Posts Tagged ‘tikbalang’
Alexandra Trese won’t make it in Alaska, if she needs to wear a trench coat in sweltering Manila. But, hey, I can relate… style before comfort.
In Trese, Manila is a black-and-white world, sheltering all sorts of things that go bump in the night. If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who are you going to call? Not Ghostbusters, they’re loud and clumsy. In the cracks of reality in Manila’s underbelly, a deft touch, favored by compromise, backed up by much firepower, is needed.
The second volume in Trese’s saga, Unreported Murders offers more of the bizarre, yet almost believable tales involving crimes committed by or against the Philippines’s creatures of lower mythology, the kind that fears the light, that are drawn instead to sewers and the city’s forgotten spaces. Urban legends are given life, shape, and form, as part of us, contributing to society in their own big and little ways.
“Beware the criminals that can’t be bound with handcuffs nor harmed with bullets.”
Truly, to read this book is to be taken to familiar places—Mother Ignacia in Quezon City, the cemetery along Kalayaan street in Makati, the big malls in Ortigas, and a posh subdivision near Rockwell—transformed into the other side of the mirror where we refuse to look too closely for fear of encountering our own dark souls. Unfortunately, the city is peopled by certain beings, the manananggal (human-like creature whose upper body separates from his/her lower extremity, sprouting bat-like wings at night; preys on pregnant women), duwende (gnomes), tiyanak (souls of aborted fetuses turned malevolent) and laman-lupa (earth elementals), who are only too willing to turn our dreams into reality, for a kiss, a song, or a curse.
Encounters sometimes end in death, or worse.
Each episode, or case, begins with a map, a strangely frightening one indicating the scene of the crime by a few lines only slightly visible from the blackness of the rest of the page. As each case progresses, we get to have a better feel for Alexandra, and her way of doing her job. In the previous volume, I immediately noticed that all is not well between psychic dad, Anton, and daughter. I have an idea that while dad is super honest and straight, the daughter is less rigid, preferring to play with the dark side and make deals with its creatures. We’ll probably know more about their relationship in the third (and last?) volume.
And just like in volume 1, the cases are quite unforgiving of slip-ups, even by deeply cherished archetypes and pop culture icons who somehow got entangled in the machinations of the underworld. Showbiz stars, high profile doctors, department-store scions, elite-village residents—they are not the untouchables of Manila; they are the weakest link keeping humanity together against these otherworldly forces.
There are some unforgettable characters in this volume: Case 5′s poor dead duwende,who can give Simon Cowell a run for his money, paid for his lack of good judgment with his life, betrayed by his talent’s attachment to fame and glory. The lizard guy, who used to skulk in ladies’ dressing rooms at Robinson’s Mall (changed to Robertson’s Mall in the book), turns out to be an internet geek, and is now online buddies with one his victims.
Sad to say, case 8 left me with the strongest impression, not because it was the strongest story, but because, in the aftermath of Ondoy’s and Pepeng’s fury, I can only view it as prophetic, a threat made terrifyingly true. As I see it, there were hundreds of unreported murders recently. But the murderers weren’t Ondoy and Pepeng.
Trese is a graphics novel, written in English.
Written by artseblis
October 18, 2009 at 4:20 pm
Tagged with aswang, bookish activities, budjette tan, comics review, duwende, engkanto, filipino author, filipino comics, filipino folklore, filipino illustrator, filipino mythology, kajo baldisimo, kapre, manananggal, nuno sa punso, out of this world, paranormal thriller, really mysterious, supernatural fantasy, supernatural mystery, supernatural thriller, tikbalang, trese, unreported murders, white lady
Armanaz, Armazan… He’s still a tikbalang living in a penthouse suite.
Where life and light should be are only shadows and grey lines. The map of Trese’s Metro Manila contains no details. All I know is that I am in there somewhere, living my ordinary life, and they are there as well, loving and hating, the same us us, side by side with us, however hard we pretend they are not there. And sometimes, out of passion or greed, they commit crimes.
Who do I call for paranormal help then?
With a concept as striking as this, who would fail to pick up this latest work of genius from a dynamic Filipino duo, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo? Especially now that the country’s publishing industry is struggling mightily to stay afloat, I can only be overjoyed to encounter innovative concepts take form.
A graphic novel, Trese follows the cases of paranormal investigator Alexandra Trese as she takes on the mantle of psychic dad. The first case is a double-dead mystery, a hit-and-run of a white lady, ghost of a wronged woman who appears to motorists, causing them to swerve and crash. Trese investigates how a ghost could die again, and who would wish to murder her.
In this volume, the first, four cases are featured, dark tales full of tears and violence, drawing heavily on Filipino folklore. The nuno (a little old man) does not live in the punso (ant hill) anymore; it has made another home in a manhole, peering out from under the heavy metal cover to dispense tips for Trese. Aswangs (humans who transform into animals to eat the flesh of babies) hole up at the pier, planning their next kidnapping spree. In the tallest building in the metropolis is the headquarters of the city’s most powerful business tycoon, a tikbalang (a giant, with the face and hooves of a horse) who controls his empire through human underlings. Trese is assisted by the Kambal (twins), creatures of indeterminate paranormal origins, who wear the two masks of man—happy and sad—while in combat. And, engkantos, sentient spirits of nature, are everywhere, assuming human forms to play with humanity’s weaknesses, challenge our strengths, and offer us our dreams—for a price.
With no colors to soften the violence of the drama that plays out in Manila’s underbelly, reading Trese is a visceral experience. The lines are starkly drawn, and there are no clear boundaries between frames. For good or ill, the denizens of the dark live among us, having as much right to be here as we do—and they play no favorites… Case 4 is a case in point.
Trese is written in English, with only a few Tagalog terms for uniquely Filipino phenomena or mythological beings. I imagine a non-Filipino reader would find it very interesting, yet startling.
Written by artseblis
October 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm
Tagged with aswang, bookish activities, budjette tan, comics review, duwende, engkanto, filipino author, filipino comics, filipino folklore, filipino illustrator, filipino mythology, kajo baldisimo, kapre, manananggal, murder on balete drive, nuno sa punso, out of this world, paranormal thriller, really mysterious, supernatural fantasy, supernatural mystery, supernatural thriller, tikbalang, trese, white lady