“Can you spot the country on the night side of the planet? I could be one of the multitude of blinking dots.”
Told in a letter written to his missed beloved, the protagonist of Arnold Arre’s Trip to Tagaytay takes us on a tour of a futuristic Metro Manila. Here, jeepneys have become museum artifacts, Aga Muhlach is President, and flights to moon are an everyday thing. The lifestyle of the common tao remains unchanged, however – our protagonist still can’t afford to fix his shower and he can’t even save enough money to visit his sweetheart, who lives in an unnamed distant planet. In a future of instant everything, love and separation remain complicated. That is the bittersweet takeaway of this 2001 National Book Award winner by one of the Philippines’ top artists.
I stumbled into this book while at Komiket 2016. Out of all the amazing works featured there, this one caught my eye because its title is deceptively simple. While my impression of comics and graphic novels is that they are usually quirky and hugely separate from mundane reality, the title Trip to Tagaytay made me think of humid summer afternoons and slow romances set against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. How very wrong I was. The romance aspect, I had been right about. But the simplicity of the setting in which this story unfolds, I had misjudged completely. Nothing about Arre’s vision of dystopian Manila is simple.
It’s scary to think that in the future, poverty will remain rampant, Manila will become even grimier, and brain drain has reached interplanetary levels – that is, everyone who can afford to leave has left. At the core of this 44-page sobering prognosis, however, Trip to Tagataytay remains a sincere serenade to a beloved who is missed. It is a testament to the suffering of the one who is rendered incomplete by the absence of his better half. And that is what gets to me – that is always what gets to me.
Narrative: 3.5 / 4
Characters: 1 / 2
Aesthetic: 2 / 2
Personal Feels: 2 / 2
Total Rating: 8.5 / 10
Title: Trip to Tagaytay (v. 2014)
Author: Arnold Arre.
Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance, Dystopian.
Photo (c) arnold-arre.com