Trip to Tagaytay sounds like the title of a coming-of-age road trip comic, not one set in a dystopian view of Manila in the future. But that’s what it is. It’s set in the distant future, one where people have migrated to stars, Aga Muhlach is president, and the Eraserheads are performing on the moon.
At the center of Arnold Arre’s comic is a young man, still living in Manila, as he muses on his love, who has migrated to the Orbital Space Station. The comic is short, spanning only 44 pages, and depicts the man walking to the Tagaytay Ocean Tunnel that connects to Cebu.
The core of Trip to Tagaytay is the love story between the unnamed leads. His longing to see his girlfriend is so palpable that your heart aches, but my favorite thing about the comic is the perspective the author created of the future.
As he walks, we are introduced to Manila in the years to come. The scenes are familiar: flying cars, spaceships, holograms, and multimedia wrist devices (eerily similar to the iWatch, even if this was published in 2001). It’s a breathtaking world, but one grounded by the reality that we are a third world country. So next to the technological advances are the squalor, trash, and clusters of vendors selling various wares on every available surface.
Equally exciting is how “Filipino” the whole thing is. If you look closely, there are ads to Jollibee, bathing with a tabo, the last jeepney on exhibit at the National Museum, and a film where Claudine Barretto plays a grandmother. It’s touches like these that make this comic a fun read.
Even if Arnold Arre’s Trip to Tagaytay is set in the future, the emotions are still the same. The story is not familiar only because of the pop culture references. It’s familiar because the themes are the same even if the comic is set in a time that exists only in our imagination: love, friendship, longing, and finding our purpose in the universe.