Halina Filip­ina: She gets around... a lit­tle

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - 'Tsada! - James Edgar Sia

Even though hos­pi­tal wait­ing rooms have got­ten a lot more com­fort­able than they used to be, they still aren’t the best places in the world to wait. Lucky for me I had this graphic novel to keep me com­pany. I was three chap­ters in when an idle or­derly walked over to where I was sit­ting.

“Is that a manga, sir?” he asked.

“Yeah, it sure looks like it, but ac­tu­ally it’s not,” I said as I closed the book to show him the bright or­ange cover, which fea­tured the two pro­tag­o­nists on a stroll and most of all, the invit­ing ti­tle: Halina Filip­ina.

The man looked pleas­antly sur­prised. “I’ve read the artist’s other works,” I con­tin­ued, “and they’re all in black-and-white too. So it’s like manga that way.”

Those other works by Arnold Arre I was re­fer­ring to are The Mythol­ogy Class and After Eden. If you’ve read those works be­fore, my sug­ges­tion to you would be to drop all ex­pec­ta­tions when go­ing on a leisurely walk with our he­roes Halina and Cris. This time around, there won’t be scenes of der­ringdo and magic nor will there be in­tensely ro­man­tic drama to hit you squarely in the feels.

It’s a sim­ple story, as lovely and un­com­pli­cated as the happy-go-lucky Halina her­self – and Arre meant it that way. “I wanted it to be a no-frills re­la­tion­ship story, some­thing cozy com­pared to my other works... No in­ter­weav­ing sub­plots here – just two peo­ple re­al­iz­ing their dif­fer­ences and fall­ing in love de­spite them,” he says.

The two peo­ple he’s re­fer­ring two are the half-Amer­i­can Halina and the down-and-out yet some­how chubby film jour­nal­ist Cris. The bub­bly Halina’s on va­ca­tion in the Philip­pines to get in touch with rel­a­tives she’s never met be­fore, and the des­ti­tute in­tel­lec­tual Cris tries to pay the rent by writ­ing about cookie-cut­ter Ta­ga­log movies he’s grown to de­spise. And as fate (or Arre the au­thor) would have it, they hap­pen to meet in a place so large and chaotic, their get­ting to know each other is a mir­a­cle in it­self. That place is none other than Metro Manila.

Those of us who’ve lived and worked there can prob­a­bly re­late to Cris, who can’t help but feel grumpy and jaded for be­ing there all his life. Thank­fully we have Halina to even things out with her fresh and un­tainted way of see­ing things. And so

Cris finds him­self fall­ing in love not just with Halina, but also with the things he used to take for granted that Halina finds fas­ci­nat­ing. Things like isaw, the movie Batch ‘81, and the song Tor­pedo by the Eraser­heads.

As a re­viewer, I do my best not to spoil my­self be­fore ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the work it­self. Be­fore open­ing Halina Filip­ina for the first time, I was think­ing that per­haps our he­roes would head out to other places in the Philip­pines as well – it turns out that most of the ac­tion takes place in Metro Manila. That’s per­fectly

fine, but it would have been nice to see Halina and Cris go to places like Balanga or Du­maguete or Ili­gan to cover a short film fes­ti­val or a movie shoot­ing, or maybe even to Batanes, Bo­hol, or Siar­gao on ac­count of Halina’s mod­el­ing gig. Per­haps that’d be a good idea for a se­quel (yes, things don’t end badly for them – and I hope I’m not spoil­ing Halina by telling you that).

My own quib­bles with Halina are few and not re­ally worth men­tion­ing here, ex­cept for one: Cris is rather chunky for the starv­ing artist type, whereas his cocky and pre­ten­tious English-speak­ing, Ay­ala

Av­enue-type “ri­val” is as thin as a rail. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? That is, un­less Cris pri­or­i­tizes food and beer over all other con­cerns, even pay­ing the bills – but Cris isn’t shown in the novel to be a glut­ton.

“Orig­i­nally, I in­tended for Cris to be work­ing in a fast food joint where, be­tween breaks, he would write his film re­views,” says Arre about our movie critic. Cris’s girth would have made more sense had he left that de­tail in. But don’t let that get in the way of your en­joy­ing this graphic novel. If Halina Filip­ina were a dish, think of it as home-cooked adobo – sim­ple yet de­lec­ta­ble.

(Arnold Arre)

The cover

(Arnold Arre)

Just a friendly rainy sea­son re­minder from Halina and Cris to be quick about hail­ing a taxi and to make sure you al­ways pack a sturdy um­brella.

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