In “Halina Filipina” one will enjoy a simple story of two people and the moments that tie them together. This was an easy and enjoyable read. Characters Cris and Halina meet in the Philippines during Halina’s trip from New York to learn more about her roots. Halina is on a journey to find her Filipina background and learn about herself and Cris is someone she instantly connects with that is able to and interested in helping her learn. Together, their energy flows through the book sort of like a gentle stream, picking up little things along the way. Their connection grows stronger as they see how they are different and more importantly how those differences don’t create any roadblocks to their blooming relationship. By the end of the graphic novel, Cris and Halina meet in New York and the reader is left to digest what could and is about to happen between the two. Without words, the reader is feeling what Cris and Halina are feeling throughout highs and lows of the trip. In just a few short pages, you experience them reminiscing, yearning, and hoping for more of their time together. You can feel Halina’s angst as she waits for a reply to a text or an answer to her call. You can feel Cris’ heartbreak, longing, and hope as the thought of her brings the slightest smile to his face. Though the novel is about these two people that weren’t able to be together at that time, it ends hopeful and cheerful just as the two characters are when together.
There is context provided at the beginning and end of the novel about its creation that makes the experience of reading this novel all the better. Though published in 2022, Arnold started this piece in 2002 and as he noted, it was like “visiting your old town and finding it not looking anything like how you remember it.” Reading the author’s perspective on the world changing, his perspectives and focuses changing, he himself changing makes this novel have a clean edge to it. Simple, refined, nothing more than two people in the world navigating together. I appreciated a space to think about something other than the consistently heavy stuff that comes with trying to keep in touch with the world around you and where your roots are. In the introduction, Jamie Bautista notes that this novel feels like a short vacation to the Philippines and this notion didn’t fail. I closed the novel feeling exactly this way, as though I had just taken a deep breath and slowed down for more than a moment. A great story, a great read, and a wonderful escape for the time you take between the pages.