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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Michael Tan talks about bangungot

THE SCIENCE COUNCIL OF ASIA, CONSISTING OF SCIENCE research councils from throughout the region, held its 10th conference last week here in the Philippines. I presented a paper on the need to look at cultural angles in relation to health and illness. I thought I’d share with Inquirer readers the case study I used in my paper. This is the case of bangungot, which I’ve written about in other columns, and which is also extensively described in my book “Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam.” At the conference I gave an update on bangungot and similar ailments.

Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Deaths (SUND) is a term first used by the US Centers for Disease Control to refer to a number of folk illnesses. Folk illnesses are medical conditions which are given a name in a particular culture, for example usog and pasma. They do not have exact equivalents in Western biomedicine but are very real in the sense that they cause distress, suffering, pain and sometimes even death.

One of the folk illnesses covered by SUND is bangungot, which can mean both a nightmare as well as a pathological condition described as troubled sleep that can be fatal.

The folk explanation for bangungot is that the victim increases risks by going to bed right after a full meal, has nightmares and might even die if unable to regain control of his body. Victims are supposed to wiggle a toe or finger to regain that control. People who are susceptible are also advised not to sleep alone because if they have an attack, someone should be around to wake him up.

Note that the Ilokanos attribute bangungot to batibat, a supernatural creature described as an old woman. If the batibat’s dwelling is disturbed, she wreaks vengeance by sitting on the victim’s chest when he’s sleeping, eventually causing death.

The batibat explanation reminds us of a universal recognition of problems relating to sleep, with batibat-like characters reported in many other cultures. The English word nightmare itself is derived from “night” and “mare,” a female horse, referring to the feeling of heavy animal (the mare) or a spirit sitting on the chest.

What are the medical studies that have been conducted on bangungot?

An early report published in 1933 and involving autopsies of bangungot victims, found pancreatitis, which was attributed to our high salt and high carbohydrate (rice) diets. Other reports in American journals involved apparently deaths of healthy Filipinos who were in the US Navy. The reports repeated earlier theories about diet and pancreatic dysfunction.

In the 1970s, several unexplained deaths among apparently healthy men were reported among Hmong refugees who had migrated to the United States. US Centers for Disease Control coined the term SUND. The Lao term for this ailment is dab tsuam (pronounced da cho), which again involves the supernatural. The stress angle was explored here.

In 1990 and 1991, several deaths were reported in Singapore among Thai construction workers. The Thai term for the ailment was lai-tai (sleep death). Medical investigations speculated cardiac problems and potassium deficiency as causes.

In the reports on SUND, there are also frequent references to the Japanese pokkuri or sudden death. Japanese researchers, usually forensic experts, point to cardiac problems, with probable dietary
factors, as the cause of death.

SUND: Pinoy Kasi By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 06/22/2010

And you can read Trese's explaination of what the bangungot really is at The Diabolical:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

how to replace copies of TRESE with faulty binding


We’ve been receiving feedback from readers that the copies of TRESE that they bought have faulty binding; that the pages fall off from the spine soon after they read it. We apologize that this has happened.

Here are two ways you can have your copies replaced:

Return the book to the bookstore where you bought it and have it exchanged for a new one. It would be best that you bring your receipt and that you get it exchanged within a week of purchase.

Go to the Visprint office and exchange your copy with a new one. Please bring your receipt as well. Email Visprint at book_inquiry @ visprint .net for more details.

(Obviously, if you’ve had that copy for several months and the pages have fallen off because it has been passed around to everyone in your household, your school or office, then we’d have to decline in giving you a new copy.)

Thank you very much! :-)

UPDATE: a message from Visprint
Our sincerest apologies to all our dear buyers who have received copies of "Trese 3: Mass Murders" and "12" (silent comics) with faulty binding. Rest assured we have already addressed this problem with our binding supplier.

You may have your copy replaced from the bookstore/comic shop you have purchased it from, just present your receipt. For those who have already lost their receipt or got the book as a gift, you may bring your faulty copy to the Visprint office during office hours (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) and look for Ms. Ella. Please call ahead (8452703) or email us (book_inquiry @ to inform us of your sched so we may have your new copy ready.

Again, our apologies for the trouble this may have caused you.

* applies to other titles as well
** faulty copy refers ONLY to damaged books with printing error or faulty binding, and NOT due to misuse or wear-and-tear.
*** please do NOT advise us of your replacement sched through the comments section of this site. We will accomodate replacement requests only through phone calls and emails.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Casting Call: TRESE short film

First of all, let me say how excited I am to make this announcement. Yes, we are in the process of producing a short film about a Trese mystery and we are in need of a few actors, actresses, and aswang.

Please read the casting requirements below.

If you would like to audition for any of these roles, please email your pictures (one headshot and one full body pic) along with your bio-data. Send them to: with the SUBJECT: TRESE CASTING CALL

ALEXANDRA TRESE, female, in her late 20s
Physically fit, looks like the type that practices martial arts or is an accomplished dancer

Height: 5’5” – 5’6”

She commands authority even if she is just sitting quietly in one corner.

If you saw her alone in a bar, you’d be curious to meet her, but would hesitate to approach her.

KAMBAL, male, in their early 20s, Trese’s loyal bodyguards
(Real twins are encouraged to audition, but we’re willing to see actors who closely resemble one another)

Height: they should be taller than Trese, preferably 5’9 and above
Physically fit, looks like the type that practices martial arts

Basilio is the LONG HAIRED KAMBAL. His long hair runs past his shoulders – he sometimes wears it in a ponytail. He is the younger Kambal. Cocky. Loves to joke around. Loves to flirt with the girls.

Crispin is the SHORT HAIRED KAMBAL. He keeps his hair neat and trimmed. He is the eldest. Acts like the typical kuya. Very serious. Asserts his authority over Basilio. If Basilio goes out of line, he will pull him back and remind him to behave.

GUERRERO, male, late 40s
Medium to heavy built
Has a beer belly, has been sitting behind the desk for too long
Preferably balding or bald with moustache and/or beard

Guerrero is a captain in the PNP. He’s seen it all. And just when he thought he had seen it all, he ends up investigating all sorts of strange, unexplained crime that requires the help of Trese.

Guerrero’s known Alexandra ever since she was teen-ager, so he treats her like his niece

TAPIA, male, mid-20s
He’s the rookie cop and Guerrero’s right hand man.
Clean cut hair. Looks like he just got out of the police academy.

POGI, male, 30s
He’s Mr. Pretty Boy. He’s Mr. Male Model. He’s the guy that girls swoon over. He can sweet-talk anyone into bed. He’s very romantic when he talks, but the only person that he really loves is himself. He walks and talks like he’s a prince; head held up high.

REY, male, mid 30s - 40s.
Rey is a tired, old guy who’s just trying to do honest work after years of doing dirty and unspeakable work. Looks like the type who’s been in jail a lot. Now works at a construction site– which still requires a lot of physical labor. He doesn’t want any trouble, but if you push him, he’s more than ready to fight back.

IRMA, female, 20s
Impulsive. Hot headed. She an “amazona”. She takes matters into her own hands just to get the job done. She’s very protective over her family. She’s sure about herself, about her decisions, and will not listen to anyone else about what she should do.

NINO, male, 7 to 11 years old
Preferably lanky, thin body frame
Very talkative. Very expressive when he’s telling a story.

To audition for any of these roles, please email your pictures (one headshot and one full body pic) along with your bio-data. Send them to: with the SUBJECT: TRESE CASTING CALL

Thank you!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Something twisted this way comes

What's scarier, global warming or zombies?
EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT By Jessica Zafra (The Philippine Star) June 11, 2010

Alexandra Trese, the graphic novel series written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo, is set in that other Manila, the one on the fringes of your consciousness, where the criminal underworld really is from the underworld. Aswang run kidnapping rings, kapre are crime kingpins, and tikbalang drink and drive. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call supernatural detective Alexandra Trese. When we ponder the undying popularity of the horror genre, we talk to our friend Budjette Tan.

YOUNG STAR: In Alexandra Trese you offer an alternative explanation for the crime rate: supernatural creatures. What’s scarier, ghosts and ghouls or corrupt politicians?

BUDJETTE TAN: I think corrupt politicians are scarier. At least with ghosts we can exorcise them and make them leave this plane of existence. With some politicians, there’s just no getting rid of them, no matter what kind of exorcism you perform.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Sam is a fan

Thanks to Gabriella for sending me a link to this press release:

... which shows Sam Concepcion holding a copy of TRESE, while driving his car-- well, he's about to drive his car. As much as it's great that the National Book Developement Board is endorsing reading, I think they should not endorse reading-while-driving. (I'm joking! Must not insult NBDB-people who helped promote Trese last year. Hello NBDB-people!!!) Anyway, here's the press release...

Sam Concepcion is one of the National Book Development Board’s (NBDB) Get Caught Reading campaign ambassadors. This is aside from the advocacies he is supporting as youth ambassador for Education and the Arts, Department of Education’s Youth role model, ambassador for Education and Spokesperson and World Vision’s ambassador for children.

When the NBDB launched Get Caught Reading in 2007, Sam and his fellow cast members of Super Inggo went on a tour of schools to promote the habit of reading. Sam is also a regular storyteller in the NBDB’s storytelling events in malls, libraries and schools.

“Reading is like a song. There’s certain feeling you associate with reading a book the same way you’re reminded of something when you listen to songs,” says Sam, a 17-year-old stage actor. Among his stage roles are Edmund Pevensie in Trumpet’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. He says it helps a lot to re-read the books everytime he plays a character from an adaptation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Happy Birthday Kajo!

The secret origin of my dynamic team-up with talented Mr. Baldisimo aka KA-JO.

I first met Kajo when he was part of Virtual Media Studios -- which was the unofficial tambayan of Alamat Comics way back when.

During those years we'd drop by and hang out, I got to see Kajo and guys work on the pages of A.R.C.H.O.N. Kajo actually finished three fantastic issues of that comic book. All the art was colored and letter and then... their PC crashed and they lost all the artwork. So, we may never know whatever happened to that band of law-enforcers in outer space.

Here's one of Kajo's pin-ups from A.R.C.H.O.N., showing Troy, the team leader.

My first collaboration with Kajo was a comic book that only got distributed in Malate. We were hired by an NGO to make a comic book about AIDS and HIV. So, I wrote a story about a guy who sleeps around and ends up getting AIDS and gives it to his wife as well. The issue ends with some literature about the benefits of regularly going to clinics and get tested. We never did get a copy of that comic book.

The next time I worked in Kajo was in the year 2000. I was already working for the ad agency and we had to do print ads to promote Globe's text-based games of X-MEN and PUNISHER. So, if you ever remember seeing those ads or posters of Globe with those Marvel characters, those were drawn by Kajo!

Couple of years later, Kajo started "NWA" a comic strip that was serialized in MTV INK, the channel's music magazine. He then asked me if I wanted to collaborate on something that we can pitch to the magazine. Around that time, I had already released the three issues of Batch72 and wanted to bring back that old barkada. So, I thought of revamping them and we pitched it as 8 HIT COMBO. (By the time we did pitch it, the magazine had shut down.)

Sometime later, Kajo said he wanted me to help him write a story. So, he sent me this 24-page story with no words. The art was amazing! I got excited and asked Kajo, "So who's this girl? And why is she running? And who's the guy? What about this monster?" Kajo just looked at me and said, "Oh, I leave all of that up to you. So, we really get to collaborate on this 50-50." Left without a clue, I held on to those pages for how many months, until I slowly started to make sense of the pictures.

Those wordless pages eventually became THE LAST DATU.

Of course, if you're a regular visitor of this blog, you already know about that text message Kajo sent me back in June 2005; the text where we asked the ridiculous question: "Do you think we can work on a a monthly comic book?" I laughed and just thought, "Okay, maybe we'll get to do ONE issue!" That one issue later became 13 cases.

Image hosted by

So, as you can see, on several occasions, it was really Kajo who would nudge, poke, and prod me to do a comic book project. So, please do help me greet my partner-in-crime! (If you're linked up to him in Facebook, please greet him there or maybe greet him on the Trese Facebook page.)

By the way, aside from working on TRESE Book 4, we've got another surprise for you this year; something that we hope to launch in the next comic book event.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Aswang Attack in South Cotabato

I found this old police report from SunStar Davao, dated September 25, 2004: Boy survives 'aswang' attack

Only in the Philippines will you find reports about aswang and manananggal flying in the city end up in legit broadsheets. In other countries, reports of "bat-people" and "possessed people" usually end up in tabloids.

Tata Porras, 16, of Barangay Cabuling in Tantangan, claimed his 14-year-old brother Michael was attacked by an aswang, which he claimed was disguised as a big black dog with red, glowering eyes.

"Aswang talaga ang nakita ko," Tata said, adding that the big black dog about three feet-high was about to bite the neck of his younger brother when he saw it.

"Nang kakagatin na niya ang kapatid ko, kinuha ko kaagad ang nakatago naming single shot na baril at binaril ko ang aswang (When I saw the 'aswang' about to bite my younger brother, I grabbed our single shot rifle and I shoot the 'aswang')," Tata said.

He said the "aswang" fled and was lost in the dark.

Read the complete report:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Secret Origin of the Aswang

This animated sequence is by Denver Jackson for the upcoming documentary "The Aswang Phenomenon" - an exploration of the aswang folklore in Philippine society, directed by Jordan Clark of High Banks Entertainment Ltd.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Aswang Phenomenon

What would happen if a country of 97 million people were taught at a young age that the boogie man was real. In the Philippines for the last 400 years, the 'aswang' has been used as propoganda and social control by Spanish Colonizers, the Catholic Church, the Philippine Administration, and even the CIA.

The Aswang Phenomenon by Jordan Clark is the first in-depth documentary regarding the aswang myth - discovering where manifestations of the creature came from and how they evolved and embedded themselves in Filipino society. Learn how Filipinos have been transformed by the myth and are now evolving the aswang to fit into their developing cultural identity. "Understanding where the 'aswang' came from is the first step in taking away its power and the fear it creates."

Learn more about this upcoming documentary at: