Making Soup: Reflections on zine-making

Sticky Institute (Courtesy Bong Sta. Maria)

I’m waiting for the girl at the neighborhood photocopier to finish counting the sheets of paper in front of me. One of the pages facing up has a picture of man with a 80s hairdo, wearing nothing but a pair of tight swim trunks, and flexing.

She’s new; not the guy who has printed my stuff before, so she’s not exactly sure what it is she’s dealing with. She giggled at the almost-naked man. I’m standing in front of her, grinning, because I’ve missed this so much.

The last time I released a zine was almost two years ago. I’ve missed the smells and sounds of everything in places like this: paper, toner, subtle noises of the nonstop whirring of printers. The equal amounts of dread and joy once the copies are already in your hands.

Like the past four official releases (by “official release” I mean handing them to friends and strangers, or leaving copies in cafés and restaurants), I will once again hesitate, and consider not releasing them at all.


Eating crustacean

I can only speak for myself when I say that zine-making begets equal amounts of torture and joy. Like eating crustacean—you have to break the hard shell in order to get to the soft, delicious meat.

Uray narigat, naimaskahit mahirap, masarap!

Most zines are extremely personal, and the one I make—called “Soup” (after that Blind Melon song about making people go away) is no different. It’s mostly autobiographical, generally about how I spend my days, sometimes a platform for things I cannot otherwise admit.

In a time when most day-to-day issues can be addressed by smartphone applications, it feels good to have something that’s made with my own two hands— something tactile, and that doesn’t point out every single grammar mistake.

Some of the first zines that really inspired me to make my own were those that leaned toward punk and hardcore (like the Texas-based zine “The Message”), and those that concentrated on feminism (or feminism and music, like Riot Grrrl), and gender (ie. local zine “raging flamboyant!”). These are all excellent material that I respect, but I didn’t think I’d be able to write with as much passion about issues as them. I wanted something different.

A zine called “Doris,” made by a girl named Cindy Crabb led me to my preferred style. There are still some discussions on gender roles, but hers is mostly personal—the topics (depression, abuse) are heavy, but she makes it a point to make it easy to read. After I read my first copy, I decided that this is the format I wanted to use.

It’s all very disorganized. I can’t say I have a linear process. But when the glue, scissors, cutter, markers and paper are all lined up on the table, I know started have something I can call mine. This is enough for me to keep going.


Pages from the first issue of Soup. (Courtesy Bong Sta. Maria)


Zines, PH

My most recent local zine discoveries were from the fourth Better Living Through Xeroxography (BLTX), which was held last December at the Lopez Museum. This is a small press expo that features works of artists and writers who independently produce zines, komiks, and books.

Some of my favorites include Jason Moss’s “Famous” (I got Volumes 1 and 2 of 3), Bru Sim’s “Blue,” Nine Iron’s “Iron Ladies” (Paola Germar, Catalina Africa, Denise Flores, Jeona Zoleta, Marija Vicente, Mica Agregado, Mica Cabildo, Bru Sim, Trizha Ko), Mika Bacani’s “Tea Quiero and Other Bad Puns,” and Saturnino Basilla’s “Sigue Sigue: Philippine Criminal and Gang Tattoo Sampler.”

I bought more than a dozen zines that day. A lot of the ones I bought reflected the same self-distrust and worry that I myself have to constantly go through every time I release a new issue.

For example: Mika Agregado, the girl behind the “Manila Automat” primer saying that her current comic “2012 is not 1982” “is being withheld from release by the ever-growing amount of self-loathing.” Or Danielle Rina, whose “Dirty Laundry and Other Stories”—a zine/comic book that confronts isolation—ends with a girl crouching in a corner saying thank you to the reader, adding that she’s shy, but eventually providing a link to her Tumblr site.

I mention all of these names because I want every single one of them—especially those who expressed doubt—to know that I’ve read, at least twice, what they’ve created, that I visited all the links, that they continue to inspire me to no end, and that they shouldn’t stop.

This is a subculture that has stood the test of time, and will very likely continue to do so.


Writing for the world

I did not touch the thirty newly printed zines for days on end after printing. Despite all the grinning and excitement and almost-naked men in one of the pages, I still retreated, even turning them into a kind of a paper mâché project.

But I put Jack Kerouac’s “You’re a Genius All The Time” (a book about the creative process) on top of the stack hoping it would change things. “Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it,” he wrote.

I re-read about twenty old and new zines and stared at what I—and all these valiant DIY people—have worked so hard for.

All right, I said. All right.


Bong Sta. Maria is the author of the zine called “Soup,” the most recent issue of which has just been released this month. She can be reached at [email protected] for inquiries.

Pages from Soup 4, the latest issue. (Courtesy Bong Sta. Maria)