Like many Filipino kids, I was fascinated with mythical creatures in local folklore during my childhood. Still unable to read as a toddler in the mid ’80s, I’d pore over the pages of our Filipino Heritage book that showed illustrations of all these ghastly beasts, half-wishing that they really existed in the provinces and imagining being chased by an aswang before killing it with a knife. I indulged further in these fantasies by watching Filipino horror flicks like “Halimaw sa Banga,” “Tiyanak,” the first few “Shake, Rattle & Roll” films, “Impaktita,” etc.
When I started teaching English (Philippine literature) to high school freshmen in 2004, the prescribed textbook we used had a selection on these supernatural creatures −the aswang, tiyanak, mangkukulam, white lady, tikbalang, tiktik, manananggal, kapre, nuno sa punso, sirena, etc. Inspired by that selection, the freshmen’s English Night production later that school year was “Thrillah Night,” an original play composed of six stand-alone vignettes each featuring a mythological creature.
I’ve always thought that our folkloric monsters are way more gruesome than those from the West, and had long hoped to see them come to life, so to speak, in an animated series that’s well-produced and definitely not corny.
And here comes the totally badass “Trese.” I binge-watched the TV series about a week after its June 11 premiere on Netflix, opting for the Filipino-dubbed version (of course!) in support of my dubbing peers who are cast in it. Having worked with most of them in various projects these past many years, I was thrilled to hear their voices through the characters they dubbed.
It was also titillating to see in animation the Metro Manila cityscape and other familiar local sites throughout the series, particularly in the opening scene set in the “haunted” Balete Drive, Quezon City (which I dared traverse past midnight a few times on my walk back home).
Since watching “Trese,” I would playfully imagine during my late-night commute and walkathons seeing zombies crawling up an MRT station, a tikbalang galloping on Edsa, a nuno sa punso appearing from underneath a manhole, a horde of the undead approaching me from the other end of a dark street, etc. Obviously hooked, I recently bought the first three installments of the “Trese” comic books on which the animated series is based, and found them quite enjoyable.
The “Trese” co-creators−comic book writer Budjette Tan and illustrator Kajo Baldisimo−richly deserve all the adulation coming their way for the massive success of their collaboration. This truly “gawang Pinoy” series showcases aspects of our culture and heritage, literature, society, and literary and artistic abilities.
It would be great if the enormous attention that “Trese” has been getting sparks our young readers’ interest in books, comics, and graphic novels by local authors and illustrators. From my years of teaching, I’ve observed that most students prefer reading books by foreign writers. May they also open themselves up to the literary works of and about Filipinos and the Philippines, for doing so would help strengthen their (and our) sense of national identity and pride. Plus, it would be an added boost, creatively and economically, to many aspiring Filipino authors, comic book writers, illustrators, and publishers whose literary and artistic caliber and work ethic are undeniably world-class, and who can churn out stories worthy of TV or even film adaptation for international viewing. The future looks exciting; thanks to “Trese” for paving the way.
So three cheers to Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, to the people who brought “Trese” to Netflix, and to dubbing director Rudolf Baldonado and my peers for their excellent voice acting performances. Film and TV star Liza Soberano ought to be commended, too. Her low vocal register and deadpan delivery matched the lead character Alexandra Trese’s mysteriousness and stoicism (reminiscent of the heroine Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Not bad, considering that this was her first stab at anime dubbing in Filipino. She will only get better.
Here’s looking forward to “Trese” season 2.
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Claude Lucas C. Despabiladeras teaches at the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School-QC and is a voice talent for TV and radio commercials, English and Filipino-dubbed foreign and local telenovelas and animes, and ABS-CBN’s the Jeepney TV Channel.
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