Last weekend, I was trying to get into reading Noli Me Tangere for my Required Reading challenge and because it was Independence Day. Unfortunately, I was having a hard time getting started — it is one of our National Hero’s masterpieces written during the Philippines’ Spanish era, so the language was a bit dated. I had a hard time getting into the book so I perused my shelf for something easier to read, but still Filipino because like I said, it was our country’s independence day.
So I said hello to Alexandra Trese again. :)
I can’t remember who told me about the Trese series — I probably read it in one of the many blogs I’m following. Since I was on a mission to read more Filipino work last year, I knew I should read it, even if I only bought myself the first copy. I got it, read it in an hour, and liked it but never got to review it. I even met the authors during the Metro Comicon last year, but I’m not a comic girl, so I wasn’t really that interested, or starstruck, unlike some of my friends were. Fast forward a few months later, after getting the next books and discussing graphic novels with Ariel (who gave me Books 2 and 3 for Christmas), I finally cracked them open.
Trese # 1: Murder on Balete Drive by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
Number of pages: 104
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked
When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.
When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.
* * *
Trese is a comic book series about Alexandra Trese, a bar owner who also works as a paranormal detective helping the Manila police in solving the weirder crimes that happen in the metro. Each book has a series of shorter stories inside, where we see Trese find the criminal through her contacts in the paranormal world. As it’s set in the Philippines, Trese’s paranormal contacts are all from the Philippine mythology — aswang, duwende, tikblang, etc.
I remember reading the first book last year and being impressed — it was very nice to read about something I know and grew up with given a different twist. Trese was likeable despite her very cold demeanor, and she immediately joins the strong female leads that I have read about in other books. I do find her a little bit too perfect in this though — perfect in the sense that she knows everything and she does everything right. I would’ve wanted her to mess up a bit, but that may be too much for me to ask in the first book.
The cases were interesting, and they tread carefully between the line of paranormal and horror (is there a line there? Not sure). I liked how it related to what I know as a Filipino, but not in the classic, dated sense. I liked that the story was set in places in Manila and how they were updated to the current times. No deep dark forests or remote provinces were the creatures normally lurk here, for sure. It’s fun, and thankfully not scary enough for me to really freak out, you know?
Yeah, I know, I’m a big chicken. :P
On the international front, I think Trese would be able to hold its own with a bit of limitation. I don’t think it’s very hard to understand, but I think the mythology would take some time to get used to and would need more research for a non-Filipino reader to understand. It’s easy for me to wrap my head around the creepiness of Balete Drive because I live here, but for someone in another country, I’m not sure if the creepiness factor would be the same. Still, I’d like to see how non-Filipino readers would view Trese.