Trese Review: An Amazing Animation about Filipino Culture
Mythical Creatures in Different Cultures
Trese review: In every corner of the world, the things that go bump in the night seem to be embedded in every culture. The Yokai of Japan, Banshee of Ireland, Mokèlé-mbèmbé of Congo, and even the modern Yeti of Nepal These stories made fun bedtime stories and used as means to force children to sleep. However, the rest of the world seems to take for granted the richness of these stories that are still being told, especially in rural areas. As a kid myself, I’ve grown fascinated with the stories that were told by my grandmother, which were also told by her grandmother.
She told me about how kapres would peacefully reside in balete trees, how the pregnant women should guard their unborn child against the tiktiks and the mananggals that are hungry for the flesh of the fetus, and reminded me to always say “tabi tao” (as someone coming from the Bisaya part of the archipelago) or just “tabi-tabi po” as a reminder for those that a normal human being to step aside and also a reminder for the human to tread carefully, as the boundary between this world and that of the unseen is thin.
Back when I was still in grade 7, I could still vividly remember our Filipino teacher giving us an activity that featured a script of all the scenes that transpired in “A Little Known Murder in Studio 4”, obviously this script is translated into Tagalog. The whole activity appealed to my love of cryptozoology (when I was still young, I was deeply fascinated with identifying creatures that are folktales passed down from different cultures). I begged my parents to let me have a copy of the comics, but it was not until I was in grade 12 where I bought the only available copies of Trese Comics in the National Bookstore. I was engrossed with the comics and the stories that they passed down. Somehow, these comics kept Philippine mythology in the limelight.
Finally, when Netflix announced the making of the Trese animated series, I was overjoyed. My dreams of watching Alexandra Trese do it in action could finally be realized. When it was released on the 11th of June 2021, I immediately watched the first season. Although the series deviated from how the comics told the story, it was a masterpiece worthy for every Filipino citizen to watch.
Cinematography of Trese
The cinematography of the series was astonishing, there was a particular shot that is eerily reminiscent of the Filipino flag. As someone who is relatively immersed in different anime cinematography, it is fair to say that Trese could compete with other international anime series in terms of their cinematography. It could also be said that with the rise of the animation industry in the Philippines, many of the shots that were featured in this animation series are at par, or even going above and beyond, to compete with the rest of the animation series. The evolution of the Filipino animation series has gone a long way, ever since the release of RPG Metanoia, a Filipino animated film released last 2010.
It should be said that Trese was met with criticism from netizens, especially how Netflix decided to cast Liza Soberano to voice the Filipino dub of Alexandra Trese. However, it must also be considered that it is a strategic marketing move from Netflix to cast her as it could generate more viewers to flock upon the animated series. Alongside her voice-acting performance that superbly encapsulates how Filipino voice actors have done through the years.
It should be said that Filipino performance hinges upon this degree of theatricality and it still retains this kind of degree to every performance that even modern-day Filipino voice actors try to deliver to the audience. The general public may find it odd, as most of the audience is well-versed with the air of naturalism done by the Western film and voice acting industry. Nonetheless, this degree of “oddness” is what delivers a much refreshing performance for modern-day viewers that have yet to listen to Filipino voice acting.
Social Implications of Aswangs and Trese
As time goes by, the passing of folklores through oral tradition has slowly dwindled through the years. I admit, as a person who has been living with his grandparents and living in the rural areas, the tradition of using monsters as a form of mechanism to “teach” young children not to venture forth into the darkness, or even misbehave, is still very much alive.
As I grew up, there’s an admiration and curiosity that wraps around the knowledge as to the purpose and existence of these supernatural beings (if even they do coexist with the corporeal realm). My father, who is an Anthropology graduate and a staunch skeptic of the supernatural, offers a theory (which he learned also from his time as an Anthropology graduate). He asserts that the usage of aswangs by the Spanish colonizers were merely tools to subjugate and try to convince the Filipinos to believe in the power of Christianity.
Throughout the years, it has been agreed that Christianity needs to adapt to the culture with which it would like to put its roots. Take for example the celebration of Easter Day, with which it has been believed that it was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the coming of Easter. It was originally a pagan festival to celebrate the coming of spring, and also as a celebration for the goddess of spring Eostre (Ostara), which her festival falls on the vernal equinox.
In the case of the aswang, since the Spaniards noticed that the Filipinos were still highly uneducated (in terms of understanding and comprehending complex ideas) and they also observed that Filipinos are highly superstitious (still clinging to the pagan beliefs of spirits, trolls, and other creatures that lurk in the dark). With these in mind, the correlation of aswangs with that of the workings of the devil has been abused by the Spaniards to their will. It also allowed the Spaniards to force upon the power of Christianity to the Filipinos, as a means to combat the aswangs.
My father added that evidence of aswang attacks was merely fabricated by the colonizers as a means to instill fear in the locals and offer up a solution through Christianity to “save” them from these monstrosities. As time goes on, it took root at the very core of Filipino culture and it has been used by parents as a means to prevent their children from venturing out into the woods and fear the dark.
However, the culture of using aswangs by colonizers did not stop in the Spaniards. The Americans also used this to their advantage to psychologically combat the Huk (HUKBALAHAPS) rebels that infested the rural areas of the Philippines during the 1950s. Their plan is ingenious, wherein they would leave deceased Huk fighters by the side of the road in a busy area in the province and that there would be holes that were punctured in these corpses, resembling that of an aswang bite (or just simply animal bites). The sight alone would terrify the locals, and possibly other Huk rebels, that these monsters that were told to them by their parents to prevent them from venturing further into the jungle are now on the hunt.
Another tactic that the CIA would employ would be painting an “eye of God ” to suspected Huk sympathizers in the middle of the night. This tactic was successful in putting the much superstitious locals to withdraw support for the Huk rebels. Nevertheless, these events solidified the idea that aswangs became a normal belief in the Filipino culture, especially in rural areas.
With the advent of technology, it is to no surprise that Budgette Tan decided to ask the question “What would happen if aswangs suddenly move out of the rural areas and encroach into the urban environment?” It is refreshing to see teenagers and young adults alike become interested in a part of the Filipino culture, with which most of our ancestors did their very best to preserve up to the future generations.
It is also understandable that this is the modern version of passing the “oral tradition” with which our ancestors have done for years. Diving into the comic book, though there were parts that were retained there were also parts that were omitted (there were also characters that were not included in the animated series, such as the character Jeremy, which personified the urban legend that surrounds the existence of a snake creature under the basement of a certain mall in the Philippines) to make the plot make sense. It feels like most of the A Song of Ice and Fire series approached the Game of Thrones TV series of the said book, some plotlines were covered in the book which was completely altered in the TV series.
In any way we look into this aspect of the TV series, it should be kept in mind that this could be strategic for the animated series to embark into a much fresher take into the comic book not just for the fans of the Trese Comics, but also to those that haven’t read the series.
As someone who has read the comics series, I find Trese series light and it gave a much fresher take to the cases that Alexandra Trese has embarked on throughout her journey. It also explored how the different plotlines that the different cases could intersect with each other. Honestly, I was looking forward to how the animators would bring the actions that were printed in the comic panels into the animated series.
I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.