Why Trese remains at vanguard of Pinoy pop-culture surge

Sofia K. Guanzon

Posted at Dec 27 2021 09:56 AM | Updated as of Dec 27 2021 10:18 AM

Months after its anime adaptation that was aired on Netflix, “Trese” continues to be at the forefront of Philippine pop culture.

“Trese”, the best-selling and lauded komik book series, has spun off into different directions that creators Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo did not foresee.

“The typical question back then was, ‘Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?,’ ” recalls Tan. “I distinctly remember saying: ‘Oh, I’m sure in 5 years we’ll have global distribution. I’m sure we'll have a full-color comic book and we’ll be in American comic book stores and comic book stores all over.’ Obviously, di nangyari yoon.” 

Reality though has never looked so good.

Alexandra Trese — two versions of the komiks heroine — is an official Funko Pop. The original comic book series, though written in English, is now reprinted and distributed in North America by Oregon company Ablaze with special edition covers by the likes of Manix Abrera and Miguel Mercado. Plus, there is a spinoff series entitled “Bloodlines” centered on the Trese brothers. 

Trese has joined the ranks of classic Filipino komik book icons Darna, Captain Barbel, or Ang Panday as cultural phenomena.


A post shared by Budjette Tan (@budjette)

Now, after “Trese” made history as the first Filipino anime on Netflix, the natural question is: what’s next? 

With the streaming platform and American movie studios on a trajectory of adapting anime series to live action such as the recently released “Cowboy Bebop”, “Death Note” and “Ghost in the Shell” among many others, one may think that’s the natural course for the Filipino series as well. 

Tan reveals that from 2009 until 2018, “Trese” was being pitched as a live-action adaptation. After all, its executive producers, Tanya Yuson and Shanty Harmayn, had extensive experience working on live-action television series and movies. 

“You really can’t say what will suck you into the fandom. It might be an adaptation that you don’t like but it’s enough to let you go down the rabbit hole and find its original source material.” Budjette laughs, adding “there is an entire generation of kids whose first exposure to Star Wars is through Lego.” 

Tan, who now works for Lego, denies there is any “Trese” adaptation for this very popular toy.

The next komik book chapter though should be out hopefully in 2022.

“We used to aspire about global distribution or being sold in America And it didn’t happen for some time,” recalled Tan. “By focusing on the work and putting fun and love into the work has allowed it [‘Trese’] to travel to where it is now. Versus reversing it and thinking: ‘Ano kaya’ng sisikat? Ano pwede nating gawin para sumikat tayo?’ That’s the perfect formula to failure.” 

Comics are works that demand entropy. They work on a monthly rollout of issues, yielding varying degrees of fatigue to the creators if not measured against a passion that outweighs it. 

“I still have my Marvel rejection letter with Spider-Man on the letterhead,” Tan says from his home in Denmark. 

“Kahit rejection letter ’yun, tuwang-tuwa kami parang na-reject tayo ng Marvel. It was like, galing ’to sa New York. Na-reject tayo ng Marvel,” he shouts with a glee that sounds less like it’s coming from an adult and more like a kid who grew up a comic-book fan, that version of ourselves we keep under wraps in the face of adulthood. However, I suspect he’s someone who leans into that part of himself because Budjette Tan is, before anything a fan. 

Looking back, it’s hard to believe there might have been a world without “Trese”. More than a beacon of representation for Filipino culture, the komik and now the anime has resonated with a global audience. Its paranormal noir Manila sensibilities evoke the same kind of wonder and familiarity that bring us back to all the stories we believed in with children. And younger generations, especially younger Filipino audiences, the series preserves and reinvents our culture in a way that it compels you to want more, learn more. 

“Trese” is also representative of Filipino ingenuity today in an age where art and culture transcend borders, weaving Philippine folklore into contemporary Metro Manila through the tradition of American comics and now adapted into Japanese anime. Yet, this all the more only feels like the beginning for the world of “Trese”.


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