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Why the unapologetically Filipino ‘Trese’ is a must-watch

By KATE HECETA Published Jun 11, 2021 5:00 am Updated Jun 11, 2021 12:00 pm

When I was a university student, scrimping and saving for every book and comic that I purchased, I ended up absolutely falling in love with Trese.

A comic series about a young woman with Constantine vibes running around Manila keeping the balance between the human world and the underworld, going toe-to-toe with creatures like the aswang and tikbalang? What’s not to love? 

Getting to see an advanced screener of Trese on Netflix was like a dream (or, considering the subject matter, a nightmare) come true. The animated series completely knocked all my expectations out of the park.

So here are six reasons why you need to catch the sixth child of the sixth child on Netflix!

The art is gorgeous

The opening salvo of the trailer, as well as the first episode, is a drone-like shot of the Makati skyline. And when I tell you that it had me salivating, I’m really not exaggerating. If you’ve ever ridden the MRT past the Guadalupe Station, seeing that opening shot is exactly like watching the view pass by as the train crosses the Pasig River.

Trese’s animators take that loving attention to detail and not only apply it to every scene in the series, but also level it up to unimaginable heights. As someone who went to high school, university, and eventually built a life and career in the city, the art of Trese felt like a love letter to my home.

Skyscrapers, highways like EDSA and C5, houses, slum areas, malls, iconic locations like Balete Drive and Malate — all of these places that make Metro Manila unique and recognizable are treated with respect and honesty. The city can be an awful place, but there can be beauty in it, too.

Lovable protagonists pitted against deliciously evil villains

Of course, coming into the show, you already know that the protagonist Alexandra Trese is a strong, independent, determined young woman who always gets her man — “her man” in this case meaning the bloodthirsty aswang terrorizing homeless victims. There’s so much to love about her. 

But the rest of the cast of characters is just as charming and multi-faceted as our leading lady. Her main assistants, Crispin and Basilio, are ruthless fighters who’ll stop at nothing to protect Trese: but they’re also squabbling siblings who are an amusing mix of conyo and kanto.

The absolute genius of Trese is that a lot of the villains are also people we could possibly encounter in real life: a self-serving and corrupt mayor, and greedy, violent, abusive cops. That sprinkling of reality is, in my opinion, what makes a work of speculative fiction truly great.

Captain Guerrero, Trese’s contact in the police, is a kind, warmhearted father figure who enjoys barako and pandesal. Hank, who runs the Trese family’s bar in Malate, is a gruff and grouchy bartender who drives an ’80s sedan, listens to disco music, and is secretly a stan of a popular actress. 

Of course, a show is only as good as its villains, and Trese’s bad guys put up one heck of a fight. Some are the sort of villains that would only occur in a horror TV show: aswang who eat human organs, tikbalang that enchant pretty girls, a sadistic war god.

But the absolute genius of Trese is that a lot of the villains are also people we could possibly encounter in real life: a self-serving and corrupt mayor, and greedy, violent, abusive cops. That sprinkling of reality is, in my opinion, what makes a work of speculative fiction truly great.

The showrunners did an excellent job with the material 

Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Trese is a TV series that deals with the supernatural, but a lot of its elements are all too real. There are storylines that deal with government corruption, police brutality, human selfishness and the like. The violence that happens onscreen doesn’t occur for the sake of violence.

Rather, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Trese not only entertains its viewers; it asks them to look beyond, as Alexandra Trese’s mother constantly reminds her.

Kajo Baldisimo and Budjette Tan created art that taps into the Filipino experience — not just the vagaries of everyday life, but the stories our ancestors passed down to us as well.

The comics they wrote took stories of real-life horror and infused them with the magical and the mysterious. Showrunners Tanya Yuson and Jay Oliva lived up to that vision by creating a recognizable Manila, even as aswang and tiyanak run around causing havoc onscreen. 

The whole thing is uniquely, unapologetically Filipino

One of my favorite scenes is Captain Guerrero’s morning routine. We see him get up, exercise, buy coffee and pandesal at a nearby tindahan, and then take a jeep to his place of work. It reminds me a little of the scenes in a Studio Ghibli movie, where the mundane is made magical. 

Even the magic and the supernatural is taken straight from the stories our elders told us. Saying “tabi-tabi po” (which is left untranslated in all the language dubs!) is an experience that all Filipinos who’ve ever walked through the streets know, after all.

The good and the bad are portrayed starkly and honestly in Trese. There are the bits and pieces that are funny and lighthearted, but also those that are dark and frustrating. And there’s beauty to be found in both — a fact that Trese highlights beautifully.

Support the Filipino animation and VA industry

Some of the most hardworking, skilled animators and voice actors are homegrown Filipino talents! It’s really sad that this seems to be a local industry that’s underfunded and overlooked. 

With Trese being shown on Netflix, available not just to Filipinos but international audiences as well, this could lead to a much-needed expansion of the animation and VA industry! I dream that Filipino animators and voice actors will be as vaunted as those in Japan and in the West!

Liza Soberano, who voiced Alexandra Trese in the Tagalog dub, certainly thinks so. “I learned so much from my voice coach, and from the other more-seasoned voice talents as well,” she said. “I’d love to learn more from them.” (On Trese Season 2, perhaps…?) 

Trese is a doorway; let’s make sure it stays open!

It’s just honestly a really good show

There’s so much about Trese to like, but above everything else it honestly really is a very good show!

The plot lines are tightly interwoven, connecting multiple stories from the comics in new ways that will entice and titillate the imaginations of both old and new fans. There are twists aplenty that will still shock comic fans and yet still make sense. The series writers give a new, fresh perspective to the whole thing, but it’s very much like a ‘90s anime as well. It’s not just nostalgic; it’s also exciting and modern. 

Trese is now streaming on Netflix. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it. Ibunyag ang nakatago.