We Filipinos are very good with humor. We all have a dad, an uncle, a friend, if we’re very lucky, ourselves to thank for all the cringe-inducing corny jokes that come our way. Humor is present in every facet of our lives, in conversations with friends, during inuman sessions, and as a breather during heavier situations such as personal drama, breakups, death and destruction, calamities, the ever turbulent political conditions. With the birth of the digital age, all of the sudden we Pinoys had access to the whole world. It is no happy accident that Filipinos spend the most time online, it seems Memes, hashtags, and every social media site has been created for our brand of entertainment. Enter Linya-Linya.
Now when you interview Ali and Panch and you have known them for a while, if you yourself have a penchant for humor, the atmosphere is impossible to be anything but light. You find yourself throwing your hat into the ring in the running for Linya-Linya’s Top Punformer. I groan as I write this. But then I have to admit that what they have done with their business is no small feat. With over 200,000 followers on Facebook and 40,000+ on Instagram, their staying power is kept alive with each like, with the click of the Share button, and with every hashtag they have made popular.
Ali and Panch have known each other since college. Ali is the funny guy who always gets into trouble, Panch is the more reserved artist. They cannot stress enough that I should include how handsome they are, so much so it is almost painful to stare for too long. Looking at their success now you would never think that they once doubted their talents, but what is great about these two men is that they looked at their insecurities in the face and decided it was funny enough to share with the country. It was 2012 and they were feeling the burnout of their day jobs. Ali had the habit of saving his jokes on his phone, once in a while Panch would render it on paper and it started circulating online, at first amongst friends, inevitably becoming viral. What started off as puns formed a massive pun club. Soon Yabang Pinoy, a youth group that aims to promote Pinoy Pride, took notice and offered to produce a few shirts for Linya-Linya to sell in their bazaars, and they have grown bigger and bigger since. Yuppies, mothers, millennials, couples, boss and employee alike can be seen walking around with the words DAMNDAMIN, or “Pahingi ng Pahinga” emblazoned on their chests.
The actual evolution of their brainchild speaks of the Filipino need to extend a story, of our love for wordplay and their nuances in meaning and humor. Initially called Linya – Mga Guhit at Sabi Sabi, it naturally evolved to Linya-Linya through word of mouth and feedback from those who enjoyed their jokes. People would come up to them and say, “Good job sa mga linya linya niyo!” In a reflection of just how quick their wit is, Ali explains Linya-Linya could also mean the differences in their professional lives with himself as writer and Panch as illustrator, or can even be taken literally to read between the lines: one-liners drawn over the lines of a ruled notebook.
They didn’t think that what they did as a means to relieve the stress from their serious jobs would one day actually become the job they would take seriously. Ali thinks it’s because the lines they come up with are set in Filipino experiences: relationships, family, current events, movies, chismis, everyday stories and interactions. He points out that we Filipinos love hugot because we are very emotional people. We find humorous ways to cope with what we feel, and because we do that, we create a ripple effect of positive vibes. And aren’t we just that? Our country’s slogan is “More Fun In The Philippines”. We are the same people who regularly survive typhoons and are then photographed swimming, jetskiing, and somersaulting into the huge flood pools left in the storm’s wake. We address the government and politics by sharing memes or brandishing placards that both critique and ridicule the issues we protest. Yes, we Pinoys are very good with humor.
Where Linya-Linya took it a step further is by actually building an online culture around it. In 2015, they were joined by Jim Bacarro and Gab Perez, whom they admit complemented their creative side with their business acumen. They have since opened up physical stores all around Manila, and recently in Naga. They have shot videos showcasing their merchandise, and it has gained the same popularity, their one-liners taken to the three-dimensional space, yet still retaining the intended humor and freshness. Ali mentions the word kapit, suggesting it’s what comes after hugot. They have done just that, they have tickled our funny bones and have held our interest by making us part of the pop culture conversation. Sure they’re selling products, their shirts have grown into mugs, notebooks, tote bags, postcards, and stickers, but we buy them because we can relate to their message.
They look back at their first Facebook post when they decided to begin Linya-Linya back in 2012, and they shake their head at the simplicity and complexity of what they shared: line drawings of a set of stairs, at the foot of the steps the words “Magsimulang magsimula”.
Interview & Text – Jenette Vizcocho
Photography – Cris Legaspi