Trese: The magic and horrors of Philippine folktales

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by Myril Eloise Enolpe

              Alexandra Trese, bestowed with the ability and responsibility, embarks on a mission to impose the kasunduan (agreement) among magical creatures and human beings to coexist in harmony. Along with police captain Guerrero and her kambal (twins) assistants Crispin and Basilio, Alexandra investigates crimes beyond an ordinary person’s grasp.

Alexandra Trese with police captain Guerrero and her twin assistants Crispin and Basilio (Images: Netflix)

              With every episode throwing flashbacks of Alexandra’s childhood, viewers are given glimpses of how she became the babaylan (shaman) that she is and how her assistants came around. These flashbacks allow viewers to connect Alexandra’s past, her present, and the ultimate revelation at the end of episode 6.

              Set in urban Manila, “Trese” is an adaptation of the anime-inspired Filipino horror comic written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. Currently with six episodes, Netflix did not deprive this animated series of a brilliant voice acting cast both in English and Filipino. Alexandra is voiced in English by Shay Mitchell and in Filipino by Liza Soberano — both distinguished actresses.

              One of the things that make “Trese” a unique experience is its pleasant composition of both realism and invention. Portrayals of reality shown through images of city slums, shortcomings of people in public service, and the ugliness of too much hunger for power, all of these mixed with the characters in the form of enchanting creatures from Philippine horror stories. While showcasing these realities, “Trese” also gives hope that there is still good out there and we should never fall into the trap of hasty generalizations.

              For the Filipino audience that is aware of the characters from Philippine myths, “Trese” is sure fun to watch. This attempt to showcase Philippine beliefs brings pride to our culture and identity. It features aswangs, tikbalangs, tiyanaks, nuno, lamang-lupa, and other mythical characters known to Filipinos, making the series more appealing. However, those who are not familiar with any of these characters may find it a little off-putting.

              Although an animated series expected to fit the preference of viewers from all ages, “Trese” is simply not for everyone. The series contains morbid graphics not suitable for children and even adults who can’t stand stomach-churning scenes. If you push through despite your repulsion to gruesome graphics, you may find yourself covering your eyes for some solid seconds or so.

              Bombarded with a long monologue in a seeming rushed resolution, “Trese” deserves a Season Two that hopefully will give justice to the remarkable introduction of some characters who end up to be not-so-important side characters. A sequel season may also give a little twist on Alexandra’s invincible-like nature that will give some thrill to the viewers.

              Overall, “Trese” lives up to its prominence—showcasing the rich and colorful imagination of Filipino storytellers. Indeed, a must-watch for comic-version fans and to those who have never heard of it before.

Trese” is available for streaming on Netflix. Do not miss it.

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