It has taken seven years, but Arnold Arre finally has another graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated.
The award-winning Filipino comic book creator launched “Halina Filipina,” published by Nautilus Comics, last Oct. 3 at “Komiket: The 1st Filipino Komiks, Books and Art Market,” in Elements Centris, Quezon City. “Halina” is the first graphic novel Arre has written and drawn since 2008’s “Martial Law Babies.”
He enjoyed working on the new book. “It feels great,” he said, after pausing from signing for fans. “I feel like I wasn’t doing anything before and now I’m doing stuff that I like.”
Arre first won the National Book Award for Comic Books in 1999 for “The Mythology Class,” a tale of young Filipinos encountering mythical creatures in an otherworldly place. He won the award again in 2000 for “Trip to Tagaytay,” set in a future Philippines.
“Actually, ‘Halina’ is 13 years old,” he explained. The novel was originally intended to follow 2002’s “After Eden.”
But he said he didn’t want another relationship story, so he wound up writing the supernatural “Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat” in 2006.
It was Arre’s wife, artist Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, who found his old drawings for “Halina.” She convinced him to release it. “I just lost interest in the story,” he said, “but now I’m back into it.”
The titular character Halina is a Filipino-American who travels to the Philippines for the first time to discover her roots and meet her relatives. Along the way, she meets jaded film critic Cris. The two hit it off, Halina getting a crash course in Filipino life and Cris seeing the culture around him in an entirely new way.
Arre said he wants readers to know “the feeling of being proud of the Philippines. At least you have an identity… You don’t have to get someone else’s identity. This is your identity, and you have it the same way Halina has in looking for her Filipino roots.”
Happy to have his book out, Arre said he was now looking forward to what comes next. “I’m going back to Philippine mythology,” he admitted, adding that it would be completely different from ‘Mythology Class.’”
He hopes to release the new novel in a year.
Speaking of “Mythology Class,” the property is a hot topic after Jerrold Tarog, director of the phenomenal film “Heneral Luna,” announced that he was now developing “Mythology Class” as a feature. Arre remained tightlipped about details, tersely saying “Mythology Class” is “under development,” that he and Tarog are talking. He ended the statement with an enigmatic smile.
In the meantime, he said he hopes fans give “Halina Filipina” a look. “It’s like meeting old friends,” he pointed out. “It’s been completely rewritten and redrawn because my style is different from 2002. It’s fun. It was like going back to the past. I didn’t know I used to write things like this. But things have changed. I’m wiser now, more experienced. It’s like going back to the past and changing stuff. The idea is there from 13 years, but the drawing and the writing provide a completely fresh reading experience”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HalinaFilipina or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.