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Volume 2 Issue No. 1

Volume 1 Issue No.2


Please enter with a kind heart, an open mind, and leave with a thirst to come back for the arts.


About ALPAS Journal is a bi-annual online literary and art publication for Filipino writers and artists. After a night out in the vibrant city of Melbourne, Australia where countless art festivals and literary journals are widespread, one question was raised: Where can I find this in the Philippines? The only thing left to do was to create an answer for that need. Inspired by the dream to provide a free platform for both emerging and established Filipino writers and artists, the journal was born on March 2017. From the Filipino word “alpas”, meaning “breaking free or loose”, the publication aims to deliver works that blur boundaries, encourage curiosity and wonder, and challenge stereotypes. In ALPAS, creativity is unbounded. Because ALPAS is a not-for-profit publication run by a team of nine, we choose to collate works digitally and at little cost. What we offer is a gratis soapbox, a podium, a room to which everyone has a key.

Anneliz Marie Erese

Editor-in-Chief/Fiction Editor

Mitch Balladares Poetry Editors

Ricardo Rey Catapang Dominic Dayta Nonfiction Editors

Sophia Cruz

Photography Editors

Ienne Junsay

Visual Arts Editor

Allen Esteban Layout Editor

Angelica Marie Dublado Managing Editors

Katrina Alyssa Torrefranca Social Media Coordinator

Cover Photo

Malaya by Jas Percival Mamanta

@alpasjournal alpasjournal@gmail.com www.alpasjournal.com


E d i t o r ’s N o t e Dear Readers, The idea of starting an art and literary journal was intimidating. I was full of self-doubt that we could make it happen. It was a noble idea, indeed, a grand one. I was ambitious, fiery, passionate in my strife and keen to make the plan succeed. Along the way, I have met so many talented people who have become great colleagues. All who have been working on the production of the journal are bright, young minds who are brimming with fervor, enthusiasm, and skills. I cannot possibly imagine a quality publication without them. On March of this year, with their endless support, we have reached a milestone—ALPAS Journal’s first-year anniversary. On April, I was sitting on an interview with Jessica Alice, the former Program Manager of the biggest literary festival in Australia, the Melbourne Writers Festival, talking about the journal. She was listening intently about our journey, the budding writers and artists from our country, and she was excited to see our next issue, this issue. Weeks later, I had coffee with Filipino-Australian writer, curator, and artist, Andy Butler, who was eager to learn more about the journal and our culture that he is still discovering. As one of the editors, I am immensely proud of the work we are doing, the distance we are conquering, and the reach we are gaining. For the third issue of ALPAS, we were fortunate to receive a pool of impressive submissions from the Philippines and other parts of the world. In the next pages, you will read the poignant story of a female seafarer, “Anchor”, by Alliah Robelle Castro. Ryan Faura, in his honest essay “My Battle with My Bulge”, contemplates the social intricacies of his body weight. “The Scraping of Lola’s Slippers” by Julienne Maui Mangawang is a moving poem on the themes of childhood, fear, abuse, and the consolation we find in our grandparents’ protection. Our photography collection is filled with still life and carefully-observed details, led by Jan Michael Britania as he focuses on the seemingly mundane job of a barber in his piece “Barbero”. The visual art pieces this issue are full of color and abstractions, as seen in Karren Barcita’s “Swim” and “Le Voyeur”. Our cover photo for the third issue, Jan Percival Mamanta’s “Malaya”, reflects ALPAS Journal’s mission, a publication that is free from shackles, from a narrow point of view, from the box containing our unbridled imagination. All these pieces and more are waiting for your perusal. As we move forward, I can only hope for more stories and art, a bigger platform for all the talents unseen and unheard, and an open culture of curiosity and oddity. We hope you’ll be with us all the way. Yours truly,

Anneliz Marie Erese Editor-in-Chief/Fiction Editor


c o n t e n t s Fiction Cumulus.......................................................................................................12 Balumbato....................................................................................................28 Anchor..........................................................................................................58 NonFiction My Battle With My Bulge.............................................................................. 19 Three Generations of Taking a Bath..............................................................38 Bagahe Ang Mga Pakete................................................................................49 Photography Barbero.........................................................................................................08 Anna Molly...................................................................................................25 Curious.........................................................................................................35 Still...............................................................................................................44 After Thirteen Moons...................................................................................55 Sakura...........................................................................................................56 David, From Goliath’s Eyes..........................................................................64 Layers...........................................................................................................66 Poetry Rotunda........................................................................................................11 Ilang Kulay ng Isang Karatula......................................................................14 Gonabmal.....................................................................................................15 Shabu............................................................................................................17 Isang Sabi-sabi Ukol Sa Paghahanap At Pag-ibig.........................................23 The Scraping of Lola’s Slippers....................................................................24 Anim Sa Sanlibong Awit Ng Ayala.............................................................32 Kung Inagaw ang Lupa Mo Aking Bayan......................................................36 The Finest Sea Glimmer................................................................................46 Visual Arts Le Voyeur.......................................................................................................10 King Again....................................................................................................17 Grandiloquence............................................................................................18 Rest...........................................................................................................22 Ego................................................................................................................36 Soxiety.........................................................................................................37


Swim............................................................................................................48 Innocence.....................................................................................................54 Bubblegum...................................................................................................59 Late Nights...................................................................................................62 Mother..........................................................................................................63


Barbero Jan Michael Britania

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Le_Voyeur Karren Barcita

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Rotunda Jan Vernix Atis along the Kinawitnon drive, we are forced to choose among the roads to be traversed: one heads straight to Caliclic, the other to Mambago-B, and the last to where sadness springs in the heart of a lonely man— I chose the way by the beach uncharted, filled with cogon grass, as many as the grains of sand that tickled the soles of my calloused feet, that plays my vulnerability and defeat, many a moons back, while the crisp breeze whispers a name so long to be unlearned, returning like the waves on the shore, tugging the stones and the driftwoods, back to where the rotunda is, again, round Kinawitnon

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Cumulus Ryan Faura

On the morning we found out that my sister’s cat, Esme, was missing, we were as frantic as the Greek king Sisyphus moments after receiving his boulder. She disappeared without a trace, save only of the few auburn hairs on Esme’s designated niche and the cat-smell it left in the small space. Maddie, short for Madison because she has shed off the Square Garden reference a month ago like dead skin, our seven-year-old sister, was bawling her gut out. We offered consolations of Nerds and Gobblers, her candies of choice.

It revealed a sliver of truth. An heirloom armoire in my parent’s room was all scratchy as if tiny Wolverines were sharpening their claws on the wood finish. We all suspected it was Esme, but my sister would not hear of it.

Maybe Esme was fending off somewhere for rats.

And where was Esme during all this unconventional family drama? She was spooling a ball of yarn, oblivious.

Which, by the way, was a lie. She did not eat rodents at all. We have rodents scuttling on our bare floor and Esme was acting out all prissy, bemused by all these hurrying paces. If anything, she just yawned and went back to resting. In this kingdom, Esme was the royalty we never thought we had. I will not be surprised if she leads the feline entourage of some excessive royal weddings. My brother, a converted Nietzschean, had another theory. Maybe Esme was asphyxiated by your attention.

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Esme will not do it. Why not? I just think so.

Now that the search and, possibly, rescue operation was proving to be futile, our little sister was turning us in. Maybe you killed Esme. Haven’t you read your animal books that cats have nine lives? Don’t you think we would have given up on our first try? That pseudo pacified my sister. She knew that cats don’t have nine lives. And even if she turned her fake Ikea shelves that were brimming with picture books of cats in all her favorite Crayola shades, she would not be seeing a book of that kind, simply


because it didn’t exist. So she started whimpering again. My brother brought out his stash of the Willy Wonka sweets.

After hours of trying and failing, the three of us blundered back home, no Esme and astronomically starving.

Delegated to find Esme, we searched for her in the places that we thought she scoured: vegetable patches, our neighbor’s botanical garden, under my sister’s bed, over at the attic. But no Esme.

Hey look, it’s Esme! Maddie shouted.

Can I go with you tomorrow? My half-slept sister asked me that evening. Are you sure? I asked. We planned to look for Esme in the next town after ours, mentally calculating the time Maddie will wake up so we can go ahead while she was sleeping. My sister was not in her favorite striped blue pajamas when we found her dozing off by the door early morning the next day. She had already worn her going-out dress! Near the slightly-opened refrigerator were stacks of printed ‘Lost Cat’ posters. I told you, I will come, she said, freezing us on our tiptoed tracks. So the three of us ventured into the predawn chill. Off we went to fairy tale towns after concrete jungles. My sister Maddie was the most tired of us all after gun tacking trees with Esme’s posters. But she was a study of resistance, exhaustion be damned. While we were pissed off, she was in high spirits like she had imbibed on gin and tonic before coming up here.

Where? We asked our sister quizzically. All around us, our familiar neighborhood unfolded like ever before. No Esme. Look up! Against the bluest sky I have ever seen were clouds of all shapes: A clown, a child blowing bubbles, the rock of Gibraltar, the Buckingham Palace and, most bizarrely, separated from the vast expanse, a cat chasing a spool of thread. Wide-eyed, slack-jawed Maddie, with religious fervor burning, a rarity at least to us, invoking one of the three blessed kids who had seen the Lady of Lourdes, genuflected with some evangelical zeal, asking my brother and me to do the same. We have not been to our local church for quite some time since our father passed away. We followed suit. We were a sight to behold: three siblings, knelt down, facing the sky, Esme melding into the Buckingham Palace, in remembrance and grief. In reality and in the beds of clouds, Esme was the queen. The next day, Esme came back, a small, jewel-encrusted crown in her head, carrying on its mouth a rat that wiggled as she moved.

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Ilang Kulay Ng Isang Karatula John Carlo Cabilao

May kaunting alam naman ako sa pagkukumpuni ng sirang lababo, kinalawang na gripo, tuyong disyerto sa nilumot na banyo. Kailangan ko lang talaga. Kailangang-kailangang Kumpunihin ang sirang buhay na nilumot ng panahon. Para kay Selsa, sa balak naming pamilya. Kaya’t kailangang-kailangang maghanap ng trabaho, magbanat ng buto sa kakarampot na suweldo. Marunong ka ba? Paano kapag malakas ang tagas ng tubo sa ilalim ng di tiyak na ilang metro, ha? Ilan pa bang mga usisa? Malinaw naman ang karatula: WANTED Pula ang tinta Ng tubero Itim ang mga numero.

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Gonabmal Jenessy Castillo

Ang babae ay sa kusina, sa kwarto, tahanan at tindahan Bitbit ang anak sipsip ang gatas sa boteng asul Nahele si Nanay sa awit na kinalakhan sa tinig ni Lola Awit ng pag-ibig habang si Tatay nakautang ng lambanog Para sa biyenang galing probinsya, at sa bayaw nito Matapos ng dalawang dekada, ang babae ay sa kusina, Pero hindi sa lahat ng pagkakataon, dahil malaya ito Ang babae ay sa tahanan, ngunit aabutin ito ng al-as cinco Babangon pa lamang at titilaok ang mga manok, Gagayak pa lang ang mga ito ng pagtulog sa kwarto Hinehele ang sarili sa awit na naiwan ni Lola, Awit ng pag-ibig habang ikaw ay naliligaw sa siyudad Kapit sa bote ng alak, naasang bukas may masayang maganap Kapit sa kalasingang tatawagan ka ng madaling araw Ang alak na dahilan para magising nang ‘di inaasahan Ang pait ay may tamis, at may mga mura na rin May tamang itutumba ka, wala sa iyong gigising May lakas ng loob na ilalaklak sa ika-limang baso Maririnig mo ang sariling naiyak sa harap ng mahal mo, Mahulasan ka ma’y, nasabi mo na ang iyong tinatago Ang babae ay sa kama, at sa kumot ng pighati, Salitang binabawi ng pusong sabik mahalin Ang alak ay may yapos sa bawat damdamin Ang alak ay may pag-ibig na kay tagal inilihim Ang alak ay pag-asang bukas, ayos akong gigising

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Shabu Juan Miguel Estocio

put the ice on a tin foil and let it roll under the flickering light as you watch Mocha Uson’s idiocy on GMA, ABS-CBN, and TV5; High five! to her fak``e news on Facebook, twitter and her blog. let the ice melt the neurons in your brain in order to fathom the inexplainable logic of TRAIN taxes while MRT sucks early in the morning. let the sunrise set you on a new course of life as human rights activists die for what you love— An adoration you cannot have.

another sleepless night ahead of you and a morning without breakfast at all at least you’re alive and kicking ready to bark for a 5 peso worth of your friggin’ time.

watch the television with your bloodshot eyes, and listen to the radio while you try and repair a newly bought electric fan.

after the ice kicks in you’ll be able to distinguish the newly neglected 5 peso coin from this old 1 peso coin— you wouldn’t think about the bullshit inside this fucked-up city. you’ll die anyway, either in the hand of a drunk policeman or drunk on the ice and poison around you.

either you die in operation tokhang or die living in another dimension, where the rain’s droplet are blood where darkness is full of light.

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King Again Nicko Rodriguez

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Grandiloquence Lea Marcaida

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My Battle With My Bulge Ryan Faura

I was strutting my stuff at the mall sometime last year, about to purchase a decent polo which I can wear to the upcoming YB6 (Young Blood 6) launch – a book of essays in which, miraculously, my piece was included. I moved from shop to more shops, flustered and frustrated. Sweat trickled down my back despite the air-conditioning running on full blast. I left our house in high spirits thinking that if I wanted to make a good impression at the launch, I had to dress appropriately. Not that I am always inappropriately dressed: my usual shorts which my goodintentioned mother bought from ‘best discount stores in all the land’ (her words), some Converse which I hadn’t bothered to wash since forever, and my favorite tee (printed on it were the words, ‘Holy Guacamole!’ – whatever that meant) from a favorite brand. I felt like a nightmare dressed like a daydream (excuse me, Taylor Swift), and although the loose clothing could not hide the layers of flab that jiggle and wobble as I walk, my mood was not at all dampened.

I am 29-ish, with all the promise and possibilities bequeathed to this age, and with vacation from public schools officially started at least for us teachers, life is good. Buying some nice polo shirt for the biggest night of my life, what could go wrong? *** Let’s back up a bit: I started gaining weight once I was out of the embrace of my simple life back in the small coastal town where I was raised. Or, to be more honest, when I discovered my other happy place: fast food joints. It is a fact universally acknowledged that my humble town carries no such joints, the closest being an hour or two away through Ticao Strait via fast craft. But with entire life in the province being just about making both ends meet, the idea of devouring (excuse my French) hamburgers with fries and extra-sauced spaghetti and limber chicken thighs is nothing but just that – an idea. Hell, our priests might have condemned me for hedonism had they known.

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Fast forward to the day when my love affair to such instant gratification started. The one that I am really struggling to end. Hypertension runs in our family. My father died of the complications back when I was in freshman year. That alone should have made me stop, pause and listen to the voice in my head that shouts in stentorian that whatever I put in my mouth shall have direct effects on my body eventually. Call me a recalcitrant’s favorite child: with little or no regard to the really boring Disgust or screaming Anger (Inside Out is my spirit animated film) within, I ate and ate every chance I got. After all, my work is just so physically and emotionally demanding that the mere idea of sinking my teeth into the succulent, possibly artificial meat patties is no longer an idea but a shrieking, privileged yearning. Basically, because at the end of a very long day, I deserve it – plus, I can afford it now. But that hardheadedness really caught up. I am under maintenance medication for 3 years now, and although that fact always invites some sort of pity or ‘you’re too young’ remarks from people, I know I have but myself to blame. I made it my raison d’etre to explain to anyone who will listen that this thing is hereditary and therefore no amount of self-care can stop the impending doom. I know: I was trying to be smart-ass and all, but I was at my wit’s end when things swerved in the opposite direction. I’ve had my dosage readjusted three times already after I guzzled the blackest coffee ever concocted just two months ago and ended up wanting to be hospitalized. Sometimes, I wonder, just for experimentation, what will become of me should I stop taking my meds? Will I be sicker than I already am? Or I can part ways with my constant companion for 3

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years, the one I wish that I could bid adieu to? Because those extra calories are the pesky lots, they started materializing over my gorgeous body. First they come for my inner thigh, and after that they’re going for my love handles. Warding them off is like warding off a German blitzkrieg – and we’ve got tons of history books that say exactly how that ends. And sure enough, like translucent moths attracted to a flame, with the fats came the hordes of body shamers. The ones that will make you question every moment you opted for the cake instead of the granola bar. The ones that will make you regret that extra rice from a particularly lonely Saturday night after the guy you’ve been eyeing the whole semester turned out to be eyeing someone else. Someone buff! I don’t know, some Brad Pitt figure with Jesus’s abs. Someone outgoing who will probably never say no to endless rounds of badminton games. Someone who can outrun a cheetah, if push comes to shove (though I’d love to have him try). Someone I am not because I never say no to endless rounds of burgers. I mean, I’m sure I’d rank as more handsome than Brad Pitt any day (coughs), except instead of Jesus’s abs, I got the Buddha’s belly. *** This is my own personal battle. The battle that I allowed myself to participate in. The battle that initially began when I started putting on the inches. I may have wished for the bloody ones, you know the one that can make me wear the shrapnel on my skin. Although I know for a fact that some wars are not won and some should not begin in the first place, I have nada regret. You can be as skinny as you want but still


be hypertensive. You can eat a meager portion of this and little portion of that and still end up sick. The right mindset should be coupled with the right attitude. If anything, I like to live in the world wherein ‘Fat’ and ‘Healthy’ can be used in the same sentence and not sneered at by snooty people who feel a sense of entitlement merely for being emaciated. I love food and it loves me back and it has exceeded all my past relationships (hey, statistically speaking, my calories would stay in my heart longer than any partner – just saying). Even if some people do not and cannot and totally refuse to understand, I’d still raise the chopsticks or probably poke them in the eyes. I have my lion’s share of gossipmongers and naysayers and hecklers and I become the bigger person. Bulge-y people of the world unite: we’ve got nothing to lose but our next round of rice.

that night? Even with all the bitching about people who look down upon us, nothing prepared me to the pain of trying out clothes when I was at the mall last week. I went to my other favorite brand’s store and tried out their X-Large long sleeves because I will like to make a good impression during the biggest night of my life but surreptitiously stopped midways. My gorgeous body could not contain the next-to-the –biggest size. If I continued the attempt, I will look like someone who was forcibly pushed into a life-sized can – a can that would surely break with the slightest inhale. Right there and then, I decide that I will watch what I eat and finally haul my butt off and avail the gym membership that my good-natured neighbor has been coaxing since time immemorial. But letting this out now lest people will stop inviting me to parties: I won’t say ‘no’ to a pizza because pizzas are deal breakers.

***

I ended up getting the XXL floral polo shirt and even though my battle of my bulge has just officially started, I know if I put my whole being into this cause, I might probably, just probably, win this.

So what happened at the department store

With flying colors and light enough to fly.

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Rest Janina Sarmiento

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Isang Sabi-sabi Ukol Sa Paghahanap At Pag-ibig Jonel Biscocho

sabi nila, dati raw ay apat ang paa at kamay ng tao na may dalawang mukha pagkatapos ay hinati raw sila sa dalawa magkaibang tao ng kung sinong panginoon para hanapin ang kanilang mga kapareha may ilan daw na nakahanap na may ilan daw na naghahanap pa rin at may ilan daw na sumuko na lang bakit naman kasi paghiwalayin pa ang mga taong magkakasama na para lang muling hanapin ang isa’t-isa?

kasi kung tutuusin hindi naman lahat magaling maghanap hindi naman lahat alam na nawawala pala sila hindi naman lahat alam kung sino talaga ang kanilang hinahanap at hindi naman lahat ay sigurado na sa kung sino ang kanilang mga natagpuan pero ewan sabi nila ganoon daw talaga

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The scraping of lola’s slippers is crisp and fragile as dead leaves swept in the morning.

The Scraping of Lola’s Slippers Julienne Maui Mangawang

She catches me curling into a small space behind the bedroom door while covering the purple orchids blooming on my aching limbs. She pulls me out slow, wipes my face. Dirt invade her hanky edged with lace, turning the Sampaguita embroidery into a beehive of motes. She slides it on my skin, a rag strewn across the floor. With a fervent scent of balm, she kneads my small shoulders into formless doughs of pandesal. The question “Is mother still there?” is a curse thrown up by my mouth, leaving her and an effigy of saints wordless in their glass case. The door quakes in its hinges as she awakens the doorknob with a rattle. We saunter into the hallway, lit by a window outlined with dust. I follow the cracking of her steps subtle like the snap of twigs. My breath becomes sparse as the balding trees of November with each step we are nearer to the screen door. She pushes it open and we walk outside where the leaves fall down from branches and our slippers touch the afternoon embers burning low

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Anna Molly Nicole Quindara

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Ego Cayte Amyl Gonzales

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Balumbato Maria Teresa Amor

Hindi ko pa nakikita ang balumbato. Basta ang alam ko nakakatakot do’n. May nagpapakita daw na white lady, kapre, malaking-malaking asong itim at mga lumilipad na bolang apoy. Kinakatakutan talaga ‘yon pagkagat ng dilim. Ano? Bakit? Ano ko, sira? Ba’t naman ako pupunta do’n? Sabi nila may naririnig pa daw na babaeng umiiyak do’n. Minsan naman daw sanggol. May mga ginahasa daw kasi do’n at pinatay na mga babae’t sanggol noong panahon ng Hapon. Oo. Talaga! Hindi ako nananakot. Iyon ang sabi ng mga taga-hulong hindi nakaiwas na dumaan do’n kahit gabi. Ang kulit mo! Sabing nagsasabi ako ng totoo, eh. Alam mo ba na wala pang ilaw sa poste na tumagal kahit isang gabi sa lugar na ‘yon? Oo. Kinabukasan pundi na kaagad. Kahit nga daw ilaw ng prusisyon namamatay kapag dumadaan sa kahabaan ng paraang tapat ng balumbato e. Sino’ng nanloloko? Hindi yata ako nanloloko kapag tungkol na sa mga poon at prusisyon. Mapunta pa ko sa impyerno. Iyong kapre? Oo sabi e! Itanong mo pa ke Mang Dehot. Si Mang Dehot, hindi mo kilala? Mahina ka pala, eh. Nagsimba ka ba sa bisita no’ng Sabadong dumating kayo? Hindi, hindi Sabadista. Kulang sa pari kaya ‘yong simba para sa Linggo, Sabado dito sa atin. O di ba

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adbans! Pero mabalik tayo ke Mang Dehot, Jose de Jesus ang totoo n’yang pangalan. Komo’t utal daw kahit nasa elementarya na, sariling pangalan ay hindi mabigkas kaya ‘dehot’ ang nasasabi sa halip na ‘de Jesus’. Mula no’n Dehot na nga ang tawag sa kanya ng mga taga baryo. Harapharapan para sa mga kabiruan niya at sa mga likas lang talagang walang galang, talikuran naman sa iba pang kakilala’t kaibigan. Kapag nagsimba ka sa bisita siya ‘yong unang-unang tatawag ng atensyon mo dahil kumikinang sa pomada ang buhok n’ya. Hindi ka pa nakakapasok sa kapilya maliliyo ka na sa tapang ng amoy ng pomada n’ya. Pupusta ‘kong siya na lang ang bukod tanging gumagamit ng gano’ng pomada dito sa baryo natin. Malilinis ang mga damit na sinusuot n’ya pero panahon pa ng Hapon nauso. At ang sinusuot n’yang pantalon, pinakamahina na ang limang sulsi at dalawang tagpi. Pero malinis ha, laging malinis, at sinisiguro ko sa ‘yong naninigas sa almirol. Masipag kasi si Mang Dehot. Siya na lang ang nag-aasikaso sa sarili niya dahil matagal nang patay ang asawa niya. Kilala ‘yon ng inay mo dahil… oo, ‘yung dating Binibining Maria del Rosario. “Maestra” ang tawag nila sa kaniya. Naging titser kasi ni Nanang at ng inay mo noong grade four pa sila. Hapo daw ang ikinamatay. Bata pa, kaya lang masyadong masipag kahit no’ng


dalaga pa’t maestra at saka sabi ni Nanang, kapag nanganak daw nang marami ang isang tao e nanghihina talaga. O eh pa’no ba naman isa anak nila—isang dosena. Manghihina nga namang talaga ‘di ba? Sabi ko sa ‘yo masipag talaga si Mang Dehot, eh! Pero pwera biro, masipag talaga si Mang Dehot, sa pagsasaka man ‘yan o sa gawaing bahay. Napunta na ko do’n sa dati nilang bahay. Gawa sa kawayan, kugon at pawid. Ang ganda! Kahit mga poste at pantukod ng bintana, kumikinang sa barnis. Yung magbarnis lang ng isang silya ang tagal na eh, sa buong bahay pa kaya. Pati na eskaparate at platera. Tapos kahit mga bakod lang para sa mga tanim n’yang talong, kamatis, patola’t kalabasa, makinis pa! Walang salubsob kahit magpabalik-balik ka ng hawak. Si Mang Dehot mismo ang gumawa ng mga ‘yon! Sinubukan ko na dati na magkinis ng kawayan—ang hirap na, nakakainip pa. Sila Tatang nga kung pambakod lang naman sa gulay hindi na masyadong kinikinis. Kaya nga bilib ako kay Mang Dehot. Kahit niloloko sya ng mga tao na singkintab ng mga muwebles niya ang buhok nya ‘pag pumorma sya at nagpomada. Hindi naman nagagalit, hindi siguro marunong mapikon ‘yon. Parang natuwa pa nga na ang akala ng ibang tao e “Dehot” ang totoo nyang pangalan. Mabait talaga ‘yon. Dati, kahit sino ang humingi ng gulay na tanim n’ya sa bakuran ay pinapapitas nya. Pwede rin kaming maglaro sa malinis nyang bakuran. Naglagay pa sya ng sakong duyan do’n sa punong akasya ng dati nyang likuran. Ang saya do’n! Mahaba ang lubid na ginamit nya at mataas yung puno kaya ang layo ng maabot mo kapag tumalon ka habang inuugoy nang malakas. Gusto mo, sumama ka sa amin bago kayo ulit lumuwas? Ang alam ko hindi inalis ni Mang Dehot ang duyan kahit nung lumipat sila ng bahay, eh. Paniguradong

payag, mabait nga yun, eh. Sabi din ni Nanang baka nalulungkot daw mag-isa si Mang Dehot kaya payag sila kapag nagpaalam akong do’n pupunta. Hanggang ngayon kasi hinahawan pa rin n’ya ang dati nyang bakuran. Pinapadalhan pa nga ni Nanang ng suman o bibingka kapag nagluluto sya at nakitang naglilinis sa may kawayanan. Kawawa kasi. Sa pamilya n’ya, siya na lang ang nag-iisang naiwan dito sa baryo natin. Kung saansaan na napadpad ang mga anak niya. ‘Yong iba sa abrod, meron naman sa Bisaya na nakakita ng mapapangasawa, pero meron din namang nasa kabilang bayan lang pero hindi man lang daw dumalaw kahit nung namatay si Maestra. Isa lang ang anak niyang naiwan dito sa baryo, naglaho pa. Si Eman. Mahal na mahal ‘yon ni Mang Dehot Mabait at tahimik na tao lang si Eman. Wala pang bisyo. Katulong siya ng ama sa bukid, walang reklamo sa pagtatrabaho. Masipag ang mag-ama kaya hindi lubos maisip nila Nanang kung paano lumiit nang lumiit ang lupang sinasaka nila. Dati kasi nasa gitnang bukid ang kubo nila, tanda ng hanggahan ng lupa nila at lupain nina Mayora. Ewan ko kung minalas ang sakahan pero nang lumao’y nataboy nang nataboy sa gilid ng kasukalan ang mag-ama. Ilang beses ding nagbayanihan para mailipat ang kubo nila Mang Dehot. Hanggang makarating nga ang kubo sa tabi ng balumbato at ang matirang sakahin nila’y ‘yong limang pitak na lang sa kanilang harapan. Gayunpama’y masaya pa rin si Mang Dehot at walang reklamo. Kahit pa nga ba umusad nang umusad ang hanggahan ng lupain nina Mayora. Ayos lang. Masaya at masipag pa rin si Mang Dehot. Ewan ko

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lang si Eman. Basta bigla na lang naglaho. Walang nakapansin kung lumusong ba s’ya sa sapa, nagpunta ba ng bukid, o naligo sa ilog. Basta nawala na lang si Eman, walang sabi-sabi, walang kaabug-abog. Naghintay si Mang Dehot. Naniwala siyang uuwi na lang bigla si Eman. Paniguradong namasyal lang ang anak. Isang araw gugulatin na lang s’ya ni Eman at aayain s’yang magsaka o manakate para sa kalabaw. Babalik din ang anak n’ya sa kanya balang araw. Naghintay si Mang Dehot. Isang araw. Isang linggo. Isang buwan. Isang taon. Walang Eman na nagbalik. Pero sumulpot ang mga bagong kasambahay ni Mang Dehot. S’ya ang unang nakarinig sa babaeng umiiyak, unang nakakita sa kapreng nananabako, unang nanakbo sa pagtugis ng bolang apoy, at unang nakipaghuntahan sa diagad-namalayang-white-lady. Dati, kapag naglalaro kami o nadadaan sa kubo ni Mang Dehot, nakikisuyo sya sa ‘kin na tulungan syang maghibla ng karayom. Buti na lang mabilis akong maghibla dahil lagi rin pinapagawa sa akin ni Nanang y’on. Ewan ko pero sabi ni Nanang, hindi totoong malabo ang mga mata ni Mang Dehot. Mas malinaw pa daw sa aming lahat ang paningin nito. Baka kaya nakikita nya ang mga hindi nakikita ng ibang tao? Nung isang beses daw na ginabi sila Tatang manakate kasama si Mang Dehot, ayaw daw sumunod sa kanila nang hindi muna yumuyuko. Nang makalayo na, saka lang sinabing dumaan silang lahat sa pagitan ng mga paa ng isang kapre. Wala naman daw nakita sila Tatang pero totoong naamoy nila na napakapanghi at sabi ni Mang Dehot, ganun daw ang amoy ng mga kapre. ‘Yon si Mang Dehot. Nakilala na sa pagkakaroon ng mga kakaibang kwento’t

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karanasan. Masipag pa rin naman s’ya sa bukid at kahit sa mga gawaing-bahay. Nasanay na rin s’ya sa mga kakaibang kasama at nilalang sa kanilang bakuran sa may balumbato. Ewan ko kung sino sa mga malignong kasama niya ang nagsabi pero nabuo ang paniniwala sa isip ni Mang Dehot na may kayamanan sa kanyang bakuran. Sa balon mismo o malapit lang dito, hindi s’ya sigurado. Basta ang alam n’ya, kailangan n’yang bantayan ang kayamanan katulong ng mga kapre at mga lumilipad na bolang apoy. S’ya ang tagapagbantay sa araw at ang kapre naman, kasama ng iba pa, ang tanod sa gabi. E kung bakit hindi kamo n’ya hukayin? Alam ko na sasabihin mo ‘yan! Ganyan nga din ‘yong tanong ko nung una. E kaso, sabi ni Mang Dehot, tagapagbantay lang s’ya. Kapag nabantayan n’ya ang kayamanan at walang nakahukay dito, ibabalik ng kapre ang anak n’yang si Eman. Si Eman na dalawampung taon na ngayon, na matapos mawala ng dalawang taon ay pinaniniwalaan pa rin ni Mang Dehot na babalik sa kanya. Naghihintay pa rin si Mang Dehot. Pero alam mo ba kung ano ang sabi-sabi dito sa atin tungkol kay Eman ? Bulungbulungan na si Eman daw ay hindi naman naengkanto o natyanak o kung ano pa mang pinaniniwalaan ni Mang Dehot. Si Eman daw, ang mabait at tahimik na si Eman, ay sumama na sa mga tao sa dilim. Ssssshh! ’Wag kang maingay! Hindi sila pinag-uusapan dito sa malakas na tinig. Delikado. May mga naghahanap sa kanila dito. Darating na lang nang walang kaabug-abog, madaming itinatanong at hinahanap. Maoobliga ka pang


paminandalin, painumin ng kape o kaya sopdrinks. Umaasa silang may marinig na kahit anong balita tungkol sa mga tao sa dilim. Ang hindi nila alam, ginagamit lang namin ang salitang ‘yon para lituhin silang mga naghahanap. Hindi naman kasi totoong mga tao sa dilim ang hinahanap nila. May pasabi kung sila’y darating. Sa madaling– araw, pwedeng makita mo silang nagaararo, katuwang sa bukid ng mga kapwa nila magsasaka, o kaya’y kasama sa umpukan ng mga nagkakape kapag mahangin at bumubuhos ang ulan o kaya nama’y kasama sa higaan ng mga tagabaryo kung gabi na. Bisita din sila subalit hindi naman talaga mga dayo o bisita, dati na rin natin silang kasama. O ano, marami ka na talagang hindi alam sa baryo natin, ano? Ang tagal mo kasi sa Maynila, eh. Naintindihan mo ba kung ano ‘yong kinuwento ko sa ‘yo? O baka naman ni hindi mo na maalala kung saan at pa’no tayo nag-umpisa. Sa balumbato! Dahil gusto mong manguha tayo ng tamo para ipambala sa sumpak. Sa balumbato na lang kasi may natitirang tamo, hindi pinapangahasang kuhanin ng kahit sinong bata dito sa baryo. Wala akong balak magpunta do’n, ‘no! At lalong wala akong planong makita kung ano ang hitsura ng balumbato o kahit alamin kung totoo nga bang meron nito.

Simple lang ang buhay dito sa baryo. May isang balumbato at isang Mang Dehot na naghihintay sa isang Eman. Mula nang mawala si Eman, hindi na umusad ang hanggahan. Baka takot din si Mayora sa balumbato. Ewan ko. Basta hayaan na lang nating ganito. May mga tumutulong sa ‘tin, kasama natin mula sa panahon ng paghahasik hanggang anihan. Mga panauhin silang kinagigiliwan nating ipaghanda ng minandal kahit hindi naman humihingi. Hindi na rin naman kasi sila mga bisitang maituturing. Basta’t nananatili silang mga tao sa dilim kapag may nagtatanong. Walang nakakita kung may dumating. Walang nakapuna kung may mga mukhang dayo sa baryo. Walang nakarinig sa kahulan ng aso o nabalitaang dumating sa alanganing oras ng gabi. Walang nagaganap na kakaibang pangyayari dito sa baryo, maliban kay Mang Joseng Dehot na naghihintay sa kanyang anak na iluwa ng isang balong gawa sa bato. Sayang daw si Mang Dehot. Masipag pa namang talaga. Laging maaasahan kapag may pabatares ang kahit sino sa baryo. Bumigay na daw ito. Hindi nakayanan ng isip ang pagkawala ng isang huling anak. Pero hindi naman talaga nawala si Eman. Ka Kris na nga lang ang tawag ngayon sa kanya. Pero hindi nga kaya ito alam ni Mang Dehot? Ewan ko. Basta ang alam ko hindi ko pa nakikita ang balumbato.

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Anim sa Sanlibong Awit ng Ayala Luis Antonio Baldos I O, Ayala! O, Ayala! Magsisimula sa tila pagsamba sa isang musa. Pero hindi. O sa paghele ng kalangitan sa isang bahagi ng lungsod. Pero hindi. O sa paghayag ng pagkamangha sa isang tanawin. Pero hindi. Paalala lang ito. Paalala gaya ng mga salitang nasa karatula malapit sa mga itinatayong mga gusali: SAFTEY FIRST. MAG-INGAT SA MGA BAGAY NA MAARING MAHULOG. Ano nga ba ang mga bagay-bagay na maaring mahulog? Bato? Bakal? Tao? Paalala lang ito. O, Ayala! O, Ayala! ’Yung bababa d’yan sa Ayala! Bababa na pala ako. Bababa pa pala ako. Bababa ba ako?

II —Ganito pala sa Makati. May halong mangha at tákot habang nakatingala sa ilusyon ng pag-abót ng mga naglalakihang gusali sa bughaw na kisame ng mundo. Mangha, dahil sa pagtindig ng mga gusaling ito, nauunawaan ko ang lakas nila. Tila nagsisilbi silang mga haliging humahadlang sa pagbagsak ng langit—na para bang maaring mahulog ang langit. Tákot, dahil sa haba-haba ng ating nilalakad, sa tagal-tagal ng ating paglakad, hindi pa natin nakikita ang paroroonan, narating na ito ng mga mata ng mga nagmamasid mula sa itaas. Pagtanaw lang pala at hindi pagkilos ng kung sinumang nasa tuktok ng gusali ang katapat ng págod ng ating paglakad at pagtakbo. Hihihina ang awit ng lungsod dahil sa paglalakad patungo sa ilalim nito, sa ilalim ng lungsod, sa may underpass, kung saan hindi maabot ng mga mata sa taas, kung saan mahinang-mahina ang tunog ng lahat ng kagamitang lumilikha ng ingay—andar ng dyip, harurot ng bus, busina ng mga pribadong sasakyan. Tanging mga tunog na nililikha at nalilikha ng tao ang maririnig: yabag, boses, at tinig. —Hindi. Dito lang ‘yan sa Ayala.

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III Ay, hindi po pwede ma’am. Kopya po namin ‘to Ibigay mo sa akin ‘yan! ’Yung sa inyo po, kailangan po yung manager. Pakihintay na lang po ’yung— Hindi ako naghihintay! IBIGAY MO SA AKIN— Hihinga. At tatanggaping may mga pangyayaring ganito. Aalis. Sapagkat kailangan (na). Pero babalik para tapusin ang usapan nila. Ma’am hindi po talaga pwede! Papunta na po ’yung— HINDI AKO NAGHIHINTAY! Ma’am— Ma’am— ‘Yung bayad n’yo po. HINDI! GUARD! Paki-hold po si ma’am. Hindi po nagbayad ng order n’ya!

IV Nagrereklamo rin kaya ang lungsod? O isinasantabi na lang nito ang mga hinaing sapagkat buhat niya ang bawat gusali, sasakyan, at tagalungsod? At ang tanging magagawa niya ay gampanan ang kanyang tungkulin? Tahimik lang ang lungsod, pero umiiyak rin ito sa kanyang kaloob-looban—pero hindi magigiba mula sa pagtindig sa gitna ng magkakaibang tinig. Pero ang tao, paulit-ulit nitong bibigkasin ang kanyang daíng, saka maghahanap ng solusyon. Isa nga pong Oryow MacFlaree!

V Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. O—Beep—yung—Beep—Beep—mga bag—Beep—niyo po—Beep—pakibuksan—Beep—na— Beep—lang po—Beep—para—Beep—Beep—Beep— Dito po ba yung pa-Taft? Ang bilis-bilis ng metro: metro na lungsod, metro sa kilometro, metro ng taksi. Wala sa talasalitaan ng (mga taga)lungsod ang salitang “mabagal”—wala ngang segundong nasasayang para lang mabigla sa mga kaganapan. Hindi sinasabi ng lungsod ang oras ng kanyang pagdating at pag-alis. Walang iniiwan o naiiwan; tanging mga nagpapaiwan lamang. Tanging “Handa na” o “Hindi na” ang sagot. Handa (na) ang lungsod. Hindi (na) naghihintay ang lungsod.

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VI Nagsisilabasan na ang mga mata ng lungsod: puti, dilaw, kahel. Ngunit anong uri ng salamangka mayroon ang lungsod na nagagawa nitong pataguin ang sampung libong mata ng langit? Hindi ako panatag sa paglalakad dahil wala ang mga tálang tanglaw at gabay sa daan. —Buendia ba ’yung susunod? —Magallanes. Sa kabila ’yung Buendia. Pauwi na ako pero naliligaw pa rin. Pasado a las sais na. Kailangan ko bang umuwi? Kailangan. Kailangan ko pang umuwi. Kailan? Kailangan ko nang umuwi. O, Baguio! O, Baguio!

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Curious Winnie Atienza Banatlao

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Kung Inagaw Ang Lupa Mo Aking Bayan John Carlos Evangelista Lumuha ka, katutubo; buong lungkot mong iluha Ang sinakop na lupain ng mga timawa: Ang interes ng dayuhan ang kanilang nasa puso, Pati lupang tinubuan ay binubusabos at inabuso, Ganito naman sa bansa nating ‘di masilayan ang laya, Panawaga’y isisigaw, pumupunta ng Maynila. Lumuha ka, habang sila’y sumasamba sa salita ng dayuhan, Lupa natin na kay yaman, dayuhan ang nakikinabang; Katulad mo ay si Huli, na aliping bayad-utang, Katulad mo ay si Sisa, binaliw ng kahirapan; Karapata’y ipagtanggol, panahon na nang paglaban, Tigilan na ang pagtaghoy, yaman nati’y ninanakaw! Iluha mo ang busabos na ginawa ng berdugo, “Bayan ay ipagtanggol” ‘yan ang tungkulin nila kuno, Katutubo’y sinagasaan, nilapastangan, dinahas, Kalayaan sa kalunsuran, unti-unting nauubos; Masdan mo ang kanilang luha, taghoy nila’y kahirapan, Masdan mo ang kanilang katawan, unti-unting nalalaos! Lumuha ka kung ang puso ay nawalan ng pag-asa, Kung ang lupa sa bayan mo ay pinuno na ng mina, Kung ang paaralan ay nawalan na nang dunong, Kung ang negosyo’t kapital ay ninakaw na ang nayon, Kung wala na ang lupain at hindi na makabangon, Lumuha ka nang lumuha’t ang dangal mo’y nakaburol. May araw din ang militar, silang lahat matutuyo, May araw din ang pumaslang sa kapatid nating katutubo, Ang dadaloy, kundi apoy, at apoy na kulay dugo, Sama-samang kikilos, lalaban nang buong puso, Isisigaw ang kalayaan, sisindihan mo ang sulo, Sisilaban natin sila, mamatay nang buslo-buslo, Nasa atin ang tagumpay, ubusin ang mga berdugo!

*Alay sa lahat ng katutubong (Lumad) biktima ng pananamantala at karahasan (Hango mula sa tula ni Amado V. Hernandez na “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha mo Aking Bayan”)

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Soxiety Megel Joshua Ramiterre

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Three Generations Of Taking A Bath Mikaya Gregorio

Take this and shake it later when the clock strikes twelve; it is for New Year, Lola said, handing me a jar. Jars and jars of coins line Lola’s bedside dresser when we visit her house in the ‘-ber’ months; donutlike five-centavo coins, copper ten-cent coins, greenish twenty-five-centavo coins, silver piso coins, and yellow five-peso coins all prepared long before January 1. The clinking and jingling would attract luck, fortune, and happiness, she said. A simulation of plentiful coins clinking in our pockets, echoing throughout the year. Why not create mini torotots of paper bills? I thought. Paper bills are bigger money, right? Would that not be a faster way to call on fortune and luck? My forehead would crinkle in confusion. Do not frown, she smiled. Just smile, smile, smile. After all, it is New Year and what I do today would be a portent of the rest of the days of this year. If I smiled this New Year, I would be happy everyday for the next year. Lola said we should eat camote, gabi, saging na saba. She said they gave long life; for, look at her, living well past her contemporaries who, years back, had succumbed to diabetes, stroke, heart attack, cancer, and the like.

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Eat camote tops, kangkong, malunggay, laing, she said. It made one strong. That is what they ate after all during her childhood, when they would seek refuge in the forests and the mountains, hiding from the troops of sundalong Hapon during the Second World War. That is what she and her family ate, and they relished it. For how could they complain? Now, she would make us eat it, with relish too, lest the green, leafy vegetables’ bitter spirits rise up in spite against ungrateful little kids who did not treasure the very food that nourished their grandmother during the war and ensured her survival. Magagalit ang pagkain! she warned. When we would cook pancit or spaghetti, Lola would hover nearby. Make sure the noodles don’t get cut, she cautioned. Then, she would tell us why people do and should serve noodle dishes on birthdays and other occasions. Pampahaba ng buhay, she narrated. That’s why you should not cut them, she emphasized, or else life will be cut short as well. I had trouble with that when it was my turn to get my share of pancit from the serving platter. How would I stop the endless trail of noodles onto my plate unless I cut some? Family time at the dining table is very


much cherished in our household. Even when the serving dishes have been scraped clean, often times, most of us would not leave the table, preferring instead to continue the chatter. Sometimes, one or two of us sisters would still be eating. And the others, while continuing the discussions and banter, would start bringing the empty dishes to the kitchen to get a move on with the chores. Don’t clear the table until these girls have finished eating, Lola rebuked. Gusto niyo ba silang tumandang dalaga? We stragglers would glance at each other and raise our eyebrows while the table clearers would glare at us to hurry up with our eating so that the cleaning up and washing up could be finished. There were times, as a kid, when I would linger a long time at the dinner table because I did not have an appetite or I did not really like the food served. My Lola would urge me to eat up and finish my food. Hala! she threatened, do you want your soul to go gallivanting tonight? I would scrunch up my face at her. Going to sleep hungry would make your soul leave your body, she told me. Then outside the protection of the body, the soul could get lost, or get caught in the branches of a lansones tree, or fall into an uncovered pot; and I would never wake up. I would wearily finish my food, muttering that there were no lansones trees nearby; they were all in Nagcarlan in my Lola’s hometown. Besides, Mama always made sure the pots in the kitchen were turned over in their proper cabinets or securely covered by their respective lids anyway to keep the flies, cockroaches, and other undesirables out. When one of us children would accidentally bite on our own tongue and

cry, during our endless chatter or eager chomping on the food, Lola would comfort us. Someone is just talking about you, she assured. She would then list down all our relatives living in nearby and far-off towns and provinces, mentioning that maybe they missed us and were talking about us. Our family members add up to eight - two parents and six children. Six children born in the space of fifteen years and nine days. That meant that during the years of my life outside the womb, my mom was pregnant for a total of forty-five months (almost four years). Whenever she was pregnant, my Lola would not let us show her our dolls. Bad ‘yun! she scolded. Another conundrum for our little minds. Why could we not show Mama? We had arranged our little dollhouse just so, or had dressed our dolly’s hair. Apparently, something unfortunate could happen to the baby in her tummy if Mama got a peek at our dolls. When Papa and Mama would leave for the hospital to have the baby, we siblings left at home to be babysat by Lola would take turns wondering out loud when Papa would be back to fetch us and take us to visit Mama and the new baby. We would wish out loud that Papa would hurry up coming home. Don’t say that, Lola said. Else Papa might encounter an accident on the way home, tripping over or getting bumped by another car. It was a good thing Papa never did get into any accidents then, or else one of us siblings would have carried the lifelong burden of having brought about bad fortune on our beloved Papa. The thrill of having another newborn, and the abundance of doting ates in the house ensured that there was almost always someone watching over the current baby

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of the household. Even if the baby were asleep, she would be lavished with caresses and kisses. Lola would hover near the baby’s crib, swatting us if we dared touch our lips to the baby. Don’t kiss the baby while she’s sleeping, Lola reprimanded. Or did we want Baby to grow up pilya? Speaking of being pilya, Lola would be very angry when we pulled faces. We would sometimes cross our eyes, scrunch up our noses, and stick out our tongues. It was a contest among siblings. Who could make the most incredible expression? Who could make the others laugh first? But Lola refused to judge our contests; she did not understand. Fix your faces, she demanded, else the wind might blow on your faces and freeze those expressions permanently. We would giggle amongst ourselves and stand in front of the dusty electric fan both to spite her and to prove that wind was not strong enough to freeze our faces. We siblings grew up being taught by our parents to do household chores. Be good children, said Lola, and help clean the house. And we did. We would drag around the old walis tambo and dustpan sweeping up imaginary trails of dust. But not at night. No, certainly not at night, she said. It was bad to sweep at night. The dust then turned to luck — or something like that — and sweeping would then usher the luck right into the dustpan and into the trash can. Bewildered, I would shake my head and debate with my little self the perks of being clean versus the perks of being lucky. Our parents also taught us, early on, habits of personal hygiene. As a little girl, I obsessed over cutting my nails. As soon as there was the merest hint of a white crescent at the tip of my nails, I would grab the clippers, unless Lola caught me —

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that is. Do not cut your nails at night, she said. My goodness! Do fingernail clippings transform into luck at night as well? When our extended family would come together for Holy Week, all of us cousins would be excited. Tag, hide and seek, bahay-bahayan, tree climbing, playing in the rain, plastic dinosaur battles, sungka, and numerous other games were on our to-do list. If only we could play with our eyes closed, we would, so as not to waste precious time sleeping and napping as our parents insisted. But Lola would chastise us. She would make us sit down and read books instead. God is dead today, stop playing, she reprimanded. If you get hurt or if you get wounded, it will not get better because no one will heal it, she threatened. We would furrow our eyebrows and escape when she was not looking and would return to ticking items off our lengthy todo list. After playing all day, we cousins would be reeking of perspiration and outdoor smells. Don’t take a bath at night, Lola said. There was a girl in her neighborhood who woke up one morning, crazy, after having gone to bed with wet hair. Lola has told us this story millions of times, and the poor confused girl’s ailment would change every time. Sometimes, the pitiful girl would be afflicted with fever, sometimes blindness, sometimes perpetual migraine, sometimes permanently crossed eyes, sometimes mental derangement, and sometimes hysteria. She would tell us these stories while rapidly combing our hair in front of the electric fan, set on number three — the highest setting — or while briskly rubbing our damp hair with a big towel. I would roll my eyes involuntarily (whose


eyeballs would not roll from all the brisk movements?). I’m getting migraines, crossed eyes, AND mental derangement from all this hair pulling and head shaking alone, I thought crossly. When she would visit, or stay over at our house, we siblings would make it a game at night to sneak past the guest room, and elude her piercing eyes that could spot the sheen of freshly washed hair from afar. Why not take a bath at night? The water from the faucet was warmer at night; and it was more fun to bathe at night when our Papa or our Mama was more likely to spend more time with us, sometimes even bringing out the set of colorful plastic cups that, when stacked just so, would create a mini fountain. That was when we were little kids, unashamed of running around the house butt naked while being chased by parents eager to get the kids’ drying up and dressing up over with. A few years later, I started taking piano lessons and started formal schooling. Another new law came up. Do not take a bath after playing the piano, or after reading. I could get the shakes in my hands, or go blind. My nerves were tired, Lola said. Just imagine the frustrated bookworm who woke up, not reaching for the alarm clock, but for the pile of books on the bedside table; and who went to sleep breathing in the pungent smell of ink fermented on the aging dogeared pages. When COULD I take a bath? It got to the point that when we heard that Lola was coming to visit, we siblings would whisper among ourselves, Ligo na, ligo na! We won’t be able to take a bath until she goes back home to Nagcarlan! Lola’s superstitions were always a private joke among us siblings, and sometimes Mama or Papa would throw in a

sympathizing laugh too. ~*~ Mama does not subscribe to Lola’s superstitions. All throughout my childhood, I remember her discussing Lola’s quirky rules and superstitions. Enlightened by education, she either gives us factual and scientific evidence to back up some of these superstitions. Others, she has labeled as mere spun tales that have no sound bases. Eat green, leafy vegetables, Mama urges. They are good sources of fiber and nutrients, and we get them quite fresh and cheap too as we get to harvest them from our backyard instead of having to buy them from the wet market. Don’t skip meals and don’t go to bed hungry, Mama reminds me. No, not for fear that my soul would abandon my body in search of nourishment, but because I inherited Mama’s tendency to suffer from hyperacidity attacks. Don’t cut the noodles while cooking pancit or spaghetti, Mama reminds, for how much easier is it to twirl the spaghetti on your fork when it is in long strands? Don’t kiss the baby while she is sleeping, Mama rebukes. No, not because she does not want the baby to grow up naughty; all kids have that inborn propensity to get in trouble after all. No, not for that reason, but because the baby might wake up and lose precious sleep needed for her to grow strong. Moreover, if the baby wakes up, she would demand more time from Mama, thus preventing her from caring for other household duties and spending some time

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with us older siblings. Stop cutting your nails, Mama says. No, not because it is nighttime, but because it is dark where we are seated and it might not only be nails that are clipped. Besides, she would scold, there is nothing left to cut. Holding my hands to the light, she would show me that the white crescent I claim to see is in fact in the new moon phase already. Smile! Do not frown or pull faces, she scolds. No threats of wind that would make our faces permanent grotesque masks. Pulling faces was not ladylike, and frowning made ugly wrinkles while smiling was better than makeup in making one pretty. Take a bath today because it is the New Year, she reminds. And it is not because of Lola’s rule to take a bath on the New Year to ensure you were clean the whole year through. Take a bath, she says. Take a bath because our relatives will come and kiss you, and you have to smell nice and clean. Dry your hair before going to sleep, she reprimands. No, she is not afraid that I will go blind. I am practically blind anyway without the help of my thick glasses or prescribed contact lenses. And she is most certainly not scared that I will become crazy (maybe crazier). No wet hair, she says, because sleeping with wet hair gets the pillows wet, then they get dirty faster and will need to be taken out to be sunned. All perfectly scientific or sensible reasons, the little wrinkles on our forehead caused by our Lola’s rules were slowly and gently ironed out by Mama’s reasonings and clarifications.

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Some of Mama’s habits, (and thus habits she has passed on to me) though, reflect the superstitions she grew up with. When we notice this and let her know, she reiterates that she carries out these actions from force of habit and not because of any attachment nor belief in these old wives’ tales. Lola forbids Mama from taking a bath for a week or so after she gives birth. Mama usually complies for the first day or so, not because she believes the superstition behind Lola’s command but because she is exhausted from giving birth and would prefer to stay in bed or seated comfortably. Having been raised up under Lola’s nonight-baths superstition, it is Mama’s habit to take a bath in the morning, while my dad is used to taking a bath in the morning before leaving for his office and then once more in the night to relax himself and prepare him for a good sleep. ~*~ I am no longer the bewildered toddler nor the confused child. Now, I have been able to personally filter my Lola’s cache of superstitions and rules, and have discarded the very same ones that I wrinkled my nose at and shook my head at as a child. Having learnt my Mama’s principle of reassessing these superstitions under the lens of logic and science, I have also followed some of these rules, but for sensible or valid reasons and not because of the attached threats and nonsensical consequences. I rarely sweep at night now. Not because I believe that dust turns to luck overnight, but that I have learnt to prioritize muchneeded rest and sleep to the thin layer of dust accumulated over the day. Also, it is rather dark at night, despite the


technology of electric lights, and it is much better to see the dirt on the floor with the aid of the sun, especially since my vision leaves much to be desired. I shall sweep on Saturday na lang. I almost never cut my fingernails at night. I have long grown out the obsessions with removing every sliver of white crescent that appears at the tip of my nail. In fact, on the contrary, I maintain that white crescent, allowing my nails to grow a bit past my fingertips. I feel at a loss if my nails are cut. I feel incomplete, vulnerable, and so let my nails grow; forgoing the need to cut my nails but for once every two weeks or so. I no longer ask a person for a number to find out the name of the one who was thinking of me when I accidentally bite my tongue. I take them as signs that I should not eat too quickly. Nor should I multitask and speak while swallowing my food. Using the computer or reading while eating does increase chances of choking or biting your tongue while eating. No need for further scientific research on that! But with all the derision I had for my Lola’s superstitions, and all the values my Mama taught me, it seems like I have created my own personal superstitions and rituals. I hesitate at times, biting my lower lip and feeling foolish; but then, I continue. What do I have to lose after all? Before I undertake an important task, like tackling my pile of academic requirements, replying to a long list of emails or Facebook messages, practicing

my piano pieces, enjoying a long weekend, or even going to sleep; I just HAVE to take a good long bath—washing away all bad vibes, all negative thoughts, clearing my mind. On first days and last days I always take a bath: first and last day of work, of a trip, of a week, of the year, of my period. Sometimes, the reasons are perfectly logical: for hygienic purposes, or to cool myself down; but often times, I take a bath because of this niggling feeling that I should, I have to. It is almost a ritual, in fact. I rinse myself to sanity under the shower. Two minutes facing the shower, and two minutes with my back to the shower. Then, I get to the soaping and scrubbing. Afterwards, I swear, despite the steam fogging up the mirror and my eyeglasses, the world is so much clearer. And because the world is clearer, I can see now how superstitions can be born and can be passed onto new generations: a mixture of habits, hearsay, and hazy facts. Looking back, I sometimes feel just a little bit silly for mocking my Lola’s superstitions, even as I spin my own. Superstitions — could we call them escapades from reality, a subtle manifestation of the unwillingness to attribute negative consequences to one’s own flaws? Maybe, or not. What superstitions do you subscribe to? Is it because your Lolo said, your Tita said, your Tatay said, or you said so? Does it even matter? If you want, take a shower now, or later, or tomorrow, or never. You choose. As for me, I have to go take a bath now. Call me crazy, if you wish. And do not be surprised about it either; it runs in the family after all… Or maybe I have just taken one too many baths at night.

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Still Giselle Ligao Tabirao

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The Finest Sea Glimmer King Llanza

Reminder: there is more to looking. To prove we're still here, we stay here, like a mattress less the weight of somebody. This equates to sleep, or the lack of it. Either way, it is a night less to live, or an opportunity for the mind to roam.

Walking a hundred meters to the clichĂŠ of beach, bare feet, and sunset. Some settlement reducing the humanity to emotion. Anger, the final stretch of heat from this day, melts my cold face into sadness. The ashy sand is a greedy companion, wanting only the lips of the sea all over it. I wanted you to hold me even when my hand rejects yours.

We sit close to each other on driftwood. You explain your side too late for the glue to dry the unmended. I wept for the waste of time on pettiness, like shallow water, or the worthlessness of swimming in it, else you are just a tall child.

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The innocence or foolishness of cinematic moments happening in real life: The waves glisten like young dreams, like melodrama, or distant paparazzi exposing our selves before the world.

Again: there is more to looking. The moon rising behind, the sun setting beyond. In twilight, we are only our shadows as we are the luminous. The sky is burning crimson as our skin reflects. Which is to say: the in-between is tender and what matters need touch. The finest sea glimmer waits. You cry. You are held.

This is as diurnal as it gets: the solace of light is always almost home. We walk back with our shoes on. We are just shadows now.

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Swim Karren Barcita

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Basura lang ang mga ito kung tutuusin. Mga balat ng kendi na may “Mahal kita!” o kaya ay “I miss you!” sa likuran, chichirya (gaya noong naubos namin ang isang malaking-malaking supot ng fish cracker sa Diliman), mamon at cheesecake at noodles at biscuits na binigay niya noong walang-wala akong makain, at ilang pakete ng mabangong shampoo na ginamit namin noong sabay kaming naligo nang iilang pagkakataong walang tao sa bahay. Basura lang ang mga ito kung tutuusin. Pero bakit ba kasi hanggang ngayon, nakasilid pa rin sila sa pinakainiingatang kahon sa aking damitan?

Bagahe ang mga Pakete John Carlo Cabilao

Bata pa lang, mahilig na akong magtago ng mga mumunting bagay na may hindi maipaliwanag na pansariling halaga. Gaya ng pamato ko sa teks at pogs na laging nagpapanalo sa akin tuwing kalaban sa Santulan sina Victor o Badoy. O kaya ay ang paboritong holen na may iba’t ibang disenyo sa loob o batik sa labas, o silver at gintong tansan na minsan ay naipapakilo sa junk shop kapag walang perang panlaro sa piso-pisong aracade, o paper doll na nagpakilala sa mga kapitbahay na ang anak ni mama ay tagilid (ayon nga sa paglalarawan ni Aling Linda), o pakete ng chichirya na may larawan ng paboritong palabas sa telebisyon o mukha ng hinahangaang artista, o mga balat ng kendi na pinupulot kung saansaan. Madalas, mga balat ng mamahaling tsokolate ang hinahanap namin upang magsilbing pantaya kapag nauso na naman ang balat-kendi. Kung naranasan mong tumira sa tinatawag nilang squatter o slum area, madali mong mauunawaan ang pinagsasabi ko. Laging ganoon, hihintayin mo kung ano ang uso. Laging may siklo. Sa ganitong buwan, uso ang teks na susundan ng pogs.

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Pagkatapos, piso-pisong paper doll, o kaya ay holen (na jolen/dyolen pa nga ang bigkas namin), o kaya ay tansan, goma, o kaya ay iyon nga, balat-kendi. Kapag nagsawa na ang buong sangkamusmusan, mapapalitan ito ng iba na namang mauuso. Uulit lang ang ikot. Kumbaga, isang siklo ng mga uso. Kaya, itatago mo ang mga sa tingin mo ay swerte upang kapag uso na namang muli ang itinago ay muling magagamit at makapaghahatid ng hindi maipaliwanag na galak. Pero tumatanda tayong lahat. Pumapanaw ang hilig sa pambatang uso. Hindi na naitatago ang mga mumunting bagay na dating nagpaindak sa musmos na puso. Nawala rin naman ang mga ito paglipas ng panahon. Ibang-iba na ngayon. Hindi na ako bata at hindi na nahihilig sa mga larong tulad ng kinahiligan ko noon. Wala nang tansan, paper doll, o balat-kendi. Naglaho na ito noong pangarapin kong tumanda. Wala na sanang rason para itago ang mga mumunting bagay na tulad nito. Ngunit, gaya nga ng sinabi ng isang palaisip na Pranses na hindi ko na matandaan ang pangalan, lahat daw ng tumatanda ay bumabalik sa pagkabata. Sa kaso ko, napaagang masyado ang pagbalik ko sa pagkabata. Nagsimulang muli ang pagsisilid ng mga supot o paketeng ito nang pumasok ako sa majorship class sa aming pamantasan. Nakilala ko siya noong second year college ako. Sikat siya sa campus dahil maraming nagkakagusto sa kaniya pero nakilala ko lamang siya nang maging mag-blockmate kami. Hindi ko talaga alam kung bakit noon ko lamang siya nakilala, o kung bakit noon ko lamang narinig ang kaniyang pangalan gayong sikat pala siya sa aming pamantasan. Ang alam ko, hindi ko siya type. Makailang-ulit kaming naging

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magkagrupo sa mga activities sa iba’t ibang subject. Hindi ko talaga siya type. Gayunman, natutuwa ako sa kaniya nang palihim. # Una akong nakatanggap ng biscuit sa kaniya isang hapon matapos kaming magmeeting para sa aming presentasyon sa klase. Gutom na gutom na ako noon at wala na talaga akong pera dahil sa dami ng readings na kailangang ipa-photocopy. Walang malay akong nakatitig sa kaniya habang marahang nginunguya niya ang Cream-O. Ilang sandali, dumukot siya sa kaniyang bag sabay abot sa akin ng isang pakete nito. Nagulat ako at nahiya kaya agad akong sumenyas na okay lang ako pero inilapag niya ang Cream-O sa aking mga kamay. Wala akong nagawa kundi tanggapin ito. Aba, biyaya ito ng langit! Wala akong nagawa sa matamis niyang pagngiti. Pinahina ako ng mapupula niyang labi na bumagay sa maputi at makinis niyang kutis. Wow, parang teleserye. Sa mga susunod na panahon, malalaman ko kung gaano kalambot ang kaniyang buhok at ang kaniyang puso. Sa huli, wala akong nagawa kundi isilid sa pagitan ng ilang pahina sa notebook ang balat ng Cream-O, ang unang paketeng basura lang kung tutuusin, ngunit sa hindi ko malamang dahilan, itinago ko’t isinilid, at hanggang ngayon, nasa akin pa rin. Ilang lingo lang ang lumipas, kendi naman ang natanggap ko mula sa kaniya. Antok na antok ako noon sa isa naming klase namin sa literary criticism. Sa pagkakataong ito, sa notebook ko ako nakatitig, sa pagitan ng mga pahina kung saan nakasingit ang pakete ng Cream-O. Biglang may bumato sa akin ng kendi. Pagtingin ko, nakadila siya. Sa isip-isip ko, tingnan mo ‘to, parang


bata. Pero ako rin, parang bata. Para akong batang natuwa sa munting kendi. Hindi iyon ang kendi na may nakasulat sa likod na maaaring magpangiti nang sobra pero ‘yung ngiti ko, hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ganoon. Hanggang sa ang dating hindi ko tipo ay natipuhan ko na. Ang dating walang datíng sa akin ay naging hudyat ng aking pagbabanyuhay—isang metapora ng makasaysayang pamumukadkad ko bilang isang bahagharing paketeng dating nakasilid lamang sa lumang kahon. Oo, marahil isa rin akong paketeng nakasilid sa kahon. Hanggang sa palagiang sabay na pagkain sa canteen, sa pag-uwi, sa paggawa ng requirements, sa paggising, sa pagligo, at sa pagsara ng talukap ng mga mata. Habang hinahagkan niya ang malamig kong gabing nasisilawan ng mga paputok sa langit, nagbabadya ng pagluluwal ng isang bagong taon ay sinisilaban ako ng mga bulalakaw niyang halik. Hanggang sa iba’t ibang pakete pa ng marshmallow, tsokolate, biscuit, at kendi ang sabay naming binuksan at isinilid sa aking kahon. Hanggang sa napuno na ang aking kahon ng mga inipong pakete ng date, monthsary, birthday, pasko, bagong taon, araw ng mga puso at iba pang espesyal na okasyon. Hanggang sa naipon ang mga pakete ng aking pagiging isip-bata—makitid, marupok, magagalitin, makasarili. Hanggang sa napuno na rin siya ng mga pakete ng hinanakit, galit, lungkot, pagkasawa. Hanggang sa ayaw niya na ng mga paketeng bagahe lamang sa kaniya. Hanggang sa naiwan ang mga pakete sa aking kahon na dating mahalaga’t espesyal ngunit ngayon ay tila mga naipong basura na lamang. Sa pagtanda pala, may siklo rin ang uso. Iyong pag-ibig—kung pag-ibig nga ba talaga iyon—ay parang mga teks, pogs, holen at balat-kending malalaos din pala kalaunan.

# Nabasa ko ito kahapon nang ipaligpit sa akin ni mama ang mga gamit ko sa bahay: “Metaphor Chaser, kaya mo ‘yan! Kahit anong mangyari, manalo ka man o matalo, mahal pa rin kita!” Nakadikit pa ang note niya sa pakete ng Goldilocks Sliced Cakes. Double Dutch ang flavor nito. Bigay niya sa akin noong minsang sumali ako sa isang writing contest. Mabuti’t hindi nilanggam ang mga pakete, lalo na iyong mga kendi at supot ng marshmallows na palaging sorpresang natatagpuan ko sa bag at may kasamang note na “RC21,” isang palatandaang binuo namin. Hindi naman na ako nagulat nang makita ito. Sa sobrang dami kasi ng mga naipong pakete o balat o supot ng kung ano-anong produktong binigay niya sa akin, naging pangkaraniwan na lamang ang mga ito. Tulad ng mga napapanood kong balita nitong mga nagdaang buwan: may baby na sina Ellen Adarna at John Lloyd o ang pagbe-breakdown ni Sarah G., kamayan ng dalawang pinuno ng North Korea at South Korea, EJK (o state-sponsored killings), droga at mga buy bust operation, at Oplan Tokhang. Karaniwan na lahat ng ito. Para bang paulit-ulit isinasaksak sa atin ng midya ang mga balita na noong una ay ikinabigla o ikinagalit natin pero dahil paulit-ulit na, nasanay na lang tayo. Ngunit ang hindi pangkaraniwan at hindi ko malilimot ay ang isang balita na hindi ko napanood sa telebisyon dahil late daw dumating ang GMA kundi nasaksihan mismo ng aking mga mata (at tainga): patay ang isang ama na nahulihan umano ng isang sachet ng hinihinalang shabu habang naglalakad sa eskinitang malapit sa amin. Binaril siya sa harap ng kaniyang binatilyong anak. Kawawa ang binata, sa isip-isip ko. Dahil lang sa

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isang “hinihinalang” pakete ng shabu, namatay ang kaniyang ama. Pinauwi muna ang binata sa probinsya upang maibsan ang trauma. Sino ba namang makalilimot sa tagpong pinatatakbo ka ng iyong ama upang iligtas ang iyong sarili mula sa hindi kilalang lalaking may hawak na baril? Paano tatakpan ang tainga sa nakabibinging mga putok na pumutol sa hininga ng iyong ama habang walang nakaririnig sa mataginting mong paghingi ng tulong at pagsigaw? Lahat ng ito ay dahil sa lamang isang pakete ng hinihinalang droga. Gaano kaya kabigat ang pakete at buhay ang kailangang timbangin? At ilan pa bang mga pakete ang nakulimbat sa mga hinihinalang tulak ng ipinagbabawal na gamot? O ilan pang ganitong tagpo ang pinagbulag-bulagan natin at hindi pinakinggan? Bagahe talaga sa buhay ang mga pakete. # May isang aparisyong kagyat na dumating sa isip, isang gabi. Nakita ko ang isang binatang akay-akay ang isang duguang katawan, humihingi ng tulong sa gitna ng kabilugan ng buwan, sa ilalim ng sinag ng mga bituin. At ako ang binatang iyon. Ako rin ang namatay. Ako ang naputulan ng hininga. Ako ang umaakay sa sarili kong patay na katawan. Dahil din kaya ito sa mga pakete? Hindi naman ito Oplan Tokhang pero hindi maalis sa isip ko ang relasyon naming madalas bansagang “huwag tularan”. Baka ebidensya rin laban sa akin ang mga pakete, supot, plastic, o sachet na dahilan kung bakit nakakulong pa rin ako hanggang ngayon. Pero wala naman akong kasalanan. Ang tanging sala ko lang ay ang hindi paglimot, ang patuloy na pagsisilid sa mga ebidensyang ito. #

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Eksaktong isang taon at dalawampu’t limang araw na ang nakalilipas mula nang magsangandaan ang dating sabay naming paglalakbay. Naglalakad pa rin ako ngayon sa mga pamilyar na lugar na minsang naapakan na ng aking mga paa. Paminsan-minsan, tumatambay pa rin ako sa mga sulok na minsan na naming pinuwestuhan. Matapos ang ilang walang malay na paggunita at pagpapakawala ng mga buntonghininga, tatayo ako at lalakad na naman. Lilipat sa isa na namang pamilyar na lugar. Maraming nagkalat na pakete sa lansangan ngunit wala itong halaga—sa katunayan, bumabara pa nga ang mga ito sa ilog o estero. Pero ang mga pakete ko na galing sa kaniya, iyon ang mayroong halaga. Bawat hakbang ay katumbas ng paggalugad sa inaasam na gamot sa mga sugat. Mabibigat ang mga hakbang. Tinatawanan ako ng aking mga pakete: hindi gagaling ang iyong mga sugat. Walang lunas hanggat pakete kaming nakasilid sa iyong kahon. Walang lunas hanggat bagahe kaming pasan ng iyong puso. May taglay na alaala ang mga pakete. Kalakip nito ang mga ‘di malimot na tagpo, mga gunita, mga eksenang sa tuwina ay walang malay na nagpapangiti sa akin. Ito ang sumpa ng pagsisilid ng mga pakete: magdurugo ang dibdib. Umaagos ang pulang likido pababa sa mga paa. Pulang-pula sila. Habang patuloy ang pagkataranta, maririnig ang halakhak ng mga pakete. Ayoko na ng ganitong pakiramdam. Kaya umuwi ako sa bahay. Tinipon ang lahat ng mga pakete. Mula sa damitan, sa mga lumang notebook, sa dating bag noong third year college, at sa mga espesyal na kahon. Alam kong sobra na ang bigat na dulot ng mga basurang ito.


Basura lang kayo! Tao ako! Tama. Inihanda ang lumang gasera, mabuti’t may kaunting gaas pa. Hinanap ang posporo. Lintek. Nasaan ang posporo? Lighter na lang. Wala rin. Lakas-loob akong nanghiram sa kapitbahay: ate Landa, may posporo ba kayo? Meron. Tama na. Simulan na natin ang makasaysayang seremonya. Iwinisik ang kaunting gaas. Kiniskis ang palito sa kahon ng posporo. Nagliyab ang palito. Dinig ko ang panaghoy ng mga pakete: huwag! Pakiusap, huwag! Parang awa mo na. Pakiusap sa sarili: huwag. Namatay ang liwanag sa dilim. Nabuhay ang mga buntonghininga. Bahala na muna. Paumanhin, sabay haplos sa dibdib. Sa ngayon, batid kong kailangan ko pa ang mga basurang ito. Mahalaga pa rin sa akin ang mga bagaheng ito. # May mga araw na sadyang hindi pangkaraniwan. Kagaya nitong huli, gumuhit siyang bigla sa gunita. Ni hindi ka man lang naabisuhang mataranta sa biglang pagpasok niya sa iyong alaala. Kaya, wala kang nagawa kundi magpalamon sa lumbay at matulala. Makalipas ang ilang saglit, dagli kang

babalik sa realidad. Magpapatuloy ka. Ngunit, lilipas ang ilang araw at darating muli ang hindi inaasahang dalaw. Isa itong matamis na bangungot sa gabing pinahimbing ka ng matinding pagluha hindi ng mga mata kundi ng puso. Mapait. Pero masarap. May kakaibang sayang nadarama sa bawat pagkurot ng lungkot sa iyo. Hahanap-hanapin mo ito. Dadalawin kang muli. Babalik kang muli sa realidad. Dadalaw. Realidad. Paulit-ulit, gaya noong paulit-ulit mong pagkusot sa damit na hindi maalis ang mantsa. Nakalimutan mo ring ihiwalay ang puti sa de-kolor. O ang pagkalimot mo sa pagtatapon ng mga basurang pakete na sana ay matagal mo nang ginawa. O ang pagaatubili mong iligpit na ang mga bagay na makapagpapaala sa kaniya. Maski ang pag-iwan sa mga bagaheng pakete na nagpapabigat sa iyong mga byahe. Nakalimutan mo iyon ngunit, hindi siya. At wala kang magagawa. Hahayaan mong manatili ang gayong saysay ng paulit-ulit na kasaysayan. At wala kang magagawa. Mananahan kang binabangungot nang nakangiti. Wala kang magagawa. Wala kundi ang magpatuloy. Dahil sa pagpapatuloy ka sabay na nagiging malungkot at masaya.

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Innocence Nicko Rodriguez

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After Thirteen Moons Ma. Katreena Pillejera

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Sakura Shari Eunice San Pablo

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Anchor Alliah Robelle Castro

We were docked at Hong Kong, the third month of my stay in Alfhild. That was the name of the ship. I heard it was named after a woman who left her wedding to become a pirate. The irony. We were there, watching out for pirates every time we swing by Somalia. While passing, a few of us would be asked to guard the ship for the rest of the night. The others kneeled in prayer. I thought of it as luck. But those without luck, or for some without prayer, they would get either shot or kidnapped, or left by the pirates in a sinking ship. I think being kidnapped was worse. They would terrorize you with knives and guns, and wound you until the company agreed to place a ransom. That is, if the company cared enough. Sometimes they just didn’t.

the laundry and the dryer, assist the cook when he needed some help, and clean the dishes once everyone else was done with their meals. I ate after them. I always knocked before entering someone else’s cabin, following it with “Sir.” Sometimes when it was the captain’s cabin, I would enter his room and see him printing out pictures of his wife and daughter.

“When you’re taken, that’s just the brink of death. You don’t get to choose the ending, you’re practically at the end. And you’re just waiting for when, or how they’re going to end it,” Bob, the captain, said. I think he was trying to warn us from how he approached the topic, but what we felt, instead, was fear. I can see it in him, too. His woebegone eyes, the line around his mouth, a mark of sorrow rather than bliss. He was a father of one, his daughter around the age of eighteen.

“But where do you put it?”

As a Mess Man, my tasks were to clean the rooms, arrange any clothes left in

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“What’s that for, Sir?” I would ask. “Oh nothing, I just really miss them.” I would look around to see that there were no frames that were placed on his wall, aside from the ship’s pictures.

“I have this clear book.” He opened his drawer. “Whenever they send a new picture, I print it and put it here. If you asked me what I would save when anything goes wrong aboard this ship, it would be this.” The captain raised it and laughed. Maybe he laughed because it sounded like an awful idea, a silly one too. But partly, I thought it was true. Those were photographs. They weren’t moving, and they were hardly clear, but they meant something to someone who was thousands


Bubblegum Janina Sarmiento

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of miles away from the people inside those images. It helped him live. In some cases, like in Alfhild, there were men who have jumped off. Guns were not allowed inside the ship unless we were passing by somewhere that needed an all-night guard. If they were allowed, that would be their one shot to leave. But maybe, the only exit they found was at the bottom of the ship, the endless water running under, and that perhaps it would help them forget. Maybe they hoped it would wash away their bodies until some of them reached home. There were just those days. I had them too. I used to stand behind the rails, by the bow, and look down. The hue was mesmerizing, until one realized that it was blue, all the way down in the deep, until it turned black. I’d imagine jumping in, or sometimes, falling, either bound to be lost or abandoned by the ship. I have never been excited to explore but I have considered swimming in the deepest oceans, but isolation sometimes replaced excitement with melancholy. Staying in a floating vehicle that was surrounded with only water affected the people on board. There were men like Bob who reminded themselves of family. There were men who let the loneliness drive them away from sanity. There were men who lost their temper. There were men like Paul. “Women aren’t supposed to be allowed in church, let alone inside a ship,” he said, looking at me. The first time I saw Paul, I said, what a clean-cut man, only his intentions were not as clean. The next month, my fourth month, there were instances when I felt rather uncomfortable. I had to knock and

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carry his unwashed, reeking clothes into the laundry room. Some days he opened the door half naked, and would laugh and jokingly ask if I wanted to wash the towel covering his bottom half. Once, I took a deep breath, although my fists clenched the laundry hamper too tight, and told him that it was unsettling for me. He laughed as if I returned a joke or as if I was not to be taken seriously. But the hardest, not quite the first incident in my field, was when I was completely unaware of what he would be doing. On the last week of my fourth month, I was ill. The captain was kind enough to let me rest for a day. I didn’t ask for more. I felt my body shutting down, only opening my eyes when someone opened the door and when the doctor arrived. Somebody called in a doctor while we were at dock. It was luck, actually. If someone were to get sick in the middle of a voyage, no one would be able to know why or how he could be treated aside from a pack of cold, stock of pills in the medicine cabinet. That day my head was afloat. My body was at its weakest. I was not sure who helped the chef with cooking, or whether the dishes were washed after or if they were waiting for me to get better, or if they brought their dirty clothes to the washing room or whether they were waiting for me to do that, too. I was not sure if they cleaned out their cabins and threw the dirt in the chute, but I was sure of this – there was another man inside my cabin besides the doctor. The doctor asked if I had a clean and thick cloth to cover myself. We had heaters inside but I felt as if all the walls inside the room were torn off and I was exposed to the cold Pacific air. I heard the door shut and after, for a peaceful second, I closed my eyes again. I tried to


think of how I could possibly get better, maybe just feel a bit better. There were plenty of things to be done around the ship. I was weak and ill, but still, I thought of the work I have left undone. There was just one Mess Man, and she lied inside her cabin, unable to move. The door on the side of my bed opened. “I have it,” he said. I traced the figure with my cloudy vision and I noticed that he was bigger. The Chinese doctor who used to visit us was thin. Ancient. We always imagined him not being able to walk up the stairs of the ship, but he always managed to reach the end. I saw a figure of a folded cloth, what seemed then as a blanket, in his hands. His face was blurry and I could only see the shape of what he was holding, the edges of the cloth, and the uniform he was wearing. He leaned in and unfolded the blanket, slowly placing it down, trailing from my feet to my stomach. And before he covered my chest, he moved his hands and held the blanket by its end, in the middle, and suddenly, the thick cloth became thin. I felt the warmth of his body, the tip of his fingers stroking my breast while still holding the cloth. I tried to open my eyes more. Wider, wider, I kept thinking. Maybe, it would make it clearer. Then I saw the grin on his face and just below his grin was the insignia. Three yellow stripes. It wasn’t a question of if it did happen, maybe a question of how it

did, like how a knee would touch your own knee inside a crowded train, or how when someone would hand you something and both of your fingertips would meet and a buzz would go through your body and suddenly, you were aware. Fully. That was how it felt, but worse, much worse. I kicked the blanket off my foot, and with what was left with my sick body, I kicked him. Paul hit the wall behind us, and just as I was about to get up, if I could have, the door opened and with it entered the doctor and Bob. After having that incident with Paul, the captain called the office immediately, screamed – he had a daughter, there was that intensity in his voice – and demanded that Paul be sent off. He didn’t ask them to fire him, but at least, he wanted him off the ship. It took me a long and hard time to allow myself to talk and walk around the ship without looking over my shoulder for what was behind me, waiting for me to brush off my guard. There were nights I couldn’t sleep, and in my small porthole, I stared into the distance. Blank. I thought. There were things outside my window but to me, everything else seemed empty but still it was an occupied space that I had gotten used to. The usual, the ocean, the sky, the screws around my porthole and silence. And at that moment I remembered my father. He said that at some point, you would open your eyes and the things you thought were colorful outside our country would be just white.

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Late Nights Beatrice Joy Velasco

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Mother Janina Sarmiento

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David, from Goliath’s Eyes Patricia Leuterio

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Layers Philomeno Joshua Sunga

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c o n t r i b u t o r s

AMOR, MARIA TERESA Fiction: Balumbato Makalumang pangalan para sa makalumang tao. Nabuhay si Teresa sa panahong nagsisimulang mauso ang cellphone pero hindi pa rin nauso sa kanya ito. Walang sariling Facebook account at walang TV sa kwarto. Mahilig matulog, kumain, at makinig sa mga problemadong tao. ATIS, JAN VERNIX Poetry: Rotunda Public high school teacher Jan Vernix M. Atis is from the Island Garden City of Samal, Province of Davao del Norte. He is currently finishing his Master’s in Language Teaching major in English. His works have been published and are forthcoming in Dagmay Online Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild, Sunstar Davao, Bukambibig Poetry Folio of Spoken Word Philippines, Sakayang Papel: Anthology of Binisaya Poetry, Woman, Create 2018 Creative Daily Planner, and Davao Harvest 3: Literature and the Visual Arts. BALDOS, LUIS ANTONIO Poetry: Anim sa Sanlibong Awit ng Ayala Luis Antonio Baldos is from Candon City, Ilocos Sur. He finished BA Language and Literature at the University of the Philippines Baguio. He attended the 11th Nakem International Conference at Ilocos Norte where he presented his undergraduate thesis on Ilocano folk healing. He spends his free time reading the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke and writing with fountain pens. He currently lives and works in Vacaville, California.

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BANATLAO, WINNIE ATIENZA Photography: Curious She is lost and reserved by purpose. Photography enthusiast, artist by mood, teacher by advocacy and profession, writer by heart and Iska by fate and faith. She is the former Associate Editor of The Technology Advocate —the official school publication of the Laguna State Polytechnic University - San Pablo City Campus where she earned most of her self-worth and her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education in Biological Science. By chances, she is also contributing shots in the Manila Bulletin Picture Perfect Section. Currently, Winn is a graduate school student of University of the Philippines - Los Baños, Laguna. BARCITA, KARREN Visual Arts: Swim, Le Voyeur Karren Barcita graduated from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines with a BA in Broadcast Communication. She enjoys photography with intimate and conceptual themes—usually using her point and shoot camera. She also loves making surreal collage art on her spare time. You can follow her on Instagram @xstntl and on xstntl98. tumblr.com BISCOCHO, JONEL Poetry: Isang Sabi-sabi Ukol Sa Paghahanap At Pag-ibig Si Jonel Biscocho ay isang lagalag sa kanyang sariling mundo at sa mga pagitan ng mga madadalas na paggagala, tumitigil lang siya para magsulat ng mga samu’t-saring basura at katha. Hanggang ngayon, pinipilit pa rin niyang ilimbag ang alamat ng isang Makatang Sawi na pamagat pa lang ang nasa burador. Bukod dito, hilig ng binata ang tumambay sa McDo at uminom ng kanyang paboritong Iced Coffee (dahil naniniwala siya na may dahilan ka pa para bumangon kahit patay ka na inside) habang nakikinig sa mga tugtugin ng bandang Greenday. Pagdating naman sa mga pelikula, hilig niya ang may temang “Mind Fuck” kung kaya’t halos wala nang pinagkaiba ang buhay niya sa mga pinapanood niya – fucked up. BRITANIA, JAN MICHAEL Photography: Barbero Jan Michael Britania is an amateur street photographer who fell in love with black and white photos. He loves the mystery and depth of black and white photography. Most people shoot in color but he dares to be different. CABILAO, JOHN CARLO Non-Fiction: Bagahe ang mga Pakete Poetry: Ilang Kulay ng Isang Karatula Si John Carlo B. Cabilao ay nagtapos ng BSE Filipino sa Pamantasang Normal ng Pilipinas sa Maynila. Nasa unang taon pa lamang siya ng pagiging isang guro at kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng Filipino sa UP Rural High School sa Los Baños, Laguna.

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CASTILLO, JENESSY Poetry: Gonabmal Si Jenessy “Nessy” Castillo ay isang Ilokanang lumaki sa Timog Katagalugan. Madalas siyang makikitang kaharap ang karaoke machine habang nakanta ng mga awit na trip ng Tatay niya. Nais niyang isiping isa siyang mang-aawit, aktres at manunulat, pero minsan hindi na rin siya sigurado. Pero alam niyang pagsapit ng madaling araw ay kusang naglalaro ang utak niya sa entabladong pinapangarap niyang tuntungan noon pa man. CASTRO, ALLIAH ROBELLE Fiction: Anchor Alliah Robelle T. Castro is a graduate from De La Salle University and an incoming scholar for graduate school in St. Mary’s College of California. At five years old, she would always find herself writing stories on pieces of paper, stapling them together and later on, giving them away to her friends. Her undergraduate thesis was dedicated to Filipina seafarers entitled “Salt” and was given the Outstanding Thesis award. She plans to complete her first novel soon. You can catch her freaking out, most of the time, on Instagram @alliahrobelle and Twitter @liacastrox. ESTOCIO, JUAN MIGUEL Poetry: Shabu Juan Miguel Estocio, in his 24 years of existence, already wrote a bunch of poems filled with love and philosophy. A former resident writer of PAPEL (Promote and Publish Excellent Literature) and a lurker of Betsin-ArtParasites. An underrated spoken word artist and also a bassist of Django. He knew that the world needs art more than money, needs more love than freedom, needs more music and poetry than telenovelas. He dreams of changing the world, one step at a time. EVANGELISTA, JOHN CARLOS Poetry: Kung Inagaw Ang Lupa Mo Aking Bayan Tubong Gapan City, Nueva Ecija si John Carlos D. Evangelista. Nagtapos sa Pamantasang Normal ng Pilipinas (Ang Pambansang Sentro sa Edukasyong Pangguro) sa kursong Batsilyer sa Pansekondaryang Edukasyon Medyor sa Filipino. Kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng asignaturang Filipino sa Mataas na Paaralan ng Kolehiyo ng Sta. Eskolastika. Dating staff writer sa The Torch Publications (Ang Opisyal na Pahayagang Pangmag-aaral ng PNU) at naging Pangulo ng Kapisanang Diwa at Panitik (Ang Opisyal na Samahang Pang-akademiko ng mga Nagpapakadalubhasa sa Filipino sa PNU). Madalas na sumasali sa mga patimpalak sa pagsulat ng maikling kuwento, tula, at dagli sa sa iba’t ibang patimpalak sa bansa dahil niniwala siya na may kakayahang magpalaya ang panitik ng mga isipang salat sa kaalaman at bulag sa mga nangyayari sa lipunan. Libangan niya ang magsulat lalo na kapag sawi sa pag-ibig at sa gitna ng pag-iisa at pagsasarili.

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FAURA, RYAN Fiction: Cumulus Non-fiction: My Battle with My Bulge Ryan L. Faura, now 30, is a senior high school teacher at San Isidro National High School in Antipolo City, and author of, most recently, a short fiction entitled “A Tale of Two Tickets” published in the Philippines Graphic. His self-deprecating essay “From Hair to Eternity” was anthologized in Young Blood Six—the best essays published in Philippine Daily Inquirer from 2014-2015. The essay “My Battle with my Bulge” is a continuation of his online revolution, #CelebrateYourFlaws while “Cumulus” is his first foray into flash fiction. GONZALES, CAYTE AMYL Visual Arts: Ego Cayte Amyl is an Architecture student at Adamson University. She always finds time to create artworks and get inspiration by visiting museums and art fairs. You can see some of her works on Instagram @cayteamyl_art and Twitter @cayteamyl. GREGORIO, MIKAYA Non-fiction: Three Generations of Taking a Bath Mikaya Gregorio has been a lover of words since childhood, whether those words come from her own pen or from others. She deems her writing a mere creative plagiarism from the Master Storyteller’s tales. Mikaya graduated Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and continuously attempts to pursue her passions through side projects and freelancing on top of her desk job. One of those attempts to keep herself sane and creative is her blog: moonraysandsingingpebbles.wordpress.com. LEUTERIO, PATRICIA Photography: David, from Goliath’s Eyes Patricia Leuterio stumbled upon her love for photography and photojournalism like serendipity—as how she finds everything else she holds dear in her life. She is currently a 21-year old Communications Officer at an NGO for street children in Manila. On some days, Leuterio fights against the monsters in her head; writes poetry on paper napkins while sipping on some coffee, tea, or beer; and listens and captures strangers’ stories. Most days, though, she does these all at once. Find her wanderings on Instagram @ patsyyyyleuterio. LLANZA, KING Poetry: The Finest Sea Glimmer King Llanza is a 22-year-old writer from Lucena City, Quezon Province. He is currently taking his MS Environmental Science and Ecosystem Management degree at De La Salle University. Some of his poems have been published in Anak Sastra, an online literary magazine based in Malaysia. King is into tarot reading and making carbonara.

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MAMANTA, JAS PERCIVAL Photography: Malaya Jasper or Japs is a 22-year old visual artist from Tahanan and the Artidope Family. Currently studying BS Computer Science at Taguig City University. A Soul-Adventurer in his own way. He is trying different kind of arts, from photography to painting, pencil sketching, and sometimes in writing poetry and prose too. You may catch a glimpse of him sometimes around Manila and Taguig, lurking at the streets, taking photographs and moments. See more of his works and follow him on Instagram @iridescentrequiem. MANGAWANG, JULIENNE MAUI Poetry: The Scraping of Lola’s Slippers Julienne Maui C. Mangawang weaves her poems from memory and reverie. She earned her degree in Asian Studies at the University of Santo Tomas. Up to date, she is living in the heart of Mandaluyong and enjoys late night ramen escapades whenever she’s bored. MARCAIDA, LEA Visual Arts: Grandiloquence Lea Marcaida is a natural artist who is blessed with various talents. It is a waste not to declare it to everyone. PILLEJERA, MA. KATREENA Photography: After Thirteen Moons Katreena Pillejera, a young aesthete, a lover of words and music and all that is scarred. Be vulnerable with her at loveafterlove.net and on Instagram @loverafterlove_. QUINDARA, NICOLE Photography: Anna Molly Nicole Quindara is a 21-year-old graphic designer and photographer from Bulacan. Far from her current work, she is a graduate of BS Nutrition from University of the Philippines Los Baños. She gets delight from burger steak, milkshakes, and songs with Dm7. Catch her works on Facebook and Instagram @npquindara. SAN PABLO, SHARI EUNICE Photography: Sakura Shari Eunice San Pablo is a 20-year-old multimedia artist specializing in photography, audio, and traditional painting. She finished her bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Studies at the University of the Philippines Open University.

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SARMIENTO, JANINA Visual Arts: Bubblegum, Rest, Mother Janina Sarmiento, 21, is from Catarman, Northern Samar. She draws inspiration from the women’s organization that she has been involved with since her college days in the University of the Philippines Visayas - Tacloban College. She hopes to grow with more principled art. Watch her progress on Instagram @janeenuhh. SUNGA, PHILOMENO JOSHUA Photography: Layers Philomeno Joshua B. Sunga currently lives in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of the Philippines Baguio, and will soon begin his medicine journey at San Beda University. He defines success not according to material wealth, but to making someone smile through an act of kindness. One of his life aspirations is to serve as a “doctor to the barrios”, and consequently, capture realities by the lens to augment the unprivileged and underserved. TABIRAO, GISELLE LIGAO Photography: Still Giselle Tabirao, 18, is from Antipolo City. She started photography on a junior high school publication, The Leader, and joined several photo essay and photography contests inside and outside her current school, PUP Manila. She is now a freshman student taking up Bachelor in Advertising and Public Relation. See more of her photos on her Instagram account @geseelleee15. RAMITERRE, MEGEL JOSHUA Visual Arts: Soxiety Megel Joshua, a 19-year old boy, was born in Ramos, Tarlac and currently residing in Guimba, Nueva Ecija. He’s an aspiring artist, poet, writer, and engineer. He is currently studying Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Science City of Muñoz, Philippines. He’s a self-taught artist and he expands his knowledge on art through his school organization, and online art groups like, Betsinartparasites, and GUHIT Pinas. His latest works are mostly conceptual art and are inspired by local artists such as Kerby Rosanes. RODRIGUEZ, NICKO Visual Arts: King Again, Innocence A man of science and of art, Nicko “Kino” Rodriguez is a medical student from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health who strives to paint his feelings through imagery. He is inspired by things that tell a story. When he’s not studying the human body, he spends most of his time playing the harp and the ukulele, taking photos, singing, painting-drawing, sculpting, dancing and basically anything creative that he can get his hands on. Expressing himself through art helps him survive the predicaments of medical school. Breathing it in. Painting it out. Living. See more of Kino and his works on instagram, follow him @Kino.lone and @LustLiesLullabies .

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VELASCO, BEATRICE JOY Visual Arts: Late Nights Beatrice Joy Velasco graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a bachelor’s degree in Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino. On the side, she found a new way of storytelling through visual arts.

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Volume 2, Issue 1 January-June 2018  

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