Meet the man behind the tale of ‘Bella Bandida’

Published November 25, 2020, 10:49 AM

by John Legaspi

Tonight, local television network TV5 is premiering its newest addition to its primetime block, Bella Bandida. Starring actress Ryza Cenon as the titular character, Bella Bandida is among the first of the many female-led shows to come from the network.

Ryza Cenon as Bella Bandida (Photo from TV5)

The story of Bella Bandida revolves around medical doctor Annabelle “Bella” Suarez with a mission to help improve the wellbeing of the people in her hometown Santiago. Later on, she encounters Mayor Tigro, who’s authorizing an illegal mining operation in her hometown. In an attempt to stop him, Bella, sadly, ends up getting raped and almost murdered. With the help of the moon goddess, May’ari, Bella is gifted with super powers, giving birth to Bella Bandida.

Bella Bandida is expected to give a fresh take on how women are portrayed on action series fitted in the TV screen. With producers of women-starred local action films Buy Bust and Maria backing the show, viewers are likely to see a fierce woman taking terms into her own hands on the show. 

But before Bella even graced our TV screens today, her action-packed tale was first adapted in a movie released in 1971. And before that silver screen debut, she was firts seen on the pages of comics by National Artist for Visual Arts Francisco V. Coching

Francisco Coching (Photo from Komikero Komiks Museum Online)

Since 1935, 15-year-old Francisco has been creating comics with women as their central character and hero. Years before even Mars Ravelo‘s Darna was born, there was Francisco’s Mara-bini, a comic about an amazon warrior published in Bahaghari Magazine. Being the son of Filipino novelist Gregorio Coching made Francisco a natural storyteller.

After the second World War, Francisco went on to work for Liwayway Magazine, one Manila Bulletin Publishing’s vernaculars since the 1960s, and created Hagibis  and other comics like Sabas, ang Barbaro, Bella Bandida, and El Negro, his final work.

According to Komikero Komiks Museum Online, Francisco retired at age 54 in 1973 after 39 years in the comics industry, producing 53 comic novels. He died on Sept. 1, 1998 at age 78.

Photo from Philippine Postal Corporation

Through his works, Francisco inspired a generation of Filipino illustrators, and garnered numerous accolades. In 1999, he was nominated to be a National Artist for Visual Arts. That honor was legitimized by virtue of Proclamation No. 808, series of 2014.

Francisco is now remembered as one of the “pillars of Philippine Komiks Industry,” and is dubbed as “King of Komiks” and the “Dean of Philippine Comics.”

Watch the trailer of TV5′ Bella Bandida: