its company and was incorporated as Visprint, publishing more than 100 books in the process. Besides the books of Bob Ong, the company has also published some of the most well-known books by Filipino authors in recent memory.

As of this writing, the 38 Visprint books on social networking and book recommendations site Goodreads have earned 89,822 ratings or reviews.

Here are some of the most celebrated titles Visprint has published in its almost two-decade run:

ABNKKBSNPLAKo?! By Bob Ong

Love it or hate it, ABNKKBSNPLAKo?! brought Filipino literature closer to the Filipino reader with its colloquial and colorful account of a boy’s typical school life. When the book came out in 2001, it not only attracted adult readers, but also kids and young adults, helping usher in a wave of local titles into the consciousness of book-loving Filipinos. 

Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah By Carlo Vergara

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For Visprint to have its first published work of fiction turn out to be a hit may have been a stroke of luck, but it wasn't so for its first comic book. By then, Visprint understood the pulse of Filipino readers, and the company made sure to give them what they wanted.

Zsazsa Zaturnah was a spin on Mars Ravelo’s Darna, but with a gay man as the main hero. The result was a vibrant, scintillating and a more mature superhero story that was as smart as it was funny. 

Kikomachine Komix Blg. 1 by Manix Abrera

Seeing a Filipino comic strip go viral online is no longer surprising. Today, many Filipino artists can get their comic book published almost immediately, thanks to their massive online following. They owe their thanks to a true Filipino pioneer in the genre: Manix Abrera.

The son of celebrated newspaper cartoonist Jess Abrera, the younger Abrera created his mark with googly-eyed characters that always seem to say the wittiest comebacks in the most ordinary situations.

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In previous interviews, Abrera shared how he sent comic book proposals to almost all Filipino publishers in the early 2000s, but it was only Visprint that called back. Today, his Kikomachine has 14 volumes with the latest being published in November 2018.

Para Kay B by Ricky Lee

Ten years after publishing his scriptwriting manual, award-winning writer Ricky Lee tried a different medium and came out with his first-ever novel entitled Para Kay B in 2008. The book is a collection of five stories on romantic love, encapsulating its different forms and stages. Lee published three more novels since, all of which are under Visprint.

Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me by Eros Atalia

The book that brought Palanca-award winner Atalia to popular culture, Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me was one of the first Filipino fiction works published in the 2000s adapted into a movie. Filipinos couldn’t resist the unconventional erotic love story that was later adapted into a musical play.

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Atalia published six more works, five of which are under Visprint.

Murder on Balete Drive (Trese #1) by writer Budjette Tan and illustrator Kajo Baldisimo

First published in 2008, Trese ushered in a new generation of published local comics with a distinct style and nuance that can rival that of international comic creators’. The black and white comic series tells the story of Alexandra Trese, a detective who specializes in tracking down supernatural creatures like tikbalangs and kapres that have infested Metro Manila.

The horror-crime comic series now has six volumes and is on its way to being adapted into an anime show by Netflix.

Twisted Travels: Rambles in Central Europe by Jessica Zafra

One of Visprint’s latest publications is award-winning author Jessica Zafra’s collection of essays on her travels to Central Europe. Like the earlier edition of Twisted Travels, the book tells the stories of her time visiting countries like the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, and France. All are delivered in her trademark style that is sometimes cynical, sometimes hopeful, but always intelligent and engaging. 

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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