[#Y-SPACE] How ‘Trese’ Exposes the Philippines
Updated: Jun 20, 2021
By Mhicole Moral
It is the rebirth of Filipino art when Trese is hailed to be the first Filipino animated series by Netflix. Based on an award-winning Filipino comic series of the same title by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, the anime blends urban fantasy and horror of the streets of Manila.
Trese revolves around the world of the Lakan ng Sangkatauhan, Alexandra Trese, who wanders around the city investigating supernatural crimes and fighting monsters.
These societal concerns are not just present in the anime as Trese depicts real-life pressing socio-political issues in the Philippines.
"None of you cops are saints. We're not people to you. We're just numbers, statistics," said a guy who turned the dead into zombies as vengeance for his brother's death at the hands of policemen.
In his speech last 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte notified the public that there would be dark days during his six-year term. He has conducted an all-out war against drugs since taking office. Duterte also issued a shoot-to-kill order and urged civilians to kill suspected criminals. The "war on drugs," as promised by the President, has been brutal for years.
One evening in August 2017, the body of a dead 17-year-old boy was found in Caloocan. A young man named Kian delos Santos was reported to be killed in a drug operation by the police. The CCTV footage, on the other hand, showed that delos Santos was being dragged by two men at 8:24 PM before he was found dead . This suggests that the police killed delos Santos without fighting back, contrary to their report.
According to the government's official statistic through the #RealNumbersPH campaign, only 5,942 individuals connected to drugs have been killed in legal police operations as of October 31, 2020. However, the Philippine National Police reported on June 18, 2019, that as of May 31, 2019, 6,600 drug suspects had been killed.
In a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations, over half of the respondents said they don't believe that most of those killed were actually drug personalities.
Many had been killed without being subjected to due process just to aid the drug war by the administration. Although mandated to ‘serve and protect,’ we cannot remove the fact that abuse of power and police brutality are still prevalent in our country.
A Tiyanak has made an appearance on Trese, a monster that assumes the form of a newborn infant. It was originally depicted as a baby that was aborted by their mother and subsequently returns to torment her, but it became more difficult as the infant now yearns for affection.
The discussion on abortion is still controversial in the Philippines as we are identified as a Christian nation with 80% of the population is Roman Catholic.
Abortion is illegal in our country, but the report says many women obtain abortions in unsafe conditions. The current criminal law on abortion in the Philippines is an outdated law that violates women's rights to health and life. Denying access to safe and legal abortion is a public health issue.
On the other hand, the Catholic church firmly believes that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. Not only does the Catholic church condemn abortion, but it also bans the use of modern contraception. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 is a policy that was and is still opposed by the Catholic church.
Nonetheless, abortion is a sensitive subject for people who are faced with the issue of whether to terminate a pregnancy or not. Even if the RH Law is a milestone in the reproductive health of the Filipinos, our country will be a step closer to women’s equality when women can decide whether to have a baby or not.
The White Lady of Balete Drive is a famous folklore of Metro Manila. In Trese’s narrative, Gina Santos was killed and sacrificed by Mayor Santa Maria in 1995.
Similar to how spooky the White Lady of Balete Drive is, the Philippines was also spooked on edge last June 28, 1993 when Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, along with his bodyguards, raped and murdered University of the Philippines student Mary Eileen Y. Sarmenta. The seven men had also tortured and killed her schoolmate, Allan Gomez, earlier before doing the planned scheme.
Sanchez began to develop a longing for Sarmenta after the Agriculture student interviewed the mayor for her academic requirements. According to key witnesses, aides for Sanchez have been keeping their eyes on Sarmenta, looking to "gift" the mayor a girl whose "beauty will make their saliva drip."
Once the men found Sarmenta inside a Toyota Tamaraw commuter van with Gomez, they took control of the vehicle and brought it to the Mayor. Sanchez had his way with the girl while the other men tortured Gomez to the brink of near-death. After hours of abuse, the Mayor came out, thanked his bodyguards and said, "I am through with her. She’s all yours."
We all know how the day ended for both Sarmenta and Gomez, but we do not know how the days of Sanchez will end. Will he stay behind bars and serve his seven terms of reclusion perpetua or a maximum of 40 years of imprisonment? Will he be let out scot-free because of his influence and wealth? It is terrible that we even had to think that the latter could be possible.
Trese may appear magical and spooky to some, but it actually mirrors what is happening in our society. The anime series was able to take an indirect jab to wake up Filipinos to start fighting for peace, equality, and human rights.
As what munting Trese said, “May mga halimaw dito sa mundo at iilan sa mga ’yon ay ang tao.” People are far scarier than monsters in real life, so let us unite in shaping a just society for the betterment of our country.
Mhicole Moral, 21, is a Communication student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.