Movies & TV

Philippine Mythology Takes Center Stage in Netflix's Trese

'We weren't going to water it down at all'
IMAGE NETFLIX
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Many kids grow up exposed to Greek or Roman mythology in one way or another. Western lore is ingrained in textbooks regardless of where you are in the world, but in the last few years, Netflix has made a conscious move to give myths and folklore from other parts of the world the spotlight. Last year, the streaming platform released The Witcher, which is based heavily on Polish folklore, and earlier this year, Shadow and Bone premiered, a show rooted in Russian culture and mythology.

Now, Philippine mythology is getting the Netflix treatment in Trese, the highly anticipated anime that will drop on June 11. Trese follows Alexandra Trese, the Babaylan-Mandirigma of Manila who’s tasked with the dangerous responsibility of maintaining the balance between the human world and the Underworld, home to Philippine folklore’s greatest monsters and creatures.

Maliksi, a tikbalang.

Photo by NETFLIX.

Fans of the graphic novels will enjoy the on-screen adaptation, while new viewers will be sucked into this urban fantasy world where aswangs and humans live side-by-side in Manila. Filipinos who grew up being taught to say tabi-tabi po will no doubt enjoy the reimagining of the creatures they were warned about in childhood, while outsiders will get a fleshed out introduction to the fascinating world of Philippine mythology. Since the show will be streamed on a global platform, Trese’s creators were conscious of its audience abroad, but that didn’t affect how they portrayed our mythology in the show.

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“We always wanted to keep the story of Trese very Filipino because it's set in Manila. It was created with our mythologies [but with] a twist on the folklore that we all grew up with,” said Tanya Yuson, writer and co-producer of the series, during a roundtable interview with Esquire. “We weren't going to water it down at all and we weren't going to turn it into something it was not.”

Yuson and showrunner Jay Oliva also made sure to keep certain Filipino words and phrases in Tagalog even in the other language dubs of the show. Trese is dubbed in English, Tagalog, Spanish, and Japanese, yet the spells weren’t translated to keep the essence of the show. Filipino creatures like aswang could easily be generalized and translated into “vampire,” but where would be the fun in that?

This little detail of the show got a thumbs up from Trese co-creator Budjette Tan. “It will intrigue the foreign viewer [and make them] want to know more and, in effect, start to learn our phrases and words.”

Nuno sa manhole, the nuno.

Photo by NETFLIX.
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Even the voice cast of the show’s English language dub were able to reconnect with their roots during pre-producition as many are second or third generation Filipino immigrants now based in the U.S. and Canada. Trese’s English cast packs quite a punch, with Filipino-American/Filipino-Canadian stars like Shay Mitchell, Manny Jacinto, Darren Criss, Jon Jon Briones, Dante Basco, Eric Bauza, and Lou Diamond Phillips in the billing. Even Nicole Scherzinger is there.

“I wanted to make sure that the actors had that accent and so we set out a casting calls to actors who had that background,” said Jay Oliva, a Filipino-American filmmaker who’s worked on Marvel and DC projects, from storyboarding Ant-Man to directing Justice League Dark.

“It's surprising how many responded and when we did finally cast them, many of them were just so happy to not have to hide their accent for the first time. Usually, they have to hide their accent, but this time, I was like, ‘Can you bring it out more?’”

Netflix’s global audience will finally get the full experience of Philippine mythology, and with its multiple dubbed languages, Filipino folklore will soon have a much bigger following. 

Trese drops on Netflix on June 11.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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