Trese (Volume 4, Last Seen After Midnight), by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, P175 at National Bookstore.
My dad brought home a package from National Bookstore a couple of nights ago. Looked like books! I opened the envelope that came with it first, and it was an invitation to the Nicholas Sparks signing here in Manila. I won’t even begin to go into what will be a long discussion about why I’m not a fan. (Although if you are, that’s totally okay. I kinda loved Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, too.)
So imagine my relief when I opened the package and found this book (and another one I haven’t read) instead.
I like comics. I like graphic novels. I like mythology. Therefore, to put it simply, I really liked Trese.
I can’t remember what the context was, when it was said, or what his exact words were, but I know that Neil Gaiman once said something about how Philippine folklore is so rich with material. That we have so much potential for speculative fiction stories that are distinctly Filipino. And I think that Trese proves that. Philippine mythology is alive and well, and so very fresh in this book.
This is the fourth volume. (I have to pick up the first three as soon as I can.) I felt like reading something before going to sleep, and my interest was piqued by the text on the jacket: Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese. Right up my alley.
I don’t review, I kind of just go on at length about why I like something. So here’s the lowdown: Alexandra Trese is the go-to girl for the kinds of cases that police just can’t handle—the stuff involving the otherworldly. There are four stories in this volume. In the first, Cadena de Amor, Trese is called to investigate some very strange plant activity in Luneta Park. In A Private Collection, she looks into the death by torture and mutilation of a manananggal and tries to find the culprit before a supernatural gang war erupts in Metro Manila. In Wanted: Bedspacer, students and other tenants of a condominium along Katipunan Avenue are falling into deep depressions and it’s up to Trese to figure out what’s really going on. In Fight of the Year (my favorite), we meet a seemingly unbeatable boxer from General Santos City who cut a deal with the devil and, every year, must fight the most important 12 rounds of his life—to save his city.
I loved that I just could not put this book down. I told myself I’d only read one story and save the rest for another day, then I ended up sleeping at 2:30 because I read the whole thing. I loved the pacing, and that I couldn’t wait to turn the pages because I wanted to know what was going on. I loved the clever re-imagining of the colorful characters of Filipino myth, how they were translated into a modern day context that I found compelling and relatable. I loved that, after I read the stories, I went straight to Google to look up the myths I wasn’t familiar with—the Batibat, the Santelmo—and suddenly felt an urge to learn more about our legends and folklore because they’re actually really interesting.
I just loved it. Period. I can’t wait to read the rest. I kind of want to be Alexandra Trese. And for P175 a pop, it’s a hell of a deal.