Friday, October 31, 2008

This interview originally saw print in the SINDAK Horror-Thriller Magazine(April 2006 issue). Originally written in Filipino, I translated it into English for our international readers.

By Athena Fregillana, SINDAK #1, April 2006
Pictures by Paul Del Rosario
Originally published in Filipino.

Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo are part of a new generation of comic creators who are trying to save our almost lifeless comic book industry. How did the TRESE series start and why is this being considered one of the famous Pinoy komiks today?

If you are a comics lover, you might have already bought an issue or already have the whole collection of Trese comics, the product of the creative mind of Budjette Tan and the astounding art of Kajo Baldisimo.

They started work on Trese when Kajo sent a text message to Budjette, saying that he wanted the two of them to work on a comic book. “Kajo wanted to do something on a regular basis. I asked him if was he loosing his mind, because at that time we both had day jobs in advertising and we were working on very demanding accounts.” But this did not become an obstacle in putting together the concept for Trese and Budjette considered that it would only be a one-shot deal. Budjette said, “Ok, fine, we will make one comic book and after that, we’ll probably get so busy with work that we’ll never do another issue again.”

That’s why Budjette thought he could use the concept of Trese which he had been thinking about for a long time. “My first job was in a radio station and ended up writing a show on paranormal stuff. We create a character for that show called Anton Trese. He was the narrator of a horror show. He wasn’t really a fully-fleshed out character. He was just a voice who introduced each show and he called himself Anton Trese.”

Years later, Budjette started to write a comic book story and thought he could use Anton Trese for that tale. The only thing he knew about the story was how it started and it started with a dead lady in white on Balete Drive. He didn’t know how he’d end the story, so he asked help from his friends who were also into comics.

“My friends suggested things on how to make the story better. Years later, Kajo texted that he wanted to make a comic book, which made me remember the story of Trese.”

When Kajo first drew Trese, he was a tough, kick-ass guy. But they thought that people might think they just copied the Keanu Reeves character in the movie Constantine, which was based on the graphic novel Hellblazer. So, they decided to make Trese into a woman.

“Kajo liked the idea of making Trese a female paranomal detective,” said Budjette.

Kajo didn’t have a difficult time in drawing their heroine. “Actually, I’ve always liked female lead characters in comics and movies, so it wasn’t hard for me to create Trese,” said Kajo.

Trese’s intense looks came from a combination of people that inspired Kajo. Even Maja Salvador is part of that list. According to Kajo, Trese somewhat resembles him. “It’s important to have that one characteristic that people will remember. If you take a look at Trese’s hairline, that’s just like my hairline. I made it part of her character design because I thought it would look weird for a woman to have a hairline like that.”

So, why did they decide to make a horror comic book? Budjette said, “I guess it was because of my influences. I’m just more comfortable telling ghost stories. Admittedly, it’s more difficult to scare someone in a comic book as opposed to trying to scare someone with a movie, where you have the benefit of music and lighting and timing, where you can suddenly surprise the audience. So, it’s also a challenge to do that in a comic book.”

We’ve all heard ghost stories that usually leave us with many loose ends. We don’t usually find out what happened to that ghost, where did that ghost come from, what did he do when he was alive. Which is where Trese comes in, to help discover and solve what happened in a particular crime. “Our intent is that the story should always have a criminal act, but there should always be a supernatural twist,” said Budjette.

From a single text and from what they thought would only be a single issue, they just finished their seventh issue. “When Kajo finished the first issue, he said, `What’s next?`. The next three issues were just notes in my notebook. And before we knew it, we were finishing issues on a monthly basis,” said Budjette.

It took them a year before they could release their latest issue because of their workload at the office. Both Budjette and Kajo work in advertising agencies.

Both of them have a love for making comics. Budjette is very passionate in writing comic book stories but rarely gets to do so. He said, “The plan was if Alamat Comics took off, I would just write comics forever. I guess the market wasn’t ready for comics or we didn’t know anything about selling comics. It came to a point when Alamat as a group became smaller and a lot of people focused more on getting day jobs. So I ended up in advertising.”

On the other hand, Kajo just resigned from his advertising job last January. He had to make a decision between doing advertising and doing comics. He felt that couldn’t to do at the same time. Although, he still does some projects for the ad agency from time to time. “So I’d have something to eat,” Kajo joked.

These days, Kajo works on Trese and other comic books full-time. “I started to notice that people were buying it. There were serious supporters who waited for the next issue. I felt that it was my obligation to make my work better.”

The current plan is to release a compiled version of Trese. “We are already talking to a publisher [Visual Print Enterprises]. It’s the same publisher of ZsaZsa Zaturnnah. Our agreement with them is three books. Book 1 will be issues 1-4, Book 2 are issues 5-8 and Book 3 will be issues 9-13. It won’t be colored. Not yet. We hope to eventually do that,” was Budjette’s happy news.

They also got an offer from Unitel Production last year to adapt Trese into a movie or TV show. “After Unitel read it, they liked the idea that it was episodic. The contract is open to that sort of execution,” said Budjette. But they haven’t gotten back to Unitel because their main goal now is to finish the story of Trese.

Since they’ve uploaded Trese in, they received many readers from other countries. They even have a regular reader from Iceland.

“When we launched our first issue, Comic Quest [comic book store] got a call from France asking about our comics. The store assistant had a hard time trying to understand what the caller wanted. The next day, the store got a call from the French Embassy. Turns out the first caller, asked help from the embassy to contact the store and reserved a copy,” Budjette said.

As mentioned, aside from comic book stores, the Trese stories can also be read online. This came about when Budjette noticed that some American comic book companies would upload the first issue of their comics in order to attract new readers. “We were already late with one of our issues, so I thought we might as well upload it on the site. I also realized it was going to be Friday the 13th and timing was perfect.”

The two friends are truly happy with the success of Trese. Kajo said this was instant reason to do better and improve their work on their upcoming issues. One cannot avoid getting criticized but such comments are welcome as well. They mentioned one lawyer who emailed and said a certain detail of the story shouldn’t have happened because of a certain law. Budjette said, “It’s nice to get those kind of comments. It helps us know how to improve the next issue, considering our first couple of issues were all done in a rush… we just wanted to get it all done in 20 days.”

“Which was why, during lunch break, I always have liquid paper and drawing materials beside me,” Kajo recalled.

Budjette and Kajo have given us with something inspiring. They made us feel their dedication in their creation of their comic book Trese. They showed their determination to tell their story despite the many obstacles in their way. The success of their comic book creation is already within their reach. Their advice for the everyone who wants to make comics: “Don’t let go of your dreams.”



1. My affair with comics started... when I was in grade school. My classmate gave me UNCANNY X-MEN #188 and #189 as a birthday gift. #189 had a cliffhanger ending, so I just had to hunt down the issue after that and the every issue after that.

2. I love comics because.... it’s fun! I grew up reading comic books. Especially when the story has that perfect balance of great words and great art.

3. My influences in comics are.... Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore.

4. If I am a comic character, I'd like to be Martian Manhunter, so I can fly around, turn invisible, change shape, and read minds (which will come in handy when dealing with client).

5. In the future, I want to collaborate with.... Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Carlo Vergara.

6. My favorite comic character is Cyclops because he’s a great leader and strategist.

7. I'm inspired when... it’s 3AM and the deadline is in a couple of hours.

8. I'm addicted to.... coffee! And comics!

9. If I were a villain in my comics, who would I be? I want to be the Kingpin of Crime.

10. I love Ka-Jo because.... he makes me look good! Makes my words come alive! He bugged me to do the impossible.

11. Will I date a girl like Alexandra Trese? Ummm… sure, as long as we go to a brightly-lit place… near a church.

12. If Trese is to be adopted in movie or TV, my choice of actress is.... Alessandra de Rossi.

13. I'd like to be known.... as a great storyteller.


1. My affair with comics started… when my parents brought home a second-hand pinoy (religion) komiks fully illustrated by Mar T. Santana (i forgot the title). It has stories of Jesus and stories of people who love and hate (and eventually came to love) Jesus.

2. I love comics because you get to tell a story by drawing it. I love telling stories by drawing it. Sarap.

3. My influences in comics are TMTM (To Many To Remember). But the few who are on top of my head: Nestor Redondo, Mar Santana, Hal Santiago, Jim Lee, Travis Charest, Brian Hitch, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and lots more (about 413 more)...

4. If I am a comic character, I'd like to be WOLVERINE! (wolverine na nakaka-teleport at nagiging invisible! Patay ka!!!) [Wolverine with the power to teleport and become invisible!]

5. In the future, I want to collaborate with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis. Sabay-sabay sila. [I want to collaborate with them all at the same time.]

6. My favorite comic characters are: 1. Trese, kasi astig siya. 2. Wolverine, kasi astig siya. 3. Superman, kasi mabaet. 4. Batman, kasi masipag. 5. Rorschach, kas may katok. [1. Trese, because she kicks-ass. 2. Wolverine because he kicks-ass. 3. Superman, because he’s nice. 4. Batman, because he works hard. 5. Roschach, because he’s scary]

7. I'm inspired when love is all around me, and so the feeling grows. It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go...

8. I'm addicted to any vehicles that turn into robots. Someday i will make cartoons, comics and toys about this unexplored concept and make tons of pesos. Even make a movie...

9. If I were a villain in my comics, who would I be? I will be an evil Wolverine who can teleport and turn invisible and call myself Nemesi-rine! Patay ka!!!

10. I love Budj because he loves buying, reading, and making comics. If he starts hating comics, then i'd want a divorce.

11. Will I date a girl like Alexandra Trese? Oo naman! Whew! Hottie! Kaso lang, laging may tchaperon. Saka hindi madaling patawanin. Saka may baon lagi na knife. S#!%.'wag na lang... [Of course! Whew! Hottie! Because she always has a chaperone. And it’s not easy to make her laugh. And she always carries a knife. . S#!%. I don’t want to date her!]

12. If Trese is to be adopted in movie or TV, my choice of actress is.... Maja Salvador! Hi Maja!

13. I'd like to be known as; 'Kajo, isang Pilipino na buong-pusong nag-alay ng pawis at dugo upang makatulong na
isakatuparan ang pagpapatuloy at pagtatanggol ng sining-salaysay na tinatawag na komiks at siyang may lihim na pagtatangi kay Maja Salvador.' Hi Maja! [Kajo, a Filipino who whole-heartedly offered his sweat and blood in order to help and fulfill and defend the progress of the art of comics and how he secretly longed for Maja Salvador. Hi Maja!]

Published in the SINDAK Horror-Thriller Magazine(April 2006 issue).
Interview by Athena Fregillana

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Award-winning graphic novelist Arnold Arre takes us on a nostalgic trip through some of the Philippines' most colorful and compelling eras - from the rigidness of pre-EDSA Manila to the dizzying, commercially-intoxicated world of the new millenium.

Allan and his friends are Martial Law Babies: born during the Marcos regime, raised by TV, and shaped by 80s music. Their ambitions may be dampened by third world realities and malcontention but they also proudly belong to a generation of dreamers who fight for their voices to be heard. They are among the so-called "Bagong Lipunan" children, trying their best to live up to their name. But over the years, as Allan watches his friends leave one by one and feels his sense of idealism wane, he starts to wonder where they are all headed.

Preview art at:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supernatural Storytelling
By Ruel S. De Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 12. 2008

MANILA, Philippines -Almost from the very beginning, Budjette Tan has been surrounded by the unusual. “When I was a newborn baby, my parents moved into what turned out to be a haunted house,” he explains. “The ghosts were seen by my yaya and my uncles. My parents didn’t believe in such things, until one summer day after my mom gave me a bath. She said the right side of my face suddenly wrinkled up—that it looked like the face of an old man. She prayed over me until I became normal again.” Psychics were summoned and a séance held. “The psychics told the spirits that they had to move on to the next plane. The haunting stopped after some time.”

Even Tan did not know that something similarly spooky would redefine his life later on. With him doing the writing and Kajo Baldisimo providing the art, Tan came up with “Trese,”a comic book series that follows mysterious investigator Alexandra Trese as she helps the police solve unearthly crimes in Metro Manila—sometimes with some direct action from Trese and her bizarre bodyguards, the Kambal.

The White Lady of Balete Drive is dead—again. The losing parties in drag races on C-5 start vanishing. Deadly bargains are struck deep in Paco. Every year, someone dies in Livewell Village. Secrets lurk in the bowels of a huge mall.. Wonderfully weird ideas mixing old and new, traditional and newfangled, come together in this fascinating and impeccably crafted comic book.
The 35-year-old Tan, whose full name is Ferdinand-Benedict Garcia Tan, is Deputy Executive Creative Director at Harrison Communications, an ad agency for companies like Globe, Neozep, Jack `N Jill, Levi’s and Bayer. Early on, his world expanded its borders, as his late father, broadcaster Buddy Tan, brought to Philippine television such foreign shows as “Sesame Street,” “Wonder Woman,” “Voltron” and “The Twilight Zone.” Growing up, Tan and younger brother Brandie considered themselves lucky. “We were given most of the toys that we asked for when we were kids,” he recalls. The parental indulgence applied as well to comic books so Tan found himself devouring comic books with titles like “Uncanny X-Men.”

Similarly, Tan’s mother Adjette wanted him to read even more. “She bought me the entire collection of Hardy Boys,” he says. “Maybe that’s where my love for detective stories started.” Even back in grade school, he already tried his hand at making comics, crafting by hand such characters as Cosmic Man, Lightning Hawk and the Computer Creeps. In high school, he began playing a role-playing game called Shadowrun. “The idea of magic and magical creatures set in the modern world was something that stuck, and I’ve often wondered how that would work in the Philippine setting.”

With friend Mark Gatela, Tan spent some time developing a radio show of horror stories inspired by Stephen King stories and TV shows like “The X-Files.” Though the radio station closed soon after, the show’s fictional narrator left an impression on Tan, a character named Anton Trese.

An Ateneo graduate, Tan was instrumental in the formation of Alamat, the seminal group of Filipino comic book creators. “Around 1992-93, me and the guys tried to break into the comic book industry,” he explains. “We sent submissions to Marvel and Image and even Atlas Komiks; all of them rejected us.” They decided to go about it on their own, self-publishing Comics 101. In 1994, after Filipino-American comics star Whilce Portacio visited the country and recommended Tan and company to come together, Alamat Comics was founded.

Meanwhile, Tan’s work in advertising brought him into fateful contact with Baldisimo, who was part of Alamat. “When I started working in Harrison Communications, I would sometimes commission Kajo to do artwork for our ads,” Tan recalls.

Unlike Tan, Jonathan Abdula Baldisimo had no such supernatural experiences. “My receivers are off when it comes to such things, which is not a bad thing,” the 30-year-old Baldisimo explains. The eldest of three children to resourceful jack of all trades Armando and industrious printing press employee Virginia, Baldisimo showed signs of artistic inclination at age 3, when he began doodling on the pages of his aunt’s dictionary. A big fan of Pinoy komiks, he rented all the titles he could get his hands on at the corner store. “Then, in high school, classmates introduced me to Jim Lee’s X-Men and that’s when I decided this is what I want to do till I croak,” he says.
While still in school, Baldisimo began drawing for Vampira Komiks for P300 a week. He would go on to take up fine arts at UP Diliman before leaving to study computer graphics and design on his own. After freelancing for a bit, Baldisimo joined McCann-Erickson and worked on the prestigious Coca-Cola account. Today, he is a freelance illustrator and a junior trainee for international comic talent group Glasshouse Graphics. In his spare time, Baldisimo shares his beloved Transformers with his even more beloved 3-year-old son, Josef Achilles.

In 2005, Baldisimo sent Tan a text message, saying he wanted to collaborate on a comic book by churning out a 20-page monthly comic book in 20 days. “I laughed and didn’t think it was possible because I was working on the Globe account and he was working on the Coke account, two of the busiest accounts in our respective ad agencies,” Tan says. But once they began working on it, the project developed a life of its own. The character originally named Anton Trese soon became Alexandra Trese, a mysterious investigator with more than a passing connection to the real underworld, the kind with lamang-lupa and malignos.

For Alexandra’s look, Baldisimo did not go far for visual inspiration. “Trese’s look was inspired by a ton of anime and manga chicks that never left my mind,” Baldisimo explains. “Trese and I share the same Devil’s hairline and I used to think of my ex-girlfriend, Divine, when I was drawing the first few issues because, like Trese, she’s strong and always gets her way.”
Tan and Baldisimo also found a comfortable working dynamic. “He writes, I draw, then we go back and forth for revisions and last minute ideas,” Baldisimo explains. “It’s very dynamic, very effective, much like the concept team style used in advertising.”

Once “Trese” began coming out, it caught a following, fanned by word-of-mouth (probably with fangs). Tan’s modern take on folklore and his whiplash-inducing plot twists meld perfectly with Baldisimo’s moody and distinctive black-and-white art.

Tan self-published the series, a role that has proven challenging. “When you publish your own book, you have to play many roles,” he says. “You’re also the business manager.” Fortunately, “Trese” found an ardent fan in publishing company Visual Print Enterprises which also publishes best-selling local authors like Bob Ong. “We can focus on making the book and they take care of the business side of things,” Tan says.

The Visual Print deal has also allowed “Trese” to take actual book form. The digest “Trese: Murder On Balete Drive” collects the first four issues, while the just-released “Trese: Unreported Murders” gathers issues five to eight. Now, instead of the traditional issues (affectionately called “floppies”), “Trese” will be coming out exclusively in digest form, with the third volume, which gathers the remaining five cases in the first 13-issue arc, due out before the end of 2008. “Book 3 will answer some questions that people have been asking about the Kambal, Trese and her father,” Tan says.

Originally aiming to tell just 13 stories, Tan and Baldisimo are now thinking up a whole new cabinet of weirdness for Alexandra and company. “I actually have more mysteries for Trese that she needs to solve,” Budjette Tan says, “Just don’t know how soon we’ll get around to telling those stories.” For his part Kajo Baldisimo can’t wait: “Budj and I will be churning out books every year from now on so I hope that the readers will continue to enjoy reading it as much as we continually enjoy cooking it.”

“Trese” is available at Comic Quest, Comic Odyssey, Pandayan Bookstores, National Bookstore, Best Sellers, PowerBooks and Fully Booked. For a preview, log on to

Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pre-order MARTIAL LAW BABIES today

The book's retail price is Php 500 but interested readers can avail of the special pre-order offer: receive a signed copy of the book at P50-off and have it delivered straight to your address a week before its official release.

For more info, you may check out the website:
or send an email to preorders @ martiallawbabies .com

Friday, October 03, 2008

Inquirer interview with MANGAHOLIX president

Mangaholix president and senior art director Ian Cang sheds light on the state of the Filipino comic book industry. In an interview conducted by multimedia reporter Anna Valmero, Cang talks about the current opportunities for artists in the local and international arena. Background music courtesy of Kevin Macleod.


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