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Comic Book / Ang Barbaro

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Ang Barbaro (literally, "The Barbarian" in English), is a Tagalog-language graphic novel by legendary Filipino komiks artist, and National Artist for Visual Arts, Francisco V. Coching. It was originally serialised in local komiks magazine Pilipino Komiks from the late 1940s to early 1950s, and adapted to film by the studio Sampaguita Pictures in 1952. In 2016, on the heels of Coching's posthumous awarding as National Artist, the entire run was eventually published in a single bound volume.

Sometimes also called "Sabas, ang Barbaro", as Sabas is the eponymous Barbaro's actual name. The graphic novel establishes him as a dutiful, honest, and hardworking peasant youth living with his father and mute sister in a typical rural Luzon town in the mid-19th century, in the late-Spanish-colonial Philippines. Sabas shows promise as a young student, and to that end the kindly Spanish friar of his town pays for his Manila studies out-of-pocket; but while there, the brutal realities of Spanish colonialism hit hard: his father is killed, his sister is raped and dies by suicide soon afterward, and the greedy and cruel local chief refuses to allow them a proper burial, and certainly not on his land. When Sabas finds this out and returns home, he is arrested and tortured by colonial cops for attempting to come to their defence, and his friar patron is too weak to do much about it either, appealing to colonial authorities in vain.


With his entire support structure dead in short order, Sabas escapes incarceration, frees the colonial state's other prisoners, takes up his father's hat and arms himself with a sharp blade. Henceforth, he is Barbaro, defender of the land's poor and oppressed, and feared, sworn enemy of abusive colonisers.

Also spawned a sequel, El Indio, which involves Barbaro's son with Blanquita.

Tropes featured:

  • Asshole Victim: Many of Barbaro's victims, which is deliberate.
  • Bald of Evil: The Governor-General is nicely bald on top, despite hair growing profusely on most of his head and face below the eyebrow line.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Blanquita is certainly very fair and pretty in her Spicy Latina way, though she's hardly exclusive in that area; poor india natives like Tarcila, or Sabas' own sister Paula, are themselves depicted as attractive too.
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  • Betty and Veronica: The native Tarcila and the Spanish Blanquita respectively serve as rough equivalents of this with respect to Sabas, the Archie in question.
  • Bling of War: The governor-general, or Kapitan Heneral in Tagalog (actually Spanish), wears a sash, epaulettes and some medals all the time, and of course his military and Guardia Civil subordinates are always in uniform.
  • Chiaroscuro: Shadows, of course, are rendered in deep, solid black ink, likely applied with a thick brush; this is especially evident in nighttime scenes.
  • Corrupt Hick: Don Andres, the cruel town chief who denies the burial of Sabas' loved ones on the town's land. He gets Barbaro's blade in the guts for this and is hung by his coat on an iron fence as a warning to the authorities.
  • Distressed Damsel: Tarcila, who can't get her late grandfather blessed and approved for a proper burial because the Sinister Minister of her town is demanding fees she can't afford. Barbaro saves her from this predicament by paying upfront for all the local burials. He and his gang quickly take it back by capturing the friar and expropriating his ill-gotten wealth, which originally belongs to the town.
  • Dramatis Personae: The 2016 compilation devotes a few pages at the start to listing all the major and supporting characters, each with an illustration of their appearance and a short description of their role.
  • Driven to Suicide: Paula, Sabas' mute older sister, flings herself off a cliff, soon after she was raped (or at least kidnapped) and their father was mortally wounded trying to save her.
  • Engineered Heroics: Played with. In one chapter, Barbaro and his allies let loose a carabao (water buffalo) with a bandit victim tied to its back to rampage in the nearby forest and terrify their captive friar into line. The rampage disrupts the convoy that happens to be carrying Blanquita and the Spanish crown envoy, and so when Barbaro ends up rescuing them by calming their carriage horses, technically he appears heroic to Blanquita for saving her from a crisis he himself instigated. (He quickly admits it though, which immediately enrages Blanquita to the point of trying to shoot him.)
  • Everyone Calls Him Barbaro: His actual name is Sabas, but the public generally just know him as "Barbaro".
  • Evil Colonialist: Many of the Spanish colonial authorities count as this, from the scheming governor-general to the greedy fat friar to sundry officers of the colonial military and Guardia Civil (the colony-wide paramilitary police, precursor to the U.S.-era Philippine Constabulary, and still later to the Philippine National Police).
  • Fat Bastard: The greedy friar who demands exorbitant tribute payments from people like Tarcila, threatening to withhold the official blessing required to bury their deceased loved ones. Town chief Kapitan Andres whom Barbaro knifes for not allowing his family a decent burial within town limits is a less obese version.
  • Good Shepherd: Padre Sebastian, the kindly and supportive old Spanish friar who cares for Sabas and his family, and pays for his education in Manila.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Certainly for colonial elites this is the case, with police officers and the Governor-General in Bling of War, civilian officials in top hats and sharp suits, and Blanquita in fancy European dress. This won't necessarily apply to Sabas and his downtrodden and rebel following, since they're mostly wearing cheap, everyday clothing, but Sabas also has on his father's salakot (bowl-shaped hat).
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Barbaro's role as defender of the oppressed; when he attacks hacienderos (landlords), officers, friars and politicians who stole or appropriated the masses' hard earnings, he will take their spoils and either return it to its rural earners or share it with his downtrodden peasant following.
  • Knife Nut: Barbaro is a terrifying case with his agility and lightning speed using a bolo (a native machete).
  • Latin Land: The setting is the mid-to-late Spanish-colonial Philippines in the 19th century, in and around colonial capital Manila, and so literally speaking the colony counts as this.
  • Love Triangle: Blanquita loves Sabas, who loves Tarcila, who thinks Sabas loves Blanquita more.
  • Magnificent Moustaches of Mexico: Of the Philippines, in this case; most of the elite Spanish men sport some degree of a moustache on them (at least one friar is a notable exception), but native Filipinos like Barbaro himself are likelier to be clean-shaven.
  • Meaningful Name: Blanquita, who as a Spanish peninsular is obviously, well, white or fair (not that there'd be much difference in a black-and-white comic, but it's quite obviously implied), certainly compared to someone like Sabas.
  • Missing Mom: Sabas and his sister Paula's mother was already dead for some time when the story begins with them living with their father.
  • Nice Hat: Sabas inherits and uses his slain father's salakot (a native, bowl-shaped or conical hat woven from reeds or carved from gourds), and it becomes part of his Iconic Outfit. This particular one has metallic scales for decoration, evoking fish scales.
  • The Ophelia: Paula is driven to insanity (and shortly thereafter to suicide) by her and Sabas' father's death.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Barbaro will not hesitate to kill or rob Evil Colonialists and their local collaborators if doing so will help the poor and defenceless.
  • Period Piece: Created in the 1940s-50s, set in the mid-to-late 1800s.
  • Police Brutality: The Guardia Civil, unsurprisingly, use this as standard operating procedure as the colonial paramilitary police force. Firstly on a local level under orders of Teniente Basco (Blanquita's dad), and later on a larger scale under the direction of Kapitan Magno and ultimately the Governor-General, they attempt to shoot Sabas every time they're in range of him and his gang, and find any excuse to beat him up or torture him when he's in their clutches.
  • Rape as Backstory: Not Sabas himself, but his elder sister Paula is strongly implied to have suffered this when she's abducted one night. Mang Kario, their father, finds her in captivity, tied up by another man, who effectively kills him and gets away with it.
  • Reality Subtext: It is no accident that Ang Barbaro was written, drawn, and serialised at the height of the Huk Rebellion in the early 1950s—a movement of peasant rebels taking up arms against the abuses of a greedy, oppressive, neocolonial oligarchy, backed with full force by the neoimperialist American government.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What fuels Barbaro's entire crusade; his family were abused and killed or left to die, weren't even given proper burials, and generally were never shown justice or treated with dignity as human beings.
  • Sinister Minister: The fat friar who got rich off of charging exorbitant burial fees off poor townsfolk like Tarcila, and who denies proper Catholic burials otherwise. (He's even named Padre Damaso as a blatantly obvious Shout-Out to a certain nationally canonised novel with a similarly-named friar; the name is so metonymic of the character that it's not clear in this case if that really is this one's name or just shorthand for him being fat, greedy and cruel.)
  • Spicy Latina: The strong-willed Blanquita, sort of, even though she appears to be entirely a Peninsular Spaniard in origin.
  • Taking the Veil: Averted; Tarcila almost attempts this after Sabas argues with her and leaves in a huff, but she luckily knocks at the doors of the old convent whose sisters were her teachers, and the mother superior actually cautions her that maybe she's making a rash decision. At any rate, she forgets this when she sees Sabas has now been captured by the Guardia Civil.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Most of Sabas' loved ones.
  • Vigilante Man: Barbaro.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Naturally, these are drawn up by the colonial government, promising 500 reales to anyone who can capture Barbaro dead or alive. The sketch of a bearded Barbaro doesn't much resemble the real deal, though.


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