by Ruel S. De vera
(January 14, 2001 - Sunday Inquirer Magazine)
A talented comic book creator goes back to the future with this charming history lesson.
After winning the National Book Award for the deliciously ground-breaking comic book series "The Mythology Class," Arnold Arre decided on a totally different direction for his next project. Thre result is the refreshing "Trip to Tagaytay," (Tala Studios and Quest ventures), what amounts to a self-contained short story set in the 21st century. Seen through the eyes of the hip teeneage narrator, it is a patently bizarre, futuristic time -- and utterly Filipino. Aga Muhlach (yes, that Aga) is President of the Philippines. Some 870 million Filipinos have joined the other countries in colonizing the stars. Yet, as we follow "Trip's" young protagonist in his seemingly ordinary walk about Manila, we discover that the crazy-quilt city, for all its technology and terrors, has survived with the spirit of its storied past intact.
Despite its comic book form, "Trip to Tagaytay" is told completely in narration instead of word balloons, allowing Arre to condense the complex new history he has invented with a mind-boggling array of visuals. In fact, it is the thoroughly fleshed-out setting of "Trip" that galvanizes this reading experience. All 44 glossy, black-and-white pages are crammed with eye candy. Every detail is taken care of -- the Jollibee ads, the fares, the basketball scores from an IBA game, even the last existing jeepney, on display at the National Museum.
Yet in the end, "Trip to Tagaytay" proves to be a charming ode to the simple things that transcend time -- friendship, love, patriotism, the power of dreams -- all told through Arre's distinctive winning style. "Trip to Tagaytay" is availalbe from all Comic Quest branches.