[#RapplerReads] Where did the ‘diwata’ go?

Julian Cirineo

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[#RapplerReads] Where did the ‘diwata’ go?
“After Lambana” is a beautiful and colorful graphic novel that takes us through a mystery-filled Manila where magic has been prohibited

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

When I saw After Lambana: Myth and Magic in Manila among the pile of books sent to us by Fully Booked, I immediately called dibs. I’ve been craving for an update from Trese since the last volume’s release, and this seemed like a great opportunity to explore something new with a similar theme.

And boy, I am so glad that I did.

After Lambana isn’t Trese. Let me just get that straight. It’s not trying to be Trese, nor would I pit them against each other. Sure, there may be similarities, especially with the idea of having mythical beings in Manila. The stories and the creators’ approaches however are very different.

While Trese paints a picture of a heroine saving the city against a clear set of enemies, there are no clear heroes and villains in After Lambana. Instead, we navigate the messy lives of both magical and non-magical beings after a great tragedy, and what followed after a law that criminalizes the very existence of magical folk was passed.

In Eliza Victoria and Mervin Malonzo’s graphic novel, we are taken into the noir-tinged streets of Manila where humans are both amazed and scared of magical creatures, while magical creatures themselves struggle with coexisting with humans who have demonized them.

Malonzo did an amazing job at interpreting Victoria’s narrative. Each page really demonstrates Malonzo’s visual prowess, containing sketches that intrigue the mind and colors that grab your attention. Leaf through the first few pages and you’ll know what I mean. And not to spoil anything, but one of my favorite parts of the book is how you’re greeted by a man with his head floating above water while the rest of him stays upright underneath.

Malonzo differentiates timelines through color. Yellow and sepia tones for the past, and red and blues for the present. Lambana, the world of the mythical, he interprets with vivid and bold color choices. I don’t think describing it in words can ever do justice to his work, so if you’re intrigued I recommend you pick up a copy. It will be a visual treat for you, no doubt.

The story too is nothing short of amazing. Malonzo and Victoria’s pairing here really worked well.

We follow the unlikely duo of Conrad and Ignacio. Conrad is human, Ignacio isn’t but Conrad doesn’t know yet. In fact, Ignacio isn’t just anybody from the magical world, and while Conrad may think they’re both strangers to each other, Ignacio holds the key to Conrad’s forgotten past.

Conrad also had a heart condition, and only magic can prolong his life. At wit’s end because magic is prohibited in the country (that desperately needs it), Conrad started asking around for help and wound up meeting Ignacio. Ignacio takes him around the city visiting various magical folk for answers.

Their history would prove to be far more complicated. Ignacio’s choices earlier on in their life forever changed Conrad’s fate and was also involved with how Conrad lost his parents and even the magical prohibition itself. That’s all that I can share without spoiling the rest of the story, but it is a unique one.

After Lambana explores different kinds of relationships as well as themes of oppression and justice. It also explores how some people seek for great change or a revolution, while others just want normalcy and stabilization.

After finishing the graphic novel, I was left wanting more. To be honest, there wasn’t enough closure for me even though I enjoyed how the novel ended. But whether or not there will be a follow-up to this graphic novel, I’m already excited to see what Victoria and Malonzo come up with next. – Rappler.com

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Julian Cirineo

Julian is a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap. Before joining the team, he worked for an NGO focused on plastic pollution, and was also a managing editor for a magazine. He started his career as a producer and writer for a TV news network.