A white lady is run over by a car at the intersection of Balete and 13th Street. Her body is found to be encircled with an unusual white powder.
Captain Guerrero enlists the help of Alexandra Trese, who follows the trail of evidence. Aided by the Kambal, she ventures into the inner circles of Manila's Underworld to uncover a darker mystery at its center.
Captain Guerrero and Sergeant Tapia responded to a car accident at the intersection of Balete and 13th Street, where a woman in a white dress had been run over by a distraught driver. Tapia asked if the body could be taken away after evidence collection by SOCO, but Guerrero insisted on waiting for Alexandra Trese to arrive. Upon her arrival, Alexandra made a remark regarding the irony of seeing a white lady dead on that particular street. Guerrero noted that neighbors have identified the victim as Gina Santos, a person who died years prior during the 1960s. Alexandra observed the white powder surrounding the corpse and discovered that it is salty.
In her quest to seek more information, Alexandra visited the nearest mound to consult a nuno, saying "Tabi tabi po." She is instead greeted by a nuno living under a manhole nearby. The nuno explained that nobody lived in the mound anymore on account of the garbage. Alexandra introduced herself and the nuno recognized her as Anton Trese's daughter. The nuno was hesitant to speak of the incident, but was willing to divulge that the white powder was made up of finely ground mermaid bones. They remarked that this is a medium for trapping spirits, more potent than iodized salt, and that they don't know where it specifically came from. The nuno advised Alexandra to start looking near the sea and warned her to be careful.
Alexandra first spoke with Aling Terrie in Quiapo. Her search led her through Chinatown and eventually to the pier, winding up at a bar called the Trident and came to the conclusion that it was the aswang-run establishment her father had once told her about. When the hostess approached her, she directly asked for mermaid bones. After a whispered consultation with the bartender, the hostess told Alexandra that the manager would meet her in the back. She was greeted by the aswang leader and his goons. He taunted her, saying that they weren't afraid of her because she is nothing like her father, to which she threatened to call her boys. The leader refused to back down, and the Kambal came, to the surprise of the aswang, who then transformed. They introduced themselves as the Sibat, a powerful clan of hunting aswang, to threaten her. A huge fight ensued, during which Alexandra gained the upper hand and pursued the fleeing leader.
Cornered and restrained, the aswang leader confessed that an anonymous woman bought the mermaid bones a month ago and offered her firstborn child as payment. Upon finding out that the aswang ate the four-month-old baby, Alexandra angrily struck the leader and stabbed his eyeball with the Sinag. She pulled out the eyeball, dropping it into a glass of water as she uttered an ancient chant. The image of the buyer was reflected in the water. She left the leader alive after telling him that she was nothing like her father.
Alexandra called Captain Guerrero and asked him to look into recent reports of kidnapped or missing babies three to four months old. After sketching the buyer’s image, she told the captain to cross reference names with New Manila residents, specifically with women on Balete Drive, and added that she would be sending him a sketch of a possible person of interest.
Guerrero and Alexandra arrived at the house of Ms. De La Rosa, a resident of Balete Drive. They confirmed that she was the buyer of the mermaid bones. Confronted by Guerrero and Alexandra, Miss De La Rosa revealed that, when she was three months pregnant, she and her partner Herbert Tomas eloped to escape her disapproving parents. As Herbert was checking the rearview mirror to see if her father had pursued them, a lady appeared in front of the car, so she tried to steer it away. This resulted in an accident that killed Herbert but spared her and her child. No one believed her about the lady because there was no second body. She figured out that the lady was actually a ghost after seeing her again in the corner of Balete and 13th Street. She asked around and eventually found her way to the Trident, where she traded her own child for the mermaid bones that she needed for her revenge.
Guerrero and Alexandra left the house, realizing that they could not arrest her for a death that happened in the '60s. Guerrero said that she can still be brought in for selling her son in exchange for mermaid bones, which he planned to explain in court as some sort of new drug. He asked Alexandra to keep an eye on De La Rosa since he still needed a warrant of arrest. She warned him that the underworld will seek balance in its own way, making Guerrero recall her father's foreboding way of talking about the underworld and how it used to stop him from asking questions.
Later that midnight, a storm came and broke an electrical line, causing a sudden fire to engulf De La Rosa's home. Guerrero and Alexandra headed to the residence, where firefighters were found to be too late in saving the woman. Guerrero recalled Alexandra's earlier comment on the karmic nature of the underworld, and she interrupted with information about Gina Santos. She revealed that Santos died in a car accident in 1963 while standing at the corner, waiting for her lover. Guerrero and Alexandra reflected on the lengths people go to for love and how it often extracts a price. Alexandra caught a glimpse of De La Rosa, now a spirit standing in the very corner where Santos used to be, who then dissipates into the night.
- Alexandra Trese
- Captain Guerrero
- Sergeant Tapia
- Nuno Sa Manhole
- The Kambal
- Gina Santos
- Ms. De La Rosa
- Herbert Tomas
- This case is based on the Philippine urban legend of the White Lady in Balete Drive, which Alexandra also alludes to upon seeing Gina Santos' corpse for the first time.
- The titular intersection does not exist in real life, as Balete Drive only intersects up to 11th Street.
- The story "One Last Drink at the Diabolical" from the Stories from the Diabolical tie-in series acts as a direct prequel to this story, occurring only hours before Trese's arrival at the crime scene.
- This case features the first main series appearance of Captain Guerrero, Sergeant Tapia, Alexandra Trese, Nuno sa Manhole, and the Kambal, who are all recurring characters.
- Captain Guerrero and Sergeant Tapia were named after comic book creators Bow Guerrero and JB Tapia, respectively.
- This case is the first to introduce ghosts, nuno, mermaids, and aswang as part of the Underworld.
- The events in the comic presumably happened in 2003, based on Gina Santos’ year of death in 1963 and Alexandra mentioning that the death happened forty years ago. This was retconned in the Trese Global edition, where Alexandra was seen holding a smartphone, placing the timing of events in more recent years.
- In the original Visprint edition, the Sibat clan were unnamed and not shown to have gills; this was retconned in the updated editions of Trese: Murder on Balete Drive and Trese: Mass Murders.
- This story was adapted in the short film Trese: Case One, one of the earliest fan-made adaptations of the series. An audiobook adaptation is currently being produced by the Trese Discord Server as well.
The story was first released as ashcan comics sold in Comic Quest, Megamall, in 2005. A total of 30 copies for the first printing were sold out after a week.
The following is a list of solo publications and collections that include Trese case 1:
- The original ashcan first printing, released on October 22, 2005. A reprint was sent to backers of the Indiegogo Global edition. A preview is available to read at the Trese blog.
- Second issue of Manila Envelope, a magazine edited by Jessica Zafra that was released in 2006. This is the earliest known instance of Trese being included in an anthology. The Manila Envelope version is essentially the same as the ashcan except for one minor but impactful change: Gina Santos' death was changed from "60 years ago" to a "100 years ago", This was because the comic was included in the issue's special section, Manila 2020, which featured speculative fiction from various Filipino authors set in the Philippines' future.
- Trese: Murder On Balete Drive, published by Visprint, Inc. in 2008, which contains what is essentially the ashcan version.
- Trese: Book of Murders, published by Visprint, Inc. in October 2013, with updated artwork.
- eBooks published in Amazon (Kindle), iTunes, and Buqo app in January 28, 2013 via Flipside publishing. These consist of the ashcan and Visprint versions but with different covers.
- Trese: Sa Kanto ng Balete Drive at 13th Street, a colored version with Filipino translation by Bob Ong published by Visprint, Inc. in November 2015.
- Trese #1 Global Edition, funded via Indiegogo on November 13, 2018 and released internationally in September 2019, featuring remastered artwork, additional panels and pages, and some of Prof. Alexander Trese's journal entries.
- Trese #1 Anniversary Edition, released in the Philippines in October 2019, exclusively through Filbar's Comics and Comic Odyssey. This is a slightly smaller version of the Trese #1 Global Edition.
- Trese: Murder on Balete Drive (2020 Ablaze edition), released globally both in print and via digital platforms by Ablaze publishing last December 2020. The version of Trese case 1 in this collection is essentially the same as the Trese #1 Global edition.
- Trese: Murder on Balete Drive (2021 Avenida edition), released locally on March 13, 2021 by Avenida Books. This version has same remastered artwork included in the 2020 Ablaze edition. The book is also smaller than the 2020 Ablaze edition but the same size of the 2008 Visprint edition.