Thank you to all our guests who made our grand reunion an equally grand success. See you all again soon!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Tams Up: Tam’s riotous stead as the Advocate’s official mascot

His antics have lent comedic flavor to every Advocate issue. Whether it may be from his zany quips on basketball games or incisive puns on University issues, this self-proclaimed Advocate ‘Edit-to ng Chief’ (Ed Chief) is no doubt one of the publication’s most popular and well loved characters. Brainchild of former Art Director Erich ‘Eboy’ Rafer, Tamolito Bigaybuhay, or more commonly known as ‘Tam’, has not only become the Advocate’s staple front page feature but also the studentry’s audacious and gallant mouthpiece.

Conceived in 2001, Tam now celebrates nine years of wreaking humorous mayhem within the newspaper. Creator Erich Rafer shares that during his first year in FEU as a Fine Arts student, he chanced upon an ad asking for character sketches, from which the Advocate official mascot was to be selected. Thinking there was nothing to be lost, he submitted his first sketch of Tam, and shortly thereafter he was called in to join the publication.

Eboy had long been inclined towards the arts, using the walls of their house as canvas at age three. In High School, he was a member of their school paper, doing editorial cartoons and winning top prize at press conferences. These experiences inevitably proved useful when he crafted Advocate’s first comic character.

Tam’s creator was influenced by the characters he grew up watching as a kid, from GI Joe to The Transformers, but it was Jim Davis’s Garfield that provided the prime inspiration for the Advocate’s mascot. “Napansin ko medyo may resemblance si Tam kasi medyo malaki yung mata, tapos parang medyo laidback yung itsura niya, naka half-open, half- closed yung mata niya parang relaxed na relaxed, cool na cool, tapos sarcastic” (I noticed that he had a resemblance with Tam, with his big bulging eyes which was slightly half-shut, he appears very cool and relaxed, quite sarcastic). He adds that Pol Medina’s Pugad Baboy, a popular Filipino comic book at that time, influenced Tam’s stocky built.

The Advocate’s official mascot first came out in the front page of March 2001’s issue (Validity of TFI questioned), under Editor-in-Chief Lester Lupisan. He was drawn wearing a flowered shirt, enjoying himself on recliner while sipping buko juice, ready to take on the summer vacation. His first comic strip, titled Fat-Talk, also appeared in the same issue.

Like most artistic creations, Tam’s features have evolved throughout the years, going from the creative hands of one Advocate illustrator to the other. Eboy initially conceived Tam to be a plump, laidback Tamaraw, slightly unsure of himself and feeling his way through college, not knowing what was to be expected—much like how he felt as freshman. “Yung early Tam maliit pa siya noon, tweetums tweetums pa, parang obvious na first year. Tapos later nag evolve na siya. Mahaba na yung sungay niya.” (Tam was small back then, he tried to look cute, obviously a freshman. Then later he evolved. He grew his horns).

Far from the safe representation Eboy originally had in mind, the character’s eventual transformation reflected his personal journey through college. “Naexpose ako sa rock and roll nung college, nung naka mingle mingle nang mga mahihilig sa music, naexpose ako sa punk, kaya medyo naging rock din yung itsura niya. Tapos hindi na naka uniform, mas may attitude na siya, mas rocking na siya. Yung mga posing niya di na limited sa laid back na stance. Mejo mas wild na yung itsura. Minsan may hawak na siyang baril, or nagyoyosi siya sa harap ng classroom. Nakikipag rumble na siya.” (I was exposed to rock and roll in college and got to mingle with people who like music. I was also exposed to punk, that’s why his appearance (Tam) also got wilder. He had more attitude and stopped wearing his uniform. He wasn’t limited to his laid back stance anymore. Sometimes he totes a gun, he smokes outside his classroom, he gets into trouble.)

Conceptualized to represent the studentry, Tam also got embroiled in the same issues within FEU-- from fraternity wars, prevalent during Rafer’s time, to pill box explosions. “Siyempre ang school paper naman hindi naman puro magaganda yung sinusulat niya sa school. Kailangan mo rin I acknowledge yung mga pangit para maging patas ka naman. So yun pati yung mga ganoong istorya, involved si Tam doon, pinapakita niya kung ano yung nangyayari. So hindi na siya pa tweetums tweetums na Tam, medyo involved na siya, mas masaya, mas exciting yung mga nangyayri. Although medyo nakakatakot, ok lang.” (Of course the school paper doesn’t only report good stories, it also acknowledges the bad ones, so that it could be fair and balanced. Tam also got involved in those kinds of stories, he exposes what really happens and wasn’t coy about it. It was more fun and exciting. Although it was a little frightening, it’s okay.)

True enough Tam transcended his chubby cute frame to speak on student issues, often being utilized in editorial cartoons to represent the cause of students, and popping all over the newspaper to brandish wittingly searing remarks. He spoke on tuition increase, stifling school policies, game fixing, student politics, and possibly every other significant news within the University. Soon, Tam not only was identified with the Advocate but as an icon for the general FEU community.

The name Tamolito Bigaybuhay came later in mock interview written by writer K.C. Buenafe appearing in the Advocate’s September 2002 issue. Rafer relates that he had no other name in mind except Tam, joking that it would have been weird if he named it George, or perhaps Peter.

“My real name is not really Tam, it’s actually Tamolito Bigaybuhay, but my screen name is Tam the Tamaraw, mas catching ‘di ba? I am the Edit-to’ ng Chief, in the Advocate. I’m the real boss,” the funny man, er, animal relates in an interview.

He adds that a lot of people mistake him for a carabao, retorting that people don’t know the difference between carabaos and his species, the former being a beast of burden and his kind the ones studying in FEU. In the interview, he also mentions that he has lost weight since he first appeared in the newspaper, reasoning that he does a lot of work as the mascot and it was out of style to be fat. His favorite activity was to gorge on Adobong Damo, “But eating grass is not allowed here in FEU, so palaging patago,” Tamolito wittily injects. (Click here for a reprint of Tam’s interview)

Indeed Tam has become leaner and taller throughout the years. When Rafer left the Advocate in 2006, artists began infusing their wild spins on the character, keeping its original disproportionately large head and horns, but morphing it into countless other, sometimes hilariously inane, interpretations. Eboy confesses that he initially didn’t see Tam evolving, but later realized it was only natural for an artist to improve his style, and undergo changes as a person. “Parang mas naging appealing yung tingin ko sa kanya nung pumayat siya eh. Naging sigurado na siya sa ginagawa niya kasi parang nag mature yung itsura niya, unlinke nung parang maliit pa lang na cutie cutie.” (I thought he became more appealing when he got leaner, to me he became more sure of himself since he looked more mature. Unlike before when he was younger, he was too cute.)

Rafer also created a dorky human sidekick to Tam, which he unfortunately was not able to name. He describes the character as an underdog. Fat and with dark glasses, it is often the unlucky recipient of Tam’s antics, and the artist’s wild machinations. “Parang siya yung nag rerepresent ng mga kawawa sa FEU. May strip akong ginawa noon, yung inabutan siya ng baha, sumabit siya sa jeep tapos pagdating siya sa Piyu, biglang walang pasok.” (He represented the bullied in FEU. I did a strip before, where he got stranded in a flood, and had to hang on to jeep, only to see that classes have been cancelled.) He jests, “Pag may mga poster, si Tam siyempre yung player, tapos siya yung pep squad na may pom poms na nakapang cheering attire.” (In posters, Tam would usually be the athlete, and the dork would be cheering in the background, clad in pep squad attire, complete with pom poms.)

Tam’s female counterpart, Tamya, created by Art Director and later Managing Editor Robald Castillion, would later join the official mascot on paper, along with other artists’ trademark characters. Rafer thought that his brainchild would simply fade into oblivion with the birth of other comic creations, but was happy to find out that Tam remained within the Advocate pages, continually being adapted and improved upon by succeeding illustrators.

Asked if he would have drawn Tam in any other way, he responds that he would have probably tweaked some its features, but it would essentially remain the same since as that was how he conceptualized it during his time, adding “Hindi lang naman ako yung Tam, Advocate siya nung time ko eh, siya yung FEU nun eh.” (I did not have the monopoly of Tam, he was the Advocate during my time, he represented FEU.)

Rafer wanted nothing but to preserve Tam as a tableau of the times, having no qualms with the character’s constant transformation. “Kasi si Tam lumabas siya nung era ko, representation siya nung time, yung nangyayari sa FEU, sa Advocate nung time ko, hindi na naman yun yung nangyayari ngayon. Mape preserve siguro yung sa time ko. Pero hindi na naman kailangan ganon ang gawin nung mga artist eh. Kailangan din nilang irepresent yung time nila.” (Tam came out during my era; he was a representation of that time, of what happened during FEU. He would probably preserve my time, but artists need not confine themselves with that. They need to represent their time.”)

Tam definitely is far from retiring as the paper’s main funny man. In the hands of talented and fearless Advocate artists, Eboy’s creation is probably cooking up another riotous antic, preparing his next smart ass remark on a pressing University issue or simply orchestrating a hilariously insane joke. As one of the publication’s vanguards, and he will continue to unwaveringly represent the studentry in its cause, all while looking all cool and down-right comic on it.

**Credits to Former Advocate Art Director Armani Garcia for the Freedom of the Press Rocks poster


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