Homegrown monsters wreak havoc in ‘Tabi Po’ adaptation
Writer-artist Mervin Malonzo prefers to call his Filipino monster characters aswang instead of “vampires,” to separate them from the latter word’s Western connotations.
The author-artist of the comic-book series “Tabi Po,” about human-looking monsters that wreak havoc during the Spanish rule, elaborated that using such otherworldly creatures as his protagonists was a risk worth taking.
“It’s a different perspective,” he told the Inquirer in Filipino. “In my story, you’d wonder, how different is the aswang from people? I hope it’ll make people think. It criticizes abusive people from religion and government. It asks, when is it necessary to use force?”
The live-action adaptation is a six-episode TV series that airs on Cignal’s Sari Sari Channel starting Oct. 27 at 8 p.m.
“Tabi Po” stars AJ Muhlach as the “newborn” aswang Elias, who is mentored by two older creatures portrayed by Adrian (Luis) Alandy and Phoebe Walker.
Excerpts from our chat:
How did the TV project materialize? Three years ago, Viva was on the lookout for original material and decided to turn its gaze at the komiks community. They (executives) saw “Tabi Po’s” potential and told me their plans of adapting it to a TV series.
After several meetings, I said yes. Each episode is an hour long and there are six episodes overall in the first season.
How faithful will it be to the source’s depiction of nudity and violence? It’s very faithful—if my characters were naked in the comics, the actors were also naked. There are limitations on how nudity is depicted on TV, so sometimes, body parts are creatively covered. It’s done in good taste. In terms of violence, there are no limits, since it’s a story with aswang protagonists.
What made the actors right for the roles? They’re impressive. They breathed life into my creations. Adrian Alandy is a seasoned actor—his portrayal of Tasyo is effortless. Phoebe Walker looks as if Sabel was pulled out from the pages—it’s perfect casting! AJ Muhlach as Elias is also a great fit.
What makes this era in history appeal to you as a storyteller? The Spanish era setting is visually rich. I wanted to show the history of my immortal characters, too.
Also, I’m a fan of Jose Rizal’s novels. I used names from his story. I wanted to show the abuses back then—is it any different now?
How rich is the komiks industry now for adaptation? The industry is thriving. Many people appreciate comics now. The misconception that it’s just superhero stories for kids is gone.
Some creators are hesitant about getting their works adapted. But, hopefully, “Tabi Po,” the TV series, takes away their doubts about that kind of opportunity.
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