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Remember teks? This graphic artist is reviving the classic Filipino trading card game

By Kara Santos Published Aug 06, 2022 9:54 am Updated Aug 06, 2022 1:21 pm

Anyone remember teks? Before the advent of collectible trading cards like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and the current photocards of K-pop stans today, Pinoy kids used to play with teks.

Often sold in "sari-sari" stores or by vendors near schools, the trading cards were typically small and simply printed on cardboard. They measured about a quarter of the size of regular playing cards and often featured cartoon storyboards from classic films complete with characters' dialogues and action sequences. 

Each teks card came numbered so that players would know what part the printed scene on the series were taken from actual Western and Filipino film titles and popular television shows.

The nostalgia blog RetroPilipinas explains that teks cards were “the direct and unintended commercial byproduct of Filipino comics. More of a game for children, the teks was the very first form of trading card game for the Filipino mass(es).”

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, teks bore artwork from shows like Sesame Street, Flash Gordon, The Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek, Batman and more.

While it’s rare to come across actual vintage teks cards these days, a Filipino graphic designer and illustrator from Las Pinas is reviving this lost art form and highlighting modern movies, television shows, and personalities. You can even order your own custom teks portrait from him (if you're willing to wait).

Meet Bijan Gorospe, a “teks revivalist” in his late 30’s who recounts teks as one of his favorite pasttimes as a kid. 

The artist shared that he launched Project Teks back in late 2015, but didn’t really get into it until a couple of years later. Like many creatives, he found himself returning to the hobby amid the prolonged lockdown.

“I revisited this project during the first few months of the pandemic lockdown and it has kept me busy ever since,” he said.

Gorospe compares the collectible card game to other art forms that have disappeared from the public eye.

“Since Pinoy teks are considered bootleg toys, we have almost no info on the illustrators and creators behind the cards. It’s a lost art. And it has its own cultural value similar to the colorful, locally made hand-painted movie billboards. It’s part of Filipino pop culture. I just want to explore and continue the art form. Maybe add to it and help it evolve,” Gorospe told PhilSTAR L!fe.

For those unfamiliar with the teks, the artist shared how kids used to play with it back in the day.

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A post shared by Project Teks (@project.teks)

“The most common way to play teks is you take your main card (called pamato), together with your opponent’s pamato and a neutral card (called panggulo/pananggulo or panabla.) Your opponent places a bet consisting of a number of teks cards. You flick or toss all the cards in the air at the same time. They drop either face up or face down and whichever card is facing the odd way is the winner,” he explained. 

“If you win, you take the bet and continue your turn. If you lose, you pay the bet and switch turns with your opponent. The game ends when a player loses all his/her cards or if a player quits.”

Playing with the cards is one thing. But the cards have become a platform for his own artwork, drawing inspiration from modern movies like Everything Everwhere All at Once, television series like Better Call Saul, games like Valorant, comics like Trese, and even political figures and events.

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A post shared by Project Teks (@project.teks)

According to the artist, his current favorites are the music-related ones, and his teks series featuring local bands. 

“Most of the teks back in the 80s & 90s featured pelikulas (movies) and sitcoms. I’m a musician myself so I think it’s cool to represent the local music scene in collectible card format too,” he said.

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A post shared by Project Teks (@project.teks)

While his artwork was initially not for sale and just done purely as a hobby, Gorospe now makes custom portraits for clients using teks as an art form and commissions for July and August are already full. 

According to the artist, he decided to accept orders because he ended up getting a lot of inquiries from people asking if he was selling any of the teks.

“At the time, this was just a personal project. I had no plans of selling and just wanted to make puns and explore printing and production techniques. But I kept getting these inquiries and requests so one day I decided to offer making portraits instead. And it just kinda blew up from there," he told PhilSTAR L!fe.

While it usually takes him only a couple of days to finish one artwork, for production efficiency, he takes on multiple orders and prints them in batches, so he has to wait until all the artwork are finished. 

“I do everything myself from the artwork to production so all in all, it takes about 1-2 weeks,” he explained.

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A post shared by Project Teks (@project.teks)

According to the artist, the reception he's gotten has been overwhelmingly positive, fueled by the nostalgia factor of the medium he uses.

“A lot of the comments and messages are from the older generation who get nostalgic about their childhood, saying it reminds them of simpler times. Since I also feature modern pop culture and memes, I also get comments from younger people who’ve never played teks but think they’re funny or interesting,” he said.

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A post shared by Project Teks (@project.teks)

While there are a number of FB groups engaged in buying and selling of vintage teks, of which he is a member of, Gorospe is not aware of other groups reviving teks and creating new cards in the same manner.

“It would be cool to see more collectible card creators and grow into a community. Just like bootleg action figure and custom toy creators for example. They have their own subscene,” he said. 

“As for plans... I’ve been experimenting more on a lot of stuff lately. So maybe we’ll see some merch soon? I’m also doing more themed teks series and some collaborations. I hope I get to collaborate with a local film so I can make a legit tie-in (and not bootlegged) pelikula teks.”

Check out his artwork on his Instagram page: @project.teks.