It’s one of my goals this year to read more works by Filipino writers. Though I have yet to fully indulge myself in Filipino literary goodness, I started the year right by allotting a weekend to read Trese, a komiks created by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. I am quite late into getting into the illustrated novels since it’s been around for a few years. I only learned about the graphic novel when they released the fourth book last year. I wanted to buy it immediately but I know that I have to read the first books before that. Sadly, the time I inquired they only had the fourth book. I had to wait for a few weeks before National Bookstore re-released copies of the first three books. But since I was a cheapskate, I only bought the first book.
The first book, Trese: Murder on Balate Drive, introduces the reader to Alexandra Trese, someone who obviously knows how to deal with supernatural crimes. She’s the one person Captain Guerrero contacts when an unusual case pops up. The first book only gives a glimpse on the true nature of her job and shows very little background of how Trese ends up with the job. There are four stories in the book, and once I finished the last one, I regretted not buying the three other books at the same. It’s so easy to read, something you can devour for an hour or so. It’s something you’d end up reading in one seating because it’s really engaging.
Good thing Ate Marco has a copy of the three other books, and she’s nice enough to let me borrow them. I am now saving my money so I can buy Trese Books 2, 3, and 4 in one go. It’s just insanely good. There’s a good reason why the Sandman himself likes these series. The black and white illustration gives the entire series a more sinister appeal. I’m quite glad that they didn’t push through the plans for a colored cover.
Of the three stories, I definitely like the third book the most. Trese: Mass Murders devotes the entire book introducing us to the start of Alexandra’s careers. I’ll try not to divulge too much because the gentle unraveling of the past makes the book even better. We meet Alexandra’s father. In fact, we meet Alexandra’s whole clan who happens to battle the same bad guys from the supernatural world. I got chills the entire time I was reading the book. Each story is expertly crafted that it’s so easy to be lured into reading for hours without noticing the time. In fact, that’s how I felt when I read the other books. They just have this “unput-downable” charm.
As a kid, I didn’t really read Pinoy komix, and Trese made me feel like I missed out a lot. Trese doesn’t only pay homage to Filipino roots but it also pays tribute to some komiks characters that we all know and love. There’s just so many familiar characters that it’s just interesting to see how they’d be presedented in the novel.
To Sir Budjette and Sir Kajo, I thank you for re-introducing me to forgotten Filipino folklore. I have some crazy dwende memories as a kid (that I will not share here to not turn off friends and readers haha I was a pretty weird kid), and Trese brought me back to my childhood. I thank you for showing me that we really have a rich culture that was left unexplored, but you found a creative way to bring Filipinos closer to their roots. Once my younger cousins are old enough to read, I promise to let them read these graphic novels so they will know about tikbalang, nuno sa punso, tiyanak and other supernatural beings from Filipino folklore. I know that they don’t hear much about it now, unlike when I was a kid that my parents’ used to scare me with these supernatural beings, telling me not to go outside when it’s dark because of the tikbalang. But it’s really the duwende that hits home. Maybe I’ll share that story some other time.
Trese reminds me of a concept I learned in college: popularization. It’s a term used when trying to make scientific data (or any concept/idea/etc.) more approachable and understandable for the common people. It’s when you make a topic that’s often ignored or taken for granted and make it something that anyone would appreciate and take notice. In a way, Trese is a form of popularization wherein it brings Filipino folklore to the public using something that’s so easy to relate to: komiks. In my opinion, it’s a pretty effective way to popularize the topic.
Not only does these books make me appreciate my culture, but it also encourages me to read more graphic novels by Filipino artists and writers. When a book encourages the reader to read, I think it has done more than its fair share of work. If you’re a Filipino and reading this, then I suggest that you troop to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself this series. If you’re short on cash like me, you can read the entire series at Trese’s official blog.