Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

11 Feb 2011

(Graphic Novel Series) Trese: Murder on Balete Drive by: Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo

(Reaction) Decentering Manila's Underworld by: Micah Valero (This reaction is an edited version of a thesis written by Micah. If you wish to read the full study, you may email a request.)

Trese: Murder on Balete Drive follows the exploits of Alexandra Trese (accompanied by her twin half-ghost bodyguards, the Kambal) as she investigates crimes within the urban streets of Manila. What is particularly fascinating in the stories is that the victims, or the ones victimizing, are creatures from Philippine myth.

The urban world and "Manila's underworld", as Budjette Tan calls it, overlap significantly in each story, making it so the underworld and its residents are not confined to just the fields and banana groves of the provinces. For example, the mermaid bones used to trap the White Lady of Balete Drive are purchased in a rather popular club near a pier area, one that happens to be run by aswang. The drag-racing tikbalang's name wouldn't have been discovered if he weren't identified by the head stallion of his herd, who happens to be the head of a presumably very powerful family, and takes residence in the tallest building's penthouse in Makati. There are demons who run establishments that let people purchase youth or beauty at the price of their souls or someone else's, and it is at a spa that the unfortunate Dr. Burgos makes a deal with an enchantress, who comforts or services lonely customers, with payment, of course, by her terms. Trese herself, when not handling cases, operates a popular club called The Diabolical (which ends up becoming a venue for the first murder in the fourth story), where the Kambal mingle with the crowd.

Alexandra Trese is a detective. She either hunts down or consults creatures from Philippine mythology, and is assisted by methods and bodyguards of a fantastic nature. Notable about this work, aside from all these taking place within the pages of a graphic novel, is that it combines traditions or motifs from detective fiction, mythological fiction and graphic fiction, making Trese an amalgamation of all three. In other words, Trese is a "hybrid", the concept of which will be explained below.

It is with the concept of two or more languages or genres, in dialogue (or "multi-logue") with one another, that this reaction studies Trese: Murder on Balete Drive. It uses Carl Malmgren's concepts of centeredness and decenteredness from his study of murder fiction to examine (i) the effacement of boundaries between detective, mythological and graphic fiction, and (ii) the effacement of boundaries between the supernatural and the real, the underworld and the urban world.

Carl Malmgren, in his book Anatomy of Murder, identifies detective fiction by contrasting it against the other two fictional narrative forms that deal with murder and crime in general - mystery and crime fiction - using centeredness and decenteredness as his main basis. Aligned side by side, mystery and detective fiction forms highlight investigators or detectives as central protagonists, but employ very different narrative styles and elements.

Detective fiction, according to Malmgren, "finds its identity by breaking with the conventions of the dominant discourse," which is mystery fiction. Where mystery fiction encompasses the "whodunit" school and what George Grella calls the "the formal detective novel", detective fiction covers the "mean streets" school and what Grella terms the "hardboiled detective novel".

Part of what makes detective fiction is its tendency to delve into the "real world", staying true to maximum verisimilitude in that, according to Malmgren's citation of Raymond Chandler's essay The Simple Art of Murder, it "[reflects] or [copies] the chaos and contingency, the indeterminacy and messiness, or real life in the twentieth century". One immediately notices the realism employed by the narrative in a detective novel, one that embodies the "grittiness of everyday life in the modern world".

According to Dennis Porter, "the form taken by the hardboiled detective suggests the metaphor of the spreading stain," in that the first murder is but a "superficial symptom of an evil whose magnitude and ubiquity are only progressively disclosed during the course of the investigation", allowing for an inevitable chain of violent events that, more often than not, begins only when the detective begins his/her investigation. Malmgren himself likens detective fiction to "a body whose cancer has metastasized", where the disease of crime affects most of the characters, including the detective. No one is immune to the chaos that is inherent in this fiction, where truth is not always disclosed and justice is not always served.

Mystery fiction presupposes a centered, fully motivated world where the relations between signifier and signified are grounded, and where the detective merely serves to decode them. Detective fiction presupposes a decentered world where motivation is eroded, but where the detective character usually serves as the sole grounded sign. Crime fiction, in setting itself in opposition to both discourses, can assume a centered or decentered world, but in essence undermines the self, the main protagonist, as an integral sign.

This reaction argues the decenteredness of Trese's world by examining the treatment of the genre's dominant signs, Truth and Justice, with the addition of mythological creatures. It attempts to study how the world's decenteredness affects the detective character, illustrating how the detective becomes the sole grounded sign, and the fiction's inherent metafictive qualities that result from detective fiction's oppositional nature to mystery fiction.

Part I - The Decentered World of Trese

Setting and sequential art

Generally speaking, we can see that Trese's settings aren't limited to one specific social class; while it is true that Trese's world is confined to the city, we see both the elements of the upper class through some of the buildings Trese visits, like Senor Armanaz's Makati building and certain malls, and the seedy streets and establishments she frequents. On another level, we see how despite the distinct urban setting, elements of a hidden underworld reveal themselves through Trese and her investigation to be in the center of the city, exhibiting the duplicitous nature previously stated above (where we find how the different settings in each story portray entire places that assume one identity while hiding another).

In the course of this discussion, specific places from each of the four stories of Trese are examined along the line of this gap between the inside and outside, as well as their possible significations: The Trident, a bar found by the pier, the Armanaz building in Makati, Vanny's Salon and Ophelia's Spa, and the Diabolical, all of which show how thin the boundaries of the urban world and the underworld really are.

On the subject of two worlds meeting at a certain point, the title of this story itself offers a preliminary image: in "At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street", we see the first illustration of a place where two lines, or in this case, where two worlds cross.

This title also presents us with interesting significations concerning the names "Balete" and "13th Street", specifically about their own implications of Trese's hybridity. The word "Balete" pertains to a specific tree Filipino in origin, a tree connected to Philippine mythology by being the abode of certain mythological creatures such as the kapre or the tikbalang. In this story, "Balete Drive" refers to a Philippine location popular for being haunted by a White Lady. "13th Street", on the other hand, is perhaps an intertextual reference to two popular American horror films entitled Friday the 13th, in which stars an undead murderer named Jason who wears a hockey mask and usually wields an axe, and Nightmare on Elm Street, in which stars a supernatural murderer named Freddy Kreuger who, wearing a trademark hat and wielding longs claws, attacks his victims in their dreams and in the waking world. That the title of this first story in the Trese series is a combination of a location rooted in Philippine mythology and certain American horror movies can then be said to imply a hybridity in Trese's genre that results from a combination of two different cultures.

In this story Trese chases a clue of ground mermaid bones from the murder scene at Balete Drive to a bar called the Trident. Though the narration informs us that the Trident is "a place by the pier run by aswang", it initially appears to be your run-of-the-mill red-light establishment, displaying a seedy exterior expected of its regular purposes. It has crowds at its tables, waitresses in scant clothing serving them alcohol, and promises of pretty girls to entertain them, as displayed in posters and signs outside its walls, during happy hour.

Despite all the people that come there for a good time, however, they all remain clueless to the fact that the management consists of aswang hiding at the back, and that the establishment itself caters not just to those looking for a good time, but to those who wish to purchase mythological items and are willing to pay the price. It is these aswang that Trese interrogates, and finds that they are the source of the ground mermaid bones that serve as the "murder weapon" in this first story.

The fact that aswang are seen running a seedy establishment then allows us to make the initial assumption that given their "evil nature", a characteristic established by Philippine mythology, the act of these creatures running a bar seems natural; natural in the sense that the Trident bar exudes vice because it houses and is run by vice. It can then be said that the reason for the Trident's seediness is because of the aswang being Evil.

The problematic nature of the intertextuality employed because the intertext between Trese's creatures and the creatures of Philippine mythology don't completely correspond. Though the urban world is decentered through the intrusion of the underworld, we find that this problematic intertextuality suggests that the underworld is itself decentered through the instability of its nearly "empty" signifiers. The signs used in Trese, such as those of the aswang, are then reinvented, resulting in an expansion of the mythological world (exactly how the signs of the various mythological creatures in Trese are reinvented will be discussed in Part III).

Now in "Rules of the Race", we see another example of an expansion of the mythological world. The previous explanation of "mythological sign equals seedy signified" doesn't quite apply, for in Trese's world, the reaches of mythological beings go far beyond sleazy establishments.

In this second story, Trese's clue leads her to the Armanaz Tower, "the tallest building in Makati City". Specifically, she goes to the private office of Senor Armanaz, whom she calls "one of the real princes of this city". Though there is nothing on the outside that would hint towards it, Armanaz Tower's penthouse office looks nothing like a corporate workplace.

Despite the carpeted floors, the tastefully ornamented doors, and the classy-looking secretary positioned between them, go through the door on the right to actually step into the office, and one would find a well-maintained garden with a good number of sturdy, shady trees. No tables, no shelves, no papers even, for the place doesn't so much fulfill the needs of a President of a company as it does the needs of "old man Armanaz", an old, powerful tikbalang and head of the tikbalang tribe. He has been guiding the Armanaz family for generations in secret, and according to Trese's father, his home is one of the safest places to go to if Trese ever found herself in trouble.

The fact that Senor Armanaz is situated in a Makati tower already establishes that he is of the upper class; that he lives in the tallest tower in the city stamps it further. Seeing as he is the reason for the Armanaz family's obvious wealth and possible influence, we see that the mythological clearly isn't confined to the bottom of the social ladder. Senor Armanaz's position may even imply that wealthy families like the Armanazs have been able to accumulate that wealth only because of the help of a powerful mythological being such as himself. That his penthouse suite is supposed to be a place of safety in times of trouble also implies that despite the mythological nature of Senor Armanaz, or his fearsome appearance, he isn't to be simply written off as Evil.

Here we see how the mythological isn't limited to just one end of the urban social class, being present in both the sordid and the classy sides of society, and now, in the third story, we see that it also isn't limited to either extreme.

"The Tragic Case of Dr. Burgos" leads Trese to interrogate Vanne and Oriol, both the respective owners of Vanny's Salon and Ophelia's Spa. On the surface, both establishments have nothing inside nor out that points to the true nature of their owners. Vanny's Salon looks like an ordinary beauty establishment: posters at the entrance to show off what the inside has to offer, and haircuts at 150 pesos. Inside, all one would see are customers getting their hair done, and employees doing nothing that would be out of place in a salon. In Ophelia's Spa we only see Oriol soaking in what would appear to be a private pool inside a tiled room, with an attendant close by holding a towel.

Yet through Trese's conversations with both, we find that the price for Vanny's 'beauty expertise' and Oriol's 'spa services' expands significantly to include human souls, and a closer inspection of both establishments' graphic descriptions subtly hint at the demonic natures of their owners that enable them to hold such transactions. Take the way 'Vanny's' is written, specifically the curve of the letter Y; the spike at the end of it is a popular image signifying the devil. In Ophelia's Spa, one notices the patterns adorning the tiles, and their resemblance to fire, the main image that pervades throughout this story.

The presence of Vanne and Oriol thus concludes that as far as the mythological is concerned, there are no class levels to which they are limited, completely problematizing setting by creating a world where the boundaries between the urban world and the underworld are weakened not just in terms of topography, since mythological creatures are no longer confined to provinces, but also in terms of influence in more than one level of society.

The fourth and final place to be examined does not refer to a mythological creature being hidden, but to Trese herself: "Our Secret Constellation" presents the Diabolical, a popular gothic nightclub in Malate. Like the Trident, the Diabolical also caters to people looking for a good time. Two bouncers stand guard by the ten-foot double doors, which is decorated with a huge, reptilian face with long fangs. Red velvet curtains hang from the last three steps that lead into a lively interior with flashing lights, dancing girls in scanty outfits, an accommodating bar and walls that resemble a crumbling church.

The nature of the Diabolical does, however, invite certain implications. Consider the name of the establishment, and its demonic connotation. Also consider that what this nightclub has to offer is very similar to the Trident's, though it is perhaps a little more tasteful; there are alcoves with plush velvet couches and pillows, and with curtains that can be drawn for privacy. There is a sign at the door that prohibits solicitation, but that doesn't mean people can't get a little down and dirty when they think no one's looking. Previous analysis would infer that maybe aswang, though maybe a more high-end kind, run the place, or maybe demons, because for all its high-end qualities, the Diabolical exhibits the tastes of one used to the darker side of the underworld.

However, the Diabolical's difference from the Trident lies in that the former's management is headed by Trese herself, and though the people who come inside the place aren't aware of it, this nightclub is Trese's "sanctuary". It is protected against enemies, mythological or otherwise, that she inherited from her father, and is equipped with a staff and band with their own fantastic means and knowledge to achieve whatever ends Trese requires.

This then creates a certain implication on Trese's character as a detective, for the Diabolical as a sanctuary seemingly contradicts the previous implication (particularly in the first story, where she kills the aswang) that Trese's image is that of a "Good" detective against the forces of "Evil", or that she is against what is "Evil". Is she hiding behind the facade of a high-end nightclub whose demonic undertones fool onlookers into thinking she is just another businesswoman simply keeping up with the times and the tastes? Perhaps, or maybe Budjette, in giving Trese's sanctuary a name that more blatantly suggests an underworld connection, is implying that which the previous analysis of the presence of Senor Armanaz also implies: that dark, mythological beings or undertones do not simply mean Evil. The Diabolical provides a neutral ground that respects both human and mythological beings for what they are and not for what they simply imply, representative also perhaps of the neutral ground Trese embodies when she deals with both sides' worlds.

Since Malmgren makes the main distinction between the topographies of centered and decentered fiction the fact that the former happens in the isolated country estate and that the latter happens in the chaotic city streets, it is safe to say that on the surface, Trese's world is decentered. These city "streets" also display two-faced natures that problematize setting by presenting a gap in what is shown and what is hidden, questioning the nature of reality here.

However, to examine "these mean streets'" effect upon Trese's investigation, we traverse through them ourselves.

The Metafictional Level

Claiming that Trese is decentered implies that it somehow subverts murder fiction's generic conventions. As an example, instead of presenting us with an "impossible closure", Trese's first case presents us with what I would call an "impossible murder". The very first case shows us that the murder victim is the Balete Drive's White Lady, a woman who had died 40 years earlier. This particular murder prompts an initial set of questions: how can the White Lady be "killed" if she were already dead? Can it be that despite having already died, and having already lost all corporeal aspects of a human body, the existence (for it can't really be called a "life") of a person's ghost can still be extinguished? Trese herself tells Capt. Guerrero that "[he] can't really bring her in for the death of a woman who died forty years ago" .

This puts into question the very conventions that dictate what comprises a murder, subverting the main implication that a living person has to be killed for a murder to take place, for despite the White Lady already being dead to begin with, Trese nevertheless sees the event as a murder, conducts the investigation and follows the signs to their fruition.

The very nature of Trese's cases, the plots of which as we will see in the next chapter of this study, seem to subvert the conventions of murder fiction by simply including the mythological. Trese uses the unexplainable to explain the unexplainable, employing methods which we do not completely understand, but, like the police who simply "accept" the unexplainable, meaning they no longer find it necessary to question these methods, we too come to "accept" the unexplainable as a part of the supernatural phenomenon.

This prompts the question, however, of whether Trese is subverting the conventional perception of reality, for can we not say that this reality is actually our reality? Isn't it in our culture - the Philippine culture - to believe in the supernatural?

Despite the modernization and the scientific approaches we utilize in the face of something unexplainable, according to Maximo Ramos, the influence of mythological creatures still pervade the lives of the Filipinos. Images of the aswang and the more childish mumu are used to evoke fear in children, and the services of faith healers like the manghihilot are still employed. Certain trees and termite mounds are left alone for fear of disturbing and provoking the anger of evil spirits like the kapre or the nuno sa punso. Certain events that have no immediate explanation, such as seeing those long deceased, and being unable to move while lying down despite being fully awake, are often readily attributed to the occult or the supernatural, which we, thanks to the our cultural belief system, are ready to accept as natural.

Perhaps we can say then that Trese is actually affirming this cultural belief that the supernatural is real, subverting the conventions of murder fiction by simply introducing our own inherent cultural belief systems.

Graphical Signs

Given the graphic nature of the text, one cannot study the structural language of Trese without studying the sequential art, as drawn by Kajo Baldisimo, as the other half of the narrative form that comprises Trese. Here we will only cover what Kajo's art generally has to say about Manila's underworld.

Consistent in Kajo's paneling style is his inking of all the gutters in every story, making every space between panels an unbroken, solid black. Also consistent is his use of solid block shapes for majority of the panels (with the exceptions of certain splash pages), as well as his heavy shading (perhaps to better make use of his black and white art).

Adapting Malmgren's definition of what is centered, Kajo's art at first glance can imply centeredness because his sequential art style utilizes a form of ordered paneling. In terms of action as dictated by the use of panels, all the action, all the events in his style can be said to be contained, and therefore the action can also be said to be controlled, one of the key tenets in the concept of centeredness.

However, it will be noticed that majority of these panels, though shaped into neat, solid blocks, are without any distinct defining lines to actually contain them. The solid black shadows and lines of Kajo's art mingle with and leak into the gutter, revealing an underlying chaos of black shadows. It is only because of the panels' shape that a reader would see an illusion of a solid frame or of containment, making the order it presupposes an illusion as well.

There are some panels that have actual lines as frames, true, but those are limited to only some of the panels of the first story, "At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street", during the events that lead to Ms. De la Rosa's house being burned. Though the "intrusion" of the black gutters are stopped by white lines in this scene, thereby supposedly stopping the "intrusion" of the underworld, we can take this to imply instead that this particular scene does have a sense of true containment or control because it's here that we see the underworld wielding a certain control when it kills.

If we consider the (black) gutters to be signs, they would be signs of what isn't there. Conventionally, gutters are used to leave room for the reader's imagination, placed between scenes to imply certain actions that would take place in the reader's head. Referring to the earlier illustration of Ms. De La Rosa and her house, we see the events that led to her death; the tree cracking, the cable snapping, and the live wire that sets her house ablaze. What we don't see is a visible sign that the underworld is behind this, which we know for a fact because Trese says so. In this case, the gutters imply a "hidden presence", unseen yet very real and, as perhaps also implied by the gutters being a solid black, shrouded in shadow. As Dave H. puts it, it's as if "Kajo's Trese panels . . . visually suggest the impending threat of intrusion by the supernatural".

It can then be said that the graphic fiction's "conventional" characteristics (enclosed panels, distinct lines) allow Kajo's art to enhance or add to the decenteredness of a detective fiction, such as Trese.

We can compare Kajo's use of suspense, of disclosure without true revelation ("showing" without "telling"), and select focus for Senor Armanaz, to an introduction of the nature of the underworld: its "hidden-ness". If we can say the gutter represents a "hidden presence", then Kajo's choice of progressive disclosure tells us the nature of this "presence".

Though we perceive the supernatural to be distant and hidden, like we initially do Senor Armanaz, Kajo's art, specifically these scenes, implies that the underworld itself only appears hidden and distant, surprising us with a proximity in the end that leaves us wondering whether, in Trese's world, there was any real distance between the urban world and the underworld to begin with.

In the act of "disclosing the Truth", an important concept in determining centeredness and decenteredness, Kajo's art serves to show us how he uses a transition that tells us what is happening at a slower pace (moment-to-moment), highlighting every panel's contents to create suspense before revealing either a climactic appearance like Senor Armanaz's or a climactic event. These gradual disclosures tell us Trese's world is decentered because of the deception with which we the readers are presented with in terms of how we initially perceive the world. That this world's decentered nature would have repercussions is inevitable, particularly on the two dominant signs of Truth and Justice, the treatment of which depends on the world that employs them.

To further examine these repercussions, we need to know exactly how Truth is disclosed in the four stories, and how its inseparable twin deity, Justice, is perceived and treated. In order to answer these questions, we move on to the next chapter.

Part II - Decentering Truth and Justice

The Underworld's Truth and Justice

"As the universe seeks balance, so does the underworld", Trese's words, imparted to Captain Guerrero, allows us initial insight into the kind of Justice implied in a world which, as we have seen, is a decentered combination of both the urban world and the underworld.

Continuing the discussion, we see that as the universe, or nature itself, has laws that it implements to preserve a certain balance, the underworld too necessitates a natural order. Trese herself has no control over this, and despite her role as one who restores order, she only becomes involved when she feels it necessary to mediate a neutral ground in the instance that the two worlds' - the urban world and the underworld's - conventions of disclosure and closure, or Truth and Justice, inevitably conflict.

In mystery fiction, because all the signs are fully motivated, interpreting them to dispel the enigma they pose (like how Sherlock Holmes "dispels" the enigma of the Baskerville curse) becomes the essential goal of the detective, and achieving closure - or Justice - to a murder that brings disorder to an ordered world only happens upon disclosure, or the revealing of Truth.

Detective fiction destabilizes these signs, not only making the act of simple interpretation insufficient, but also problematizing guilt and innocence, the dialectic between which creates interest for a mystery. The decentering of both concepts allows one to question whether or not the innocent are truly innocent or if the guilty are truly guilty, thereby contaminating Truth and decentering the foundations of Justice. Because of the complications that also arise from destabilized signs, Truth and Justice can go so far as to conflict with one another, as presented in Malmgren's analyses of Conan Doyle's "The Adventures of Charles Augustus Milverton" and in Nicholas Blake's The Head of a Traveler.

This off-center characteristic pervades in Trese's cases, where she has to consider both worlds' sense of order. To maintain a balance between them, it is she who decides to suppress Truth while maintaining a Justice deemed acceptable through the results she achieves. In fact, the way the underworld works in the following cases Trese handles, Budjette implies that Truth and Justice respectively are not always there to enlighten everyone involved, nor to provide full disclosure, characteristics of both dominant signs being decentered by being incomplete.

Partial Truth, Undermined Justice

It is interesting to note that the Philippines has no hardboiled tradition similar to that of the Americans; we simply don't have that kind of moral despair.

In terms of Truth, all the endings of Trese's cases present that while disclosure is imparted, resolution isn't; as Malmgren said, ". . . solution is not the same thing as resolution; naming the guilty party does not reveal the inner logic of events". In the case of Trese, the fact that the solution brings resolution only to Trese and the reader denies a complete state of resolution required by mystery fiction. We will see however, that this suppression of Truth from other parties involved in the case, particularly the police, is necessary to achieve order in the form of maintaining the hidden-ness or invisibility of the underworld.

In mystery fiction, we have a list of suspects, and the clues, once interpreted by the detective, would point to the most eligible one. The beginning of each of Trese's cases doesn't have a list of suspects ready: all we see are the mythological creatures Trese appears to check routinely. Her arcane knowledge gives her the necessary specialty in mythology required to unravel the mystery presented before her. She behaves like Sherlock Holmes in how she finds clues and is at the scene of a murder that the police would have called her attention to. In terms of structure and plot though, there isn't a "most likely suspect" option that would have been available in mystery fiction because there are no suspects for Trese to list, forcing her to go out into the "mean streets" of a squalid, decentered world to "chase the clue".

The signs of the clues are themselves unstable because the signifieds are either too unusual to be recognized by the reader, or defies his/her conventional logic. As one of its defining characteristics, mystery fiction allows the reader the pleasure of being able to follow the mystery, even allowing on some occasions for the reader to guess the identity of the culprit.

However, because of the underworld's presence and its resulting decentering quality, only Trese (because of her arcane) is capable of interpreting the signs presented by the cases.

In the first story, Alexandra Trese is summoned by Captain Guerrero upon a crime scene of an unusual nature: found at the intersection of Balete Drive and 13th St. is a murder victim identified as one Ms. Gina Santos, a resident known to have already died 40 years before the crime. She also happens to be the resident White Lady, a mythical figure that supposedly causes traffic accidents by suddenly appearing and surprising her victims.

The first clue Trese finds, a salty substance identified to be mermaid bones by her first contact, a nuno sa punso, leads her to a pier-side club called the Trident. There, hidden from human view, she finds a gang of aswang who runs the club, and proceeds to "interrogate" them. This then uncovers a deliberate deal they had previously, where a human mother had approached the aswang for the mermaid bones Trese found at the scene of the crime. In exchange, the mother willingly gave them her first-born baby son.

Upon further coercion with the help of the Kambal, specifically in the act of gouging out the last aswang's eye, Trese finds the woman's details by dropping the eye into a glass of water, "seeing" what it saw, and cross-referencing her visual information with police reports of missing children. With Captain Guerrero, she confronts the murderer in her home. The "murderer", Ms. De la Rosa, confesses to everything, and it is discovered that the reason she committed the crime was that White Lady had indirectly caused the car accident that killed Ms. De La Rosa's lover when they tried to elope.

The police are unable to find a solid enough reason or enough evidence to arrest Ms. De La Rosa despite her confession, though. Deciding to first find a way to get a warrant, Captain Guerrero opts instead to secure a patrol outside the house until he gets it. Before they part, it is here that Trese simply says, "as the universe seeks balance, so does the underworld". This statement alone implies that Justice perceived by the underworld is fraught with vengeance, for in saying this Trese implies that Ms. De La Rosa is in danger of being "punished", and the only connection we can make is that she has to be "punished" because she "murdered" the White Lady.

The story ends when Ms. De la Rosa's house catches fire, the graphical depiction of which are shown in Part I, and Trese alone turns to see the murderers' ghost sadly lingering where her victim had resided. She is now the "new" White Lady of Balete Drive.

The reason the police couldn't arrest Ms. De La Rosa is because the her crime is outside the boundaries of conventional "law and order", which they, the police, represent. Her crime then is addressed by the underworld itself, which imposes its own version of Justice. That Ms. De La Rosa becomes the replacement of the previous White Lady suggests that the underworld's idea of Justice is simple: because Ms. De La Rosa is responsible for vacating the White Lady position at Balete Drive, she becomes responsible for filling it herself.

We've already established that the very act of murder with which this story starts is problematic in itself: how can the White Lady of Balete Drive be said to have been murdered if she was already dead? This problematization of murder by definition carries over to the very act of the murder, where if it follows that the White Lady cannot be truly "murdered" in the conventional sense of the word, then Ms. De la Rosa cannot be a "murderer".

Remember that we previously analyzed the murder of the White Lady to be problematic because it defies conventional logic to end the life of one whose life had already been ended previously. Given the events that followed, it can then be said that Ms. De La Rosa's crime is not of murder, per se, but of creating a serious disorder of the underworld's balance. This prompts the underworld to take matters into its own "hands" and restore its own concept, and indeed, Nature's concept of order, one that isn't necessarily the concept that Balete Drive needs a White Lady, but that the dead shouldn't actually be "killed".

Mystery fiction, dictates that innocence and guilt be clearly identified in the end, though of course the latter is concealed. Auden says that repentance is all but impossible to the murderer, as is a future. We indeed see in Ms. De la Rosa dead in the fire after her confession, but this does not meant to say that she has no future, or rather, no "activity" after her death, for death supposedly ends all possible activity for the living. Her ghostly appearance at the end of the story tells us she does, on a different yet real plane, defying Auden's listed necessity.

Trese fingers Ms. De la Rosa as the "murderer", and she confesses. It appears simple enough, but her reason for committing the murder also puts her guilt into question. For one thing, she explains that yes, she was the one who spread the mermaid bones to trap the White Lady and "kill" her, and she did it because the White Lady indirectly "killed" Ms. De la Rosa's lover. She also admits to selling her firstborn to obtain the mermaid bones, and only paid the price exacted by the aswang.

Ms. De la Rosa is also a victim, and she only seeks justice for her lover by taking matters into her own hands in true "eye for an eye" fashion. Because we've problematized her being a murderer, we can say that she is guilty (based on human conventions) not for "killing" the White Lady and upsetting the natural order of things, but for deliberately sending her child to its death. The White Lady, as it turns out, was also a victim who was run over on the street she now haunts, for she was innocent in that there was no reason for her to get run over. Her otherworldly appearances in front of vehicles, whether it be Ms. De la Rosa's lover's car or any other's, is a part of her nature as a White Lady. She is supposed to "haunt" Balete Drive and, like any other ghost, "scare" people, regardless of what happens to them. Can we say then that the White Lady is innocent, since she is but a victim of circumstance, despite the fact that in all probability, she also indirectly caused not just the death of Ms. De La Rosa's lover, but of several motorists as well?

We then go over to the bargain Ms. De La Rosa strikes with the aswang of the Trident club, which also appears as a real crime as far as the police are concerned. The aswang readily accept, and given their mythological background, it is not at all hard to see them as Evil. Philippine folklore has stamped upon them the image of Evil, beings that wish ill upon their victims. However, examining the case of Ms. De la Rosa, we see that it was she who approached them, and given the knowledge that an aswang's diet consists of humans, the bargain they strike becomes reasonable, natural. These aswang cannot be said to be guilty when they are simply acting upon their own nature. They even held up their end of the bargain.

In a world where violence has to be met with violence, the act of Trese killing most of the aswang, though undeniably violent, becomes Justified. It's not to say that Trese doesn't try reasoning first, for when she walks into the aswangs' room, she gives them the courtesy of introducing herself and her reasons for visiting. When the aswang impudently refuse to cooperate, silent warnings are seen to have no effect for even at the sight of two armed men, the Kambal, who are obviously more than human, the aswang attack. That guns are the Kambal's regular choice of arsenal implies that this behavior is expected, making the guns and Trese's dagger, the sinag, a necessity in maintaining order.

Examining the nature of the crimes presented and the parties involved leaves one wondering if there was a party that was truly innocent or guilty to begin with, thereby undermining the very basis of Justice in a mystery story, where the guilty is easily identified and the innocent easily liberated.

In the end, Trese explains the entire "human aspect" of the crime: disclosing the identity of Ms. De La Rosa, her motive, her act of selling her firstborn, and proof of her transaction. In effect, Trese supposedly fulfills one of the functions of a centered sleuth, which is to be a source of Truth. She however omits a few aspects of her investigation during the confrontation: the method by which she came to know Ms. De La Rosa's identity, the contacts she approached to know where to look, and the actual source of evidence against Ms. De La Rosa. These are the "mythological aspects" of her investigation, where the fantastic is involved one way or the other.

Because of these select omissions, effected by the decentering quality of the underworld's presence, the supposedly "satisfied" ending becomes, in reality, incomplete. This sense of incompleteness on the part of the authorities manifests itself when Captain Guerrero is only able to echo Trese's words ("The underworld seeks balance, eh?") when he stands in front of the burnt remains of Ms. De La Rosa's house, only vaguely knowing that Trese's words have something to do with the event, and refusing to know more about what it implies. His refusal can be attributed to the cultural practice of readily "accepting", meaning no longer questioning nor pursuing, the unexplainable as part of the supernatural phenomenon.

These omissions would also imply that Trese is deliberately keeping the mythological aspect secret, and it can be inferred that it is in the best interests of both worlds, urban and underworld, that it be kept that way. The way Captain Guerrero responded to Trese's hints at supernatural involvement, where he says "You know, whenever your father talked about the 'underworld', it gave me that really bad feeling and tried my best to not ask questions", one can surmise that the urban world might not be ready for the actual proximity of a world it was brought up to fear. From the way Trese remains consistently silent about the larger part of what she does, one can also surmise that the underworld itself wants to remain hidden, or invisible.

Without the main suspect, the police no longer have any real reason to hold onto the initial case, which is brought to a close. No one, after all, would be able to know exactly what happened to a victim that couldn't have died again, nor have any means to question Ms. De La Rosa, who is dead as well.

Except Trese and, thanks to her, the reader, of course.

This trend of supposedly "satisfied" endings would carry over into the next three stories, where Truth remains omitted from the endpoint and Justice isn't given the luxury of being fully, confidently attained.

Take for example the second story, "Rules of the Race", where the investigation of an accident in an illegal drag race along C-5 has Trese searching for a mystery drag racer whose winning streak has his competitors end up dead, or in the case of Albert Morales, the latest victim, in the ICU. Now Albert happens to be the son of a congressman and a star player, and his girlfriend, Katya Sanchez, was reported to have been picked up by said mystery racer and has been missing since. Both these events single out this particular accident, and lead the police to consult Trese.

The only clue that presents itself are "marks on the car and in the surrounding area", and what the police presume to be "some trademark of some new gang". Trese, however, deduces correctly that the marks are actually hoof prints, and that the driver who left them is mythological in nature.

This assumption of the driver's nature is confirmed by two wind spirits, Hannah and Ammie, who met with the driver himself, and are only present in the area because they are attracted to the speed the driver brought to the races. They describe him to be tall, dark and mysterious, very powerful, one who employs ancient bestial energy, and yet is young for his age. This description leads Trese to visit one Senor Armanaz in his penthouse office in the highest building in Makati. As previously depicted in Chapter I, he is also an ancient, powerful tikbalang, whose herd Trese suspects is where the mystery driver hails from. With his cooperation, though hesitantly given, Trese obtains the means she needs to subdue the mysterious racer, who is revealed to be a young, daring colt: his name, Maliksi.

Before deciding to race Maliksi herself, Trese asks a favor of the two wind spirits. She approaches Maliksi then, and strikes a deal that if she wins, the latter has to grant her three wishes. Once they start racing, Trese reveals the favor she asked of Hannah and Ammie, which is to help her car accelerate even faster than Maliksi when he overtakes her in a burst of speed and power. Trese wins the race, and demands that Maliksi fulfill his end of the bargain. Though Maliksi initially refuses, she deems his reason void.

The story ends with the police telling Trese (and the reader) that Katya Sanchez has been returned with no memory of what happened, and that Albert "was recovering very fast" in the ICU. Though Captain Guerrero does give a small prod for an explanation for all of what happened, all Trese replies is "Wouldn't you rather wish for world peace?" before looking for the two wind spirits to buy them fraps.

Truth is withheld for the same reason as in the first story: for the sake of keeping the underworld's proximity hidden, Trese stays silent. She doesn't even disclose the identity of Maliksi, the one responsible for the initial disorder. This is a different case from the person Trese fingered in the first story, Ms. De La Rosa, who is a human being whose identity can be safely disclosed without compromising the underworld's invisibility. Trese's reply even implies that knowledge of the underworld is of no concern to humans, and therefore unnecessary to the residents of the urban world. All is well for Albert and Katya, and that should be enough. It is natural for the underworld to be hidden, to be "under" the "world", as it were, and it would be useless, maybe even unwise, to try and make it otherwise. In her conversation with Senor Armanaz, Trese brings to our attention that the act of keeping the underworld a secret is actually a law when she mentions that Maliksi, though she didn't know his name at the time, "might have broken the pact and now runs with normal folk". This "pact", though its details aren't disclosed, is enough to tell us that Trese isn't simply keeping the underworld secret because she feels like it.

Justice, on the other hand, cannot be said to be fully attained at the end, for despite knowing Maliksi's nature and origin, we can't claim to know exactly what would have become of him after the race. We can only assume that once Maliksi loses and grants Trese's wishes, he goes back to his herd under Senor Armanaz. Even then, we can't be sure whether or not he is punished for his actions, for the only breach of the law he committed, as far as we know, was to "have broken the pact and [run] with normal folk", a law where the only information we have about it is that it exists.

The last two stories continue the trend of a partially disclosed Truth just as well, but in a vaguer way. Trese solves these next cases, true, but both stories fail to show if the "law and order" in the conventional sense (the police's or the "realistic" conventions) are attained, for similar to the second story, neither of the two "culprits" responsible for their respective disorders are fingered for the police's sake. No conversations between Trese and Captain Guerrero are offered anymore after both stories conclude, presenting no clues as to the aftermath of the "normal folk" involved, a concept that is at least shed light upon in the previous cases.

In "The Tragic Case of Dr. Burgos", Trese is called to a murder scene where a fire burned a woman alive, but without this "fire" showing signs that it burned anything else in the apartment, even the bed on which the corpse was found. Via a candle and a non-existent cell phone number, Trese contacts a santelmo who tells her that the victim was seared from the inside by eldritch fire, or fire from the underworld, thus confirming her initial clue: the scent of brimstone. As such, the woman's soul was dragged to the underworld against her will, leading Trese to question the "usual suspects" when the act of "trafficking kaluluwa" is involved: two demons who have reasons to value souls.

These suspects consist of Vanne and Oriol the Enchantress, two business "people" with separate establishments, but with similar currencies. These two, based on what we learn from their conversation with Trese, have been in the apparently illegal soul-dealing business, emphasis on the past tense. Vanne reiterates that he no longer deals in that business because "it is so passe, and against the rules. He maintains that his current dealings are legal transactions, only dealing with "those who want to remain beautiful for a couple [of] years or decades; those who are willing to pay the price". Oriol echoes the same response, in spite of Trese informing her that she is aware of Oriol's father, Assu Ang, possibly being "hungry" for souls, especially after Trese had shut down the Pansol operation of Irago, Oriol's sister. Oriol, however, only implies that she isn't so stupid as to deal in the act of trafficking kaluluwa when she says "trafficking kaluluwa? Me? I know the rules, Alexandra . . . . my sister was always the stupid one. . . [besides], who needs to hijack souls when they're so willing to give it up, just to get some" .

Seeing as her initial clue appears to be a dead end, Trese follows another lead: the murder victim's pet cat. She takes this pet to the Malate Church, and introduces to us Manang Muning, a curious old lady with the ability to collectively communicate with and see through the eyes of several cats. Through Manang Muning we find that the cat saw who killed her owner, and "marked" the wheels of his car. Another cat named Percival found the car, and by looking up, reveals to Manang Muning the location of the car and its owner, who then repeats the information to Trese.

Trese and the Kambal stake out the hotel in which the culprit is staying with a girl he supposedly picked up from a party, and through a license plate check at the LTO, courtesy of Captain Guerrero, find that the culprit's name is Dr. Karl Burgos. His wife had died three months ago in a fire, and he began partying ever since. As the Kambal watch Burgos make love with the girl, they catch him in the act of burning her up as the couple consummates. Though the Kambal and Trese literally crash into the room and confront the man, Burgos himself catches fire, and doesn't stop blazing. Before he runs to escape, Trese learns that Oriol has something to do with all this when Burgos screams her name in confusion over his blazing body, which, after he jumps out of a window, sets the city ablaze.

A visit to Oriol reveals that Burgos had approached her, seeking her services to alleviate the pain Burgos felt from his wife's infidelity. When he had realized that he still loved his wife, Burgos left Oriol, who gave him a gift of hellfire. Burgos watched his wife burn with it when he made love to her, and ran back to Oriol, begging for her help. Oriol tells him he can have his wife back for six souls, effectively explaining Burgos's party-animal behavior. Though his wife is indeed back in the realm of the living, Oriol explains the clincher: Burgos will never stop burning until he stops loving his wife.

Trese is clearly displeased, and leaves with a claw from Oriol's true demon form (which Oriol instantaneously transforms into once the Kambal start shooting at her on Trese's command). She sends this claw to a character only referred to as the Metallero, who takes three days to fashion bullets from it. All the while, the city in which Burgos is staying continues to burn, and keeps burning while Trese and Mrs. Burgos make their way into where Burgos is.

At first, we see Trese attempting to solve the immediate problem by having Mrs. Burgos make her husband believe that she doesn't love him anymore, which fails because Burgos doesn't care how his wife feels; he's just happy she's alive. Trese then signals the Kambal to shoot Burgos down with the Metallero's bullets.

The last scene only shows us the entrance of the Diabolical, devoid of people waiting outside perhaps because of the rain, and Trese listening alone to the music of the band inside. The story's text ends the same way it began, with a Sting song, the lyrics of which include the lines "though an ocean soothes my head / I burn for you, I burn for you", and a weather forecast that differs only in that at the beginning of the story, the weather has been predicted to be "the hottest of the summer", and at the end, is predicted to be "cloudy. . . with scattered rain showers". This weather forecast alone implies also that perhaps natural phenomenon such as the weather could have mythological causes.

Similar to the first story, we see that the perpetrator of the crime is human. Also similar to Ms. De La Rosa's case is when we find that Burgos deliberately goes to Oriol. The similarity ends there when instead of the underworld restoring order itself by killing Ms. De La Rosa and making her the new White Lady, it is Trese (in giving the order to the Kambal) who carries out Burgos' death, restoring order by stopping the fire he causes. Further examining the deal Burgos made with Oriol also shows us that he was at the mercy of the latter, who deliberately twisted the deal to his disadvantage while "fulfilling" her end of the bargain.

Ms. De La Rosa went to the aswang deliberately seeking a way to "kill" the White Lady, and offered her son as payment. She was not visibly coerced into doing so, nor was there any sign of a "no-choice" scenario, for her motive was that of revenge. Burgos only went to Oriol to escape the pain his wife brought him, and we are given no indications as to whether he was aware that she was a demon. He incited her anger when he decided to return to his wife, and following that he might not have known about Oriol's true nature, he might not have been aware of what she was capable of: giving him hellfire that would kill his wife.

The scorn with which Oriol recounts the story allows us to infer how little she thought of Burgos when he left her. That she so offhandedly decided that six innocent souls were to be payment for the return of his wife shows us how little she thought of human beings in general, reiterating that the underworld, though closer to the urban world than initially perceived, is no less dangerous.

When Burgos burned his wife, he didn't mean to kill her, because he wasn't aware of the effect of hellfire Oriol had given him. We're not even sure if Burgos knew about Oriol's "gift" at all. In effect we can say that it was Oriol who had killed Mrs. Burgos, albeit indirectly. Burgos then committed the murders Trese initially investigates because that was the only way Oriol would return Mrs. Burgos, putting the enchantress in control of the situation and Burgos at her mercy.

That Oriol is to blame becomes clearer when we find out the nature of her deal. However, because we are aware that Oriol's nature is not to be trusted, given the mythological background of her kind (demons), we cannot truly blame her, making Burgos a victim of circumstance. He was simply very unfortunate, and because we know Oriol's is a public establishment, we can surmise that there have been other deals in which humans have been victimized for trusting the a being that shouldn't be trusted, making, in this instance, the presence of mythological beings a hazard. Despite this, a devil's bargain is still a legitimate deal, and though Oriol deliberately twisted it she still upheld her end.

Trese acknowledges this when she didn't kill Oriol, and only took from her a means by which to stop Burgos and left her with a dire warning not to do the same thing again. This chastisement does nothing to save Burgos, however, for the fire burning the city to be stopped and for order to be ultimately restored, Burgos had to be killed despite all implications mentioned above that he is in fact, a victim. The nature of his motive and his character as the supposedly "guilty" then echoes the same problematization of guilt and innocence we've earlier discussed, once again.

There is no closure save Burgos' death, no disclosure for the police despite the number of murders and overwhelming damages that the fire causes, and no way back for the six souls Oriol offhandedly demanded. There is, however, a kind of redemption for Trese, who, in commanding the Kambal, is responsible for Burgos' death, which in turn saved a city's worth of lives when the fire Burgos caused died with him.

Though we see the Kambal shooting the aswang dead in the first story, condemning Burgos to that same end differs in that he is a character that has our sympathy. The nature of his situation allows us to identify with him, for Burgos raises the question of what we would do ourselves if our loved ones were at stake. It is this sympathy that makes his death different, and his story a tragedy.

That Burgos had to be shot down in the end then calls our attention to the nature of a Justice that not only condones this, but requires this.

The fourth and last story begins rather differently from the previous three, though its end echoes the same question of Justice in the event of a problematized motive.

In the first page, instead of just any place, we see the Diabolical as the initial setting. It is also in the Diabolical that we see the murder take place: a man and a girl who both decide to get hot and heavy slip into the bathroom. Without any warning, before either can do "anything", the man is dragged out of the stall they occupy. We see a terrible figure almost completely shaded in black in the act of strangling the victim, saying a seemingly senseless rhyme before the bathroom door is blown outwards from the inside, immediately catching the attention of everyone in the Diabolical, especially Trese's.

Minutes later the police arrive on the scene to inspect it, with Trese saying that she and her staff waited for them despite being first on the scene. Through Captain Guerrero, the victim is revealed to be Rodney Rodriguez, one of the so-called Black Knights, a group which Trese and Guerrero both know had gang-raped a girl in Castle Motel and had gotten away with it through some "technicality". After examining a large, gaping hole in the wall identified to be the assailant's escape route, and said assailant's possibly mythological identity, Captain Guerrero, after given a cup of free barako, and the SOCO leave.

After the police are finished, the Kambal discuss (not without a touch of comedy) what could have caused the hole. Trese herself is not sure, but affirms the assailant's use of magicks. She gets the name and address of the girl who was raped from Captain Guerrero, and seeks her in her home. Through Trese's line of questioning, we know that Nida Vargas, the Black Knights' victim, has a brother named Daniel who is in the province, and is a cripple. Trese implies that Nida may be involved with the crime, and the latter's defensive reaction, telling them to leave the house immediately, only seems to draw more suspicion upon her.

One by one, the three remaining Black Knights, each of whom had been warned and placed under protection by Captain Guerrero, are killed violently by the black figure, whom we see is capable of flight and feats of incredible strength. We also see his full form, but are offered no clues as to what kind of mythological creature he could be save for a star-like symbol on his head, the only article on his body apart from a bahag-style waist garment and wristbands. All he says before carrying out each murder are the words "No more hurting. No more pain."

In the act of the fourth and final murder, Trese and the Kambal arrive in time to catch the assailant while he is still there. Trese throws and buries her dagger into the assailant's shoulder, but is too late. Leaving the dead body of the last Knight, the assailant leaves by punching a hole in the concrete wall with his fists, saying "It is done. No more pain! All is well!" before flying away.

Trese sends the Kambal (who can fly as well) after him, saying she will follow them by following the sinag, her dagger, revealing the weapon's apparent ability to act as a tracking device. When the Kambal catch up to the assailant, the latter warns, even pleads them to leave him alone. Ignored, he attacks, and is injured via a gunshot to the head, which "shatters" the black and reveals what looks like a human face beneath.

Meanwhile, Trese returns to Nida's house, asking if she left the house, and where her brother is. The assailant suddenly appears behind Trese, and throws her to the ground. Nida, taken by surprise, recognizes the assailant as Daniel and begs him to stop. Calling him Ding, she asks for "the stone". Daniel, Ding, follows, and takes a small stone from his mouth, turning from a completely black figure to a normal, scared-looking young man. Ding reveals that he hid the stone, which is his sister's, from her after her last fight. He also reveals that he had gone after her "enemies" and killed them all. He had intended to take her back home to safety when he was done, but found her in the hospital after she had been raped. He apologizes for hiding the stone, saying he only did it so she wouldn't have to become "her" anymore, and, saying "I love you Ate", closes his eyes, the sinag still buried in his back.

Trese watches as Nida takes the stone herself, "utters the word that makes the heavens thunder," "shines like a fallen star", and "launches herself heavenwards". The story ends with the narrator suggesting that Nida might have gone to a place "far away from pain and suffering".

At the point where Daniel discloses his motive, as well as his method and his sister's involvement, all these revelations point towards an intertextual reference to a popular komiks superhero. We see Ding's costume, his feats of strength and speed, the graphical representations of his sister's enemies, and of course, the stone, and even the phrase "Ding, give me the stone", all pointing to Mars Ravelo's Darna.

We consider this intertextual reference to Darna as a sign, but with a different signified because its usage is very different from what it was intended for. When Ding takes the stone, a sign in itself, instead of becoming a hero doing Good, he becomes a murderer Trese hunts down. The Good superhero image seems to become Evil. However, through Ding's confession he gains our sympathy by virtue of his noble intention: to protect his sister, whom we know to be Darna, from her enemies, and the more general motive of ridding the world of those who cause pain, whom we know are the Black Knights. This motive raises the question of just what Evil is, problematizing guilt and innocence since Evil itself no longer takes a black and white definition.

We examine how exactly this happens by analyzing the reversal of the stone in the manifestations of its instability, particularly in the superhero image that is associated with stone. In the end, despite the stone's powers, it wasn't able to protect Ding nor Nida.

The very beginning of the story establishes that Ding (though we don't know it's him) is the murderer, and because he is Trese's quarry, the we believe that he is the Evil that she must eradicate. He uses his strength and speed to brutally kill the four Black Knights, implying in his words that they deserve it, but without telling us why he initially denies himself our sympathy. Foreshadowing his motivation is the scene where the Kambal pursue him, provoking him to fight back. The term "provoking" is used here because Ding makes it clear that he does not wish to hurt them, going so far as to plead with them to leave him alone. The only reason he "kicks their asses" is because the two ignore his warnings and continue to shoot at him.

Our assumptions about his nature are shaken when Ding reveals his reason as to why he did all that he did, because we see that he has his own Justice that he exacts by using the stone's power. He decides to take matters into his own hands in order to protect his sister from any more harm, and does what he thinks is right by at first eliminating all the reasons she has to change into Darna: her arch villains.

Though Trese implements her moral Justice (through pursuit), Ding implements his own vigilante Justice by using the stone to kill the Black Knights after he finds out that they've raped his sister, which the text implies happened while he was out eliminating Darna's villains. They are obstacles to each other's version of Justice simply because one impedes the other's goals: Trese protects the Black Knights, each of whom Ding seeks to destroy in an act of revenge.

However, it should be noted that "even vice and evil cannot justify coldblooded, premeditated murder", and despite the sympathy Ding may gain from us, what he had done to the Black Knights is, in the dictates of mystery fiction, inexcusable. Trese and the Kambal pursue the trail of Ding in the name of Justice, for since Ding's actions are done in cold blood (and through mythological means), it becomes Trese's duty to exact Justice on him.

It is difficult to argue Ding's innocence. The way in which he carries out the murder of the Black Knights assures us of their coldblooded definition, and though we may sympathize with him, his death, similar to that of Burgos, is served to us by Trese herself. His death, though justified, does not restore order; Kajo's depiction of Nida's face as she "takes the stone" proves that Ding's death brought only pain and suffering, resembling more an act of cruelty than an act of Justice.

The resulting instability of signs doesn't limit itself to the image of the hero. When Ding explains everything he's done to Darna's old arch villains, the original images of these characters, where they are blatantly Evil and Darna the obvious Good, become distorted, and reversed as well.

We see Valentina with her mouth open in a scream, a giant being decimated from the inside, and the women from space in lifeless fetal positions, all surrounding the terrible image of Ding.

Ding himself says that he sought these villains in their lairs, and all in their moments of stagnation: they were all doing nothing to cause necessary action except to exist, and it seems as though it was for this reason alone that Ding decides to kill them for the sake of his sister's safety. Though his reasons are noble, his actions are arguably the opposite: coming from the original Darna image, there is nothing noble in pursuing an enemy that wasn't giving any tangible cause for pursuit. Ding simply assumed these villains' Evil nature and exacted a Justice based solely on these assumptions. Resulting from their murders, the stone's reversal takes effect in making the hero image the villain, and the villains, the victims.

Upon realizing the latter's motivation, however, we see once more the problematization of guilt. Though one of Auden's characteristics of the murderer in his essay is fulfilled here when Ding dies, the fundamental essence of the Justice becomes undermined when the need to question the nature of Evil arises.

Truth and Justice Revisited

In murder fiction, everything is treated as a sign. Mystery fiction demands that these signs be anchored to specific signifieds, thereby grounding its basic predicates of order, stability, causality and resolution. Detective fiction, on the other hand, presents floating signs, with different signifieds, causing instability and chaos.

We've seen in this chapter that Truth is stable; though there is a matter of it being withheld, we, the readers, know what the Truth is, and what it stands for. Thanks to Trese's investigations and open presentation of her finds, we are able to follow signs that do connect. Though there is disclosure, however, there is no resolution. The disclosure of the Truth to the us doesn't resolve anything in the text, and the partial disclosure Trese presents doesn't actually do anything to resolve the immediate problem she initially investigates.

Justice, on the other hand, is unstable: the fact that issues are raised concerning who is guilty and what Evil is mean that Justice as a sign has become undermined. Questions that lead us to challenge our own preconceived notions of what is Evil then allow us to challenge the methods by which Justice is carried out.

On the subject of Justice, we've seen how Trese's moral Justice prevails since it is she who is capable of enforcing it, and she who is equipped with the knowledge that gives her the right to make decisions. In the next chapter, we focus on Trese herself and examine how a decentered world affects her character as a detective and her search, resulting in this study's appropriation of the term mythological detective.

We will also further examine the mythological creatures and how they are able to adapt to the urban streets of Trese's Manila, discussing their succeeding implications via their problematic intertextual references towards Philippine culture.


Alexandra Trese, the Mythological Detective

Not to belabor the point but Trese is a detective who relies heavily on myth. An initial assessment of Trese's detective nature shows us that she fits into all three characteristics. Her means of extracting information, in the first book alone, involve a chant to see through an aswang's eye in a glass of water, a non-existent number (consisting of the exact date of the "great Binondo fire") of a santelmo, and a special dagger that can pinpoint its own location to her through an implied psychic connection, like a telepathic tracking device. Her more general "methods" are the use of the Kambal's guns, wielded by two half-ghost men who wear masks resembling Greek tragic and comic faces.

As a person, the surface of her "detective-look" portrays non-conflicting visual evidence of a character that deals with the supernatural: she is always dressed in a black oriental coat, despite the tropical weather (her only alternative outfit is a black sleeveless top and black pants, which she wore in the second story), and her hairstyle, a "devil's haircut" that has her bangs and the sides of her hair parted on each side in such a way as to create an image of two horns above her face, a look maintained from Kajo's original drawings of Anton Trese, Alexandra's father.

The very name "Trese" implies not just the projected thirteen stories that Budjette had predicted the series would total, but of "bad luck" and misfortune, as well as a connection to the supernatural in the same way the number seven has a connection to luck and the divine.

Similar to the Diabolical's demonic undertones and its previously defined implications, Trese's look also echoes the same connotation, and the same implication: that appearances can be deceiving. Simply because a creature (or a world, for that matter) is mythological in nature does not mean that it is automatically purely Evil. It may be dangerous, it may be unexplainable, it may look fearsome, but it may not necessarily be Evil. Trese, in being the Good detective whose role is to maintain order, also enforces a Justice that may not always adhere to the conventional Good (one that banishes the underworld as pure Evil, where God is Good and the Devil Evil).

Her outfit serves to connote a mysteriousness associated with Trese's character, black being a color used to represent darkness, or the unknown (as well as an easy color option for this purpose in black and white art). From the way she is described in the fourth story, no one is able to take her picture, for even if someone does, "it comes out wrong". Seeing as how "that's the way she likes it", Trese's character implies that she must remain as mysterious, but not hidden, as the underworld that she also oversees. It also implies that, not one for being in the spotlight, Trese prefers to work in the background, unseen or otherwise unexplainable, giving her free reign to pursue anything that the public cannot be made fully aware of, which is exactly what her job entails her to do.

This hidden-ness in her nature can then be compared to the duplicitous nature of the world she works in, for in hiding her methods and, to a point, herself, from the public, she hides the fact that she is capable of the fantastic, the theme that we've discussed to be the reason her world is decentered. Trese poses to be a conventional club owner, enforcing her facade by means of renovating her grandfather's old restaurant into the Diabolical, and by keeping most of her life secret not only from the police, but from the reader as well. Even the Kambal are duplicitous, for despite the fact that they are half-ghost (a concept that wasn't explained in the two books available) they interact with people and appear to be normal bodyguards. To a certain extent, Trese and both the Kambal disguise themselves to appear as normal people.

An initial visual representation of this for Trese can be found in her outfit, which, though impractical in Philippine weather, covers everything of her in black, and in the Kambal's masks. We only ever see her without the coat in one story, and we only ever know about her personal character (and always in relation to her case) in the bits and pieces that she provides us with. We also see the Kambal putting on "new faces" whenever they make use of their half-breed abilities. In the Kambal's case, that their true natures are seen through masks is an irony; the masks that are meant to hide true natures beneath them are actually the Kambal's unmasked faces, and their Greek masks are what shows us their true natures as half-breeds.

Personality-wise, we see how she views the "world's" corruption and reacts to it. We've seen the effect of a decentered world that can corrupt its detective in Malmgren's analysis of the Continental Op, and the way the detective can remain grounded and maintain a moral Justice of his own fashion in Malmgren's analysis of Marlowe and Spade. It is the latter, we would say, that Trese applies to. The way she reacts to the world around her is as gray as the concepts of guilt and innocence, which is reflected in how she treats mythological creatures with varying degrees of respect.

Trese and the Decentered Search

When Trese goes out to pursue a clue, her search takes her to places that only become connected to the murder after she reveals said connection through conversation. Though her method is of the centered tradition, where she finds a clue and follows the signs to solve the case, the decentered nature of the world she traverses forces her centeredness to end there and creates the need to "chase the clue".

The difference between centered and decentered traditions in terms of method here is that the centered detective's search allows the reader the possibility of making his/her own deductions, and sometimes, even the ability to predict where the detective would go, because his/her trail would follow a logic decipherable to the reader. Signs, though hidden, would have stable signifieds that both the detective and the reader can follow safely.

Trese appears to follow no such logic because her mythological subjects defy that very logic, making it impossible for the regular reader to be sure of what she would do next. Why? Because it takes a "special" reader to decipher the signs. Borges mentions that detective fiction in particular has a specific kind of reader, one with the ability to read certain signs and therefore appreciate the text. In the sense that it takes a special reader to read detective fiction, it takes another kind of reader to be able to decipher these particular mythological signs in Trese. Though we see that the signs in her cases are indeed connected, we only see this after Trese has made the necessary connections. More specifically, after Trese has interpreted the signs and has made the link to the supernatural dimension. Trese's methods are then not of the usual approach because the signs point to another dimension, decentering the "process of inquiry" because the signifiers are "misleading" or hidden to the reader.

What is it that enables Trese to interpret these signs, then? The answer is her arcane. Similar to Sherlock Holmes' ability to take certain pieces of information and infer from them connections that only he and his mental abilities possess, Trese's arcane allows her to recognize and affirm the mythological natures of her cases because she knows what to notice, and where to look. This arcane also lets her see through the deceitfully duplicitous nature of the world around her, helping her navigate around it. This arcane of hers can be said to come from her family; throughout the stories we see signs of Trese attributing her knowledge of the underworld to the "bedtime stories" told to her by her father and grandfather, a knowledge that comes with the responsibility of overseeing the underworld and the urban world passed down to her by her father.

It is this unpredictability that decenters Trese's search, and what makes the signs she follows unstable to the reader. Half the time, we don't know what she's doing, and in the other half we wonder how she does it. Though her arcane is more than capable of deciphering the signs, it doesn't assure her that she will actually solve the case given the decentered, seedy and mysterious nature of the places she visits. This is when she makes use of the Kambal's (her bodyguards) guns and her dagger, the sinag, employing violence in a world that necessitates it.

For example, upon examining the murder of the White Lady, she goes to see a nuno sa punso living in a manhole to ask if he had witnessed the crime. He hasn't, but he identifies the white dust she had found as ground mermaid bones. Trese follows this clue by asking different people in first Quiapo, then Chinatown, for where she can find mermaid bones, finally arriving at the Trident bar at the pier area. The aswang react in all hostility, and it's through the Kambal's guns that Trese is able to subdue them enough to extract an explanation from their leader before brutally extracting his eyeball from its socket to 'see' the face of the woman he spoke about.

When she handles the search for Maliksi in the second story, her "offhand" interrogations (offhand because she asks what appears to be a casual question) with the civilians at the scene, fellow drag racers, allow her to initially affirm Maliksi's mythological nature. When the Kambal introduce Trese to a pair of wind spirits, Hannah and Ammie, who are there because of the mystery driver, Trese confirms Maliksi's tikbalang identity, that allows her to take her next step in apprehending him. Through her conversation with Senor Armanaz, we find that the latter has known Trese's family as far back as her grandfather's generation, a friendship that allows her to address the powerful tikbalang as a contact. It is, again, her knowledge of the underworld that lets her be able to confront Maliksi in what would be the latter's last race.

The third story presents a clue that initially looks like a dead end: the fact that the murder victim was seared by eldritch fire. Following the hint of brimstone Trese takes note of, as well as the confirmation by a santelmo of victim's spirit's whereabouts, she follows a lead of illegal soul-trafficking, which neither of the initial suspects, Vanne and Oriol, she questions admits to be leading. Trese instead follows another lead, a cat that had been a pet of the murder victim. Only after does she find the identity of the murderer, Burgos, through Manang Muning's cats, and only after that is she able to find that Oriol was in fact the main cause of the murders.

"Our Secret Constellation" has Trese investigate one murder that happens in her supposedly neutral sanctuary. Because the victim was a Black Knight, a group known between Trese and Captain Guerrero to be rapists of a girl, Trese follows this clue to determine whether that girl, Nida Vargas, has anything to do with the murder. She instead is only able to establish is a connection between the possible victims, allowing her to predict which ones would be targeted. However, not unlike the murders from the previous story, the murders caused by Ding continues, and it is only during that last of six murders that Trese and company are able to catch the being in the act and establish a way to follow it. The Kambal set the chase, but despite their abilities, the two are unmatched, and it is only when Ding himself deliberately decides to let go of the power that gave him the abilities he used to kill the victims that the case ends.

Trese, the Paradoxical Bridge

One of the reasons why mystery fiction allows redemption (and generally happier endings) is because the concepts of Good and Evil are distinguishable, and are therefore isolated. In detective fiction, blurring the line between what is Good and Evil creates chaos inherent in the genre because the means by which Evil is punished, Truth and Justice, become undermined when guilt is displaced and innocence doubted. What prevails is the moral Justice held by the sole grounded sign of the genre, the detective.

We see the latter effect in Trese's cases, and given that as she is the only one truly aware of the situation in each story, Justice is doled out on her grounds. What is Good and Evil as dictated by convention is undermined by her knowledge of the nature of the creatures she deals with, which questions the previously logical assumption that creatures of the underworld are guilty Evil and the residents of the urban world are the innocent Good. It is she that stands between the two binaries and connects them for both to simultaneously make sense for the reader, but at the same time, it is she who stands between them and keeps them apart for the sake of the two worlds' protection and their prevailing conventions in the text.

We've seen the necessity of keeping the underworld secret in the previous discussion in Part II of the "pact" that Trese spoke of with Senor Armanaz, as well as the implied repercussions of the breach in that pact becoming known to the urban world when she spoke of the "Bukidnon massacre" that would be in Armanaz's best interest to avoid. Ultimately, to restore order, Trese provides the necessary link to the underworld that the police need to address certain unexplainable crimes. To maintain that order, Trese withholds any knowledge on the part of the police (and in effect, the urban residents) that implies the actual proximity of a world that the urban world is brought up to fear, protecting the two worlds from each other.

A paradoxical bridge, Trese also becomes the only source of knowledge for the reader who can't rely on simply on one or the other, and as such, her Justice is what is carried out whether or not the murderer she fingers is truly guilty or the victim she avenges is truly innocent by the standards of convention.

Trese's sinag, the dagger stylized to look like a ray of the sun, also poses as another sign to her paradoxical nature: wielding a weapon that comes from a symbol of light implies her to be an agent of light as well as enlightenment, as a detective who unearths Truth, yet the sinag being a violent, hands-on weapon and its graphical depiction of a blade often with half of it filled in with shadow implies the inherent violence necessary in a decentered world, where information and order come at the price of bloodshed or destruction.

As far as her "loyalties" to either world apply though, her position remains neutral. Trese, being respectful to Senor Armanaz, implies her role of mediator whose loyalties are not exclusive to the urban world. Her lack of similar respect to Bagyon Lektro, which implies that her loyalties are not exclusive to the underworld, either. Her loyalty, her basis of moral Justice, lies in her own notion of order, of a simple balance founded on basic rules by which both worlds are judged. As Trese puts it, "it's quite simple, really. All those lessons about showing respect and helping others still apply. The consequences of disobeying those rules are just a little bit more dire, [for] the underworld is not as forgiving as others."

However, her different treatment of two otherwise equally powerful beings leads us to question the basis of the respect she gives certain creatures, and the seeming arrogance with which she shows others. While Senor Armanaz was a friend of her grandfather's, Bagyon Lektro isn't shown to have any connections to the Trese family aside from knowing Trese's father. It should also be noted that in the confrontation with the aswang, Trese, in saying "I am nothing like my father", is perhaps also implying a certain angst she has for her father, which would lead to biases in judgment, an example of which would be the disrespect of Bagyon Lektro. This particular implication can only be confirmed or denied, however, by the third book of the series, which at the moment remains in the works.

Trese, mythological creatures aside, then follows the mystery tradition of what a detective does, and only becomes decentered upon the presence of the mythological. As a detective, she remains a grounded sign, since it is she who is the main source of Truth and Justice. Her need to exact moral Justice, however, confirms her world's decentered nature.

Given that the underworld has shown how it is capable of exacting its own Justice, such as in the first story when the underworld killed Ms. De La Rosa, what then keeps Trese from allowing the underworld to take on her own role as an "enforcer of order"? The answer lies in the previous analysis of where Trese's loyalties lie. Her loyalty is not solely to the urban world nor to the underworld, which explains why she needs to keep her role as an "enforcer", or rather, as a "caretaker". To let the underworld go unchecked, or in some cases, to let even the urban world go unchecked, would disrupt a balance between the two that Trese ultimately ensures.

Trese is an example not of a truly centered nor truly decentered text, but of both: while the settings are decentered, Trese herself follows the centered detective tradition. She follows the clues the crime scene presents to her, she possesses the arcane knowledge necessary to understand these clues, and she chases the clues down to the culprit. However, while a centered detective's role is to reduce the supernatural to the natural, all we can say of Trese in this sense is that her centeredness ends there; she does not reduce the supernatural to anything but itself because it is impossible, nor does she even try. All she does is pursue the clues, which cannot be solved by the reader alone.

The Policemen, a Semblance of Order

One of Trese's main functions is to keep order between the underworld and the urban world. As far as the usual routine goes, the police would find a crime scene they would deem unexplainable, and call Trese. It would then be up to Trese to restore that order through means the police and those involved don't understand and don't care to. At the end of each story, order between the two worlds is preserved. But of what nature is this "order", if the policemen who are supposed to keep it are clueless and the causes of the crimes never seem to find a reason to let the law rest?

Each of Trese's cases begins with the police arriving at a crime scene before her except in the fourth story, but even then Trese waits for Captain Guerrero (who is the only police figure given a name, besides his subordinate, Tapia) to arrive and make his assessment of the situation. It is after they decide that the case is no longer within their line of reasoning, or rather, their conventional terms of logic, that Captain Guerrero gives her the go. They then allow her to investigate, and when she arrives at a certain conclusion, obtains certain evidence, or simply fixes the immediate problem, they trust her completely and ask minimal questions, if they ask at all.

We notice two things about this: one, that the police have no actual hand in the order that Trese works to maintain, save perhaps in handling the previously defined "human aspect" of each case, and two, that despite the actual lack of evidence, or in some cases, sufficient reasoning even, the police place their entire trust in Trese's results. As for the end of these cases, once everything has "settled down", the police simply cover up the true nature of the case and deliberately choose not to know the truth. As far as the characters of the policemen and the captain whom Trese talks to directly, all they seem to truly stand for is not order, but a semblance of it.

The way Trese treats them shows us that although she does not fully disclose the Truth to them, she maintains a respect for the law and order they represent. We can see this in the fourth story, where despite the crime happening inside her own nightclub, she waits for the police to make their own assessment and does not touch anything that might hinder them. In fact, though Trese is the one who ultimately maintains order, she still "needs" the police; Trese only acts as a an area of neutral ground, and as such "needs" the police to be able to address the "human-aspects" of her cases in order for her to maintain her secrecy, and with it, the underworld's hidden nature.

Also, despite her silence concerning the proximity of the underworld, Trese cannot completely hide its presence, even from the police. In the first story of the second book, Captain Guerrero recognizes the red shirt from the scene of the crime to be a duende's, but this is because of his experience with Alexandra's father, Anton Trese, an implication that the relationship between Alexandra and Captain Guerrero is also a long-established one.

The Urbanized Mythological Creatures

Since the presence of the underworld is what ultimately decenters Trese's world, it becomes important to be aware of the mythological creatures each story presents. We've seen the way certain urban establishments demonstrate duplicitous natures, which also extends to Trese and the Kambal, but the effacement of boundaries inevitably doesn't end there. Here we will analyze the similarly duplicitous nature of the mythological creatures that not only reside in the urban world, but have adapted so as not to appear initially out of place. It is only through Trese that we know of their true natures, after all.

It is also here that we study the mythological creatures in two categories, both of which display the problematization of their intertextual references: one, the creatures who exhibit the same duplicitous nature as Trese and her world in adapting to modernization, thereby pointing to the actual proximity of the underworld, and two, the creatures whose signifieds are used differently, pointing to a decentering brought about by the destabilization of signs.

To a certain degree, all mythological creatures represent the proximity of the underworld, not just through the detailed process by which they are disclosed (as was the case for Senor Armanaz), but in their very "appearances".

Mythological creatures such as the aswang, Senor Armazan, Vanne, Oriol and even the aswang shows us that the underworld isn't simply residing in the urban world: it lives off it, implying a relation to the urban world that goes beyond simply existing nor adapting. These particular creatures have gone so far as to exercise a degree of power, proving that just because they are within an age of modernity and enlightenment doesn't mean that they are less powerful, nor dangerous.

The other mythological creatures involve those in dialogue with Philippine folklore also through a problematic intertextuality, but retain a decentering nature to their signs because of their differently used signifieds.

The story of the White Lady of Balete Drive, in example, comes from an urban legend shared among motorists who claim to have seen her ghost wandering in front of cars in that area. Some say that she was a victim of a hit and run, but while speculations arise, no facts are offered, unlike in Trese's case, where the White Lady is given a name and an identity. The original story never accounted for the possibility that the White Lady can be "killed", however, and perhaps it never meant for her to be. It should be noted, also, that the White Lady myth was but a tabloid story made up by a group of reporters who, driving along Balete Drive, thought it would be scary if a White Lady resided in the area.

The santelmo of the third story, a creature whose name is the shortened form of St. Elmo's Fire, is referenced here through Trese's usage of the date of a Binondo fire, implying that the santelmo she contacts was involved in the incident. Though this Binondo fire may be fictional, the original mythology concerning santelmos deny the possibility that these creatures are capable of causing fires, for they are heatless. That Budjette used a santelmo in this story as one of Trese's contacts may have been to keep in line with the image of fire that pervades throughout the third story.

Perhaps the strongest intertextual reference made in this particular issue is that of Ding, and Darna. First, we have Ding's graphical representation. His completely black figure comprises his fearsome appearance, as does the way Kajo drew his eyes in a perpetually glaring expression that dominates until Ding returns the stone. Darna herself lacks this "black covering", and, through the panel that depicts "happier times", exudes all the qualities Ding negates, qualities that make Darna noble and an image of undeniable Good (the image of a superhero). The stone becomes the center of this reversal, for it in itself has not changed; it provides power, but has no will of its own to impose on whoever is using it. Nida becomes Darna, but Ding becomes something of an anti-Darna, negating all the previous associations with Darna by appearing as a cold-blooded killer. The reversal, which has been previously proven to extend to Darna's old archenemies, even extends to supposed catch phrase that Nida uses in asking Ding for the stone. The stone's ultimate reversal concludes itself in the final image of Nida herself taking the stone, completely changing the original context of the action through irony: taking the stone and changing into Darna, an image that used to connote hope and impending victory, becomes an image of pain and despair. Nida doesn't take the stone "to save the day", she takes it to escape the grief the world has wrought upon her when it denied her Justice and killed her brother.

The implications of mythological creatures adapting to the urban world, as well as examining the resulting dialogue (produced by intertextuality) between the supernatural level in Trese and Philippine folklore, serves to tell us that despite the modernization the world is facing, Budjette may be implying that myths will never truly be erased from its people's culture. Particularly in the Philippines, where our belief systems are still far from being able to forget the creatures we have resigned to the provinces.

We see the mythological level's decentering quality not just in the duplicitous nature exhibited by the graphic fiction's settings, but also in the conditions and treatment of the signs of Truth and Justice. Each of Trese's stories are not met with "complete, meaningful accounts"1, for though we the readers know what has truly happened in each of Trese's cases, the police, as well as other characters involved, are denied that knowledge when Truth is withheld, creating loose ends on their part. Closure that occurs here does not lead to disclosure, a concept also portrayed in Kajo's art. We have also seen how the conventions of graphic fiction have allowed his style to "enhance" the decenteredness of Trese through his use of the gutter, panels, and closure in portraying the hidden yet intruding nature of the underworld. In portraying Justice, we have examined how Trese's world makes violence necessary, and how Justice itself as a sign is undermined when the guilt of criminals is questioned, as well as the very nature of Evil.


In examining Trese's setting, we argue that the very presence of mythological creatures decenters the world of the text. Since a centered world does not allow the presence of anything supernatural, the presence of the underworld serves to break the laws of conventional logic a centered world would have as its foundation. The resulting effacement between the urban world and the underworld implies the overlapping of the two, revealing the proximity of the former to the latter. In initially pointing out the problematic intertextual references between the mythological creatures of Trese and the mythological creatures of Philippine mythology, we also reveal that the underworld itself is decentered, a result of the instability of signs that point to nearly empty signifiers.

We also explored the metafictional level of Trese, and raises questions concerning not just the basic conventions of murder fiction by introducing the presence of the mythological, but also the question of whether Trese is subverting a conventional reality when the reality in question is in fact the reality of our own Philippine culture.

The world of Trese's decentered nature is also portrayed by the sequential art, which this study analyzes by considering Kajo's usage of the gutter and his paneling style (where the gutters are all black and the paneling does not make use of distinct lines) as signs of a semblance of order, one that visually suggests the constant threat of intrusion by the mythological and allows Kajo's art to enhance the decenteredness of Trese. Kajo's style in the disclosure of certain events also portrays the hidden nature of the underworld and its implied proximity, which this study analyzes using McCloud's definition of closure.

In examining Trese's plot, we then raise questions on the very natures of Truth and Justice as demonstrated by a decentered world, specifically in how Truth is disclosed and Justice is perceived. In studying the narratives of the four stories, we undermine the these two dominant signs of murder fiction by arguing that Truth, though a stable sign, is withheld at the endpoint and therefore incomplete, and that Justice is unstable simply because the issues were raised concerning guilt and Evil.

In examining Trese's characters, we see how the duplicitous effect of the world also affects its residents, implying a pretentiousness to their characters that we perceive through Trese herself. We examine how residing in a decentered world, possessing a similarly duplicitous nature, and exhibiting all the characteristics of a mythological detective makes Alexandra Trese a decentered detective, despite her use of the arcane and the tradition of the centered detective in approaching her cases. We also explore how taking the role of one who brings order to the world she oversees results in Trese becoming a paradoxical bridge, linking the urban world and the underworld by being the police's means of approaching cases of a supernatural nature, and simultaneously keeping the two worlds apart by withholding all aspects and details of the mythological to protect both worlds from each other.


One glance at Trese's cover promises bad-ass tangles with creatures straight from Philippine mythology, and as far as bad-ass-ness goes, the series delivers. Taking classic creatures from your childhood horror stories, iconic komiks characters, and even urban legends, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo showcase them all in ways so modern you'd wish you"d thought of them first through the exploits of the story"s detective heroine, Alexandra Trese, and her twin sidekicks, the Kambal. With cases that involve tikbalang drag racers and demonic spa owners, Trese shows us just how well the underworld adapts-and takes advantage of-the 21st century.

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