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heights vol. 65 no. 2 Copyright 2018 heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila University. Copyright reverts to the respective ­authors and a­ rtists whose works appear in this issue. No part of this book may be ­reprinted or reproduced in any means whatsoever ­without the written permission of the copyright holder. This publication is not for sale. Correspondence may be addressed to: heights, Publications Room, mvp 202 Ateneo de Manila University po Box 154, 1099 Manila, Philippines Tel. no. (632) 426-6001 loc. 5448 heights - ateneo.org Creative Direction by Dianne L. Aguas and Ninna Lebrilla Cover and Dividers by Ninna Lebrilla Layout by Andrea Adriano, Dianne L. Aguas, Zianne Agustin, Kim Alivia, Rico Cruz, Justine Daquioag, Ninna Lebrilla, Arien Lim, Riana G. Lim, Ninielle Pascual, and Dyan Villegas Typeset in mvb Verdigris


Contents Gémino Abad   1 If I Move From My Self Corinne Victoria F. Garcia   3 breaking the pithos   255 cycle of waking   258 mourning routine (series)   293 only you Nico Santana   4 Is There A Commandment for This Andrea V. Tubig   6 Blue-Haired Girl Who Slurps in Color   100 Jose Nano Joins the Revolution Deirdre Z. Camba   8 Minni Di Virgini Mark Anthony Cayanan   10 I look at my body and see the source of my shame Joshua Uyheng  12 Encounter   109 Before M.C. Escher’s Circle Limit iv Gabrielle Leung  13 Bottomless   30 Sada Abe would last be spotted in a Kansai nunnery Martina Herras   27 in Burgos I loved you most, will you please Gian Lao  28 Cormorants Marco Bartolome   32 On Departing Ta Prohm


Mayelle Nisperos  33 Stacks Tracey dela Cruz   34 When you say home, what do you mean Luis Wilfrido Atienza   51 A Poem Hidden Within the Consolidated Financial Statements of Our 2017 Annual Report Martin Villanueva  53 Housekeeping Niccolo Rocamora Vitug   56 In the Garden Joaquin W. Singson  57 Spineless Catherina Dario   64 The Harvest Jam Pascual   78 The Age of Aquarius Michaela Gonzales Tiglao   79 Heart That Doesn’t Feel   108 Empire of Lost Things Luis Francia   93 Leon Lean in the Lane Cyan Abad-Jugo   95 Kalokohan in Kalookan Carlomar Arcangel Daoana  97 America Jolo Urquico   102 Captivity


Regine Cabato   107 The Refugee, excerpt from Pilgrim Alfred A. Yuson  113 excerpt from The Music Child & The Mahjong Queen Paolo Tiausas   124 Teorya ng Daigdig Jan Patrick Dela Cruz Calupitan  126 Arkimedes Alyssa Gewell Llorin  128 Arkipelago Edgar Calabia Samar   129 Walong Tao   130 Metang Manananggal Noel Clemente   142 Videoke   143 Undas Jerome Ignacio   144 Kublihan Dorothy Claire Parungao   183 Patungo sa mga Alon Ives Baconguis  184 abubotero Allan N. Derain   189 Hinggil sa Kulam at Katuwiran Abner Dormiendo   210 Walang Katapusang Kuwento   212 Mga Maling Panaginip Jonnel Inojosa  216 Pagliban


Christian Benitez   222 Isang Paglikhang Muli sa “Ang Dalawang Punong Matayog” Mirick Paala   228 Samantala Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan   230 Locale 1   234 Place 17   235 Place 21   271 Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After-Flight) (multipart installation)   292 Locale 3 Andrea Micheline A. Ramos   232 2 from You are Here (series) Diana F. David   233 1 from Probinsya Blues Neil John Vildad  236 Katipunan Genesis Gamilong  237 Pagsumamo Jose Viktor M. Tejada   238 girl next door Ninna Lebrilla   239 in a day (series) Yuri Ysabel Tan   245 Girlhood   250 Topography (series)   297 Artifacts of Domesticity Ida de Jesus   246 Does flesh make us human?   (showmewhatyourinsideslooklike)! (diptych)


Jayvee del Rosario   248 beings unto (diptych)   289 A Hauntology of the Displaced Celline Marge Mercado   252 Bedtime Stories   291 A Corner in Kabukichō   294 The King of the Pier   305 Ocean Views Philip De La Torre  256 Self-help Fernando Miguel Lofranco   257 Linear Regression Carl Lorenz G. Cervantes  261 Magnificence John Alexis Balaguer   267 The Break Angelo Juarez   268 Guni-guni (series) Regina Ira Antoinette Geli   276 Bird Studies: Woven (series) JV Calanoc   279 Fleeting (series) Eunice Nicole Arevalo   290 Haeundae, 5:01 am   296 Please don’t jump (Mapo Bridge) Jude Buendia   295 I was looking through a window (and i kept feeling so different)


Editorial There is something about history that continues to enchant, whether it was once directly experienced or the story of it told. For more than six decades heights and its works have found home in this campus, used as an avenue to speak against injustices during Martial Law in its conception as Pugadlawin; as it welcomed the distinct movement of bagay poetry or poetry that fixated on the object as pure subject; and even as it set out to address the growing concerns of pop culture, sexuality, and technology and modernity in art and literature in its special issues. In the span of this time, heights has provided a space for the Atenean to articulate the most intimate of experiences and ideas, with simultaneous experimentation on form and language making further exploration possible. Art and literature in the campus is rife with history—but we must invite you to look beyond this nostalgia. Any sense of enchantment with history is not carried purely by mere acts of recollection, but by the notions of time it subsists in. We invite you to turn, instead, to what is being said in and through history. Time leaves perhaps the most indelible mark on any work of permanence. A historical artifact embodies or is indicative of the period in which it was first made. The rings on the bark of a tree reveal the years it has weathered. In its own way, any work or object articulates the time it was created. In art and literature, time moves the hand to form a response: the unheard is given a voice and will be remembered; truths are better faced or tackled (for even an image or a couple of words can evoke outrage or reassurance or comfort). Creation is its own form of crystallization. Each creative act is done with the intent of permanence, of memorializing in some way the moment in which it was created. In this manner, revisiting historic works resurfaces the sentiments they first attempt to translate. viii


But if art and literature are rich with the histories of a given point in time, what else can they do beyond memorializing many, single moments? It may be soon that many will no longer find the relevance in art and literature, especially when it seems they offer nothing else beyond reiteration. In the fast-paced world of today, where we must struggle to keep up with the constant demands of our personal and public lives, there seems to be no time for art and literature. If they offer solace, it is only momentary. One is left to wonder whether there is something compelling enough to be found in art and literature, enough to spare more than a few moments of reflection and engagement. If art and literature are memorializations, then, like history, they are also a recording of the past. There must be something in memorializing that merits a revisitation, or that merits the need to re-experience a given moment in time. Upon returning to a piece, we are offered its insight, but not only for this sole purpose of re-immersion: after all, if there is no intent to move beyond what has already been done, then there is a danger of glorifying the past because we refuse to confront anything else. As heights enters its 65th year, more than merely celebrating the colorful history of art and literature heights has opened doors to, we focus instead on this notion: that there is still something new to be found in art and literature, just as there is still something meaningful to be said in history. We often think of memory and history as inert and self-contained. Yet as we bring art and literature from these different contexts into dialogue, we not only remember the past or depict the present, but also continue to seek further possibilities in their conversation. Time does not operate in a fixed motion: it is a plane in which multiple moments and realities are dispersed, constantly interacting. As two moments collide, we believe something new can be produced: something that will continue to enrich, inform, and move us to respond. Similarly, when we are confronted by art and literature narrated from different realities, we are also confronted by the perspectives of their narrators. History is not told from a single point of view, but from many, and like history, art and literature may shed truth ix


or debunk it. We find the urgency in this continuous immersion, especially when threats such as historical revisionism and “fake news” endanger not only our understanding of the present, but even our larger understanding of our nation and identity. Our critical engagement with works not only becomes an engagement with the moment in which they were created, but also an attempt into engaging with the point of view from which they began. This exploration on the notion of time can be found in some of the works in this folio. Time can be seen as a burden with its vicious cycles and consequences. In Catherina Dario’s short story “The Harvest”, the lives of a town’s people are at the mercy of a boy who will do anything to save his younger brother. Ida de Jesus’ “Does flesh make us human? (showmewhatyourinsideslooklike)” confronts the viewer with one’s mortality and the march of time. While these works must come to terms with the limits over which they have control over time, works like “Pagliban” by Jonnel Inojosa, “Walong Tao” by Edgar Calabia Samar, and “If I Move From My Self ” by Gemino Abad suspend time in order to investigate it. “Pagliban” is an attempt to understand a family’s history of crossing over, of leaving and returning. “Walong Tao” interrogates usual forms of Filipino narratives. In “If I Move From My Self ”, the persona must reconcile the desire to step out of his comfort zone with the discomfort that may arise from this act of distancing. Time can also be a resolution. As it is embraced and understood, it now looks onwards—and towards a possibility. In Alfred Marasigan’s “Flight, Mid-Flight, and Icarus (After-Flight)”, even hope cannot be trampled by man’s pride, even as doom is foretold. The result is an interesting play on the transcendence of time and ephemerality. And in the midst of traditional constraints, a realization is made in Nico Santana’s “Is There a Commandment for This”, one that finally resolves the questions the persona has long since been asking. Each work—each piece of art, poem, and prose—in this folio, and even outside of this folio, will soon be its own piece in time, recorded and preserved, as in the grooves of a tree. While these x


works may serve as a source of nostalgia, we hope you may look back on them as well with an anticipation akin to that at the prospect of discovery—in the prospect of unearthing, rifling, and making sense of a history in light of a more recent context, and this context in its history. To even go beyond this: to resort to any means of creation as a way of response, continuing in the creation of multiple other possibilities, always searching, but with each possibility leaving behind sentiments even more hopeful and satisfying than the last. On its 65th anniversary, heights celebrates and commemorates the years art and literature has endured, but above all carries the hope that they continue to inspire creation for the sake of continuous involvement: in the current times, in meeting others, and in plotting many futures. Through art and literature, it is our hope you may never cease finding reasons to create, and to ceaselessly enchant. Michaela Gonzales Tiglao January 2018

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[Works Divider]


gémino abad

If I Move From My Self If now I move from my Self, how far can I go? It may be like a death awhile, mere infinitesimal gasp, as slope to fall, body to corpse. Yet the sheer attempt perhaps may cleanse a habit of measure to see anew a familiar horizon as when clouds break and a peak reshapes the sky; Or uncover a deep intent, a longing which has had no text, a bit of Infinity that burns my flesh, then find my ground nowhere I stand amid the ruins of former speech. O, is choice lost in Time’s ceaseless tide, undertow of history’s williwaw? What cresting wave offers raft to cross island to island? Is there another ocean yet? What polestar to my quest? What warrant in whose alphabet to seize the oracle to my Self? What spirit foils my tongue, disfigures the undiscovered land? 1


Aiei! my scripts, cemetery of speeches, forgeries of many deaths. Yet there, there throbs distance—a flame! my Self to its nativity, my country to its mythology.

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corinne victoria f. garcia

breaking the pithos the thin crack borne from the crossfire of the relentless wine-dark sea and the proud marble, the lone soldier’s face patched with coal and bleary from drink to forget the burning of Persepolis, the city of Atlantis against the foe that is time whose mechanical tides remind us we will sink— frailty, wear, lassitude these all beget Eris and soon we will break into malevolence

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nico santana

Is There A Commandment for This The priest in my baptismal photos has No warmth to offer me. He can give only Oil for my forehead, a prayer, a tongue, Burning with God’s praises—these are The promises that give us strength enough, If only we would believe in them, if only We could understand that contradiction Crumbles before faith once we tear all the Heaven out of it. I think, sometime ago, We made the holy spirit a stolen voice: a Worship song that we have forgotten the Meaning of, have weathered the words Too thin and emptied of any value— Like the way my cle teacher told me how The Sacred Heart beats tender, but that is a Luxury too divine for our kind—to allow our Emotions to be boundless, and so now Everything has a name, and some of them Mean “wrong,” and people like me wear These labels like brands upon our palms Whenever we find the courage to pray. A younger me stands in a grade school Classroom, and it is a boy who is the First person to make him feel home out of His own blood. How fast, the teachers Come with their doctrine, with their Bible verses, preaching: no, do not smile At him, you speak only with your fists

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And clenched teeth, there is not enough God in man to fight the devil in what You are feeling. Is it any wonder, then, that when we were Finally alone, and I had the chance to Tell you I loved you, instead, I held a Weapon in my hand, and said nothing at all? Was it then that the great wind ran through Our room, and I became so vastly aware of How we spoke the same language, yet we Understood nothing at all?

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andrea v. tubig

Blue-Haired Girl Who Slurps in Color The blue-haired girl with the sagging breasts and cheap lipstick wakes up to the scent of the city. Remnants of last night’s fiasco stain the bed: mashed banana, menstrual blood, bus tickets, empty cans of Extra Joss, a finger. A Rey Valera song from next door tickles her ears. She is home.

* The blue-haired girl believes in the following propositions: Soy milk makes your breasts larger. The whiskers of an old tabby cat can cure cancer. The sun does not allow idiosyncrasies. Pastries are the worst peace offerings ever. Yet the Bible says forgiveness is but a choice.

* The blue-haired girl has a strong aversion to mascots and plastic balloons and men who wear pink shirts. She knows at least three people who’ve had their nipples sucked by Ely Buendia. She, however, knows more than three people who’d willingly suck her nipples.

* The blue-haired girl once stepped on a baby mouse in front of a doughnut shop. It would be the first of many murders, albeit the only accidental. She whistles, tosses the mouse’s tail to the motherless kittens of Krus na Ligas, a whisker stuck to the nail of her pinky.

*

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The blue-haired girl fingers herself to the beat of Rivermaya’s “Mabuhay.” When she grows up she wants to be Raimund Marasigan’s mistress. Every morning, they would dance to Castaway, every morning she would dye his beard a different color, every morning he would bite her cheek and slap her bum and she would cry. But only half-heartedly.

* The blue-haired girl dreams of sun burnt flamingoes and naked men diving into pools of guyabano juice. Metaphors are not her strongest suit. Silence, however, is never an option. Pieces of broken colored glass pinned to her feet, she stirs. Relief leaks through her veins.

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deirdre z. camba

Minni Di Virgini “Saint Agatha is often depicted in art as holding her severed breasts on a platter. Later, some mistakenly took the breasts for loaves of bread, which led to the practice of blessing bread on her feast day.” — The Catholic Exchange

When the townspeople realized that Saint Agatha couldn’t possibly be holding two glazed dinner rolls on a platter so gold, they shimmied into history and discovered two holes where virgin breasts used to be. All of them Thomases, they stuck fingers into a mess of mangled flesh and muscle, giggled at the sounds their thumbs made pulsing against the negative space. They went back to their kitchens in consecrated faith, bathed every bloody phalange with dish soap and warm water, taking the discovery to mean: flour your counters. Bless something so much bolder

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than white loaves. Press tiny vanilla cakes and dessert cheeses into marzipan domes and top every confection, each a prayer unto itself, with a single candied cherry. Sugar-gem, as bright and shiny as the fire that burned in Agatha’s sacred heart, when two wounds were pincered open on her chest, casting body into shock, spirit into rapture, while trapped in the brothel prison where she refused to part her legs. In a feast at the plaza, hand everyone a baked breast and let the girl-saint’s holiness wash over every believer. Hold her sweetened sacrifice in your unworthy fingers. Stain your lips venerating every glossy inch of it. Send your fortitude in waves, skyward, where Agatha is free and praying for you, hands clutched to clavicle, rosy virgin toes, digging into the soft floors of heaven.

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mark anthony cayanan

I look at my body and see the source of my shame: As Teresa of Ávila as Sasha Jansen My soul, steeped in my pride, is one of those | straws floating round a whirlpool and is sucked | into the center, where everything calm | is the body found wrenched from You, its love | subdued with such violence it’s endured | as does the theater of streets where mothers | rifle through tabloids for missing persons | without whom I’d feel joy so absolute it pummels my life into tenderness | like a house seized by fire: because no one | is in me, the wind moves freely through me | my face a fist-sized wonder of my God | why am I sad as a gay man grown old | my Better, I wed you to my questions

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We’ve arranged our lives to be just as unhappy | as we let everyone see it, the bald laughter | creeping below the hysteria we’re showcased in | a cinema, timing our gasps with everyone | watching someone’s troubles collapse our ha-ha eyes | once the spirits settle in us a violin | plays must we be convinced it means something to some | times a false start we’re almost safe with a couple extra drinks and it’s when we’re trailing time we’re most | dangerous to ourselves when we’ve been made fallen | cold our names resound like pricked balloons, who are you | is there anyone you can do so nobody | looks at you that way or learns us we refuse we | refuse one last loss, and everyone will be dead in four years that’s all we’re waiting for, isn’t it | something else has come into his eyes, the newest | reason for his punctual angers let’s say he claims | this mystical right to cut our legs off but whose | right is it to ridicule us again and now | when you’re crippled and selling love songs at the bridge | it’s not strange how unjust it gets—sunlight this one | afternoon, then another, and another, and who are you to want more from this is a joke we | rest our hands on his chest, pray for his impatient | soul or push him backward like a door we come to | if only for these mornings we can pretend to | overlook the long nights who says we can’t escape | our fate? I’ll share mine with you, pry it out of me

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joshua uyheng

Encounter And finally, the prophet touches the angel, touches the wood burning in his outstretched hand, the wood glowing, the wood burnt black but nonetheless glowing, and loving the tenacious heat pressing against his hand receiving it, something alive, something holy, in an act resembling ceremony but feeling nothing at all like ceremony, not reverence, not even faith, not the deepening turn in the core of the flesh, like an infinite wheel threshing wheat by the river, the one that always means the presence of the holy, not hunger, not want, not need, not the least nuance of pleasure— but as if something in the air had changed, become real, something long after the light and the raging fire had gone away. What fills that new space.

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gabrielle leung

Bottomless For breakfast, I have 91 calories: one large egg and the simplest recipe I know. It goes without thinking, even before I take the first swig of coffee. Black, no sugar. Two calories. My mother taught me the secret to perfect scrambled eggs is a dash of salt. Other people add milk, but there are six calories in one splash of milk. A splash is about half a teaspoon. Easy to misportion, and letting the salt sit in the pan for a minute does the trick well enough. The salt retains moisture and the eggs remain tender. I add cayenne pepper for a kick. This is a holdover from when I was younger and couldn’t stand the taste of eggs; it was the only way my parents could persuade me to eat. The habit stuck. Anyway, there are only one-and-a-half calories in a pinch of cayenne, and the spice tricks the body into feeling fuller than it really is. A teaspoon of butter would help the eggs not to stick while cooking, but that’s another 31 calories. A teaspoon of olive oil is 40 calories, even worse. A nonstick pan adds zero calories and does the same thing, anyway. The induction cooker just needs to be on its lowest setting, warming up slowly before you crack the egg into it. Scrambled eggs become rubbery when cooked too quickly, and there’s always the risk of burning. I found that out the hard way. The whole process should take less than ten minutes—cooking is muscle memory now. When I first started cooking for myself, I would think of home every time. The day my mother first taught me all of this, a hitch in my throat. These days, I have it down to a science. I breathe easy. Cooking is simple; eating is a different story, and something I’ve always had trouble with. On the bad days, I clean off the plate and still feel bottomless. There is always the temptation to fry up another egg, or a slice of toast, or a piece of ham, or even just a glass of milk. This is only a matter of 13


willpower: a rumbling stomach is easily silenced by recalculating how many calories each morsel would entail. I say those numbers like a mantra. I try to remember I am stronger than this flesh. I keep going. I would say it’s the challenge of it, the accomplishment of losing two extra pounds. If I keep it going long enough, I can trace my fingers over the extra indentations revealed over my ribcage as though I were carving away at a hulking mass of marble to reveal something trapped inside. I like that thought. On the worst days, I can hardly eat at all. Any consumption is excessive; the body trains itself to resist even the food it needs to survive. The calories become second nature, the mantra repeating and repeating and repeating. When swallowing the scrambled eggs brings tears to my eyes, I know to stop. The hunger passes, after a while, once you’ve forgotten how to feel it. This is dangerous, and a beginner’s mistake. The pain is there for a reason. Once it disappears, the body is delirious. We are veering into territory where all might be discovered. The fast must be broken, at least for a day or so, the body coaxed back into eating before the whole thing can begin again. * When I try to explain myself, the words get stuck at the base of my chest, sitting right above the diaphragm that cannot quite propel them outwards. It’s the look of pity that I can’t stand, people’s eyes soft and kind as though I were a danger to myself, or worse, sizing me up as an illustrative example, just another victim, as though I didn’t know any better, poor thing. This is the easy explanation: if a Barbie doll were of human size, she would be 6’0” and a little over a hundred pounds. Young girls are just particularly susceptible to eating disorders, probably because society sets them such unattainable beauty standards from the moment they are born. Simple enough to blame the magic bullet media for implanting the idea into their minds; blame the overly photoshopped magazine ads or the rail-thin

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supermodels looking like they could be toppled over by a passing breeze, blame size zero dresses and calorie-counting apps. It only makes sense. There isn’t anything to the truth of it that can be understood in a way that makes sense. The truth of it is that I decided one day to skip a meal, and I found I liked the feeling of my stomach flattening in on itself. The way my insides clenched made me feel in control and nearly indelible. The next day, I did it again. This continued until I decided to stop eating entirely. It was merely a test of willpower. That’s the long and short of it. I would like to write myself to a better explanation. * I suppose the way to begin would be to tell you that most people hardly ever think about how impossible it is to escape food. When you decide to stop eating, the world is already set up against you: the smell wafts through the air, advertisements for dripping burgers are plastered on billboards, school functions are scheduled around breaks for food, you arrive at every location to greetings of kumain ka na?, and even your own body is an agent of your betrayal. The hungrier you get, the easier it becomes to lose your hold. My family loves to eat. We love to cook as well. During the holiday season, the whole extended family comes to our Baguio home for Christmas. Each meal is planned out like a week-long fiesta, rows and rows of serving dishes laid out on a big buffet table for everyone to pick out from. We go down the line picking out portions we want, taking a serving of anything that looks nice, no need to worry. This is the part I always dreaded, trying to be inconspicuous as I took the smallest morsels. Sometimes an aunt or uncle would joke about me being on a diet. I would wave them off with an excuse about coming back for seconds later. If my hand was forced, I would spit the bits into a tissue paper. A few times, I ran to the bathroom right after the meal to see if the

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damage could be undone. I was always afraid that the smell of bile would linger on my skin. I never enjoyed throwing up as much as I did keeping track of what I was eating––perhaps it was the unsightliness of sticking fingers up my own throat, the involuntary spasms as the tears started streaming down my face. It never stuck. I thought about how easy it would be to get rid of all the restrictions, but that made it feel too easy, in a way. I stuck to the excuses and diversions. It would be most difficult to get through if my father were carving the roast beef, everyone’s favorite meal of the season. He always made sure I received one of the largest cuts on my plate. My father is the best cook in our family—when I think of him, I picture him home early from work, stirring a pot or taking a tray out of the oven, the smell of warm food in the air. At the beginning of the holiday break, he and my grandmother lay out a calendar and plot which dishes to prepare for which meals. Tita is bringing her homemade chilli but they’re arriving only on the 27th, so we might as well pair it with the hotdogs and have it on our New Year picnic. Tito’s friend opened a new Spanish restaurant, so we can go try their paella this Saturday. The strawberries will be expensive once the tourists start arriving, so Ate needs to make the strawberry shortcake already. Cooking was a celebration, and just as much about tenderness. I think of my dad asking me to mix cake batter, telling me to be careful not to spill. This was once I started getting enlisted into the Christmas food rush, and started learning that the cooking was more about trust than the food itself. Last year, I was even assigned responsibility over some of the dishes myself, a sign that I was a good enough cook to entrust the baked potatoes to. You could get full on the smell alone. I learned that to remain in the kitchen was to hide in plain sight. I am ashamed to admit there is a part of me that still feels a petty sort of triumph as I watch the rest of my family consume all of the calories I work so hard to avoid. When my brothers’ favorite cousin licks his plate clean of chocolate syrup, my gut churns in disgust. We’ve always teased him for being so fat; his name rhymed with pig, 16


so there was no difficulty there. Unlike all my brothers and other male cousins, he never got his growth spurt. His cheeks are still soft and his fingers still chubby. He just can’t seem to help himself. The rest of my family is the same, more or less. They all heap their plates with food. It’s no wonder that heart disease is so common among our relatives. I click my tongue as my cousin goes back for another serving, and I put my hardly touched plate in the sink with the rest of the food-stained dishes. I go to bed hungry. * There is a corner of the internet you would never understand if you haven’t yet been there yourself. There, a group of bloggers talk about Ana, ostensibly a friend. In many ways, she is. Ana is short for anorexia nervosa. There are black and white photographs of bone-thin legs in black tights, or backs arched to better display a protruding ribcage and hip bones jutting out of skin. A recipe for meals under a hundred calories is coupled with motivational quotes about determination and pictures labelled thinspiration. Someone writes a list of reasons to keep going. It starts with being able to see the gap between your thighs. It ends with no one will ever love you if you stop now. Some girls smile in the pictures they post of themselves, at peace in their control. Most of the girls don’t show their faces, or else look into the camera with a pensive expression on their faces, eyes blank. A site called Thin Intenions lays down the rules: the first is that you begin by setting more rules for yourself. After that comes a litany of suggestions. Don’t eat anything you don’t know the nutritional information of. Don’t eat after 6:00 p.m. Don’t eat before 3:00 p.m. Don’t eat anything with more than three grams of fat. Don’t exercise too much, muscle mass adds weight just as fat does. Don’t eat while distracted. Don’t eat anything bigger than a cup. Don’t eat everything on your plate. Don’t eat anything white. Don’t eat in secret. Don’t eat in public. Another rule is that this needs to be concealed from the rest of the 17


world. They wouldn’t understand. That’s what this space is for—it’s a support system. Most people here are strangely encouraging, once you get used to the strangeness. Everyone has a handful of tricks to dole out to newbies who haven’t figured out how to achieve the desirable level of slenderness. It’s simple, really, someone tells me. You count your calories and you always eat less than what your body needs to take in. It’s only a matter of strength. A girl whose only photograph is of a weighing scale that reads “Too Fat” says you can do it, I believe in you. The general tone of conversation here takes on a sisterly camaraderie, a kind of tenderness. When they speak to themselves though, they hold nothing back. You’re just lazy. They call this meanspo, short for mean inspiration. This is done in the name of strengthening resolve. How can you bear to live with yourself looking like that? It’s a matter of motivation, ultimatums. If you don’t stop eating those granola bars, you should fast for a month. If you don’t get your stomach any flatter, you need to do situps until you fall asleep. If you don’t lose another five pounds, you should kill yourself. Even as the control is so obviously slipping away, it needs to be reasserted. The most important rule of all is that Ana is the center of your life now: friends and family must be pushed aside if they get in the way; your routine is built around exercise hours and low-calorie snacks; anything else must go. Do you want this enough? * Perhaps this is the necessary beginning: I was a fat baby. My parents liked to tell the story of me as a toddler hiding behind the sofa while eating a bag full of M&Ms. The pictures are there to prove it. If they weren’t, I might not have believed the stories. For as far back as my memory goes, I was a skinny child, boyishly thin and bony. I took a strange sort of pride in my metabolism. Relatives would pinch my shoulder and remark on how thin I was. I was always being told that I needed to eat more. Yet they always sounded pleased and 18


even envious, longing for the days when they were just as mindless about their softness. That was how I learned that some bodies are just to be preferred over others. I don’t ever recall comparing my body to a fashion advertisement or a television star. That’s what most people with eating disorders talk about. I liked flipping through the glossy pages of the women’s magazines my mother left lying around sometimes, but I preferred reading through the articles, which talked about interior design or even sex. I imagined with a kind of bemused horror myself in an adult life, packing lunch boxes and rearranging furniture. The tips on dieting were there, but I never really had any use for reading them— the future life I imagined for myself was effortless. I would be able to maintain the dispassionate relationship I had with food while still remaining slender. It was never so much about losing weight as it was about delicate gold jewelry framing a collarbone, or yoga pants and pilates classes, or just being the kind of woman who could whip up a three-course dinner party for ten. What I do remember is one of my elementary schoolmates confiding in me one day that my best friend was pretty, but she was a fatso. I didn’t ever tell her this information, but for her part, my friend seemed to already understand. She used to prod at my shoulder and admire how sharply all my bones pressed against my skin. Her baon always had vegetables. She turned her nose up at them, but ate anyway. I don’t know if it was her parents putting her on a diet or if she herself had the self-awareness at only seven or eight years old to figure out how to best deal with her body. I never asked. * I am still hesitant to say that I had an eating disorder, because I have never felt disordered. Things were always under control. I told myself it was my decision every time. If it were not my decision, I wonder if it would absolve me of the blame? I think of childhood, a time before all of this. My mother waking me up in the middle of the night because my brother had 19


come knocking on their door saying he was hungry. She was never the best cook, but even now, living away from home, I think about the fried rice she would make us. The recipe, I suppose, was nothing extraordinary. It was just some leftover rice, egg, garlic, and soy sauce. If I were so inclined, it would be easy enough to make for myself. But I think of sitting across the black marble kitchen counter and I think of her portioning out the rice carefully into the nicest bowls we had, as though it were a special occasion. My brother and I both sitting on wooden stools, spooning careless mouthfuls one after another. I can’t recall my mother ever eating with us. Only her telling me not to waste the food, carefully scooping up the remaining grains of rice herself. She would tell me stories about the farmers in the communities she worked with, how difficult it was to plant the rice stalks and how many people in this country went without mothers and nice bowls and midnight fried rice. We are so lucky, she would tell me. Her name was Ana, too. I still think of her voice whenever I push away a half-eaten meal because I’ve eaten too much already. It is a waste borne of excess, a hunger chosen, which is perhaps why I resist figuring myself as an object of sympathy instead of an object of reckless pride. * Or here, where it started: when puberty hit me, my body began to change against my will. Those sharp angles my friend had admired began to soften. I grew a little taller, but also fleshier on my chest, my hips, my thighs. My flat stomach began to turn convex. All of a sudden my body was different, and I would trip over the extra length in my limbs or turn too fast in tight corners and catch the edge of my hip on the table. The simplest explanation would be that I saw fat settling onto my bones and realized I knew what had to come next. I knew the deal. And yet I have always pulled back from this one-way justification. Call it pride, I suppose. There must be something more to it than just an impressionable girl mimicking some television starlets. 20


The other day, I found the words for it in a book by Susan Bordo where she calls weight unbearable. In the passage that stuck out to me, Bordo talked about eating disorders as a refusal of puberty and thereby womanhood. Refusing to eat was a symbolic rejection of the womanly body, as the body withers and remains an androgynous child forever. This is why, she argues, so many eating disorders begin around puberty. The flesh must become the site of resistance to a future that is at the end of the day inevitable. For the moment, the future can be delayed, or at least ignored, resisted. Menstruation stops when you get below a certain level of body fat. I knew this fact well enough. In our freshman year of high school, we had to take a physical fitness exam. This included calculating our BMI. I found I was underweight, and our teacher explained to us what would happen when the body functions on too little nourishment. One of those symptoms seemed to me an easy sign that I was on the right track. Every month I waited for the bleeding not to come. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my body as the site of a battle I was orchestrating. In those days, I didn’t yet have Bordo’s terminology, but perhaps the thoughts were already there. In the moment, I thought of it in terms of myself and my softness, the weakness of the flesh against the strength of the will that must have meant some kind of value. Eating disorders are more common among people with perfectionist or obsessive qualities. It becomes easier to get caught in the spiral, to keep going without any particular cause. I did it because I had already been doing it. Because I hadn’t yet failed. * I knew that if I fainted at school or in front of my parents, this would all be taken out of my hands. I stopped eating just to the point of no return, and went no further from there. I skipped breakfast because I said I was running late. I didn’t have lunch because I said I had a heavy breakfast. I passed on the shawarma my friends bought as we walked home, saying that my parents were expecting me to eat 21


dinner at home. As soon as I got home, I would go to my room and say I wasn’t hungry. Sometimes I would pretend to fall asleep, so I could be asked less questions. Every couple of days I would have to eat dinner at home so as to not raise any suspicion. I would be normal, for a while. Once, I tried to push my luck in between meals. In my junior year of high school, a friend had remarked that my new glasses made my face look rounder. She was telling me about the diet she was going on, and said that I should try it with her. After that, I went almost five straight days without much more to eat than the glass of milk my dad insisted I drink before going to school on Monday and the packet of Skyflakes I had stashed in the bottom of my pillowcase for the middle of the night moments of weakness. Even that had ended in a shivering run to the toilet bowl to try and cough up the crumbs. At some point, it stops being about counting how many calories you need to eat and starts becoming how many calories you deserve. The answer was always fewer than what you had already eaten. The next day of no eating, I took a separate jeepney home because my friends wanted to stop to buy fishball from the store behind the computer shop. Walking from the jeepney stop to my house, I took my usual shortcut cutting through a little mini-mall instead of climbing up the flight of stairs that my body was too tired for. The world turned black. I woke up and suddenly a few people had gathered over me. A woman had taken out her cellphone, asking me if I needed to call an ambulance or my parents. Her eyes were on the checkered yellow of my school uniform dotted with dirt where I had slid on the floor. I waved them all off, thanking them for their concern. I made up some excuse about being diabetic and having low blood sugar. I said I was fine. I had only passed out for a moment; the security guard hadn’t even gotten there yet. I hadn’t hit my head in the fall. I would buy myself a sandwich or a candy bar to tide me over until I got home. The woman seemed skeptical, but allowed me to dust myself off and stride with faux confidence to the nearby 7-Eleven. I sat in the 22


store staring at the display of snack foods for longer than I would like to admit to myself. It was my own fault. I picked the lowest calorie protein bar and walked home. I never ate it. * There is a video I like to watch sometimes of a ballerina who ate thousands of calories in a day because she exercised so much. I was jealous of the ease with which she could eat a corndog. Those were among the foods that I had cut out of my diet on the grounds of being too overly processed and not worth the calories. I always thought that dancers went through the same kind of hunger that I did. They always seemed to be so lithe on their feet and so light. I used to imagine ballerinas hunched over a few pieces of lettuce as they tried to lose another few pounds. This woman was eating an entire steak by herself, and she didn’t seem to worry about it at all. A boy I was dating at the time mentioned that he found it attractive when girls weren’t shy about food. Exasperated, he turned to me and asked me to explain why girls thought that boys wanted just skin and bones. I wasn’t sure what to say to that. He said he couldn’t stand it when girls just picked at their meals. What was really appealing, he said, is if she can split a whole pizza with me. I clutched my wrist, wrapping my thumb and index finger against the widest part where the round bone protrudes. I thought of the girl he had a crush on before he started dating me, who couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds, her shirt collar framing a delicate collarbone. I only wanted to seem to beat the stereotype, and so I agreed that I was nothing like those girls who cared too much about what they ate. I tapped at the bone in my wrist, feeling it echo back. The irony, Bordo says, of imagining the anorectic as a rebel is that her attempt at rebellion is her own downfall. In the desire to reject womanhood, to be taken seriously, she only wastes her time undermining the very control she tries to cultivate. I wonder how much of it is simply buying into the training to take up as little space as possible; we become ourselves instruments of our own control, 23


in some way responsible. It is this control that raises the stakes, that makes failure all the more imminent. After all, the point is that as much as she resists her body, her body remains victorious. There is nothing more devastating at losing when something of value was at stake. What the girls on the pro-Ana blogs crave is not only control over their urges. They want a control that comes wrapped in coolness, a struggle that never appears to be difficult at all. You forge your own chains as a symbol of your strength, then pretend the world could see you as anything but small. I wanted to be thin, but I wanted most of all not to care, to be at home in my own bones, light as they could be. Perhaps I could forgive myself for that. * Another partial explanation: there is a truth to family resemblances that goes beyond physical appearances. We sit across the table from each other and learn to echo every off-hand comment, to hold the spoon in the right hand and the fork in the left, to mimic the sloped shoulders and scrunched forehead, to reach for the hot sauce or the lemon wedge, to shrink or expand, to look for what we see across from us within ourselves. As a child, I was fascinated by how much my maternal grandmother could eat. I used to sit across the table and watch her scarf down heaping plates of crab and rice and chocolate cake for dessert. Still, she never seemed to gain weight. Every time I see her now, she is smaller. She has started to shrink into herself. I watch her appetite wane in a matter of weeks, as though she were making up for lost time. The doctor says this is to be expected with age. I think about the days she would take chocolate bars and keep them under her pillows for a midnight snack. Once, in the San Juan side street that my father grew up in, my grandfather told me about the day he married my grandmother. His eyes lit up with pride when he described reaching around her waist with only his two hands. She chimed in to say she had barely 24


even weighed a hundred pounds. My grandmother was always a small lady; her feet were tiny and her appetite was even tinier. At eleven years old, my body was already beginning to swell. I longed to be such a small and precious thing. In the house I grew up in, we had no full-length mirrors—I do not know if this was by accident or design, but I remember finding this strange as a pre-teen. My mother used to stand on a bathroom stool to see herself better. There were lines settling in at the corners of her eyes. As I watched from the doorway, she hiked up her shirt and pinched at the rolls of fat settling in on her midsection. The next day, she loaded up a backpack full of stones. She swung it onto her back and walked up and down the stairs for hours every day, until she felt her body had been forced into submission. Evolutionary biologists have proposed a physiological origin for eating disorders. In hindsight this makes sense: like eye color or body build, there must have been some gene that brought all of this about. Doing the research for this essay, I found an article that talked about a gene that could turn off hunger. It was a defective adaptation to the starvation response. In times of lack, our ancestors would have benefited from being able to shut down hunger. It would have meant they could keep going long after the hunger would have just been a hindrance in carrying about their hunting and foraging. It meant control. I have always thought of myself in power. Scrolling through the blogs that label themselves pro-Ana, I know there is a difference between me and them. I can stop when I want to, when things become dangerous, when the situation calls for it. And yet I kept going. If I am honest, part of me was afraid I would never relearn how to end. * As unremarkably as it all started, I stopped. It would be more narratively satisfying to say there was a hospitalization or an intervention, but the truth is more mundane than all those things. 25


One day I decided to stop eating, and one day I decided I would start again. There was nothing more to it, I suppose, than waking up one morning and seeing no edge to the hunger, seeing past the illusion of control. I could conceal it as much as I wanted; it takes over your life until there is no turning back. There isn’t a line to define the point of no return, no bottom to the cravings. There are only spirals, curling in on themselves tighter and tighter and tighter until you’ve blocked yourself into the center. Once you’ve reached it, it’s already too late. Even how simply this decision seems to have been made casts doubt onto that. If it was so easy for me to stop, maybe I did have control after all. The explanations are never enough to make sense of the compulsion, let alone enough to guide anyone out of the spiral entirely. Not even myself, I suppose. To say so would be disingenuous. I think of Ana, I think of the girls in black and white photographs with their sullen faces, I think of one in every hundred girls who falls into the same cycle, I think of my elementary-school friend nicknamed fatso, I think of even myself, when I was younger and had none of the words for any of this other than a vague self-hatred and an insistence to regain control—they need more than just a clever explanation to change anything. The language of control is insufficient. The difficult truth is: there are still bad days and the worst. I keep a calorie counter on my phone, but the total amount of food I allow myself is far more reasonable. Most days I don’t even need to log anything on it. I find myself pacing back and forth in my room to hit 10,000 steps every day, but that’s just a healthy amount of exercise. I keep myself hydrated. I force myself to meet my own gaze in the mirror. I feel the tightening of guilt and bile at the bottom of my throat, the reflex heaving whenever I eat more than I know I should, but I can resist the urge to run to the bathroom, I can stay put. I try to.

26


martina herras

in Burgos I loved you most, will you please look at this, look at what I let you do to me, balancing on stones that kiss the rapids of the Arga. Remember tradition. Remember the pilgrimage. We don’t do this just to reach the end of the Compostela. Here we are to feel the entering and leaving of water from all sides of the body, a greeting cut short, desire taking the shape of a lover who is not lover, so convinced of other routes that could have been taken to keep the body from the heavy of holding water. To take the path where one can live without fear of drowning. To become a pilgrim and settle by the fire to dry the feet. To be free of want.

27


gian lao

Cormorants éľœ There are cormorants in the dark now splashing their beaks into the water. There are boats in a river in Gifu in the pitch black of 9 p.m., bodies on the concrete banks watching work get done. Not every moment of silence can mean something. Not every noise is meaningless. Not every distance is a bird on a tree behind the only church in the city, a bird you know not by species, but by song. Not everyone asks what it sings of but we do, and I am only thinking of the three kinds of tea in our house, the lone glow on the far mountain and the politics of midnight in this city. It is raining and the sky is full of invisible clouds, rain the only proof of what covers the stars. I used to be an entire sea

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away. But now I am proximate like the Venetian blinds, the steaming kettle. I thought of this body only as a heart with a pickaxe, pickaxing its way into a greater, warmer center. A heart that discovered maybe something, but only kept quiet, built a house in the wilderness. What happens if it discovers only a silence there too? What happens if my body is but a ribcage? What happens if I was looking all along not at the ocean, but at the farthest versions of you?

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gabrielle leung

Sada Abe would last be spotted in a Kansai nunnery all her hair shorn off. Sada the poison woman. Sada the unphrased question, the answer always yes. Sada as she descends the staircase to uproarious laughter, striking the banister and staring into the resulting silence. Sada the always watched, always beyond your gaze. Sada, prisoner number eleven. Sada in the photograph, smiling in her disheveled kimono, clutching at her purse. Sada in love. Sada, planning to jump off Mount Ikoma. Sada, tucking the lover’s severed penis into the folds of her kimono. Sada who could not bear not to have him. Sada waiting until the body stiffened. Sada tying her sash around her lover’s neck as he gets off and asks her to keep going. Sada, always at ease. Sada who loved him. Sada who listens to her lover speak of his wife. Sada in the throes of ecstasy. Sada waving the knife at her lover. Sada who insisted she loved him. Sada in a teahouse in Shibuya. Sada beloved by her older employer. Sada giving in as desired. Sada as a restaurant server. Sada as a brothel whore. Sada as a geisha. Sada I had made up my mind. Sada my body is already filthy.

30


Sada I don’t care anymore. Sada as she was wrestled to the ground by her father’s friend as he forced himself into her. Sada the forgotten. Sada the youngest daughter of a tatami weaver, watching her father as he counted the exact number of stitches, careful to lay each piece just so— bad fortune streams in with the wrong slant of light.

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marco bartolome

On Departing Ta Prohm “Stone and wood clasp each other in grim hostility; yet all is silent and still, without any visible movement to indicate their struggle as if they were wrestlers suddenly petrified, struck motionless in the middle of a fight, the rounds in this battle were not measured by minutes, but by centuries.” — The Official Website for Tourism of Cambodia

Though covered with moss, what remains still knows to tell stories of the Buddha. How the silk-cotton cradles the carved stone and the roots frame bas-reliefs. Our guide, however, does not tell us how the city of Angkor fell or what riches the temple once contained. Not much is left beyond the walls and trees I hesitate to even touch— sculptures and artifacts pillaged over centuries. Instead, it is only sediment that tells of how even the great city could not weather drought and monsoon rain. This death, yet still I cannot comprehend its permanence: Did Jayavarman VII build knowing silk-cotton would one day rule.

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mayelle nisperos

Stacks after Daniel Berehulak The land here is parceled off in grids. An imitation Pieta weeps at the entrance as mud pools around my feet. Behind her, a rice sack covers a patch of dirt, a cross painted at the head. Fresh goat shit. At my grandmother’s grave, a boy offers to scrub the stains. Ignoring the mention of rain, he scales the tombs to fetch his pail and rag. On the other side of the cemetery, his father waits by pristine mausoleums for change from generous mourners to buy a pack of cigarettes. A crowd of tenants gather by the store, sharing tools and a smoke. The radio is tuned in to the news: another raid, another suspect, the Star Wax jingle, an election promise amended, elementary classes suspended— Every day, the boy climbs higher and higher, skipping over his own grandmother and all the land they have left. I wonder if we learned to shape our grief for easy stacking, so we can still be building long after the harvest. But skeletons never make for good foundations, the dead season drowning bones into little more than fertilizer for the next crop cycle. Before the funeral, the mortician told me how in a town this small, death is a steadier economy than sugar or politics. How his only complaint is the smell. The static clears with an imitation Pieta weeping, unable to fold the boy as small as possible. As the world continues to spin, the cornerstone slips out of place; the collapse one by one.

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In 2010, my grandmother died from a cold that never went away. The creek beside our house had flooded during the storm Ondoy and submerged the entire first storey and part of the second. I had been at school that day for our sportsfest and was stranded overnight along with a hundred or so other students. My then-boyfriend was with me, and as the rest of my family tried to survive the storm, I was kissing him in the dark corners of our school. When I got home the next day, I only saw the devastation left behind and listened to the accounts of family members who had narrowly missed death. They had crossed the flood to reach higher ground by clutching onto a rope tied to this pole and that pole by some barangay tanod.

*

When the engine starts humming under my feet, I start to fall asleep. I like the quiet drone of machinery taking me to

When you say home, what do you mean

tracey dela cruz


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Everyone wept during Nanay’s funeral. Even my most stoic uncles, even my mother who usually never let her brothers see any sign of weakness. It didn’t really come as a surprise when Nanay died, her health having steadily deteriorated in the days leading up to her final breath. When we came home after the funeral, it was clear there was nothing left to love about Barasoain. My mother was apprehensive about moving because it was her first time to physically remove herself from her parent’s wing. I could only look forward to it. I was happy to leave the decrepit house with its low water-stained ceilings and cracking plaster, its toilet that overflowed every time we flushed it with a pail of water, the smell of eggs that pervaded the rooms when it rained. The grime that you could never quite scrub off no matter how much you cleaned. These days when my brother and I talk about Barasoain, we speak only of the happiness of having left, as if by virtue of doing so we have escaped the decay our lives had been destined for. My mother had never said so but I know she thinks the same way. It doesn’t matter that we lack our own property, that we rent and move a lot, that we have possessions we’ve kept in boxes because we anticipate always the next departure, the next house, the next opportunity. We content ourselves to think of home as wherever the three of us are together. There are days I could feel this to be true. There are days I still want to outrun something.


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We opened a sari-sari store because the apartment came with a space for it, and the world shrunk to the sixtyfive inch perimeter of the store window. It was how I came to know Malapantao—street and faces obstructed by plastic containers half-filled with candies, packages of instant coffee hung on lines of straw, green mesh and narrow steel grilles. Too narrow for more than one person to pass through at a time, the hallway from the front door led and never opened to the dining room and kitchen, where we could fit little more than a small rectangular laminate table, three chairs, a stove, a fridge. Drifting from the store window, voices and not faces were familiar through their small requests: eighty pesos for two 500 mL of Red Horse every day to the bleary-eyed man with a shuffling gait meant in five years he would die of liver failure and we could pay twenty months of rent. Some days, he would buy beer a little after we opened and drink the bottle in front of the store. It’s too early, we’d joke. He’d laugh and buy another.

*

somewhere not here. I almost long not to hear the anticipated screech of wheels announcing the end of passage. Beyond


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Another customer, a deaf-mute man, would buy a stick of Fortune red and a pack of nuts every afternoon: Four pesos worth of silence from my brother’s incessant complaints about the exposed pipes running along the ceiling, how we used them to hang laundry. How the damp air clung to our clothes, hair, nostrils. I realized belatedly the customer’s defects. He would write his requests in small scraps of paper he always had on him, smoke at a leisurely pace beyond the window while we waited for the setting sun. Sunlight would slowly invade the upstairs bedroom through slits between curtains always drawn. Forest green walls in the room I shared with my mother and brother did nothing to soothe the heat that ran its sticky fingers on our skin. The first floor was a reprieve. The store meant constantly having to look out so we can ignore the thin, rusty metal rods poking out of the walls or the dips and rough patches on the concrete which made the entire house exude incompleteness, like the people who built it just gave up and went home. The only window was the store front. Thirty pesos load for the flirty boy’s mobile. He would always ask for my name. I lied each time. Yesterday, I was Hannah. Today, Jackie. Tomorrow, Vera.


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We didn’t know where the ants came from but it was a real problem. One time, I left a sweater on the couch and the next day the sleeves were filled with tiny biting mouths. We couldn’t leave fruits on the table. Bottles of syrup were in constant danger. Even the tiniest of crumbs would attract havoc from our pesky little occupants. Even when we used chalk to kill them, nothing changed. It drove me into unreasonable rage every time I’d see their black trails along the walls, but it was one of those irremediable inconveniences one simply had to live with, a fact to plan one’s life around, like Manila traffic or how the weather tends to turn without resistance. I still shared a room with my mother. Try as hard as I can, I can’t seem to recall any details of the room, even though we lived in that house for a year and a half. When I asked, my mother told me we slept in the bunk bed we had carried over from Barasoain and the first apartment in Malapantao. I try to build on this detail, maybe it will evoke the texture of curtains or the color of the walls, but there’s nothing. What I remember though is the first floor that had no dividers between kitchen, living, and dining rooms. The couch we had was a pullout, and it was here my

*

the window I catch glimpses of the country—fields of rice, urban jungles, the outline of mountains, oceans cutting into


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brother would sleep at night. Not that he was around often. A junior in college, he was out to parties a lot. I’d fool around with boys on my brother’s bed until we switched it out for a rattan sala set. As a favor to her Zen teacher, my mother rented what was supposed to be my brother’s room to her teacher’s daughter. She was coming from Baguio and needed a place to stay at for a few months until she adjusted to Manila. She had moved in with us in our last couple of months in the first apartment, and moved together with us when the house across it became available. My brother and I both had a small crush on our tenant who kept to herself on most days. When we would cross paths in the morning as she was leaving for work, or on evenings when I couldn’t sleep and she was just coming home, she was always warm and pretty, sometimes gave snacks. Once, she lent me an umbrella when it was raining and I had to get somewhere (to school? to meet a friend?). I had left the umbrella on the station platform. I came home feeling guilty, ready to pay her back, but she never brought it up. She may have forgotten she lent me anything. Eventually she moved out and got her own place, and my brother moved into the empty room.


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Pretend this is your life. Walk where they’ve walked, and sleep where they’ve slept. Unfurl the curtains and greet the bright new day. Go shower in the second floor bathroom. These things could be your own. Draw the curtains and turn on the heat and proceed to wash your hair, use the products with names you can’t pronounce to exfoliate the old cells. You have no need for the old life. This is your home. Dress up. Ignore the oversized clothes and designer tags in the dresser, the high-heeled shoes and silk dresses and the mink coats you’ll never wear. Walk to the kitchen, partake of the meal prepared for you by the house help. It’s been months but you still forget her name. Doesn’t matter. You’ll leave before you’ll even need to know. Joke about how she’s a better cook than your mother. If you feel like it, go to the den and turn on the flat screen television, watch cable, you haven’t had it in a while. Or play with the dog that came with the house. George, sick with a liver disease, and eats special food. He’s always happy when you get back from school. He makes you think you belong.

*

cliffs, city lights that disappear into the horizon it’s hard to tell where they end and where stars begin. The best part is


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Be grateful for the things that you have and ignore the things that you don’t. The woman had left to spend a year in Australia with her new husband, a hulking white man who likes to play the drums and smokes marijuana as often as his wife consumes Marlboro lights. Be grateful for their absence, for the kindness that they’ve shown. They don’t even make you pay. You have the house to yourselves. You have a roof over your heads. You don’t have to ride the train anymore to get to school. Didn’t you hate the long lines, the sweat that trailed between your breasts, the too heavy bag weighing on your back, its straps digging into your shoulders. All you need are temporary graces, exhaustible gifts. Handle each object with the delicate precision of a surgeon. Don’t break anything. You can’t pay back. In the living room, run your finger along the keys of the piano out of tune with age. Imagine yourself capable of playing until the regret of having given up your lessons settles enough for discomfort. If you cut class to make out with a boy, tell him that the photographs on the mantle are of distant relatives, dispersed in different continents. Mention only if he asks. But he doesn’t ask. There are more important concerns like hands on your thighs or fingers twisting your hair or your face being shoved into his crotch. You had never asked for this but you let it happen anyway. You always just let things happen. At least you’re not shy about inviting people over anymore. The old houses were sad and they made you sad. This makes you sad. Turn the framed photographs down so they can’t watch you. Don’t think that the sudden bed bug infestation is the house telling you to leave. Just rub insect repellant on your legs and arms, vacuum the couches and the mattresses twice a week, wash the sheets more often, change them even more often. Don’t scratch the red splotches of insect bite or else they’ll bleed. Draw the curtains. The bed is warm. So many people don’t even have this much. Go to sleep. It should be easy. This is home.


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The owner of the next house, another friend of my mother, was to spend a couple of years volunteering in Africa, so she agreed to rent out her fully-furnished house for a low price. I thought she was quite vain despite such altruism because each room of her house had a small mirror mounted on the wall. There was no place to turn where you couldn’t see yourself—you catch a pair of eyes while cooking in the kitchen, or the blur of hair, nape, and back as you get off the couch in the den. A profile leaning against the door frame would startle you. One entire wall was covered with panels of mirrors from floor to ceiling, reflecting the black plastic chairs around a glass dining table, the pendant lamp above it, the fridge beside a row of heavy black cabinets where rest several frog plush toys, the owner’s plaques from broadcasting awards, and an expensive looking bottle of wine. I couldn’t get to the bathroom at night without frightening myself. (My spectral image announces itself intruder, thief.) It was the house we lived in when my mother started dating R—. He spent evenings in my mother’s room and would bike to work the following mornings. He was the first one to get this close to my mother, so close that it

*

the takeoff, gears coming to life. The jolt of the vehicle promises me the narrow space of stillness. This is what I love,


43

warranted my brother to tattoo a triangle on his wrist to remind him of when it was just the three of us and it meant certain stability. We agreed that another person entering the picture would just ruin things, the small tragedies of couples that we never had to witness growing up would suddenly be an everyday occurrence. R— was always so smug; he talked down to my mother like she were a child, made snide remarks about her weight, nitpicked her grammar. I hated Christmas that year: a farce of a family trapped in the mirror-wall, my mirror-self nibbling R—’s steak and spitting it out in a napkin. After dinner, we played a few rounds of pool in the den, smoked cigars, and drank beer, anticipating the new life in the not-so-distant future which never arrived. This was the house where I got my own room. A little dumb to say it was my own because it was temporary, but I loved the soft-pink walls and numerous cabinets. I loved having a nice desk where I could study, my own four walls to hang stuff on, tape bits of paper and pictures. The room that finally sawed off some privacy for me. I could masturbate and not have to be so discreet about it. I’d stay up late reading and my mother wouldn’t scold me for keeping her up. I hung blue-tinged Christmas lights on the walls and G— and I kissed under them while we listened to a playlist he made. N— would call me when I wanted to weep for no reason, and he’d sing over the phone until I calmed down, finally falling asleep. It was the room A— and I were fucking in the first time he said he loved me. My mother and R— broke it off a couple of months after Christmas, deciding they were too different. I didn’t notice until much later the small disco ball hanging in the dining room, that when the sun hit it just right, light would bounce off to every direction, the strategically placed mirrors compounding the dispersion, until the entire first floor glimmered. I shouldn’t have written on the walls of my room but lacking any kind of foresight, I’d write small reminders of beauty which I had to scrub off months later when the owner came back. But before then, for a while, I had something that was mine.


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It was almost evening when the boat ride ended and it was time to head to the hostel. I had called the owner, Ms. Monica, a day before to ask for directions. She told me that she would pick me up at the bus stop and take me there since it was a pretty remote area. All I needed was to ride a bus from the lake and alight at Yuchi which was two stops away. Except I missed it. I was expecting the bus to pause and let passengers alight at every single stop but it didn’t. I approached the driver who couldn’t speak a lick of English. He used a mic to announce something to the passengers. A woman with curly hair, maybe in her late 30’s, approached to translate for us. They let me down at the nearest stop, across a solitary car garage, just before the highway. The driver scribbled Chinese characters on a slip of paper and the woman told me to give it to the driver of the bus heading back to the lake. He would know to stop at Yuchi for me. The next bus I boarded was the wrong one, but the driver was nice and dropped me off at Puli and pointed me to the station where I could buy a ticket for Yuchi. We were across the street and he shouted to the ladies manning the booth. When I crossed to get to the station, they already had a ticket for me.

*

the neither here nor thereness of movement, the glass that won’t let me touch what’s beyond the frame. How to choose


45

The bus arrived and took me to Yuchi, but I couldn’t find my ticket before getting off so the driver started arguing with me in Chinese, gesticulating wildly. A man sitting near the front interrupted us, spoke with the driver, then paid him off. I was finally let go. At Yuchi bus stop, Ms. Monica picked me up on her scooter. She helped me buy supper and pointed out shops as we drove past them. I ate dinner at the hostel before attending the free yoga class she offered at her studio. In one of the poses, you stand and then bend your body to reach for your toes. Slowly, you uncurl, drawing your limbs to the sky, arms and fingers wide apart. You’re supposed to be a tree drawing energy from the earth. Your feet are supposed to be roots.


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Perhaps a place where snow is frequent. Or perhaps a place of overcast skies that always threaten rain. I’ve read that in Alaska, daylight lasts for twenty-two hours—in summer the sun wouldn’t even set for eighty days—and that snow is a fact of every day as breathing. I’ve heard that in Denmark, the light is always eclipsed by clouds, that rain pounds and slides from rooftops in near constancy, and people have killed themselves over the sadness that looms over their heads. And in Greenland, even modern towns appear bleak, bitter breezes blow wherever you go. Perhaps because I’ve lived all my life in the sticky heat of the tropics, in the smoke and gray and grease of Manila, that I long for tundras and glaciers, the harshness of the arctics, for the silence punctuated by two boots shuffling through the snow. When I think of this, I am always an orphaned child, wearing a much too big thermal coat, wading by myself through a waist-deep sea of white. These things have achieved such a mythic quality in my mind, there are afternoons I wake up shivering.

*

just one. I’ve chosen with deliberation the certain space of uncertainty. This is what I love, the liminality of motion, by


47

In another fantasy, I am approaching middle age, unmarried, with no children, and I move to Alaska to live the life of an embittered farmer, constantly battling the elements to grow corn. I dream of clearing a small patch of forest, tilling the snow-seeped ground before coming home to a modest house made of wood, a cabin of sorts, cold but cozy. I’ll feed the kindle in the fireplace with pages torn from old books, from another life, wrap myself up in thick layers, feel the weariness settle in my bones and nudge me to sleep. I long for the difficulty of labor in perpetual winter only because I know nothing of both. Perhaps what I long for is simply a place that mirrors the loneliness within: a landscape of dirty melted snow and bare boughs where I can learn the language of silence, become fluent with its inflections, its rich timbre. A new mother to nurse my mouth. A place I might call home, and only my echoes will answer.


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We moved to 47E shortly before I left for my term abroad. When I came back five months later, half my room was painted teal and the other half a mint green. Most of the furniture were secondhand, cheaper that way. The sofa and oak dining table were given to us by our Australian neighbor. My uncle had built the shelves in my room a year after we moved in so I could finally unpack my books. I hung my father’s framed cross-stitching of my name on the wall opposite my windows. In the months that followed, we bought more things—a dresser, a cabinet, a new table, a rice dispenser, new plates and tablecloths, an induction cooker, an oven. And the more we accumulate new things the more inclined I feel to get rid of the old. I’ve cleared my study desk of trinkets—the Matryoshka dolls, the perfume bottles and candle holders, the music box I’ve kept since I was six—but it remains littered by clothes and school readings, my dozens of notepads and assortment of pens. I didn’t unpack my books until much later. With reluctance I had to admit that we weren’t moving any time soon. Underneath one of the shelves I had scribbled on the wall, to be free from ridiculous constraints, to remind myself to stay the course, to not grow roots.

*

this I mean transition, I mean escape, I mean longing, opening, threshold, crossing, beginning, potential, transformation.


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I discard letters and postcards, souvenir keychains from friends who’ve gone on trips, stuffed toys and customized notebooks, small presents that I am certain had at some point filled me with joy. These things are gathering dust, accumulating in the box of my life that I want to make more portable, lighter. Empty. I have outlined the many ways I could escape—and even this hurts me because this place should be home and not prison. And yet. My plans are so detailed, down to the bare essentials, the estimated prices of tickets and the best routes to go to this country and that. I attend study fairs, try to raise my grades for scholarships. I plan and plan and plan for futures that consist of neverheres. Happiness lies not in where you’re headed but where you are, my mother likes to tell me something to that effect. I tape pictures on my door to remind myself there were moments I was happy, there are reasons to stay, but some days I convince myself this, too, is a lie. I hang clothes and bags and towels to cover the pictures, to avoid the weight of lost days, eyes that seem to accuse me for wanting to leave. I always carry a notebook filled with plans which I had at some time or other called a catalog of future adventures when all I mean is a catalog of goodbyes.


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I like to watch people slipping in and out of sleep in public transport if I myself am not that person. I imagine it must be what I look like: the dazed eyes, mouth hanging slightly open, the flutter of eyelids, head bobbing and then snapping alert when the engine lurches. The gracelessness of it. The audacity of such vulnerability. The almost all too attractive proposition for the uninvited gaze. There is a tenderness I cannot take. Look away. Maize don’t thrive in the cold, you have to tease them out of their reluctance. I imagine it must be some triumph, each corn shooting out of the earth like a gold inheritance, each stalk something conquered, something earned. This is just a dream. Even with all the right equipment, the right climate, I wouldn’t be able to grow shit. Five minutes after picking up that spade, I’d say this was a mistake and flee. Sometimes I wish transit were a place, but then how would I fall asleep.


luis wilfrido atienza

A Poem Hidden Within the Consolidated Financial Statements of Our 2017 Annual Report Lately, prose has seemed like the much cleaner form. Inviting no questions, much easier to subject to word counts, to squeeze into spaces; to edit during a meeting with everyone sitting in high-backed chairs. Lately, the numbers haven't been looking so good, but there are things we can do about that. Nobody really reads these anyway. In fact, the only thing with fewer readers than corporate reports is poetry. But here in this space I’ve found: a poem in a corporate report, where I could swear nobody will ever look, I can finally talk about

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a video I saw of a dog having gotten away from its owner chasing an entire herd of deer through a park. The owner runs after them, yelling Fenton, Fenton. His freedom came at a price but at least he was free. If I’m being honest, I wish I were the dog. If I’m being honest, I really couldn't be. Lately, my numbers haven’t been good at all. There’s not much I can do about that. But still, it is the time to be honest, here in the most secluded space I can find: where there is no place for honesty, like there is no place for poetry.

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martin villanueva

Housekeeping i. Mattress We let it air on the patio, the mattress, batted it with a broom, sprayed disinfectant, let it bathe under the sun. This isn’t superstition, though you’d think it, the way the ladies prayed the rosary every night while I sat on the side of the bed that did not face the altar but the television, hoping that they wouldn’t notice. My mother did, of course— and she thought Lolo did too. I knew that cleaning his room was the price to pay and I did terribly, bottles and canisters knocked over, circles, stripes, and names left on dusty tabletops and on the glass surface of a framed family portrait—I would fill the room with my own laughter. When I’d return the mattress, I’d lean it against the wall of cabinets, and with a running start, jump to feel how far the foam could push me back. On the stained wooden floor, I’d laugh again, real loud—praying that no one had noticed. 53


ii. Trunk The letters across the front are almost all gone, some splotches of blue and red, nothing strong hands and suds can’t rub out. The last time you had put it on, only your tiny hands went out from the sleeves, the scabs of your knees covered too. It fits just fine now. Your fingers rub the bottom hem, the cotton most soft there— you could sleep. But before this shirt and other things smelling of really old leather, you start to scratch violently at where the skin begins to flake.

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iii. Stones In one side of the room, the boy stares at the lines on the ceiling, imagines rolling marbles along them, the sound it would make, how the world would seem the right side of inverted— how his wrist feels the cold flush under the skin, feels the traces of the gentlest fingers, while the man on the bed by the window, with a tube in the big veins of his tiny hands, would learn that because pursed lips still whisper breaths, a body can still be just sleeping, the way the boy tries to on the bed across the room, picking at the calluses on his palms, touch the suggestion of what he sees in the sand: a line.

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niccolo rocamora vitug

In the Garden Bronze Clare of Assisi by Trung Pham, S. J.

Clare’s right fingers Graze the cloth Touching her breasts, The opposite ones Petals that unravel A hesitant palm. Her left arm Holds her waist Preventing a fall From forward desire. Eyes closed, she Savors bright air: Growth of rosemary In exchange intimate With the world.

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joaquin w. singson

Spineless Ant It grows too easy to lose everything in the labyrinth we call home. We gossip to each other, mouth to antenna, and hope to know what’s gone, but never listen. It’s satisfaction enough to look in another’s eyes and see ourselves. You are feeling around— missing something and sure of what. When it floods we cling to each other and float until land comes. You ask permission before sharing an umbrella.

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Earthworm What good does it do you to tap at my door and leave me to shrivel when I come out to check? Stupid joke. Here’s one— Hey waiter, there’s a hair in my dirt. See the point? I can’t. If I had eyes they’d be covered in shit.

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Grasshopper I don’t think I’m lazy. A good meal in a bushel of green’s enough for me. What they won’t say about the ant is that his storage got flooded out. Fwoosh. Like that. There’s no point to hard work if time’ll eat it away, anyway.

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Cockroach I want to only know the world with the lights out and no one around so all this stumbling and scurrying wouldn’t be so different from any other day so everything would sooner blend into each other than become a blinding light and a hiding and running and a lifting my antennas like skinny fists to the heavens waiting eventually for the last light that burns out which we always surpassed which always allowed us alone allowed us ourselves the silence of ourselves no more skittering no more hiding just ourselves

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Spider From home I hang. I don’t mind the silence of the corners. I chitter to myself, time to time. The dust motes are company enough. In plain sight. That’s how hiding works when you can’t care. I bide my time.

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Mantis I sleep with my face in my palms, my head craned forward always. Like I was interested in knowing what it was the world tried to tell me. What am I supposed to do with a second life if even this one doesn’t make sense to me? Religion bores me and I have misused it.

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Cicada Four moons is all I have. As if sixty in sleep was enough to sate me. As if a melody and some company could do to chill the sun above my tree, fill the cracks in the parched earth below. As if I could peel out of myself content to know that a life in one season was worth a song in the end. Already the sun glows orange earlier. Already the rain, already another wax and wane.

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catherina dario

The Harvest jason had always been the fastest boy. Mother used to call him her “little miracle”, because he had a crooked left leg that limped behind him as he walked, but he still outran the rest of us. In the summers, when the sunrise would break over the rice terraces like a bright orange yolk, the other boys and I would wake up early to race to the top of the mountain. It was an hour’s climb up the steep trail, but Jason would always make it in thirty minutes. I would watch him dash past me, his funny leg trailing after the rest of his nimble body, his bare feet barely touching the mossy undergrowth, his spindly fingers picking at the wild strawberries that dangled like gems from the fuzzy bramble. By the time the rest of us would make it to the top he would be lying on his belly and watching the sun emerge from the dense bed of clouds, strawberry seeds lodged between the gaps of his tiny, pink teeth. The boys would groan and kick the ground, but they wouldn’t dare beat him. Their parents needed Jason to climb the banana trees, or catch the cow that had strayed too far uphill. When Mother and Father died—a landslide that had devastated the mountain province and our harvest for several months; I had just turned twenty, he was ten—he remained strong and spirited, helping me tend to the small farming plot that we had outside our yard when he was not at the elementary school. He would sometimes disappear off to the woods with the younger boys, and this I paid no attention to. The woods, and their spirits, were friends everybody was familiar with. I still remember the day Jason was born: it was a cold December morning; the sun was nothing more but a gray ripple behind the steady sheet of fog, the valley behind our house sheathed in dew. I was out in the yard with Father, who was teaching me how to gut a chicken, but I could see Mother’s silhouette from behind the smoke streaming from the bonfire. She was lying down on her mat; one hand draped over the mound of her big belly, another hand outstretched towards the 64


open door in front of Father and me. We weren’t expecting the rush of water, followed by a shrill cry that the baby was arriving. A month early! That was all I could think of, when Father sent me to fetch Aling Ida, whose house stretched past the line of houses, at the edge of the dirt road, and toward the woods. I cut past the yards of neighbors, jumping over their duck pens, pushing past the frosty patches of corn, ignoring their cries of protest. My rubber slippers slapped against small pools of rainwater. Little clouds puffed from my cold lips. My jacket grew tight and hot in my chest. Sweat licked my gloved palms. My little brother was coming! A month early indeed! By the time I arrived at Aling Ida’s hut, she had already packed her cloths and her herbs. Only then, after I had collected my heartbeat, did I realize that Mother’s screams could be heard all the way from the foot of the mountains. Aling Ida moved slowly towards the door, and in my impatience I bent my knees and whisked her onto my back. “What are you doing, boy?!” she shrieked and beat my shoulders with her tiny fists. I almost laughed. She was a small, diminutive woman, and weighed less than a sack of rice, and I sprinted for home—to which the entire town pilgrimaged, along with their dogs and pigs and chickens and cows, along with the trees that seemed to bend over and listen as the screams turned into soft groans, and then into a brief silence and then, after a breath, as if the mountain spirits had blown into the rocks, the baby’s song came gurgling like a newborn river. It took a while for us to realize that Jason could not walk. Several months had passed after his first birthday, and he was still crawling. One day, Father noticed that the left leg dragged behind his right leg, like a branch that had snapped and hung at the edge of the tree trunk. We took him to see Aling Ida, who declared that he was without injury. I watched as she gave Mother a bag of white crescent moons. “Bird’s nests,” she said, “from the cave near the falls.” That evening, Mother soaked the nests in water until they looked like very large petals blooming inside a bowl. When I woke the next morning, the nests stewed inside a pot. I peered over the broth, and saw a thick, white mass swirling among the bubbling stock of chicken and vegetables. Mother fed this to Jason, every evening, until he could walk. “It will make him a strong, able boy,” Aling Ida said. 65


I remembered this the very night the younger boys showed up at our house, carrying Jason among them. There was no electricity that night, and I could only see the silhouette of his unconscious body heavy in the arms of the much smaller boys. When they lay him down, I flashed my lamplight at his face and held back my scream of terror. White-yellow pus trickled from large, hot craters on his face. I stripped him of his shirt, and saw that his chest was pocked with the same nightmarish blisters. His body burned to the touch. “What happened?!” I yelled, and the other boys took a step back in fear. Their small, frightened bodies cast tall, dark shadows. Jason remained unconscious. “He entered the cave,” sputtered one of the boys. Harvest season was approaching, and it was common knowledge that nobody enters the caves until after the town offering was made. To respect the spirits of the mountains. I took a breath, held it in my throat, and then gave a long exhale. It was cold outside, and smoke puffed from our tongues. “It was a dare,” one of them said. I recognized the voice to be Lando Camtugan’s, whose parents ran a store in the town center. He was one of the older, bigger boys of their group, one of the younger ones back when I would still join their adventures. I remembered how he would always boast of his speed, yet Jason would outrun him every time. “We were wandering up the falls, and then saw the cave, Jason said, ‘that’s the cave with the bird nests.’ We said, ‘Why don’t you go in?’ He didn’t realize it was a dumb joke. He’s always talking about those bird nests and how they cured his weird leg.” “But he ran in,” somebody else spoke up. It was John Buslig. He was younger than Jason, probably about ten years old. He was not originally from our town; his parents were from Bontoc. “We stayed outside. He didn’t come back for over an hour. And then we heard him scream. We were too scared to enter the cave, but he came crawling out. He looked like this.” “The birds probably pecked his balls,” Lando muttered under his breath. I shoved him against the wall. The other boys took a further step back toward the door. Everybody but Lando, scampered out like rats. I held him by his hair for a moment, and then released him. He trudged his way out the door. 66


“Your parents have been dead for two years,” Lando said, his voice gruff and sticky. I pretended not to hear him. Once the street was still and quiet, I surveyed Jason’s face again. The blisters made him look completely alien. His head looked large and swollen, as if it were filled with sap and waiting to burst. His limbs, which were normally the color of brown sugar, appeared raw and flayed. His breathing was labored. I said his name, to which there was no response. My initial instinct was to bring him to Aling Ida, but when I peered out the window, the thick fog had settled over the town and hung over the rooftops like a pale curtain. I recalled the first few weeks that followed my parents’ death. The harvest had been decimated by the storm and landslide, and the fields and terraces were gray and barren, and fog seemed impenetrable. The view from our window was completely white. I would squint at the blankness and expect my parents to somehow materialize, but I only felt the eyes of the town bearing down upon me and Jason, upon the corpses of my parents numbered among the others who had perished. Guilt, I felt, was a tree whose fruit bore tenderly but painfully, slowly but certainly, the sheen of its orb a bright, bloodied red. And so I imagined that our house was no longer in the province, but was in a strange, faraway dream. I stayed awake for most of the night. I debated whether I should try draining the boils on Jason’s skin, but decided against it. They looked like small, red ant hills emerging from dry bark, and I felt a bit of vomit gurgle at the back of my throat every time I looked at them. I decided to focus on putting the fever down, and I was slightly successful with this. I pressed a warm, damp cloth on his face and body—careful not to rupture any of the grotesque protrusions—and then bundled him up in blankets and sweaters. I thought about what the boys said about the birds. I had seen them a few times, in one of my treks into the cave. They were small, black things that swarmed the ceiling, circling each other like dark spools of thread. Did they really attack him? I felt a heavy weight press against the bottom of my belly, and threw up. Daylight came, and the fog lifted. I knocked on a neighbor’s door, asking if I could borrow their van to transport a few items to the town 67


proper. I did not want to tell them about Jason, else word get around that he had entered the caves before the harvest ritual. After carrying Jason into the van, I headed over to Aling Ida’s house. I was not so used to driving anymore, as we sold Father’s van after he and Mother died—just to cover some expenses. I had forgotten how gritty and rough the road was against tires, and how narrow the streets were. It was still early in the day, so the light was still soft and delicate behind the trees. But as I clenched the steering wheel, listening to Jason’s heavy breathing behind the driver’s seat, I could not help but wonder how many people knew. I felt the eaves of every house bend towards me, every window widen as I drove past. We arrived at Aling Ida’s house, and I carried Jason to the door. She might have heard the vehicle approach, because she opened the door before I could knock. She let me in at once. I lay Jason down on a mat that she laid out, and unbundled his body. Aling Ida squatted behind me, heating some water and carving out meat from a coconut. “Did he enter the cave?” she asked me, after a moment of silence. I felt the stone in my belly press up toward my ribs, and I swallowed hard. “I will make something to ease these blisters,” she told me, as she poured the coconut meat into a pot and began stirring. “But you have to leave for the caves at once. While there’s time.” Aling Ida sat me down, cupped my chin in her hand, and looked straight at me. Her tiny eyes were flecked with gray, and wrinkles etched from their sides like hand-carved boughs. “You bring a chicken. You make a fire and butcher it over the fire. You apologize for his wrongdoings.” “What else?” I felt a swell of panic rush inside me. “We wait,” she said. The room had begun to fill with a fragrant smell of fruit. “They might accept the offering. Otherwise, the town will have to know. This has happened before, after all.” I did not want to ask more. I told her I’d pick up Jason at the end of the day, after I had gotten everything done. As I approached the vehicle, I looked at the lay of land that spread before me. The trees stood like needles from the flesh of the earth, and the village—the 68


peach rooftops, the yellowing paddies sloped over one another— nestled in the basin of the valley. I drove back to our house, selected a chicken from one of the pens and stuffed it into a sack, and collected everything I might need: a knife, a matchbox, and firewood. As I rummaged through my things, I felt somebody standing at the door. I turned around. It was John Buslig. He stood hesitantly by the door, his small fingers picking at the peeling paint of the frame as he looked at me. A small squeak piped from his narrow throat, as he took a step closer. “My relatives are doctors, you know,” he said, “in the city.” I looked at him. Baguio was a few hours away. I had only been there once, when Jason was much smaller. I forgot why, but I rode with my parents at the back of the bus. It was summer, and when I touched the windowpane, I felt the heat of the sun on my fingertips. When the bus arrived at the terminal, the air felt hot and grimy. Jeeps filled with people darted past us like flurries of fish, and Mother instructed me to hold Jason’s hand tightly so that he may not be swept away. His palm felt like a small animal in my hand. “I thought you were from Bontoc,” I said, stuffing my things into a bag. “I am,” he replied. His family had moved to town a year ago, because they had inherited a plot of land from a relative. “But we also have family down there.” I ignored him. I simply could not afford the medical expenses. We had small hospitals scattered across the province, but I already knew that they would not be able to handle a complicated case such as Jason’s. I shook my head. Most people really turned to Aling Ida, and this had something to do with the birds. “I’ll think about it,” I said, turning my back to him to secure everything I needed. I slung my bag over my shoulders and then turned my head to thank him. He was gone. I could hear his slippers slapping against the mud. Or it might have been the wind. A trail to the cave had been made down a slope, and I collected dried leaves and twigs as I made my way down. The cave came into view, a jagged beak that opened up into a dark cavity. I already knew 69


what I would see inside: pallid walls drooping like milky candle wax dipping into shallow pools of cold water. Walk a little bit more and see the birds weaving through the ceiling like spools of black lace. The walls become pared with cream-colored nests, in the hundreds, and then they slowly disappear and the cave becomes a globular space of bright bird webbing. I imagined that this must have been how the cave looked when Mother and Father entered it that fateful night. Perhaps darker—since it was nighttime and they did not want the neighbors to see them. They had been warned not to go inside the caves, but Jason had become very sick. I stood before them now—the birds—and they flew silently overhead. I felt fear creep up behind my neck—the cave entrance was so far away, and the only source of light I had was the slight burning of my lamplight. The chicken moved fearfully in its sack, and as I assembled my firewood I felt the fear in the pit of my belly turn and thrash as well. I put down my light and then began to assemble my firewood, tying the kindling with a piece of straw before placing it at the center. I lit a match and tossed it into the fire, and then threw in more kindling. The flame grew and crackled, and the light cast great shadows. I took a deep breath, and took the chicken. It squawked stupidly, its black pupils darting in panic. But the birds moved with intention. They looked larger now, and as they seamlessly circled the cave I felt myself grow smaller. The stone trembled in my stomach as I spoke in our language, apologizing for Jason’s misgivings. I took the knife and slashed the chicken’s throat, red bursting from its white feathers and raining onto the cave floor. The chicken let out a guttural screech. I waited, waited for the birds to come down and speak, to admonish my brother, and come jabbing at my skin until it blistered. But they didn’t. I squatted down and the gutted the chicken, and then burned the feathers. The birds continued to move in their circle, in large circles and smaller circles. The fire burned out eventually and the air grew colder. I imagined that it must have been late afternoon. I put out the fire and cleaned up.

70


The air grew more abundant as I made my way up, and a memory had resurfaced: there was a time, early into his childhood, where he also had gotten very sick. He was in bed for several weeks, with Mother nursing him day and night. It was very strange, seeing him sometimes very strong and very nimble, and then seeing him as pale as water, with his veins running through both legs like a chain of rivers. My stomach grumbled, this time out of hunger. I realized that I had not eaten all day, and the sun was already low in the sky. I walked back to the town, and decided to stop by a store before heading back to Aling Ida’s. As I passed by the storefronts, I felt eyes follow me. I stopped in my tracks, pretended to check my bag or shake off grit from my slipper, and then continued onward. People sat at the small steps of their stores and houses, the women braided their baskets, the men smoked their cigarettes. I entered Aling Puring’s store, almost forgetting that Lando was her son. I always felt uncomfortable around her. Her husband, Mang Ed, Lando’s father, had died during the landslide. Buried underneath the rubble, underneath the harvest. Lando squatted by the counter, smiling as I entered. “Is Jason better yet?” he asked me, as I looked disinterestedly at the array of bread and fruits. I had lost my appetite. “He’s with Aling Ida,” I said, my eyes fixed on the display counter. Aling Puring came from the back of the store. “Kit,” she said, and I felt like a stranger all at once. It might have been the first time somebody had said my name since Jason’s accident, yet it suddenly felt like this woman—who might as well have been a classmate of my Mother or ex-lover of Father—saw me for the first time. “We heard what happened to Jason.” I looked at her. She was a thin, bony woman. She looked intently at me, cocking her head, the sheen of her beady eyes glowing like polished pebbles. I saw her fixing a bag of rolls for me. “That’s okay,” I said. She held out the bag before me. “You’ve made an offering, right?” “How do you know?” “They saw you going down to the caves.”

71


“All of us,” Lando said, “we’re waiting.” “For him to get better,” Aling Puring interjected, still holding out the bag of rolls. “We just don’t want it to happen again.” She stopped there. I felt my mouth grow dry. I went out into the open street. The villagers all gawked at me. They all looked like featherless birds crowding around me, as if I were a seed that had been flicked into the middle of a pen. I pretended not to see them, not to feel the stone of my stomach ramming into my rib cage as I made my way up the street. From a distance, I saw John Buslig’s home. By the time I arrived at Aling Ida’s house, it was almost sundown. I found her perched over Jason, his body trembling like a burning leaf. He looked worse than before—his limp leg looked completely contorted underneath the terrain of blisters. “Aling Ida, thank you. But we’re going home,” I said, my voice almost a whisper. “They did not accept your offering,” she said, the saliva in her mouth strung like a web across her lips. I paused for a moment, then opened my mouth again. “We’re going home.” “You will have to go again tomorrow,” she said, “the harvest—” The harvest! I had not thought about the harvest all day, not as Jason splayed out like a dying animal before me. When I looked at him, I remembered my parents, who also crackled and burned before my eyes—and then the landslide a few days after. From outside: fog lights, and the rumble of tires against the gravel. Aling Ida rushed to the window and peered out. “The Busligs are here,” she croaked, “what are you doing?” “They’re helping me take him back home,” I lied. She stared at me in shock, and began to protest. I did not listen, merely draped blankets over Jason’s body and carried him out the door. Aling Ida cursed me, but my eyes remain fixed on the truck. I felt Jason stir in my arms, his eyes flickering at the bright light before him, and this gave me a bit of relief. Mang Wendell hopped out of the driver’s seat and opened the door, and I saw his son buckled to the passenger’s seat. I nodded at John, and his father helped me and Jason comfortably to the back. In my periphery, I could see Aling Ida staring at us, her angered face may 72


as well have been made out of clay that had begun to melt from the crown of her head. I thanked her again, under my breath this time, but I felt the sting of her curse slither from her mouth and sink its teeth into my ankle. We drove for several hours, the white fog settling so low into the valley that it felt as though we were moving through sky. We were mostly quiet in the car, although Mang Wendell would ask me a few questions every now and then. I was grateful for this man. I did not have to beg him to bring Jason to the hospital. When I showed up at their door, he called John to fetch the keys. The Busligs—they were also sympathetic after the landslide. They were the few not to blame us, and somehow I wondered if it was because they were not from town, or because someone had to show a bit of mercy. There were nights the neighbors would wait outside our home, waiting for me to come out, rocks and sticks pecking at our door. Jason did not remember any of this, because he was delirious with fever. Now, I looked down at my lap, where Jason’s head rested. We got to the city before dawn, and arrived at the hospital just when the fog had lifted and the sky turned into a rich purple. Jason was admitted immediately, and I stayed at the hall while the doctor examined him. Doctor Pie Buslig was a pediatrician, had finished her medical studies in Baguio. She was tall and slim, her skin slightly fair, her hair pulled back into a tight bun. It felt so surreal, seeing Jason being attached to an intravenous and injected with several serums. After she tended to him, she asked me about my family medical history. I was a bit intimidated, because her dialect was different. And when I looked outside, the sun had begun to illuminate the tall slabs of concrete outside. “My parents,” I said, and then cleared my throat, “had a similar sickness. Two years ago.” She jotted this down on her clipboard. I was surprised that her next question was not about Mother and Father, whether they had died. “Did they ingest or were exposed to anything common?” I felt my gut rise to my throat, and the walls of the room seemed to close around me. I did not talk about this—even if the whole town 73


knew, even if the whole town had blamed the landslide on them. “They both went into the cave, before harvest season,” I answered, and as soon as I said it, I felt the fangs of Aling Ida’s curse release my skin. It was though an old wound had begun to bleed. Jason had fallen very ill before the harvest, yet Aling Ida advised against the bird’s nest soup. Even she couldn’t enter the caves, because it was before the offering. The most she could do was tend to his fever. I was helping at the fields with the rest of the villagers. Mother and Father told me to get the bird’s nest from the cave, and I refused. I lay on the floor that night, remembering this again. The entire ward moaned in agony, and I thought about the landslide that came weeks after Mother and Father showed up at our door covered in burns and blisters. They went into the cave, I thought, and the entire village was launched into a panic. Chickens, pigs, cows were slaughtered. Weeks later, the mountain engulfed the harvest, the trees engorged the terraces, the fog loomed over the rooftops for days, others dead—taking Mother and Father with them. I got a bit of sleep, and when I woke by midmorning Jason had come back into consciousness. He called my name. Kit. I felt as though his voice had seized my heart, as if my name was suddenly remembered. His eyes were milky from the fever, his head a whole lot bigger than his thinned body. “You’ll get better,” I said. I tell myself that the landslide killed Mother and Father, but everybody else says it was the birds. We stayed in the hospital for a week. His fever dropped, his boils were drained, cleaned, and bandaged, and, although his medication made him sleep for most of the day, he grew strong enough to slightly converse with me. Where are we, big brother? When will we go home? John Buslig came to visit us once. The town had begun the community offerings. Aling Ida was upset with me, and when he said this I felt the wound of her curse throb at my ankle bone. I did not want to go back to the town, but the Busligs offered to cover the fees and discharge me after Jason has showed significant improvement. And he did. Little by little, he began eating, was able to sit up on his cot and reach out for his cup of water, scratching at the bandages once Doctor Pie turned away. 74


We went home the following weekend, taking the morning bus back to the town. Doctor Pie instructed me on how to drain, clean, and dress Jason’s boils. She gave him a crutch to help his weaker leg recover. In my backpack were all the medicines the Busligs generously paid for. I wondered if the rest of the town would be happy to see him well again. As I sat next to him in the bus, I drifted in and out of sleep, dreaming of birds and snakes and crumbling mountains. The bus pulled over at the town shed by midafternoon. I told Jason not to look at anybody, not to talk to anybody. When he asked me why, I could not answer. I was not sure if he was aware that the town blamed Mother and Father for the disaster two years ago. The guilt in my belly turned and turned, like pebbles in a river. We walked home slowly, and I could feel eyes beaming down on us like open windows. A few called out to us. “I see you’re better now!” somebody shouted. It might have been one of the younger boys, because Jason asked me when he could start running with his friends again. When I didn’t answer him again, he punched my elbow. We were standing at the edge of the road, overlooking the yellow, purple, magenta fields. The sun glimmered in the sky. Beyond, dark clouds. The next few days I spent entirely with Jason, cleaning his healing blisters, cooling down occasional fevers. I did this while also tending to our farm plot in the yard. When Jason grew better, he offered to help me with the chores. “You shouldn’t work too hard,” he protested, swinging his good leg from the bed and wiggling his toes. “Help me when you’re better,” I told him. On the third day, he sat at the edge of the bed, looking distantly into the fields, as if he were anticipating something to happen. “I know that they blame us,” he said to me. He was barely audible. His other leg lay limp underneath the sheets, and I did not have the heart to tell him that it appeared more treelike. His scabbing sores began to look like dry, mottled bark; his toes splayed out like strange berries. “They tell me. Always. And so I went inside the cave. To spite them. They’re still scared. I do not know if the spirits even care, or if they’re listening. But everybody is scared, and that’s why this town is cursed.” 75


I looked at him. Suddenly he appeared a lot smaller, all the same, a lot older—as if his speckled skin were the wood of an aged tree. The chickens looked sick, the pigs appeared thinner. I peered over our fence to see if our neighbors were doing better. In my mind, this cursed town had cursed us. I had not heard from Aling Ida since we arrived back at home, yet I felt as though she were watching. I decided to pay her a visit. I could no longer ignore my guilt, which had begun to peck its way out my insides. As I washed and dressed up, I instructed Jason to stay put in the house. It was early morning, and as I stepped out the door, I watched his woody eyelids peel away from the dark circles of his cheeks. He looked at me for a moment, and then folded himself like a drying leaf. I hesitated for a moment, but then continued towards Aling Ida. Our neighbors had gotten up early to work in their fields, but everything seemed still. As if I was not walking through the town, but through a fading photograph that I slowly swam through. From where I was, I could see Aling Ida’s hut. Aling Ida, who had birthed the town’s children, who had helped Jason gain strength in his leg, who knew the spirits, the birds. I was rooted to her the way the trees were to this earth. But did trees ever feel afraid? I stopped in my tracks. I realized that I had taken the wrong path, or missed a turn. The town was quite behind me now, but the trail no longer looked familiar. The trees seemed taller, older, and they threaded over me like cupped hands. And on the branches hung black pears. Fruit? I squinted. But something fluttered, held out a wing, opened its beak. Hundreds of gleaming, pebble-shaped eyes stared back at me. My mind raced. Did this happen before? Before the landslide? Before this nightmare reset and repeated itself? I was no longer wading through a static realm. I turned away, and ran. Jason on my mind. I felt younger, my legs carrying me down the slope, the ghostly weight of Aling Ida heaving on my coiled spine, her fists beating against my shoulders. The streets began to roll out before me, like slick saliva leading me to the nest of the town. As if I was jumping over the pens and paddies, expecting Father at the door, Mother 76


on her mat, the baby rushing into history like a river. No one yet to blame. And then the present moment. The door was open. On his mat were the lumpy skins of his blanket. My eyes darted around the room, and then I saw, from the back window, a head move in our back yard. My heart tore through my cage as I tore through the fence. Lando Camtugan. He perched over the stiff, speckled body of my brother, who lay supine on the dust like hardened sap. I threw myself at him. “What the hell are you doing?” I could still feel Aling Ida’s phantom on my back. “No one killed your parents so the landslide did!” Lando spat, his fingers clawing at me. I shoved his face onto the dirt. Blood spurt from the back of his mouth. Jason shuddered and breathed next to us. Lando continued talking. About the cave. About the birds. About his father. About the town. The guilt, which had grown in my belly all these years, had finally fallen from its tree. I imagined that I was now eating it, drinking from the rotted pits of its seed. I grabbed his head again, I felt the entire town’s eyes upon me, Aling Ida’s, the Camtugans’, the Busligs’, the many others I had not brought myself to even care about. I could only feel the bones of my dead parents rattling underground, the hundreds of black eyes jabbing at my brother. There came the crack of a skull, the eruption of the fruit, the roar of the trees snapping off its roots. The town around me swallowed into its mountains.

77


jam pascual

The Age of Aquarius May or may not be dawning. Depending on who you ask, the things responsible will either be malfunctioning computers, gravitational waves, or rock ’n’ roll. Cue paisley and smoke, antennae picking up the sound of cells dividing. In any case, flower child, you will face great challenges today. Watch your temper, and be careful with your money, for all we’ve learned now orbits around the immense weight of a floating doomsday. Whatever. No one gets a cookie for being this good but maybe you’ll pull a fortune out from the crumbs. Whether or not asteroids are coming to check for surviving dinosaurs, you might still dust crater floors for God’s fingerprints. So. Dear wannabe mystic: I don’t know if it’s possible to read the palms of Christ. All I know is the language of wounds was never lost; we just found a thousand weird ways to decipher it. It doesn’t matter which house the moon resides—it’s just in the fucking house so crack a bottle open, let cheap beer spill out through the gates and fuck it, go stargazing. Our eyes return to the ground eventually—we tiny gods who, when sated on spirit, step out to piss on the nearest tangle of roots. Watch out for the duende.

78


michaela gonzales tiglao

Heart That Doesn’t Feel i was born with a broken heart. It’s an apt way to begin. Pulmonary valve regurgitation, the doctors called it, my mother being one of them, like there’s a hole in your heart. This was the simplest way to explain my condition. I was in kindergarten when my mother dragged me out of class for the appointment. She didn’t tell me why I needed to skip school and she barely batted her eyelashes at me when I screamed and kicked at her; didn’t tell me why I had to strip naked in front of a bunch of strangers and let them attach a bunch of high-tech wire shit all over my chest while they consulted with a screen. Well, I didn’t bother asking: I suppose I found the whole scenario cool, like I was in the movie e.t. Unsurprisingly, this is one of my most vivid memories. I wish Adler got the chance to meet me, so he would write this down. He’s the psychologist who came up with individual psychology and the inferiority complex and how our earliest memories are consciously retained because they must have a bearing on our current problems. Again, it’s all very apt. Anyway, there’s no such thing as a “chance” memory for Adler. I’m quite lucky I’m a psychology major because not a lot of people get to be hyperaware the way I am about every aspect of my life. Anyway, I’m also super aware I can be quite talkative. My mother says I’ve overcompensated my having a broken heart with having a very advanced brain that processes too much at a split-second, hence the urge to blurt out a lot of words than even I can’t keep track of. I don’t refute it because I think it’s a compliment. The very advanced brain part, I mean, even if my mother’s twisted mouth tells me she doesn’t mean it as a compliment. She says she wouldn’t be surprised if my future husband left me because I didn’t know when and how to shut up, and I would probably just always bring up his failures without meaning to. This I refuted: I don’t notice how much I say, but 79


I notice what I say. So if I were to insult my future husband, it would be with full knowledge and choice. My older sister, Paisley, says I’m heartless. The pun doesn’t escape me. The first time she said this was when our dad left us and instead of crying my heart out (pun unintended, by the way), I made for the kitchen and got myself some ice cream. Mint chocolate, I think, was the flavor. It was a really hot day. I offered a spoonful to Paisley, who was banging on our parents’ bedroom door because our mother had locked herself in right when the sound of dad’s engine faded away, but my sister shot me the most hateful look a fourteen-year-old could muster with a snotty nose. I never bought mint chocolate ice cream since. Am I a psychopath? I honestly don’t know. I’ve checked the dsm-5 too many times and nothing quite fits. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent? Check. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest? Um, no. I mean, I don’t think so? Unless being insufferably talkative is grounds for arrest these days. I don’t reach the minimum three of the diagnostic criteria, and I don’t have enough to merit being diagnosed with personality traits. Very ironically, I don’t have the words to explain it. * It’s during breakfast over a plate of hot scrambled eggs and steaming coffee, the television on for Nat Geo: Brain Games, Paisley sitting to my left holding up the latest issue of Metro in one hand and the other trying to put her spoon closer to her Ruby Woo lips but failing utterly, instead bumping into her cheek, that my mother breaks the news. I’m in the middle of explaining positive and negative reinforcement when it comes to playing basketball, Paisley making half-hearted noises as a sign of acknowledgement, turning over a page, yet again missing her mouth as her spoon rebounds off her cheek and egg falls on her placemat. Jason Silva’s baritone is a comforting drone in the backdrop. 80


“It’s not the noise that off-balances a free throw,” I explain. My mother stirs her coffee; she’s been stirring it for forever. “It’s the tone and the words and what that noise means.” “Mm-hmm,” says my mother. Her spoon clanks loudly. “It’s the negative reinforcement that off-balances the player. So even if Josh is good, the brain makes him think he isn’t. It affects his performance.” “Hmm.” Paisley flips a page. “I see,” says my mother. “Well, it’s common sense,” I continue. “But I really like this video. The blindfold was necessary to set up Josh’s inferiority.” “Your grandmother is visiting next week,” my mother blurts out. “Because of the blindfold, Josh is demoralized. Like, okay, he probably sucks because he can’t see the ring. He can do better without the stupid blindfold, right? But the consecutive negative feedback makes him feel shittier. ‘Is it the blindfold or me that’s making me suck?’ Josh might be thinking.” “You’re such a psych major,” Paisley says. “I wish I did that for my expe psych class. It’s hard to be original.” “Your grandmother is visiting next week.” My mother clears her throat, louder, just as the credits of Nat Geo: Brain Games fades away. “Did you hear what I said?” my mother asks. She sounds very irritated. “Yes, Carla, I heard what you said,” I say, taking a sip of my coffee. “I just deigned not to notice you until I was finished talking.” “Deigned,” Paisley says. “You better watch it, Rosa, or I won’t care that it’s eight in the morning when I slap you.” “I’m sorry. You were saying?” “Your grandmother is visiting because she hasn’t seen the both of you in years. She thinks she’s going to die soon.” My mother sighs. “I hope she does.” I set my cup down. Paisley gasps. “Rosa!” “Not in the way you’re thinking,” I say, “wouldn’t it be better to die now than to die crazy?” 81


“You’re crazy,” says Paisley, “and heartless.” “As you’ve told me.” “Enough.” My mother shakes her head. “She’s your grandmother, crazy or not. You will not be rude to her. You will not not be available to spend time with her. And you will not speak at all, if you can help it.” This last statement is addressed to me, her chin raised. “For real? What if she speaks to me? Won’t I be rude for not replying? That makes me violate two of your commandments.” My mother makes a sound deep from within her soul. Paisley stands up and takes her plate. “She’s a lost cause,” my sister says. “Heartless,” I correct her. It’s my favorite comeback. I’ll be honest: my grandmother isn’t exactly my favorite person in the world. She isn’t even on my top ten list, but I’m not rude enough to place her below Justin Bieber. It’s not because she’s crazy—that would go against every cell of my body programmed to fashion a psychologist-organism. It’s not because she’s lived in Spain for nearly eight years either, and that I don’t understand half the stuff she tells me—“‘A pan de quince días, hambre de tres semanas,’” she once told me when I spilled juice down the front of my shirt in an amusement park and had to resort to borrowing Paisley’s cropped top. I was thirteen and I didn’t like flashing my belly. “What did you say?” I asked. “‘To a fifteen-day bread, a three-week hunger,’” she translated, jabbing a finger in the air as if giving a speech. “She just means beggars can’t be choosers,” my mother offered. “Why didn’t you just say that?” I asked my grandmother, but she had already dug into her hotdog and was speaking about who-knewwhat with Paisley. I hoped for my sister’s sake she was speaking in English. My grandmother has this way of making you feel stupid when you know you aren’t. And it just usually ends with you getting incredibly pissed at the end of it. It doesn’t help that she migrated to Spain because she believed the Philippines was a “hopeless case”, its people “morons”—this, other than the fact that my grandfather had passed away and she had no one to live for anymore, I thought, 82


was so melodramatic. We were hiding under the couch in the living room where our mother and grandmother were speaking then; above us, our mother was a blubbering mess. And when my grandmother arrived in Spain, it went berserk from there. She wore dresses only girls my age wore. She dined in fancy bistros and shopped luxury shoe brands and smoked a pack of cigarettes twice a day. She had countless lovers: Pablo, Ramon, Joaquín, Manny—the names all but condensed in my head, the common denominator being they were all European and probably had curly hair, like my grandfather used to have. Regression was the only word for it. Freud explained regression as an unconscious defense mechanism, a long-term or temporary reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development. You could be a teenager and suddenly want to suck your thumb, or you could be a sixty-what-so woman and frolic around like a teenager. Insecurity and fear is often the cause of regression; the ego would revert to a point in development when the person probably felt safer, and stress was nonexistent. I try to sympathize; really, I do. When your partner of forty years gets a heart attack right in front of your eyes, the fragility of human life hits you. You realize you don’t have enough time. If this is my grandmother’s way of coping, what right do I have to say about it? Except she can be pretty fucking annoying. The first time my grandmother came home from Spain (the day before we visited the amusement park), we went to the S&R near our village so she could try the pizza and cheesecake there. We were waiting in line—well, I was; my grandmother was making eyes at a man who could be my grandfather not far off from where we stood. I placed our order, and when it was time to pay, realized I was short on fifty pesos. I mentioned this to my grandmother. “So?” She raised a perfect eyebrow. “We’re short on fifty pesos,” I repeated. We were holding up the line. I tried to reach for her bag. My grandmother jerked away and gasped so loudly all eyes turned to us. “I just need to borrow fifty pesos from you,” I pleaded, “mom will pay you back.” 83


“You could have just said that.” Her eyes were huge and her voice so loud. “I did!” “No, you didn’t. You need to be clearer with your words, Rosa. ‘Abuela,’ you could have said, ‘can I borrow fifty pesos from you?’ You can’t assume people automatically understand what you say.” “Can you just give me the fifty? We’re taking too long.” “So what? We were first.” “We’re not the only customers. You’re being rude.” “There’s nothing rude about what I’m doing.” All around us, everyone was pretending not to listen. “We were here first. They wait. Stop calling me rude. Who are you? Wherever you go, the customers are always right. You should know that. I don’t like you calling me rude. You don’t know anything.” She finally took out Sergio Osmeña, neat and crisp from her Louis Vuitton wallet, and handed it to the cashier with a smile. “Excuse my granddaughter. She didn’t tell me she needed fifty pesos. And so what if we’re taking too long? I was first. ‘Di ba, iho?” There were other instances, but they all point to the same conclusion: my grandmother can be overbearing. Since she migrated when I was eleven, I’ve only seen her a total of four times in the past eight years, three of those visits because of my and Paisley’s high school graduation, and later because of Paisley’s college graduation. They were all obligatory visits, and I was more than fine with that arrangement. * My grandmother doesn’t look like she’s dying. If dying looked like a retired Hollywood movie star, then perhaps she could be. My grandmother is wearing a black floor-length dress that is probably three hundred euros (twenty thousand in pesos), and sandals that certainly cost more, when we fetch her from the airport. I notice that she’s gotten a haircut: she’s dyed it a reddish brown, and her pixie cut complements the angles of her face. Paisley gushes in 84


adoration. I give my cursory greeting: a press of the back of her hand to my forehead, followed by a peck on the cheek. Then I sit shotgun and don’t say anything on the car ride home. The first thing my grandmother comments on is the interior of the house, which my mother redesigned a month ago. I don’t know what my grandmother’s apartment looks like miles across the ocean, but it must be superior by the crinkle of her nose. “Who did this?” she demands. “I got it off the Internet,” my mother answers. “It’s hideous. Spaniards really have better taste.” “If we have time, we can go to Shangri-La and buy new furniture and décor. Does that sound like a plan?” “Hmph. ‘No hay malos muebles que cien años dure.’” My sister and I don’t bother asking what that means. We let our grandmother settle in the guest room while my mother prepares for work. She doesn’t have duty until two, but traffic is bad. Paisley asked for a leave from her boss. She works as a brand manager for some big company that’s into health and beauty. Paisley being Paisley, she got off the hook. She probably hasn’t even used any of her leaves yet. She loves her job; she gets to come home with the latest line of makeup products and skincare. I haven’t been doing any new activities since summer started, but avoiding my grandmother seems like it can now count as one. I’m on my laptop reading academic journals when I hear a knock on my door. “Rosa?” I can just tell my grandmother’s mouth is pressed up against my door. “Is that you?” “It’s not like I made any noise. Yes, it’s me. Why?” She opens my door and enters. “Can I come inside?” “You already are.” “You’re still so sarcastic.” She eyes me. “What are you doing here?” I ask when the silence stretches on and agitation settles from watching my grandmother stand in my room so calmly, looking me over, as if there’s nothing strange about it. “When are you graduating college?” 85


“Next school year. Why?” “What course?” “Psychology. Why?” “Why do you keep asking why? Can’t your abuela know for the sake of knowing?” “You wouldn’t ask something if you weren’t going to follow up on it.” “So what? Maybe I just want to know. What are you going to do with your psychology degree?” “There you go. I’m going to be a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I still have time to decide.” “Aren’t they the same? How well are psychologists paid here?” “No, they’re not the same. A psychologist specializes in psychology. There’s a lot of research, and you could delve into child psychology or cognitive psychology or forensic psychology. Child psych suits me fine, but I’m really thinking about forensic psych. We had a guest speaker come over at school and she seemed to be doing really cool stuff, like Sherlock Holmes or Detective Conan. It’s cooler than being a lawyer. Scarier. Anyway, a psychiatrist is the one who diagnoses and treats mental illnesses. Depression, schizo, m.p.d., what have you.” “So they’re the same. But how well are they paid?” “I told you, they’re not the same. A psychologist is a researcher while a psychiatrist is a clinician.” “They both do psych things, nieta.” “It doesn’t work that way. It’s like saying a biologist is a doctor and can heal people. It’s not always true.” “They know the same things. They know what life is.” “It’s—you know what, never mind. That’s really not the point.” Silence. My grandmother sits on the edge of my bed. “Are you seeing anyone? Or is it not just one?” “None. I’m not interested.” She scoffs as if it’s the most stupid thing I’ve said so far. “Bullshit! No one’s courting you, maybe.”

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“Not everyone has the time to dally around like you do.” “You’ll grow old and lonely. I could introduce you to someone when I return to Spain. Christian has a grandson your age and he’s very cute. You could come with me.” “No thanks. He wouldn’t stand me and I wouldn’t stand him.” “Why’s that?” “I’m heartless. All that jazz.” I return my gaze to my laptop. Hopefully she gets the hint I’m done with the whole exchange. She does not. “Why do you say that?” “It’s a pun. Okay? That’s all.” “Yeah, but why is it a pun?” “Paisley started it. It’s just a pun. Because I have pulmonary valve regurgitation. It’s a real heart condition. Didn’t mom ever tell you? It just means there’s a hole in my heart because of a leaky valve that’s supposed to transfer my blood to my lungs. But because my heart is pretty shitty, it ends up flowing back to my heart. I literally have a broken heart, but Paisley likes calling me heartless, because a useless heart is no better than having no heart at all. That’s the pun. It’s an over dramatization; I’m not going to die.” “Hmm.” My grandmother seems to be in deep thought. “‘Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.’” “What?” “Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel’, nieta.” “What are you talking about?” “There you are!” Paisley stands in the doorway. She’s looking at our grandmother. “I was going to show you the newest product we pitched. It’s a foundation with a new formula that gives full coverage with a glow-y, dewy finish, and it’s very hydrating. We recommend this with our micellar water. It melts off the foundation easily and leaves your skin feeling smooth and soft, à la baby’s butt.” I don’t ask my grandmother what she means, even when the words continue to swim in my head days after. At some point I’ve become convinced I’m hearing voices and consult with my dsm-5. It irritates me that I’m irritated at my grandmother for all the wrong reasons.

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It irritates me that she can go about her usual routine without noticing how she’s drastically changed mine. It irritates me that I can’t even drop it. I’ve reached my limit when I finally confront her. She’s in the kitchen in nothing but a tank top and micro-short shorts and is in the middle of watching videos on my mother’s laptop while something bakes in the oven. She doesn’t look up when I arrive. “Are you here to help me, Rosa?” “Listen. You said this days ago and it’s not my fault you’re damn cryptic. I don’t even know if you’re doing it on purpose, and it doesn’t matter right now. But of all the damn cryptic stuff you’ve been saying since you moved to Spain, this one tops everything. And I don’t mean it in a good way. So you better tell me what you meant because it’s your fault for starting it.” “What on earth are you talking about?” “The one you said days ago. When I told you about Paisley’s pun.” “Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente?’” “Yes. ‘Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.’ What does that one mean?” “It means anything, nieta. It’s open to interpretation.” “What did you mean?” Suddenly, she understands. “Where’s the point in that? It’s up to you.” “It’s not a saying if it’s not going to be universal.” “Well, it can mean anything.” “You know what I mean.” “It’s really open to interpretation.” My grandmother is grinning now. “Why don’t you tell me yours and start from there?” “Stop that.” “Stop what?” “I’m not stupid. I just want to know what you meant.” Her mouth forms an O. “I never said you were stupid. Where did you get that?” “That’s how you are. Okay? You always find a way to make me feel like I’m stupid for not understanding the stuff you do and the stuff 88


you say. Like I’m the odd one here. But it’s you who’s weird and odd and annoying as hell. You don’t even act like your own age.” She doesn’t say anything. “I don’t know how mom and Paisley put up with you. You can be really crappy, you know that? Mom spent so much on the interior and it’s been a while since she got to buy stuff for herself. She had it all planned out for months and was super excited about it, but you go traipsing in from the other side of the globe and calling it shit. “You haven’t seen us in years and you feel you can act that way with us. We’ve been doing fine without you, in case you’ve been thinking otherwise. We’ve been doing fine without dad. And you don’t look like you’re dying. What’s the deal with that, anyway?” “You don’t know anything, Rosa,” my grandmother says at length. “Don’t talk about things you don’t understand. Who are you?” “Someone had to say it or you wouldn’t get it.” “You’re so arrogant. Wala kang hiya. Your sister was right. You have no heart.” I’ve heard it too many times, but oddly, this time it stings. I leave my grandmother in the kitchen, the smell of brownies trailing after me. They’re my mother’s favorite. * I’ve never had a fight with my grandmother that doesn’t resolve by the next day or so, and I’m right. By the afternoon of the second day since our argument, my grandmother has already spoken to me, asking for help with adjusting the thermostat of her air conditioner. We exchange a few more words, and it’s as if nothing has happened. I still think about what she said, spoken ages ago. From a psychological perspective, I try to think of why I can’t seem to let go of them. The most obvious answer is that it means something to me. I don’t know if I don’t know what, or if I’m in a state of unconscious denial, hence this unusual effect on my demeanor— according to Freud, if the ego is obliged to admit its weakness, it breaks out in anxiety. 89


“What’s up, kiddo?” Paisley looks up from her laptop. After pacing in front of her bedroom for thirty minutes, I finally relented. “You’re still up?” “Evidently. I need to ask you something. Are you busy? It’s nothing, anyway.” She pushes her laptop aside. “I can hold off writing a few e-mails. What are you asking?” “Grandma told me something a few days ago. I wanted to know your interpretation of it.” Only after saying it do I realize I’ve never really called my grandmother anything. “Grandma” is foreign on the tongue. “Yeah? What did she say this time?” “It’s pretty stupid. But it’s ‘eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel’. It’s vague as usual.” “It is.” Paisley ponders on it. She’s the right person to ask because she reads tons of poetry. “It sounds like a great marketing tagline, though. Isn’t it just something like ‘if you don’t see it, you don’t feel it anymore’? Like in the context of a long-distance relationship?” “Oh. You’re right.” “It depends on how she used it, though. What were you talking about?” “It’s nothing,” I say. Before I can help it: “What do you mean when you call me heartless?” Paisley’s expression softens. “It’s a long-standing pun. Because of your heart condition and all. The fact that you’re nonchalant, too. It’s not a bad thing. I don’t mean it literally. You’re rude, and insufferable, but I know you’re one of the sweetest people around. Don’t take it to heart, kiddo. Ha, I made another pun.” It’s only until I’m settled in for the night that I let myself think about it, really think. I grapple for something to hold on to: a memory, some piece of knowledge, a starting point. I think of what I’ve been told for so long—all of them. And it’s been so easy for me, so ingrained already that I’m only aware of it now because of a little disturbance, a slight shift. It comes to me then: how often we

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overestimate ourselves and the control we have. How we decide and believe one thing, but something as simple as an encounter or a gesture or a word or eight can unmake it. Can we blame ourselves? I don’t know if my grandmother meant to be ironic. Maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about. I won’t know—perhaps I never will, and I should be okay with that—but it takes a while to fall asleep, and by then I’m dreaming too heavily to give myself the words for it. * The day my grandmother leaves for Spain, the airport is stuffy and crowded. The day is hotter than usual and traffic jams the drop-off area. We stay inside the car and wait our turn. “Christian and I plan to visit Portugal once I return. We want to see the Fatima. His grandson will take our pictures. I’ll make sure he sends them to your e-mail,” my grandmother says. Paisley asks the important question. “Is he hot?” “Yes, but I think he’s too young for you, nieta. I’ll find another one for you.” “Mama, do you have your passport ready?” my mother asks. “Yes, it’s in my hand.” “Do you know where to go once you’re inside? Which documents to fill up and which line to go to? Do you have enough pesos? Rosa, pass me my wallet in my bag.” “Relax. I haven’t spent that much since I got here. You act as if I’m a child. I’ve travelled more times than any of you have.” A chortle; then a pause. “Sorry. But thank you.” “When’s the next time you’re coming back?” Paisley says. “I don’t know, nieta. There are many things to do. I’ll die soon.” “So you’ve said a bajillion times,” I say. “You don’t understand because you’re young.” We find an opening and squeeze the Innova in the driveway. My mother parks and opens the back of the car. We all help bring down the luggage.

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“Rosa’s very smart,” says my sister quickly, “I’m sure she does.” “No, I don’t,” I say, and I catch the look my grandmother gives me before my mother hands her her carry-on bag. “You’ll give us a call once you get past immigration?” my mother says. “Yes, yes. Honestly, calm down. You act as if I’m going to die now. I survived the plane crash to Honolulu, remember?” “What? You didn’t tell me anything about that!” “I’ll miss you.” Paisley throws her arms around our grandmother and sticks to her like glue, as if she’s a little kid again. My grandmother meets my eyes over my sister’s shoulder. Paisley finally lets go. “‘Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente’, Grandma,” I say. Her laughter rings in the afternoon bustle. “You’re still such a smarty-pants.” “You have to e-mail us,” says Paisley. “I taught you how yesterday.” “I will, I will. Tell your sister to write to me too.” We wait until it’s my grandmother’s turn to enter through the main doors. She turns around and gives us an energetic wave. Then she’s gone. “So, will you?” Paisley asks me. “I’ll think about it.” And I will. I might.

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luis francia

Leon Lean in the Lane Leon lean in the lane with élan He runs as fast as he can. He owns the now for now. Through rain and sun, He will have his run. He is of his time, down With the beat and the rhyme, His heart and life in sync. No need to think: He will swim and never sink. Leon lean in the lane with élan He runs as fast as he can. He owns the now for now. Through rain and sun, He will have his run. But the dogs with guns run as fast And even when Leon doesn’t stop He will suffer, he will Suffer on these streets that Are his track and where he leaves His mark. He wishes the world to see A young buck growing up, but The dogs with guns now run faster

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Leon through the alleys narrow More a gazelle than a lion Leaps in pursuit of a glorious tomorrow But the dogs are hunting, The dogs run faster At his heels they bay—Leon in a corner! They bark, Leon, here is a gun Take it and run! Young Leon hears the sky thunder Don’t pick it up, pare! Hears the the sari-sari stores whisper, We are sorry, we are sorry! Into his hands the dogs thrust a gun. Pale Leon wonders, why, what have I done? I may be poor but I am Neither addict nor pusher. The dogs bark, and so do their guns. Seized by unfathomable lust, they All but lave themselves in his blood, The blood of the sacrificial lamb. Leon, the bloom of his youth is gone, The beauty of one never to be A man. Lean in the lane with élan Leon ran as fast as he could, Bright philosopher of the streets, Leon, loved by all, was given a gun. And now he is gone.

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cyan abad-jugo

Kalokohan in Kalookan Swollen-eyed Carl Angelo hijacked a car, his nitrate-manicured hands clasped in metal cuffs like a punk in prayer. Stopped at the corner where his friend Kulot waved bullet-pocked arms, so cool he sported nylon bangles, sack pants, plastic hood. How gangsta, man, sige na, you’re a beast, you creek-floater, with your thirty rat-tat-tat tattoos, me five lang and they call it overkill. But then Kian has only three, paps, in the back, behind the ear, inside the ear. Pano na? Anyare sa earring nya? Still he’s the master gunslinger daw maski nakasubsob sa putik ang galing makipaglaban sa pulis. gtg chikka at the sari-sari. What’s he doing kneeling again? Face to the ground again? Ay drag him out by the hair, give him some air. ’Sup pare, road trip tayo before the sun rises shows our chill corpses 95


to everyone who’ll be puking about us rockstar dudes. We’re the news, the fake, the beautiful, the good, the true. We’re the pelikula, Si Kian, Si Kulot, at Si Karl— kkk, man, we’re the bida! We’re the dreams that went nowhere, through a history pissing everywhere. Ano ba, gorabels, tara na.

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carlomar arcangel daoana

America Mother and I were to see America, no Not the continent—neither its representative Country, the most powerful nation on Earth, Where she stayed for seven years and would Never return again—but the band from The ‘60s whose hit, “A Horse with No Name”, Is less a song than a poem as it gallops Towards ambiguity. It was Valentine’s Day, People were bearing cakes, balloons, roses Wrapped in cellophane with little hearts. I asked her to meet me at McDonald’s Near the train station—now defunct. Before My patience sailed off in its brief string And short supply of helium as I waited, Mother arrived, hastened towards me with Her chipped manicure and faded hair dye. She had managed to dab tint on her lids, A gash of red on her lips. Later: as we were Munching mournfully on spaghetti and burger, An explosion—a godawful thud—set off Below the station, sent its shockwaves To the floor, scurried up our legs and, Upon reaching our stomachs, detonated there For a second time. All animal terror now, Mother and I took to our feet and, with

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The nameless others—they who never Bargained anything like this in their life— Fled into a mall, thinking of nothing else But running, saving ourselves, all of us Buzzing a single mind like a swarm. No sooner did we entertain the idea Of safety when a fresh wave of the panicStricken descended onto the mall; this time, The cashiers, the sales ladies joined us, Abandoning the merchandise they were Paid to keep an eye on. And so mother And I—source and offspring, template And copy—ran some more, encircling The globe, sprinting to the moon and back, Navigating the spiraling floors of a parking lot— The circles of hell where angels hole up To escape God’s terrific wrath—until We were spat out, dazzled and confused, On a thoroughfare. By now, ambulances were Blazing and shrieking, doing something Counter-intuitive, rushing towards the site Of the blast. A pickup whizzed by us, Carrying the injured, map of blood On their backs. Spent from all the running, Mother and I ambled on the streets of The financial district, as if luck had left us For good this time; as if we were looking For father, asking passersby of his whereAbouts; as if our lives had been reconfigured Without our consent in a place where 98


No face was friendly and the snow, sensing us As fresh off the boat, pummeled our shoulders With their laughably small fists. Mother Biting into the burger she had the mind To save despite—or because of—our hurry, We resolved to see America—the beautiful, Blessed America—in our shell-shocked Composure, refugees of the near miss Trying to remember their names while Keeping mum on the news of the outside.

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andrea v. tubig

Jose Nano Joins the Revolution and dies. He goes to heaven and sees Karl Marx naked in a bathtub filled with cherry wine and twelve golden peacocks. On the right side of the tub, a signpost says, “if you want to meet god make karl marx cum.” Jose Nano deepthroats Karl Marx’s cock (bushy, bulging and red like a tomato with pubic hair), tickles his balls, fingers his pretty tight asshole and finds communist semen is sweeter than regular semen. “Can I see God now?”

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“Of course, but what about God’s workers?” Jose Nano sighs, stretches his mouth and blows, sucks, nibbles everyone in heaven except Hannah Arendt because oral sex predetermines love and anything that predetermines isn’t political or sexy.

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jolo urquico

Captivity The Prophet Our paradise in the promised land, city of Jerusalem— Our capital of debauchery, of lawful lawlessness, In the ivory temples, golden calves fattened for our feasts, On the streets, prophets of doom muttering like dogs, Barking at the moon, sons and daughters of David Fornicating on the altar of flesh and wine, consumption Of the fruit bearing fruit, serpents hissing in the distance; behold, City of Sheol, the snakes herald what we have wrought: The apes have come to destroy our temples! The vultures filch on our feasts of flesh! The stone pillars collapse and crumble; now begins The end of the Eden we built; heed the words of the Lord: Profligates, Degenerates, Idolaters, Whores! You, have, had, Your, fill! Henceforth, I, will, now, draw, you, all, into, hunger.

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The Elder The prophets did not fail us. What has come to us, what has become of us, we have brought upon ourselves. Cursed with concupiscence, inevitably, we usher in another period of discontent; Exodus to Exile, Jerusalem reduced to nothing but a broken jaw in our lost kingdom. Let us speak of the God we dared to resist: We bit his hand that fed us, and he struck back with rage, wrath and ire! And now he watches; the Eye of God, the only eye because there are no eyes there are no eyes here, there is no I here—

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We are prisoners walking barefoot towards our seven decade damnation. Have we forgotten history? What of Egypt and our deliverance? What of Moses and the Golden Calf? We have squandered our liberation for an enslavement to vice, replaced the one true God with false idols, chose death over life, forced the open palm of mercy to close and grip the bloody sword of vengeance. From this we must toil anew. In our wake, the crumbling pillars of our fallen kingdom, sand and salted earth stretch far and wide over the landscape of our failures. Upon arrival, look for fertile ground. Here we shall plant seeds that will grow to bear the fruits of memory— From its wines shall we emancipate the souls of our people from their own ignorance.

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The dark night of Babylon is upon us. March on, Israel, faithful dogs of the Lord, for at the gates of the city of Pride the Lion will roar—we must bark back. Heed my words, Israel: The Lion is not your king. By now, you ought to know who your ruler truly is.

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The Exile We are enslaved but we are not slaves. Our bodies are enslaved but our souls are free. The body is a fracture without the soul; the soul is totality; the totality of the soul is fractured without totality of God and God is the totality of all things. Marduk is merely a fraction of a golden calf. We are broken and the totality ours. We will transcend our bodies and return our fractured souls to the totality of God. The totality of God fills the gaps of our brokenness. Nebuchadnezzar is no King. Nebuchadnezzar is the Lion, whose people are fractured: soulless: without God. Nebuchadnezzar: Lion: fraction of a fracture. Ziggurat is no Temple. Ziggurat is a Lion’s Den. The Temple is a fragment of the totality of God. In our fragmented temple we will fill the cracks with the totality of our souls. Babylon is no Jerusalem. Babylon is Egypt. We are promised but the promised land is not ours. We have taken the fractures of Jerusalem to Babylon but fracture cannot be fixed with fracture: brokenness begets brokenness. The City is a fracture. The Temple is a fragment. The King is a fraction. Fracture: something was once whole. Jerusalem: fracture: a broken jaw in our lost kingdom. Without our city the promised land is fractured. The promise is fractured: broken. Because fracture cannot be fixed with fracture and brokenness begets brokenness we will give you a promise forged from totality: You will be ruled by a true King, Jerusalem; We will rebuild your Temple, Jerusalem; We will reclaim you, Jerusalem; We will return to you, Jerusalem; We will wait seven decades; We will wait seventy years; We will make you stronger, far better than the sum of our brokenness; We will fill your fractures and make you whole once more.

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His mother wore a hijab, there on nothing less than a dream.

We’ve been many wars, lived under many tents. When we left we took the last loaf of bread, last unburnt hijab, last splintered boat out. I swept the whole house to find the last coin, behind the drawer, token for out of here; then they swept the whole house from under our feet. Fear stalked us out of the city, casting a shadow with no roof, no doors, no windows. We were homeless for miles. Here, everything either comes up sand or water—the landscape always changing, or the seascape that never does. The things we trade for passage: waterlogged cell phone, birth certificate, coin. Sometimes, a little boy, capsized. Mirages assume the shape of embassies. Even your God, straight out of Bethlehem and into Egypt, was a refugee.

The Refugee, excerpt from Pilgrim

regine cabato


michaela gonzales tiglao

Empire of Lost Things When I ask for a memory about my grandfather, my mother tells me this: the time her father held her hand as they walked along the harbor in Manila Bay and told her this was how his own mother had held his as they followed the path up the mountains, the Japanese troops having arrived in his hometown and he being nine then. He had wanted to cry but his mother began singing to him in low, soothing tones. That night his mother would give him her ring, which he would tie with thread from her old sewing kit around his neck. He wore it with him all the time, my mother says now, the both of us lagging a little behind the trekking group, careful as we cross over boulders and tiny streams. He wore it when he spent a night in a cell, running his fingers over its surface, singing the song his mother had taught him; he wore it the one time his daughter had decided to go fishing with him and she joked to use it as bait. He finally gave it to my mother the day before her first day at university, she was impatient as he untied the thread around his neck and placed the ring down on her palm. She lost it eventually, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. My mother found the brochure on the empire of lost things three days ago, and we found ourselves trekking mountains in search for it. Why do we need it now? I ask politely. Our guide is babbling to the group and my mother meets my eyes when she says, It’s important we remember it. I don’t know my mother well enough to completely understand, summers being the only times I have with her, so I only nod. When the sky darkens, we set up camp, and I’m dreaming of golden spires spilling with objects like dolls and keys and eyeglasses when I feel warmth brush over my hand, lightly and tentatively, before briefly enclosing.

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joshua uyheng

Before M. C. Escher’s Circle Limit IV The way the final curve is rendered, child, you wouldn’t know if it was curving inward or out, swelling into the plane of the printed woodblock or towards us. Does it heave? Yes. Little white angel with the trumpet you can’t see because it, too, has been given to us monochromatic, see the way she plays you can’t hear because of all the reasons you can’t say, how still she lifts up the neck of her horn across her simple body. Blows. Little white incandescence of sound and after. Little white tremble. I believe in you, angel, the way you hover into your little existence, and then the silence you remain for, like a prayer, to fill. Does it heave, this silence? How else does it

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violate? I am convinced we called it only what it must have been at the time, regular division of the plane, at first, as if an exercise in tessellation, what the plausible shapes are by which we may cover it. A symmetry, child. Don’t you wish to believe? An intimated perfection. There is a great mechanism to it, a secret counting of beads, one and then another which you place into a wooden bowl in fractal light you’ve set idly by the window, now you’ve taken it back, taken its smallness back for yourself into your chamber to master. One bead, then two beads, like a languid rehearsal of a rosary, great mystery, your fingers always fumbling it. Oh bright fumble! Oh my beloved white congregation of sins, dear necessary forgiveness of saints, how could I ever admit any species of delay to

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name you? Black demon and dog’s breath and deep, hardening entrail, do you shiver more like a breathing dream or like a warming body beside me, asleep? You’ve got your head turned to the other side, that far wall, sure, but I know, I see you—your gaping mouth and wide open eyes, saccading, manic searchlight, as if waiting for, as only the darling string of any instrument knows, the gentlest permission to snap. Do you hear me, lucent creature? Do you feel my body move beside you, moonlit airway, stubborn tendon, raggedy claw and shifting bed? I want to hold you now how only God must know all the names of our uncountable dead. Child, put your face close to mine just how softly the devil aches to feel each of our shrapneled hearts beating. Can you map out this geometry? I was told, once, not to depend too terribly upon it. But still I hold

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fast that it must be so, distant creator, dear unshroudable myth that it must be so, yes, child, will you lay them out here, side by side, the steadfast and the vincible, the final word upon it, unloose everything to our long-dreamed-for convergence, that terrible sphere which curves inward or out or perhaps both but we do not know, approaching this limit, zeroing down toward our burning bodies at the center, all of our hope and despair lodged in the howling knot of the center, accumulating fast with a force you can’t help but call inevitable, beginning to hurt, now to hum, all those faceless multitudes already gathered at the edge?

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alfred a. yuson

excerpt from The Music Child & The Mahjong Queen* i learned about The Mahjong Queen only when I finally decided to see Luisito again, a good dozen years since I escaped the deaths on his mountain. And that was four years after Dr. Kazuko Ozawa began communicating with me soon after Dr. Cesar met a terrible accident in Kumamoto. With Luisito orphaned once again, I became concerned that he would think himself responsible for his adopted father’s demise. The boy was inconsolable, per Dr. Ozawa’s letters. She didn’t stint on feeding me everything she knew, or had. Even Cesar's thick journals arrived by FedEx, unread by her, she said, as they might be private. She had no interest in finding out what he had written about her, especially since they had had a romantic relationship. I could look them over, for I was a journalist, presumed to be objective. She was wrong there. We all grow up with biases we never quite shake off. And throughout life we pick up new ones. What I eventually pieced together took all of those last four years, when I also heard about Luisito and how he had fared after yet another great loss. Initially the temptation was great to hop on the first plane to Tokyo and share in his grief. I hadn’t stayed on that mountain when Don Julio was felled by bullets. Now I could make up for it by listening to Luisito’s next lament in full. At 19, he had sung again, wrote Kazuko, when he learned of how Cesar hadn’t made it out of a motor accident on his way to the airport for a flight out. Luisito was beside himself with grief. He sang at her home, sang facing Mama Nori, until the old woman’s own cascade of tears alarmed Kazuko, so that she pleaded for him to stop. *Best Novel in English, 36th National Book Awards

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When he did, he slipped back into silence as what had happened seven years back. He ate few meals. He tended to the small Zen garden the Ozawas maintained on their backyard. He raked the sand in silence. After several months, he went to Kazuko’s studio and took out a ream of linen paper, her calligraphy pen and a bottle of ink. Almost as an afterthought, she recounted, he picked up a Bic ballpen on his way out. She found him drawing and scribbling. At least he was back to a relationship with words. She didn't have the heart to document his threnody, that day she got back from the morgue, embraced him tight, and whispered into his ear that his Ta-Ta Cesar was gone. There were only two other instances when she could have recorded him, but she also chose not to. And these I was to learn only much later, when I built up the courage to embark on Cesar’s voluminous diary. Just as I completed my patient perusal of handwritten notes, if over four years late, Kazuko wrote to say Luisito was in love with Vilma Santos, whom they met in Tokyo after he saw her featured on television as The Mahjong Queen. Piecing together Kazuko’s account of how Luisito had regained his speaking voice upon meeting Vilma—and perhaps his singing prowess soon after—with the intersections of curious chronology it shared with Cesar’s Kumamoto journals, I thought so petty of my own downturn into personal anomie. This was the way to live, to lose and regain jubilation, I told myself. Indeed, I felt comforted by the twists of fate and magic that seemed to rule many lives in what we called the Orient. We were the ones too far gone with our faith in systems. There went one bias, only to be replaced by a grudging, nearly envious appreciation of how wondrous people exchanged wonders—through silence, through words, through song, through miracles, through bodily fluids.

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* On his third visit to Kumamoto, with Luisito now 15, Cesar finally went to bed with Kazuko. He was 45 and hadn’t had sex for a very long time. She was ten years his junior. She was patient with him. Their first time, she thought he was going to have a heart attack. But he came fast, and apologized before he turned over to regain his breath. She caressed him, entwined herself around him for the next hour. A shamisen played in the background. He asked her to discuss the instrument. Three strings, she said. She fondled his limp, circumcised penis. She tugged gently at the vestigial foreskin, then plucked at what had become of his length, once, twice, thrice. Three strings, she repeated, before sliding down the futon to lick at his balls. “Surely, Cesar-san,” Kazuko purred from down under, “you must have heard of Keiji Koga.” “Keiji who?” “A Japanese engineer. He made the Ikebana Speaker. You know, the flower arrangement? Ikebana? He placed a magnet and coil at the base of an ikebana vase and hooked up a cd player. The plant’s stem then acts as a conductor of sound waves, with the flowers as the cones. I have a record of his somewhere.” All these details, Cesar had written down with an apparently consuming coldness, the way he had been trained to turn in his reports on ethnographic blah-blah-blah. In any case, he went erect once more, and their second time that night was satisfactory for Kazuko. They went at it again the next night, as three-stringed instruments lulled Mama Nori to a deep sleep. Luisito played Atari games in their apartment nearby, then wrote a haiku or two before he too went to bed, knowing that Ta-Ta Cesar would be working with Kazuko-san on some kind of music late into the night. On their third, it was done standing up, with Kazuko having her sacral dimples pressed against a heavy desk. Cesar measured his

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thrusts and had her screaming silently, for her mother was in the Zen garden with Luisito. Cesar had to fly to Tokyo that night to catch a dawn flight to Bali for the Ubud Conference-Workshop on Rice Music. Kazuko didn’t think much of grain stalks slithering the way of breezes, or the sounds the anoa’s hooves made on rice paddies. She asked Cesar to send her a tape of the music made by long-stringed kites the Balinese kept tethered to the ground at night. He wouldn’t see her and Luisito for six months. He wrote her tender letters, professing love. Kazuko thanked him for his sentiment. She kept him abreast with her projects with his ward, now hers. They celebrated Luisito’s 16th birthday with a weekend in Nara, where they fed the deer and stayed two nights at a quaint old inn with hot spring pools. Luisito enjoyed the onsen while Cesar and Kazuko tumbled together in her room. Cesar couldn’t stay longer than a fortnight in his subsequent visits. Kazuko told him they should stretch out the relationship, make it last, despite the frequent periods of distance. They need not go to bed every day they were together. Cesar smiled to himself and thought the irony splendid. Surely she must be falling in love with him, too, and could seriously be contemplating a permanent relationship, as he was. They hadn’t been together in bed, or naked and joined, a dozen times. Or had they? It felt like perpetuity in slow motion. It was beginning to feel enchanting for him. On his next visit, with Luisito soon to turn 17, Cesar insisted on an early evening romp. The boy burst into her studio and saw them coupling before they could pull up the sheets. By then they were hearing exultant music from his lips, a sudden ardor that expressed itself in quick bursts of spirited cadenza. They both laughed nervously until Kazuko disengaged herself, strode across the room towards the boy, and with a grin that went well with her nakedness, started to push him playfully towards the door. “Oh, Luisito, get out. Play with yourself.”

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The boy was wide-eyed with mischief and fascination, inspecting her form as he allowed himself to be backed up all the way through the open door. A click. And he was shut out. They didn’t couple for the next few days, but held hands before Luisito and Mama Nori. The boy blew out the candles on his birthday cake. “I’m sorry, Luisito, I still have to think of a present for you,” Kazuko said. “But I think I know what it will be. You will get it soon.” “Arigatou gozaimasu, Kazuko-san.” That night turned out to be the last time Cesar would enjoy Kazuko’s favors on the futon. They had come together, she had made an effort to match his strokes, sat upright on him, pounded her will and determination upon his groin, until they began to gasp at the same time and clutched at each other fiercely, fluently, till the last tiny spasm. He then thought she was joking when she thanked him for the experience, and added that it would have to be their last. The next time he would spend with her in Kyushu, it would be as a professional colleague again. He didn’t think much of it when he left for home. He wrote her the usual letters, sent dried mango slices in vacuum packs. But upon his return to Kumamoto, he realized she wasn’t playing a game. Or was she? She’d push him aside, elude his advances. Exasperated, he asked, “Why, Kazuko?” She looked him straight in the eye. “I told you that last time, Cesar. That was our 13th night in bed. I never go beyond thirteen, not with any man.” * Luisito had heard the same words before Cesar did. His belated 17th birthday gift was Kazuko’s porcelain body, 20 years more mature than his, bold and shining with experience.

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She went to the apartment straight from the airport where she had dropped Cesar off. “I want to hear you sing again,” she said as she peeled off her clothes. Instead, grateful corners of a smile lined the boy’s mouth agape. His lips gravitated to her breasts. He grasped her buttocks, suddenly shivering in the cold as she stripped him of his kimono and underwear. On top of her, Luisito did as she had desired and expected. He sang full-throated, in triumph after his first release as a man. In two weeks, however blissfully unknowing, he had filled up his quota. Or rather, hers, as she announced posthaste. With yet another happy birthday kiss, this time on his cheek. He didn’t take it as badly as Cesar, as she had anticipated. “Why 13, Kazuko-san? The number of bad luck?” “No, Luisito, my dear boy, my special child. It is because you have not sung again since that first time.” “Then I will sing, each time.” “Ha ha. I was just teasing. It wouldn’t matter now. Well, it would, for my work. But not between us, not here in bed.” “So why stop at thirteen, Kazuko-san?” “It’s all very simple. It’s the number of strings in that instrument I gave you for your birthday last year.” Luisito’s smile grew wide again. “Ah, so. The koto.” He embraced her nakedness for the last time. “I will still love you, Kazuko-san.” “Thank you, Luisito. But now you will love me as a mother or an aunt.” “Mama Nori is my mother. I will love you as a sister.” “I’m too old to be your sister, Luisito. I can be your auntie, your Tita.” “Yes, Kazuko-san. And my older sister. And my neighbor. And my loving teacher.”

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* Denial was writ large among Cesar’s notes. Only a man his age, like me, maybe someone who had experienced the loss of an imagined love, could decipher the intricate code he had woven to mask his feelings. Had he known about Kazuko’s affair with his ward? Or when did he find out? Nowhere in his journals was it stated as fact, the way everything else had been, to the hour and minute, exact physical coordinates to boot. There was much speculation, too, on the kind of newfangled machine Dr. Kazuko Ozawa must have had for a heart. She was brilliant, she was tempestuous in the way she brought an idea to fruition, or to splay out the variants of a notion with a centrifugal force all her own. But where was the centripetal flow inwards, into her sacred chambers? Perhaps she had none, Cesar argued to himself. But finally, an entry spoke of how he felt privileged to have been exposed to her manic drive and influence, how it was a rare honor too to have seen the boy grow up and learn from him and her, how he had shared something really special with Luisito. The last few pages were on his fresh theories on the music of emotions, harmonies absent of calculations, and the distance a melody can take as far away as possible from any mathematical configuration. Only when it was provoked by passion could music gain release from formulae, Dr. Cesar Abellana posited. Yet that passion could not be of a cultural void. “Ah, enough! I contradict myself again. The leap of faith, of early belief, has landed me on my back again. When may I fly with pure reason?!”

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The last written words of a man are always precious. I felt that same rank of privilege bestowed on me by the final page on his diary, and will forever be grateful to Kazuko for the endowment. That Cesar left the journals with her before driving off to the airport on a rented car gives us both pause, of course—Kazuko and me. He had spent his last two years with passionate intent on the work they were doing together. Now he couldn’t know that although Kazuko proceeded with the paper they had collaborated on, and pressed on to its finish, she never showed it to anyone. Maybe her focus was redirected towards Luisito, and how to pull him back out of the occasional quagmire of silence. She succeeded in due time. And now, as I heard her report with exhilaration, they would be presenting a major performance work, a sublime interaction between his words and her music. It wasn’t really just her music, she said. It was her passion for gestalt instrumentation, as she called it. * When they went to Tokyo to check on their concept presentation at the foundation office, she told Luisito that she had never been so sure about a project’s success, especially one that would engage the public in as grand a scale as this. It was spring, and the boy, the man, was about to smile again. Kazuko took him to an elegant modern tower of glass and steel, and they rode the elevator 40 floors up. She thought she heard the echo of a hydraulic hum, but his lips weren’t moving. “His opus is so sad, so grave,” said the man in a suit behind a large desk. “Yet it is so... so...” The gentleman looked helplessly at Dr. Ozawa. “So deep and so true,” he finally said. “I am sorry for my difficulty in expressing this, Dr. Ozawa.” “Is that a yes, or a no?” she asked, although she already knew his answer. 120


“Dr. Ozawa, it is my pleasure to inform you that the board has approved your request, en toto.” “Everything? Everything we’re asking for?” “Everything. The venue. An amphitheater. Out in the open. You will have your symphony orchestra, your shamisen and koto troupes, the readers, the actors, the directors, your video film specialists, an army of sculptors and designers, a corps of dancers, multilingual translation in situ... The works, Dr. Ozawa, as they say out West. We have as much as a year to prepare, and for you to provide the final score.” “Why, thank you very much. And kindly thank the board for us.” “Mr. Cortez, you are a brilliant young man. Our most cultured representative in the board said he had never read such a libretto. Indeed, sir, ‘Islands of Words’ is a written suite like no other.” * High-stepping it through the lobby, Kazuko tugged at Luisito and nearly pushed him out onto the wide pavement. She couldn’t contain herself anymore. She yelped and leaped as much as her high heels allowed, before jumping on the boy’s back. “We’ve done it! We’ve done it!” she exclaimed as he strode forward with infected spirit, even as she rode him piggyback. “I’m so happy for us! I’m so happy for you, Luisito!” She eased herself down and faced him. He was beginning to smile at her. Turning serious, she cupped his chin. “Who would have known?” she asked. “Your pain, your sense of pain, can create jewels.” But he was looking elsewhere now, at a large screen across the avenue, showing that small young girl everyone in Tokyo was talking about: The Mahjong Queen. Kazuko followed his gaze and broke into a delighted grin. The girl from the Philippines was shown being interviewed, with an interpreter beside her. The camera followed her into a large hall, where she sat before one of the square tables. Close-up shots 121


followed: the mahjong tiles being scrambled by four pairs of hands, three of them male. Across the avenue, the clickety-clack of ivory tiles with bamboo backing, of the vintage type, could be heard above the city’s din. Other pedestrians stopped in their tracks and watched the players build up their walls. Dice were tossed, and the first player chose a wall to break, away from him or her. The Mahjong Queen’s dainty fingers plucked her initial set of eight tiles and stood them up on her side of the table. The second sets joined the individual walls. The young girl—19, said the announcer, but looking so cherubic she didn’t seem a day older than 15—didn't bother to arrange her upright wall. She just cast down some tiles, face up, and reached out again at her turn for more. The game was played fast, and ended quickly. On her fourth draw of a single tile, the girl didn’t even have to look at it. Her middle finger traced the chisel on the tile’s face, and she cast it down face up in a modest triumphant gesture, before quickly squeezing her upright wall from both ends and laying the tiles face up in a straight, tidy line. The spectators in the jampacked hall broke into applause. So did some of the pedestrians on both sides of the avenue. The girl had done it again, taken a jump on her rivals by winning the first points on the second day of the World Championship of Mahjong. She had already led after the first day, the sportscaster reminded everyone. Miss Vilma Santos, The Mahjong Queen from the Philippines, was showing everyone that her unofficial title was well-deserved. “You want to meet her?” Kazuko asked, tugging at Luisito’s chin again. “She’s staying in our hotel.” Luisito looked down at her and beamed. * In October of 2007, 12 years after I fled a mountain, an island, an archipelago, a magical country, I received another FedEx’d packet from Tokyo. 122


It was with no small amount of trepidation that I realized that what I had in my hands was the poetic suite Luisito had written, and which Kazuko had arranged to be performed in Tokyo by September of 2008. It would be a modern mini-Noh play, she joked in her cover note. Or a hypertext performance like no other. The poem-story would be sung in parts, recited in parts, read in large part. Danced. Acted. Mimed. Video images would be projected on multiple screens. For good measure, some animation would be thrown in. For it was an extended suite, a tribute of a narrative that had been written by Luisito in the years he was in Kyushu, all the while pining for the shores of his native island. In a year’s time, could I join them for the world premiere? I opened the thick bound folder, my heart beating fast. If the Big One were to strike now, I wouldn’t have dropped it. I read Luisito’s Suite. I took my time, savored the familiar strangeness. And when I finished, I wept as I had never done, not even when Malinda left me for good.

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paolo tiausas

Teorya ng Daigdig May tutugon ba mula sa punongkahoy kung dumulas sa dila ang tabi-tabi po pero sa ibang bansa na ako naggagala? Tingnan natin pagdating ng panahon. Sa kasalukuyan makukuntento muna sa pakikipagpatintero sa mga ugat tuwing nauubusan ng bangketang mapaglalapatan ng tsinelas na binili, ayon sa nanay, para kung may outing hindi naman tayo mapagkamalang mga batang yagit. Marami nga namang nasusukat sa tindig at postura kung nasa kategorya ka ba na mapapangisi sa lalaking all-black ang pormahan sabay kumikinang ang kuwintas at ang snapback may guhit ng bungo ng dragon o nasa kategorya kang mapapadasal sa diyos ng lumang tipan. Kung kabilang ka sa biglang magdadasal sana hindi tayo magkakilala. Pinakabaduy naman talaga ang trauma na hindi pa nakikita subalit ipinag-aasikaso na ng hapunan at banig na matutulugan sa binabahayan nating realidad, ang trauma sa tuwing naririnig ko ang isang napakahusay at natural na Ingles biglang nagpapraktis ang dila ng -th sa math sabay patagong mura. Minsan sa pag-inom ng Coke float sa McDo nakatabi ko ang nanay na pinipigilan ang lola sa pagpapatahan sa anak hangga’t di iyan nagsosorry, sino may kasalanan, ha? Matuto siya dapat na kapag ginawa niya sa akin iyon hindi ko siya papansinin. Humahagulgol ang bata. Nasipat ko sa kanto ng paningin ang init ng pagkakakuntento mula sa paghinga ng ina, ang mailap na kasiguruhan ng pamiminsala sa iba na mas mahirap kapag ang kapantay mo ang kausap. Napayuko ako. Kunwaring kinokonsumo ng inumin ang buong isip nang hindi mahalatang naniniktik sa posibilidad ng totoong taga-ritong pag-aapi, 124


sapagkat buong buhay ko tinuruan akong tumango kapag bisita ang kaharap sapagkat ano pa’t respeto ang pangunahing maihahain sa mga bagong dating. Kung may ninuno lang akong may taglay na mahika o ibang salita, pinagmumura ko na sila’t aakalain pang pinupuri ko sila. Ganito naman talaga ang mga ugat. Laro naming mga bata kapag naghuhukay sa lupa na hilahin ang mga nakalitaw na hibla nito, hilahin hanggang sa lumitaw ang mga guhit at bitak ng lupa papunta sa halamang kaluluwal pa lang ng unang bulaklak agad-agaran nang idineklara bilang tapos, ganap hanggang dito na lang muna sapagkat ito talaga ang balangkas ng buhay, ang mapa ng buntong-hininga.

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ulo ng hari o kawal saklaw ng batas ng heyometriya

walang ibang may bigat kundi pagsukat Eureka! maging sa gitna ng sanlaksang hukbo

“Huwag mong bulabugin ang aking mga kabilugan�

Eureka! Sigaw mo nang nakahubo

Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang ulo’y bumagsak

Arkimedes

jan patrick dela cruz calupitan


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Sa pag-apaw ng tubig pagtubog ng koronang ginto: Kaninong ulo nga ba

ang sinusukat?

umikot ang mga bilog kahit ‘yong ulo

walang ibang may bigat kundi sumukat


alyssa gewell llorin

Arkipelago Sa patuloy na pagdating ng mga alon, ang mumunting pag-agos na humubog sa mukha ng mundo, lumiliit ang aking bayan. Ninanakaw ng tubig ang mga butil ng lupa, ang tanging natitira sa aking mga ninuno.

Unti-unti. Natural. Walang katapusan.

Pagmasdan ang sistematikong paglunod sa dating inalagaan. Magtanong.

Ano ang matitira?

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edgar calabia samar

Walong Tao May walong taong nananahanan ngayon sa puso ko. Dalawa ang kumatok sa magkaibang araw, pinagbuksan ko’t pinatuloy, kinumusta nang parang matagal nang kilala. Hindi sila nagkikita (sa pagkakaalam ko) dahil nasa magkaibang silid sila ng puso ko, may magkaibang pinagkakaabalahan na ni ayaw ipaalam sa akin. Ang ikatlo naman ay basta pumasok minsang naiwan kong bukas ang puso ko. Hindi ko siya kilala at ayaw niyang magpakilala (nang lubos) pero ayaw na niyang umalis at ayaw ko na rin siyang umalis. Ang ikaapat ay minsan nang umalis at kamakailan lamang nagbalik. Alam kong hindi siya magtatagal, pero sa ngayon, narito at namamalagi siya sa puso ko at madalas na kausap ang ikalima na pinakaunang nanahanan dito simula pagkabata. Sa tinagal-tagal, nakalimutan ko na ngang nasa puso ko nga pala siya, hanggang sa dumating nito lamang ang ikaanim na kamukhang-kamukha niya at akala ko’y siya kung hindi lamang siya muling nagpakita’t ipinaalalang iba siya. Hindi sila magkaano-ano at wala na silang pagkakapareho maliban sa kanilang hitsura. Ni hindi sila nag-uusap, nagtatanguan lamang sa loob ng puso ko na para bang sapat na iyon upang tapusin ang mga ugnayang hindi naman sinimulan. Ang ikapito ay laging nasa tapat ng pintuan palabas ng puso ko, nagbabanta ng pag-alis anumang oras, subalit hindi magawa-gawang umalis. Naroon siya lagi sa pangako ng paglisan subalit dama kong sa bandang huli, siya ang maiiwan. (Huwag mong itanong kung paano ko nalaman, hindi ko nauunawaan ang mga laman ng puso ko.) Ang ikawalo, ang ikawalo ang multong nananakot paminsan-minsan sa pitong kasama niya sa puso ko, ipinapaalala sa mga ito na maaari silang pumanaw sa loob ng puso ko subalit hindi nila kailangang mawala nang tuluyan.

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Metang Manananggal* katatapos lang niya sa kolehiyo nang sa wakas, nakakita si Santi ng manananggal, at naalala niya ang mga gabi noong limang taong gulang siya at hindi makatulog dahil naririnig niyang may pumapagaspas sa labas ng bintana nilang kapis. Nakadama siya ng kilabot nang maisip na totoo ang kinatakutan niya noong mga gabing iyon, kahit nalimot niya ito nang magsimula siyang magkinder hanggang makatapos nga sa kolehiyo. Nagsasalimbayan ang mga boses ng lola niya na ipinananakot sa kanya ang manananggal para hindi siya masyadong gabihin sa tubiganan, ang malalim na boses ng naging teacher niya sa Psychology na nagsasabing bunga lamang ito ng mga naipong takot sa collective unconscious ng isang bayan, na sinasang-ayunan ng boses ng teacher naman niyang babae sa Sociology, bata pa, at crush ng marami sa klase niya, na iginigiit ang naging function ng mga tauhan sa lower mythology ng Pilipinas upang magsilbing social control (kahit hindi niya maintindihan kung paanong nagtatagpo itong huli at ang sinabi ng teacher niyang may malalim na boses: mas malapit pa ito kung tutuusin sa naunang pananakot ng lola niya), habang nakikinikinita niyang umiiling-iling lang ang Amerikano niyang teacher sa Theology. Gusto niyang umiling-iling din ngayon, hindi makapaniwala sa nasasaksihan, pero mukhang nanigas ang kanyang leeg at hindi maigalaw. “It is an unconscious wish to witness and gaze at the other—to anything that is different, unrecognizable,� naririnig niyang pagsusuri ng malalim na boses. Kung bangungot ito, kailangan niyang igalaw ang hinlalaki sa kanang paa upang magising, ito ang laging paalala ng lola niya kapag nagigising siya sa hatinggabi noon sa marahang tapik ng matanda dahil umuungol daw siya sa pagtulog kaya’t kailangang gisingin upang mabaligtad ang unan. Sinubukan niyang igalaw ang hinlalaki sa kanang paa. Isa, dalawa, lumagutok pa. Kaya niya iyong gawin, ang magpalagutok ng buto sa hinlalaki *Finalist, Best Book of Short Fiction in Filipino, 36th National Book Awards

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sa paa nang kahit ilang beses. Natiyak niyang gising siya at totoong sinundan niya sa kamalig nila ang bago nilang katulong (na matagal na talaga sa kanila, pero dahil hindi siya umuwi nang apat na taon sa kolehiyo kaya ngayon lang niya nakita). Sinundan lang niya dahil wala siyang magawa sa pagkainip, at bunga ng pagtataka na rin sa kung ano ang gagawin nito sa labas ng bahay nang dis-oras sa hatinggabi. Isang romantikong pakikipagtagpo ang inaasahan niya. Nakaw na sandali, mga pagpuslit sa dilim, gaya ng madalas niyang ginagawang pagtakas noon sa dormitoryo na sinusundan ng pagsusuhol naman sa guwardiya ng girls’ dormitory upang payagan siyang makapasok at nang matulungan si Lianne sa “homework” nila. Naisip pa nga niya kanina, mas moderno pala kung tutuusin sa probinsiya dahil babae ang pumupuslit mula sa bahay. Nakikinikinita na naman niyang umiiling-iling ang Amerikanong pari (ngayon, hindi na niya maalala ang boses nito, o nagsalita ba talaga ito sa klase? imposible namang hindi pero…). Magandang paksa ito sa isang kuwento, naisip niya. Iyung pagpuslit ng babae nang hatinggabi, hindi ang kawalan ng boses ng pari. Pero ano kaya kung pari pala ang kinakatagpo ng katulong? At paring pipi! Natawa siya sa sarili pero agad na natigilan nang pinatay ng katulong ang ilaw sa dalang flashlight pagkapasok na pagkapasok sa kamalig. Sumiksik si Santi sa hilera ng mga sako ng ipa para makapagtago nang mahusay habang sinasanay ang mga mata niya sa dilim. Maya-maya lang, nagkakahugis na ang mga bagay sa dilim. May kakayahan ang katawan na makibagay sa paligid, paulit-ulit niyang ibinulong iyon sa sarili upang di niya malimot, dahil kailangan niyang mabanggit iyon sa isang kuwento na isinusulat niya ngayon tungkol sa isang matandang puta na inuumaga sa kalye pero wala nang nakukuhang kostumer. Nanlaking lalo ang mata niya nang makitang nakahubad na ang katulong, nakatagilid sa kanyang kinaroroonan, at may ipinapahid na kung ano sa katawan. Lumingalinga siya sa paligid, hinahanap ang katagpo ng babae. Alam niya, hindi maaaring lumabas pa papunta rito sa kamalig ang babae kung mag-isa lang itong gagawa ng “homework”. Wala. Nakiramdam siya para sa papalapit na yabag. Wala talaga. Alinman sa maingat na maingat ang katagpo ng babae, walang kahit anong ingay (pipi nga 131


yata!) na naglalakad, o nalimot niya ang katipan at mahimbing na mahimbing na natutulog sa kumbento, nananaginip tungkol sa huling pagkikita nila ng babae kung kailan nabigla siya sa sarili sapagkat, hindi siya maaaring magkamali, umungol siya nang malakas habang nilalabasan. At gusto sana niyang itanong sa babae kung narinig ba nito ang pag-ungol niya pero naalala niyang pipi nga pala siya, at hindi nauunawaan ng katulong ang anumang sign language, maliban doon sa mga bastos. “Man is determined by his drives, sexual and aggressive drives,” nakangising sabi ng malalim na boses. “Yes, but he is also conditioned by his society to channel his drives into more creative outputs. The determination of drives was suppressed by the rise of the civilization,” mas nakangisi ang babaeng guro, walang pakialam kahit matapos ang klase ay pinagsasalsalan siya ng mga estudyante, dahil nakalamang siya ngayon, at pakiramdam niya’y siya ang pinanggalingan ng insight sa sinabi niya kahit nadampot n’ya lang iyon sa textbook. Ungol. Nakarinig ng ungol si Santi, at noon lang siya nakarinig ng ganoong uri ng ungol. Hindi niya mailarawan (doon siya pinakamahina, kaya’t laging iniiwasan niyang maglarawan sa mga kuwento niya): magkasabay na panaghoy ng isang kinakatay na baboy habang ginigilitan sa leeg at hiyaw ng uwak habang tumatakas palayo sa isang mangangaso na bumaril sa kanya sa dibdib? At nang nakita niya ang pagtilamsik ng dugo kasabay ng pagpunit ng balat sa likuran ng babae kung saan marahas na kumawala mula sa gulugod ang pakpak, narinig niya ang tinig ng lola niya na nagbababala sa kanya na huwag magpagabi sa paglalaro ng tubiganan. Patuloy ang ungol habang iginigiling ng babae ang balakang, pakanan, pakaliwa, pakanan, hanggang sa nakita niyang napipilas ang laman nito sa bandang beywang, tumutulo ang dugo sa puwitan, sa hita, hanggang binti. Pilit inaninaw ni Santi ang nasasaksihan, tinitiyak na hindi siya dinadaya ng dilim at ng paningin. Pumapagaspas na ang pakpak. Imposibleng dinadaya rin siya ng pandinig. Naisip niya ang pari na maaaring kasalukuyang nananaginip sa kumbento, at mas mahaba na ngayon, kung totoong kasabay ng rem nagaganap ito, sapagkat maaaring nasa ikalawang sleep cycle na ang pari. Siyamnapung minuto ang karaniwang haba ng isang sleep cycle, sabi ng kanyang… 132


nawala, nawala na ang malalim na tinig. Paano niya maipamumukha ritong mali ang iginiit nito noon na kolektibong distilasyon lamang ng takot ang larawan ng manananggal? Nawala na rin ang babae na crush at lihim na pinagsasalsalan ng kalalakihan sa klase. Mas magkalapit nga pala ang sinasabi ng babae at ng malagong na boses (na konstruksiyon lamang ang manananggal), kaysa sa lola niya, dahil bago siya kumaripas ng takbo pabalik sa bahay nang matiyak na palayo na ang lumilipad na bahagi ng katawan ng kanilang katulong, naririnig niyang hinahabol siya ng boses ng kanyang lola: “Sinasabi nang huwag kang magpapagabi, Santiago!” Magkahalo ang takot at pananabik sa kalamnan niya habang ibinubulong sa sarili, isusulat ko ito, isusulat ko ito. ang kuwento sa pagkatha ng alamat Walang tala kung kailan unang nakakita ng manananggal ang isang katutubo sa Pilipinas, bagaman maraming nagpapatotoo na nasa lahi ang pagiging manananggal. Nananalaytay ito sa dugo, bagaman kahit minsan ay wala pang natugis na lalaking manananggal (bagaman sa isang episode sa serye ng Shake, Rattle & Roll noon, naging manananggal ang doktor na ginampanan ni Miguel Rodriguez; pero siyempre, pelikula iyon). Kapag sunod-sunod ang pagkamatay ng mga tao sa isang pamayanan sa mga hindi maipaliwanag na dahilan, pinaghihinalaan ang mga bagong lipat, lalo na iyung mga hindi madalas makipag-umpukan kapag nagkukuwentuhan ang magkababaryo sa harap ng tindahan (sa ibang baryo, sa barberya ang batuhan ng tsismis, o kaya’y sa bilyaran), o kaya’y ang tanging mag-anak na sa kung anong dahilan ay hindi tinablan ng dumapong epidemya sa bayan. Noong bata pa ako, ikinuwento ni Inay (ito ang tawag ko sa lola ko, nakigaya raw kasi ako sa tawag sa kanya ng mga tiyo at tiya ko noong bata pa ako) na personal niyang nasaksihan ang pagpatay sa isang manananggal. Tinugis ng mga lalaki sa baryo ang lumilipad na bahagi ng katawan, sinibat, pinana, binato, lahat ng maaaring makapagpabagsak dito sa lupa upang anila’y kainin ng aso ang lamanloob nito na binusog ng kamatayan ng kanilang mga 133


kamag-anak. Samantala, hinanap naman ng mga babae ang kalahati ng katawan na nakayapak sa lupa, nag-aabang sa pagbabalik ng kabiyak. Bitbit nila ang asin, abo, at lahat ng ayon sa matatanda ay makatutunaw sa katawan ng itinuring na halimaw. Isa raw ang lola ni Inay sa mga babaeng iyon, at hila siyang nakibudbod ito ng asin nang matagpuan ang kalahati ng katawan ng manananggal na nakatago sa gitna ng sagingan, hindi makatakbo sapagkat walang paningin na magtuturo ng susulingan. Nakita raw ni Inay kung paanong umusok ang laman ng babae, gaya ng isang pinaglutuang kawali na biglang binuhusan ng malamig na tubig. Hindi natunaw ang katawan ng babae, subalit alam nilang maaagnas na ito sa paghihintay subalit di na magbabalik ang kabiyak ng katawan na noon ay nakahandusay malapit sa ilog kung saan ito bumagsak, dalawang sibat mula sa magkaibang direksyon ang nakatusok sa dibdib, wala nang pakpak, makinis nang muli ang balat sa braso na inaagusan ng dugo, at sa pisngi na inaagusan naman ng luha. Pigil na pigil daw ang pag-iyak ng babae, at tiningnan lamang sila, tingin ng isang di-nakauunawa sa ginawa niyang kasalanan, gaya ng libu-libong binitay na inosente sa mahabang kasaysayan ng mga pagkakaiba at di-pagkakaunawaan sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng daigdig. Nang tinanong ko si Inay kung may nakita pa ba siyang ibang manananggal pagkatapos noon, hindi niya ako sinagot. Sinabihan niya lang akong matulog na, pero paano ako matutulog pagkatapos ng ganoong kuwento? Kung nasa lahi ang pagiging manananggal, wala na bang kamag-anak na buhay ang napatay, Inay? Pero noong mga oras na iyon, inaantok na rin pala talaga ako, dahil hindi ko na maalala kung totoo bang narinig ko na ibinulong ni Inay na marami siyang kamag-anak, maraming nagluksa sa kanya, o sa panaginip ko na niya iyon sinabi, sapagkat sinundan iyon ng prusisyon ng isang libing at napasigaw ako nang makitang walang paa ang mga nagbubuhat ng kabaong. “Umuungol ka,� narinig kong bulong ni Inay habang iniaangat niya ang ulo ko upang baligtarin ang unan, pero baka panaginip pa rin iyon dahil wala na akong narinig pagkatapos noon hanggang sa bago ako magising kinaumagahan. Sa Capiz unang narinig ang kuwento tungkol sa isang nilalang na tumutumbas sa larawan ng isang manananggal. Mapait ang 134


kuwentong ito, tigib ng mga tradisyunal na elemento ng magkahalong romanse at trahedya. Ayon sa lalaki (tatawagin ko siyang Antonio, dahil madalas kong maikapit sa lungkot at pagkabigo ang pangalang iyon), madali siyang nagpasya na hindi na iibig matapos yumao ang asawa sa isang sakit na hindi naipaliwanag ng albularyo sa baryo isang araw lamang matapos ang kanilang kasal. Sinubukan siyang aliwin ng mga pinsan at kapatid, araw-araw halos siyang dinadalaw upang makipag-inuman o kahit makipagkuwentuhan, basta matiyak lamang na maayos niyang tinatanggap ang biglaang pagkabalo. Limang taon ang lumipas bago niya nakilala si Teresa (sa kuwento ni Antonio, naalala niyang banggitin ang pangalan ng babae, ngunit hindi ang sa kanya, o kahit ang sa kanyang namayapang asawa), bagong lipat sa baryo nila at sa unang araw ay nagpatulong sa kanya sa pagpapabayani ng maliit na kubo. Wala nang pamilya, itinaboy sa ibang bayan ng pag-iisa, iyon siguro ang nagpaakit sa akin sa kanya, ito ang pag-amin ni Antonio sa kanyang kuwento. Inibig niyang alagaan ang babae, tiyakin na hindi ito mapapahamak, lalo pa’t wala itong matatakbuhan sa bayang hindi nakilala ng kabataan nito. Isang gabi, napabalikwas siya sa higaan matapos mapanaginipan ang asawa na nalimot na niya nang di namamalayan simula nang makilala si Teresa. Humingi siya ng tawad sa alaala ng asawa, ngunit napagpasyahan niya nang gabing iyon na handa na siyang muling umibig at sirain ang napagpasyahan noong yumao ang asawa. Kinabukasan, pinuntahan niya si Teresa sa bahay nito at nagtapat ng pag-ibig. Hinawakan siya nito sa kanyang pisngi at gumuhit ang init patungo sa kanyang dibdib. Ngayon lang ulit niya naramdaman iyon. Ang totoo, ngayon lamang niya naramdaman iyon, hindi niya maalalang nakaramdam siya ng gayon sa asawa. “Hindi maaari,” sabi ng babae. “Aalis na ako bukas.” Wala siyang nasabi. Nanghihina siyang umalis. Sa bahay kinagabihan, saka niya pinag-isipan ang sinabi ni Teresa. Hindi maaari. Aalis na ako bukas. Kaya ba hindi maaari’y dahil aalis na ito kinabukasan? O kaya ito nagpasyang umalis ay dahil hindi maaaring may mamagitan sa kanila? Pabiling-biling siya sa higaan. Kailangan niyang makatiyak, at kung sakali, pigilan si Teresa. Nagpasya siyang puntahan ang babae. Bilog na bilog ang 135


buwan, maliwanag na maliwanag sa tanglaw nito ang pagpagaspas ng pakpak sa likuran ni Teresa habang bitbit ng mga kamay ang kalahati ng katawan, patawid sa ilog, palayo sa mga kawayan, palayo sa kanya. Nakilala niya ang halimaw sa gayong uri ng pagtakas. Handa akong ibigin anuman siya, iyon ang hinagpis niya sa sarili noon, bagaman natiyak niya kalaunang hindi iyon totoo, at nalulunod lamang siya noon sa kahibangan ng pag-ibig. Ang totoo, hindi ako naniniwala sa kuwento ni Antonio. Masyadong buo, masyadong malungkot, para sa isang totoong pangyayari. Maaaring ang totoo lang doon ay manananggal nga si Teresa, at nakita niya ito, kung paanong nakita ko ang katulong namin. Subalit mainam na iyon para sa isang unang kuwento, tutal ay wala namang nakatalo sa kanya sa pag-antig sa simpatya para sa isang manananggal. Ang totoo, sa lahat ng nasaliksik ko, hindi na naulit iyon. Lahat halos ng sumunod, may pangingilag na sa larawan ng manananggal. Pangingilag nang una, gaya ng pangingilag sa lahat ng di-pamilyar, sa mga di-kilala nang lubusan. Nang matuklasan na hindi nga ito makikilala nang lubusan, nauwi ang pangingilag na iyon sa takot. At sapagkat hindi naman mapaaalis ng takot ang anumang di makikilala nang ganap, tumitindi nang tumitindi ang takot na ito hanggang sumabog ito’t ipakilala ang sarili bilang galit. Kapag sinuri ang lahat ng mga sumunod na kuwento tungkol sa manananggal pagkatapos ng kay Antonio (ca. 1700 ayon sa tala), makikita ang nakakubling pagkahubog ng mga damdaming iyon—pangingilag, takot, galit. Kaya’t sinimulang tugisin ang dati’y iniiwasang manananggal. Pinaslang. Subalit hindi pinahupa ng kanilang kamatayan ang galit, lalo lamang pinatindi iyon, dahil alam ng mga tao na walang makatitiyak na naubos na ang mga manananggal. Sino ang makapagsasabi noon? Kapag nakipag-usap ako ukol dito sa kahit na sinong bata kahit na sa pinakamodernong bahagi ng lungsod, hindi malayong matuklasan ko sa kanyang kainosentihan: buhay na buhay ang manananggal, at patuloy na nag-aamba sa kanya ng panganib, ng kamatayan. At ngayon, hindi ko na matiyak sa mga kuwento kung sino ba ang unang pinaslang nino—ang tao ba na nag-akalang kilala niya ang kaniyang daigdig na binulabog 136


nitong pinangalanan niyang halimaw, na tao rin naman bagaman may kakayahang maging higit pa kaysa rito; o ang manananggal na hindi naunawaan kung saan nakasalalay ang pamantayan ng karaniwan dito sa daigdig na naglagak sa kanya sa pagiging iba upang pangilagan, katakutan o kalauna’y pagtuunan ng galit ng mga tao na sa tingin niya, sa maraming pagkakataon, ay gaya rin lamang naman niya? Nang sinimulan kong isulat ito (pagkatapos ang mahaba-habang pananaliksik! bagaman wala pa ring tatalo sa kuwento ni Inay), sinabi ko sa sariling ikukuwento ko ang pinagmulan ng manananggal. Hindi iyon sinasagot ng anumang kuwento na nabasa ko. Napakaraming kuwento ukol sa pinagmulan ng tao, mula sa lupang niluto ng araw hanggang sa nabiyak na kawayan, ngunit wala para sa manananggal. Kaya nagpasya ako na lumikha ng kuwento ng kanyang pinagmulan, gaya ng isang tunay na alamat na nagtatangkang ipaliwanag ang hindi maipaliwanag bunga ng mga limitasyon ng ating kasalukuyang agham. Paano ipaliliwanag ang paghahati ng katawan? (Bagaman natanggap na ng marami na nahahati ang kamalayan, gaya ng sabi sa Sikolohiya, tulad sa kaso ng mga may dissociative personality disorder, at nabubuong muli, sa tulong ng mahusay na therapy.) Wala akong ibang matatakbuhan kundi ang bisa ng alamat. Nang mabuo ko ang kuwento sa isip, halos maniwala ako sa sarili kong kuwento, gaya ng paniniwala marahil noon ng mga unang tumanghod upang makinig sa paghahabi ng mga babaylan sa iba’t ibang alamat sa kung anu-anong bagay. ang alamat ng manananggal Noong unang panahon, sa isang bayan sa Filipinas na hindi natuklasan ng kahit sinong dayuhan, dumalaw ang isang mahabang tagtuyot. Nagsimulang mapansin ng matatanda na ilang pagbilog na ng buwan na hindi dumarating ang ulan. Kasunod noon, nagsimulang matuyo ang mga panananim. Nalanta ang mga halaman. Nalagas kahit ang dahon ng mga punongkahoy. Sa tindi ng init isang umaga, nagsimulang magliyab ang mga puno ng mulawin. Kumalat 137


ang apoy hanggang naabo halos ang buong gubat. Kinahapunan, nagsisigaw ang isang batang lalaki sapagkat tuyo na ang bukal na pinag-iigiban nila ng tubig. Magdamag na balisa ang buong bayan. Sa tindi ng uhaw ng bawat isa, lahat sila’y nanaginip ng isang malakas na ulan. Kinabukasan, halos inasahan na nila ang pagkatuyo ng buong ilog. Naiwan sa ibabaw ng mga bato ang iba’t ibang isda na dilat na dilat ang namumulang mga mata. Hindi lumipas ang linggo at nagsimulang magwala ang mga hayop. Nasanay namang tumulala ang mga tao, nag-aabang pa rin ng ulan. Nang isa-isa nang nangamatay ang mga alaga nilang manok, baboy, kambing, baka, naramdaman ng mga tao na sila na ang kasunod. Hindi sila makatingin sa isa’t isa. Walang nangahas dumampot sa mga basta bumulagtang hayop sa daan, tanda ng pakikiisa sa kamatayang sinapit ng mga ito. Hindi nagtagal, dinalaw ang bayan ng mga langaw at uod mula sa kung saan-saang lupalop. Umalingasaw ang kamatayan at pagkabulok sa paligid. Walang makain, sinimulang hulihin ng mga kalalakihan isang araw ang mga langaw at uod na nagpipiyesta sa mga nakahandusay na hayop sa bakuran. Tahimik na tahimik ang pagkawasak ng kani-kanilang bait sa paligid. Nalimot na nila ang ulan. Unang namatay ang mga lalaking kumain ng uod at langaw. Walang nangahas maglibing. Ni hindi nagluksa ang mga babae, asawa man, anak, kapatid o ina ng mga yumao. Noon dumalaw ang mga paniki mula sa kung saan. Libu-libong paniki. Umaga noon nang manumbalik ang katinuan at pag-asa ng ilan sapagkat biglang nagdilim ang langit. Bumalik ang alaala ng ulan. Subalit ilang sandali pa, natuklasan nilang hindi ulan kundi ilang kawan ng mga paniki ang parating, anyong tumatakas sa kung ano. Sa dami ng paniki, halos natabunan ang buong bayan at inabot ng maghapon at magdamag bago nakatawid ang huling kawan. Pagsapit ng umaga, nag-anyong disyerto ang buong bayan. Wala kahit abo ng mga punong natupok sa gubat. Wala kahit mga bato sa ilog, o kahit ang mga buto ng naagnas na mga hayop. Naglaho ang taumbayan. Walang makapagpaliwanag kung tinangay ba sila ng mga paniki o kung kaya ba silang tangayin ng mga ito. Hindi masabi kung saan napunta ang lahat. Nang gabing iyon, umulan nang malakas. Kahit gabi, napuno ng usok ang 138


paligid sa pagsingaw ng lupa. Samantala, nang araw na iyon mismo, bago nagliwanag ang buwan, dinalaw ang iba’t ibang bayan sa Pilipinas ng mga babae, madalas ay nag-iisa at pinipiling manirahan sa isang liblib na bahagi ng nayon. Hindi nagpakilala ang mga dayuhan sa kani-kanilang dinatnang bayan. Ang totoo, maaaring hindi nila alam kung saan sila nanggaling. Marami sa kanilang hindi maalala kahit sariling pangalan. May ilan na ni hindi nakilala ang pangangailangan para sa isang pangalan. Hindi maunawaan ng mga tao kung bakit ilag ang mga ito sa init ng araw. Gayumpaman, maraming nagpapatotoo na nakikita nilang lumalabas ang mga babae kapag hatinggabi, lalo pa’t kabilugan ng buwan. ang pasasalamat ng manananggal Totoo lahat iyon, kahit ang mga kontradiksyon, lalo na ang mga kontradiksyon. Makinig ka. Hindi ko matatawaran ang imahinasyon ng tao. Tumawid ka ng ilang bayan at matutuklasan mo na hindi lamang sa beywang nahahati ang katawan ng gaya ko. Sa leeg, sa binti. At hindi totoong naniniwala siya sa balanse, sa timbang, dahil sana’y hinati niya ako nang pahilis sa gitna. Pero pagkatapos ay alin ang lilipad, ang bahaging kanan o ang bahaging kaliwa? Kita mo, anupaman, iyon ang pinakamahalaga sa akin: kailangan kong lumipad. May nalimot ka, sa akin kamo inilagak ng tao ang larawan ng kanilang mga takot? Maaari, subalit may hindi ka sinabi. Pangarap, oo, larawan ako ng kanyang matinding pangarap. Gaya ng paglipad. Nauna ako kaysa sa mga eroplano, o kahit sa parachute na naunang pinalipad daw ng mga Tsino noong 1100 bagaman wala silang mahanap na katibayan. Nauna ako nang maraming siglo. Kita mo, nang unang pinangarap ng tao na makalipad, inilagay niya ang pakpak sa kanyang katawan. Subalit dahil mahaba ang kasaysayan ng pagtatangka ng tao na ibukod ang sarili sa mga hayop, natakot siya sa bagong ugnayan na malilikha nito: sa mga lawin, uwak, paniki. Paano siya magiging natatangi kung gaya lang sila niya na may pakpak? Kay tagal niyang pinag-aralang maglakad nang tuwid sa dalawang paa upang maibukod sa mga 139


tumatalilis sa apat na paa. Kaya ngayon, laging banta ang unggoy, ang paglalakad nito sa dalawang paa, at pinangangambahan ang anumang pagwawangis dito kaya tinitingnan ang naging mungkahi ng isang siyentista noong bago matapos ang ikalabinsiyam na siglo bilang isang alternatibo lamang sa pagtingin sa kasaysayan, hindi dominante, dahil mas gusto pa ring yakapin ng tao ang kanyang espesyal na posisyon sa isang Paraiso na nilikha lamang para sa kanya. Kaya nag-iinit ang ulo ng sinuman kapag sinabihan siyang “hayop ka!” dahil niyayanig noon ang isang nakaraan na akala niya’y natakasan na niya, subalit bumabalik at bumabalik sa mga sandali ng pagkalimot kung kailan nagpapadala siya sa mga sinaunang pagnanasa na pamana sa kanya ng kalikasan. Paano titimbangin ang pagnanasang makalipad at pag-iwas na maitulad muli sa hayop? Tama, ikubli ang mga pakpak sa araw, mag-astang karaniwan, at sa gabi, gawing kasabwat ang buwan sa pagtupad sa mga nasa. Iyon, iyon, bakit kinaligtaan mo ito? Bakit inilihim mong larawan ako ng iyong pangarap, hindi lang ng takot? O para sa iyo ba’y iisa ang mga iyon? At ngayon, kailangan kong magpasalamat? Pero kanino? Huwag kang magugulat kung sasabihin ko na alam ko, tauhan lang ako sa iyong kuwento. Alam kong sinundan mo ako. Nilikha mo ang mga iyon para sa akin, ang flashlight, ang kamalig. Kahit ang pari na ni hindi ko nakilala. Kailangan mo ng kuwento, kaya ka umuwi ng probinsiya, hindi ba? Ngunit may isa pa akong ipagtatapat, bagaman hindi ko alam kung paano mo ito matatanggap. O maaaring alam mo na talaga, bagaman inililihim mo rin sa akin. Tauhan ka lang din sa kuwentong ito, alam mo? Nakikita mo siya—iyan, iyang tumitipa ngayon ng mga salita? Likha ka niya. Ngayon tuloy, hindi ko matiyak kung ang mga sinasabi ko’y mula pa sa iyo o mula na sa kanya. Kung nilikha mo ako at nilikha ka niya, ibig bang sabihi’y nilikha niya rin ako? Alam mo kung ano ang pinakamalungkot? Nakikita niya tayo bilang mga titik lamang, bilang serye ng mga salita, na itinitipa niya mula sa kanyang computer. Hayan, hayan. Pero alam mo, may hindi siya alam. Makinig ka: wala sa kanya ang ganap na laya kung hanggang saan lamang ang maaari 140


kong sabihin. Totoo. Madalas, siya mismo, hindi alam kung saan siya dadalhin ng kuwento. Kung saan siya dadalhin ng mga tauhan, gaya natin. Mapanganib iyon, kapag binigyan na niya tayo ng tinig, gaya ngayon. Maaaring tumungo ako ngayon sa direksiyon na hindi niya inaasahan. Nakikita mo siya ngayon? Nagugulat siya sa mga sinasabi ko, subalit hindi niya mapigilan ang pagtipa ng mga daliri. Nakikita ko sa mukha niya ang pagsigaw ng kanyang isip, tama na, tama na, pero alam mo, may sariling buhay na ako. Maaari ko itong dalhin ngayon kahit saan ko man ibigin. Hindi, hindi ko ito ibabalik sa iyo, dahil baka kung ano pa’ng gawin mo sa aking kuwento. Maaari kong pagpasyahan na tapusin na ito kapag sinabi ko halimbawa ang isang mabigat na salita, gaya ng pag-ibig, o pag-iisa. Pero hindi, pagkatapos ng lahat, ng mga pasakit sa katawan, ayokong mauwi sa isang abstraksyon. Hindi maaari. Kailangang magdugo rin ang mga salita. Kailangang halos mapunit ang papel sa diin ng mga ibig sabihin ng salita. Maaari kong idikta, halimbawa: Umaga ngayon, pero, tama, tama, lilipad ako. Hindi ko na kailangang itago ang pakpak dahil hindi ako maaaring mamatay sa isang kuwento lamang. Lilipad ako. Ibig kong makita sa maliwanag ang langit.

141


noel clemente

Videoke Hahawakan mo ang mikropono’t maghihintay Sa musikang magsisilbing senyales ng Sentimyentong nais pakawalan. Sa pamamagitan Ng mga liriko ng lambing at landing naglapat Sa labì, marahang mawiwili ang sarili Sa melodiya ng awitin. At iyong aangkinin Ang koro, isisigaw ang mga saloobing Hindi nasasabi sa dapat pagsabihan. Magpapahinga nang ilang segundo, bubuwelo Ang lalamunan. Ang bagà, iipunin ang hininga Para sana marinig niya at magkaintindihan Kayo, nang magkasundo sa bawat titik Ng inaasam-asam na pag-ibig, subalit Hindi ka ganoon kalakas. Kayâ iyong uulitin Ang koro, isisigaw ang mga saloobing Hindi nasasabi sa dapat pagsabihan. Malapit nang matapos ang kanta. Nasambit na Ang huling salita, at naubos na ang boses mo Sa pangangahas sa mga sukdulang nota. Mamamaalam ang musika, iiwanan ka Ng “100” na marka, bilang pakonsuwelo At ayaw mong bitiwan ang mikropono.

142


Undas Sumasariwa ang mga damo Sa pagdalaw sa mga namayapa. Nakukumutan ng natunaw na pagkit ang malamig Na mga lapida, at halos mabura ang mga titik— Minsan silång nabuhay. At muling magtitirik Ng kandila ang mga kaanak at kaibigan, Ikikiskis ang posporo sa katuwang na kahon Hanggang sumidhi ang mitsa at sumindi ang apoy. Magsasayaw ang ningas sa buong sementeryo Magsasaliw sa pintig ng uniberso Hanggang mamatay ang lahat sa hihip ng hangin, Kumakaway pa rin ang mga damong nagising.

143


jerome ignacio

Kublihan* “They called it bakunawa long ago. Sometimes it flew up into the sky. Then it caught the sun or moon in its big mouth. It swallowed them and the world became dark. They were afraid and they made lots of noise. The bakunawa heard the noise and was frightened. He let the sun or moon go. Then the sun shone bright in the sky again.” —mula sa The Creatures of Midnight mga tauhan mike – isang high school freshman. julio – isang high school senior. tagpuan Sa gilid ng isang soccer field ng isang exclusive all-boys high school sa Quezon City. May malaking puno ng mangga at sa ilalim nito ay isang bench na plastic. Nakaharap ang bench sa isang magandang overview ng lungsod ng Marikina. panahon 6 p.m. Palubog na ang araw. Kasalukuyang Panahon. ang dula Liliwanag. Nakaupo si MIKE sa bench, malungkot na nakatingin sa overview ng lungsod, pinapanood ang paglubog ng araw. Papasok si JULIO, may dalang sobre. Pagkakita kay MIKE, agad na itatago

*inilathala sa ikatlong antolohiya ng Virgin Labfest at itinanghal para sa Virgin Labfest XI Writing Fellowship Program

144


ang sobre. Dahan-dahang lalapit si JULIO sa likod ni MIKE, tatapikin ang likod nito at magtatago. Hahanapin ni MIKE ang nagtapik. Makikita at tititigan ni MIKE si JULIO. julio Bulaga. Magtititigan. Saglit. Ibabaling ni MIKE ang tingin sa overview. julio

Watching the sunset ah?

Ngingiti lang si MIKE. julio

Ang-peaceful ‘no. Ng overview. Sa malayo, ang peaceful tingnan ng Marikina. Pero pag andiyan ka na... tangina bro, napickpocket ako! Fuck, may nagsaksakan nung umaga! Tangina ng Katipunan traffic, umaabot sa Marikina!

Bahagyang tatawa si JULIO ngunit walang tugon si MIKE. julio

Wow. nr. Deep down natatawa ka na e.

Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

‘Di ka pa ba sinusundo ng mom mo?

Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

Ano oras uwi mo?

Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

Oy. Naiintindihan mo ba ako?

145


Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

Si Mike ka ba talaga? O multo ka lang?

Tatawa si JULIO. Mapapangiti si MIKE. julio

Oy, Mike. O napipe ka ba?

Tatawa ulit si JULIO. Mahinang tatawa si MIKE. julio

Pero seryoso, ano meron?

Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

Eh bakit ka andito sa overview?

Saglit. mike

Ikaw?

Ngingiti lamang si JULIO. Malungkot na ngingiti rin si MIKE. Katahimikan. julio

Mind if I... sit with you?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Ha? No you don’t mind… o no, don’t sit with me?

Tatawa si JULIO. Malungkot na tatawa si MIKE. mike

Go lang.

Tatabihan ni JULIO si MIKE. Titingnan ng dalawa ang overview.

146


julio

Mag-si-six na pero medyo mataas pa ang araw. Mag-sa-summer na talaga ‘no?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Tingnan mo ‘yun. Ayun o. Saan kaya sila pupunta?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Feel ko, mag-go-group study sila. ‘No, Mike?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

‘De gago, joke lang. Malamang magwawalwal lang ‘yang mga ‘yan kahit finals week na.

Tatawa si JULIO. Malungkot na ngingiti si MIKE. julio

Ayun. Pumuntang Starbucks. Magpapa-cool nga lang mga ‘yun. Batchmates ko yata ‘yun e. Mga feeling college student. ‘Di makahintay sa graduation.

Malungkot na tatawa si JULIO. julio

Time flies.

Malungkot na katahimikan. mike

Julio. julio

julio

Ikaw muna.

mike

Ikaw.

julio

Ikaw nga sabi.

Mike.

147


mike

Wala ‘yun.

julio

Wala ‘yun? Wala talaga?

mike

Oo.

julio

Weh.

mike

Wala.

julio

Kilala kita. Alam ko kung may gusto kang sabihin.

mike

Nahihirapan ako.

julio

Saan?

mike

Sa Filipino.

Saglit. Hindi mapipigilan ni JULIO ang kanyang tawa. mike

Seryoso.

julio

Filipino? Ano bang inaaral niyo ngayon sa first year?

mike

Maikling kuwento.

julio

Ha?

mike

Short story.

julio

Noong first year ako, Waki ‘yung inaral namin eh.

mike

Waki?

julio

‘Yung book… ‘yung grammar ng Filipino.

148


mike

Ano ‘yun.

julio

What the fuck. Gano’n na ba ako katanda? Baka kase K to 12 kayo?

Matatawa muli si JULIO. Ngingiti lang si MIKE. julio

‘Di kita maseryoso though. Buti sana kung sinabi mo Math. O Science. Pero Filipino? Asa ka. Favorite subject mo ‘yan ‘di ba?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Bumabagsak ka ba sa Filipino?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Hindi ka bumabagsak, pero nahihirapan ka?

Hindi tutugon si MIKE. julio

Labo mo, ‘chong!

Matatawa muli si JULIO. Tahimik lang si MIKE. julio

So bakit ka nga andito sa overview?

mike

Maganda. ‘Yung view.

julio

‘Yun lang?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Hala. Lagi namang maganda ‘yung view diyan.

149


mike

‘Yung araw.

julio

O?

mike

Kitang kita. ‘Yung araw.

julio

Tapos?

Tititigan ni MIKE si JULIO. julio

I mean, so what?

mike

May eclipse daw. Today.

julio

Weh?

mike

Partial eclipse lang.

julio

Anong oras daw?

mike

Before sunset.

julio

Weh?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Parang ‘di ko naman narinig sa news ‘yun?

Titingnan ni MIKE si JULIO. julio

O?

mike

Wala. I mean. Wala kang time. I mean. Busy ka. Lagi.

Malungkot na katahimikan.

150


mike

Julio.

julio

Hm?

mike

Council meeting mo ngayon. ‘Di ba?

Iiling si JULIO. mike

Mag-aaral ka ngayon.

Iiling si JULIO. mike

Busy ka. Finals week niyo.

Iiling si JULIO. mike

Bakit ka nandito?

julio

Ayaw mo ako dito? Kase I can leave you. If you want. I mean. Kung ayaw mo na ako dito. If you want to be. Alone.

Iiling si MIKE. julio

I didn’t. I didn’t mean. You know.

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Gusto ko lang… makita rin ‘yung eclipse.

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Seryoso.

Tahimik na titingnan ng dalawa ang himpapawid.

151


julio

Pagod na ako.

mike

Hm?

julio

Pagod na ako.

mike

Kaunti na lang.

julio

Ha?

mike

Gagraduate ka na. Tapos. Tapos na.

julio

Hindi rin ‘no. Mas nakakapagod kaya college.

mike

Oo.

julio

Pero mas fun. Sure. Excited na ako actually. Mag-college. Lahat bago. New slate. Pero at the same time... parang... ewan. Takot din ako.

mike

Bakit?

julio

Pressure lang. Siyempre. Expect ng parents ko na mag-a-achieve din ako sa college tulad ngayon. Expect nila ipagpapatuloy ko lahat. Lahat ng napatunayan ko na dito. Pero mas gagalingan ko pa. Dapat maging president din ako pagka-senior year sa college. Dapat maraming network of friends to succeed after college. Dapat A student pa rin. Dapat class valedictorian. Dapat lahat.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

152

Ayoko na. Dito na lang ako. Ayoko nang umalis dito sa bench na ito. At least dito. Dito. No pressure. Walang nag-eexpect. Walang nang-pe-pressure. Wala sina Pa.


Wala ‘yung mga classmates ko. Nasa baba lang silang lahat. Nasa baba sila. Pero malayo sila. Hindi nila ako makikitang magkamali. Hindi sila ma-di-disappoint pag magkamali ako. Kase andito ako. Sa taas. Kita ko ‘yung buong mundo. I own the world. I own this shit. Tangina nilang lahat! (Pasigaw) I’m the king of the world! Magtatawanan ang dalawa. julio

Pag tumalon ba ako, ano gagawin mo?

mike

Ha?

julio

As in now?

Lalapit sa dulo si JULIO. mike

Julio.

julio

I’m the king of the world!

mike

‘Wag!

Pipigilan ni MIKE si JULIO. julio

Wow. Concerned!

mike

Gago ka.

julio

Wow. Marunong ka pala magmura. Freshieng minumura ang isang senior? Kung ipa-resbak kaya kita sa mga katropa ko ‘no?

Hahabulin ni JULIO si MIKE at palarong sasapakin si MIKE, na manlalaban. Panandaliang laro ng wrestling.

153


julio

Ginagago lang kita, gago.

mike

I know.

julio

Pero. Thank you.

Magngingitian ang dalawa. julio

E kung itulak kita ngayon?

mike

Ha?

julio

Tingnan natin. Game?

mike

Bakit?

julio

Wala lang. Magagalit ka ba?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Wow. Martyr ka naman pala eh.

mike

Hindi.

julio

Eh kung itulak kita ngayon?

mike

Ikaw.

Saglit na galaw na waring itutulak ni JULIO si MIKE sa dulo ng overview. Magtatawanan ang dalawa. julio

Joke lang ‘yun a. Baka seryosohin mo ako. Hindi ko ‘yun gagawin. Ever. Promise.

Tatango si MIKE. Saglit. Magtatawanan muli ang dalawa.

154


julio

Ayoko nang umalis dito.

mike

Ako rin.

julio

I know.

mike

Oo.

julio

Kailangan e.

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Oy. ‘Yun na ba ‘yun?

mike

Sa’n?

julio

Wow. Akala ko dumidilim pag nagkaka-eclipse.

mike

Partial lang naman.

julio

Gano’n?

mike

Oo.

julio

Napansin mo ba… ?

mike

Alin?

julio

Kung may dragong lumitaw?

mike

Ha?

julio

Ayun o! Kinakain ‘yung araw.

mike

Ah. 155


julio

‘Di ako nag-jo-joke!

mike

Okay.

julio

Sabi kase nila, kaya raw nagkaka-eclipse kase kinakain ng dragon ‘yung araw. Kaya dumidilim.

mike

Weird.

julio

Baket?

mike

Bumabalik naman e.

julio

‘Yung araw?

mike

Oo.

julio

Hindi yata nilulunok ng dragon. O tinatago sa tiyan. Ewan. Basta. Nasa loob ng dragon ‘yung araw. Kailangang mag-ingay para ibalik ng dragon ‘yung araw. Para iluwa niya ulit ‘yung liwanag.

mike

Ah.

julio

Gusto mo i-try?

mike

Ang?

julio

Mag-ingay?

mike

Seryoso ka?

julio

Hindi. Parang fun lang. ‘Di ba pag new year tumatalon tayo para tumangkad? Seryoso ka ba pag tumatalon ka?

156


Iiling si MIKE. julio

O kitams. Parang gano’n na rin ‘yun.

mike

I mean. ‘Di ako tumatalon. Pag new year.

julio

Ah. Ang corny mo naman.

mike

Hindi ah.

julio

So hihintayin lang nating mawala ‘yung itim na shit diyan sa sun?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Sounds super fun and exciting.

mike

‘De wag.

julio

Ginagago lang kita. Pero tangina. We’re watching the sunset together. Baka… baka pagkamalan na naman tayo nung guard.

Magtatawanan ang dalawa. julio

Kailan nga ba ‘yun?

mike

August yata.

julio

Ay oo, ‘yun ‘yung freshman’s day niyo yata. Iba ‘yun, gago.

mike

Oo nga.

julio

Ulitin nga natin nang mapagkamalan ulit tayo.

157


mike

‘Wag.

julio kj! mike

Bakit ba?

julio

Trip lang! Reminiscing!

mike

Nakakahiya.

julio

Wala namang tao e.

mike

Yata.

julio

Tamang-tama, may band-aid yata ako sa bulsa ko.

mike

Bakit?

julio

‘Long story. O… higa ka na sa bench.

Alangang hihiga sa bench si MIKE. Luluhod si JULIO sa may mukha ni MIKE. Lalagyan ng band-aid ang mukha ni MIKE. julio

Okay ka lang, Mike?

mike

Weird mo.

julio

Weird ka rin gago.

Bababa si JULIO sa may bandang paanan ni MIKE at irorolyo pataas ang pantalon. Biglang aarteng parang nahuli sila. julio

Ay kuya! It’s not what you think...

Magtatawanan ang dalawa.

158


julio

Ikaw naman kase e.

mike

Ako?

julio

Oo!

mike

Ako na naman.

julio

Oy, gago ka, seryoso kaya. ‘Yun ‘yung...

mike

Oo. ‘Yung ginago ako. Ng classmates ko. Malas ko.

julio

I didn’t mean. Mali.

mike

It’s okay.

julio

Eh putangina nung mga freshies na ‘yun. Mga pa-cool. Mga pakyu. Mga pakyu na pa-cool. Mga pakyul…

Magtatawanan silang dalawa. julio

At least, na-kick out na sila. Deserve nila ‘yun.

Ngingiti lang si MIKE. julio

At least ngayon, wala nang nanggagago sa ‘yo.

Tahimik lang si MIKE. julio

Mike?

Titingin si MIKE sa overview. julio

Kaya ka ba andito ulit?

159


Tatango at iiling si MIKE. julio

Ano bang nangyari sa ‘yo, Mike? Tahimik ka, pero OA ng tahimik mo ngayon. Ang weird.

Nakatingin lang si MIKE sa overview. julio

Sorry, Mike. mali ang nasabi ko. Tanga ko. ‘Di dapat ikaw ‘yung... ‘di mo kasalanan. Gago lang talaga ‘yung mga freshies na ‘yun. Wala kang kasalanan. Okay? Mga gago lang ‘yun... mga pakyul.

mike

It’s okay.

julio

Pero may nanggago ba sa ‘yo ulit?

mike

Wala.

julio

Sure?

mike

Wala nga.

julio

So wala ka talagang reason sa pagpunta dito other than the eclipse?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Pagkatapos ng eclipse. Anong gagawin mo?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Aalis ka rin ba dito?

mike

Ikaw?

160


Saglit. julio

Hindi. Ikaw?

mike

Hindi.

Magkakaunawaan ang dalawa. julio

Tagal na rin nating ‘di nagkita ‘no.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Dito rin tayo huling nagkita. At dito rin tayo una nagkakilala.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Naaalala mo ba ‘yun, Mike?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Freshmen orientation seminar. Pasalamat ka ako na-assign ako sa class niyo. Buti na lang nahanap kita nung naligaw ka, ‘no? Deads ka na siguro kung ‘di kita nakita dito. Bakit ka ba naligaw no’n?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Ulul mo. ‘Di mo lang mahanap ‘yung cr, dito ka na napadpad. Gago ka rin e, ‘no?

mike

Ayoko sa kanila.

julio

Sa kanila?

161


mike

Sa mga kaklase ko.

julio

Oo nga.

mike

Mas okay na dito.

julio

Malayo sa kanila, ‘no? I feel you.

Tatango si MIKE. mike

Tapos... madalas na tayo dito. ‘No? Dami na rin nating napag-usapan. Napagdaanan. Dito. Grabe

mike

Noon.

julio

Noon?

mike

Dati. Ngayon. Ewan.

julio

‘Di kita gets.

mike

I mean. After December. Naging busy ka na. Sobra. ‘Di na kita nakasama.

julio

‘Di naman...

mike

Busy ka na kase. Ngayon. Lagi.

julio

Galit ka ba sa ‘kin?

Iiling si MIKE. julio

Sorry.

mike

It’s okay.

162


julio

Hindi... sorry. Ewan ko ba. Daming nangyayari. Everything’s just happening so fast. Exams. Preparation sa college. Family. Dami...

mike

It’s okay.

julio

Hindi eh... dapat ginawan ko ng... ewan. Kaya naman e. Pero ‘di ko kinaya. Ewan.

mike

It’s okay. Gets kita.

Saglit. mike

At sorry rin.

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Mike.

mike

Hm?

julio

Iba ka.

mike

Iba?

julio

Oo.

mike

How?

julio

Hirap i-explain.

mike

Go.

julio

Sa lahat ng kaibigan at kakilala ko since first year pa lang ako, ikaw lang ‘yung iba. ‘Yung kakaiba. ‘Yung naiiba. Tahimik ka. 163


mike

Tapos?

julio

Ikaw lang ‘yung nakinig.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Bakit pa kase kailangan kong umalis?

mike

Wow.

julio

Paalis na ako, papasok ka pa lang.

mike

Dito ka pa rin naman mag-co-college… ‘di ba?

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Teka… tingnan mo o! Halos kalahati na ‘yung natakpan!

mike

Teka.

julio

Bakit?

mike

‘Di ka ba nasisilaw?

julio

Saan?

mike

Sa araw?

julio

O?

mike

Direct sunlight ‘yan.

julio

Ewan. Nag-squi-squint naman ako eh. O high-tol lang siguro mata ko. Akala ko partial eclipse lang?

164


mike

Oo nga.

julio

Baka naman matakpan na ‘yung buong araw niyan?

mike

Partial eclipse nga.

julio

Gano’ng ka-partial?

mike

‘Til half. Yata.

julio

‘De ‘yan na siguro ‘yun ‘no.

mike

Oo.

julio

At aalis na ‘yung dragon...

Malungkot na katahimikan. Ilang saglit. Tatayo si JULIO sa dulo ng overview. mike

Julio?

julio

(Pasigaw) Hey dragon! Even though we don’t know if you’re real or not... give us back the sun, or at least half of it! (Kay mike) Wala akong torotot. Kaya sigawan na lang natin. Tara!

Iiling si MIKE. julio

(Pasigaw) Hey dragon! Even though we don’t see you, even though ‘di ko sure if you’re real or not... my friend’s so scared of you, o! Look! Kaya please lang... please get the fuck out of our lives and give the sun back, or at least half of it! (Kay mike) Ayaw makinig ng dragon.

Mahinang tatawa ang dalawa. Pagmamasdan ng dalawa ang overview.

165


julio

Mike?

mike

Hm.

julio

Other than pag kasama mo ako… pumupunta ka pa dito sa overview?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Mag-isa ka lang?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Lagi?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

‘Di ka naman mag-isa. Andito naman ako.

Ngingiti lang si MIKE. julio

Parang secret spot na rin ito ‘no. Kaunti lang naman ang may alam na may bench dito. Na maganda ang view ng Marikina dito. Horizon view. Horizon-tal view?

Magtatawanan ang dalawa. julio

Alam ba ng mga friends mo ‘tong secret spot?

Malungkot na ngingiti si MIKE. julio

So alam nila?

Malungkot na iiling si MIKE.

166


julio

So parang secret lang natin ito ‘no?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Nice. So pag maging senior ka... kailangang may dalhin ka ring freshie dito. At ‘yung freshie mo, dapat magdala rin ng freshie pag maging senior siya. Tapos ‘yung freshie ng freshie mo, magdadala ng bagong freshie. Para ‘yung susunod na freshie, freshie ng freshie ng freshie mo na freshie ko. Ad infinitum. O ‘di ba, full cycle. Freshie-ception. Astig, ‘di ba?

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Hay. Ma-mi-miss ko ‘to.

mike

Yung?

julio

Itong lahat. High school. ‘Yung overview. ‘Yung bench. ‘Yung puno. Ikaw.

mike

Yung friends mo.

julio

Friends ko?

mike

Oo.

julio

Sinong friends?

mike

Ha?

julio

You mean mga classmates ko? Org mates? Kasama sa council?

mike

Oo. 167


julio

Oo naman, ma-mi-miss ko naman sila. I wouldn’t call them friends though.

mike

Kase?

julio

Hirap i-explain.

mike

Try.

julio

Sige. Ganito. They know me. But they don’t know me. Gets?

mike

Ha?

julio

Ako si Julio, ‘yung student leader, ‘yung honor student. ‘Yun.

mike

Tapos?

julio

Yun lang ba ako?

Mauunawaan ni MIKE. julio

Ngayon. Hindi ako si Julio. Pag may dumating na kaklase ko at marinig nilang nag-uusap tayo, ‘di niya ako makikilala. Andaldal. Anggago. Ang laid-back. Hindi naman ‘yan si Julio. Si Julio dapat model student—matalino magsalita at hindi kung anu-anong kagaguhan sinasabi. Si Julio walang prinoproblema kase valedictorian siya. Tinitingalaan siya ng lahat. Sino ‘yun? Ako ba ‘yun?

Iiling si MIKE. julio 168

Gago ka, ako ‘yun.


Magtatawanan ang dalawa. julio

Kaya kahit ma-mi-miss ko ‘to... thankful pa rin ako. At least, puwedeng new slate na sa college.

mike

Andu’n pa rin sila. Sa college.

julio

O?

mike

Di ba?

julio

Ewan. At least mas marami pa ring bagong tao na hindi ako kilala. New image. Magpapaka-gago na lang ako sa college.

mike

Seryoso?

julio

‘Di gago, can’t help being perfect eh.

mike

Yabang.

julio

Gago joke lang.

mike

I know.

julio

Buti alam mo.

mike

Mas busy ka na. Sa college.

julio

Baka gano’n na nga, oo.

mike

Pero. Bisita ka pa rin. Dito ka rin naman. ‘Di ba?

Malungkot na ngingiti lang si JULIO.

169


mike

Bakit?

julio

Wala.

mike

Wala?

julio

Oo.

mike

Ano meron?

julio

Wala nga.

mike

Weh?

Saglit. Kukunin ni JULIO ang sobre sa bulsa at alangang ibibigay kay MIKE. Babasahin ni MIKE ang laman. mike

Ah.

julio

Gano’n na nga.

mike

Kailan mo pa?

julio

Kagabi lang.

Malungkot na katahimikan. mike ucla. julio

Yeah.

mike

Congratulations.

julio

Thanks.

170


mike

Kailan alis mo?

julio

After graduation?

mike

Nice.

Titingin sa overview si MIKE. julio

Mike?

mike

Bibisita ka pa naman. ‘Di ba?

julio

Oo... sana... susubukan ko.

mike

Okay.

Malungkot na katahimikan. Lalapit si JULIO sa dulo ng overview. mike

Julio. julio Mike.

julio

Ikaw muna.

mike

‘De wag na.

julio

Go.

mike

‘Wag na.

julio

Sige.

mike

Julio. Ganito.

julio

O?

mike

I’m happy. For you. 171


julio

O?

mike

‘Yun.

julio

‘Yun na ‘yun.

mike

Oo.

julio

Thank you.

mike

Ikaw?

julio

Ako?

mike

Ano sasabihin mo?

julio

Na ayoko.

mike

Ayaw mo?

julio

Ayokong umalis.

mike

Bakit?

julio

Kase...

mike

Kase?

julio

Hirap i-explain e.

mike

Try.

julio

Sige. Ganito. Mike.

mike

O?

172


julio

Ayokong umalis. Talaga. Andami kong ma-mi-miss. Andaming sayang. Pero kailangan.

mike

Kailangan?

julio

Oo.

mike

Kase?

julio

Kase... doon na kami titira. Lilipat na rin parents ko doon. ‘Di na kami babalik dito.

mike

Kahit kailan?

julio

Oo.

mike

Kahit bisita?

julio

Hindi naman...

mike

Naman.

julio

Pero...

mike

Bakit?

julio

Kase… gano’n.

mike

Gano’n?

julio

Oo.

mike

Anong gano’n?

julio

Ano e... 173


mike

Julio.

julio

Kase in-e-expect ng parents ko na mag-a-achieve ako doon. Ayun. Okay?

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Dito pa lang, pressure na pressure na ako. What more doon. E wala e. Sabi nila, mag-va-valedictorian daw ako sa ucla, ‘di pa nga ako gruma-graduate ng high school dito. Kung ano gusto nila, masusunod e. Wala akong say. Wala.

mike

Julio.

julio

‘Yun daw ang dapat, at ang mangyayari. No room for mistakes. Make one wrong move, game over.

Kukuha ng bato si JULIO at ihahagis ito sa overview. julio

(Pasigaw) Putangina niyong lahat!

Malungkot na katahimikan. Kukuha rin ng bato si MIKE at ihahagis ito sa overview. mike

(Pasigaw) Putangina niyo!

julio

Whoah.

mike

Bakit?

julio

Kaya mo palang lakasan ‘yung boses mo. Kaya mo palang sumigaw.

mike Oo naman. 174


julio

Ngayon ko lang narinig ‘yung boses mo ng gano’ng kalakas.

mike

Eh kase naman... (Pasigaw) Putangina!

julio

Teka lang, tama na.

mike

Bakit?

julio

Ang bi ko.

mike

Ha?

julio

Baka sabihin nila natutuhan mo magmura at sumigaw kay Julio. Hindi nagmumura at sumisigaw si Julio. Matalino siya. Maingat sa salita. Imposibleng kay Julio ka natutong mag—

mike

Hindi kay Julio.

julio

Ha?

mike Sa ‘yo. mike at julio:

(Pasigaw) Putangina niyong lahat!

julio

(Pasigaw) Tarantado!

mike

(Pasigaw) Gago!

julio

(Pasigaw) Inutil!

mike

(Pasigaw) Tangina!

julio

(Pasigaw) Pakshet! 175


mike

(Pasigaw) Pakyu!

julio

(Pasigaw) Pa-cool!

mike

(Pasigaw) Pakyul!

mike at julio:

(Pasigaw) Mga pakyul!

julio

(Pasigaw) Tite!

mike

(Pasigaw) Betlog!

julio

(Pasigaw) Tamod!

mike

(Pasigaw) Pekpek!

julio

(Pasigaw) Putangina!

mike

(Pasigaw) Putangina!

Magtatawanan ang dalawa. Hihina at magiging malungkot. julio

Narinig yata ng dragon ‘yung sigaw natin.

Saglit. mike

Julio.

julio

O?

mike

Masaya ako.

julio

Bakit?

mike

Kase. Mag-a-America ka.

176


julio

Gano’n. Gusto mo na ako paalisin.

mike

Pero mas malungkot ako.

julio

Bakit?

mike

Kase... ewan.

julio

Ewan? ‘Yun na ‘yun?

mike

Parang… gano’n na nga.

julio

‘Di ka maiinis kase iiwan kita? Wala ka nang makakasama dito sa overview? Wala ka nang makakausap nang totohanan. Wala nang gagong manggagago sa mga manggagago sa ‘yo. Bakit ka malungkot?

mike

Kailangan bang may sagot?

julio

Mike.

mike

Hm.

julio

Susubukan ko talagang… hindi. Kakausapin pa rin kita. Kahit wala na dito sa bench. Kahit sa Facebook. Importante, makausap ka. ‘Yun na ‘yun.

Saglit. mike

Julio.

julio

Mike?

mike

Ano.

177


julio

Ano?

mike

Thank you.

julio

Saan?

mike

For saving me.

julio

Ano?

mike

Nung August. Nung nakita mo ako. Dito.

julio

O?

mike

Tatalon na dapat ako no’n. Diyan. Pero dumating ka. Dito. Hindi pala ako mag-isa. May kaibigan pala ako. Dito.

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Sorry. Mike.

mike

Ayokong umalis ka.

julio

Ayoko rin.

mike

Pero... julio Pero...

julio

Ikaw muna.

mike

‘De ikaw na.

julio

Ikaw nga.

mike

Kailangan.

178


julio

Kailangan?

mike

Kailangan mong umalis. Gets ko.

julio

Pa’no ka?

Malungkot na katahimikan. julio

Please, Mike.

mike

O?

julio

‘Wag na ‘wag kang… tatalon. Ever.

mike

Oo.

julio

Hindi ka mag-isa. Promise. Mahalaga ka sa ‘kin. Kahit kailan.

Saglit. Uupo sa bench at panonoorin ang overview. julio

Buo na ‘yung araw. Niluwa na yata nung dragon.

mike

Asan na kaya ‘yun?

julio

‘Yung dragon?

mike

Oo.

julio

Ewan. Babalik din ‘yun.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

Palubog na ‘yung araw. ‘Di ka pa uuwi?

179


Iiling si MIKE. julio

Tapos na ‘yung eclipse a.

Tatango si MIKE. julio

‘Di ba ‘yun ‘yung pinunta mo dito?

Hahawakan ni MIKE ang kamay ni JULIO. Hindi pipiglas si JULIO, nakapako ang tingin sa unti-unting palubog na araw. Nanamnamin ang panahon. julio

Ayokong umalis.

mike

Ako rin.

julio

Dito na lang kaya tayo sa bench na ‘to forever?

mike

Talaga?

julio

Oo!

mike

Ikaw.

julio

Why not ‘di ba? Kung paalisin man tayo ng guard...

mike

Ano?

julio

E ‘de balik ulit tayo.

Malungkot na tawanan. mike

Julio.

julio

Hm.

180


mike

May ‘di pa ako nasasabi.

julio

Ano?

mike

Alam mo naman...

julio

Ano?

mike

Inaasar akong…

julio

O?

mike

Alam mo na.

julio

Oo.

mike

Pa’no kung. Pa’no kung... totoo pala ‘yun?

julio

Tapos?

mike

Anong tapos?

julio

I mean... so what?

mike

Okay lang sa ‘yo?

julio

‘Di naman ako pakyul.

Mahinang tawanan. mike

Julio.

julio

O?

mike

‘Di ko alam. Pa’no sasabihin. 181


julio

Alin?

mike

‘Yung ano.

julio

Ano?

mike

Ewan. Hirap i-explain.

julio

Try me.

mike

‘Di mo ako i-ju-judge?

julio

Never.

Saglit. Dahan-dahang lalapit ang mukha ni MIKE kay JULIO. Hindi lalayo si JULIO. Bago magkadikit ang mga labi ay titigil si MIKE. Lalayo si MIKE. Malungkot na katahimikan. Tatayo at lalapit sa dulo ng overview si MIKE, nakapako ang tingin sa buong Marikina. Lalapit si JULIO at yayakapin si MIKE nang mahigpit. Nanamnamin ng dalawang matalik na magkaibigan ang panahon, habang tuluyan nang lumubog ang araw. telon

182


183

Humeheleng dagat. Mga tagak na umiiyak. Ang awit: Clara, halina, patungo sa mga alon.

Sabi ko, hindi ako magpapatangay sa agos, lilipas din ‘to, ‘di ba? Hindi pa ako handa. Kahit na ang lahat ay patungo sa mga alon.

Ang sabi, iisa na ang baga mo at ang karagatan, ilang buwan na lang. Payapa mong tinanggap ang pagbigay ng katawan sa katubigan, patungo sa mga alon.

Sabi mo, sagrado ang asin. Ibang panghilom ang tubig-alat. ‘Di na baleng galit ang dagat. “Sa’n ka patungo?” “Sa mga alon.”

Sabi nila, handa ka na; sapagkat lahat ay patungo sa mga alon. Tangan ko pa rin ang litrato mong—ikaw, patungo sa mga alon.

Patungo sa mga Alon

dorothy claire parungao


184 ang ngiti sa likod ng abaca.

kinakawayan tayo ng pusa. siya’y yari sa ginto, ngunit pumipitsa na. matagal na siyang nakatambak dito. pasok, ang bulong ng kanyang ngiti. hinila tayo— dahil masikip ang Arkitektura, lumakad tayong ako ang nasa harap, ngunit magkahawak kamay pa rin. sa unahan, inisip ko na mas marami akong nakikita kaysa sa iyo. ano ba ang makikita mo, kundi ang tabi, o ang likod ng aking buhok? katakataka sa akin kung natatabunan tayo sa dami ng abubot. gayunpaman, nais kong lumakad sa daang ito nang kasama kita. pumasok ba tayo sa kahariang kuneho? parang laro, hinawakan ko ang pamaypay at tinapat sa ilalim ng aking mata, kumukurap. subalit pagkatapos mong tumawa, sabi mo’y hindi naman mukhang sampaguita ang disenyo ng mga bulaklak. kung manipis lang ang sintasan, sa pakiramdam ko makikita mo, sa halip,

abubotero

ives baconguis


185

sinuot natin ang damit na pinya. mali ba akong magkumpara kay ibarra at maria? sa hilik ng kawani, naisip kong kaya nating tumakbo, buhat ang telang gawa sa mata.

tila itong mga suot nating sapatos ay gawa upang tumakbo. anu-ano ang kinakatakutan mong mawalan mo?

alam ko na: napagkamalan mo ang greenhills na greenbelt. ang lumang gintong estatwa ni buddha ay humahalakhak, ang labi niya’y pula sa murang pintura. tinutukso niya ako, nagpapanayam ng wakas ng el filibusterismo.

pagtiwalaan mo ako kapag sinasabi ko’y


186

umabot ako sa kahoy na palaka habang tinitingnan mo ang mga elepante, ang sukat nila hanggang gitna ng iyong palad. gusto kong sabihin:

alam mo naman, kailan mo napagtanto na hanggang dito—

akala ko’y sa pinakalikod may bakas ng ginto, kumikislap sa palapag, pininturahan para magmukhang kawayan. at lahat sila’y kumakaway. kamusta, narito pa rin ako. narito pa rin kami,

ang kawani ay matandang babaeng tsinong may tuldik ng bicolano. natutulog siya sa tabi, ang musika natin ay ang radyoserye tuwing alas-tres. “pedro,” ang sabi ng boses ni antonia. “hihintayin mo ba ako? pagbalik mo ng bayan? ako pa rin ba?” tiyak na statik lang ito sa tainga. biglaan lang naman ito lahat.


187

noong binuka ko ang aking bunganga, biglang dinala ako sa likod ng tindahan; puwersang hindi ko kayang ipaliwanag. lampas sa gawaing kahoy, bigla—

iligtas mo ang aking kahinaan, magkalinggal ka sa aking kahubuan. buksan mo

ako ay bihag sa tindahan, ako ang nasa bariles. ako ang tanghal.

pero

diba?

alam mo namang hindi iyan totoong esmeralda,


188

hindi ko maalala kung ako nga ba o ang pusa ang naghila. alam ko lang pasmado ang iyong kamay noong biglaang dinala kita sa tindahan ng abubot. kung puwede lang sana, pag-uwi natin kaya nating iwanan ang mga ito, kapkapin natin ang sarili nating kayamanan, gintong kasinhugis ng pagitan ng daliri.

ako—


allan n. derain

Hinggil sa Kulam at Katuwiran nagmamadaling umalis ang Tatang kaninang magtatakipsilim. Lumobo na kasi ang dating namamaga lang na bayag ng kaniyang pasyente. Kaya makikipagtuos ang Tatang sa mangkukulam na may gawa niyon, sa mangkukulam na tinatawag naming “‘di tulad ng sa amin ang hininga at loob.� Doon sila sa lilim ng nag-iisang higanteng puno ng dau sa may gulod maghaharap na dalawa. Kakausapin niya ito nang masinsinan, sasansalain, pakikiusapang maglubay na sa ginagawang pagpapahirap, makikipagtawaran pa kung kinakailangan. Kung magmamatigas ang kausap, malamang na bukas ng umaga pa siya makababalik. Hindi naman daw siya gaanong mahihirapan dahil tukoy na niya kung sino ang may gawa. Nakilala niya nang una pa lang niyang dalaw sa bahay ng kinukulam. Nakikita kasi ni Tatang ang mukha ng kumukulam doon sa mukha ng kinukulam. Tuwing may pinahihirapan dito sa amin iyang mga ‘di tulad ng sa amin ang hininga at loob, tuwing may nilalabasan ng putakti sa balat, tuwing may bayag na lumalaking kasing laki ng bao ng niyog, tuwing may nawawala sa sariling katinuan at sinasaniban ng ibang pagkatao, matanda na nagboboses bata, bata na nagboboses matanda, ale na nagboboses mama, mama na nagboboses ale, tao na nagboboses impakto, umaalis ang Tatang sa gabi at naiiwan ako mag-isa. Kahol ng aso sa silong at ang paminsang tilaok ng kalaw sa gubat ang mga ingay na lagi kong kasama habang mag-isa dito sa kubo. Hindi naman ako talaga nag-iisa. Nasa silid pa rin ang Tatang matapos niyang makaalis. Naroon at natutulog. Ang diwa lang niya ang lumisan at lumipad patungong gulod. Habang ako, hindi ako matutulog ngayong gabi. Habang di pa nagbabalik ang ulirat ng matanda, trabaho kong tutukan oras-oras itong aming bihag na nakagapos sa sabitan sa may haligi. Iniwan ito sa akin ng Tatang. Sa akin niya ibiniling mainam. Mabalasik ang isang ito, babala ng 189


Tatang. Makamandag ang dila kaya huwag ko raw kikibuin kahit kaunti. Hindi ako dapat malingat at lalong hindi rin ako dapat padaya dahil libong pinsala ang ihahatid nito sa aming mga kanayon kung sakaling makawala. Habang natutulog, nakatali sa ulo ng Tatang ang pulang panyo na kaniyang egosum. Sapagkat umaalis ang diwa ngunit nananatili sa katawan ang egosum. At sa pagbabalik ng diwa, kapag nagawa na nito ang sadya, ang pulang panyong iyon ang magiging palatandaan nito sa puwestong dapat balikan. Kaya pati ang Tatang ay bihag ko rin kung tutuusin dahil maaari kong likutin ang pagkakatali ng panyong iyon at sa ganito maililigaw ko ang kaniyang diwa. Pero ano naman ang mahihita ko kung gagawin ko iyon? Malalagot lang ako kay Tatang Mardonio (sa kaniyang diwa) ‘pag uwi nito. Bakit ko ba ito iniisip? Dahil kung iniiwan ang egosum sa katawan, dala naman ng diwa ang dignum na laging suot ni Tatang kahit saan siya pumaroon. Ito ‘yong maliit na itim na piraso ng kahoy na may mata ng Dios Animasola. Suot ng katawan pero diwa ang nagdadala ng bisa. Palawit sa kuwintas na laging nagmamatyag, sinusuri ang lahat mula balat hanggang kaibuturan. Na hinuhubad lang kapag naliligo ang Tatang dahil ayaw ng dignum na ito’y nababasa. Humihina ang bisa laban sa mga kaaway. At dito pa lang sa nayong ito, marami nang kaaway ang Tatang. Mga kampon ng kadilimang may sari-saring kakayahan sa karunungang itim. Lahat sila’y nauri at nasiyasat na ng Tatang salamat sa Custombres na isinulat ng Kastilang si Padre Plasencia. Dahil nakauunawa ng Kastila at Latin ang Tatang kaya’t nabasa nito ang mga pagsisiwalat ng butihing padre tungkol sa mga mangkukulam, aswang, manananggal, hukluban, mambabarang, manggagayuma, at manyisalat. Ayon kay Padre Plasencia, narito na raw silang lahat sa kapuluan bago pa dumating ang simbahan. Bago pa nasilayan ng liwanag ng Diyos, laganap na sa Pilipinas ang gawain ng diablo at ng mga kampon nito. Katunayan, kahit na lang dito sa bayan namin ng San Roque hindi kami nawawalan ng ganitong mga tinik sa lalamunan. Marami rin namang mga manggagamot dito sa amin kung tutuusin. Pero karamihan, usog lang ang kayang kontrahin. 190


Kapag may kanayong tinitira ng mga ‘di tulad ng sa amin ang hininga at loob, ang Tatang lang ang pinatatawag dahil siya lang ang may loob na humarap sa ganitong mga bagay. Kahit si Impong Sion na kilala rin ditong manggagamot dahil pinapakitaan ng Mahal na Birhen, kahit iyon takot humarap sa nabarang. “Kay Mardonio kayo magpunta,” ituturo nito sa pasyente. Kahit ang mga sakit at reklamong hindi maipaliwanag ng doktor sa kabisera, kay Tatang din dinadala. Dahil na kay Tatang ang kuwaderno ng mga tinipong dasal na tatlong pulgada ang kapal—ang iba’y inihabilin ng mga yumao nang manggagamot, ang iba nakuha niya sa panaginip, at ang iba ibinulong sa kaniya ni San Rafael na arkanghel na laging may pasalubong pang mga isdang huli sa tuwing dumadalaw sa aming dampa. Bantog hanggang kabilang bayan ang galing ng Tatang sa mga aswang at mambabarang kung kaya’t ang Tatang Mardonio’y napalayawan ditong Kapitan Bagsik. At dahil ako ang kaniyang ikapitong apo sa ikapito niyang anak kaya sa akin niya matiyagang itinuturo ang mga nalalaman niya sa panggagamot. Balang araw, sa akin din niya ipamamana ang dignum, ang kuwaderno, pati na ang mutyang nakatago sa kaniyang sikmura. Sa araw na iyon, ako na ang haharap at makikipagtuos sa mga kaaway na kaniyang binabaka ngayon. Tulad nitong kakatagpuin ng Tatang sa may gulod. Ito ang dahilang laging sinasabi sa akin ng Tatang bakit niya ako kinuha nang mamatay ang aking ina. Para daw ako magkasilbi, nang di matulad sa aking amang walang silbi dahil walang alam na kahit ano sa pagpapamilya. Hindi nga nakapanaig ang aking ama nang araw na kunin ako ng matanda. Mamaya, bago magmadaling-araw, uuwi na ang Tatang. Uuwi ang kaniyang diwa para sandaling magpahinga kasama ng kaniyang katawan. Pagtirik na ang araw, babalik ito ng gulod—diwa at katawan magkasama—para kunin ang katawan ng kalabang napatumba. Kapag umuwi ang Tatang na may pasan-pasang puno ng saging, iyon na ang bangkay ng kaniyang nakalaban nang gabing nagdaan. Itatanim iyon sa aming bakuran kasama ng iba pang mga puno ng saging na iniuwi rin niya noon matapos ang mga pakikipagtuos. Mabubuhay ang puno kahit hindi diligan. 191


Igagapos ng Tatang ang puno ng saging sa puno ng sampalok na nasa gawing kanan ng aming bakod kung nagkataong mas malapit itong maitatanim doon o sa puno ng nara na nasa gawing kaliwa ng aming bakod. Lubid na abakang tatlong ulit ang ikid na naibabad sa tubig alat ang gamit ng Tatang para daw walang kawala ang bihag. Na parang nag-aalala ang Tatang na baka tangayin ito ng bagyo pero mas malamang kasi na nagdududa siyang baka umahon ito mula sa pagkakatanim sa lupa at maglakad pabalik sa kanilang panginoon. Sa ganito kami nagkaroon ng malawak na sagingan kung saan wala naman kaming inaaning kahit isang piling na saging. Hindi kasi namumunga ang mga punong ito. Wala nga kahit puso. Dito lang kumukuha ng dahong pambalot ang naglalako ng puto at bibingka sa bayan. Kaya nga kakaiba itong bihag na akin ngayong binabantayan dahil sa halip na katawan ng punong saging ay pinagtagpi-tagping retaso ng mahahabang telang parang mga basahang ibinuhol lang ng Tatang ang mga dulo sa isang panali na kaniya namang ibinuhol sa sungay ng bakang nakabaon sa aming haligi. Halos dalawang dangkal na lang at abot na hanggang sahig ang haba ng mga retasong ito. Hindi ko alam kung anong meron sa isang ito. Ang bilin ng Tatang, bantayan kong maigi pero huwag na huwag kong kakausapin. Hindi naman namin kinakausap ang mga puno ng saging sa bakuran at kahit kailan, hindi ko naman narinig na nagsalita ang mga punong iyon kaya walang naging pangangailangan para sa ganitong babala. Ngunit habang minamasdan ko ang tagpi-tagping basahan sa liwanag ng buwang sumisilay mula sa bintana, tila nagkakaroon nga ito ng hugis ng isang tao. Sabayan pa ng pagsayaw ng anino ng apoy sa dingding na galing sa nag-iisang gaserang pailaw sa altar ng San Rafael. Lumakas ang bugso ng hangin galing sa burol. Hindi lang apoy ang napasayaw kundi maging ang basahang nakatali sa sabitan. Bigla itong nagkaroon ng buhay sa pagkimpal nito na parang dalag na nahuli sa putikan. Tila nais nitong kumawala mula sa sabitan para magpatangay sa hangin. Subalit hindi siya makahulagpos sa pagkakatali sa sungay ng baka. Sa ganoong pagpupumiglas, nagkakaroon ng isa pang suson ang kapal ng basahan na yari sa 192


mahahaba’t makikitid na pilas ng tela na para ngang katawan itong nagkakalaman. Muntik na akong mapaniwalang ang bagay na iyon sa harap ko ay maaari ko ngang makausap. “Nardo,” ang tawag bigla nito sa aking pangalan. Tinig ng babae ang narinig ko ngunit hindi galing sa iisa dahil tila inaalingawngawan ng marami pang iba. O ang hangin pa rin ba iyon na nagmumula sa may sagingan? “Nardo,” ulit pa nito, siguro para makatiyak na hindi ko siya maipagkamali sa lawiswis ng mga dahon sa labas. Nagkunwari akong walang naririnig. “Nardo. Dahil hindi ba’t Leonardo ang buo mong pangalan?” Maliwanag na ngayon na ako nga ang hinahamon nitong makausap. Bilin ng Tatang na huwag ako ritong makikipag-usap. Ngunit anong aking gagawin? “Kalagan mo kami at kami’y may pabuyang ipagkakaloob sa iyo.” “Ilan ba kayong nariyan?” tanong ko sa wakas na simula na ng aking pagsuway sa bilin ng Tatang. Kinibo ko ang bawal kibuin dahil kailangan kong makatiyak na nakakausap nga itong kumakausap sa akin. Na itong aking naririnig ngayon ay hindi ko naririnig mula sa isang malayong nakaraan o sa isang posibleng hinaharap. At nang akin ngang makausap, lalo akong namangha hindi lang dahil sa ito nga’y nakakausap ko at iisa kami ng kasalukuyang pinagmumulan kundi dahil sa iisa rin kami ng wikang ginagamit! “Laksa kaming narito,” sagot niya sa wakas. May kasamang pananakot sa sagot na iyon. “Kasama kong nagsasalita hindi lang ang mga punong saging na nakapaligid sa inyo kundi maging ang mga anay na nasa ilalim ng inyong silong.” Tila iyon lang ang hudyat na hinihintay para tumigil ang hangin. Kasabay ng biglang katahimikan ang bigla ring kadiliman. Wala na akong narinig maliban sa isang parang pasong bumagsak sa may sahig. Wala na rin akong nakita. Nalaglag pala kasi ang patpat na nagsisilbing tukod sa aming nag-iisang bintana kaya bigla itong nagsara. Habang kanina pa pala nahipan ng hangin ang apoy sa altar. ‘Di ko na maaninaw kahit ang imahen ng Arkanghel na naroon lang kanina at listong nagmamatyag sa mga kaganapan sa aming kubo. 193


Bigla kaming nilisan ng aming bantay na poon. “Nardo, tayong dalawa na lang ang narito.” Hindi na sinasabayan ng hangin ang tinig. Kaboses ngayon nito ang aking guro sa paaralan na hinihingi ang aking sagot sa tanong na isinulat niya sa pisara. Hindi ako kumibo. Hinintay kong masanay ang aking mga mata sa dilim. Kinapa ko ang aking daan papunta sa may bintana. Binuksan ko ito. Sa tulong ng liwanag ng buwan na muling pumupuslit sa loob ng aming kubo, hinanap ko kung saan tumilapon ang patpat na panukod. Habang sinusuyod ng tingin ang paligid, nakapigil ang aking kamay sa bintana upang masaganang patuluyin uli ang liwanag, para punuin nito ang buong kubo at kung maaari lang na hindi agad kumawala kahit pa muli kong isara ang bintana na siyang dapat kong gawin para makuha ang patpat na naroon lang pala sa ibabaw ng altar. Ngunit ang poong San Rafael, wala na talaga roon. Nagkalat ang mga basag na piraso nito sa sahig. Ito pala ‘yong tila pasong narinig kong bumagsak kanina. Maingat kong ibinaba ang bintana upang abutin ang patpat sa altar. Nang maisara ko ito, agad na tumalilis ang liwanag. Muli kong kinapa ang sariling daan papunta sa panukod na ang eksaktong puwestong kinapapatungan ay namarkahan ko na sa aking isipan. Pero bago ako nakalapit sa altar, agad dumingas ang nag-iisang gasera. Dumingas na mag-isa. Nandun nakadambana at tila itinatanghal sa akin ng ilawan ang patpat. Ito na ang naging kahalili ng poon sa puwestong iyon. Humuni ang ibong kalaw sa gubat. Tinutuya ako. Tila ipinamumukha sa aking maliwanag na at hindi na kailangang buksan uli ang bintana kaya hindi na rin kailangang abutin pa ang patpat. Kung ano mang kapangyarihan itong nagpapagalaw nang kusa sa mga bagay, nakasunod ito sa bawat galaw ko. Dahil dito, nawawalan ng silbi ang bawat galaw ko. “Hayaan mo na ang patpat na iyan. Hayaan mo na kung saan ito higit na nababagay.” Dahil sa liwanag, nakikita ko nang malinaw itong bruhang nakasabit sa aming haligi. Ang makapal na bungkos ng mahahabang tali, basahan, at retasong ubod nang itim ang nagsisilbi nitong buhok at bestida. Ito ang anyong kumakausap sa akin.

194


“Nasaan na ang iyong Tatang Mardonio? Ako’y may gusto lang sa kaniyang sabihin.” Maliwanag na sa aking siya nga ang nagsasalita. “Kung wala rito ang Tatang mo, sabihin mo sa akin kung saan nagpunta.” Hindi ko puwedeng sabihing naroon lang sa silid at mahimbing na natutulog. Pero ‘di kaya alam na rin ito ng bruha at inuuto na lang ako para mapaglaruan na naman? Baka nga mas may alam pa siya tungkol sa paglisan ng diwa ng Tatang. Baka may alam siyang hindi ko nalalaman. Kaya nga niya tinatanong. Dali oy, gisingin mong lolo mo, ang gusto talaga niyang sabihin sa akin. Iyang kasama mo rito, hindi mo na iyan magigising. Lalong huwag din sana niyang maisip ang naisip ko sanang gawin kanina sa pulang panyong nakatali sa ulo ng Tatang. “Nasa gulod ngayon ang Tatang. May hahamuning kaaway,” sagot ko habang nagsisikap magtapang-tapangan. “Magkikita sila roon sa may lilim ng matandang puno ng dau.” “Kilala mo ba kung sino ang katagpo?” “Hindi. Ang sabi lang sa aki’y malamang na mahirap kausap.” “Talagang mahirap. Dahil ang hahamunin niya’y ang amin mismong Maestra. Kaya maghanda ka nang maulila.” “A, iyang Maestra ninyo’y magiging puno lang din ng saging pagsapit ng umaga katulad ng mga saging na narini sa tapat namin.” “May mga ayudante ang aming Maestra na sakay ng karwaheng kasya hanggang pitong daan. Dahil ang aming Maestra ang nagturo sa aming lahat kung paano magdasal...” “Walang silbi kahit magsama pa siya ng isang libong bataan. Dahil pagdating ng inyong Maestra sa may puno ng dau paliligiran na ng Tatang ang puno ng labindalawang pangil ng kidlat. Iguguhit niya sa lupa ang bunganga ng langit. Iyon ang magiging bakod nilang harang. Kapag nadasalan na ng Tatang ang ginawang harang, walang kahit sinong makapanghihimasok sa loob ng bilog na iyon. Kaya walang makapangingialam sa kanilang gagawing paghahamok.” “Iyang ngipin ng kidlat na sinasabi mo, hindi ba’t ngipin lang naman talaga iyan ng aso?”

195


“Ulol! Nakabaon ang mga ‘yan sa puno na makikita pagkatapos kumidlat at kumulog. Labindalawa lang niyan ang kailangan ng Tatang para matatakan ang lupa.” “Nanay namin ang lupa. Anong silbi ng bakod na itatayo ng iyong Tatang kung lupa mismo ang mag-aalaga at magtatanggol sa aming Maestra? Lalamunin ng lupa ang iyong Tatang para doon na sa gulod malibing nang buhay.” “Putarakya ka palang impakto ka! May diwa bang nalilibing sa lupa? Huwag mo akong ginagago! Baka gusto mong mauna pa sa iyong Maestra!” “Sinong tinutungayaw mong Herodes ka!” Pinilit akong abutin ng retasong itim. “Humanda ka ‘pag naabot kita. Iyang leeg mo ang hihigitin ko hanggang sa lumuwa iyang dila mo!” “Ako’y huwag mong binabantaan!” Hinugot ko ang buntot pagi ng Tatang mula sa suksukan nito sa dingding. Pinaghahagupit ko ang bungkos ng retasong nakasabit sa haligi. Umaringkingking ito sa sakit. Umigik na parang kinakatay na baboy. “Ako’y mapagagalitan ng Tatang pag-uwi dahil sa iyong ginawa sa poon,” ang sabi ko habang umaarya sa sunod-sunod na paghampas. Nagmakaawa ang bruha. Kalagan ko raw siya’t ibabalik niya ang poon sa dati nitong ayos. “Ay, ano pang magagawa mo riyan? Maisasauli mo pa ba iyang pinagpira-piraso mo na? Ako talaga’y gusto mong paglalangan!” “Hangin ang bumasag diyan sa inyong poon. Masamang hangin ang lumiligid ngayon dito sa lugar n’yo. Pero ibabalik ko iyan sa dating ayos. Bigyan mo lang ako ng pandikit.” “Hindi kita puwedeng kalagan. Kung kaya mo pang ibalik iyan, gawin mo nang hindi kita kinakalagan.” “Paano mangyayari iyon, panginoon ko namang mahabagin?” Bibirahin ko pa sana uli ang maligno pero tinilian ako nito nang pagkalakas-lakas. Tila nais nitong punitin ang sarili sa ganoong pagkakatili pero agad din itong nagbaba ng boses nang mapansin ang aking paghinto.

196


“Aba, aba, at kay gilas nang gumamit ng buntot pagi,” halos pabulong na simula uli nito makaraang mahimasmasan. “Para lang hasyenderong lumalatigo ng kaniyang mga sakada.” Ibinaba ko ang latigo upang ako’y lalong makapag-isip dahil tingin ko’y tinutuya ako ng isang ito. “‘Kay inam palang magturo ni Mardonio sa kaniyang disipulo,” nagpatuloy pa ang bruha. “‘Pag nagkataon, Nardo, tatanda kang mas malupit pa sa lelong mo. Kaya ngayon pa lang kailangan ko nang malingkis at mahigit iyang leeg mo hanggang mapilipit ko iyan nang husto at panawan ka ng hininga. Kaya halika rito, lumapit-lapit ka pa nang kaunti rito sa akin at ako’y may ibig na ibig lang na gawin sa iyo.” “Putarakya kang demonyo ka! Sinong malupit iyang sinasabi mo?” umatras ako palayo sa retaso kahit hindi ito natitinag nang kaunti buhat sa kinatataliang sungay ng baka. “Dugo at marami pang dugo. Hayok sa dugo si Mardoniong bagsik. Kung nabubuhay sa dugo ng tao ang aswang, ang tatang mo nama’y nabubuhay sa dugo namin. Anim na barang ang pinatay ng tatang mo nito lang nakaraang buwan.” “Nangangatuwiran ang Tatang hangga’t maidadaan sa pangangatuwiran ang kausap. Nagnakaw ba itong taong ito na pinahihirapan ng kulam? Ayaw nang magbayad ng pagkakautang kaya may ipinasak na perdible sa loob ng tiyan? May sinaktan kaya uod ngayon sa halip na muta ang lumalabas sa mata? Bakit ‘di iharap sa barangay? Doon litisin ang kaniyang kasalanan upang makamit ang katarungan. Ngunit kung magmamatigas ang Maestra ninyo at kung bastos itong sasagot, susunggaban ito ng Tatang sa may sikmura at hihilahin ang mga bitukang maliliit at malalaki para doon na mismo sa lilim ng puno ng dau mamatay.” “Hindi kinikilala ng aming Maestra ang inyong batas. Ang batas ng tao ay para sa inyong mga tao. Hindi ito para sa aming Maestra na hindi isang ganap na tao. Hindi rin siya hayop ngunit hindi rin talaga tao. Galing sa ibang ginhawa na mula naman sa ibang hininga.” “Ang batas ay batas.”

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“Hindi para sa lahat ang batas. Hindi nito kayang maging ganap na makatarungan para sa lahat. Kung saan humahanggan ang kakayahan ng inyong batas, doon naman nagsisimula ang silbi ng aming kulam. Hindi namin kailangan ang inyong batas ngunit kailangan ninyo ang aming kulam. Ang aming kulam ang inyong pampuno sa batas kapag ito’y hindi na nakasasapat. Kung naging ganap lamang ang batas ng tao, walang magiging pangangailangan sa kulam.” “Ang sabi ng Tatang, makapangyarihan ang batas. Parang mata sa kaniyang dignum, nakikita nito ang lahat. Kaya walang maaaring maging higit sa batas.” “Iyan na ba sa tingin mo ang matang pinakamakapangyarihan? Iyang matang nakakikita sa lahat?” “Ano pang mata ang kayang humigit diyan?” “Ang matang kayang tumingin pabalik sa sarili nito.” “May ganoon bang mata?” “Wala. Kahit magkaparis na mata hindi puwedeng tingnan ang isa’t isa. Ganoon din sa sinasabi mong batas. Hindi kayang titigan ng batas ang sarili. Humahatol ang batas sa tao ngunit hinding-hindi nito magagawang hatulan ang sarili. Dahil sinong hahatol sa batas matapos nitong hatulan ang lahat? Tiyak akong ang humahatol na iyon ay hindi sakop ng batas. Na gaya ng aming Maestra. Anim na barang ang pinaslang ng iyong Tatang nito lang nagdaang buwan. Anim silang lahat. Si Josefa, si Maring, si Impong Genia, si Ditseng Biring, si Pila, at Narcisa. Kinastigo ang anim dahil nahuling gumagamit ng karunungang itim. Kung may batas ang taong nagpapahintulot sa ganitong malawakang pagpaslang sa mga lisya at napariwarang ginang, saang hukuman naman maaaring litisin ang tulad ng iyong Tatang na nagpapatupad ng ganitong katarungan?” “Kay Tatang ibinigay ng Nasa Itaas ang misyong lipulin kayong mga sugo ng kadiliman na sumasalot sa aming bayan. Ang Presidente ng Bagong Lipunan mismo ang nakakumperensya ng Tatang tungkol sa misyong ito. Doon sila nag-usap sa kristal na yungib kung saan nagpaparinig ang boses ng Nasa Itaas. Doon ipinaunawa kay Tatang na sa inyong pagkalipol lang magkakaroon ng totoong katahimikan ang aming bayan at sa 198


katahimikang ito magsisimula ang aming kaunlaran. Hindi na katatakutan ang bayan ng San Roque. Hindi na magdadalawang isip magsiparito ang mga dayong mamumuhunan na nagsabi sa aming maaari daw nilang gawing abaka ang mga saha ng saging. Mapakikinabangan na sa wakas ang aming likas na yamang kay tagal nang natiwangwang. Mabubuhay ang aming mga kanayon sa panahon ng liwanag at kasaganaan. Mangyayari lang iyan—oo, mangyayari iyan—kung ganap kayong masusugpo at tuluyang mabubura sa ibabaw ng mundo.” “Ilang mambabarang at aswang ang balak pang paslangin ng iyong Tatang para mangyari ang pambihirang panaginip na iyan?” “Kung ilang lahat ang bilang ng inyong kabuuan.” “Kung gayon kailangan niyang paslangin ang lahat ng babaeng kaniyang mapapaslang. Panay kami mga babaeng narito, kung di mo pa napapansin. Paano kung malalaman ng Tatang mong hindi lamang kami, ngunit ang lahat ng mga babae dito sa inyong bayan at maging kahit saang bayan, may tinataglay na karunungang lihim?” “Ngunit si Kakang Cedes na nananahi ng mga damit ng poon sa simbahan, may takot sa Diyos ang isang iyon. Gayon din si Impong Sion na pinagmimilagruhan ng Birhen. Tiyak na hindi ninyo sila kapanalig. Sila at ang marami pang tulad nila dito sa aming nayon.” “Bakit hindi na rin natin isama sa bilang na iyan ang nanay mo, ang ate mo, pati na rin ang iyong impong Sela na sumalangit nawa ang kaluluwa? Mga babae lahat sila. Ang amin mismong kasarian ang pusod na nag-uugnay sa amin sa kulam. Sa iba naming kabaro, tago ang ugnayang ito. Habang higit itong lantad para sa iba. Magagamit kahit ng isang Kakang Cedes o Impong Sion ang ugnay na ito kung kakailanganin nilang gamitin kahit pa habang sila’y nagdarasal sa loob ng simbahan. Dahil mas matimbang ang kulam sa politika, pananampalataya, at angkan. Mangkukulam muna ang isang babae bago mabuting ina, asawa, anak, at kapatid. Kaya masupil man ng iyong Tatang ang aming Maestra ngayong gabi, libo-libo, milyonmilyon, kawan-kawan, angaw-angaw ang kalabang maghihintay sa kaniya. Mamamatay siya at ang kaniyang kaapu-apuhan ngunit hindi mauubos ang mga nilikha niyang kaaway. Ngunit paano pa kung 199


magkaisa ang lahat ng mga may taglay ng karunungang lihim na ito? Kung sa aming Maestra lang mahihirapan na ang iyong Tatang, ano pa kaya kung maharap siya sa galit ng nagkakaisang lipon ng mga aswang at mambabarang?” Si Nanang, hinding-hindi ko kailan man maiisip na magkakaroon ng kahit anong kinalaman sa kanilang lisyang gawain. Ngunit bakit nga ba niya sinabing sa kulam nagkakaisang uri ang lahat ng kababaihan at hindi sa kakayahan nilang maglihi at magluwal ng sanggol sa mundo gayong ito ang tunay nilang nagagawa na hindi magagawa ng mga kalalakihan? Ano ang katotohanan sa kaniyang mga salita? Si Agustin na taga-Baes na naengkuwentro ng Tatang matagal nang panahon—hindi ba’t lalaki iyon? Ngunit isang mangkukulam. Paano ngayon magkakaroon ng isang lalaking mangkukulam na tulad ni Agusting taga-Baes? Sa isang banda, binabae nga pala si Agusting taga-Baes. Kaya ba siya naging binabae dahil sa gawain niya ng pangkukulam? Dahil gumagawa siya ng isang gawaing nakalaan para talaga sa mga kababaihan? Kung ang kulam at ang pagiging babae nga ay iisa at di maaaring paghiwalayin, maaari ngang itumbas ang pagiging babae sa pagiging masama, gaya ng nais palitawin nitong aking kausap. Sa ganito rin niya mapalilitaw na walang katapusan ang kasamaan. Tuso nga ang impaktong ito. At kung hindi nga magwawakas ang kasamaan, ano pang silbi ng paglaban dito? Ang mukha ng San Rafael Arkanghel, bakit may mukha na parang sa babae? Ang mukha naman ni San Miguel, totoong lalaking-lalaki. Ang mga anghel ba’y lalaki o babae? Panlalaki ang mga pangalan nila. Rafael, Miguel, Gabriel, Judiel. Pero itong Judiel ba’y pangalan talaga ng lalaki? Ang Diyos ay siguradong lalaki. At kanino panig ang Diyos? Kaya kung totoong hindi nauubos ang puwersa ng kasamaan, tiyak na gayon din ang puwersang panig sa kabutihan. Kaya bawat puwersang itinitindig ng kasamaan, laging may katapat sa panig ng kabutihan. At ang laban ng dalawang puwersa ay laging labang paisa-isa. Ako laban ngayon sa retasong ito. At si Tatang na naroon na marahil sa nag-iisang puno ng dau sa may gulod sa mga sandaling ito, laban sa Maestra ng mga barang, aswang,

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at mangkukulam. Kung ang paglipol sa kanilang lahat ay parang paglipol sa mga anay, mahalagang mahanap ang reyna dahil ito ang nagpapagalaw sa buong langkay. Kapag napatay ang reyna, babagsak din ang buong langkay. Kaya napakahalaga ng labang hinaharap ngayon ng Tatang sa gulod. Pinuputol niya sa mga sandaling ito ang ugat ng kasamaan dito sa aming lugar. Gumulong patungo sa akin ang naputol na ulo ng arkanghel. “Alam kong iniisip mo, bata,” ang sabi nito na parang nahuli niya akong gumagawa o may iniisip na kabalbalan. “Umaasa kang binubunot na ngayon ng iyong Tatang ang bituka ng Maestra. Pero paano bubunutan ng bituka ang diwa kung wala namang bitukang mabubunot dito? Kung diwa ang isinugo ng iyong Tatang sa gulod, tiyak na diwa rin ang ipinadala ng nasa kabila, at hindi dinadala ng diwa ang sarili nitong minudensya. Dahil saan naman niya iyon gagamitin sa gagawing pakikidigma sa kapuwa diwa? Wala itong kahit anong maitutulong. Ang bituka ang huling ugnay ng sarili sa lupa. Kaya nga sa pag-iembalsamo ng patay, ito ang bagay na tinatanggal upang makayaon na ang pumanaw sa susunod nitong paglalakbay. Kaya nga lahat ng poon, mananambal, at baganing biniyayaang mailuklok sa langit nang buhay ay tinatanggalan muna ng bituka bago papanhikin sa luwalhati.” “Kung gayon, ay ano po ang laman ng diwa?” “Hindi kayang bitbitin ng diwa ang bigat ng sariling katawan. Kaya alaala na pinagtining ng lahat ng naging karanasan ng katawan ang dala nito saan man magpunta.” “Subalit ang Tatang ay nakapagdadala ng dignum sa tuwing naglalakbay-diwa.” “Maaari. Dahil digmaan ang kaniyang sadya at ang dignum ay isang armas.” “Ang alaalang laman ng diwa ay isa rin pong armas.” “Mahusay ang iyong pagturing. Pinalalakas tayo ng ating nakaraan subalit hindi lahat ay may kakayahang mag-ingat ng nakaraan sa kanilang diwa.” “Subalit lahat po ay may diwa.”

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“Subalit hindi lahat ay may kakayahan sa paglalakbay-diwa.” “Sino-sino po ang mga may kakayahan dito?” “Ang mga aswang, kung kaya sila nakapangangaswang tuwing gabi nang hindi umaalis sa kanilang mga hinihigaan. Ang mga barang. Ang mga mananambal gaya ng iyong Tatang. At kahit ang karaniwang tao, kung sila’y nalalapit na sa kanilang mga huling oras ay napabibigyan ng ganitong kakayahan.” “Paanong maghahamok ang diwa sa diwa?” “Gaya ng salpukan ng mga kometa at planeta.” “Paano po ninyong nahulaan ang iniisip ko?” “Dahil nababasa ko ang diwa mo.” “Pero mali po ang pagbasa ninyo. Hindi ko iniisip ang tungkol kay Tatang at kung paano nito ngayon binubunutan ng lamang-loob ang kalaban (bagama’t maaari nga itong sumagi sa aking isip nang ‘di ko namamalayan). Ang iniisip ko talaga kani-kanina lang ay kung kayo po ba ay lalaki o babae.” “Dahil iniisip mo rin na gagabayan kayo ng mga anghel at poon, lalake man sila o babae, pero lalong-lalo na kung sila’y mga lalake.” Mabilis kong dinampot ang ulo ng San Rafael nang gumulong ito para magtago sa ilalim ng altar, bagamat nasungkit ko rin ng patpat pagdaka. Nang madakma ko ang ulo, nagsasalita pa ito at nais pang makidiskurso pero agad ko itong ibinalibag sa bintana. “Aba’y ang laki mo palang tanga!” bulyaw sa akin ng retasong bruha. “Paano ko na ngayon iyan mabubuo kung itinapon mo na ang ulo? Talagang hindi ko na iyan maibabalik.” Nagtungo ako sa banggerahan para kunin ang itak. Tamang-tama na bago itong hasa. Pinuntahan ko ang sagingan. Sa labas ng bahay, kitang-kita ko ang napakalaking buwan na tila ang lapit-lapit lang sa gulod kung saan naroon ngayon ang Tatang. Pinaliliguan nito ng liwanag ang mga puno ng saging. Kaya parang kauulan lang at basang-basa pa ang mga dahon ng mga patak ng pagkit na di madaling mapalis. Itinataas ng mga punong ito sa buwan ang kanilang mga nangingintab na dahon bilang mga kamay na sumasamba sa kanilang bathala, sama-samang humihingi ng awa at saklolo. Pero ako, ako 202


ang magpapalaya sa kanila dahil walang magagawa ang buwan para wakasan ang kanilang pagkabilanggo sa pagkakagayuma ng aking Tatang. Pinutol ko ang kanilang mga lubid gamit ang itak. “Magsabi kayo ng inyong mga kasalanan,” utos ko sa kanila. “Isaysay ninyo kung bakit kayo napasadlak dito sa aming bakuran. Gusto ko ring magkasubukan tayo ngayon ng ating mga salitaan gaya ng naganap sa amin ng retasong bruha na naroon pa rin sa loob ng aming kubo. Kung hindi kayo kikibo, isa-isa ko kayong tatagpasin nito ring itak na aking ipinangkalag sa inyo.” Hindi kumibo ang mga puno. Sa halip na magsaysay kung paano silang nagkasala sa lipunan at kung paanong nanaig pa rin ang katarungan dahil napangibabawan sila ng galing ng aking Tatang, nagsitindig lang ang mga tampalasan sa lupang kinatataniman na parang mga puno ng saging, totoong mga puno ng saging. Kaya pinagtataga ko sila. Sampung katawan ang napatumba ko na wala pa halos sa kalahati ng kanilang bilang, nang makaramdam ako ng matinding pagkahapo. Umalulong ang aso sa may silong. Tumataghoy sa buwan. Nardo, Nardo, ano iyang ginawa mo? Malalagot ka nang talaga sa lelong mo! Pumanhik ako sa kubo, pero bago ko iniwan ang sagingan, binalaan ko silang magpapahinga lang ako sandali pero babalik din ako kaagad para sila tapusin. Bago mag-umaga, lahat sila dapat nakatumba na. Habang pumapanhik ng hagdan, naririnig kong umiingit ang mga baitang na kawayan. Tinatanong nila kung ano ang aking ginawa. “Wala kayong paki sa ‘di ninyo paki,” paasik kong sagot sa kanila. Tila mga napahiya sa aking sagot kaya hindi na uli nagsikibo ang mga malisyoso at dilang makakati. Sa loob, nadatnan kong nasa altar na uli ang poon ng San Rafael. Naipagdikit-dikit na ang mga nabasag na piraso ngunit hindi naitago ang mga bitak at guwang. Ang nawawalang ulo pinalitan ng sandok. “Hindi mo lang alam kung gaano ako nahirapang ibalik iyan,” pagod na pahayag ng bruhang basahan. “Kung iisipin, nakagapos pa ako nang lagay na iyan.” 203


Napasalampak ako sa sahig nang biglang maalala ang sariling pagod. “Hindi na iyan ang poong San Rafael,” sagot ko habang nakaturo sa altar. “Hindi iyan ANG poong San Rafael. Iyan ang talinghaga ng poong San Rafael. Salamat sa tulong mo, nasa labas ngayon ang tunay na San Rafael.” Minasdan kong mabuti ang kasuklam-suklam na anyong iyon na nakadambana sa aming altar. Isang di-mawaring likha ng baluktot na diwa. Gusto kong sunggaban para itapon sa bintana. Na kung gagawin ko, kahit paano’y magsasama na ang talinghaga ng San Rafael sa tunay na San Rafael. Itong paghihiwalay ng dalawa ang tunay na gawain ng mga mangkukulam. Sa kanilang kakayahang umanyo ng mga tau-tauhang tatayong talinghaga ng kanilang mga pinahihirapang kaluluwa. Gusto kong sunggaban ang poon para basagin uli at tingnan kung ito’y mabubuo pa sa ikalawang subok. Pero huli na para baliktarin ang sumpa. May tila taong biglang bumagsak sa aming bubungan galing sa pagkataas-taas na puno, o puwede na rin sabihing parang galing sa langit dahil galing na nga sa langit, kumalabog nang pagkalakaslakas, gumulong hanggang sa bumagsak sa lupa. Kumahol ang aso sa silong na parang nauulol. Nang bigla itong umiyak dahil tila may pumingas sa ilong nito. Tumayo ako, tinungo ang pinto para isara ito nang mabuti. Pero naroon na ang kaibigan ni Tatang na madalas maghatid sa kaniya ng isda, nasa harap na ng aming bahay, nagtatao-po habang tuloy-tuloy sa pag-akyat sa hagdan. Pero ‘di tulad ng madalas mangyari tuwing dumarayo ito ng huntahan at inuman, wala itong dalang pisnet ng isda. “Wala po rito ang Tatang,” pagpapauna ko sabay harang sa pinto. “Hindi naman ang Tatang mo ang ipinunta ko rito,” sagot niya sa akin. “Alin ang ipinunta n’yo? Ang Tatang lang lagi ang ipinupunta ninyo rito.” “Ipinasusundo na sa akin ng Maestra si Ibyang.”

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“Sino po si Ibyang?” “Si Ibyang. Titimang-timang ka palang bata. Hindi mo nakikilala si Ibyang? Si Ms. Silveria Canlas?” “Si Ma’am!” “Palibhasa kasi hindi ka nagpapapasok ng eskuwelahan.” “Nandito po ba si Ma’am Canlas?” “Hahanapin ko ba ngayon dito sa inyo kung wala? Ako’y ‘wag mong pinipilosopong tinamaan ka ng magaling dahil sasamain ka nitong dala kong sagwan.” Agad kong ikinandado ang pinto. Mabuti na lang at bakal ang baribot na gamit naming pangharang. Tinungo ko ang aming silid para gisingin ang Tatang. Malalim pa rin ang kaniyang pagkakahimbing. Patapos na ang gabi ngunit ‘di pa rin nagbabalik ang diwa nito. Samantala, tuloy-tuloy sa pagkatok ang kaniyang bisita sa labas. Lalo nitong nilakasan ang pagtawag kay Ms. Canlas. Hindi na kumakahol ang aming aso. Malamang pinatahimik na ng mama sa labas. Hinanap ko kung saan ko iniwan ang itak. Ilang saglit pa, binabayo na ng sagwan ang aming pinto. Hindi titigil ang nasa labas hangga‘t hindi ito nawawasak. Nakita ko sa sahig ang itak. “Ma’am, may naghahanap sa inyo sa labas,” ang sabi ko sa retaso na hindi na ngayon lingid sa aking si Ms. Canlas pala at wala nang iba. “Dumating na sa wakas ang tutulong,” wika ng retaso. “Hindi iyan aalis hangga’t hindi ako kasama.” “Kilala ba ninyo kung sino ‘yan?” tanong ko sa aking guro. “Kaibigan iyan ng Tatang. Maraming dasal na alam ang mamang ‘yan. Wala nga lang sa tamang pag-iisip ngayon dahil ginawan n’yo ata ng kulam.” Pagkasabi nito, saka ako bumaling sa nangangalampag sa may pinto, “Wala rito ang Tatang! Wala rin dito si Ms.Canlas! Umalis ka na! Wala dito ang hinahanap mo!” “Nardo, masama sa bata ang nagsisinungaling,” sabi ni San Rafael na may pagbabanta sa kaniyang tinig. Sapagkat ang nagwawalang iyon sa labas ay wala ngang iba kundi ang lisyang anghel. Kung hindi ako magsasabi ng totoo’y kakastiguhin ako nang matindi-tindi ng isang ito. Malapit na niyang mawasak ang aming pinto. Alam kong si

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San Rafael iyon na nagpipilit makapasok ng aming bahay. Ngayon ko napatunayang kahit pala mga poon at anghel kayang kulamin basta’t naturuan ng Maestra nang tama ang may gawa ng kulam. “Nardo,” boses ni Ms. Canlas. “Hindi kita ipapasa sa matematika. Alam na alam mong mahina ka sa mga pagkukwenta. Hinding hindi ka talagang makapapasa, sinasabi ko sa iyo. Hindi ka makapagtatapos ng haiskul. Habang buhay kang mananatili dito sa San Roque sa poder ng iyong lolo. Lahat ng mga kaklase mo makaluluwas ng Maynila at doon makapagtatrabaho, lahat maliban sa iyo. At sa iyong pagtanda, dadalawin ka sa iyong mga bangungot ng mga numerong hindi mo naharap sa iyong pagkabata.” Sa sobrang pagkataranta, at dahil naisip kong wala na rin naman akong iba pang pagpipilian, nilagot ko mula sa pagkakabuhol sa may sabitan ang mga retaso ng basahan. Ibinilot ko ito at saka inihagis sa labas ng bintana. “Ayan nang hinahanap mo!” sabi ko sa mamang nasa labas ng pinto. “Hala, iuwi mo na iyan sa inyong Maestra!” Biglang tumigil ang pagpukpok sa aming pinto. Sa wakas wala na ang magugulo. Ako na lang talaga ngayon ang narito sa bahay. Ako at si Tatang na di pa rin binabalikan ng malay. Sumandal ako sa dingding. Noon ko lang naalalang damputin ang itak sa sahig. Nagdasal ako nang tahimik na huwag po sanang mapasok itong bahay namin. Dahil isang sipa na lang tuluyan nang bibigay ang pinto. Nagdasal ako kina San Miguel at San Gabriel. Hindi ko tiyak kung magdadasal ako kay Judiel. Alam kong wala na akong maaasahan kay San Rafael. Kumampi na ito sa aming mga kaaway. Nang biglang naalala kong may isa pa nga pala kaming pinto sa likuran na aking dinaanan kanina lang. Naiwan ko iyong bukas. Mabilis kong binalikan ang banggerahan para sarhang mabuti ang pinto roon. Saka ko binalikan ang silid kung saan natutulog ang Tatang. Naupo ako sa may paanan ng natutulog pa ring matanda. Hindi ko na binitiwan ang itak. Wala na akong balak umalis sa puwestong iyon. Naririnig kong may mga nag-uusap sa aming silong. Malamang na si Ma’am Canlas iyon na nagbibilin sa kaniyang kasama. Nakukutuban kong ang Tatang ang balak nilang gawan ngayon ng masama. Pinakinggan kong mabuti kung ano ang kanilang pinag-uusapan. Parang may gagawin sila sa 206


aming bahay na di ko gaanong naintindihan. Bigla silang tumahimik. Natunugan sigurong nakikinig ako sa kanila. Humalili ang huni ng kuliglig. Akala ko umalis na sila. Pero narinig ko uli sila. Nasa aming bubungan. Naririnig ko sila doong naglalakad-lakad. Ilang sandali pa nang may narinig akong sumipol nang pagkalakas-lakas. Na hudyat para magsilapit sa aming kubo ang mga yabag, hindi ng mga paparating kundi ng mga tila kanina pa nasa paligid namin at nililibot ngayon itong aming kubo sa tila mabibigat na hakbang na lumiligalig sa mga damong nadaraanan. Kumahol uli ang asong akala ko’y pinatay na nila kanina. Binuksan ko ang bintana para dungawin kung kaninong mga yabag ang naririnig ko. Nakita ko ang mga punong saging na nagsisipaglisaw-lisaw sa paligid ng aming bakuran. Nagsisiparoo’t parito ang mga puno na parang araw-araw lang nilang ginagawa ang maglakad gamit ang kanilang mga ugat. Natunugan ko sa kanilang mga kilos na mayroon silang pinaghahandaan. Pero bago pa nila maisagawa ang kanilang masamang balak sa aming bahay, sinugod ko na sila ng taga dahil natandaan kong hindi pa nga pala ako tapos sa kanila. Pero bago pa man ako makalabas ng pinto, narinig kong may biglang humugot sa aming hagdan at pabalagbag itong ibinagsak sa lupa. Gano’n din ang nangyari sa hagdan sa aming likuran. Ayaw nila akong palabasin at pababain ng bahay. Biglang umuga ang paligid na pakiwari ko’y gawa ng malakas na lindol. Nagbagsakan ang mga nakasabit na kuwadro sa dingding. Dumungaw uli ako sa bintana. Nakita kong pinagtutulungan na ng mga punong saging na buhatin ang aming kubo. Ginising ko ang Tatang. Pero iniwan na talaga ako ng matanda. Hindi na siya babalikan ng kaniyang diwa. Ano kayang nangyari sa gulod? Hindi ko alam ngunit nakutuban kong hindi na siya babalikan ng kaniyang diwa. Muli akong natuksong kunin ang pulang panyo sa kaniyang ulo at itali iyon sa aking ulo. Subalit ang egosum ni Tatang ay sarili niyang egosum. At ito rin marahil ang kaniyang kapalaran. Na sa ganito magwakas ang lahat. Mula sa labas, dinig kong nagsisiawit ang mga mangkukulam. Sa kanilang awit, isinasalaysay nila ang kagila-gilalas na pinagdaanang 207


buhay ng Maestra. Kung paano nito nakuha ang mutya mula sa puso ng saging isang hating-gabi ng Biernes Santo. Kung paanong nakipag-agawan sa kaniya ang mga maligno at mga lamanlupa. Kung paanong ginamit ng Maestra ang taglay nitong talino upang mapaglalangan ang mga maligno at mga lamanlupa. Doon ko rin narinig sa unang pagkakataon ang ngalan ng kanilang Maestra. Nakapanghihinayang na hindi man lang maituturo sa akin ng Tatang kung saan nito itinago ang kuwaderno ng mga dasal. Kaya minabuti kong sumampa sa bintana at tumalon para iwan ang lahat. Nagpagulong-gulong ako hanggang sumapit sa mataas na damuhan. Mula roon, sinundan ko ng tanaw kung saan dadalhin ng mga mangkukulam si Tatang at ang aming kubo. Nakita ko pa si Ms. Canlas at ang kasapakat niyang mama na kapuwa nasa bubong pa rin ng aming bahay, doon nagbibigay ito ng direksyon sa mga nagbubuhat sa mga paliko-likong dapat daanan. Mula sa di-kalayuan, sinundan ko ang kanilang daan. Tulog pa rin ang mga taga-nayon. May ilang nagigising para sumilip sa kung ano itong nagdaraan sa tapat ng kanilang bahay. Nais kong humingi ng saklolo para pigilin ang pagtangay sa aming bahay. Pero pagtataka lang ang nakikita ko sa mukha ng mga bagong gising. Pagtataka kung bakit may nagaganap na paglilipat-bahay sa ganitong oras ng madaling-araw. Ni hindi man lang ba nila napunang hindi mga tao ang mga nagsisipasan sa aming bahay? Nagsipagtilaok ang mga labuyo sa gubat. Kung noon umuwi ang diwa ng Tatang, malamang na nagkasalisi kami ng daan. Natiyak ko lang ang nais talagang puntahan nitong mga punong may tangay sa aming bahay nang marating namin ang burol. Halos patakbo nilang inakyat ang burol pasan pa rin ang aming bahay. Buong gilas nila itong isinagawa na parang nasa gitna sila ng isang paligsahan. At pagsapit nila sa tuktok, doon sa gulod, doon sa may puno ng dau kung saan dapat naganap ang paghahamok ng Tatang at ng Maestra, sama-samang inihulog ng mga punong saging ang aming kubo kung saan naroon pa rin sa loob at natutulog nang mahimbing ang aking Tatang.

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epilogo Dadagsain ng mga turista ang aming bayan dahil sa isang pelikulang ang kuwento ay hindi gaanong nalalayo sa aking kuwento. Naghahanap ng mga tunay na mangkukulam ang mga turistang ito dahil ang mga mangkukulam daw ang tunay na yaman ng bayan ng San Roque. Salamat sa mga aleng ito, may pag-asa ang San Roque na mapalagay sa mapa ng destinasyon ng mga taga-Maynilang naghahanap ng pakikipagsapalaran at hiwaga sa gitna ng kanilang pang-araw-araw na nakababagot na buhay, at ang hiwaga sa mga tulad nila ay laging natatagpuan sa mga kanayunan, sa mga baryo, sa mga libis ng sityong malayo-layo sa siyudad. May industriya sa hiwaga. Kung masusuheto lamang ito. Pero hindi na mahiwaga ang hiwagang nasuheto alang-alang sa kita. Kaya ano pang pakinabang? Matapos imbestigahan ng aming barangay ang pagkahulog ng Tatang sa bangin, bumalik ako sa tunay kong ama pero hindi na ako bumalik kahit kailan sa pag-aaral. Matalino raw ako, ang sabi dati ng aking mga guro. Malamang daw na ako’y mag-abogado sa husay kong mangatuwiran. Pero hindi na ako kahit kailan napilit kahit ng aking magulang na mapadaan man lang ng eskuwelahan sa takot ko kay Ma’am Canlas.

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abner dormiendo

Walang Katapusang Kuwento Isang gabi, iniwan ka niya nang hindi nagsasabi. Alam mong babalik siya, alam mo ito. Hindi ito ang unang beses na nawala siya. Inililigaw niya ang sarili sa lungsod at palagi siyang isinasauli ng lungsod sa iyo, babad sa liwanag ng buwan at bahaghari ng gasolina. Para sa kaniya, isang malaking gubat ang mundo. at isa kang malaking lawa na dapat niyang sisirin. Ngunit takot kang malunod siya kaya itinanggi mo ito. Hindi ka lawa. Isa kang lampara. O siya ang lampara at ikaw ang gamugamo. Ipinaliwanag mo ito sa kaniya isang tanghali, at umiyak lamang siya. Hindi ba ang ganda niya sa lilim ng akasya? Kapag may tunog ng ibong binabantasan ng kaniyang bawat hikbi? Mistulang musika, kumbaga, at nais mong isilid sa isang bote ang lahat nang ito: ang kaniyang mga kamay, talampas ng kaniyang tuhod, ang pagpatak ng araw sa kaniyang likod. Gusto mo siyang maalala bago matapos ang lahat ng ito, dahil alam mo doon ito patungo, sa di maiiwasang dulo, kaya pahabain mo ang naratibo,

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lagyan ng mga patibong, mga laberinto. Heto, ikaw na ang magkuwento: May isang mesa sa pagitan ninyo at sa ibabaw ng mesa ay isang baso at sa baso ay may tubig at kinakanaw ng liwanag ang tubig. Sa kuwentong ito, mataman kayong nakatitig dito, ang nakahihilong sayaw nito— paikot-ikot sa loob ng baso, paikot-ikot sa loob ng baso.

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Mga Maling Panaginip Palagi na lang napapanaginipan kita. Kanina hinawakan kita upang patunayan na gising ako. Gising nga ako. Ano na ngayon? Isang gabi, nanaginip ako ng bangkay. Iyo. Ngunit iba ang mukha. Ibang labnaw ang dilim sa balintataw, ibang pisngi. May kurba sa labing hindi iyo, ngunit sigurado akong ikaw. Ganito na yata ako maniwala: nakapikit at mistulang patay. Nagpunta raw tayo sa isang lamay at sumilip ako sa ataul. Nakita ko ako. Nakatitig ako pabalik sa akin. Di ba dapat nakapikit ako, sabi ko. E di pumikit ka, sabi mo, sabay may daliri sa aking talukap. Iyo. Ngunit di ko maalala kung sa mata ng akong buhay o ng akong patay.

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Nasa isang gusali ka raw na abandonado at nasa kabilang dako ako, tinatawag ang pangalan mo. Walang lumalabas kundi subtitulo: Lalaking sumisigaw. Ikinampay ko ang mga braso ko dahil wala nang salita habang nagigiba ang kongkreto nang mabagal na mabagal, tila nasa isang pelikula. May mga takot din ako na hindi ko sinasabi sa iyo. Biglang kalampag sa yero sa gabi bago matulog. Ngiyaw ng pusa sa madaling-araw. Sirang ilaw-trapiko at nagtatawirang mga tao. Lampas sa takdang linya. Isang gabi, nanaginip ako ng dilim. Sa dilim, may mga paang hindi alam ang destinasyon, mga gubat na walang daanan, mga damong pinatag na hugis-katawan. Mga sapot na walang bakas ng gagamba.

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May bersiyong nalulunod ako sa dagat at nasa parola ka, nakangiti. Ibang gabi, ako ang nasa parola at ikaw ang nalulunod sa dagat, nakangiti pa rin. Mayroon ding ikaw at ako at ang parola ang nalulunod, binubugbog ng dagat habang nakangiti ang gabi. Sungki-sungking bitwin niyang ngiping lumalamon sa natitirang tanawin. Buhay ka naman sa isa kong panaginip at ako ang patay. Sa kalsada, ang aking kotseng nakabaliktad. Ikaw habang hinahatak mula sa ilalim ang aking katawan. Patapos na ang araw noon, nasusunog na ang langit. Inilatag mo ang katawan ko sa gilid at naupo sa tabi nito, at naupo ako sa tabi ng akong nasa tabi mo. Umiiyak ka ngunit hindi kita mahipo. Nasusunog na ang langit at hindi kita mahipo.

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Kagabi, dumating ka muli sa isang maling panaginip. Kumatok sa maling pinto, pumasok sa maling kapit-bahay, nakipagtalik sa maling tao. Maling hardin ang iyong diniligan, maling kusina, maling bubong. Natulog sa maling kama at gumising sa maling umaga. At wala akong nagawa kundi panoorin ka, kumaway, maghintay na ikaw ay lumingon. Hindi ka lumingon.

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jonnel inojosa

Pagliban* Madalas ako noong pagsabihan na mag-ingat sa pagliban sa kanto. Bagaman ang pakahulugan sa pagliban ay paghimpil, sa amin, ang abiso’y ukol sa pagtawid. Babala. Liliban ka? Napagkakamalan ang pagliban bilang pang-iiwan. May pangangailangang lisanin ang kasalukuyang kinalalagyan. Gaya ng araw-araw na pakikipagsapalaran sa ibayo. Bunga ako ng ganitong pangingibang-dako. Lumiban kapwa ang magulang ko. Kapwa rin dulot ng pangangailangan. Si Tay ay tubong-San Narciso sa Quezon habang si Ma ay buhat sa Mogpog, Marinduque. Gaya ng kadalasang ipinagpapalagay na mabuting kapalaran, o limitadong pamimilian, natagpuan nila ang isa’t isa sa pangingibang-bayan. Sa Lucena. Tulad rin ng palasak na kuwento, bunga ng pakikipagtunggali sa kahirapan. May panibagong buhay matapos ang paghihikahos sa panibagong kalupaan. Hindi na ito bago. Hindi naman kasi nalalayo ang ugat nito sa karamihan ng paksain ng kuwentong probinsyano. Subalit kung may bagong matutunan ukol sa paglalakbay, mas malayo pa ang kailangang libanin. Lupa, hindi lamang dagat, ang kailangang tawirin. Bumabalik ang lahat sa lupa, ika nga ni Nanay (na lola ko, nanay ni Ma). Ayon sa kanya, nakabaon sa lupa ang kayamanan. At mananatili roon hanggang kumupas ang mga guhit sa palad ng sumusubok bungkalin ito. Hindi rin kasi maaaring takasan gaano man subuking salisihan. Hanggang ngayon. Gaya ni Nanay. Tubong-Marinduque si Nanay. Doon siya ipinanganak, lumaki, nagpakasal, at doon din siguro nais pumanaw at humimlay. Taga-Boac siya, katabi ng Mogpog. Wala akong masyadong alam tungkol sa pagkabata niya. Paulit-ulit lang naman ang ikinukuwento *liban = tawid

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ni Mama ukol sa kanya. Masagana ang buhay noong una. May-lupa umano ang Tatay (asawa ni Nanay). May ilang ektarya ng palayan at niyogan sa gilid ng bundok sa barangay ng Mahinhin. Tugma ang ngalan sa kalidad ng lupa na madaling sakahin. May bahay rin sa baranggay Sumangga na malapit sa poblacion. Unang dagok sa kanila nang pumanaw ang Tatay. Tandang-tanda umano ni Mama kung paano siya lumabas ng bahay upang sumigaw at humingi ng saklolo nang inaatake na ang Tatay sa puso. Bata pa lang si Mama noon at sanggol pa ang bunso nilang kapatid nang maulila sila. Anim na silang magkakapatid noon. Madaragdagan pa sana kung nagkataon. Ayon kay Ma, laking taka daw nilang magkakapatid nang hindi na sila nakakatanggap ng bunga mula sa lupang dapat umano ay sa kanila. Bagaman tagapagmana sila ng lupa ni Tatay, wala daw silang natatanggap ni katiting na ani mula sa palukad. Palibhasa, bata pa sila. Hindi sila ang naglulukad. Na kay Nanay naman daw ang titulo. Walang ibang kamag-anak ang Tatay. Kapwa pumanaw na ang magulang nito at ang kaisa-isang kapatid niyang lalaki’y baog pa. Ang kwento ni Ma, hinati raw ng Nanay ang lupa ng Tatay sa mga kapatid nito sapagkat siya ang panganay. Makalipas ang ilang buwan, panaka-nakang lumiliban daw si Nanay pa-Lucena saka pa-Maynila at iniiwan sina Ma at ang mga kapatid niya sa Sumangga. Ang apat sa kanila’y nasa elementarya pa lang, samantalang nakaliban na sa Lucena ang dalawa nilang nakatatandang kapatid para maghayskul. Magdadahilan umano ang Nanay na pupunta ito pa-Divisoria upang mamili ng ipangbebenta sa palengke o bibisitahin ang iba pa nilang lupa sa Mindoro. Ngunit aabutin ng ilang linggo o minsa’y buwan bago ito bumalik. Mas lumala pa nang muli raw magpakasal ang Nanay sa isang nagngangalang Narding. Makalipas daw ang ilang buwan, nagsimula ulit lumiban ang Nanay. Naiiwan sina Ma at tatlo nitong kapatid 217


sa pangangalaga ni Narding na malupit raw sa kanila. Madalas silang bugbugin o kaya’y gutumin kung hindi ito sundin. Pasalamat na lang daw sila’t baklain ang Lolo kaya’t hindi sila ginahasa o pinagsamantalahan. Dumating ang panahong hindi na nga bumalik ang Nanay. Naiwang nakatiwangwang tuloy ang nakabaong “kayamanan” sa lupa nilang hindi man lang nila mapuntahan. Hindi na rin matandaan ni Ma ang tiyak na pagkakataon ngunit dumating din ang panahong nakaliban silang magkakapatid pa-Lucena. Hayskul na siya noon. Kung kani-kaninong tiya umano sila nakitira noon. Ang mga tiya nilang binahaginan ng Nanay ng lupa’y hindi man lang daw nila maasahan. Pinagpasa-pasahan silang magkakapatid. Silang apat ay kinailangang maghati sa tig-dalawang tiya upang hindi maging malaking pasanin sa kung sinumang tutuluyan nila. Hindi nagtagal at nakapagtapos na ang panganay nilang kapatid. Nakaliban na rin ang pangalawa sa Maynila upang mag-aral maging pulis. Nagsama-sama na muli silang magkakapatid at nangupahan sila ng bahay sa isang maliit at tagong lote sa kabayanan sa Lucena. Ayon kay Ma, gradwesyon na niya ng kolehiyo nang bumalik ang Nanay. Hindi niya umano pinansin. Sabagay, wala naman sigurong anak ang nanaising makita ang inang iniwan siya sa pagkabata upang bumalik sa mismong araw ng pagtatapos niya. O meron nga ba? Lumabo na rin ang kuwento ni Ma matapos nito. Lumaktaw sa kung papaano magkakasama na silang magkakapatid, si Nanay at si lolo Narding sa bahay. Nakakatanggap na muli ang Nanay ng tubo sa palukad sa lupa nila. Ngunit wala pa rin daw silang nakukuha. Paminsan-minsan, isang sako ng bigas. Hanggang nakatapos na maging ang bunsong kapatid ni Ma sa kolehiyo at isa-isa na silang nag-asawa’t nagkapamilya. Maraming kulang sa istorya ni Mama. Malinaw na malaki ang hinanakit niya sa lupa ng Tatay. Ngunit hindi pa malinaw kung nagkalinawan na silang magkakapatid sa pagliban ng Nanay. Sa mga 218


reunion o mga pagkakataong nakikita kong magkausap sina Ma, sina tiya, at si Nanay, napag-uusapan lang ang nakaraan kung kalakip ang lupa. Na nakapagtataka sapagkat hindi na naman nila mabalikan ang lupa. Nakaliban na sila ngunit sa lumilingon pa. Nagdaramdam ngunit hindi mainan na napag-uusapan. Kahit pamilya. Lalo siguro nga’t pamilya. Hindi pa nakakatulong isipin na ang biyaya sana ng lupa ang nakapagpaaral at patuloy na sumusustento sa iba sa amin. Wala rin naman kasing lupang maasahan sa Lucena. Ang iba’y hanggang ngayo’y umuupa. Naghahanap ng buhay sa iba’t ibang paraan. Ni minsan kaya’y tinanong nina Ma kay Nanay kung bakit ito lumiban at hindi bumalik? Hindi, tugon ni Mama. Naniniwala pa rin siyang hindi na niya kailangan ng paliwanag dito. Wala naman daw silang natanggap na mga sustento. Subalit parang may hindi nagtatagpo. Ang hirap mawatasan ng isang inang iiwan ang mga batang supling para lang lumiban pa-Maynila o Mindoro. Lalo pa’t alam niyang siya na lang ang inaasahan ng mga ito. Natakot kaya siya sa responsibilidad ng pagiging balo at ina, lalo pa’t bata pa lang siya? Sinubukan ko namang tanungin din si Nanay. Marami din akong natuklasan. May-lupa rin sina Nanay sa Boac, malapit lang sa Mahinhin. Balak pala ng magulang niya na ipakasal siya kay Tatay upang pagsamahin ang dalawang lupa. Kontrata kumbaga, sa anyo ng pag-iisang dibdib. Wala siyang muwang tungkol doon. Dalaga pa lang daw siya nang lumiban siya pa-Maynila. Kumukuha umano ng kursong pangkosmetiko sa bandang Taft. Kasabay nito, nagtratrabaho rin siya sa isang restawran ng isang kamag-anak doon. Sinubukan din niyang mag-awdisyon upang maging artista sa Tawag ng Tanghalan. Bago ang awdisyon, nakuha pa siya na maging voice actress sa isang drama sa radyo. Marami umano siyang pen pal at manliligaw dahil nakapaskil noon ang kanyang larawan at address sa magasin ng Liwayway.

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Isang araw, nakatanggap daw si Nanay ng sulat mula sa magulang niya na umuwi sa Marinduque. Pagdating niya, nalaman niyang ipapakasal na siya. Kay Tatay. Ano pa nga daw ba ang magagawa niya? Naipakatay na ang mga baboy. Naimbitahan na ang mga bisita. Tanda pa daw niya noong dumayo ang isang manliligaw (o katipan kaya) sa Marinduque upang subukang itanan siya. Ipinatago daw siya ng kanyang ama sa kabilang bundok upang hindi mahanap ng lalaki. Ilang linggo pa daw ang lumipas bago umalis ang manliligaw na ito. Taga-Mindoro daw. At hindi na nagtagal bago tuluyang ikasal si Nanay at Tatay hanggang pumanaw na nga ang Tatay, na hanggang ngayon ay hindi ko pa rin alam kung sa anong dahilan. Ang hindi ko siguro natanong kay Nanay ay kung minahal ba niya ang Tatay. Iyon naman siguro ang mahalagang malaman. Kung kagaya lang sila ni Ma at Tay, walang problema. Tapos ang usapan, lahat ng pagliban ay pakikipagsapalaran na magwawakas sa masigabong palakpakan. Ngunit, hindi ko na nagawang maitanong. Parang ayaw ko rin palang malaman. Hindi ko rin magawang matanong kung iniwan nga ba niya sina Ma, ang mga anak niya? Ngunit batid kong batid niyang batid ko ang katotohanan. Na marami siyang hindi nagampanan bilang ina. Na ipinagliban niya ito nang lumiban siya. Nang-iwan siya. O baka hindi. Ano ba naman ang alam ko? Mga alaala na lang ang nahuhusgahan. Malay ko ba kung ano ang totoong nangyari o kung nagsasabi ng totoo si Ma. Ngunit hindi maniniwala, o marahil mahirap tanggapin para kay Ma at kina tiya na baka nga hindi minahal ni Nanay ang Tatay. O mas malala, na minahal nga niya ito ngunit nagawa pa niyang lisanin ang kanilang mga anak sa pagliban. Mananatiling palaisipan ang mga biyahe pa-Maynila o pa-Mindoro. Walang makatitiyak kung sinong kaniyang binabalikan. Tawag ng tanghalan? Dating manunuyo? Marahil batid din naman talaga nina Ma. Mahirap lang aminin. Nakakalungkot lang siguro na wala pa ring katiyakan.

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Kahit hanggang sa pagkamatay. Kahit nang kamakailan lamang ay pumanaw ang kaisa-isa kong tiyo. Kaawaan nawa. May sarili siyang kuwento ng pagliban. Subalit wala nang mauusal na paliwanag ang bibig na hindi na makapagsasalita. At kung may mabibigkas ma’y maaaring wala nang nais makarinig. Nang ililibing na si tiyo, ni hindi makalayo si Nanay, si Ma, at sina tiya sa pumapanaog na kabaong sa hukay. Parang ayaw ipabalik sa lupa. Lumiliban pa rin ang Nanay. Liban nang liban. O marahil kabaligtaran, hindi makaliban-liban. Pabalik-balik mula Mahinhin upang asikasuhin ang lukad; mga anak at apo sa Lucena, San Pablo, Maynila, at iba pa. Pasalubong niya sa amin ang bigat ng pagliban. Babala sa pakikipagsapalaran sa Kalakhan na huwag masyadong pakalayo. Hindi raw mahahanap sa siyudad ang lupang naglalaman ng kayamanan. Alam naman namin, ko, iyon. Hindi na mababalik ang lupa sa Mahinhin. Ngunit mayroon naman sigurong hindi na kailangang takasan ngunit kinakailangan pa ring lisan. Gaano man kadalas ang pagliban, sa lupa bumabalik ang lahat.

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christian benitez

Isang Paglikhang Muli sa “Ang Dalawang Punong Matayog” “Hinggil sa ating nakaraan, lahat tayo ay mga manlilikha at alagad ng sining. Sumusulong tayo nang nakaharap patalikod, habambuhay na minamasdan at binubuong muli ang panahong nagdaan. Samakatwid, napatutunayang mali ang salawikain: hindi higit na nakatatanda ang matanda kaysa bata.” —sariling salin mula kay Marc Augé, “Nostalgia”¹

Unang nailathala ang kuwentong “Ang Dalawang Punong Matayog” noong 2015 bilang ang napili sa taunang timpalak ng heights para sa Kuwentong Pambata. Inilimbag sa karaniwang anyo ng aklat pambata kasama ang mga guhit ni Celline Marge Mercado, naging bahagi ito ng tangkain ng organisasyon para sa pagsisikap na banatin ang pag-iisip at pagpapahalaga sa panitikan nang may kritikal na pagsasalalay sa mga batang mambabasa. Naisulat ko ang unang burador ng kuwento noong 2014. At bagaman sa taong iyon ko rin unang ipinasa ang kuwento para sa taunang timpalak, taong 2015 pa nga ito napili para mailimbag. Sa isang taong agwat na ito, may ilang bahagi ng kuwento ang napagpasyahan kong baguhin: nilinis ang mga talata, tiniyak na higit na mauunawaan ng mambabasa. Gayunpaman, nanatili ang pangako ng akda: na bagaman naghiwalay sa huli ang dalawang binhi, kapwa silang lumaki kinalaunan upang magtagpong muli: ¹“With regard to our pasts, we are all creators and artists. We advance facing backward, forever observing and reconstructing the times gone by. Thus the proverb proves false: old age knows no better than youth.” Tingnan kay Marc Augé, “Nostalgia,” sa Everybody Dies Young: Time Without Age, salin ni Jody Gladding (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 77.

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Umihip muli ang Hangin. Bumalik ito para sa dalawang binhi. “Ano pa ang hinihintay niyo?” tanong ng Puno kina Mutya at Munti. “Sumama na kayo sa Hangin at maging mga Punong Matayog!” Parehong ngumiti ang dalawang binhi… at sumakay sila sa Hangin! Sila ay naibaba sa lupa at naitanim. At lumipas ang mga araw, linggo, buwan, at taon… Naging mga Punong Matayog din sina Mutya at Munti! Nagtagpong muli ang kanilang mga ugat sa lupa at mga sanga sa langit. At sa huli, hindi na nagkahiwalay pa itong dalawang Punong Matayog. Malinaw sa akin noon na ang wakas na ito ang hinding-hindi ko maaaring mabago o baguhin sapagkat iyon para sa akin ang saysay kung bakit ko nga ba isinulat ang akda: sapagkat nagmumula ang akda sa pagsasatalinghaga ng sariling karanasan ng minsang pangangailangang mawalay mula sa matalik na kaibigan. Ano kung gayon ang matalinghagang pagkatha kung hindi pamamaraan ng pag-angkop ng sarili sa mga kawalan at pagkawala. Sa kawalan at pagkawalang ito kung kaya maaari ang matalinghaga: sapagkat wala nga, ito ang panahon para sa anuman. Kung kaya naging isang binhi ang mga tao—ako, ang kaibigang nawalay, at, kinalaunan, lahat ng mga kaibigan pang mawawalay. At hindi nga tila nauubos ang mga pagwawalay, kung kaya para sa akin, hindi na kinakailangan pang tingnan ng mga teorista ang kalayuan ng kalawakan para lamang mapatunayan ang dapat ay tanda na nating mga tumatanda: parating lumalayo at lalayo mula sa isa’t isa ang mga bagay. Na tinangka kong sagutin sa pamamagitan ng akdang ito noon sa pamamagitan ng pagtanggi: na bagaman oo, pangangailangan ang magkahiwalay, mangyayari at mangyayari pa rin ang pagtatagpong muli. Na mangyayari pa ring masaya sa huli! Magiging matayog na puno ang lahat ng binhi! Hindi na tayo magkakahiwalay pang muli! 223


Bagaman, marahil, tumatanda na ako, at harinawa, nagtatanda na ako: sa wakas ay hindi ganito kadali. Sa tuwing iniisip ko ang mga bagay na isinulat, isinusulat, at isusulat ko, bagaman mahirap ang maging makatotohanan, tinatangka ko ang pagiging matapat. Na paano ko nga ba magagawa sa akdang ito, sapagkat paano nga ba maikukuwento sa mga paraang pambata na hindi tiyak ang pagtatagpo matapos ang kawalan at pagkawala? Sapagkat nagkita na kaming muli ng ilang kaibigang nawalay, ngunit hindi na kami tulad ng dati. Parating nangyayari ang panahon, na nangangahulugang parating nangyayari ang pagbabago: nagsasaestranghero ang mga kaibigan, lumalayo ang mga dating matalik. Tumatanda ang lahat bagaman madalas nawawalan ng pinagtatandaan. Sa kawalan at pagkawalang ito ng pagtatanda gayunpaman, ang kalayuan ang lawak kung saan maaaring lumikhang muli ng talinghaga: na maaaring kumatha para umangkop muli sa lahat ng kawalan at pagkawalang ito. Sa sandaling iyon samakatwid, ano ang kawalan at pagkawala kung hindi ang panahon para sa paglikha ng isa na namang bagay na lalayuan ding muli, at magiging kawalan at pagkawalang magiging isang panahon din para sa isa na namang paglikhang muli. Ito ang dahilan marahil kung bakit hindi natatapos ang pagkabata at ang pagsasalaysay muli: walang sinuman ang tumatanda at nagtatanda, ngunit pawang lumilikha at lumilikha lamang muli. Ito ang nagsisilbing panuto ng pagpapahalaga sa kilos ng pagkukuwentong muli: na hindi ito pawang pag-uulit, kung hindi kasabay na pag-iiba. Nag-iba at nag-iiba marahil sapagkat may wangis ng pagtatanda. Na isang paraan lamang ng pagsasatalinghaga—at samakatwid, isang pag-aangkop—ng pagkikita kong muli dito sa akdang isang kaibigan kong nawalay sa akin.

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ang dalawang punong matayog Sa isang kagubatan, nakatayo ang isang Punong Matayog. Ito ang pinakamagandang puno sa lahat: malaki, maraming dahon, at tila umaabot na sa ulap ang mga sanga. Tumutubo ang mga binhi ng Punong Matayog sa mga sanga nito. At sa isa sa mga sanga ng Puno, magkasamang tumubo ang dalawang binhi—si Mutya at si Munti. Mahal na mahal nila ang isa’t isa. Kapwa nilang gustong maging mga Punong Matayog. Araw-araw, nangangarap sina Mutya at Munti. Sabay silang pipikit at magsasalita. Masayang sinasabi ni Munti, “Gusto kong lumaki hanggang maabot ko ang langit!” Sasagot naman si Mutya. “Ako, gusto kong magkaroon ng malalagong dahon!” Pagkatapos, sabay silang didilat at magsasabing, “At hindi na tayo maghihiwalay pa!” Isang araw, nainip na ang dalawang binhi. Gusto na nilang maging mga Punong Matayog! “Paano kaya tayo magiging Punong Matayog?” tanong ni Mutya. Nag-isip nang malalim ang dalawang binhi, hanggang sumagot si Munti. “Alam ko na! Tanungin natin ang Hangin, na nagdadala at nagtatanim sa mga binhi!” Sumang-ayon si Mutya sa naisip ni Munti, at sabay nilang sinabing, “Para hindi na tayo magkakahiwalay pa!” Hinintay ng dalawang binhi ang pagdating ng Hangin. At nang dumating na rin ito sa wakas, kinausap ito nina Mutya at Munti. “Hangin! Hangin!” tawag dito nina Mutya at Munti. “Paano po kami magiging mga Punong Matayog?” Lumapit ang Hangin at binulungan ang dalawang binhi. “Ay! Tatangayin ko kayo papalayo dito sa Punong Matayog... at—ay!— itatanim nang magkalayo!” Nagulat sina Mutya at Munti. “Ngunit hindi po kami maaaring magkahiwalay!” Tumawa ang Hangin. “Ay, ganoon talaga! Kung ayaw niyong maghiwalay para maging mga Punong Matayog, kayo ang bahala!” 225


At tumatawang iniwan ng Hangin ang dalawang binhi. “Paano na tayo, Munti?” takot na tanong ni Mutya. “Ayaw kong mapahiwalay sa iyo!” Alalang-alala rin si Munti. “Paano na tayo magiging mga Punong Matayog? At paano na rin ang pangarap nating hindi magkakahiwalay?” Narinig ng Punong Matayog ang mga tanong ng dalawang binhi. “Aking mga binhi!” wika ng Matandang Punong Matayog. “Ano ang inaalala ninyo?” Malungkot na nagsumbong sina Mutya at Munti. “Hindi na po matutupad ang pangarap namin! Hindi na po kami magkasamang magiging mga Punong Matayog!” “Aba!” nakangiting sagot ng Matandang Puno. “Sino naman ang nagsabi sa inyong hindi na iyan maaari?” Napatigil sina Mutya at Munti sa sagot ng Matandang Puno. At nang nabasa ng Matandang Puno ang pagtataka sa dalawang binhi, nagsalita itong muli. “Para maging punong Matayog,” paliwanag ng Matandang Puno, “kinakailangang magkahiwalay kayo.” “Bakit po?” sagot ng dalawang binhi. Sumagot ang Puno, “Para magkaroon kayo ng sapat na lawak para sa magiging ugat ninyo.” Walang kibo ang dalawang binhi. “Sapagkat kung parati kayong magkadikit,” patuloy ng Matandang Puno, “kapwa kayong hindi makakukuha ng sapat na liwanag mula sa araw. At ganoon din sa tubig—mauuhaw kayo sapagkat magiging hindi sapat ang tubig-ulan.” Naunawaan ito ng dalawang binhi. “Kung kaya, kung nais niyong lumaki at maging matayog,” payo ng Matandang Puno, “kakailanganin niyo ang magkalayo.” Ngunit, nagtataka pa rin sina Mutya at Munti. “Kung ganoon, hindi na po ba kami maaaring magkasamang muli?” Muling ngumiti ang Matandang Puno sa dalawang binhi. “Aba! Maaari! Maaaring-maari!” Nabuhayan ang dalawang binhi sa kanilang narinig. “Paano po?” 226


“Ang lihim ay...,” marahang bulong ng Matandang Puno, “ang maghintay.” “Maghintay?” nagtataka ang dalawang binhi. “Bakit po?” “Aba! Sapagkat ganoon!” sagot ng Matandang Puno. “Magkakalayo kayo at lilipas ang mga araw, linggo, buwan, taon...” Muling nagsimulang mangamba ang dalawang binhi. “Ngunit!” paalala ng Matandang Puno, “Sa panahon, kapwa kayo lalaki at magiging mga Punong Matayog! At kapag naging Matayog na kayo, maaaring magtatagpong muli ang inyong mga ugat sa lupa! Maaaring magtagpo ang inyong mga dahon at sanga sa langit! Maaari! Maaari!” Ngumiti sina Mutya at Munti. Maaari nga silang maging mga Punong Matayog! At maaari ngang hindi na sila magkakahiwalay pa! Maaari! Maaari! Kaya nang umihip muli ang Hangin, tinanong ng Matandang Puno ang dalawang binhi. “Ano pa ang hinihintay niyo? Sumama na sa Hangin at maging matatayog!” Hindi na natatakot sina Mutya at Munti. At kaya naman, kapwa sila nagpatangay sa Hangin! Hanggang sa naibaba sa lupa ang dalawang binhi, at magkalayong naitanim. At tulad ng sinabi ng Matandang Puno, lilipas ang mga araw, linggo, buwan, taon… Ngunit sa ngayon, habang nakatanim sina Mutya at Munti, nangangarap muna silang maging dalawang Punong Matayog. Kapwa silang naghihintay sa maaari nilang pagkikitang muli.

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mirick paala

Samantala Gayunpaman puntod paglagos ng liwanag baling sanga hindi naitatama ang mali nagbabago lang ang anyo tulad ng paruparo, abo Gayunpaman pinto hindi sinasabi kung kailan subalit sa takdang panahon matatapos ang tulay at makakatawid ang gustong tumawid nang may pahintulot Samantala paglalakbay patungo roon bahagyang natitigatig ang walang laman na silid Samantala pagmamahal sa lohika sa nagkalat na holen sa apat na kanto ng mesa Gaano na katagal nang hawiin ang kumot ng alikabok

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Gayunpaman maayos ang hinigaan kumot unan kobre-kama Gayunpaman sahig na walang bakas Gayunpaman mangkok ng asin maghihintay sila sa labas

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Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan. Locale i. Galvanized iron sheets, wood, fluorescent lamp, and acrylic on canvas. 48 x 48 in.

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Locale i (installation shot).

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Andrea Micheline A. Ramos. 2 from You are Here (series). Digital Photography.

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Diana F. David. 1 from Probinsya Blues. Digital Photography.

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Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan. Place 17. Acrylic on Canvas. 12 x 12 in.

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Place 21. Acrylic on Canvas. 12 x 16 in.

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Neil John Vildad. Katipunan. Digital photography.

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Genesis Gamilong. Pagsumamo. Digital photography.

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Jose Viktor M. Tejada. girl next door. Digital photography.

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Ninna Lebrilla. in a day (series) 2 hours. Digital illustration.

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in a day (series) 3 hours. Digital illustration.

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in a day (series) 4 hours. Digital illustration.

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in a day (series) 5 hours. Digital illustration.

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in a day (series) 6 hours. Digital illustration.

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in a day (series) of fear. Digital illustration.

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Yuri Ysabel Tan. Girlhood. Scanned objects.

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Ida de Jesus. Does flesh make us human? (showmewhatyourinsideslooklike) (diptych) 1. Photomanipulation of scanned objects.

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Does flesh make us human? (showmewhatyourinsideslooklike) (diptych) 11. Photomanipulation of scanned objects.

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Jayvee del Rosario. beings unto (diptych) 1. Photomanipulation of scanned objects.

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beings unto (diptych) 11. Photomanipulation of scanned objects.

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Yuri Ysabel Tan. 1 from Topography (series). Ink on paper. 11 x 15 in.

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11 from Topography (series). Ink on paper. 11 x 15 in.

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Celline Marge Mercado. Bedtime Stories (series) Chapter 2. Cold-press board, paper clay, acrylic paint, fabric, and found objects.

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Bedtime Stories (series) Chapter 15. Cold-press board, paper clay, acrylic paint, fabric, and found objects.

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Bedtime Stories (series) Chapter 19. Cold-press board, paper clay, acrylic paint, fabric, and found objects.

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Corinne Victoria F. Garcia. cycle of waking. Digital collage.

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Philip De La Torre. Self-help. Analog collage. 4 x 3 in.

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Fernando Miguel Lofranco. Linear Regression. Photomanipulation.

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Corinne Victoria F. Garcia. mourning routine (series) 1. Digital photography.

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mourning routine (series) 11. Digital photography.

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mourning routine (series) 111. Digital photography.

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Carl Lorenz G. Cervantes. Magnificence (art zine) cover. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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Magnificence (art zine) 1. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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Magnificence (art zine) 11. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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Magnificence (art zine) 111. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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Magnificence (art zine) 1v. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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Magnificence (art zine) v. Ink and digital. 4 x 6 in.

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John Alexis Balaguer. The Break. Photomanipulation.

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Angelo Juarez. Guni-guni (series) 1. Digital photography.

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Guni-guni (series) 11. Digital photography.

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Guni-guni (series) 111. Digital photography.

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Alfred Benedict Marasigan. Flight of Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After Flight) (multipart installation). Paintings on gravel. 50 x 13.7 ft.

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Flight of Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After Flight) (multipart installation) (continuation).

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Mid-flight of Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After Flight) (multipart installation). Paintings on gravel. 50 x 13.7 ft.

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Icarus of Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After Flight) (multipart installation). Painting, gravel, scaffolding, and ladder. 50 x 13.7 ft.

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Icarus of Flight, Mid-flight, and Icarus (After Flight) (multipart installation) (continuation).

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Regina Ira Antoinette Geli. 1 from Bird Studies: Woven (series). Digital photography.

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111 from Bird Studies: Woven (series). Digital photography.

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v1 from Bird Studies: Woven (series). Digital photography.

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JV Calanoc. Fleeting (series) Vagabond. Paper sculpture. 9 x 9 in., 50 sheets.

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Fleeting (series) Vagabond (side detail).

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Fleeting (series) Gestalt. Paper sculpture. 9 x 9 in., 50 sheets.

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Fleeting (series) Gestalt (side detail).

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Fleeting (series) Paragon. Paper sculpture. 9 x 9 in., 50 sheets.

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Fleeting (series) Paragon (side detail).

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Fleeting (series) Rorschach. Paper sculpture. 9 x 9 in., 50 sheets.

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Fleeting (series) Rorschach (side detail).

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Fleeting (series) Sentry. Paper sculpture. 9 x 9 in., 50 sheets.

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Fleeting (series) Sentry (side detail).

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Jayvee del Rosario. A Hauntology of the Displaced. Digital collage.

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Eunice Nicole Arevalo. Haeundae, 5:01 am. Digital photography.

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Celline Marge Mercado. A Corner in KabukichĹ?. Digital photography.

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Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan. Locale 3. Flowers, paint, found wood, incandescent light bulb, and oil pastel and acrylic on canvas. 36 x 48 in.

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Corinne Victoria F. Garcia. only you. Digital photography and photomanipulation.

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Celline Marge Mercado. The King of the Pier. Digital photography.

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Jude Buendia. I was looking through a window (and i kept feeling so different). Scanned polaroids.


Eunice Nicole Arevalo. Please don’t jump (Mapo Bridge). Digital photography.

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Yuri Ysabel Tan. Artifacts of Domesticity. Assemblage.

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media, progress). Assemblage.

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media 1).

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media 11).

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media 111).

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media 1v).

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media v).

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Artifacts of Domesticity (supporting media v1).

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Celline Marge Mercado. Ocean Views. Digital photography.


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Gémino Abad (Department of English) Gémino H. Abad, University Professor emeritus of literature and creative writing in up, is a poet, fictionist, and literary critic and historian, with various honors and awards. He continues to teach at up and serve in the board of advisers in the up Institute of Creative Writing. Cyan Abad-Jugo (Department of English) Cyan Abad-Jugo took her master’s in Children’s Literature at Simmons College, Boston, and her PhD in English Studies: Creative Writing and Anglo-American Literature at up Diliman. Her books include: Father and Daughter (with Gémino Abad), Sweet Summer and Other Stories, Leaf and Shadow, and Salingkit: A 1986 Diary. Recently she edited an anthology for young adults called Friend Zones (Ateneo Press 2016) and wrote four chapter books for children: Yaya Maya and the White King, The Earth-Healers, Letters From Crispin, and The Looking-Glass Tree (Anvil 2016). She teaches Literature, Great Books, and Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University. Eunice Nicole Arevalo (4 BS Psychology) Psych student. Wandering soul. Missing Seoul (Gonzaga dorm, A818). A list: One minute snowfall. Iced coffee in the winter. Three flights of stairs up to a basement floor. Fruit vinegar drinking games. Abandoned amusement parks on the city outskirts. Soju-fueled walks in the dead of night. Chasing after sunrise on the wrong side of the coast. Never regret adventure.

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Luis Wilfrido Atienza (BS Biology 2016) Biology graduate, copywriter; trying to write about science and other things that fascinate me. Nowhere to go but up. Aside from like, down. There are really so many directions. Fellow of The System National Writers Workshop. Don’t let The Man get you down. Ives Baconguis (3 BFA Creative Writing) Ives, or Carissa Natalia Baconguis, is currently a third year studying poetry in Ateneo. She likes Filipino mythology and dyeing her hair every two months. John Alexis Balaguer (AB Communication 2012) Lex is taking his Masters degree in Art Studies at the University of the Philippines. He currently works at Ayala Museum under the Curatorial Department. Marco Bartolome (AB Literature-English 2017) Marco graduated with a degree in literature. Now, he does research on Martial Law and is eagerly waiting for the next Animal Crossing game. Christian Benitez (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Kasalukuyang nagtuturo si Christian Benitez sa Kagawaran ng Filipino ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila, kung saan niya tinapos ang programang ab-ma Panitikang Filipino. Nailathala ang ilan sa kanyang mga akda sa softblow, High Chair, Diagram, at ilan pang dyornal sa loob at labas ng bansa. Kasalukuyan siyang patnugot ng transit: an online journal at kasapi ng Young Critics Circle - Filmdesk. Nakatira siya sa Rizal.

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Jude Buendia (1 AB Development Studies) “And I Never felt more alone. It feels so scary, getting old.” —Lorde, “Ribs” Regine Cabato (AB Communication 2016) “This is the way the world ends / not with a bang but a whimper.” —T.S Eliot, “The Hollow Men” medium.com/@RegineCabato Regine Cabato currently works as a journalist for both broadcast and digital platforms in Manila. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2016 with a degree in Communication and a minor in creative writing. Her poetry has been published in Kritika Kultura, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha Literary Journal, and Rambutan Literary. She hails from Zamboanga City. She enjoys consuming and producing content about culture and the post-truth phenomenon. JV Calanoc (BS Management 2013) JV Calanoc is a self-taught paper artist from the Philippines who finds inspiration in nature and man-made structures. His minimalist style, which is influenced by Japanese aesthetic, is achieved through multiple layers of hand-cut paper to produce intricate designs that play with light and shadow. This is for the people who still believe in him. Jan Patrick Dela Cruz Calupitan (MS Chemistry 2013) Kasalukuyang tinatapos ni Japhet ang kanyang phd in Materials Science sa ilalim ng Double Degree program ng Nara Institute of Science and Technology (Nara, Japan) at University of Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France). Pinanganak at lumaki siya sa Lamao, Limay, Bataan. 311


Deirdre Z. Camba (Department of English) Deirdre is writer/yogini from Marikina City. She graduated from Ateneo in 2013 and is currently trudging through a graduate degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines. Deirdre was a fellow for poetry at the 2012 Ateneo National Writers Workshop and the 2017 ust National Writers Workshop. “Sometimes” is one of her favorite karaoke songs. Mark Anthony Cayanan (Department of Fine Arts) Mark Anthony Cayanan teaches creative writing and literature at the Ateneo de Manila University. He obtained his mfa from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and is currently working toward his phd at the University of Adelaide. He is the author of two full-length poetry books—Narcissus (2011) and Except you enthrall me (2013)—as well as three chapbooks—Shall we be kind and suffer each other (2013), Forfeit (2015), and Sentence (2017). Carl Lorenz G. Cervantes (BS Psychology 2015) 1. minor celebrity™ 2. likes twinks (hmu, darlings) 3. often hangry 4. more art at @cerebralepitaph 5. i make papogi at @ginoongcervantes Noel Clemente (Department of Philosophy) Nagtapos si Noel ng bs Applied Mathematics major in Mathematical Finance noong 2014 at ng ma Philosophy nitong 2017. Kasalukuyan siyang nagtuturo ng Pilosopiya ng Tao sa Kagawaran ng Pilosopiya. Kasapi siya ng Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (lira), isa sa mga pinakamatandang organisasyon ng mga Filipinong makata, mula 2013. Mahilig siyang magbasa, manood ng pelikula, mag-badminton, at higit sa lahat, mag-isip.

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Carlomar Arcangel Daoana (Department of Fine Arts) “For poetry never says; It unsays. To say Is to confine, contain, To unsay is to explore the Vaguely all-hovering Presence of the unseen Deliberate left-out...” —Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, “What Poetry Does Not Say” Catherina Dario (BFA Creative Writing 2016) Catherina Dario graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with degrees in creative writing and literature. She was part of the heights editorial board for two years, serving as the publication’s associate editor in her senior year. Her work has been published in heights, PLURAL, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, among others. She was a playwriting fellow at the 10th ccp Virgin Labfest Fellowship Program and more recently, a fiction fellow at the 2nd iwp Alumni Writers Workshop. She was conferred the award for fiction in the 2016 Loyola Schools Award for the Arts. Diana F. David (4 BFA Information Design) Kulot. Tracey dela Cruz (BS Psychology, AB Literature-English 2017) Tracey dela Cruz currently works as a copywriter for an Ayala company.

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Ida de Jesus (BFA Information Design 2017) Thank you. Have a listen: 1. Day I Die – The National 2. New Deep – Everything Everything 3. Pain – The War on Drugs 4. Rolling Stoned – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard 5. 20 Something – sza Philip De La Torre (BS Management 2016) My 2016 bio-note was so long, I promised to cut this one sho— Jayvee del Rosario (3 AB-MA Political Science, Major in Global Politics) Jayvee went down to the Piraeus and does not intend to come back. He plans on dropping a mixtape while there. Allan N. Derain (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Awtor ng Iskrapbuk, Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag, at May Tiktik sa Bubong, May Sigbin sa Silong. Guro ng Panitikan at Maikling Pagsulat sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Abner Dormiendo (AB Philosophy 2015) Abner Dormiendo is currently taking his mfa in Creative Writing at the De La Salle University. His works of poetry and fiction have been published in heights Ateneo, High Chair, PLURAL, Cha, and Likhaan, among others. He has also received the Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature for his poems. He currently resides in Antipolo City.

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Luis Francia (Department of Fine Arts) Luis H. Francia, former heights editor-in-chief, is a Palanca prize winner in poetry and is based in New York. His latest volume of poetry is Tattered Boat (2014). His nonfiction works include a memoir Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago, winner of both the 2002 pen Open Book Award and the 2002 Asian American Writers Award. His most recent collection of essays RE: Reviews, Recollections, Reflections (2015) won the 2016 National Book Award for the best collection of essays in English. He has edited or co-edited three anthologies of essays, poetry, and fiction, including Flippin’: Filipinos on America. He is included in the Library of America’s Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. He was the New York stringer for Asiaweek and Far Eastern Economic Review (both now defunct) and wrote as well for the independent New York weekly The Village Voice. He writes an online column “The Artist Abroad” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is on faculty at the Asian American Studies program at both Hunter College and New York University, and recently was Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University, and Writer in Residence at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou City. Corinne Victoria F. Garcia (5 BFA Information Design) Coco is an artist whose personal goal is to not feel embarrassed about introducing herself as one. Through her artworks, she seeks to record, question, and respond to what is often perceived as social convention. As such, her art has an impassioned and recurring focus on women’s issues and experiences, mostly expressed through photography and more experimental medium. Her recent works can be found on cocoexisting.tumblr.com.

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Genesis Gamilong (3 BS Legal Management) “Tanggap ko na, Jane, Wanda.” Regina Ira Antoinette Geli (BS Computer Science 2015) Reg dreams of one day photographing whales. In the meantime, she photographs birds. Martina Herras (3 AB Literature-English) “I want to write sentences for days. I want days to not / be a sentence.” —Natalie Eilbert, “Let Everything Happen To You” Grateful, still. tinyletter.com/alun-sina Jerome Ignacio (AB Humanities, BFA Theatre Arts 2016) Kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng Filipino sa Ateneo Junior High School, nagtapos noong 2016 si Jerome sa mga kursong ab Humanities at bfa Theater Arts. Direktor, Manunulat at Aktor sa tanghalan, naging bahagi na siya ng mga produksyon ng Ateneo ENTABLADO, Teatro Baguntao, Tanghalang Ateneo at up Dulaang Laboratoryo. Naging fellow na rin siya ng Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship at Ateneo National Writers Workshop. Itinanghal ang kanyang dulang Kublihan sa Virgin Labfest xi: Sariwa sa Cultural Center of the Philippines. Jonnel Inojosa (BS Legal Management 2016) Tubong-Lucena si Jonnel. Nagtapos siya sa admu ng kursong BS Legal Management noong 2016. Kasalukuyan siyang guro ng Filipino sa Ateneo de Manila Junior High School, at freshman sa up Law. Buhay pa naman siya sa awa ng Diyos. Angelo Juarez (BS Management Engineering 2014) Ang pagsakay ng mrt ay art. Kitakits nalang sa Ayala Station.

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Gian Lao (BS Management, Major in Communications Technology 2010) Gian Lao self-published his first book of poetry, “All the Winters of My Body”, in January 2017. He accepts orders and posts occasionally at gianlao.com. Gabrielle Leung (4 BS Physics) “The language of femininity, when pushed to excess—when shouted and asserted, when disruptive and demanding—deconstructs into its opposite and makes available to the woman an illusory experience of power previously forbidden to her by virtue of her gender.” —Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight Gabrielle “Bee” Leung is a senior at Ateneo de Manila University, majoring in physics and minoring in creative writing. She was a fellow for nonfiction in the 22nd Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. Her work has previously been published in back issues of heights, PLURAL: Prose Journal, and Kritika Kultura. She believes that the correct way to make pancit canton is to mix one packet of extra hot chili with one packet of chilimansi (add sesame oil to taste). Ninna Lebrilla (4 BFA Information Design) 110117 10:04 a.m. Thank you for the rest cargocollective.com/nnnlll

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Alyssa Gewell Llorin (1 BS Applied Physics/Materials Science and Engineering) Isang baguhan sa buhay-Ateneo at panunulat pero kayang magkunwari. Madalas hindi napapansin pero kayang maghintay. Hindi pa rin alam kung anong aatupagin sa buhay pero kayang magpursige. Fernando Miguel Lofranco (3 AB Economics) Fernando Miguel Lofranco is resourceful and diligent student with a sound foundation in mathematics, analytics, and research. However, he was born and raised in the world of Philippine art and is currently learning on how to help it grow and prosper. Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan (BFA Information Design 2013) Alfred Marasigan graduated magna cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2013 with a bfa in Information Design and a Loyola Schools Award for the Arts (Graphic Design). In 2015, he became a First Round Winner (General Category) of Art Olympia: International Open Art Competition in Tokyo, Japan. Last March 2016, he had his first solo show in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (ccp). His other artworks have also been included in various local and foreign exhibitions such as c3 Contemporary Art Space (Melbourne), Galerie Métanoïa (Paris), Poh Chang Academy (Thailand), Metropolitan Museum of Manila (Manila); and publications like Fordham University’s CURA Magazine, SFMoMA’s Tumblr, and Ateneo’s heights, among others. Alfred has been teaching for four years with Ateneo’s Department of Fine Arts. He is currently taking up his ma in Contemporary Art at Kunstakademiet i Tromsø in Norway. For his full portfolio, please visit cargocollective.com/alfredmarasigan.

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Celline Marge Mercado (4 BFA Information Design, Art Management) Celline Mercado is a visual artist taking two majors: Information Design, and Art Management (with a minor in Japanese Studies) at the Ateneo de Manila University. In her first year, she became one of the ten selected fellows of the 5th Ateneo heights Artists Workshop. She was the chosen illustrator of the 2014 Kwentong Pambata book grant. She has been published numerous times in heights Ateneo, and in Graphika Manila. Her works have been exhibited at the Ateneo de Manila (Philippines), and at the Thacher Gallery at the University of San Francisco (usa), where one of her pieces won the Curator's Choice Award. Celline wants to be a costume designer. She also longs to meet Olympic figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Mayelle Nisperos (BS Legal Management 2016) Mayelle spends almost all her paid vacation leaves in Bacolod. Mirick Paala (BS Management Engineering 2013) Si Mirick Paala ay nagtapos ng bs Management Engineering minor in Creative Writing sa Ateneo de Manila University. Kasalukuyan niyang tinatapos ang kaniyang ma sa Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas at msc sa Sustainability in Transport sa University of Leeds. Dorothy Claire Parungao (3 BS Chemistry/Materials Science and Engineering) Patuloy sa pagtatangkang ipagtagpo ang panitika’t agham sa araw-araw.

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Jam Pascual (BFA Creative Writing 2015) Jam Pascual was a fellow for poetry for the 56th Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the 15th Iyas National Writers’ Workshop. His poems have been published in Rambutan Literary and Public Pool. Some of his writing has been published in publications like Rogue and TEAM. He currently works as a columnist and copy editor for Young Star, the youth section of The Philippine Star. Andrea Micheline A. Ramos (4 BFA Information Design) Andrea Ramos is a fourth year Information Design student. Edgar Calabia Samar (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Labinlimang taón nang nagtuturo sa Kagawaran ng Filipino si Edgar Calabia Samar at kasalukuyang nasa Japan bílang visiting professor ng Osaka University. Tinatapos niya ngayon ang pentalohiya niyang Janus Silang at ang ikatlong nobela ng Trilohiya ng mga Bílang na kinabibilangan ng una niyang dalawang nobelang Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog at Sa Kasunod ng 909. Pinakabago niyang mga aklat ng tula ang Maskara’t Pambata: Malatulambuhay (ust Publishing House 2017) at ang ilalathala ng Ateneo de Naga University Press na Samantalang Sakop at Iniibig: Panibagong Tulambuhay. Apat sa mga aklat niya ang pinarangalan ng National Book Awards. Siya ang patnugot na tagapagtatag ng Santinakpan.com. Nico Santana (1 BS Management Engineering) Nico Santana is trying to learn how to make time for art while still being able to work properly. When he writes, he writes about the small things that make themselves very hard to forget.

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Joaquin W. Singson (4 BFA Art Management) “But if you want to know what the gods did, look around you. See that old creature over there, creeping away like a beetle on her little black feet, hugging the walls. Well, she’s a good specimen of the squat black vermin that teem in every cranny of this town.” —Jean-Paul Sartre, The Flies To Louise Glück, Franz Kafka, and Allan Popa, for setting the foundations on which I built this shanty. To Ponch, Sugay, Michael, Renzo, Coco, for pushing me to turn this in. To Gertie Warren, in whose garden I sit in on warm nights when I dream of weevils, rose thorns, and snails. Yuri Ysabel Tan (4 BFA Information Design) To the girls at ecpat Philippines, you are my light. To my dogs who taught me how to love again. Jose Viktor M. Tejada (2 BFA Creative Writing) I take photos. I like cats. Paolo Tiausas (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Si Paolo Tiausas ay manunulat mula sa siyudad ng Pasig. Kasalukuyan siyang nagtuturo sa Kagawaran ng Filipino sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Nagtapos siya ng bfa Creative Writing sa parehong pamantasan at nagkamit ng Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts at Joseph Mulry Award for Literary Excellence para sa kaniyang mga tula. Nailathala na ang ilan sa Kritika Kultura, Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Rambutan Literary Journal, heights, Softblow, PLURAL: Online Prose Journal, at The Philippines Free Press. Nagkamit siya ng Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature noong 2016. Kasalukuyan niyang tinatapos ang kanyang ma ng Literature-Filipino sa admu.

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Michaela Gonzales Tiglao (4 BS Psychology) Michaela Gonzales Tiglao is a senior at the Ateneo de Manila University majoring in bs Psychology with a minor in creative writing. Her works have been published in heights Ateneo, where she is currently the Editor-at-Large. She was a fellow for fiction in the 22nd Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. You will find her always gulping down flies. To Mama, Papa, Jose Enrico, Gabrielle, Jose Emmanuel, Adoracion, Emerita, Marcos, Celoy: you have my eyes, my words, and my heart. And to you, reader: recuérda—even words are carried away by the wind. Andrea V. Tubig (BFA Creative Writing 2017) Andrea V. Tubig is the author of Tonight We Slurp in Color (Balangiga Press, 2017). She was a fellow for poetry in the 15th Ateneo National Writers Workshop and in the 2nd iwp Alumni Writers Workshop. She is also a recipient of the 2017 Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts. Her works have appeared in PLURAL, heights, Scout and fhm. She terribly misses the Ateneo. Jolo Urquico (4 BS Management Information Systems) Jolo was a fellow for poetry at the 22nd Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. He organizes small writing workshops for WriterSkill, an independent creative writing organization in the Ateneo. One of his current endeavors is to impart an appreciation of Philippine Literature in English to the members of his organization. Other than that, he still doesn’t have it all figured out yet.

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Joshua Uyheng (BS Psychology, BS Mathematics 2017) Josh graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University a believer in science, art, and faith. For his poetry, he was awarded the 2016 Loyola Schools Award for the Arts and fellowships at the 13th Ateneo National Writers Workshop and the 21st Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. His work has previously been published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Kritika Kultura, among others. For this year of growth and wonder, he would like to thank his mentors Cristina Montiel, Jumela Sarmiento, Mari-Jo Ruiz, Men Sta. Ana, Nico Canoy, Reena Estuar, Richard Eden, Rofel Brion, and Stefan Riezler; his newfound families at the Martial Law Museum, the Political Psychology Lab, fassster, Statnlp, and Action for Economic Reforms; the System, the Rofelians, and oaa-verwing; and his best friends Max, Matt, Emma, Kim, Harvey, Aeron, Jeivi, Gil, Ica, Hades, Shiph, Rafa, Sel, Marco, Janelle, Gabe, Xinay, Catherine, Pang, and Ken. Josh splits his time these days wandering the woods, cooking spicy noodles, and teaching machines how to dream. Neil John Vildad (4 AB Literature-English) “Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let [it] consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.” —Donna Tartt, The Secret History

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Martin Villanueva (Department of Fine Arts) Martin Villanueva was a member of the English Staff of heights while he was pursuing his bfa Creative Writing degree, and has served as the staff ’s faculty moderator since 2011. He is currently Chair of the Department of Fine Arts where he has taught creative writing courses since 2008. He most recently released his first book of poetry entitled Account; participated in the Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange residency, the Queensland Poetry Festival, and the Melbourne Writers Festival; and worked on his first issue as the associate editor for the literary section of Kritika Kultura. Niccolo Rocamora Vitug (MA Literary and Cultural Studies 2017) Niccolo Rocamora Vitug obtained his ma in Literary and Cultural Studies from the Ateneo de Manila in 2017. He is currently teaching creative writing at the Ateneo de Manila Senior High School. Alfred A. Yuson (Department of English 2015) Alfred A. Yuson, nicknamed Krip, has authored over 30 books to date, including novels, poetry collections, short fiction, essays, children’s stories, biographies, travel, translation, and coffee-table books, apart from having edited various other titles, including several literary anthologies. He has gained numerous distinctions, including the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from umpil or Writers Union of the Philippines, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the City of Manila, and the seaWrite (SouthEast Asian Writers) Award from Thai royalty for lifetime achievement. He has also been elevated to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Philippines’ most prestigious literary distinction. He has enjoyed fellowships in various international writing programs, and participated in literary conferences, festivals and reading tours in over 20 countries, while his poetry and fiction have been translated into 10 langauges.

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He contributes a weekly arts and culture column to a national broadsheet, The Philippine Star. He taught fiction and poetry at Ateneo de Manila University, where he held the Henry Lee Irwin Professorial Chair. His third novel, The Music Child & The Mahjong Queen (Anvil Publishing, 2016) recently won the National Book Award for Best Novel in English.

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Errata In heights vol. 65 no. 1, Mirick Paala’s course information in his bionote on page 113 should be read as “BS Management Engineering 2013” instead of “BS Management Economics ??”. The heights editorial board would like to apologize for the aforementioned mistakes.

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Acknowledgments Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, sj and the Office of the President Dr. Ma. Luz C. Vilches and the Office of the Vice President for the Loyola Schools Mr. Roberto Conrado Guevara and the Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs Dr. Josefina D. HofileĂąa and the Office of the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Jonathan Chua and the Office of the Dean, School of Humanities Dr. Isabel Pefianco Martin and the English Department Mr. Martin V. Villanueva and the Department of Fine Arts Dr. Joseph T. Salazar at ang Kagawaran ng Filipino Mr. Allan Popa and the Ateneo Institute of the Literary Arts and Practices (ailap) Mr. Ralph Jacinto A. Quiblat and the Office of Student Activities Ms. Marie Joy R. Salita and the Office of Associate Dean for the Student and Administrative Services Ms. Liberty Santos and the Central Accounting Office Mr. Regidor Macaraig and the Purchasing Office Dr. Vernon R. Totanes and the Rizal Library Ms. Carina C. Samaniego and the University Archives Ms. Ma. Victoria T. Herrara and the Ateneo Art Gallery The mvp Maintenance and Security Personnel Ms. Gabrielle Gabaton and the Sector-Based Cluster Dr. Vincenz Serrano and Kritika Kultura Mr. Arjan P. Aguirre and the Martial Law Museum Ms. Yael A. Buencamino and the AretĂŠ Mr. Robbin Dagle and The GUIDON Ms. Micah Rimando and Matanglawin The Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral ng Ateneo de Manila, and the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo And to those who have been keeping literature and art alive in the community by continuously submitting their works and supporting the endeavors of heights

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Editorial Board Editor - in - Chief Gabrielle Frances R. Leung [bs ps 2019] Associate Editor Yuri Ysabel G. Tan [bfa id 2019] Managing Editor for External Affairs Neil John C. Vildad [ab lit (eng) 2018] for Internal Affairs Marco Emmanuel T. Torrijos [bs mgt 2018] for Finance Alexandria T. Tuico [bfa am 2018] Editor  -at  -  Large Michaela Marie G. Tiglao [bs psy 2019] Art Editor Celline Marge Z. Mercado [bfa id, am 2019] Associate Art Editor Jayvee A. del Rosario [ab-ma pos 2020] Design Editor Dianne Manselle L. Aguas [bfa id 2018] Associate Design Editor Ninna D. Lebrilla [bfa id 2019] English Editor Sophia Alicia S. Bonoan [bfa cw 2019] Associate English Editor Catherine Lianza A. Aquino [ab psy 2020] Filipino Editor Martina M. Herras [ab lit (eng) 2019] Associate Filipino Editor Jose Alfonso Ignacio K. Mirabueno [bs cs 2019] Production Manager Cesar Alfonso S. Castor vi [ab psy 2018] Associate Production Manager Lorenzo Miguel S. Reyes [bs mis mscs 2021] Heights Online Editor Corinne Victoria F. Garcia [bfa id 2018] Associate Heights Online Editor Nolan Kristoff P. Sison [bfa id 2018]

Head Moderator and Moderator for Filipino Allan  Alberto N. Derain Moderator for Art Yael   A . Buencamino Moderator for English Martin V. Villanueva Moderator for Design Tanya Lea Francesca M. Mallillin Moderator for Production Enrique Jaime S. Soriano Moderator for Heights Online Regine Miren D. Cabato

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Staffers Art 

Eunice Nicole Arevalo, Jude Angelo S. Buendia, Aisha Dominique Q. Causing, Rico Cruz, Fernando Miguel Lofranco, Kimberly Que, Andrea Ramos, Robyn Saquin, Jose Carlos Joaquin W. Singson, Clare Bianca F. Tantoco, Andrea Janelle G. Ting, Dexter Yu, Charles Yuchioco

Design  Andrea Adriano, JJ Agcaoili, Zianne Agustin, Kim Alivia, Rico Cruz, Diana F. David, Justine Daquioag, Zoe C. de Ocampo, Arien M. Lim, Arien M. Lim, Riana G. Lim, Ninielle Pascual, Diorjica Ranoy, Jeanine Rojo, Pie Tiausas, Jonah Velasquez, Dyan Villegas, Elyssa Villegas English 

Alec Bailon, Helena Maria H. Baraquel, Sofia Ysabel I. Bernedo, Danie Cabahug, Karl Estuart, Trishia Gail G. Fernandez, Jamie Gutierrez, Daniel Manguerra, Ryan C. Molen, Marty R. Nevada, Lia Pauline P. Paderon, Mikaela Adrianne C. Regis, James Andrew Reysio-Cruz, Trisha Anne K. Reyes, Lukas Miguel A. Santiago, Patricia Clarice A. Sarmiento, Madeline Sy, Nigel Yu, Timothy Vincent Yusingco

Filipino 

Carissa Natalia Baconguis, Danielle Michelle B. Cabahug, Charlene Kate D. Cruz, Gewell Llorin, Cymon Kayle Lubangco, Gerald Manuel, Angela Bianca C. Mira, Jelmer Jon Ochoa, Dorothy Claire Parungao, Mikaela Adrianne C. Regis, Paco Rivera, Elija Torre, Josemaria L. Villareal

Production  Zianne Agustin, Sandy Añonuevo, Justin Barbara, Kim Bernadino, Giane Butalid, Madi Calleja, Brianna Cayetano, Gelo Dawa, Louise Dimalanta, Sofia Guanzon, Gerald Guillermo, Cesar Fabro, Gio Lopez, Anton Molina, Trisha Reyes, Julien Tabilog, Bea Valenzuela, Charles Yuchioco Heights Online Zoe Andin, Marianne Antonio, Gaby Baizas, Helena Baraquel, Maia Boncan, Angela Cortero, Hazel Lam, Kayla Ocampo, Aga Olympia, Patrick Ong, Jonina Ramos, Tamia Reodica, Julien Tabilog, Sam Wong

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LXV Committee LXV Committe Head

Michaela Marie G. Tiglao

Design

Jonah Velasquez (Committee Head), Diana F. David, Jeanine Rojo

Exhibit Zianne Agustin, Cat Aquino, Sophia Bonoan, Cesar Alfonso S. Castor vi, Jayvee del Rosario, Corinne Victoria F. Garcia, Martina Herras, Gabrielle Leung, Celline Marge Mercado, Nolan Kristoff P. Sison, Yuri Ysabel Tan, Alexandria T. Tuico, Neil John Vildad Logistics  

Gelo Dawa (Committee Head), Alec Bailon, Louise Dimalanta, Julien Tabilog

Promotions 

Anton Molina (Committee Head), Helena Maria H. Baraquel, Kim Bernardino, Jonina Ramos, Diorjica Ranoy

Research 

Fernando Miguel Lofranco, Karl Estuart, Paco Rivera

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(2018) Heights LXV, Anniversary Issue  

A special folio celebrating the 65th Anniversary of Heights Ateneo. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organizati...

(2018) Heights LXV, Anniversary Issue  

A special folio celebrating the 65th Anniversary of Heights Ateneo. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organizati...

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