Through the years, Philippine mythology has stayed prevalent and relevant in our local popular media, continuously adapting as the way we tell stories evolved with the times. Even today, the aswang, manananggal, tikbalang, kapre, duwende, and engkanto remain common to our consciousness, surviving despite the many foreign influences that affected the way we consume fiction.
Graphic literature is one of the mediums where our own mythology and folklore thrive. Comic book series and graphic novels from local creators have taken these timeless tales and used them to tell compelling stories that we readers of today would not only enjoy reading, but will also teach us a thing or two about how rich our culture is.
Here are nine such titles you’d want to give a read.
The Mythology Class
Arnold Arre’s graphic novel The Mythology Class has been around since 1999 and was the first winner of the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award, Comic Books category. In 2017, it was announced that Jerrold Tarog is adapting the graphic novel into a film.
The Mythology Class follows Nicole, a university student who was summoned to a secret gathering by the mysterious Mrs. Enkanta. Here, she discovers that the stories from her childhood about tikbalangs, kapres, engkantos, and other Filipino mythological creatures are real. Together with her newfound friends and the legendary heroes Kubin, Sulayman, and Lam-Ang, Nicole must face these folkloric beings as an ancient evil looms to threaten humanity.
Read a preview of Mythology Class for free at PenLab. You can purchase the book via your local bookstore or on Shopee through The Bargain Reader store. The first volume of the graphic novel’s sequel, Children of Bathala, is also now available in print.
This award-winning and critically acclaimed comic series from writer Budjette Tan and artist KaJo Baldisimo has become even more popular now that an anime adaptation is in the works on Netflix.
Set in Manila, TRESE is about the city detective Alexandra Trese. Along with the Kambal, Trese’s two magical masked protectors, she is tasked to solve intriguing crimes that are tied to the otherworldly creatures from our folklore. These include the murder of Balete Drive’s infamous white lady, the enigmatic death of an actress and a duwende, and the mystery of a manananggal corpse with no wings.
Written by Mervin Ignacio and illustrated by Salamangka author Ian Sta. Maria, Skyworld is an epic two-volume comic series that mixes the rich stories about our pre-Hispanic gods and the aswangs with real historical events.
Skyworld follows these different mythological beings inspired by our lore, whose stories overlap with each other. These beings include the fallen Skygod Kaptan who searches for the Maharlika, the Tikbalang Prince Makabo who seeks revenge for his father’s death, the Queen of the Asuang who aims to unleash the Bakunawa to wreak havoc among the living, and the orphan Andoy who is prophesized to be in the center of this war that spans centuries. Fans of TRESE will also be delighted to see Alexandra Trese and the Kambal making an appearance in the series.
Check out the two volumes of Skyworld at a bookstore near you.
Philippine mythology meets sci-fi in this anthology of six stories that are set in the same universe. It is created by writer Paolo Chikiamco and artists Koi Carreon, Paul Quiroga, Jules Gregorio, Mico Dimagiba, and Christina Rose Chua.
The rich lore of Mythspace includes stories about the Nuno race who ride giant mechas known as the Bungis; an intergalactic war between the Kapres and creatures related to the Bakunawa; a boy who is abducted by fabled beings from space; and a lot more!
A National Book Awardee for Graphic Literature in Filipino, Mervin Malonzo’s Tabi Po brings the readers on a bloody journey through the eyes of the aswangs who lived during the Spanish occupation here in the country.
It begins with the aswang Elias, who woke up inside a tree and cannot remember anything save for the image of a woman who appears in his dreams. While he grapples with his lost memories, something more urgent drives him to move– a great hunger that only raw flesh can satisfy. Soon, Elias encounters two other aswangs— Tasyo and Sabel– who have learned how to live double lives as humans and men-eating monsters.
Tabi Po has been adapted into a TV miniseries by Cignal TV’s SARI SARI channel which starred AJ Muhlach, Adrian Alandy, and Phoebe Walker. Buy a copy of Tabi Po on your local bookstore or purchase it online via the Mervstore.
Written by Eliza Victoria and illustrated by Tabi Po‘s Mervin Malonzo, After Lambana is set in a modern world where humans and diwatas coexist.
The magical realm of Lambana has fallen, and the mystical beings who were once free to cross between it and the human world got stuck here. To control these creatures, the Magic Prohibition Act has been signed into law. But when a strange disease hits the heart of Conrad, he must seek the help of Ignacio who promises to help him find a cure through the help of the magic that is deemed illegal in their world.
Grab a copy of After Lambana at your local bookstore or buy it online via the Mervstore.
From Julius Villanueva comes this comic book series that follows a young, modern-day mambabarang.
Barangay Masikap is a slum area in Manila that is a hotspot for supernatural occurrences, and the only person preventing the otherworldly forces from enveloping its residents is the mambabarang Ella Arcangel. With her psychic powers, Ella must protect the inhabitants of Barangay Masikap who are not only victims of the monstrous creatures from our folklore, but also by the very real problems in our society.
Artist Mervin Malonzo is also adapting Ella Arcangel into an animated series. You can watch the first episode for free here. You can buy these comics at a local bookstore or online via the Haliya Publishing website or the Mervstore website.
The award-winning and critically-acclaimed graphic novel Dead Balagtas is created by Emiliana Kampilan, who is also known for attending comic conventions anonymously with a bayong on her head.
Dead Balagtas is both a visual treat and a poetic read. It is about a babaylan who narrates the story of how the universe came to be. The local legend of Tungkung Langit and Laon Sina whose love for each other birthed the oceans and the continents are told in colorful panels alongside three romantic stories from different times in our history.
Find Dead Balagtas at your local bookstore or buy it online via the Adarna House website.
Edgar Calabia Samar’s Janus Silang books have been adapted for manga by Carljoe Javier with illustrations by Natasha Ringor.
The first book, Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon, follows the young Janus who joins a tournament of the RPG game TALA Online. When the other players of the game turn up dead, Janus tries to uncover the truth behind the mysterious killings, only to discover that the legendary Tiyanak ng Tabon is somehow linked to the online game and the death of its players.
You can purchase the Janus Silang manga series at a local bookstore or online via the Adarna House website.