by Nickee De Leon/AJPress
In an alternate universe, there exists an adroit creature called Dino Ignacio. Here, beings that we’ve known and loved had alter egos-Bert is evil, droids did not have artificial intelligence and the Superfriends are not super friendly.
This seemingly dark microcosm is all in Dino’s head. I have been meaning to write an article about ‘Ser Dino’ (a name that I’ve coined, perhaps both out of respect and endearment) for the longest time, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so. I finally had a chance to do some catching up with him over the phone a few days ago. Dino finally cleared the cobweb of hearsay and revealed truths about himself that have eluded me all these years.
Dino and I met during our college years in UP. We were both students in the College of Fine Arts and both ran for office in the student council. He was (for a lack of a better word) an enigma -a phantom who sporadically appeared and vanished from view.
Almost ten years after he left the Philippines, we got reacquainted in San Francisco. At that time, he was finishing a course in Computer Arts at the famous Academy of Art. It seemed that the Dino that I saw was different from the Dino that I first knew. Something about him seemed less elusive and more grounded this time around.
The last time I saw ‘ Ser Dino’ was during the Myx launch party at the Henry Ford Theater in Hollywood in 2006. Back then, he was still working in ABS-CBN as creative director for Myx. He has since moved to Electronic Arts, a leading independent developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software. Dino works as a user interface designer. He is currently working on a game called Dead Space, due for an October release.
The Tower of Misunderstanding
Our conversation eventually veered towards reminiscent thoughts. Dino almost became an elusive entity after he dropped out of his Fine Arts course in UP in 1996 (a decision he made for very valid reasons). He remained a prominent figure in the art scene and made appearances here and there, especially since he got published for a children’s book called The Tower of Misunderstanding in 1997.
Dino spoke about the source of his muse for writing the book. He was coming to terms with his cousin’s death at that time. “It was a time for me to let go of understanding and accept things,” Dino recounted. A former girlfriend’s little sister would always ask him to tell her a story before going to bed. Usually he had one or two prepared, but that particular night he had none. He decided to weave one as they went along and realized that in doing so, he felt a sense of comfort and healing.
A new frontier
The Internet was still in its infancy during the late 90s, but Dino was quick to claim new territory. Fascinated by kilobytes and html’s, he formed a tri-media design studio called Binary Soup with a few friends. “It was a lucrative time to break in the industry,” he said. The business was actually groundbreaking at that time. They were able to market their services to clients over a few drinks and a lot of chika.
Bert is Evil
This newfound media became Dino’s new canvass for his wild ideas. The controversial Bert is Evil was born in 1998. Armed with a crazy concept and some Photoshop skills, Dino juxtaposed visuals of Bert (from Sesame Street) with infamous personalities as Adolf Hitler and Jerry Springer and tragic events in history as the JFK assassination.
Bertisevil.tv states, “We have reason to believe that Bert of Sesame Street is evil and you should keep your children away from him.” Here in these pages are collected incriminating images and documents that prove that Bert is not the lovable harmless geek he so successfully makes us think he is.”
Bert is Evil
became a phenomenon among humorists and earned Dino, along with Wout J Reinders and Jasper Hulshoff Pol, a Webby Award and the People’s Voice Award for Best Weird website at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco that same year.
However, Bert is Evil was treading on dangerous ground. Because of its raging popularity, maintaining the Bert is Evil site became too costly for Dino. Instead of shutting the website, Dino allowed it to be mirrored. It gave other humorists a chance to create their own images, linking Bert to “current and historical atrocities.”
After 9/11, while in his junior year at the Academy of Art, Dino got a phone call from Reuters and various news agencies. Reuters called to verify the authenticity of an undoctored photograph that they published. The photo showed a rally of Bin Laden supporters in Bangladesh with a banner of Bin Laden showing a small image of Bert over his shoulder in the background. The Bert-Bin Laden image was posted in a Bert is Evil mirror site in 1998 and was not of Dino’s doing.
Dino got a kind letter from the Children’s Television Workshop, creator of Sesame Street, requesting that he take down the Bert is Evil site. With a statement saying that “I am doing this because I feel this has gotten too close to reality and I choose to be responsible enough to stop it right here,” Dino permanently removed the site from his server.
However, Dino was powerless over mirror sites.
Apparently, a mirror site maintained by Dennis Pozniak was the cause of the ruckus. He continued where Dino left off, creating new “evidence of Bert’s evilness.” Pozniak posted an image of Bert with Bin Laden that was made by a contributor only known as J-roen in 1998. After the controversial photograph was released, Pozniak was pummeled with questions by the media which led him to eventually shut down his mirror site as well.
Maritess vs The Superfriends
“I’m just cooking fish! I’m so sorry Aquaman!’” is perhaps the most popular line from Maritess vs The Superfriends. It’s funny, ironic and self-deprecating all at the same time.
The 2002 debut of this Rex Navarrete-Dino Ignacio collaboration brought as much hype as Bert is Evil - with more positive and enduring results. Maritess vs The Superfriends is not only laugh-out loud funny, it also brought socio-economic issues and issues on equality and gender into the forefront for Filipinos all over the world to digest.
Maritess vs The Superfriends
is about the confessions of Maritess, a Filipina housekeeper who works for the Superfriends in the Hall of Justice. Because of extreme poverty, Maritess was drawn to a job ad in the paper. Whisked by Wonderwoman in her invisible jet, Maritess flew from her native Zamboanga to the United States to work for the Superfriends where her (mis)adventures unfolded.
Dino met Rex Navarette, the man (yes, that’s his voice) behind Maritess, in 1999 at a film screening in San Francisco. For six months, Dino and Rex worked together closely on the project.
Among Dino’s other well-received projects were Mongodroids and the Weng Weng sticker campaign. Dino is a well of whacky ideas that will never run dry. His legacy of wild, irreverent concepts continue to fascinate millions.
He is now happily married to to Nina de Torres Ignacio and lives in San Jose in northern California.