Cal Sobrepena

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Cal Sobrepena was a Filipino komiks illustrator.

Personal Background

He was born Felipe Sobrepeña Calusa on 1 May 1940 in Pangasinan, the only child of Rufino Calusa and Teofila Sobrepeña. During World War II his mother died when he was just a year old and his father was always in the woods because of the war, so he was left in the care of aunts and other relatives.

When war was over, his father was able to land a job as a messenger at a post office in Manila, and his father took him to live there. Life was hard during and after the war, Piping (as he was nicknamed then) had to do odd jobs to help his father earn a living, he became a shoe-shine boy. He was also a "pulot boy," fetching tennis balls in-between tennis games. Perhaps being exposed to hardships early in life made him the very strong person that he was. He was no quitter, he never gave up, and always had a positive attitude.

Piping spent most of his teenage life at the Quezon City High School in Kamuning, Quezon City. He belonged to a class called the 56'ers, a high school group that excelled in academics, sports and other activities. They were "a blast," having the time of their lives as typical "pasaway" teenagers.

After high school he took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He really was an artist in the making, his talented hands were further developed by his training in college. And like any normal "makibaka" UP student, he actively joined rallies, marching, exercising his rights, and being socially involved. There was one incident that he threw a crumpled Kule (school newspaper) right in the face of a policeman in a rally at the National Library.

He also formed a fraternity together with his college buddies. The only problem was when the neophytes finished all the initiations and everything, the university did not approve their application for a new group, so they were not recognized. And since they had to answer to all the new recruits, they played a game of cat and mouse for awhile.


While in college he was moonlighting as an illustrator at a local bookstore, providing drawings for textbooks used in elementary and high schools.

After earning his degree, he got a small job at a local publishing company, where he had drawn all the characters of Francisco Balagtas' novel Florante at Laura. Then he applied as an illustrator at several comics publication houses including Graphic Arts Service, Inc.(GASI), Atlas Publishing Co., Inc., Islas Filipinas Publishing Co. Inc. and Ace Publications, Inc.. He worked there for years. Comics like Silangan Komiks, Aliwan Komiks, Wakasan Komiks, Lovelife Komiks, Funny Komiks and the like were very popular at that time. He worked in comics for many years to make a name for himself. His talent and hard work paid off. He was given an award for Best Komiks Illustrator for his illustrations on the cover of Lovelife Komiks. Every cover of Lovelife Komiks showed couples in romantic yet amusing situations. Romantic pairs would ask him to put their names on the cover of Lovelife and he would gladly oblige.

Cal Sobrepeña also illustrated for UNICEF, Department of Health and other publications, made countless of drawings, paintings and sculptures both for education and entertainment. But perhaps among his projects, his work on Children's Bible sa Wikang Filipino was the most important and challenging. Not only did he contributed his talent for a great purpose, the experience also changed his life. It renewed his faith and relationship with the Lord. Of the project, he said, "When I started doing the illustrations for the Children's Bible, Annie (del Corro) gave me a copy of the Good News Bible... Before I start illustrating a verse, I read the Bible first. But before I read the Bible, I pray for God's guidance....I've never done so many illustrations without an assistant in one project!..."

According to the Philippine Bible Society: "At the end of the project, Mang Cal has done more than 200 illustrations. In the New Testament alone, he has done 129 of them!"...

Cal Sobrepeña also taught art and drawing lessons to kids and young people every weekend. His students ranged from elementary pupils to high school and college students. He taught them what he knew, not expecting anything in return, for just seeing his students progress was enough for him.

Art was not the only thing that preoccupied his time. Cal Sobrepeña was very much into sports. He was into tennis, bowling and martial arts. He was a master of aikido, judo and karate. And many times he had proven himself worthy in these disciplines. Countless times he caught snatchers, foiled hold-ups, or pacified and disarmed men wielding knife or bolo. He was the kind who would never runaway from trouble, but would be the first to mediate when there was trouble. He was a peacemaker; that was one of his innate qualities. He once had thoughts of being a law enforcer.

Cal Sobrepeña lived a full life, colorful as his paintings, hilarious as his illustrations in komiks, and profound as his sketches. He may not have been wealthy when he left this world, but he surely left treasures in the hearts of the people he touched.