In 2006, after moving to Top Gear Philippines from The Manila Times, I challenged the magazine\'s editorial staff to come up with new, unconventional ways to present our stories. Sure, there would always be the test-drive articles, which are permanent staples of every serious automotive publication. But I felt that Top Gear should put equal emphasis on entertainment. The brand, after all, owes its global fame to the wildly popular TV show.
So we started throwing around ideas, which was how we ended up asking the likes of Conrado de Quiros, Lourd de Veyra, Butch Dalisay and Pete Lacaba to write articles for us. I also got struck by a thought: What if we ask the great Pol Medina Jr., the awesome cartoonist who created Pugad Baboy, to run a comic strip in our magazine? The members of the team were such big fans of Medina\'s work that selling them the concept was as easy as a push of a keyless engine-start button.
After pulling a few strings, we got hold of Pol\'s contact number. I told him my proposal. Luckily for us, he loved cars and he knew Top Gear, so he agreed to meet us at a Yellow Cab branch in Las Piñas, close to where he lived. I brought Dinzo Tabamo along in case I got so star-struck I couldn\'t present my thoughts clearly. The three of us brainstormed and Pol brilliantly came up with a title for his Top Gear comic strip: Torque Chops. We also agreed that it had to be written in English in spite of my fears that Pol\'s humor and wit wouldn\'t come through as effectively if the cartoon wasn\'t rendered in Filipino.
The blueprint for Torque Chops was simple: Medina would test cars and attend industry events--just like a regular motoring journalist did--but instead of writing about the experience, he\'d make a one-page comic strip out of it. The main character, of course, was the cartoonist himself, surrounded by Pugad Baboy\'s usual suspects, led by Polgas and Mang Dagul. I believe this was the only time that Polgas and company appeared in a comic strip outside of Pugad Baboy--and possibly the only time they spoke straight English.
And so, in October 2006, Torque Chops debuted in Top Gear Philippines. Dinzo and I starred in the maiden installment of the cartoon, with Medina sketching the story of how we had convinced him to do a comic strip for a car magazine. All in all, he was able to do Torque Chops for seven issues, the last one appearing in May 2007. Citing his hectic schedule, Pol had to let go of his new motoring cartoon. We tried to bribe him with Ferrari and Jaguar test drives just so he\'d stay, but he simply didn\'t have enough spare time for a monthly sideline that paid him loose change anyway.
Today, we remember PMJr. as he awaits the final verdict in his ongoing \"disciplinary\" case with Philippine Daily Inquirer. The broadsheet has suspended him after St. Scholastica\'s College took offense at his recent PDI comic strip in which it was alleged that lesbianism is widespread on campus and in which it was insinuated that the nuns that run the school are probably gay, too.
The Inquirer responded to the school\'s complaint by suspending Medina indefinitely.
Now, we\'re not here to argue the merits of the case. Frankly, in a society that makes wealthy celebrities out of tacky comedians who joke about rape and obesity, we\'ve lost sense of what\'s acceptable and what\'s decent. We do know, however, that Pol Medina Jr. is a national treasure, a title Vice Ganda can never hope to attach to himself even if he tries to buy it with the riches he\'s made from humiliating fat women.
We\'re only here to show our support for our one-time colleague. Pol Medina Jr. is a peerless artist. He is funny, smart, relevant. He makes a lot of sense--the kind of sense we wish our lawmakers (and newspaper owners) had. But most of all, he\'s an honorable human being. He makes us proud to be Filipinos. You want to banish his artwork from newsprint, be sure to first rid our television sets of worthless, sleazy jokers.
And we\'re not kidding.