Trese 4 Wins National Book Award

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2012

Congratulations to Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo (and Visprint) for their most recent National Book Awards win! Here’s a Press Release from the team, followed by the text of the introduction to the volume from Ruel de Vera. (Also, don’t forget that Budjette and Kajo will be at Alabang Town Center on November 24!)

Trese Book 4: Last Seen After Midnight, written by Budjette Tan, illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo was awarded Best Graphic Literature for 2011 at the National Book Awards.

The award was received by Tan, Baldisimo and their publisher Nida Ramirez of Visprint, Inc.

This is the second time that National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle have recognized and awarded the works of Tan and Baldisimo. Last 2010, Trese Book 3 won the same award.

Trese follows the adventures of paranormal investigator Alexandra Trese. She is the main consultant of the police whenever they encounter crime involving supernatural creatures. In Trese Book 4, she is called to solve the murder of a manananggal, stop a plant elemental from committing a massacre, investigate a case involving a bangungnot, and reveal the secret of the country’s champion prize-fighter.

Ruel de Vera of the Manila Critic Circles, wrote in his introduction for Trese 4: “With each case, Budjette and Kajo raise their levels of artistry to new heights without ever resorting to gimmickry, relying instead on an expertise in the unexpected twist and self-awareness, a feat that transcends the tropical islands Trese originates from. From a cult hit, Trese has now become a true mainstream success—which it deserves—and the next step should be widespread international recognition—which it deserves as well.”

In the past two years, Trese has received much praise from here and abroad.

“Trese continues to impress and surprise, daring to go where no Filipino comic book dare to go,” said Gerry Alanguilan, creator of the award-winning graphic novel Elmer.

Leinil Yu, artist of Marvel’s Indestructible Hulk said, “Trese excites the little child in me which used to believe in the wonders of Filipino folklores, and my adult self who enjoys intelligently written and drawn tales.  Budjette and Kajo’s Trese is a gem”

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Executive Producer of Southland and writer/producer of CSI:New York, had this to say about the graphic novel: “The late Steve Sabol of NFL films once said, ‘Tell me a fact and I’ll remember. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But, tell me a story and it’ll live in my heart forever.’ It is a unique and admirable skill to craft a well told story set in an intriguing world, inhabited by compelling characters. Yet, every time I open a chapter of the Trese saga, I’m blown away by Budjette’s imagination and by Kajo’s imagery. They’ve created a series full of swagger, featuring one of the most dynamic heroines you’ll ever see. Trese is thrilling, engaging and epic.”

“From the first moment I got a glimpse into the world of Alexandra Trese, I was hooked,” said Shanty Harmayn, CEO at Salto Film Company, Producer of the award-wining Indonesia film “Sang Penari” (The Dancer) “It was wonderfully new and exciting, yet somehow familiar as many of the supernatural creatures and their stories were similar to the tales I grew up hearing in Indonesia. With Budjette’s masterful ability to weave a great mystery and Kajo’s beautiful graphic imagery, I look forward to visiting Trese’s world many times over.”

In 2011, after Trese 4 ended up on National Book Store’s Best Seller List, Tan received this email from Neil Gaiman, “So ridiculously proud of you! When I came out all those years ago for the first time, that was what I wanted to see happen… I feel like you and all the smart Filipino writers and artists out there are doing something really brave and powerful, making a whole new wave of Filipino art and story. Well done!”

National Book Awards was held last November 17, 2011 and was presented by The National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. The event was held at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Museum of the Philippines.

TRESE Books 1 to 5 is now available book stores and comic shops nationwide. For more information, visit:

The Dark Heart

Ruel de Vera’s introduction to Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight

I first encountered Budjette Tan more than twenty years ago as fellow college freshmen at the Ateneo, a time of much brightness and unburnished promise. We shared an unabashed interest in comic books, but while I liked comic books, Budjette really loved them. He was immersed in them, in the cloud of word balloons and powerful panels. We talked about the future, about my wanting to become a writer of some sort and Budjette tinkering with the implausible idea of conjuring into reality comic books of his own.

In the years after graduation, I began toiling at a newspaper but Budjette really threw himself into his dream. Even though he was held down a day job, he began rolling out graphic tales of his own without fear of whether there was an audience out there. More importantly, Budjette shepherded into existence Alamat Comics, the imprint that would lead aspiring Filipino comic book creators unto bookstore shelves as well as public consciousness. As Alamat’s founding editor, Budjette is effectively somehow and in some way responsible for most of the great Filipino-crafted comic books out there now.

While pushing Alamat into paginated life is an unprecedented accomplishment I actually consider Trese to be Budjette’s greatest creative achievement. Who knew that such supernatural stories sat like eggs waiting to be hatched inside Budjette’s brain, knowing that Budjette is one of the most pleasant people you will ever meet.

When I first read Trese: Murder on Balete Drive, I immediately saw how Alexandra Trese and her Kambal had emerged full-formed from Budjette’s cranium unto the black-and-white page. When I finally met the quiet, self-possessed Kajo Baldisimo in person I honestly felt a bit awed, because I had found myself caught up in his sharp, elaborate panels like a fly in a web. But beyond that, I realized that “Trese” represented a quantum leap forward in telling the Filipino horror story.

Our imaginary beings, from the tikbalang to the aswang, have always had just a slightly sinister side to them. The Filipino has had a long, impressive tradition in telling scary stories, from our tarot card-reading lolas, who implanted in us the possibility that there are things unseen and undiscovered everywhere, to the original Shake, Rattle and Roll movie, which was the first, good example of taking the creatures of Philippine folklore and lower mythology and transplanting them into a modern form and into a current timeframe.

Trese is the perfect evolution of that metamorphosis. Budjette and Kajo take not only the monsters of our past but the fearful symmetry of our pop culture, the bloodline of the zeitgeist, and capture them in a vibrant, shadowy yet accessible narrative. They harvest the enthralling and the enchanting from both the past and present and express them in a graphic-fiction format, a storytelling method that suits this new century.

After Trese: Murder on Balete Drive introduced the Trese team, Budjette and Kajo dealt with their surprising origins in the next two exquisite collections, Trese: Unreported Murders and Trese: Mass Murders. Now, Trese: Last Seen After Midnight delves on the frightening new cases Trese and the Kambal are called out to unravel. There is a secret shrouded in shrubbery in “Cadena de Amor.” Something different and unusual is on the hunt in “A Private Collection.” In “Wanted: Bedspacer,” a college dormitory in Quezon City tells its own twisted tale. But Budjette and Kajo harvest the most out of the zeitgeist with “Fight of the Year,” where a beloved champion prizefighter pays a terrible price for his victories, a tale that’s also unique as it takes Trese and team out of Metro Manila, hinting at an unknown world still waiting for our protagonists—and us readers—to discover together.

With each case, Budjette and Kajo raise their levels of artistry to new heights without ever resorting to gimmickry, relying instead on an expertise in the unexpected twist and self-awareness, a feat that transcends the tropical islands Trese originates from. From a cult hit, Trese has now become a true mainstream success—which it deserves—and the next step should be widespread international recognition—which it deserves as well.

In the waking world, there are three comic books I turn to for spooky adventures unlike any other. For straight out horror epic, there is Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and his struggle with his destiny. For investigations into the strange, there is Warren Ellis’s Planetary and the many odd occurrences that team looks into. And then, there is Trese.  It is that good.


With Trese, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo extract the dark heart of Philippine storytelling, and raise it to the light, still beating and bleeding, showing the world that here are stories that can scare anyone anywhere, and here are storytellers who love telling their tales so much that they beguile any readers anywhere. To both ensorcelled returning readers and those new to these dark street corners, welcome to the weird landscape of Trese and may your visit be lengthy and amazing.

Ruel S. De Vera is the Associate Editor of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. He reviews books and movies for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He teaches at the Ateneo de Manila’s Department of Communication. He is the author and editor of ten books, including the best-selling Youngblood 3. Aside from good books, he enjoys comic books and is addicted to Mountain Dew. Ruel has been writing about Filipino comic books and Filipino comic book creators since the 1990s.



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