Posted April 1, 2014 by Alvin Minon in Comics

KOMIKS INTERVIEW & REVIEW: The two halves of ‘The Other Half’, Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual

I got the chance to review one horror story lately, The Other Half. Given the title, I thought Norby gave me a romance piece! Now that’s new! But to my surprise, it’s not plus we’ve got two big names acting as two halves of what I found as an awesome piece: Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual.

The Other Half’s a short story about a group of kids sharing some scary tales while house-sitting in the middle of a storm. Nowhere near any romance at all. It’s about the manananggal, an aswang or a monster of Filipino folklore that splits its body in half only for the upper torso to fly off in search of prey. There’s no point in me explaining what a manananggal is though, as Noel has put in a lot of detail in this book about what it is, perhaps enough for even a foreigner to understand what the creature is. And while Pascual did great explaining and giving us an image of the aswang, he did so without losing touch of horror and suspense. It also helped that the creature’s portrayed via the eyes of children, which I must say took me back to those times when electricity would go out and parents would tell stories to scare me and my siblings to sleep. Nostalgic.

On the other hand, what helped the story grab more impact on me is Mervin’s artwork. He’s got a ton of experience with aswangs and all the other monstrosities of Filipino folklore given his work on Tabi Po, and he’s showcased that expertise here. We’ve got kids scaring themselves while sharing some ample light and here Malonzo gave the story that murky touch, which hit the spot of how it feels being in that scenario. I also love the way he drew the creatures as imagined by the kids. Contrast that with how the aswang looks like when it pops out of the pages and you know these kids are in for some trouble if they were to become prey.

It’s a great piece and I really see it as something that would look good as an anthology or mini-series on paper or on-screen. Thus, I took the chance to interview the duo themselves! Guess I was right thinking that The Other Half isn’t just a half or even a portion of it as it looks like many things are on their way for readers and fans to look forward to.

Check out how the conversation with Mervin and Noel went:


Alvin: What’s with the title? Akala ko nung una romance story!
Noel Pascual : Yung The Other Half in terms of the title, actually sa latter part na ng production process namin inisip iyon. Bale since it involves a certain type of creature sa Filipino lower mythology, then naisip namin na fitting yung title na “The Other Half”

Mervin Malonzo: Maganda rin kasi yung title dun sa placement ng story. dun sa ending. kasi iyon ang iisipin ng readers din. “Asan yung kalahati?”

The Other Half’s a short story is about aswangs. Why aswangs? Why not tikbalangs, tyanaks, etc?
N: The work was initially made for the Kickstarter anthology spearheaded by Adam Pasion. We wanted to write a story that’s also a good primer on Pinoy supernatural creatures. We were also thinking a part of the audience would actually be foreigners who wouldn’t be as familiar with pinoy supernatural creatures and so we had the characters also discussing the manananggal sort of as a primer.
Is it really just a short story or is it an intro/sneak peek for future stories?
M: Nope this is just a one shot.
How did you two end up working on these titles together?
M: We did not plan this actually. Invited kasi ako for the Pinoy Komiks Anthology na inorganize ni Adam Pasion. Tapos wala akong maisip na story. So knowing that Noel Pascual might have some ideas for a story, I asked him. Tapos we came up with this simple story together that introduces the manananggal to a foreign audience. And we tried it to be as creepy as we can. At gusto rin talaga namin manakot.

N: We’ve been collaborating on many other stories which have yet to be released. We’re working on an animation series called Manila Underground and a longer komiks series called Makina. Mervs approached me for this because he was looking for a short story that can be told in (initially) less than 10 pages.

What’s next for the Pascual-Malonzo duo? You have a mecha komiks coming soon? Ano po ba mga dapat naming abangan?
M: Since itong “The Other Half” ay kasama sa Pinoy Komiks Anthology, naisip namin na we can’t sell it separately. so we thought of creating two more horror stories na pwede namin i-bundle together and sell digitally. So para s’yang Shake, Rattle & Roll. 3 horror stories. [laughs] The second story is The Friendzone na natapos na atang basahin ni Norby (Ela)!

N: The Mecha story we’re working on is also part of this horror series. That’s right, it’s a robot story inspired by Voltes V but it’s going to be a horror story! It’s still untitled at the moment but the robot in the series is called Bathala.

Sir Noel, kung isang aswang si Mervin, ano iyon at bakit?
N: If Mervin were an aswang, he’d be Elias from Tabi Po.

M:Yes! Elias!!!

A: Medyo madaya yung Elias for Sir Mervin. Astig mashado! [laughs]

Kung gagawa ka ng bagong aswang concept na base kay Sir Noel, pano itchura nya and bakit?
M: Balbon! Andami kasing facial hairs ni Noel.

What do you think about aswangs surviving in the modern world? Nanganganib ba sila?
N: Aswangs in the modern world, hindi naman siguro nanganganib, I’m sure they’d find ingenious ways to survive and part of the fun in being storytellers is imagining how they’d fit in today’s world and what interesting tales they’d be involved in.

M: Di ako naniniwala na may totoong aswang. Haha. pero kung ang ibig mo sabihin ay aswang sa literary world, I don’t think nanganganib sila. in fact bumabalik pa nga sila ngayon sa mga komiks and TV (think of that Grimm Episode?). Andun sila sa Trese. Tapos sa Tabi Po naman, nirere-invent ko sila. so di sila endangered species sa literature. Forever na fascinated ang mga pinoy writers at artists sa kanila.

A: I mean kung may manananggal in modern days talaga, di po ba sila mahihirapan sa “parking” etc.

N: Siguro sa CCTV sila mahihirapan. [laughs]

M: Hmm… kung meron, feeling ko nasa mga call centers sila nagtratrabaho. Kasi panggabi sila tapos dun sila naghahanap ng biktima. tapos pag ang excuse nila pag may biktima sila, nag-resign lang kasi di kinaya ang night shift. hehe. – parang panibagong short story nanaman ito.

A: CCTV! Okay syang dilemma for modern aswangs ah.

M: Oo madali na kasing malaman ang mga aswang sa panahon ngayon. So feeling ko mahihirapan sila. baka ma-bully pa sila sa Facebook.

N: Oo. Pwede ngang ganun ang mangyari kaya may interesting stories rin sigurong masusulat sa mga aswang sa call center. Pero safe rin naman ang mga call center dahil sa Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents.

M: Feeling ko mas nakakatakot mga pwedeng gawin ng mga tao sa mga aswang ngayong modern times. Wow plug!

N: Feeling ko nga rin in a matter of time posibleng mag-crossover ang mga creations natin [laughs].

Uy, possible crossover! Pwedeng abangan ng readers kung sakali?

M: [laughs] Well gusto kong idrawing din mga characters ng CFCCA! with the permission of AJ Bernardo of course. Saka na muna ang crossovers kasi tatapusin ko pa rin muna ang TABI PO!!! Pero ayun, marami pa kaming gusto gawin ni Noel at excited na kami na matapos itong giant robot horror story.

May timeline na po ba kayo or inaasahang sched kung kelan aabangan ng readers?
N: Wala pa sa ngayon, pero iniisip rin naming gumawa ng isang FB page kung saan kami maglalabas ng balita tungkol sa kung kailan lalabas ang mga bago naming gawa.

M:  Oo. Soon na rin naman kasi once na gumagawa ako mabilis naman ang process.
na-stop lang ngayon ang third story kasi may ginagawa akong website na comic-related din! na isa pang dapat abangan!


It’s been a lot of fun interviewing the two. And as you could see, there’s a lot in store and even tons more great ideas ahead so watch out for more works from Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual!

Alvin Minon