heights vol. 64 no. 1 Copyright 2016 heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila University. Copyright reverts to the respective authors and artists whose works appear in this issue. No part of this book may be r eprinted 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 Ninna Lebrilla and Marco T. Torrijos Cover and Dividers by Ninna Lebrilla Layout by Dianne Aguas, Kim Alivia, Justine Daquioag, Zoe de Ocampo, Inya de Vera, Anfernee Dy, Gianne Encarnacion, Maxine Garcia, Ninna Lebrilla, Jeanine Rojo, Gabby Segovia, Marco T. Torrijos, Jonah Velasquez Folio Launch Team: Santi Martinez, Jill Arteche, Jeremy Willis Alog, Kai Bartolome, MM Lopez, Max Suarez, Neil Vildad, Pia Zulueta Typeset in mvb Verdigris
Contents Carlomar Arcangel Daoana 1 The Delay Anna Nicola M. Blanco 3 Exposed Michaela Gonzales Tiglao 9 The mask I choose to wear Martina M. Herras 10 Judith dreams before she leaves Bethulia 65 Mula sa ilalim ng kaskaho Regine Cabato 11 Ruth Reina Krizel J. Adriano 12 What No Longer Remains Marco Bartolome 22 [Nothing stirs...] Ben Aguilar 23 Spider X Mark Anthony Cayanan 35 You need to submit Joshua Uyheng 36 Recollection Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta 41 Phototaxis 42 Cellophane Michelle Tiu Tan 44 Things That Matter Patricia Celina Ngo 58 Foggy Windows 59 Coloring Book Choices 60 My Kite iv
Allan Popa 61 Ang Langit Niya Amando Jose J. Perez 62 Taludtod na Tinuldukan ng Uod Cymon Kayle Lubangco 63 Dinig Luigi dela Peña 66 Gamugamo 68 Pusit-Pusitan Jerome Flor 69 Field Trip Gabrielle Ruth P. Briones 71 Pagbalik sa Pagsusulit sa Gramatika Pagtanda Paolo Tiausas 74 Cutter Louie Jon A. Sánchez 89 Desesperado 91 Flora, Apayao, 1989 92 Sa Pag-aabang ng Isang Traysikel Isang Tanghali MV Isip 94 Aokigahara (series) Patricia Laudencia 97 Noise (series) Richard Mercado 100 Sometime Ago Celline Marge Mercado 101 Bawal ‘Yan (series) 110 Wrong Side of the Bed 114 Behind the Trees Mia Claudio 106 Kyoto Drift from Currents (series) 107 Nature’s Broadcast from Currents (series)
Sam David Felix 108 Peace 113 Panglao, Bohol 120 Psalm 89:9/Growth Karl Estuart 109 The Blueprint Ninna Lebrilla 115 Going Home
Editorial In recent years, heights has sought to bring itself closer to the Ateneo community, as well as reach out and serve communities beyond the Ateneo. Efforts to achieve this include initiatives from a publication perspective: being more open to experimental works, last yearâ€™s collaborative folio with Jesuit universities, and the themeless call for contributions to the folio. This also includes initiatives from an organizational perspective: the increase of tie-ups with other organizations, more relevant and inclusive Creative Talks, and the expansion of Kuwentong Pambata. These initiatives were fueled by the realization that heights was focused entirely on producing the folio, that we were not accomplishing all that we set out to do, and that we could find ways to better serve the Ateneo community. In our 64th year, we ask: How might we go back to the core of our objective as a publication and organization? heights, after all, came to be to create an avenue for excellent art and literature from the Ateneo. Despite our efforts, we continue to ask: Have we truly grounded ourselves in the community for which we exist? heights plans to circle back to and further foster the community by investing in its readers, writers, and artists. The first step of which is to once again have a themeless call for contributions to the folio. In assessing concerns found in art and literature, we hope to understand how the community wrestles with its present reality and to also discover how these concerns might be expounded on and traced back. In similar fashion to how heights reoriented itself, the works in heights lxiv no. 1 are responses to an impulse found after being faced with incongruity. Art and literature have always been ways to respond, but in this issue, the works are borne from a discomfort that something is not as it should be. This is not to say that there exists a disturbance, but something more akin to a deviation from an existing equationâ€”things not adding up quite as nicely. vii
This might mean a difference in two perspectives, like that found in Allan Popa’s “Ang Langit Niya.” The persona and the child might be looking in the same direction, but they are focusing on two different things. In Ben Aguilar’s short story, two brothers discover spiders in a forest—one is awed by them, but the other recognizes their looming danger. MV Isip’s “Aokigahara” series shows how playing with colors and focus can turn charm into eeriness. The works are then avenues to tackle these incongruities, and they do so in different ways. Some works, like Reina Krizel J. Adriano’s “What No Longer Remains,” use introspection; they look toward the self to deal with an external stimulus. Adriano explores the concept of home by recalling her experiences from childhood after spending time in another’s hometown. Similarly, Richard Mercado’s “Sometime Ago” offers an understanding of the persona by showing their lived-in apartment. The use of shadows across the work designates the passage of time and the fatigue the comes with it. Works such as “Pagbalik sa Pagsusulit sa Gramatika Pagtanda” by Gabrielle Ruth P. Briones and “Taludtod na Tinuldukan ng Uod” by Amando Jose J. Perez make use of the ordinary to ground the foreign. Briones makes use of language to access a memory, while Perez makes use of irony to deal with death. With respect to form, Mark Anthony Cayanan’s “You need to submit” reorients the understanding of a text through the use of erasure. The text of the poem was originally found in an academic textbook. “Panglao, Bohol” by Sam David Felix and “Wrong Side of the Bed” by Celline Marge Mercado present an incongruity to viewers, and invite them to grapple with it themselves. Felix presents an unconventional take on the popular beach photo, while Celline Marge Mercado creates tension not only by juxtaposing two kinds of beds, but also using different strokes and color palettes on each side. viii
The overall concept of incongruity was translated visually through the use of optical illusions and color channels. Once the colored film is peeled and the incongruity of the optical illusion is revealed, the eyes continually refocus on the image presented. Which is the correct image? Is there a correct one? Our eyes fill the gaps and create a gestalt image—one that we may not have previously seen. Analogously, the works in the folio attempt to bridge gaps that were only recently discovered. After reorienting ourselves, what do we make of the image that is formed? Let this folio act as an invitation to reassess and reorient. heights itself has continually reoriented its role in the community over the years, from a religious leaning in the 1950’s with a tribute celebrating the 1954 Marian Year, to a political role in the 1960’s and 70’s, most evident in its change of name to Pugadlawin to reflect student activism at the time. How can we see our full selves and the pieces that belong to an individual, a community, and a nation? In encountering incongruity, we enter a quest for self-awareness and self-development. How can we fully see ourselves and the pieces that belong to an individual, a community, and a nation? Ida de Jesus October 2016
carlomar arcangel daoana
The Delay Adept at putting things off indefinitely, Throwing them like house keys on A surface easy to miss because apparent, We suffer the malignity of our neglect: The books and sheets ruined by burst pipes And leaks, the debt whose interest has Trebled, the wall bereft of a college diploma, The liver turned to pumice by hepatitis. Words, spare change to our familyâ€™s Unloveliness, remain unspent, ungambled So what transpires in their stead is a kind Of rasping silence hooked to the ear Of the nearly dead. A basket of flowers Affixed by the bedside should have Arrived years earlier, with a tender note Pre-dating coma and cardiac arrest. This is our curse: the delay rises, cools, Precipitates only to streak through The air, carve potholes of apprehension. We are its notable subjects, its underlings. Meanwhile, our better selves, spotless In their reputation and good shoes, Rap at train windows, gesticulating at us, Pulled by an inviolable resolve so swift
We have not even thrown a scarf They can wrap around their throats, Pressed an amulet into their palms. Befuddled, we trudge on the pavement Rehearsing the departure in our mind, Determining the point when our nerve Has failed us. Regret and remorse are The same thing under a magnifying glass. Had we been them, would we be safer, Happier, more acceptable to the world? How would we appraise the selves Crippled by evasion and indecision? Some things recur to be righted: my father, For instance, arriving from the hereafter, Wearing a fake Rolex and a lab coat similar To the one he wears in the only photo I have allowed in the house. “Papa,” I say. “I’m not yet ready to make amends.” Just like that, death reclaims him like a bond As a stay against some terrific act of God. The poem heals the gash of his entrance. Reckoning is what the living do all day. Punctual, well-behaved and benign, The dead have all the time in their hands.
anna nicola m. blanco
Exposed* i. Perhaps the storm would allow me to become an adult, more mature, someone who had survived. Typhoon Ondoy happened in my first year of high school. Weeks after, I found myself knee-deep in mud, the smell of damp books and rotting wood filled my nose and made my head swim. My brother and I had been instructed to clear out our rooms and dispose of anything that had been damaged by the flash flood. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to remove traces of my childish, elementary-school self. High school, people said, was everyoneâ€™s gateway to adulthood. Give up your childish wants, they said. Itâ€™s time to take your future seriously, they said. So when I found my first pair of sunglasses buried under a drenched pile of scratch paper I had accumulated, I decided it would be the first to go. No more dressing up like the celebrities I saw on television. No more pretending I was the leading lady in Top Gun. It was time to grow up. That first pair was custom fit to the shape of my head. Just as the Inuits, credited for having introduced the concept of eye protectors to shield their eyes from the blinding sun of the Arctic regions, made their goggles so that no one pair was the same; each nose bridge had a different angle; each frame was less or more wide depending on the width of the head wearing them. I wore that pair until the end pieces started to pinch my temples, until the hinges looked like they were about to break the plastic frames holding them together. I put the glasses on one last time before throwing them away, somehow hoping that they would magically fit so I could keep them. I felt the familiar pinch. The frames barely covered my eyes, and the *First published in PLURAL Prose Journal (2016)
nose bridge was too narrow for my teenage head. My mother once told me that it was a waste of space to keep things we knew we could no longer use. And no matter how hard I tried, the glasses wouldn’t fit. So my mother, as it turns out, had been right. There are parts of ourselves we must leave behind. Just as the Inuits, at the invention of mass produced and commercially sold snow goggles, lost their tradition of handcrafted eye protectors, so too must I adapt, change, and perhaps lose a part of myself in the process. I only hoped then that someone had found them and made good use of them. I suppose that’s better than imagining them at a dump site or shattered in pieces at the bottom of a river. It was a comfort to imagine that the things we leave behind are not merely left but passed on. ii. I used to think that wearing sunglasses indoors was rude until, in the fourth grade, my homeroom teacher walked into class with a pair of round sunglasses wide enough for the frames to reach her eyebrows. She should take them off, I thought. I didn’t want to look at a bumblebee while I was reciting. When my classmates took notice, she had reacted by pretending that she was blind, stretching out her arms, and tapping the shoulders of the latecomers to find out who they were. The classroom erupted in laughter at her antics, but she didn’t remove them even after the novelty of her choice of accessory had worn off. When I walked towards her to hand in my paper at the end of class, I noticed that beneath the overly rounded frame, just above her cheek, was a line of purple. She smiled at me, and I pretended that I didn’t just try to look past the brown of her lenses to see the swollen skin surrounding her left eye. I suppose she wanted to avoid the slaughter of questions that would have come at her: Why is your eye purple? Does it hurt? How did it happen? Can you still see? Will your eye be okay? No one from a class of 40 fourth graders would question a teacher’s choice to wear 4
sunglasses indoors. And I would imagine that, if I asked about her choice of eyewear now, she would say that it was to protect us as much as it was for her benefit. iii. The first time I saw my mother wear sunglasses was at her father’s funeral. And only in the movies did I see others do the same. At funerals it was common practice for women to wear black veils to cover their faces. Jackie O wore one to the funeral of her husband. But as Jackie is known for her pinup style frames, so too are sunglasses more associated with funerals than veils. Sunglasses, I concluded, were used to hide sadness so that when scores of people are lined up to give their condolences, one could receive it with a façade of calm and acceptance. My mother once told me that crying is a sign of weakness. I took it to mean that emotion is weak, that I should never expose myself so freely to others. Ancient Chinese judges wore dark frames to adopt a pretense of fairness and neutrality. “It’s about hiding the eyes and expressions,” said Pagan Kennedy in an interview for the The New York Times magazine. I discovered that a pair of sunglasses was the best way to hide. And I thought that the more I used them, the more people would perceive me as serious, distant, unyielding, and strong. It would be as if I were unfazed by the things going on around me. But when a friend, gravely concerned, asked me if I was alright, I realized that my façade had not worked. “You look tired,” he said. “Have you been getting enough sleep?” he asked. I looked at him, sunglasses on my face, and smiled. “I’m fine,” I said and walked away. I couldn’t explain that I didn’t want to explain; that I don’t want people to know I had been staying up until three in the morning since the start of the semester because I had bitten off more than I could chew; that I had been talking to my best friend who was halfway around the world, telling her that I missed her and that I didn’t know how to maneuver myself in this new environment void of any 5
familiarity I had when I was in an all-girls school; that I was, simply put, tired. I had been betrayed by the most tangible wall I could put up, and there was nothing more I could do than to push the sunglasses higher up my nose and walk away. iv. In 2008, Oakley released a line of sunglasses under the moniker “Asian Fit.” For scientific reasons, they said, they found it would be to the benefit of their Asian customers that their sunglasses be tailored specifically to the Asian face—flatter noses, lifted cheek bones. For this very line of sunglasses, Oakley was called racist. Years of watching Western television shows and movies had convinced me that my features were not all that different compared to the blonde girls on the big screen. I wore the same clothes they did, and the stores they shopped at were the same ones I frequented. I didn’t sound Asian. That is to say, I could pronounce my r’s and l’s like any other girl who had grown up in the United States. The internet told me that the glasses best suited to Asian faces are big and round with softer edges and that the occasional cat eye wouldn’t hurt. That was because the rounded frames masked the harsh edges of oriental eyes—narrow, thin, pointed, triangular, monolidded. So when I bought my first pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, a staple signature brand for any collector, I kept this in mind. My first pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses were the cats 5000 classic, a version of the classic aviators that were made of plastic. In my excitement, I hadn’t noticed that the bridge was also made of plastic, making them unadjustable. It took less than five minutes for the pair to slide down to the bottom half of my nose and cheekbones, and the frames left harsh imprints on the top halves of my cheeks. I realized that the bone structure my friends had complemented was nothing like the girls I saw on television. The nose my parents had called “matangos” was higher than the rest of my relatives, but that didn’t make it high at all.
See, in Asia they’re not called “Asian Fit.” They simply fit Asians. And while I wanted to keep wearing that first pair of Ray-Ban Aviators, I knew there was no way for me to wear them without worrying about them falling to the ground and breaking into pieces. v. Recent studies have shown that a number of people who feel the need to wear sunglasses suffer from a psychological disorder, and that wearing the darkened lenses is an attempt to camouflage oneself—I can’t see you clearly and you can’t see me. Imagined ugliness. Body disorder. Wearing sunglasses at an interview is rude. That much I know is true. When I entered the office of a company I had hoped to work at, I removed my sunglasses to ask the receptionist where I might find the man that had been corresponding with me online. I saw my eyes reflected in the glass display frame right behind him. I wondered for a moment if I actually saw my own eyes, my own face. When was the last time I looked at myself straight on without a plastic lens obscuring my view? The receptionist smiled and asked me what I was there for. “An interview,” I replied. And I felt like he looked at me for a second too long. Had he noticed the odd folds of my eyelids? Or that the dark circles under my eyes were twice as dark that day because I hadn’t slept the night before? Or that my lips were now a shade darker than they are because of all the smoking I had done that week? Or that my face was a sheen too bright because I had ran from the parking lot of the building we were currently in to this very office in order not to be late? Or that my forehead had perpetual wrinkles because I worry too much and get irritated at the slightest things? I held the end pieces of my sunglasses so tightly that I thought I would break them. The bright fluorescent light was blinding, and I wondered why they would put such offensive fixtures in an office. “You can have a seat there,” said the receptionist suddenly. I had been
staring at my reflection in the glass for too long. My fingers itched to put the frames back on my face, to return that guise of animosity and anonymity which I craved. “Thank you,” I said and made my way to the plastic chairs that lined the wall near the receptionist’s desk. I sat down, opened my bag, and shoved my frames inside, not caring to place them in the case for fear that I might suddenly put them back on. I heard someone call my name, and I stood up to look for the voice. I assumed this person was the one who would cross-examine me in an isolated office elsewhere on that floor. I was certain that it would be awkward, that half the interview would be me giving answers that I prayed were convincing. And if they weren’t convincing, I would try to make myself look more appealing, make my eyes look wide and happy and not the perpetual slits that they are. I hated interviews. I hated offering someone an unlimited look at the way my eyes twitched when I was getting uneasy; the way they rolled to the left side when I was becoming irritated; the way the lids creased unevenly especially when I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. “That’s all,” he said as he flipped through my résumé, wondering if he had missed out on any important questions. I shook his hand and made my way towards the exit, smiling once again at the receptionist that had let me in. He opened the door for me and held eye contact for another second before I broke the connection and gazed instead at the floor beneath our feet. “Thank you,” I said before leaving and making my way to my car. I turned the ignition on, breathed a sigh of relief, rummaged through my bag for my sunglasses, and slipped them on. I looked at myself, my reflection blurred and darkened through the tint of my sunglasses, happy that I had, at the very least, survived another day.
michaela gonzales tiglao
The mask I choose to wear is red, with whorls of black around the eyes and rough strokes of blue outlining where the nose should be. I came across it a year ago in an arts-and-crafts store that month of Setsubun then. A small section of the store had hung rows of papier mâchés molded into twisted renditions of the Oni, and the old lady behind the counter had begun dressing as a high school girl in starched blue pleats. It’s this mask I choose to wear for Mamemaki, preparing to dump a bucket of soybeans on myself outside the house, as there is no male member in our household to do so on me. I don’t have a father anymore—he passed away that same Setsubun a year ago. I had called him to fetch me and on the drive home we careened off the main road into a wide ditch. It’s why Mother hates me. Our first real interaction is when I tell her I’m about to do the yearly ritual of driving evil spirits away, to which she watches me with wide eyes through the kitchen window as I drift to the back garden with my bucket. Mother has always been too frightened, that won’t change, and Father is no longer here, so I have to do it instead. Now, after I haul the bucket over my head, and feel the beans dribble down and inside my shirt and mask and recite the usual incantation, I make for the back door. It sticks as I pull. My impatient knocking summons Mother through the screen door, and she watches me for a few seconds before swinging it outwards easily.
martina m. herras
Judith dreams before she leaves Bethulia This is how I want you to come to me: the head in the sack of flour, the skin of wine dangling across your breast, the kiss of the blade still fresh, this presentation, as if it were baptism; you, will let the words roll off of the tongue, will call out for your god, hands fastened around the shaft of the sword. You, who shall rise from the tent of the general, without armor, will hear them singing of how this Jewess walked out of the camp, unscathed, and they will ask you about the scene in full detail but this is all they shall see: disembodied face of a fallen conqueror. Your fist beating against your chest, the battle cry unable to escape your throatâ€”
Ruth We arrived at Muntinlupa at the beginning of the barley harvest. My foster mother tries to sell some to me. It cures cancer, she says. Christ used it to multiply the loaves and fish. I say, there was no barley in Matthew 14. She says, there was. It was in the bread. I take everything with a grain of salt. She says, Ezekiel made bread of it too. The barley she sells is pounded and placed in plastic bottles. Water is filled to the metric line. When they drink, her daughter must run to fetch the water. The water is mixed to the powder and poured. It looks like gall, but it melts kidney stones, she says, and cures arthritis. Only 300 bucks. The visitor before me bought five, but I am convinced she was only showing off her money. I am broke, and I donâ€™t believe in barley. I buy one to be polite. She gives my pay to her daughter to buy food and pencils for school. I doubt the barley and its nutrition facts. But do I blame herâ€” in the absence of her husband she will take what she can for a living. The women here are like this: they work two jobs, they hold no oneâ€™s hand in childbirth, they left their girlhoods full, the Lord brings them home empty. The dust rising around sandals here make it so much like Bethlehem. When I go home, I fill the bottle to the dotted line and check: the barley is in John. I guess Matthew forgot.
reina krizel j. adriano
What No Longer Remains Perhaps being away on immersion for three days made me question what it meant to be familiar with a place I’d never been to before. It was my first time to be sent to a community of fishermen, as with the rest of the group, and the university was encouraging enough, if not somewhat forceful, to oblige its students to live in not-so-ordinary circumstances. The people of Cardona, Rizal could not help but accommodate us; we knew it was not going to be any paradise, but others made it seem like we were on vacation. They started whipping out their phones to take advantage of whatever scenery they had only witnessed just then. I could not blame them, either; I tried my best to keep it in, how mesmerized I was upon seeing the view down below from the upside. To tread up the hill and then down the lake was no such easy task; Tracey and I had brought two bags each and they did not help with our balance, what more with our pace to keep up with Ate Cel who was carrying three-year-old Dandoy. She’s used to it, I suppose, having lived in the community for four years. After we had been full from being invited to not be shy and to eat as much as we wanted for dinner, Ate Cel sat on the edge of the floor, opening the door as wide as she could, while Tracey and I sat on the makeshift porch made of bamboo—a simple veranda, it may have seemed, had the floor made of bamboo planks not been destroyed by the weight of our feet above it. Kuya Danilo invited us to come inside because the evening mist might give us a cold. We declined and sat outside for a few more minutes. We had not experienced that kind of fresh breeze in Quezon City, anyway, and neither could we see the stars as bright as from their place. Ate Cel talked about how she grew up in Bicol but decided to transfer here in hopes of finding a job in Manila. I told her my mother
was from Bicol, too, and how my grandmother wanted a better life by sending my mother and her siblings to study in the city. Ate Cel asked me how come I do not speak like a Bicolana. I told her I never grew up there, only visited during summers. I had lived in Cavite for quite some time, though, before my family settled in Manila, and therefore I knew the feeling of being away from what I had learned to call home. Tracey wanted to know what I was thinking in the silence between us. I had been unusually quiet after an entire day of playing with Dandoy and getting to know the community. I told her I was wondering if a certain friend could still remember the problems he encountered during his own immersion. He mentioned he stayed with a fisherfolk community as well. I was curious in knowing whether he felt bad or grateful—or perhaps both—for his foster-family’s generosity, as I had also felt. Should it be so, would our experience be the kind in which our conscience starts begging us to take action when we leave the place, as if asking for a better reflection or clarification in thoughts, necessitating the kind of action that could provide an impact to others? * What I thought of when we were about to leave Cavite: Quezon City was always in the thick of action, always the first place I hear of whenever news on tv had a certain setting, always where the big-time celebrity resided and where gigantic companies had offices built. Mama was excited; my then eight-year-old sister was even more jubilant. Kim clapped her hands—Finally, Mama, a new scenery! I could still imagine her jumping up and down as she said this, let alone create the enthusiasm in her eyes. Manila seemed foreign
enough to me, if not a fantasy in my mind, and a free high school education in the country’s capital was enough to brag about as a privilege. Had I not accepted the contract, there would be no need to transfer my entire family from Cavite to Manila, and so, in a way, I had been the one at fault. But there was this pervading busyness the first time I set foot in this city and I myself was curious enough to see new wonders it could provide. This was 2008, though; apart from the newly-built, small-scaled eateries and cafeterias, there were only fields outside our village in Dasmariñas, Cavite. The sm and Robinson’s Malls were newlyopened and did not have much inside. My grade school teacher in Civics claimed that we were the first town in Cavite to have both; years later, we were still the only town to have so. Noise seemed unusual in the neighborhood, save for the barking of dogs within fences or for the whistle of a bike passing by. Houses were typically made of stone and marble but the occasional wooden types did not seem out of place, either. The certain hoping in me that Cavite was far different from Quezon City remained in the idea that I would outgrow the place I lived in for eight years. It did not occur to me that my family would be going with me, though. I wanted to separate myself from them by staying in the school dormitory during the weekdays because that kind of freedom seemed tempting to try. But my father convinced me there would be no separation in this family even if I was the eldest; we were to give up a lot of things so as not to leave me alone in the city. * To recall one’s hometown is to bring back memories of one’s childhood. I did not hate my experiences when I was younger—I had a great youth, anyway—but I suppose my wanting to leave Cavite had something to do with an accident when I was in Grade 3. My mother kept on telling me I had a penchant for disasters; bad luck always seemed to get to me no matter how much she tried to keep me safe. I did not go looking for trouble, and yet it was hard to explain why 14
I would often come home with scars and bruises just because I had enough freedom on my own. Apart from the fire accident which had cost me a scarred leg, a bicycle accident when I was eight years old had nearly cost me my life. I felt good when the doctor told me I needed a change of scenery so I could finally dismiss the trauma I had. Save for my then 12-year-old cousin who carried me back to the house after I hit my head from swerving a hump on the road, nobody else saw what had occurred that night. Luckily, I had no broken bones. The sudden impact against the cement left me unconscious on the sidewalk, making my mother cry when she saw me in Ate Karen’s arms, her shirt soaking wet with my blood. I managed to cry out “Sorry, Ma” before I fainted in her arms only to be revived hours after with a normal ct scan devoid of any signs of concussion or tumor. My mother thought she was going to lose me that night. She didn’t, of course, but I panicked at the reflection of myself with a chipped tooth, a heavily-scarred face, a neck brace, and a wheelchair for support. I did not try to hold a bike after that, anymore; I might as well have un-learned how to. But as I was unable to balance for a month or so, I was reminded by my mother that the mind may have forgotten, but the body hasn’t. If my desire to forget the trauma was the reason why I wanted so badly to leave the place, then I might as well have claimed that the pain of removing myself from Cavite was nothing compared to the pain I felt when I fell from the bike. * The lake was always silent, even when the waters weren’t calm during sunny weather. But certain noises in the neighborhood were always unexpected. Our immersion formator made sure we knew the issues the people were facing, if not understand what they don’t know after all. After sending Dandoy to sleep, Tracey and I had woken up from siesta by shouts outside where Ate Cel and her family lived. We were startled, only to rush outside to see what was happening. We caught a glimpse of a woman, her fist held up in front of another woman. 15
I thought it was a mere woman-to-woman argument. But the crash of broken glass against the wall made us even more scared. Ate Cel was calmly watching as if she were used to such commotions. We asked what it was about. She said Manay Linda, the older one, as Ate Cel pointed out to us, was being asked to move someplace else because somebody wanted to build a house where she had been living. As I wondered if the dispute could be solved by the barangay officers, we watched Manay Linda tear something up in front of the other woman—a legal contract, by the looks of it, to which she had no interest in reading or even keeping for herself. Our group was tasked to research on the issues, the most recent one on the proposed extension of the expressway across Laguna de Bay. We did not claim to know a lot about it, save for the articles regarding the pending bidding construction of the project that we brushed upon the Internet. When we asked the fishermen what they thought about it as they had also been informed, they merely scoffed. This is where we belong, one said. They were banking on the fact that they could not be evicted from their homes by the side of the lake, even if it meant the cost of their own safety. * Whenever people asked me where we transferred from Project 8, I would tell them I now reside in BF Homes—Commonwealth, and not Parañaque; I never forget to add this. Nevertheless, they would still say the same thing: it’s the same grandeur of a subdivision’s name, regardless of location. I did not tell them the irony of our residence, that within the compound we do not live in the mansion that stood inside the gates of 58 Moncado Street. Walk a few steps further, past the stone porch, overlooking the white balcony, there you can see our home. This is not to say it was the worst condition to live in. But to pretend that we resided in a place that we wish we could belong to, that isn’t easy to live with forever.
I learned in moving out that a house was only temporary and that it was something we could always leave in the hopes of finding something better. To avoid the landlady’s rent raise, we sought another place within Quezon City. We had been used to owning the entire compound ourselves. But sharing the space with someone you do not know is quite a different experience from living together as a family. My parents soon went looking for a new house, searching for ads on newspapers and online. We children imagined living in a penthouse or a suite, three floors or more with a bed for each of us. When they found one, it wasn’t much but they decided it was the best we could settle for. After my father announced that he had finally set the terms with the landlord for us to move in, I asked him how much. He said we would be renting it for P16,000 a month. Not bad, I thought, you can’t get a condo that would fit all of us for that price. But my eight-year-old sister asked the more sensible questions. She wailed at my parents, But is there a second floor? There was silence. As the eldest, I tried my best not to complain, but the same sentiments remained in my mind as we stepped down and saw what was supposed to be our new home—a caretaker’s house behind a mansion. It was where two people—an old man and his sister who lived there—called it “the extra.” The decision was to rent it as soon as we concluded that living in a high-end subdivision would somehow guarantee us that we belong in a community. When my father was informed that the subdivision had security guards and cctv cameras, he was convinced we’d have all the peace to ourselves. My sisters often exaggerated that it was easier to breathe in the backyard than inside our house. Our knees have often bumped against walls and knocked down piles of clothing laid on the floor outside the already-stuffed closet. Instead of five rooms, the place only had two: one for my parents and one I had claimed for myself, leaving the rest of my siblings sleeping in the living room. My mother, however, said that we had to be thankful for the space we were given. More often than not, we opened the gate every morning to find the
vendor shouting the all-too-familiar Taho!, the laundry maid ready to carry the pile of clothes of neighbors, and the carpenters ready to finish the construction of the three-storey home beside ours. * Perhaps it does not really start with people but rather with the home that gives us the ability to perceive the city as a whole. An ambulance once startled our neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. I never heard gunshots but rumors said that a husband and wife shot each other inside their home for some internal argument about money. I found the news surprising, having known the community for familiar silence during the day, but it showed me that even middle-class people could welcome chaos into their homes. I want to leave, I told my father, I do not feel safe in this place. But my father told me we had no place else to go. I told him I wanted to go back to Cavite. He said that was impossible. We could only pray that chaos may never enter our home. I believe that people who did not grow up in the city are always trying to come home, but at the same time, are always failing. One does not look for the same place but for the same experience somewhere else. The last time my family visited Cavite, my motherâ€™s enthusiastic voice gathered our attention as she pointed out one building after the other. My eyes followed everywhere it went. Look, she said to me, this is the hospital where I gave birth to you. She knew their history through stories she had heard from others; I knew them through stories she had made up herself. But perhaps I could attribute all my excitement to the experience I felt living elsewhere. Then again, I might have compared Quezon City to Cavite so much that I could not see the reasons that I should be comparing them in the first place. What now replaced the rice fields beside our village are bars and restaurants. Hospitals and malls have lined up along the once barren streets. Looking back, I vaguely remember how it was when we still resided there. Quezon City looked promising, before in the same progress that Cavite now held. I once heard of Manila brimming with activities so much I could not choose where 18
to start. But we can only come home to the image of the past that no longer remains. * We woke up at six in the morning on our second day of immersion to ride the boat with Kuya Danilo, my and Tracey’s foster-father—“Kuya” because he was only two years ahead of us like his wife, Ate Cel. He, along with the other fishermen, took us to the fish pens. The lake is their life; our immersion formator claimed this as a fact. I thought that she was only exaggerating but this was proven true when our foster-father silently walked out of the bahay kubo at three in the morning, careful not to disturb his wife and son, as well as not to step on Tracey and me. He would only come home for lunch and dinner, meals that depended heavily on his wife’s resourcefulness in cooking a meal that fit the budget. They brought us afterwards to the little piece of land in the middle of the lake known as the Toothbrush Island. Tracey and I didn’t catch the name at first, so we asked our foster-father. The engine of the boat was too loud for us to hear and we were kept distracted by the splashing of the waves from both sides. Kuya Danilo said the fishermen call it Pulong Bilyo—“Bilyo kasi bilyonaryo,” he added. Later on, up on the island, we would stumble upon the grave of Jesus Bello. We concluded this was the billionaire who owned the island, the one who didn’t want to give it to the fishermen for free but to sell it to them for P30 million. It remained to be a tourist spot for anyone who wanted to visit. Along the trail, we also discovered a dilapidated church, or perhaps what remained of its ruins. Kuya Danilo admitted he had never set foot on the island before. It was his first time as much as ours to come there. * The Quezon City Memorial Circle reminds me that the center of things is always surrounded by many things that can be confusing, 19
like the scary cars coming in from both sides in a circular path. I remember the first time we tried that route; my mother started cussing harshly within the next ten seconds. The city cannot be treated as a child anymore, I presume. I may have been too excited for departures because I am fascinated by the idea of returning again and again until I lose this nostalgic feeling to another new experience. And I think that's what home means; what differentiates it from a house is the sense of easiness we feel in the midst of disarray in our lives. Maybe I see everything as an act of exploration, how the act of wandering and wondering signifies the anticipation of discovery. Maybe this isn’t as simple as comparing two places, or wondering about what the present can say about the past or the past say about the present. And as I mention this, I wonder about the time when my family will be able to fully settle down, when we will stop leaving one place after another and rest in the fact that, we’re staying, finally, after all. Places aren’t stagnant; they grow old with their people. I do believe that places change with time, but not as fast as people do. My father picked a fight with the old man who lived in the mansion in front of our home. The man left notes taped to our door saying that we should pay for all the costs incurred of living in the place he had rented to our family—leaky plumbing, additional electricity, broken padlocks and all. After a year of being nagged by my mother that the place we settled for could not contain all six of us, my father told me that we had to leave again. I asked him if he got tired seeing celebrities outside our home, shooting their tv commercials, when we couldn’t even get past through the people trying to see him. My father said that the space we had rented was too small, anyway. He promised he’d try looking for another place. Somewhere more us, he assured me. * Certain memories displace us from ourselves and from our own situations, repositioning us too on how we think of others. After Ate Cel offered her and her husband’s comforter where they usually slept in, Tracey and I thought best to switch places with them on our second and last night. We volunteered to sleep on the floor instead. 20
Kasi po pinaiyak namin si Ate Cel, we told her husband who smiled at us. Ate Cel teared up when we were tasked to share what our experiences in living with them meant to us. I am not a good speaker, I can tell because of the way I usually stutter, but I tried to be as honest as I could with no promises of making their lives better or alleviating them of poverty. I’m not sure what else had provoked her to be so thankful for having us over during our stay, to give such gratitude we could never have given her. Ayos lang ‘yun, said Kuya Danilo. A friend and I once talked about how impact should be—if it were something as tangible as finding a cure for cancer or solving worldwide hunger, or as unassuming as challenging the way others think by showing how you do. I believe the kind of disappointments we have stems from our own expectations. I expected my immersion to be on the extremes: either a dreadful experience or a life-changing one, because my religious upbringing taught me that we must withstand pain and sacrifice for the greater good. But how do we receive pain, and with that, what this pain could change in us that we try to live with. We all have different perceptions of pain, however. I had a splinter on my pinky on the first day of immersion. It must have entered my skin when I almost slipped upon going up the bahay kubo, therefore making me grab the nearest thing I could hold on to, which happened to be the bark of a tree. The pain was bearable whenever I made my finger go numb by pinching it, but I wasn’t sure if I could last three days with a splinter. I heard infections could come from unattended splinters and I was in no mood to get a fever—or worse, die—during immersion. Ate Cel had no tweezers, but she had a needle which I used to poke the skin on my finger with. As she watched me unsuccessfully attempt to remove it, she talked more about her life in Sitio Dupax, how she met her husband at a young age, fell in love with him and the lake as well, got married, and had Dandoy. Tracey was the one sustaining the conversation, though. I had managed to push the far end of the minute splinter outside my skin by the time Ate Cel finished preparing lunch. I managed to pull it out with my nails, the broken skin bloodless but still throbbing from the absence of the splinter. 21
Nothing stirs the pond. A frog is still decomposing.
Spider X “kuya, I don’t think we should get these spiders.” “Look at how big they are! They’ll never lose a fight!” Mikey was no stranger to spiders, but he’d never seen spiders like these before. They were huge. Each was about as wide as a bottle cap, black and a pustulent kind of yellow, patterned at the abdomen, fat as small grapes. They looked like they were fruits from some diseased tree deep in the forest. Their fangs twitched visibly, in anticipation for some bug to fly into their traps. There were around ten dark grey webs spun in between the disparate trunks of the Balete tree, housing a spider in the middle of each, which didn’t make sense, either, since he never saw spiders spin webs so close together. It wasn’t that he was afraid of spiders; he just didn’t have much fun making them fight one another. He knew they were insects, sure, and that they were made to kill things—but making them fight for sport just wasn’t his thing. His brother loved it, though, watching animals fight. Kuya Kevin went with their father weekly to watch the cockfights. Kevin, the town golden boy. Tall for his age, smart and charming, respectful to the grown–ups, but at the same time speaking and acting with a confidence that many said he took from his father, who was a famous politician in their city. Their dad went because he said it was “good visibility.” His dad drove to the cockpit in an old Toyota Corolla. Mikey knew about cockfights because their dad forced him to go with them sometimes. Not very often, but enough for him to know that it was nothing that he’d ever like. They went like it was a family thing; it was for good visibility. Now, on this spider–hunting expedition, he was again the lackey of his brother. Kevin would bring him around to play things like patintero, or tirador, or bang–tsak, and they were a pretty good
tag-team, and they’d win pretty big when games had stakes, as much as fifty pesos sometimes. They got good because Mikey had to get good. His brother was nice enough for an older brother, except he didn’t like losing. When they lost, his brother would smolder until he could let his anger out on something. Usually all it took was a win against whoever beat them. Sometimes he let it out on Mikey. The webs were way above him, but only a head above Kevin. Kevin took a stick and pulled the web of one off the tree. The web was strong: While the threads that anchored the web to the tree came off easily enough, the web itself did not snap, like they usually did; instead, when Kevin twirled the stick the web coiled around it like a spool of ghostly yarn. The spider did not run. They usually did. Mikey may not have played spider-fighting, but he had caught them before, and knew that it took deception to catch a spider. You had to fool it: You twirled the web slowly, and gave it a few wiggles when it looked like the spider was going to bolt. The wiggles had to be gentle, to make it like a bug had flown into the web. Then the spider would walk slowly to the stick, as it would to a snared insect; that was when you pulled the entire web off. Not this time, though; the spider stayed entirely still the whole time, until it reached the tip of the stick. It scurried to Kevin’s hand, not with the usual grace that web-spinning spiders usually possessed, but with a lumbering gait, as if its legs were of different lengths. As it closed in on Kevin’s closed hand, it pounced. Mikey let out a surprised yelp, and jumped away. Kevin was ready, however; he caught the spider deftly in his hand, dropping the stick. He took a matchbox ready in his pocket and stuffed the spider inside. Mikey hadn’t moved; he was staring the entire time. Kevin noticed, and started laughing. “Were you scared? Mikey, I can’t believe you!” They were a small ways into the forest beside their town. Both had entirely forgotten about the ramshackle house nearby, not thirty meters away, that they had taken for deserted. That is, until a man burst from the house. 24
“Hoy! Who’s there! What are you doing here?” Kevin had bolted instantly. Mikey took a split second longer to flee. But he barely got more than two paces before something seized Mikey by the nape and the waist, and spun him around. He screamed. It was the man. How the man closed the distance in seconds, Mikey did not know. It was impossibly fast. The man Mikey faced was ancient, skin bark-brown and just as coarse and cragged; yet he had an iron grip that held him in place. Mikey stared into the old man’s eyes, and saw something wild smoldering behind the pupils. The man held him for another two seconds, then placed him on the ground. His hand—it felt like a claw—was now on Mikey’s shoulder. “You. Did you take my spider?” He sounded like gravel crunching under a heel. He couldn’t speak. His throat felt like it was stuck full of spider silk. “Boy, I had ten spiders.” “No… No I didn’t, sir. I promise.” “Did you come here to take them?” “No sir, I came with my brother.” “Did he take the spider?” “Sir…” “Don’t lie to me, boy.” He wouldn’t lie. But snitching was something else. His parents hammered this into him the way other parents might have with honesty, or honor, or kindness. They told him, time and again: snitches are the worst kind of people. You don’t tell on your family members. The old man examined Mikey. “You don’t have to tell me. I know.” The old man gripped Mikey’s face and leaned in, until his face was inches away from Mikey’s. His rotting breath made Mikey gag. “That spider’s deadly. You get what you came for. What did you come for, Mikey?” 25
The old man released him, but he stood transfixed by the man’s stare. Only now did he notice the spiders in the man’s hair. The old man took one by the abdomen with his long, spindly fingers. He held it up to his right eye, examining it. It was about the same size as the ones they saw in the tree. It was squirming, grasping for the man’s fingers, its fangs looking for something to pierce. The old man opened his mouth — that gaping maw — and took the spider in his yellowing teeth. He chewed slowly, savoring his treat, a smile forming on his gruesome face. The old man swallowed, grinning. “Run.” Mikey ran, following the path back from the forest to the edge of the town, his legs pumping faster than they ever had before. He ran fast, and yet the town seemed to be farther than it was. And around him in the forest, before reaching the edge of town, Mikey saw what was not there when they entered: huge cobwebs hanging from the trees. At last he reached a clearing where the forest ended. He slowed to a walk, his lungs burning. The open sunlight welcomed him. He looked over his shoulder. Nothing had followed him out of the forest. The trees, though imposing, no longer hung cobwebs. He headed back home.
x He made straight for his room when he got home. If any of the helpers saw him, they would tell his father that he wasn’t out with his brother, which would be bad for him. On the way, he took a glass of water from the kitchen. He made his way through their house, up the second floor to his room. He was going to hide out in his room, until he knew what mood his brother was in when he got back. Until then he’d wait. He booted up his laptop. Something bothered him about the spiders they saw in the forest. Mikey had never seen spiders that looked like those. He went online, 26
and tried looking for the spider that they saw. He couldn’t find it among the pictures on the web; he couldn’t narrow the search, since he wasn’t able to get a good look at the spiders. All the while, a scene replayed in his head: the old man, a strange hunger in his eyes, feasting on the spider from his hair. Savoring the taste. Grinning, as if he knew that what he had just eaten was only an appetizer. His door burst open, and his brother came into the room. “This spider is amazing, Mikey! The other spiders didn’t stand a chance!” Kevin opened his matchbox. The inside was partitioned by a coiled palm leaf; three spider corpses, wrapped in silk. In the corner, the black spider sat, unmoving. “Man, three champion spiders! All the other boys were like, ‘Kevin, your spider looks like it’s injured or something,’ which was probably why they thought it would be an easy fight. And every single fight, this guy would walk up to the other spider, just, you know, crawl like it does. And the other spider would try and fight back. But it couldn’t. It’s like this one fights spiders for a living or something.” Kevin closed the matchbox. He looked at Mikey; the excited glow from his eyes was now gone. “I saw you talking to that old man in the forest. What did he say?” “He was looking for the spider.” “What?” “Yeah, kuya, he was looking for it. They’re his.” “What, like, he takes care of them or something?” “Yeah, kuya.” “Huh, weird shit.” A pause. “Did you tell him I took it?” Mikey realized the situation he was in. No explanation of what happened would sound good. “No, kuya, I didn’t tell him anything.” “You did, didn’t you? Don’t lie, Mikey. You know snitching is bad.” “Kuya,” Mikey paused, and took a deep breath, readying himself. He decided to try explaining. “You have to believe me. He told me he 27
knew you took it. I don’t know how he knew kuya. Kuya, you should give him back that spider.” “Oh my God, Mikey, you snitched! I can’t believe you!” Kevin lunged at Mikey. They fell to the wooden floor, tussling, clawing, punching. Mikey knew he couldn’t win, but he hadn’t snitched, it wasn’t his fault, and he wasn’t going to go down without a fight, for something that he didn’t even do. But Kevin was too big. He sat on Mikey’s chest and arms, Mikey thrashed his legs. Kevin squeezed Mikey’s cheeks with his fingers until it hurt. “Mikey, don’t snitch again.” His brother was stern and firm. Suddenly, time seemed to slow down. Mikey thought that it might have been oxygen deprivation, but he saw something crawling out of Kevin’s sleeve. The spider stood out, despite his blurring vision, crawling towards him in its uneven gait. His brother wasn’t moving; everything was agonizingly slow, except for him, and the spider. Mikey screamed, but the only sound that came out of his mouth was a muted oh. His vision was blackening at the edges. The black and yellow spider filled his vision. It stopped at Kevin’s hand, just before reaching Mikey’s lower lip, and reared itself on its hind legs. On its belly was a large red X. “Kevin! Mikey! Where are you? I brought something for you guys.” Kevin pulled his hand away, and hauled Mikey to his feet as their father appeared in the hallway outside the door. With one hand, he was removing his belt; in the other, he held a box of doughnuts. Kevin went up to their father. He had his winning smile on, panting from the exertion. “Look dad, I got this great spider from the forest. I won a couple matches.” “Mmm, really. How much did you win?” “Two hundred. I played some weak spiders first, before going in big with my new one. Beat three champions.” He showed their father a wad of twenties and fifties. “Good job kid. Mikey, I told you to go around with your brother. Inday said you came home early. And why are both of you so roughed-up?” 28
“Yeah, dad…” “Dad, Mikey snitched! He told this old man living in the forest that I stole something from him. I was trying to teach him a lesson.” “What? Mikey, I told you not to do that. Always take care of your own, remember?” “I swear I didn’t dad! That old man…” “I’m not going to hear any excuses. Don’t do it again. Also, Kevin, leave the lesson-teaching to me. Mikey, no more computer for the rest of the day, until after dinner. I’ll be home late.” He took Mikey’s laptop and motioned to leave. “I’ll be leaving these doughnuts on the kitchen table. Jenna will prepare your dinner.” As his dad left the house and his brother left to his own devices, Mikey slumped to the floor, gasping for breath.
x He waited until his brother was eating dinner before he snuck into the room. It was in another wing of the house; their house was the largest in the town. His father talked in different terms, but Mikey knew what his dad was up to. That was the only reason they could afford to live the way they did. He had time to do what he had to do: His brother ate quickly, but Ate Jenna would be clearing the dishes. Already at thirteen Kevin was flirting with the helpers, and that would delay him. With the exception of Aling Inday, who was the oldest, their father had chosen attractive young helpers from the surrounding barrios. The youngest, Jenna, was three years older than Kevin, but that didn’t stop him from making passes at her. Mikey saw him grab Ate Jenna’s butt once. The helpers didn’t resist. Kevin learned from their father. Mikey knew their father chose pretty young helpers for a reason. He stepped into Kevin’s room with a singular purpose: He had to do something about the spider. He was deciding what to do as he went. He knew his brother had a lot of spiders, so he’d have to search quickly. From what his brother said, he couldn’t feed it to another spider. He’d kill it himself, but thought that that would be as a last 29
resort, as his brother would know for sure that it was him. The best course of action seemed to be to turn it loose outside; and yet Kevin had a feeling that it wouldn’t be so easy. Kevin’s room was straightforward: a double bed, dresser, closet. On the wall opposite the bed hung a flat-screen tv. In the corner, a laundry basket. A refrigerator stood beside his desk with a desktop, customized by Kevin himself. Beside his mouse, a box of tissue. Mikey wouldn’t have to search, after all. Beside his computer monitor, where his schoolbooks would normally be when it wasn’t summer, stood a small stack of matchboxes, and two-liter aquarium that housed the spider. The spider didn’t try to make a round web. Instead, the tank was full of cobwebs, strung from corner to wall to floor, hanging loosely like grey curtains. It couldn’t have been more than an hour since his brother put the spider in the tank, and yet the tank was already full of grey thread. As Mikey came closer, he understood how the tank filled up so fast: the spider worked at a quick pace, scurrying around the tank in its unusual gait. It reminded him of Igor, back hunched, lumbering to and fro to get tools for his diabolical master. The cobwebs looked random; and yet the spider moved with an undeniable purpose. The spider stopped as it was on the floor of the tank, walking to the wall closest to Mikey. The spider saw him. There was no doubt. Its fangs moved deliberately, as if contemplating. Mikey leaned in to get a closer look, and got a better look at the pattern on the back of the spider: a yellow circle, with lines flowing from two red spots. Something seemed wrong. Before Mikey could understand what it was, the spider started running around the tank again. This time it was faster, and it didn’t attempt to make more cobwebs. It ran along the threads at a frenzied pace, much more like flying than scurrying. It looked furious. The spider jumped on the wall closest to Mikey and stopped. It took only a few seconds for Mikey to realize what he thought was wrong with the spider’s pattern, something he missed as well when it was being held inches from his face: what he saw under the spider 30
wasn’t part of its markings but an X–shaped opening in its carapace, red liquid oozing from the gashes. The gash pulsed, and the flaps in the spider’s chitin moved. Mikey leaned in close to examine what was coming out. A small mound. A tiny, horrible face. It was the old man. The impossible face opened its grinning mouth, baring tiny yellow teeth. A laugh. Mikey gasped, and took a step back. The spider retreated to the middle of the tank. Mikey took another step back, and looked up. The room was now filled with obscene amounts cobwebs. The bed, the fridge, the walls; the only thing left uncovered was the desk and the tank, where the webs inside were vibrating, faster and faster. He ran out of the room and bumped into his brother. He sprawled across the floor. “Huy! What were you doing in my room?” “Kuya, don’t go in your room! Please!” “What are you talking about, Mikey? Why not?” Kevin opened the door to his room, and there was nothing out of the ordinary. Mikey was speechless. He saw the spider’s tank: the web was denser now than it was before. “Kuya, I’m telling you, you have to get rid of that spider.” “Shut up, Mikey. You’re just jealous. If you want a spider, get your own. There were nine more back there,” and Kevin slammed the door. The second floor was a C–shape, his room along the hallway parallel to his brother’s. On the way back he passed what was once his parents’ room, before his mother left them for another country. His father wasn’t home yet, and he wouldn’t be for another hour or two. He went back to his room.
x He was asleep when he heard his father get home. It was twelve o’clock; he heard another voice, female, giggling, thumping up the stairs past his room. They even bumped into the door to his room. Mikey heard his father’s door slam shut. 31
What woke Mikey was a long, shrill scream. He sat up, alert, and saw that it was two in the morning. He wasn’t sure if it was a dream that woke him. He was assured it was real by another scream, deeper, coming from much closer to his room; he knew now that it was his father. He heard his father’s door slam open, followed by ragged breathing. “Please, please, he’s in the other wing, don’t hurt me, please!” The succeeding scream was one of abject misery. Mikey grabbed his arnis stick. He’d been trained with it by an arnis master, per his father’s command. It was one of the few things that he was confident with; and yet now, it felt like a little stick in his hand. He got off the bed and stood. His knees were shaking. A slow dragging noise came from the hallway outside. The spider opened the door and ambled into the room. It had grown huge, probably six feet tall. It hadn’t fully entered the room. Its one leg was shorter than the other, which made it walk as if with a limp. It had six hairy arms, but only five were functional, all of varying lengths. Each segmented arm flexed and moved independently of the others, and one hung by its side thin and limp, like a belt. Its abdomen dragged behind it, black and yellow and swollen. Sores on its back oozed dark red liquid. Its middle, where the X was, had now torn open in its growth. Its insides were now horribly exposed, translucent and red, giving off a sickly light. It shed light on the spider’s hands, which held—Mikey gagged—arms, legs. It held Kevin’s head in between two forelimbs. It was chewing on Kevin’s face. Its jaws worked methodically, back and forth. When it swallowed the balled meat went down its throat, visible through its gaping chest. The spider paused from its meal. It lowered Kevin’s head to its side, and held it by the hair. But its mandibles kept working, as if chewing on some invisible morsel. Or it might have been mouthing words, the meaning of which would be indecipherable to any sane human. All that came out of its mouth was a grating sound, like gravel dragging under a heel. It dragged itself towards Mikey, coming deeper into his room. Behind its abdomen trailed a mass of grey webbing with the rest of 32
his family’s segmented bodies tangled in it. The spider loomed closer. Mikey couldn’t move; his feet felt like they were mired in something. In webbing. Its face was now less than a foot away from his. Its two foremost eyes, luminous, shrouded over, cataracted. When it cleared, the faces of his father and his brother looked back at him, mouths open in soundless screams. The faces made no sounds, but they appeared to be in a state of terrible suffering. They looked like they could see him. Mikey burst into tears. A tongue, long and wet and sickeningly human, snaked out of its mouth and pushed into his cheek. He shuddered at how warm and moist it was. He couldn’t stop shaking. But the spider retracted its tongue, and took a step back. It gathered the mess of limbs and webbing trailing behind it with its arms and made it into a sack, where it placed the remains of Mikey’s brother and father. It pushed Mikey’s desk aside, and clambered through his window into the night.
x In the morning the house was swarming with people. The police said that judging by the amount of blood on scene the murder was probably grisly, and the murderer brought the bodies through Mikey’s window to dispose of since it was closest to the ground, and was easiest to jump out of. The maids decided to call the police as soon as they heard screaming; they decided, however, against going to help. The reporters speculated that it was a hit that was probably politically motivated. A counselor talked to Mikey and found that he remembered nothing about a serial killer. Mikey, however, kept repeating that it was Kevin’s spider; when asked for details Mikey refused to say anything else. In the end it was decided that Mikey would stay with his mother, who would come over to pick him up. As soon as most of the crowd had gone, Mikey snuck past the yellow crime scene tape around Kevin’s doorway. The desk was toppled over. Shards of glass and matchboxes lay strewn all over the 33
floor. He took one of Kevin’s bags and stuffed all the matchboxes he could find into the bag. He ventured to the edge of the forest, right where he had exited from the day before. He didn’t want to have to look through the boxes to find the spider, and he didn’t want to go back in there to return it. He opened the bag, threw it as deep as he could into the forest, and ran back home.
mark anthony cayanan
You need to submit* To this old plot shrilling within the gold-plated bones of yourself, his starched clothes and occasional accent. To the curtained room of your resentment, where once before dumb ghosts he purposed you down the swell of his compromise. To the unrepainted concrete and unvarnished face. To when the weather does not lift. For you anytime, he answered, but you know you have no real future in which we could take part. To giving out every day, and for days when sunlight is an ugly lesson. For with the pallid rain he looks so true in blue and is the last two years of your life. For what if grief were a friend: sniffs the air, pries open the window, sure this life is not who you are and you must wash your face and itâ€™s brilliant outside, now, for you it is never too late.
*First published in Forfeit (2015)
Recollection And then there was the blood— oozing from the root of my fourth finger, and there my father, positioning his hands to grasp my hand and inspect the injury beneath lamplight. The incident promptly reported: I’m sorry—running, running through the hallway—there the boy in crisp white linen, bolting through the school corridor at midday, missing the other boy—see him moving in the memory in slow-
motionâ€”turning right about the blind marble corner of the bathroom without pause or a thought or anticipation. Same as I. Then years later, over family dinner, with laughter, wry turn of the mouth at the story of a lizard falling from the ceiling of the clinic, after anaesthesia, after the moment when the first incision broke skinâ€” The boy screaming.
The boy held down to the bed, laughing at the ordeal when it was finally over. Then years later, the scar still there above my fourth knuckle, like a ring, though most days not even visible enough to still matter. My father laughs still, too. As I do. Over dinner, holding his utensils, his hands quietly placedâ€”see them less scarred than mine, even if rougherâ€”still capable of greater grace than I, ever.
But what I return toâ€” running my hands again over itâ€”glancing back at the boy become man, walking corridors, turning corners of hallways at midday, become beautiful, become gentler than I could ever anticipateâ€”was never the pain, nor the pus, nor even the centimeter of fat peeking through the curled lips of the incision, but the memory of their stitching together, their careful sealing, shut. At the kitchen, embraced by silver afternoon, when you took the thin shears to the wires, began to snip away at all the excess 39
insisting through, I asked you: But when will I be able to remove them? And you at my bedside told me no, I would not need to, they would remain but for a few days at the longest, and so melt into my skin.
Phototaxis* It’s all the same with fire and flame, The yellow rim of the brightest candle. See how they hover and start in wild flight without cause or aim, pursue the yellow folly. A woman tells me love is buckle on skin, whisk of a whip at its hardest shake. The bright blue gash on her inner thigh as he presses her against the wall, saying sorry, sorry— give to any plum wound a dark arithmetic, and it evens out love. Two moths swirl around a hollow shoot, lit by a thin saber of light. Science tells us they think it’s the moon, but it won’t be long before the low plummet down. Like moths to a flame, we say, but we call only half the story. It might be the light we know is the light by which we fall. It might be. Come here.
*from Hush Harbor 1st Prize, Poetry in English, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Cellophane* It wasn’t like this before the fall. If anyone knew you at all, it wasn’t by Aiming right on target. Dead center Between the eye, or the thin White line on your torso, dignified By a downy fluff of hair. If anyone knew you at all, it was by Knowing how to miss: aim for the button, Not the heart, aim for the fabric, Not the skin, the flutter, not the beat. You teach your husband how to be Imprecise, because you rely so much on science— Tell him how your father flew planes Made of cellophane and wood, How that little red propeller whirred Against hard wind, how he wound lift into it With a hook and a rubber band. And he’ll know that this nostalgia’s
*from Hush Harbor 1st Prize, Poetry, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
The hurting kind, your father gone Six years now, your heart as straight and level As only dead weight can make it. He’ll ask how your old man could ease The cellophane into each plywood frame Without the wood breaking— And the trick, you say, was how he’d dip The thing into liquid film, and wait until It leveled so lightly, you’d barely Think it was there. Daily, he’d approach His burden, steadying the hand Against its weight. On film so sheer, a breath Could tear it from its frame. You speak to keep the pain even, It has to stretch across the years, Length by heft. You learn to break only as far As there’s still breaking in you left.
michelle tiu tan
Things That Matter* whenever my mom and I fought, there was always food in the house
afterward. It didn’t matter what the fight was about or how long it lasted—one of us would buy the other a box of sushi or cupcakes, and that was that. Sometimes there were tears, if the fight had been terribly bad, but on the whole we didn’t discuss it much, beyond defending ourselves and saying “I’m sorry.” Maybe this was why we kept having the same arguments. That year, they had all been about money. A few weeks before Christmas, I received a credit card bill that had me reaching for my cell phone and almost screaming at Ma. We couldn’t hear each other properly because she was at the wet market and I was at the office, but I made sure to start again that night at home. During the commute back from Ortigas I kept thinking about that bill—the shops, the dates of purchase, the individual transactions that, when tallied together, reached over 14,000 pesos. Some I recognized as my expenses, but most had been charged through the principal cardholder, Ma. I kept the supplementary line because I didn’t spend much, even though since Pa died I’d been footing the entire bill. Fourteen thousand! That was half my year-end bonus. On the bus, I alternately calmed myself and composed opening salvos, my anger flaring up and down like that jaggedy ride all across Quezon City’s potholes. As it turned out, Ma and I didn’t start arguing until after dinner. She’d been helping Kyle with his homework when I arrived, and although I was bursting with accusations, it seemed petty to bring them up just when my little brother was learning to write. Dinner was pancit and meatballs, rolled tiny and without carrots or *3rd Prize, Short Story, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
onions, just the way I liked them. Ma had made separate batches for me and Kyle, who preferred his larger and softer. Surely, you’d think, I couldn’t have stayed angry after that? But Ma’s nonchalance put me off even more, and I jabbed at the meatballs and complained about the salty pancit. “What’s your problem?” Ma asked while we were doing the dishes. I scrubbed the inside of a glass, then ran the sponge tightly over the rim. “Didn’t I tell you over the phone?” “What was it? I didn’t understand.” I put the glass down on her side of the sink. “Did you soap all the way inside?” she asked while rinsing. I pressed my lips together. “Our credit card bill is over 14,000 pesos.” “Oh? This time of the year is always so expensive.” “What the hell have you been buying?” I didn’t raise my voice, but my tone was enough to make her knit her eyebrows. I knew that look. “What did you say?” “What have you been buying?” “Why are you asking me like that? Am I not your mother?” I didn’t say anything. It was a struggle not to roll my eyes. “You work for a few months and you think you’re my equal?” I had been employed for over one year, but I didn’t correct her. “It’s my money,” I said. “I have a right to know where it goes.” “The receipts are in my wallet. Go ahead, check! It’s your expenses, too. Who do you think eats the food I buy?” We continued washing the dishes. I started imagining the different
ways this could have played out, if only I had been less angry. But then I thought about the amount I would have to shell out, and my irritation returned. “Why don’t you just tell me what you bought?” “Gifts! For your grandparents, aunts, uncles. I have so many nieces and nephews. How else would we show our faces at gatherings?” Ma banged the utensils, swishing water all over the place. “Gifts! You think we can still afford that?” I was shaking. “Ha! You think you’re feeding us now? You think I tutor for free?” “Ever since Pa died, I’ve become the breadwinner,” I said, the words heavy in my mouth. “I should decide how we spend our money.” Ma’s eyes hardened. “I’m still the head of this household. You’re just my daughter.” “So I have no right to my own money?” “You have no right to talk to me like that.” We stared at each other for a long time. Then I said, “If Pa were here, he would talk some sense into you.” Ma crumpled the dishtowel in her hand and threw it on the counter. A slew of emotions flashed across her narrow face, distorting her features. I didn’t know whether she was about to slap me or start crying. Eventually she left. We wouldn’t talk for several days. I always slept in the master bedroom with her and Kyle, but that night I found the door locked. All the pillows were inside, so I slept with a towel under my neck. It wasn’t too bad, except I had a heavy feeling in my stomach. And I couldn’t shake the thoughts from my head. * They sent my father home in a sardine can. The coffin was made of zinc, and so small I couldn’t imagine how they fit him. I kept wondering how his arms were arranged, his strong legs. The coffin was entirely sealed. The man at the funeral parlor suggested not to
open it. By the time Pa arrived back in the Philippines, he had been dead for almost a month. We never found out why the repatriation took so long. The agency said his employer wanted an autopsy, to clear the company from any liability, but that only took a couple of days. We knew because they emailed us a copy of the report. In return for our consent they had offered to cover all the costs—the embalming, airfare, everything. The woman from the agency said Pa’s boss was relatively generous, as he hadn’t even been employed there six months. The autopsy only confirmed what we already knew: Pa died of diabetes complications from an infected wound. His coworkers at the port said he had injured himself while working without boots, and was afraid of getting reprimanded. They advised him to have it checked anyway, so when he showed up the next day they assumed he’d already been to the clinic. They said he was limping but otherwise ok. Apparently, he told his supervisor he had fallen down the stairs. None of us knew how things worked in Namibia, so we mostly just accepted whatever they told us. The woman from the agency was not unkind. Ma was very angry and wanted to sue, but she told us—very politely—that Pa had broken the rules so the company wasn’t responsible. She was the only one we ever got to talk to. The agency wouldn’t let us contact the company directly, even though Ma went to their office every day. She was always told the same things: it would take a while to send the body; they were doing their best; there were many bureaucratic processes on both ends. I was angry, too. But unlike Ma—who blamed everything on the agency—I was mad at Pa. What a stupid way to die! Why didn’t he go to the clinic? Why didn’t he ask for new boots? During a Skype conversation, he had mentioned that the boots they’d given him were half a size too small. Why, Pa? I asked his coffin again and again. Didn’t you think about us? Knowing Pa, he probably didn’t want to risk getting a bad record. He had always been like that—self-sacrificing, quiet. After our printing business failed years ago, he immediately went back to the
job market. We had thought it would take him some time to recover, to mourn his investment of nearly twenty years, but as usual he was only practical. Every morning, he would go out the door earlier than any of us, carrying a stack of résumés in his bag and wearing new shoes. He always said it’s the first impression that counts. In the evenings, we rehearsed answers to interview questions and practiced the perfect handshake. I even helped him dye his hair black. He also started combing it in a different way—to look hipper, he joked, but really just to hide the bald spots. Pa was pushing fifty by then. During interviews, he answered truthfully about his age, but liked to add, “I know, I’m experienced”—to lighten the conversation, and to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. We learned that from the internet. In truth, these were his first real job interviews. Pa never finished college. He spent his early twenties doing manual work, before using his savings to start a printing business. Years later, after it failed, he asked his friends and former classmates for referrals. But nobody could give him anything. They said he couldn’t compete with younger applicants. Why didn’t he just start another business? But Pa wouldn’t hear of it. He told us he wanted something more certain, something steady and regular—a job. Pa did get hired, eventually. For two years he worked as the manager of a convenience store in Caloocan—a very small one, not even well known. But he seemed happy to again be a boss, if only a little one. He said when he first started applying he expected to be calling everyone Sir, not the other way around. It wasn’t so bad. My allowance was halved, and we had to let go of the maid, but we still had a car, still ate out once a week on Sundays. I never knew how my parents did it. They never discussed money with me or Kyle around. Ma took it the hardest. I could tell she missed going to the salon every other week, missed the mani-pedis, the occasional massage. At the grocery store, she now checked the price of each brand. 48
While waiting at the checkout counter she would sometimes take things out from our cart and ask me to put them back. We stopped getting cereal. Kyle threw a fit at first, but then we got used to oatmeal. Ma said it was better for us anyway. At first I didn’t understand. Why scrimp on such small things yet keep a gas-guzzling suv? Why not trade the Fortuner for a sedan, or give it up altogether? Those days we hardly ever used it anyway, except to go out of town or visit relatives. I didn’t dare ask. I suspected it was about keeping up appearances. Whenever our neighbors asked about Pa’s new job, Ma made it sound like the change wasn’t a big deal, like it was better this way anyway, less stress. Pa did the same. When his friends found out where he was working they started feeling guilty. They kept offering to give him a ride after their reunions. But Pa never accepted. He probably told them he’d take a taxi. They never found out how long it actually took him to get home—how often he had to switch jeepneys, how many blocks he had to walk from the main road to our gate. Some nights Ma would ask me to wait up for him. I would sit by the window and try to spot him among the shadowy trees and moving figures. Ours was a quiet street. The chatter of other people’s tv’s was about the only sound I could hear. When Pa appeared at the corner, I would turn off the lights and pretend to have fallen asleep. I would try not to smell the sweat and smoke on him as he entered. Even as he lay a blanket over me, I would keep my eyes shut, not wanting to see his fatigue, the lines on his face sunk deep by weariness. * The next day I woke up to Kyle pulling the towel from under my neck. “Ate, it’s late. Why are you still in bed? And why don’t you have a pillow?” “What time is it?” He looked at his plastic wristwatch. “6:50.” I grabbed the towel from him. After a quick shower I took a banana from the kitchen and fled down the stairs. The three of us usually had 49
breakfast together, but that morning I didn’t even see Ma. “I’ll go ahead!” I yelled from the stairwell. I was in such a hurry I forgot all about our fight. I didn’t even have time to put on lipstick. It was only at the gate, while waving for a tricycle, that I remembered. The knot in my stomach returned. I thought of nothing else during the commute. It was a relief to finally reach the office. I was always the first to feel guilty. Ma cried easily during arguments, but afterward she could keep her cool for a long, long time. We were both adept at the silent treatment, had perfected it over the years. When Pa was still with us, he would pass on our messages to each other: “Ma is asking if you’ve watered the plants yet?” or “Our daughter needs money for school.” With Pa gone, Kyle had to fulfill this role. I didn’t know what Ma told him about our fight, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t explain. “Get the receipts from Ma,” I told him that evening. “What receipts?” “Basta. She knows.” He returned with a small pile, neatly stapled together and arranged by date. I tried to keep my blood pressure stable as I crosschecked the amounts against our bill. The effort made my head ache. At dinner we made sure to eat with my brother seated in the middle. The evening news program filled the silence. I didn’t offer to help Ma with the dishes. While they reviewed Kyle’s lessons for the next day, I sneaked into their bedroom and grabbed a blanket and a pillow. After two days, I brought home a box of donuts. I didn’t say anything, just left it on the table after dinner. When I checked again, the seal had been broken, but all six donuts were still there. Ma probably forbade Kyle from getting one. Whether because it was late or because she wanted him on her side, I didn’t know. But I knew what it meant, that she didn’t even put the box in the fridge. I counted the donuts again before reaching for a chocolate-covered one. As I sank my teeth into it, I wondered if I had gone too far this time. But December was winding down, and year-end reports had to be submitted one after the other. I spent a lot of time at the office. I could
have worked at home, but I was avoiding Ma too. Kyle ate most of the donuts. I had maybe two. Ma was inflexible until the end, not even touching her favorite strawberry kreme. Still, I could tell she was getting softer. Every morning now she would lay out an extra placemat for me, even though we had stopped eating breakfast together. And when I came home late there, would be food waiting for me, arranged on platitos and hidden under a plastic dome. I was sure in a couple of days we would be washing the dishes together again. * When Ma first brought home the air revitalizer, I didn’t know what to think. She set it down on the table along with a bag of groceries and a family-sized pizza. I peered at the box from the kitchen. “Come,” she called. “Time for merienda.” It was a Sunday. I had spent the afternoon locked inside my room, revising a marketing report sent back by my boss. I went into the kitchen to find something to eat. I didn’t even realize Ma had left until I saw her return. Kyle dashed into the room, a makeshift cape flying behind him. In a few seconds he was devouring a large slice, the stringy pizza going cheese-first into his mouth. “Did you wash your hands?” Ma asked as she sorted the groceries. She had her hair up in a bun, and although sweat ran down from her temples she seemed unusually cheerful. He lowered the pizza. “Never mind. Just use a napkin.” I walked in and pretended to be getting a glass of water. Kyle pointed at the pizza. “Eat,” Ma said. “It will soon get cold.” It was the first time she’d spoken to me in a week. I picked up a slice and sat down. “You don’t want any?” I asked. She shook her head. The grocery bag was now empty, and she was folding it into a tiny triangle.
“What’s that?” Kyle asked. He nudged his chin toward the box. I knew very well what it was. I had seen it several times on tv. Sometimes when Ma and I had nothing to do, we passed the time watching infomercials, criticizing the products and mocking the host. Only a few months ago, air revitalizers were all the rage among housewives. They actually said so on tv. Ma had seemed transfixed by the commercial—the close-up shots of tinted water swirling inside a bowl, the promise of foreign fragrances trapped in bottles—so I’d said, “What a waste of money.” She didn’t look up from the tv. “You think so?” “Why not just spray Lysol all over your house? It’s the same thing but cheaper.” Now Ma opened the box and started showing its contents to Kyle. She took out a clear plastic bowl, a green leaf-shaped lid, and two glass bottles tinier than his hand. The black cord wound all the way across the table, toward me. “It’s for our room. Don’t you two always complain about how stuffy it gets in the summer?” “What does it do?” Kyle asked. “It’s supposed to rid the air of bacteria and replace it with…” Ma laughed. “I don’t even remember what the guy said! But it was on sale—only 1,200 pesos. And the first bottle came free.” She snapped on the lid and raised the bowl to admire it under the light. “I haven’t even paid our last bill yet and you’re already buying more stuff?” The words came out so quickly. I didn’t want to start another fight, but my insides had been protesting from the moment I saw the box. Ma’s eyebrows came together. She put the air revitalizer down. “I bought this for us.” “I already told you we don’t need that.” Stop it, I thought. Stop talking. “What’s your problem?” “I’m just saying,” I backtracked. “My salary isn’t that big. We should spend it on more important things, things that matter.” 52
Ma exploded. “Don’t be so arrogant! I paid for this myself. Who do you think you are?” Her tears caught me by surprise. “You’re so arrogant,” she repeated. “You make all these assumptions and don’t even ask.” “What are you talking about?” “Like when you raised hell over that bill. Didn’t you think about how our relatives helped us after your father died? Or how they chip in for Kyle’s tuition?” “So?” “So what’s a few gifts in return?” “But we can’t afford all that!” “Yes, we can. I’m selling the Fortuner.” “What?” We had argued about it several times before. The Fortuner was the first brand new car Pa had bought, and Ma was adamant that we keep it, even though it practically became furniture in our garage. “That’s right,” she replied. “You’re not the only one worried about this family.” I didn’t say anything. Kyle had started crying too. “Merry Christmas,” Ma said, pushing away the air revitalizer. She slammed the door to the bedroom. Kyle followed, leaving me to sit in silence before putting away the pizza. * The days passed without me seeing either one of them. They left extra early in the mornings, and whatever time, I came home I’d find the table already cleared and the lights off. A thin film of brightness crept out from under their bedroom door, but apart from that you’d think the house was empty. That weekend, we went to my grandparents’ house for our annual Christmas reunion. My father’s side insisted on such traditions. We saw them four or five times a year. We weren’t close to Ma’s side of the family. Most of them lived a plane ride away in Davao, where she had grown up and studied. 53
Ma and I managed to act civil throughout the evening. But we sat at opposite ends of the room, and I busied myself with the food and my cousins’ updates. Kyle stuck close to her side, but now and again drifted to our corner to play games. Occasionally an aunt or uncle would come by to hand me money. I always refused, and they always insisted. By then, I was way too old to receive aginaldo, but after Pa died they saw me as a child again. Each time I patted my purse, I remembered what Ma had said. It didn’t help that everyone kept thanking me for our gifts. When nobody was looking, I peeked at a tag and saw that Ma had written all three of our names under “Happy Holidays.” I didn’t even know what those boxes contained. The receipts weren’t very descriptive. Despite the approaching holidays, things between me and Ma didn’t thaw at all. Our neighbors had strung up Christmas lights as early as November, but our house didn’t even have a single parol. One evening, I came home to find our tree already set up in the sala. That’s when it really hit me. Until then, we had always done that together. Pa would have known what to do. By then, he had been gone over a year already, but I still didn’t know how to function without him. I’d thought everything would be OK as long as I kept the family afloat. Weren’t we supposed to grow closer from shared grief or something? But I wasn’t even sure I had forgiven him already. I wondered how Ma felt. I never saw her crying again after the funeral. She put up a framed picture of him in the sala, and somehow that made his death seem normal. On Christmas Eve, Ma didn’t make dinner preparations until nightfall. Usually, she started in the afternoon, ordering me to ready the ingredients while she and Kyle stood at the stove. In any case, she seemed to be making up for lost time. A steady stream of washing, chopping, and frying sounds entered my room. Even the smells wafted past my walls. I recognized the scent of Christmas ham, and right then realized she must be preparing our noche buena too. But why cook the midnight meal so early? Once I was sure she’d retreated to the bedroom, I crept into the kitchen. You would never guess Ma had just been there. The sink and stove were gleaming. A pile of clean dishes stood in one corner, dripping into a basin. 54
The rice cooker hummed on the table. Beside it, under a plastic cover, sat a lonely pair of dishes: adobo and strips of fried ham. Where was the roast chicken? The lumpiang shanghai and sweet spaghetti? I checked the fridge. Inside were stacks of microwavables containing Ma’s famous macaroni salad. Each had a label: for this family, that family, friends, neighbors, relatives. Near the bottom I found a bowl containing a large helping of the salad, topped with extra grated cheese—just the way we liked it. There was nothing else: no fruits, no ice cream in the freezer. Even the savory pies and desserts we had received were gone, probably sent off as gifts to other people. Was this Ma’s way of punishing me? I thought about Kyle, how disappointed he would feel. We were used to grand Christmas dinners. Even after Pa’s death Ma went on cooking all the family favorites—more than we could split among the three of us. She always said it was just once a year, and anyway we could finish the rest over the following week. I never fought her on this. I was even happy to go on last-minute grocery trips, as long as it guaranteed a nice noche buena. Someone turned on the lights in the adjacent room. I hurriedly closed the fridge door. “Are we eating?” Kyle asked. “Ma says she’s skipping dinner.” We set the table. I brought out the ham early, just so we’d have more than one dish. Surprisingly, Kyle didn’t say anything. “What’s wrong with Ma?” I asked as we sat down. A group of children started singing carols outside, but we ignored them. “I don’t know. She’s just lying in bed. Maybe she’s sick?” He added, “Do you think she will join us for noche buena?” “Maybe.” I shrugged. “Eat.” We chatted about school, homework, his New Year’s resolutions. His teacher had told them to come up with at least three. So far he had one: eat more vegetables. He made a face and admitted it was Ma’s idea. “Ate,” he said after a pause. “Why haven’t you two made up yet?” It was the first time he’d asked. “Basta. It’s complicated.” “What did you fight about?” “Weren’t you there?” 55
“Ah, the air thingy.” “I guess. It wasn’t just that, but whatever.” “Is it important?” “Ha?” “Does it matter what you fought about?” He cut a piece of ham with his teeth, then used his spoon to flatten a mound of rice. “Go on. Finish your food.” We had a small bowl each of macaroni salad. I opened a Coke and poured him half a glass. “Don’t tell Ma,” I said. He giggled. Kyle often had bouts of coughing and wasn’t allowed cold drinks. After we’d cleared the evidence, he asked if I wanted to play. I hesitated; his games were kept in the master bedroom. But I didn’t want to spend Christmas Eve by myself, so I followed him in. If Ma was surprised, she didn’t show it. She barely moved from her position on the bed. Kyle and I occupied the mattress near the tv. As he set up the board game, I flicked another glance at her. She had an arm slung over her forehead and a pillow propped against her back. The rest of her remained hidden under a blanket. Only half my mind was on the game. I wondered if she really felt ill, or if she was just avoiding me again. Atop a low bookshelf stood the air revitalizer, still in its box. “Your turn,” said Kyle. I surveyed my options. Then I placed a tile next to his village and kicked out his pagoda. “Boo!” He frowned and fiddled with his tiles. I returned my gaze to the air revitalizer, trying to remember as much of the commercial as I could. When the game ended, Kyle challenged me to a rematch. “Come,” I said. “Let’s play something else.” I grabbed the air revitalizer and set it down on the bed, just opposite Ma. I scoured the pamphlet for the English instructions. “What are you doing?” Kyle asked, fear evident in his voice. “Basta. Go get some water.” The blankets stirred, but Ma’s eyes didn’t open. 56
Kyle returned with a tabo full of water. I poured it into the bowl, just until the marked line. Between the two fragrances, I chose “Uplifting” and added three drops. Having secured the lid, I plugged in the cord and flipped on the switch. The contraption lit up with an eerie blue glow, and the water began swishing violently inside the bowl. The scent wasn’t immediately noticeable. We had to almost touch the thing with our noses. “What do you think?” I asked Kyle. “It’s ok.” I sniffed again. Some kind of flower, probably. In truth, the scent reminded me more of chemicals. “Smells good,” I said. I caught Kyle’s eye and pointed at Ma, who was still pretending to be asleep. He shrugged his shoulders. I pointed again, and he crawled over to gently nudge her. “Ma, look. Your air thingy.” Her eyes were ringed with red. She glanced at the still-whirring gadget and, very briefly, at me. She said nothing but angled her body toward us. “Come closer,” I said. “The cord doesn’t stretch that far.” She did, and Kyle and I made room for her. All three of us leaned in at the same time, and the sound of our collective inhalation gave me goose bumps. “Yes, it does smell good.”
patricia celina ngo
Foggy Windows* Sometimes the world can get so cold It drives the view outside the window away, And even if I can no longer see what’s outside, I know it’ll be a wonderful day! My fingers become pens that do not need ink— All I need is to touch the glass, Then I can draw to my heart’s content May it be a smiley face, the sun, or some grass! I don’t even need crayons to color my work— The world outside gives colors to my art, And when the window is full of my drawings, It brings joy and warmth to my heart. And when the world becomes warmer, The window, once again, becomes clear So I can try drawing whatever I want— I can make mistakes; I don’t need to fear! I know, after all, that it’ll get cold again And I’ll have a canvas that’s brand new— Then I can keep having new displays Of the various things that I drew!
*from Miniature Masterpieces 3rd Prize, Poetry Written for Children, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Coloring Book Choices* Who says I can’t have pink trees, Or monkeys with purple tails? Who says I can’t have blue bees Or indigo-colored whales? I can have my skies of green, And my beaches with rainbow sand, For of this world, I am the queen— The crayons are in my hand.
*from Miniature Masterpieces 3rd Prize, Poetry Written for Children, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
My Kite* My kite may not look like much With its cellophane and barbecue sticks, But just you wait for a windy day— It can do many marvelous tricks! My kite can soar above the clouds; It can compete with the birds flying high, In fact, if I ever allowed it to, I bet it could touch the sky! My kite loves to dance and spin Even if the wind’s just a breeze And its favorite sound while dancing? The rustling of leaves on the trees! My kite knows how to catch the sun— And be a rainbow in its own right, And even when the skies are gray, It can still make the day bright! So when the winds are calling, Go take a step outside, Look up to the skies above And you’ll see my kite glide!
*from Miniature Masterpieces 3rd Prize, Poetry Written for Children, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Ang Langit Niya Panahon ito ng pagpapalipad ng saranggola. Panahon ng pagtingala. May naraanan akong bata na may hawak na pising banat na banat. Sinundan ko ang tingin niya, sinundan ko ang pisi hanggang maglaho sa himpapawid. Pero wala akong nakitang saranggola. Ganoon ito kataas. Malinaw na malinaw niyang nakikita ang hindi nakikita ng iba. Ramdam niya sa mga palad ang paghatak. Wala akong nakita sa pagtingala kundi ang langit niya.
amando jose j. perez
Taludtod na Tinuldukan ng Uod Ang silaw ng araw ninamnam ng luntiang halamang nilapang ng uod na gumagapang na nilunok ng tumitilaok na manok sa kawali pinirito ng taong nagtanim sa bakuran ng sari-saring halamang nilapang ng uod na gumagapang na nilunok ng tumitilaok na manok sa kawali pinirito ng taong ang dumi ay pataba sa lupa Dito umusbong ang halamang nilapang ng uod na gumagapang na nilunok ng tumitilaok na manok sa kawali pinirito ng taong niluwal ng tiyan ang mga bulateng sa pagsisid may naiwan na puwang sa lupa upang makapasok ang hangin sa mga ugat ng halamang may buntong hiningang sinasagap ng tao bago mairatay bilang bangkay na pagpipiyestahan ng mga uod.
cymon kayle lubangco
Dinig Matayog ang aking tayo sa isang lupang hindi akin, at kailanma’y hindi mapapasaakin. Maliwanag ang kalangitang puno ng mga bituin. Dinig ko ang tangis ng mga dilang nagmamakaawa’t nadidiliryo sa tahimik na gabi—mga tinig na kalianma’y hindi ko narinig mula pagkabata. Tatlong… dalawang… apat na babae at isang boses. Dinig ko ang tangis ng kanilang mga dila mula sa aking kinatatayuan. Humahagulgol. Humahagulgol. Humihikbi. Humihikbi. Tumatawa—na tila isang tupang handang kumain ng kapwa tupa. Isang lalaki ang tumatawa. Padre! At bumuhos ang tinig ng ulan kaalinsabay ng mga hagulgol at hikbi ng mga babaeng tumatangis ng Ave Maria, cami ay na-lagasan! Dinig ko ang kiskis ng mga bakal at yapak ng mga paang nakabota. Tila semento ang tunog ng mga padyak sa malambot na lupa. Fuego! Isang malakas na putok. At muling bumalik ang tinig ng lalaking tumatawa, ngunit ngayo’y tumatangis na tila birheng nalagasan bago ko narinig ang isang putok na siyang nagpatahimik sa kaniya. At narinig ko mula sa kalayuan ang mga pangkat na nagsasalita ng Ingles. Kakaiba ang kanilang pananalita—nanlilibak, nananakot, malayo sa aking kinagisnang romantikong wika na aking nagagamit.
Dinig ko ang pagbagsak ng mga tala mula sa kalangitan. Ang dilim ng gabi ay napalitan ng liwanag ng kalupaan. Dinig ko ang tila pagkaputol ng mga buto sa lumalaganap na apoy sa mga tahanang hindi ko natatanaw. Patuloy ang pag-ulan ng apoy habang taimtim na tumatanaw ang buwan sa naghihikahos na lupa. Dinig ko ang mga iyak na hindi mula sa mga matatanda. Ramdam ko sa aking tabi ang pag-itsa sa mga sanggol. Nadurog ang aking puso. Dinig ko ang sigaw ng ligayaâ€™t pagdiriwang. Ngunit may mga pagkakataong nadidinig ko ang mga pag-ulan ng takot at dilim sa mga tinig na minsaâ€™y nawawala, nagliligaya, at nagagalit. Dinig ko ang mga tinig sa dilim ng gabi. At aking naalala: maaga pa ang gabi. Matagal pa bago matapos magmulto ang mga tinig ng nakaraang hindi ko kilala. Ngunit wala akong magagawa sapagkat sino ang maniniwala sa batang tanga?
Bibigkasin ko ang pagguho.
Iisa-isahin ko ang pangalan ng mga gusali. Ibabaon ko ang mga muhon sa limot.
Nakaangkla ang siwang sa paglisan. Hindi pagkakabiyak, kundi pagitan. Hindi sa muli, kundi sukdulan. Sapagkat hindi bumababa sa lalamunan ang salitang paalam. Sapagkat hindi kaagad madudurog ang mga labi ng pagtupok. Ipauubaya ko sa alikabok ang paglaho.
Mula sa ilalim ng kaskaho
martina m. herras
luigi dela peĂąa
Gamugamu Tuwing umuulan sa madaling araw, sumisilong ang laksa-laksang gamugamo sa nahihimbing na bahay, pupuslit sa mga lagusan, isisiksik ang mga sarili sa mga siwang, pagitan ng pintuan at sahig, bintana at kurtina, dilim at liwanag. Sa pagaspas ng kanilang mga pakpak tangan nila ang liyag ng putik, ng paghinga ng daigdig na unti-unting nalulunod sa buhos ng ulan. Hahagkis ang bagwis ng mga insekto, lagaslas ng mga tuyong dahon sa ihip ng habagat at matitigatig, mamumukadkad ang mga mumunting katawan sa halina ng ilaw. Sasambahin nila ang bawat sinag, hahangos palapit sa fluorescent hanggang madurog ang mga sungot, mabali ang mga pakpak, at gumapang sa sahig habol-habol ang mga anino. Bubuka ang mga bibig ng butiki matapos ang matagal na pagka-umid sa dingding, sasakmalin sa pakpak ang mga mananampalatayang nabitag ng tanglaw: isa, dalawaâ€” dudumugin ng mga nag-aabang na gagamba ang mga nasilo, bibilangin ang mga paa kung sapat ba ang nahuli para sa agahan.
Madadatnan ko ang sariling pinapatay ang ilaw, magtitiis sa dilim at lihim ng mga mata upang hindi masilayan ang pagbagsak ng mga gamugamo, paghabi ng mga gagambaâ€™t paglapa ng mga butiki sa kisame. Mahina na ang ulan, mga yabag na sa labas ang mauulinigan. Nasa aking paanan ang mga nagunaw sa silaw, aanurin tungo sa pusod ng lusak na kanilang sinilangan. Ako naman ang tutugisin ng umaga, mabibihag. Mabubulag sa sumisikat na liwanag.
Para kay Sir Marlon at (Solar) Lux in Domino
ang taguri ng mga batang Aeta sa mga bungkos ng bungang nakanguso sa langit: kasabay ng hagikgikan, dali-dali nilang kukurutin ang pinakadulo, pilit na bubuksan ang nakatikom na mga labi ng murang bulaklak saka pipisilin ng mga mumunting daliriâ€” sisirit ang tubig, babasain ang abot-tanaw ng may-hawak: sa kapwa kalaro, batong naroon, o aasintahin lamang ang hangin. Tatama ang sinag ng araw sa mga tumitilapong patak at pupuslit sandali ang bahaghari (hindi na nila napapansin iyon), hanggang maupos ang hamog na ikinuyom ng mga buko at anihin ng mga paslit muli ang ligaya sa iilang bunga. Pipitasin ang mga ito mula sa isang matayog na puno, walang-takot na aakyatin hanggang masumpungan ang laruang ikinukubli ng mga dahon. Sa pinakatuktok, masisilayan ang mga namumukadkad na bulaklak, matitingkad subalit kimi pa ring sumisibol.
Field Trip Matapos basahin ang “Valediction sa Hillcrest” ni Rolando Tinio
Siyempre, before I go darating yung inkling “ingat, ingat ka” laugh parenthesis parenthesis bago maulilang muli magbabalikbayan ang neurosis maingay na naman ang palaka sa talahiban summer season at gaya ko, nangangati na ang mga aso; woofwoofication ulol na minamagic ng amnesia na humahagulgol wala pa ang buwan! sana meron ka na nang maabutan ng sumpong ang mga tanong. How do you feel ba? how do you do? ingat, salamat, cut the pleasantries sweetness, nilalanggam na ang cha-cha
kayaâ€™t kukunin ko na ang aking schoolbag, saktong karga lang nang lumarga ang lungkot, kaba, walang kumot na kailangan sa pupuntahan ko sapagkat pawis na akong gumigising sa mga bangungot kong recurring ng batang nawalan ng mauuwian. 13/05/2016
gabrielle ruth p. briones
Pagbalik sa Pagsusulit sa Gramatika Pagtanda Tanda. Salitang-ugat. Maaaring mangahulugang pag-alala. Pag-alala. Pangalan. Marapat na mangyari sa isang pagsusulit. Tumanda. Pandiwa. Nangangahulugang nadagdagan ang edad ng tao. O kung hindi man tao, nilalang na buhay o dating buhay. Maaaring nakalipas na mga kaarawan. Tumatanda. Pandiwa. Tumutukoy sa pagdagdag ng araw, linggo, buwan, taon, sa edad ng nilalang na buhay o dating buhay. Maaaring paunti-unting pag-agnas ng bangkay sa kanyang hantungan. Tatanda. Pandiwa. Panghinaharap. Nangangahulugang ang edad ng nilalang na buhay o dating buhay ay madaragdagan pa. Tumanda. Hindi pandiwa kung hindi pangnakaraan. Walang maaaring mag-utos ng “tumanda ka” sapagkat kusang nangyayari at mangyayari ang pagtanda. Pagtanda. Ang mismong pagdagdag ng edad. Maaaring may kasamang pagdagdag ng peklat, sugat, at hapdi. Tanda. Pagkatapos ng hapdi, sugat, at maging peklat. Ang hapdi at sugat ay mismong mga tanda. Sila ay nagiging peklat. Ang hapdi, sugat, at peklat ay mga tanda. Sila rin ay mga pananda. Tanda. Edad. Ng musmos, ng binatilyo, ng matandang lalaki. Ng mga taong nasa pagitan. Maaari ring “ng musmos, ng dalagita, ng matandang babae.” 71
Nagtanda. Pandiwa. Nangangahulugang nadagdagan ang karanasan at karunungan. Ayon sa matatanda. Nagtatanda. Pandiwa. Tumutukoy sa papuring malimit bigkasin ng matatanda. Tumutukoy rin sa pangungutyang madalas bigkasin ng mga nakatatanda ng ilan lamang na taon. Binatilyo sa musmos. Magtatanda. Pandiwa. Maaaring wala sa diksyunaryo ng matatanda. Ginagamit bilang pangutya. Nakakatandang binatilyo sa binatilyo. Pagkalimot. Hindi sinasadyang hindi pag-alala ng tamang sagot. Sa pagsusulit sa paaralan. Sa pakikitungo sa nakatatanda. Marka. Maaaring tanda o palatandaang tutulong sa pag-alala ng leksyon. Maaaring bagsak. Maaaring basag na salamin. Magtanda. Tinandaan. Maaaring hindi malilimutan. Maaaring nalilimutan na. Maaring nalimutan o hindi talaga alam. Sa isang buong taon, buwan, linggo, o isang araw, inalala. Tinatandaan. Kasalukuyang sadyang inaalala. Maaaring inaalala na pagtanda o pagtanda sa kakatanda. Tatandaan. Hindi pa naaalala sapagkat hindi pa nalilimutan. Pagsabi sa sariling maging maalalahanin. Pag-utos sa sariling magtanda. Matuto. At hindi sapat ang â€œsa pagkakaalala ko.â€? Tandaan. Ang dapat gawin. Sugat. Maaaring pangunahan ng hapdi. Hapdi. Maaaring pangunahan ng sugat. Sugat. Nawawala o nagiging peklat. Peklat. Maaaring magaling. Maaaring mahapdi.
Natandaan. Pandiwa. Hindi sinasadyang pag-alala. Maaaring kanais-nais ang alaala. Maaaring alalahanin ang alaala. Sampung taong makalipas. Natatandaan. Kasalukuyan. Pandiwang nagpapahiwatig: Na pandiwa nga rin pala ang tinandaan, tinatatandaan, tatandaan, at tandaan. Na dati ring may buhay ang dating matatandang ngayong bangkay. Na dati ring binatilyo ang kasalukuyang matanda. Na dati rin silang tao. Na dati ring binatilyo ang dating musmos na ngayo’y nagbabalik-tanaw. Susubukang tandaan: Na ang paglimot sa hapdi at sugat na mga alaala ay pananda at pangharang sa hapdi at sugat. Na ang sadyang paglimot ay pagtago ng mga peklat na nagdiwang na ng kanilang mga kaarawan. Na ang mga salitang “sila” at “kanila” ay dapat tumutukoy sa mga tao, buhay o bangkay. Na ang mga taong ito ay higit pa sa peklat, sugat, at hapdi. Na balang-araw ang ngayong nakatatanda na dating musmos at binatilyo lamang ay magiging matanda. Ay tatanda. Na ngayo’y walang mag-uutos sa kanya. Kusa siyang tatanda. Siya lamang ang makasasagot kung siya ay magtatanda. Magtatanda bago maagnas bilang bangkay. Bangkay. Nakaranas ng peklat, sugat, at hapdi.
Cutter* pinakahasa ang mga blade ng cutter kapag hindi pa naikakasa. Isa sa mga alaalang hindi ko matanto kung bakit tila may boses na nagsasalaysay sa aking isip, o bakit may ganitong pagiging malay sa sarili at sa pangyayari, bagaman bata pa. Nailabas ko sa lalagyan ang mga blade ng cutter. May talim pa kahit ang ningning nito. Hinahati ng ilang mga diagonal na linya ang haba, dito maaaring kalasin ang napudpod nang dulo kung sakali. Pira-pirasong pagbabawas, muling pagpapatalas, subalit hindi eksaktong ganoon. Sapagkat hindi naman talaga tumatalas muli, binabawasan lamang at naghahanap ng kapalit. Nailabas ko ang mga blade, dahil marami-rami sa isang pakete, hindi lang iisa. Nahuli ako ng kasambahay namin noon na hindi ko na maalala ang pangalan ngayon. Ate Cherry o Ate Melanie? Ate She? Hindi pala posibleng si Ate She, dahil may edad na siya noong kasama namin siya sa bahay, at wala sa alaala ko ang isang matanda. May pagkabata rin, sigurado ako, dahil tandang-tanda ko pa na hindi kami nagkaintindihan. Isang bata at isang mas bata na hindi maintindihan ang sinasabi ng bawat isa. Nailabas ko ang mga blade. Nahuli niya akong ginagawa ito. May kung anong poot at matinding pagkatakot na biglang namuo sa dibdib ko, matimpi sa simula, subalit dahan-dahang bumibigat, nagiging bato. Nangyari ang eksenang iyon sa tinatawag kong sala ng aming bahay. Kahit wala naman talagang mga silid sa bahay namin sapagkat walang mga pader na nagtatakdang silid ang alin. Isang buong espasyo. Hindi naman sa maluwag ang loob ng bahay. Lagi na lang may sari-saring mga kahon, laruan, aparador, nalulumaâ€™t napapalitang sofa, ilan pang mga aparador, at mga mesang nakasabit sa dingding na nakausli sa kung saan-saang anggulo. Kaya parang may *First accepted into PLURAL Prose Journal (2016) 3rd Prize, Maikling Kwento, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
ruta-ruta rin ang paglalakad sa loob nito. Kahit ang hagdang metal na butas-butas, inilagay sa bandang gitna kaya may mga bahagi pang kailangan yumuko para lang hindi maumpog. Ang pader, laging patse-patse ang pagkakapinta. Ganoon din ang hagdang nakapuwesto sa sentro ng bahay. Itim subalit may sumisilip pa ring bahaging pula. Sa kisameng ginamitan ng kulay puting mga kahoy na waring canvas ng pintor (subalit hindi pa rin napinturahan), hanggang ngayon ay makikita pa rin ang hilera ng mga ulo ng mga pakong pumapaligid sa mga sulok nito, ang mga sukat na isinulat gamit ang lapis noong ikakabit pa lamang. Burador na pinili nang iwan. Kahit ang mga light bulb at lalagyan ng light bulb, para lang mga halamang gumapang palabas sa mga madidilim na butas sa kisame. Maliwanag na maliwanag noong umagang iyon, kaya sigurado akong wala sa kisame ang mga detalyeng magtutulak sa kuwento. Subalit nariyan ang mga pader na walang pintura, o kung pininturahan maâ€™y hindi nasakop ang lahat. Eksena ng mga hindi matapos-tapos. Nahuli akong nailabas ang mga blade. Hindi ko alam kung gusto ko ba maglaro, o may paggagamitan ako kaya ko iyon ginawa. Hindi ko na matandaan kung alam ko nga bang mga blade ng cutter ang inilalabas ko. Hindi ko rin alam kung nasaan ang ibang mga tao sa bahay noon, kung bakit kaming dalawa lang ang naiwan sa eksena. Hindi ko siguro alam ang ginagawa ko, o plano kong gawin. Subalit nagsisigaw ang kasambahay naming hindi ko matandaan ang pangalan. Ate Che? Ate Melanie? Basta nagsisigaw siya, o kung mas malinaw, kung pipilitin ko buuin ang kuwento, sinigawan niya ako. Sigaw na hindi naman talaga umusbong mula galit, kundi marahil nag-ugat sa pagkagulat at pagkabalisa. May hawak na
blade ang bata. Narinig kaya ang mga sigaw kahit sa labas ng bahay? Tumalbog-talbog ba ang sigaw sa napakaraming uka-uka at usli-usli ng bahay, lumusot ba ito sa mga butas sa kisame na kalahating nahaharangan ng light bulb, at pumili kaya ito ng mga pader na may pintura kaysa pader na wala? Sumisigaw siya. Na para bang may mali sa paglalabas ko ng isang bagay mula sa isang lalagyan. Sa bahay namin uso lamang ang sigaw kapag tinatawag ang isaâ€™t isa. Ganito na kaya noong lumipat ang nanay ko, ang tatay ko, at ang aking kuya, sa bahay na ito isang taon bago ako ipinanganak? Siguro hindi, dahil tatlo pa lamang sila. At hindi pa ipinapagawa noon ang ikalawang palapag. Ngayon, sapagkat mayroon na, at laging nagkukulong ang ikatlo sa aming apat na magkakapatid sa kanyang silid (siya lang ang may sariling silid ngayon), naging karaniwan na ang sigaw bilang paraan ng pakikipag-usap. Oy, kumain ka na! Bumaba ka nga dito! Patty, nasaan yung earphones! Paabot naman ng tuwalya naiwan ko! Ayoko ang tamad mo! Tigas ng ulo sabing kakain na! Kakain na nga talaga! May uwing Jollibee ngayon! Naririnig kaya kami ng kapitbahay? Dahil naririnig namin sila kapag sila ang nagsisigawan. Lalapit lang kami sa bintana at dinig na dinig ko ang malulutong na murahan mula sa umuupa sa kuwarto sa kabilang bahay. Hindi ko lang alam paano naglalakbay ang tunog sa ere. Kung paano nito iniiwasan ang mga pasikut-sikot na mga sulok ng bahay, kung ano ang nangyayari pagdating sa tenga ng nakaririnig. Basta iyan lang ang pakinggan mo kasi English! Ganyan sumigaw nang hindi sumisigaw ang nanay ko. Nahilig ako makinig ng musika sa lumang radyo na uwi pa nila galing sa Santolan kung saan galing ang nanay o sa Malate kung saan galing ang tatay. Nasanay na rin kasing walang paliwanag sa bahay namin. Hindi naman kailangan linawin saan nanggaling ang radyo, o ang cabinet, o ang telepono. Sasagot naman siguro sila kung magtatanong ako, subalit hindi na rin ako nasanay magtanong. Napatango na lang ako, at siguro kahit sa isang sulok ng isip ay naisip na English naman talaga ang gusto kong pakinggan. Pinihit ko ang radyo mula sa 97.1 papuntang 107.5, at pabalik sa kabilang dulo na 88.3. Parang nakasanayang siklo. Naisaulo na ng aking mga daliri kung ilang pihit ba ang namamagitan 76
sa mga estasyon na ito, at naisaulo na rin ng aking tenga ang mga komersyal ng bawat istasyon. Natatali ang aking isip sa tunog. Aabutin ako ng siyam-siyam kakapakinig sa radyo, kilala kahit ang mga dj sa night shift na nagsisimula ng hatinggabi at magtatapos bandang alas-kwatro. Tumitigil lang ako tuwing dinadapuan na ng matinding antok, na minsan lang naman mangyari, o tuwing naririnig ko na may kumikilos sa ibang bahagi ng bahay. Madalas susundan ito ng paalala ng aking nanay na matulog na, laging mahina ang boses sa ganitong oras, subalit may puwersa. Kahit kailaâ€™y hindi ko siya narinig na sumigaw tuwing ganitong madaling-araw, at hindi ko man nakukutuban na gising pala siya. Na para bang nilihim ng buong bahay na may iba pa palang tao. Tahimik ang gabi. Pagkagising, madalas radyo agad ang inaatupag ko. Subalit mga 12 o 13 o 14 taong gulang na ako noon. May posibilidad na mahigit-kumulang 10 taon na mula noong nailabas ko ang mga di-gamit na blade ng cutter. Makabubuo na ng sariling kasaysayan ang mga sigaw na narinig ko mula noon. Marahil nagtago na sa mga lungga ng bahay at bumuo ng mga pamilya. Pamilya ng mga sigaw. Sapat na siguro ang dekada. Sapagkat hindi ko rin naman makita sa mga palad ko na may bakas ng matitinding mga sugat, magpapatuloy lang ang siklo ng araw-araw. Na parang walang nangyari. Isang kuwento, na maaari kong ikuwento, ay naglabas ako ng mga blade ng cutter noong bata ako subalit hindi na iyon naaalala ng mga palad ko. Walang nangyari. Parang noong sumabit ang paa ng kuya ko sa mga yerong nakahanay sa labas ng bahay dahil madilim. Siguro, maaari na ring sabihin na hindi rin iyon nangyari. Wala nang ebidensiya sa katawan. Baka kahit kuya ko hindi na naaalala iyon. Nilalagyan ng katakot-takot na dami ng betadine ng nanay ko ang sugat na bumubukal ng dugo sa kanyang paa, at tila naghahanda na ang isip ko para sa mga nakagigimbal na tunog ng sakit at pag-aray. Subalit walang dumating. Gusto kong sumigaw noon para sa kuya kong hindi man umiimik kahit pinapahiran na ng kulay-lupang bulak ang kanyang sugat. Naramdaman kong kulang ang eksena. Sigurado ako na kung ako iyon ay nagsisigaw na, bagaman hindi pa yata ako 77
marunong magmura noon. Sigaw lang siguro na walang salita. O sigaw na pinapatid bago maging sigaw. O kahit ano. Basta hindi katahimikan na tulad ng sa kuya ko. Kaya noong kuyom-kuyom ko ang mga blade, kakatwa ngayon na wala ni isang salita na malapit sa salitang â€œsakitâ€? ang aking nagugunita. Kung tutuusin, maaari ko pa ngang malimot na cutter ng mga blade ang hawak ko. Kung wala lang akong ebidensiya, hindi ko man maaalala na blade ang pangunahing detalye sa kuwento. Bakit hindi gunting? O kaya kutsilyo? Sa totoo lang ay kalimot-limot na detalye ang mga blade ng cutter na nailabas ko sa isang lalagyan. Na maaaring nangyari rin noong mismong eksenang iyon. Nailabas ko na. Nahuli ako. Sinigawan ako. At nalimot ko na mga matatalim na blade ng cutter ang hawak ko. Tuwing binabalikan ko ang mga eksenang alam kong naranasan ko, nabubutas sa kung saan-saang bahagi ang ganap. Parang mga video na nilagyan ng itim na kahon ang mata ng mga tao. Subalit hindi sa pagtatago, kundi dahil sa di-katiyakan. Ganito rin paminsan-minsan ang kumpas ng pagsensura. Imbis na magpakita ng di-katotohanan sapagkat hindi nga sigurado, ay mainam na lang na hindi magpakita ng kahit ano. Para kahit walang naipakita ay wala namang pinakitang kasinungalingan. Naiiwan lamang ang mga buto. Ilang pirasong laman. Walang sugat. Hubad na katotohanan. * Sa harap ng tarangkahan ng garahe namin na dalawang kotseng magkatabi ang kasya ay ang malawak na parisukat na parking space. Matatantsang maliit na quadrangle ang sukat ng sementadong lugar na ito. Magkakasya ang flag ceremony ng isang maliit na paaralan. Subalit sa dami ng mga kotseng dumadagdag at nakikiparada ay nagiging ruta-ruta na rin kahit ang pag-ikot sa dapat maluwag na lote. Isang beses, nakisabay ako sa tatay ko sa umaga papuntang trabaho. Hindi makalabas nang maayos ang kotse mula sa garahe namin dahil nagkumpol-kumpol ang mga kotse sa parking. Hinanap ng tatay ko sa mga kapitbahay kung sino ang may-ari ng kotseng pinakabalahura 78
sa kanilang lahat. Pagkatapos maresolba ang problemang iyon, habang ilang beses niyang inuulit sabihin sa akin sa biyahe na kung takot ka magasgasan â€˜e bumili ka ng bahay na may sariling garahe, na hindi ko alam kung suwerte ba o malas na kaya niyang sabihin at kaya kong paniwalaan, ay nasabi niya na Kaya ayaw na ng nanay mo tumira diyan â€˜e. Walang nagbago sa tono niya. Parehong tono lang sa tuwing magpapaabot siya ng ulam mula sa kabilang dulo ng mesa tuwing naghahapunan ang pamilya. Parehong tono lang kapag sinasabi niyang tawagin ko na si Patty na nagkukulong na naman sa kuwarto sa itaas. Ni isang beses hindi dumapo sa isip ko na may kahit isa na ayaw na doon sa amin. Ang nanay ko pa na laging may pinapagawa at pinakakarpintero sa bahay: bagong tarangkahan, bagong palapag, bagong divider, bagong bubong. Dahil palagi na lang may nadadagdag, kahit madalas ay hindi naman talaga akma ang mga bagong pag-aarkitektura na naidadagdag, kakaibang atensyon tuloy ang napupukaw ng bahay namin kaiba sa lahat ng iba pang bahay sa Katamisan. Mahirap ipaliwanag sa mga bibisita ang hitsura ng bahay. May kung anu-anong mga salamin sa harap, maaaring tawaging mala-glasshouse kahit halata namang hindi nagagamit (katanggal-tanggal ang -house na bahagi), at may tarangkahan na may hindi karaniwang kulayâ€”beige na may halong orange pero malapit pa rin sa krayola na flesh. Sira pa ang doorbell at may layo rin ang mismong bahay mula sa tarangkahan ng garahe. Tuwing umuuwi tuloy galing paaralan o trabaho ang isa sa aming magkakapatid, maliban sa pinakabata na nag-aaral pa sa hayskul at hinahatid pa ng service na may gumaganang busina, laging katakot-takot na pagkatok sa tarangkahan ang kailangan para lamang marinig ng mga tao sa loob at mapagbuksan. Iniisip kaya ng mga kapitbahay kung bakit wala kaming doorbell samantalang may bahagi ng bahay namin na gawa naman sa salaming may tinta? Iniisip kaya nila kung bakit pa doorbell ang pinagtipiran ng mag-anak na ito? Iniisip kaya nila bakit napakaingay ng mga nakatira dito? Hindi ko maitatanong ang mga iyon kahit kanino. Huli akong nagkaroon ng kaibigan mula sa mga kapitbahay, umiinom pa ako ng gatas mula sa boteng may tsupon. Jayjay ang pangalan ng 79
kapitbahay, anak ni Aling Minyang at Pangan. Naaalala ko ito dahil bukambibig ito ng kasambahay namin noon na si Nana. Tuwing ayaw ko raw uminom ng gatas, idinadahilan ko na bote iyon ni Jayjay. Kaya may basag. Kaya may mga tape na nakabalot. Sumpong lang iyon malamang ng isang bata. Sigurado ako sa detalyeng ito dahil hindi ko naman naaalalang magsinungaling si Nana. Isang beses lang siguro. Naikuwento ko sa kaniya na masarap ang binebenta na barbecue sa paaralan namin, P10 bawat piraso, at napakatingkad ng lasa dahil maraming sarsa. Nag-alok akong bilhan siya at nagdala ako ng maliliit na plastik noong araw na iyon. Bumili ako ng dalawang pirasong barbecue gamit ang buong P20 na baon ko, at inilagay sila sa plastik. Paglalagay ng bagay sa isang lalagyan. Subalit hindi ko alam bakit sa mura kong isip ay pinroblema ko na maaaring pumutok ang plastik sa baunan ko at magmantsa ang sarsa. Kaya sinipsip ko ang sarsa bago ibuhol ang dulo ng plastic. Hanggang sa puntong walang matatapon kahit pumutok ang plastik sa loob ng baunan. Inalok ko pagkauwi ang barbecue kay Nana. Masarap, sabi niya. Matagal ding nakitira si Nana sa bahay namin. Subalit hindi na niya naabutan ang karamihan ng pagbabago. Isang Pasko ay umuwi siya sa Bicol at hindi na nagbalik. Hindi na malinaw sa akin ang mukha niya, at tuluyan ko nang nalimot ang boses niya. Mga taon ang daraan at makikilala ko rin ang pagdaan nina Ate Che, Ate Melanie, Ate She. Lahat sila, nakikilala ko pa ang mukha subalit may kahirapan na sa pag-alala ng mga boses. Ang boses ba ang pinakamahirap maalala tungkol sa mga taong hindi matagal nakasama? Ang tunog ba ang unang namamatay? Subalit malinaw pa sa akin ang tunog ng paghampas ng patpat na kahoy na pangamot sa likod (tinatawag namin ng kuya ko na â€œkamay-kamayanâ€? sapagkat may kamay na nakaukit) sa aming balat tuwing ginagalit namin si Nana. Nasusukat sa lakas ng tunog ang antas ng sakit kaysa sa bakas na maiiwan sa balat. Takot kami sa kamay-kamayan ni Nana sa parehong paraan na takot kami sa sinturon ng tatay. Tunog pa lang ay mahapdi na. Hindi na nakadarama ng ganitong espisipikong takot ang mga mas bata kong kapatid sapagkat hindi na ginawang pamparusa ng tatay ko ang sinturon. Umalis na rin si Nana. Kakatwa nga ay halos hindi 80
na nagpaparusa ang tatay at napasa na ang responsibilidad sa nanay. Subalit sa halip na gumamit ang nanay ng alinmang instrumento ay boses lamang ang ginagamit niya. Magsisimula lang siya, huwag kang magdadabog-dabog sa pamamahay na â€˜to, kundi makakatikim ka na talaga. Habang hindi tinitingnan sa mata ang may-kasalanan. Habang may ibang ginagawa. Sumisimangot saka natatakot na agad ang mga kapatid ko. Na para bang nakaririnding tunog ang boses na nagpapaalala na magkaroon ng utang na loob. Habang ako naman ang nanonood. Naririnig kaya kami ng kapitbahay, naiisip ko. Mistulang gusto ilagay sa mute ang palabas. Hindi dahil wala akong pakialam kundi dahil may kung ano sa loob ko na nagiging kasimbigat ng sako ng mga bato. Pagkatapos ng ganoong klaseng alitan ay magpapatuloy ang lahat na parang walang nangyari. Walang ebidensiya. Maya-mayaâ€™y matutulog ang nanay ko sa sala, subalit bago siya matulog, si tatay naman ang naroon at nanonood ng mga pelikula sa telebisyon. Pinapanood kahit ilang beses na umulit ang mga palabas. Nakakabisado na ang mga linya sa Men in Black at The Matrix. Nakakailang nga lang minsan tuwing masyadong malakas ang volume ng kanyang pinapanood. Kahit nasa banyo ako na lagpas pa ng hagdan at ilang metro ang layo sa sala ay naririnig ko pa rin ang mga pagsabog at pagbabarilan. Dahilan kung bakit minsan ay galit-galit na rin ang pagkatok sa tarangkahan ng sinumang kauuwi lang. Wala kasing makarinig. Mauuwi pa minsan sa pagtawag sa cellphone ng sinumang nasa bahay para maipagbukas at makapasok. Isang beses, galing sa mahaba-habang commute pauwi dahil maraming hukay na ginagawa sa Imelda Avenue, mainit ang ulo ko habang kumakatok sa tarangkahan. Walang nakakarinig. Tinawagan ko si Patty, sumagot siya, at sinabi kong ipagbukas naman ako ng gate. Ngumawa siya, sabay sabi sa akin, may mga tao naman daw sa baba. Inis na inis ang tono. Hindi naman ako tatawag kung naririnig ako ng mga tao sa baba. Hindi naman ako hihingi ng pabor kung kaya ko namang solusyonan nang walang tulong ng iba. Subalit wala akong pinaliwanag sa kaniya. Minura ko lang siya. Hindi kami nag-usap ng halos isang linggo, at sinadya kong hindi kami 81
magsabay ng pagcommute kahit pareho lang kami ng pinupuntahan. Minsan, umaalis ako labinlimang minuto lamang bago o pagkatapos siya umalis. Para lang hindi kami magkita at magkausap. Malamang sa malamang, ako pa ang pinagalitan ng nanay ko. Sumagot lang ako, wala akong pakialam, maghanap siya ng kasabay niyang magcommute. Ayaw na ayaw kong nagsasayang ng oras sa tao. Ganyan na ganyan din ang paratang ng tatay ko sa mga kapitbahay na ayaw tumulong sa paglalagay ng sistema sa parking sa Katamisan. Isang meeting lang naman daw ay kaya nang ayusin lahat iyan. Wala naman daw mapapala sa pagmamatigas. Wala akong masabi kundi Oo nga â€˜e. Hindi na kasi ako sanay makipag-usap sa kanya. Suwerte na ang pag-uusap na tumatagal lagpas ng tatlong pagpapalitan ng tanong at sagot. Bilang na bilang ko pa ang mahahaba naming usapan sa nakaraang mga taon. Siguro, isa o dalawang mahabang usapan bawat taon. Lahat tuwing sumasabay ako sa kaniya sa kotse sa umaga o sa biyahe pauwi. Minsang kinumusta niya ang laro ng paborito kong kupunan sa basketball dahil iyon din daw ang bukambibig ng mga kaopisina niyang mas bata sa kanya. Minsang nagpaliwanag siya tungkol sa pag-iingat sa pagmamaneho dahil nabangga na naman ng kuya ko ang kotse sa pang-ilang pagkakataon. Minsang ipinaliwanag niya ang uri ng mga taong nakakausap niya sa trabaho, minsang ibinahagi niya ang mga kuwento ng dayuhang galing India na bumibisita sa opisina nila dahil ipinadala ng sister company. Siya kasi ang natokang ihatid pauwi araw-araw ang bisita sa hotel na tinutuluyan dahil madadaanan naman niya iyon sa ruta papuntang bahay namin. Nasabi ko pang minsan subalit iyan na yata ang lahat ng pinag-usapan namin sa nakaraang limang taon. Lahat ng balita ko tungkol sa tatay, naririnig ko sa mga pakikipag-usap niya kay nanay tuwing almusal sa umaga. Habang pinag-uusapan nila ang mga bagong ipapagawa sa bahay. O kaya sa pangungulit niya sa mga kapatid kong babae pag-uwi. Sa kaunting mga pagkakataon na nakararating siya sa bahay bago mag-alas-otso, nasasabayan niya pa kasi ang mga ito sa hapunan. Samantalang ako, nagkukunwaring may ibang ginagawa, at hindi man tumitingin sa eksena. Kunwariâ€™y nanonood ng palabas sa telebisyon. Kapag 82
nararamdaman ko nang patapos na siya kumain, pasimple ko nang inililipat ang channel mula sa basketball na pinapanood ko patungo sa channel na puro mga pelikula. Pasimpleng mag-uunat, pasimpleng hihikab. Pagtatanghal. Inaantok na ako, akyat na ako. Maaga ako bukas, pagising na lang ng mga 5. Ilang beses na akong nagkakabangungot ng magkahalong aksyon at drama. Sa gitna ng mga katha-kathang alitan sa mga tao sa panaginip, bigla na lang may magbabarilan. Hindi ko maalala kung may mga namamatay. Saka biglang may sasabog. Hindi mahalaga ang ibang mga detalye. * Ginawang main road ng mga sasakyan ang â€œvillageâ€? namin, kahit hindi naman talaga dapat ganito. Dalawang lane lang kasi ang mayroon at puro traysikel pa ang dumadaan. Tuwing rush hour, ginagawa kaming shortcut ng mga sasakyang ayaw umikot hanggang Antipolo Junction o Sta. Lucia (kahabaan ng Imelda Avenue) papuntang Ligaya o Rosario (kahabaan ng E. Amang Rodriguez Avenue). Sa amin madalas dumaan kung mula sa Ortigas ay gustong pumunta ng Marcos Highway o kabaligtaran dahil naiiwasan ang napakabagal na usad ng mga kotse sa bandang Junction at sa may Rosario. Kumbaga, dadaan na lamang sa pasikot-sikot na rutaâ€™t sulok ng Karangalan Village imbis na tiisin ang ayaw tiisin. May parikala doon na hindi ko matumbok. Tuwing rush hour, aabutin ng higit na apatnapung minuto ang pagbiyahe pa lang palabas ng village kung kotse ang gagamitin. Dalawampung minuto naman kung traysikel. Mas mabilis ito nang kaunti dahil eksperto na ang mga traysikel sa amin pagdating sa sining ng counterflow. Kung kailan haharurot sa kabilang lane at kung kailan lulusot sa pagitan ng dalawang kotseng nag-iwan ng puwang. Nakakaasiwa lamang ito dahil napakahirap na rin makahanap ng traysikel na walang laman sa ganitong oras. Nakakaasiwa sapagkat kung lalakarin, kung tutuusin, ay kaunting dagdag lang sa sampung minuto ang buong biyahe. Nakakaasiwa, 83
higit sa lahat, dahil nakakaengganyo naman talagang maglakad na lamang. Subalit walang malalakaran. Hindi kasi natapos ang pagsemento at pag-ayos ng mga bangketa. Kung maglalakad sa kalye kung saan paparating ang mga kotse (upang makita man lamang kung may paparating) ay hindi rin ligtas dahil sa mga traysikel na may sariling mga batas pagdating sa counterflow. Idagdag pa sa dami ng mga sasakyang nakikiraan ay ang dala nilang mga ulap ng usok at walang-patumanggang pagbubusina. Kung kailangan maglakad ay kakayahin naman, subalit mainam na lang ding iwasan. Tuwing ginagabi naman ako nang husto sa pag-uwi, ilang patak na lang at hatinggabi na, ay hindi aabot ng limang minuto sa de-padyak na pedicab ang biyahe mula kahit aling dulo ng village naming main road papunta sa bahay. Sa totoo lang, ang mahahaba kong biyahe ay palaging dahil sa trapik at hindi naman talaga sa distansiya. Ano kaya ang pakiramdam ng malayo ang inuuwian? Marahil nakakabagot. Nauubos siguro ang lahat ng puwedeng isipin. Halimbawa, ano kaya ang mga iniisip ni Nana noong huling beses siyang umuwi patungong Bicol? Ilang oras kaya siya nasa biyahe? Ilang bus kaya ang sinakyan niya? Hindi ko masasagot dahil hindi ko alam kung saang banda siya nakatira sa Bicol. Hindi ko siya matatanong. Hindi ko rin alam ang tunay niyang pangalan. Hindi ako mahusay pagdating sa mga detalye. Bagay na hindi ko matanggap, dahil gusto kong maalala ang lahat. Dahil ang mga naaalala ko, mga eksenang pakiramdam ko hindi naman mahalaga. Isang beses may nabasag na pinggan, gabi na, natutulog na ang lahat, may kasambahay yata kami noong panahong iyon na nakasabay sa pamamasukan si Nana nang ilang buwan. Walang ibang detalye sa kuwento kundi ang pagtatanong ng nanay ko sa Ate, o pagpupuna ba, hindi ko maalala, na o nagpaparamdam yata si Nana. Wala na si Nana noon, hindi na bumalik. Hindi ko rin lubos na maintindihan, siguro dahil bata pa lang ako noon. Bakit naman hindi na siya babalik? Nag-aaway kami bilang alaga at taga-alaga, subalit wala naman yatang nangyari na hidwaan na maaaring maging dahilan ng hindi niya pagbalik. Sabi lang nila sa akin ay naligo sa ilog, nagkasakit, tapos namatay. Paano naman namatay dahil sa pagligo sa ilog? Sino nang magbibigay sa akin ng regalo sa Pasko maliban sa nanay at tatay? 84
Paanong hindi na babalik? Anong ibig sabihin nuâ€™n? Hindi ko na siya mareregaluhan sa birthday niya? Wala na kaming pagtataguan ng kuya tuwing nilalabas ang kamay-kamayan? Wala na akong ninang? Paanong hindi na babalik? Mas matanda sa akin ang bahay namin, kaya mas may kakayahan siguro itong sumagot. Kung marunong lang din itong makinig, marahil mas marami pa itong alam sa mga tumira dito kaysa sa akin. Kung saang eksaktong puwesto kami huling nag-usap ni Nana, iyon na ba ang eksaktong puwesto kung saan ako umuupo tuwing nanonood sa sala? Kung saang sulok kami pinahaharap sa pader at inihahanda ang sarili para sa sinturon, iyon na ba ang eksaktong puwesto kung saan kami naghuhugas ng pinggan ngayon? Ilang beses na naghunos at naglantad ang materyal ng bahay na ito. Ano kaya ang maibubulong ng mga bato? Kung tutuusin, ang tanging lamang ko ay nakakaalis ako at nakakabalik. Hindi lang ang partikular na loteng kinatatayuan nito sa Katamisan ang alam ko. Hindi lang ang main road naming Karangalan Village. Hindi lang ang maraming posibleng ruta mula Ortigas patungong Marcos Highway. Marami akong alam. Hindi lang ang alaala ng madaldal pang tatay. Hindi lang ang alaala ng mga aparador na natuklasang inaanay kaya kinailangang baklasin at itapon. Hindi lang ang pagsalakay ng kampon ng mga ipis mula sa naiwang butas ng kanal noong nilipat sa bagong puwesto ang lababo. Hindi lang ang buwan. Hindi lang ang una naming sasakyan, puting Wrangler na Jeep na may gulong na kasinlaki ng sa maliit na trak, na ibinenta kina Pangan at Aling Minyang. Hindi lang ang mga isda sa aquarium na namatay dahil nalason ng buhangin mula sa konstraksiyon at pagkakarpintero. Hindi lang ang pagpangalan ko ng â€œOdaâ€? sa instrumental na kantang naisulat isang Pasko habang naaalala si Nana kahit hindi naman talaga mahusay maggitara. Hindi lang ang mahigit sampung taon na ang almusal ay champorado na may kahalong Ovaltine na tinatawag pa rin namin ni kuya na Milo. Hindi lang ang araw-araw na pagkahuli sa morning assembly sa paaralan noong sinusubok pa akong ihatid araw-araw noong elementarya. Hindi lang ang pagtawag sa akin ng nanay ko bilang makasarili sa isang liham sa aming retreat noong 4th year high school, dahil 85
hindi raw ako katulad ng mga contestant sa mga noontime show na umiiyak habang idinedeklara sa telebisyon na ginagawa nila ang anumang ginagawa nila dahil mahal nila ang magulang nila. Sa isip ko may biyahe. Kasimbilis lamang ng biyahe pauwi kapag walang ibang kotse sa daan at walang pagkakataong madisgrasya. Mabilis pa sa pagkakataong sumasakay ako ng taxi pauwi alas-tres na ng umaga kung kailan nararamdaman ng nagmamaneho ng taxi na kailangan niyang masulit ang kalayaan sa bilis ng pagpapatakbo. Na para bang hinahabol ng sarili niyang anino. Kung hindi ngayon magpapatakbo ng sandaang kilometro bawat oras, kailan? Kung kailan hindi na puwede? Subalit sa isip ko, ang biyahe walang patutunguhan. Ilang bilang lamang. Mula sa isang di-matukoy na pinanggalingan patungo sa isang di-matukoy na paroroonan. Basta makagalaw, basta kailangan makita ng iba na may gumagalaw. Basta umabot sa kanila kahit ang isang pangitain, isang imahe. Mabilis lang. Pabilis nang pabilis ang takbo. At saktong hihinto sa sandali bago magsimulang kumapos ang hininga. Sa tunay na biyahe, lagi na akong nakakapit sa makakapitan. Minsan napapadpad ako pauwi mula sa bahagi ng Marikina na malapit sa Nangka. Ang pagsakay ng mga jeep dito na Montalban-Cubao ang ruta, talagang nakalalagot ng hininga. Habang binabaybay ang Concepcion, sa bilis ng pagpapatakbo ay mas karaniwang isipin Bakit wala pang namamatay dito? O kaya Bakit wala pang nababalitang aksidente dito? Dahil talagang nagkakarera ang mga jeep, nag-uunahan, nagpapatugtog ng musikang metal, at nagiging hari ng daan. May dalawang lane lamang. Napapahigpit ang hawak ko. Gusto ko na kapag tumilapon ang jeep ay handa ako. Pagbaba ko sa bandang Sta. Lucia, tahimik na ang 5-minutong jeep at 5-minutong pedicab na de-padyak pauwi. Nagpapahinga ang kapit kahit papaano. Napabibitaw. Isang beses galing inuman, alas-kuwatro na ng umaga, hindi ko maalala ang eksaktong ginawa ko para makauwi. Hindi ko maalala kung nag-taxi ako, kung nag-jeep ako, kung hinatid ako, o kung nagbayad man ako kung sakaling nag-commute nga. Kumatok ako sa tarangkahan. Hindi ko maalala anong arawâ€”basta hindi puwedeng 86
Biyernes o Sabado. Katok ako nang katok. Pinagbuksan ako ng nanay ko. Hindi ako makatingin sa kaniya nang diretso dahil matindi pa ang pagkalango at ayaw kong maamoy niya ang alak mula sa hininga. Para namang hindi niya maaamoy. Anak ka ng tatay mo! Nakita mo nang may pasok na â€˜yung mga kapatid mo tapos gigising na ko maya-maya pinupuyat-puyat mo ko! E ikaw kaya maghanda ng almusal at lahat! Pagkatapos ng lahat iyon ay sinampal niya ako. At napabulong lang ako nang Sorry, Sorry, Sorry. Dumiretso ako paakyat. Inilatag ang sofa bed na hinihigaan. Pagkalagay ng kobre-kama, lumupasay. Kinuha ko ang cellphone, at sinimulang i-text ang mga ka-inuman ko. Oy, nakauwi na ako sana kayo rin. Napaisip saglit. Sinampal pala ako ng nanay ko. Natawa ako. Literal na natawa. Natawanangnatawahabangsumusukonaangkatawansapagodatalak. Kuyom-kuyom nang mahigpit ang cellphone. Nasampal pala ako, ha-ha-ha. Hindi ko na napindot ang send. Bihasa na ako sa matinding pagkapit. Halimbawa, kapag may bitbit akong payong habang nakasabit sa jeep. Bawal mahulog ang payong dahil marami na akong nawalang payong at bawal din naman mahulog mula sa jeep. Kapag hawak ang walis at may papataying ipis. Sa bahay, ako ang laging inaasahan sa ganitong tungkulin. O kaya, noong hawak naming maigi ng kuya ang malaking kahoy habang nilalagari ito ng tatay gamit ang electric jigsaw. Nangarap kami noong bumuo ng homemade na telescope dahil masyado raw mahal bumili ng gawa na. Nagpa-ship pa ang tatay mula sa ibang bansa ng telescope lens na mas malaki sa kahit anong plato. Subalit maraming paglalagari ang kailangan, at magmamanhid ang mga kamay namin noon ng kuya pagkatapos siguraduhing hindi gagalaw ang kahoy. Upang diretso ang paglalagari. Hindi naman masakit dahil wala namang nararamdaman. Na wala naman talagang kaso sa amin dahil nakita namin sa telescope ang pisngi ng buwan na kasinlaki ng platito, tadtad ng mga butas. May nangyari naman noon, at may napala naman kami. May nangyari na kahit papaanoâ€™y katulad noong pahigpit nang pahigpit ang pagkuyom ko sa mga cutter ng blade noong sinisigawan ako. Blangko. Naririnig ko naman kasi siya. Oo, naririnig ko talaga 87
siya, hindi niya na kailangan sumigaw. Hindi pa ganoon kalaki ang bahay noon. Pareho naman kaming nasa sala. Hindi lalagpas sa dalawang metro ang layo namin. Maaabot niya ako kung hahakbang lamang siya ng dalawang beses. Malinaw na malinaw sa alaala ko na naririnig ko siya. Noong binitawan ko na ang mga blade, at mistulang himala na hindi ko napansin, naliligo na ang mga palad ko sa dugo. Napakaraming dugo. Hindi ko yata nakilala ang sariling mga kamay. Kaya napaiyak ako lalo. Matindi-tinding iyak. Siguro, upang marinig. At natatakot sigurong isipin ng kahit sino na hindi ako nakikinig.
louie jon a. sánchez
Desesperado* Hindi na raw kasi táyo mabiro. Ano naman nga Ang kaso kung maganda talaga ang misyonerong Natugis, napatumba ng bala’t sinalaula sa preso? Ano naman daw ngayon kung sa pila, dapat nauna Ang alkalde bago ang mayores? Tumawa naman Ang lahat, at ipagtatanong pa ba ang pagkamapaglaro Kung sa araw-araw na ginawa ng diyos, hitik sa mura Ang bunganga nitong itinuturing na tagapagligtas Na handang bigyan táyo ng malinis na pamamahala? Sagot ng mga kapanalig: sugod, kuyog, mga kapatid! Dahil ang panggagahasa ay biro-biruan lámang, At kahit ang anak ng alkalde ay umaming biktima Ng pagyurak sa puri; ngunit iboboto pa rin niya Ang ama (siyempre, ama niya iyon) at kailangan Lámang matuto táyong umunawa. Alin ba talaga Ang mahirap maunawa? Ang biro o yaong parang Biro na libong humahalakhak sa biro at handang Tugisin ang mga hindi tumatawa? Sana nga’y biro
*Mula sa Tempus Per Annum at Iba Pang Tula 2nd Prize, Tula, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Lámang ang lahat, sapagkat sa panahong malutong Ang tawanan, at aliw ang madla sa astang maginoo Pero medyo bastos—kontrapunto ng lahat ng mahal Na kawastuhang nakasusuka rin naman kalaunan— Lumilitaw na anghel ang desesperasyon, binabati Ang lahat, bigkas ang balita: mamili kayó, mabaliw O masawi? At parang ang sarap magtaas ng kamay At magtanong kung mayroon ba talagang pagpipilian. Binabaliw na táyo ng sari-saring kamatayan, at tanging Gútom ang nag-iisang wikang inuusal ng mga bituka Mula pitak hanggang looban. Baka nga sanggano Ang maaaring tumapat sa mga sanggano ng lipunan, At ang pagtawa’t pagkikibit-balikat sa biro ay paglibak Sa ordeng winindang-windang ang lahat. Maaari nga, Sa kaibuturan ng mga halakhak, naroroong kumikibot Ang akala ng lahat ay patay nang pag-asa, halinhinang Hinahalay sa mahabang panahon ng pananalig sa katwiran At hinahon. Dinarahas ng tawanan ang napatatahimik Sa ngitngit, sa pagtataká sa pagsamba sa bagong poon Na nagtataya, muli at muli, ng kaniyang búhay. Dinarahas Din ng tawanan ang mga humahalakhak dahil kumakapit Sa pangako’t mga narinig nang salita. Mabaliw o masawi, Iyan ang katanungan, at ang bawat isa, sa huli, ay pumipili Ng masisikmura’t maaari’y maitatawang biro ng kapalaran.
Flora, Apayao, 1989* ‘Di man siya gaanong kilala, siyang tinatawag na Franklin, Natunghayan ko sa kaniyang ataul ang kahina-hinayang Na tikas na pinarangal ng inalmirolang uniporme. Gunita ko’y isang malagim na engkuwentro ang ganap Na nagpabalik sa kaniya sa kandungan ng bayang ito, At sa inang halos masiraan ng bait, nakaupo sa gilid Ng puting kabaong. Kaysinop ng pagkakabihis, kontrapunto Ng terminal na paghimbing: banaag pa sa kaniyang noo Ang tila kirot ng pagkubkob sa kaniya ng rebeldeng bala. Ililibing na siya noon, pinasisilip ang buong baryo sa huling Pagkakataon; naglulupasay ang ina, tanghal ang dalamhati Habang nagbebelo ng itim ang kamag-anakang kasama— Sumilip din ako, at sumulak sa dibdib ang isang ‘di kilalang Damdamin. Isang musmos, tumitingkayad sa harap ng ataul, Nakikibahagi sa luksang mapanakop, minamalas ang labí Ng ‘di kilalang kapitbahay—kinislutan ng habiling mistula Tandaan, tandaan ito. Isinara ang ataul. Nagpugay-putok Ang mga kabarong tutók ang nguso ng mga armas sa lupa.
*Mula sa Tempus Per Annum at Iba Pang Tula 2nd Prize, Tula, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Sa Pag-aabang sa Traysikel Isang Tanghali* Binubuklat ko ang Western Wind ni Nims habang kalmot Ng alinsangan ang aking mukha. Nása bandang simula Ako ng aklat kung saan iginigiit ang ipakita; huwag sabihin Ay biglang lumitaw sa harap ko ang binatilyong lango Yata sa kung ano at inusisa ako, anong kuwento iyan ha, Anong kuwento niyan? Salat ng gitla ko ang gaspang, ‘Di lámang ng kaniyang mukha, pati na ng nakasisindak Niyang tapang. Mapilit siya, ano, ano, Wild Wild Western ba iyan, at akmang hahablutin na ang libro kundi lámang Nakalayô ako nang bahagya at nagsabing ano ka ba? Mistulang nais magbakod pati balintataw ko habang dinig Ang pabulong-bulong niya na nagpasyang lumayo na rin, Pakunwang may ikinakasang baril sa pagsulyap ko, tutók Sa akin ang daliri, at ang sabi’y bang, bang, babarilin kita, Ano? Ha? Sabay kindat at karipas patungo sa hindi ko na Alam. Patuloy ng libro, nang balikan ko, mabuti pang Magsalaysay ng mga halimbawa ng matulain kaysa Magkasya sa bahaw ng pakahulugan. Hindi ko tiyak
*Mula sa Tempus Per Annum at Iba Pang Tula 2nd Prize, Tula, 2016 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Kung ibig lámang bang ipamalas sa akin ng uniberso Ang bagabag na maaaring magsakatawan, magpahamak, Nakatayo ka man sa kanto, nag-aabang ng masasakyan. Ang tula, kunsabagay, ay isa ring bagabag, nakamasid Sa kislot ng imahen, at sa akmang sandali, sasaklutin Ito upang sa mithing paghuhunos ay ganap na dahasin. Dapat na bang mabuhay na saklot ng takot sa nakaabang? Maaari’y baka nga parang búhay lámang ang pagbuklat Ng teksbuk ng mga tula; nakaapak ka sa mga pagkamálay Na dala ng turo hinggil sa tula, ng pahiwatig sa mga tula, Maging sa bawat pagkagisíng sa daigdig, na laging handa Sa mga pangyanig na ‘di mawaring huwad o tunay na banta.
MV Isip. Aokigahara (series) i. Photography and photomanipulation.
Aokigahara (series) ii. Photography and photomanipulation.
Aokigahara (series) iii. Photography and photomanipulation.
Patricia Laudencia. Noise (series) i. Digital photography.
Noise (series) ii. Digital Photography.
Noise (series) iii. Digital Photography.
Richard Mercado. Sometime Ago. Digital.
Celline Marge Mercado. 1 from Bawal â€˜Yan (series). Digital.
2 from Bawal â€˜Yan (series). Digital.
3 from Bawal â€˜Yan (series). Digital.
4 from Bawal â€˜Yan (series). Digital.
6 from Bawal â€˜Yan (series). Digital.
Mia Claudio. Kyoto Drift from Currents (series). Acrylic paint on printed photographs.
Natureâ€™s Broadcast from Currents (series). Acrylic paint on printed photographs.
Sam David Felix. Peace. Pinhole photography.
Karl Estuart. The Blueprint. Digital photography.
Celline Marge Mercado. Wrong Side of the Bed. Cold-press board, paper clay, and acrylic.
Wrong Side of the Bed (detail).
Wrong Side of the Bed (detail).
Sam David Felix. Panglao, Bohol. Pinhole photography.
Celline Marge Mercado. Behind the Trees. Acrylic and ink. 8 x 12 in.
Ninna Lebrilla. Going Home. Ink and watercolor. 7 x 10 in.
Going Home (Family House; supporting media). Ink and watercolor. 4.5 x 6.5 in.
Going Home (Luto-Luto; supporting media). Ink and watercolor. 3.5 x 5.5 in.
Going Home (Childâ€™s Play; supporting media). Ink and watercolor. 3.5 x 5.5 in.
Going Home (Tresspass for Dragonflies; supporting media). Ink and watercolor. 5.5 x 3.5 in.
Sam David Felix. Psalm 89:9/Growth. Pinhole photography.
Reina Krizel J. Adriano (4 BFA Creative Writing) Reina is currently completing her double major after graduating with a degree in BS Applied Mathematics with specialization in Mathematical Finance last June 2016. She has been published previously in heights, PLURAL, and transit, and has joined writing workshops such as ahww 20, anww 14, and IWP-Nonfiction2015. She doesn't like pineapples on her pizza. Ben Aguilar (BS Health Sciences 2015) Graduated with a degree in Health Sciences and a Minor in Creative Writing from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he received the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for poetry. He was a fellow for the Iligan National Writers Workshop. He is currently taking up a degree in medicine at Xavier University—Jose P. Rizal School of Medicine, Cagayan de Oro City. His poems have appeared in heights and Rambutan Literary. Marco Bartolome (4 AB Literature-English) Marco is a senior literature major. His favorite Pokémon route is Route 119. Anna Nicola M. Blanco (4 AB Communication) “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” —Gabriel Garcia Marquez Anna Nicola Blanco is a senior communication major specializing in journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is also pursuing minor degrees in Spanish and Creative Writing. She is currently the Managing Editor for External Affairs of heights Ateneo. Some of her works may be found in MVNDO, PLURAL Prose Journal, Rappler, The Fat Kid Inside, and Mabuhay Magazine.This and all her other works are dedicated to her parents.
Gabrielle Ruth P. Briones (4 BFA Creative Writing) Ligaw sa pagtingin sa sarili, hahayaan niyang boses ng iba ang magpinta ng kanyang imahe. “You’re a strong girl. I hope you know that.” (Ng, 2014) “Although silent, you seem like an interesting artist.” (Galang, 2014) “Meow!!!” (Guevara, 2016) “I want to get to know you more.” (Fuentebella, 2014) “Thanks sa #extrarice!” (Concepcion, 2016) “To a great year next year!” (Maceren, 2014) “Drawings ko!” (Wy, 2014) Nais magpasalamat ni Ruth sa mga taong ito at sa mga taong nakilala niya sa aclc. Mga milagro kayo. Views may not represent that of the described. May change without prior notice. Quoted without permission. Regine Cabato (AB Communication 2016) “Naniniwala ka ba na may kuwenta sila dahil may kuwento sila?” —Dr. Roberto Guevara on the poor, TEDxAdMU 2015 Regine Cabato currently works at cnn Philippines, where she writes for both broadcast and digital platforms. 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, and Cha Literary Journal. She hails from Zamboanga City and is currently adjusting to working life and a new house in Makati. 123
Mark Anthony Cayanan (Department of English) Mark Anthony Cayanan obtainedanMFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is the recipient of a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in Umbertide, Italy. He has released two full-length poetry books—Narcissus (AdMU Press, 2011) and Except you enthrall me (UP Press, 2013), which was given the 2015 Loyola Schools Award for Outstanding Scholarly and Creative Work Award in the Humanities—and two chapbooks—Shall we be kind and suffer each other (High Chair, 2013) and Forfeit (Youth & Beauty Brigade, 2015). This poem previously appeared in the chapbook Forfeit (Youth & Beauty Brigade, 2015). Its incipient version is an erasure of The Art and Science of Embalming: Descriptive and Operative by Carl Lewis Barnes (1898). Mia Claudio (3 BFA Information Design) Mia Claudio is currently a third year BFA Information Design student in the Ateneo de Manila University. She involves herself in several creative sectors of school organizations, and her main interests and experience range from skills such as painting, illustration, graphic design, and photography. Carlomar Arcangel Daoana (Department of Fine Arts) Carlomar Arcangel Daoana is the author of four collections of poetry, with Loose Tongue: Poems 2001-2013, published by the UST Publishing House in 2014, as the most recent. His poems have been anthologized in the Vagabond Asia Pacific Poetry Series, published by Vagabond Press which is based in Australia. He received First Place and Second Place honors in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in the English Poetry category for his collections, “The Elegant Ghost” (2012) and “Crown Sonnet for Maria” (2013), respectively. A regular columnist for the Arts and Culture section of the Philippine Star, he teaches at the Fine Arts Department of the Ateneo de Manila University. 124
Luigi dela Peña (AB Economics 2016) Kasalukuyang nauubos ang oras ni Luigi sa pagbibiyahe mula Cavite hanggang Ortigas (at pauwi). Sa pagitan ng paglisan at pagbalik, patuloy pa rin siyang nagbabakasakali (at naghahanap ng maginoo subalit medyo bastos). Baka mali. Baka maaari. Muli’t muli siyang nagpapasalamat sa ahww 21, heights, at sa lahat ng naniwalang guro’t kaibigan para sa pagkakataong ito. Sana makapagpatuloy. Karl Estuart (3 BS Applied Mathematics, Major in Finance) Parati na lang nagugulat. Sam David Felix (BS Environmental Science 2014) Sam David Felix is a science teacher and hobbyist photographer based in Yokohama, Japan. He is the creator of Miru Cameras—a brand of self-made and handcrafted wooden pinhole cameras. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science in 2014 and uses photography to express His love for nature and its Creator. David has hosted two solo exhibitions of his pinhole camera creations and pinhole photographs at the Café by the Ruins Dua in Baguio City and at CASA San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales. Jerome Flor (4 AB Psychology) Toilets. Chicken. Chubby Chicken. Burgers. Green mangoes. Not pizza. Barbecue sauce. Sausage fingers. Pretty pictures. Elevators. Walking slow. Jeepney stops. Home. Home-home. Sleep. Couches. Stairs. Long hugs. Rain. Shoulders, neck, and collarbones. The scar on your lip. The glow of moon once again. A breath. Hello.
Martina M. Herras (2 AB Literature-English) conquistador MV Isip (AB Communication 2015) 21. Pretty odd perspectives. Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (AB Communication 2001) Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta is the author of two poetry collections: The Proxy Eros (2008) and Burning Houses (2013). She obtained an MFA from the New School University in 2004, and has since taught in major universities in Manila. She is the editor of Metro Serye, a fold-out zine featuring new poetry, fiction, and graphic. Widely awarded, she was the Filipino delegate to the 2012 Medellín Poetry Festival and the 2016 Macua Literary Festival. In 2015, she completed a writing residency for the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Patricia Laudencia (3 AB Communication) People think I take drugs but I actually don’t. Jah bless. “Here am I floating round my tin can Far above the Moon Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do.” —David Bowie Ninna Lebrilla (3 BFA Information Design) My works are part of my ongoing process of healing and acceptance, dealt through bravery and forgiveness.
Cymon Kayle Lubangco (2 AB Economics) Napakasayang mahumaling sa panitikan ng Pilipinas, lalo na’t nakakayanang mapaglaruan ang mga maniningning na salita para gumawa ng talinhagang hindi inaakala. Iyan ang paniniwala ni Cymon Lubangco ukol sa pagmamahal sa panitikan. Isa mga katangiang kinahuhumalingan ni Cymon sa panitikan ay ang paglikha ng isang madilim na daigdig gamit ang mga maliliwanag na salita. Celline Marge Mercado (3 BFA Information Design) “I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” —David Bowie Celline does freelance. Contact her through email: email@example.com Richard Mercado (4 BFA Information Design) Richard Mercado makes a lot of komiks. Patricia Celina Ngo (4 BS Management Engineering) Patricia Celina Ngo is a writer of children’s literature. She writes for children because she hopes to inspire children to imagine and dream. Her first book, Blanket, is part of Anvil Publishing’s Picture Poetry Series. She is currently finishing her degree in BS Management Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Amando Jose J. Perez (BS Management 2003) Before Manjo takes on his ambition of penning a book when he retires from the corporate world, he wants to join a rock band if he ever learns to play the guitar on his third attempt in two decades, knot a neck tie without the aid of a YouTube instructional video, and explore around the world with his wife beyond the 25 countries travelled—never mind his inability to pack light. As a former expat in Dubai, he was the editor-in-chief of Parola Dubai (bi-monthly CFC newsletter with a readership of over 500 members). His poems were published previously in heights and Illustrado Magazine. He religiously logs a daily journal entry to keep himself sane from the metro traffic. When he’s not writing profound poems or inane chronicles, he either works out in the gym with aspirations of duplicating Ryan Gosling’s physique or tediously updates any of his sixteen checklists. Allan Popa (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Nagtuturo si Allan Popa sa Ateneo de Manila University at kumukuha ng Ph.D. in Literature sa De La Salle University. Nagtapos siya ng MFA in Writing sa Washington University in Saint Louis kung saan siya nagwagi ng Academy of American Poets Prize at Norma Lowry Memorial Prize. Awtor siya ng sampung aklat ng mga tula kabilang na ang Incision (UST Publishing House, 2016), Drone (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2013), at Laan (De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013). Ginawaran na siya ng Philippines Fress Literary Award at Manila Critics Circle National Book Award for Poetry. Louie Jon A. Sánchez (Department of English) Guro ng panitikan, pagsulat, at kulturang popular sa Department of English, School of Humanities. Awtor ng Kung Saan Sa Katawan (tula, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House), At Sa Tahanan ng Alabok (tula, UST Publishing House), at Pagkahaba-haba man ng Prusisyon (malikhaing sanaysay, University of the Philippines Press). 128
Michelle Tiu Tan (BFA Creative Writing 2011) Michelle Tiu Tan took up her MA in Creative Writing (Prose) at the University of East Anglia, where she was awarded the Southeast Asian Bursary and a Dissertation Distinction. Her stories have been published in the Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Kritika Kultura, and Likhaan. Paolo Tiausas (Department of Fine Arts) Paolo Tiausas holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Ateneo de Manila University. His works have appeared in Kritika Kultura, Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, heights, Softblow, PLURAL: Online Prose Journal, Art+ Magazine, and Philippines Free Press. He was also shortlisted for the Purita Kalaw Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism in the 2015 Ateneo Art Awards. He is currently taking his MA in Literature (Filipino) in admu, and he teaches in the Department of Fine Arts. Michaela Gonzales Tiglao (3 BS Psychology) A sentenced man finds himself at the end of a sentence. Joshua Uyheng (4 BS Mathematics) “We stood there. Your face went out a long time before the rest of it. Can’t see you anymore I said. Nor I, / you, whatever you still were / replied. / When I asked you to hold me you refused. / When I asked you to cross the six feet of room to hold me / you refused.” —Jorie Graham, “What the End is For” For all the promises which become noise, the noise which becomes promises.
Errata Patricia Laudencia’s “Noise” (series) should have been published in heights vol. 63 no. 2. It has been included in this folio. In heights Seniors Folio 2016, Aces Amor’s piece should read “The Legend of Claire Dimawala” instead of “The Legend of Claire Demanawa.” The heights editorial board would like to apologize for the aforementioned mistakes.
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. Benilda S. Santos 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. Katherine Culaba and the Sector-Based Cluster Mr. Dren Pavia and the Loyola Film Circle Ms. Alyssa Villanueva and Smaller and Smaller Circles Dr. Vincenz Serrano and Kritika Kultura Ms. Frances Christine Sayson and The Guidon Mr. Rambo Talabong 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
Editorial Board Editor - in - Chief Ida Nicola A. de Jesus [bfa id 2017] Associate Editor Juan Marco S. Bartolome [ab lit (eng) 2017] Managing Editor for External Affairs Anna Nicola M. Blanco [ab com 2017] for Internal Affairs Micah Marie F. Naadat [ab com 2017] for Finance Meryl Christine J. Medel [ab lit (eng) 2017] Art Editor Yuri Ysabel G. Tan [bfa id 2018] Associate Art Editor Robyn Angeli D. Saquin [bfa id 2018] Design Editor Ninna D. Lebrilla [bfa id 2018] Associate Design Editor Marco Emmanuel T. Torrijos [bs mgt 2018] English Editor Gabrielle Frances R. Leung [bs ps 2018] Associate English Editor Michaela Marie G. Tiglao [bs psy 2018] Filipino Editor Reina Krizel J. Adriano [bfa cw 2017] Associate Filipino Editor Martina M. Herras [ab lit (eng) 2019] Production Manager Alexandria T. Tuico [bfa am 2018] Associate Production Manager Ma. Diana Therese G. Calleja [ab com 2018] Heights Online Editor Janella Grace H. Paris [ab com 2017] 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 Jose Fernando Go - Oco Moderator for Production Enrique Jaime S. Soriano Moderator for Heights Online Nicko Reginio Caluya
Staffers Art Marie Gabrielle Acosta, Eunice Arevalo, Florenz Balane, Victoria Barcelon, Jayvee del Rosario, Lasmyr Diwa Edullantes, Karl Estuart, Corinne Garcia, Fernando Miguel Lofranco, Anna Nieves Rosario Marcelo, Arianna Carmela Mercado, Celline Marge Mercado, Lorenzo Narciso, Kimberly Que, Andrea Micheline Ramos, Kristelle Ramos, Enzo M. Samson, Jose Carlos Joaquin Singson, Alexandria Tuico, Fleurbelline Vocalan, Dexter Yu Design
Dianne Aguas, Kim Alivia, Rico Cruz, Justine Daquioag, Zoe de Ocampo, Inya de Vera, Sophia Demanawa, Anfernee Dy, Gianne Encarnacion, Miguel N. Galace, Maxine Garcia, Arien M. Lim, Richard Mercado, Tea Pedro, Jeanine Rojo, Gabby Segovia, Jonah Velasquez
Rayne Aguilar, Cat Aquino, Alec Bailon, Sophia Bonoan, Danie Cabahug, Karl Estuart, Jamz Gutierrez, Arien M. Lim, Daniel Manguerra, Ryan Molen, Monica Nery, Lia Paderon, Janelle Paris, Andy Reysio-Cruz, Frances Sayson, Reina Tamayo, Alie Unson, Joshua Uyheng, Nigel Yu, Tim Yusingco
Jerome Flor, Danilo Gubaton, Mark Christian Guinto, Cymon Kayle Lubangco, Gerald Manuel, Jose Alfonso Mirabueno, Jelmer Jon Ochoa, King Reinier Palma, Dorothy Claire G. Parungao, Paco Rivera, Elija Torre, Loreben Tuquero, Joshua Uyheng
Jeremy Alog, Jill Arteche, Kai Bartolome, Ponch Castor, Luisa dela Cruz, Anja Deslate, Marion Emmanuel Lopez, Santi Martinez, Anton Molina, Luigi Reyes, Max Suarez, Neil Vildad, Pia Zulueta
Heights Online Denise C. Ang, Jose Gabriel C. Amantoy, Marianne Antonio, Anne Nicole R. Dolfo, Corinne Garcia, Janelle Kaela Malig, Patrick Henderson T. Ong, Janine Ysabel B. Peralta, Neil Vildad
7th ateneo heights artists workshop
october 29 – 30, 2016 Boso-boso Highlands Resort and Convention Center, Antipolo
Panelists Aldy Aguirre Ian Carlo Jaucian Jay Javier Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Meneer Marcelo Tokwa Peñaflorida Claro Ramirez Jr. Brent Sabas Yeo Kaa Fellows Marie Gabrielle Acosta [digital and film photography] Madellaine Callanta [acrylic, oil, and charcoal] John Lazir Caluya [digital illustration] Inya de Vera [traditional media] Ross Du [digital illustration] Christine Dy [charcoal, digital illustration, graphite, and watercolor] Ninna Lebrilla [digital illustration] Gaby Tan [digital painting, ink, mixed media, and watercolor] Gaby Taylo [traditional and mixed media] Marco T. Torrijos [ink on paper] Workshop Directors Marco Bartolome Yuri Tan
Workshop Deliberation Committee Mr. John Alexis Balaguer Ms. Ja Cabato Mr. JPaul Marasigan Workshop Committee Reina Adriano, Celline Marge Mercado, Richard Mercado [logistics team] Lasmyr Diwa Edullantes, Robyn Saquin, Alex Tuico [promotions team] Kristoff Sison, Ida de Jesus [online team] Finance Meryl Medel Design Maxine Garcia Zoe de Ocampo Workshop Moderator Yael Buencamino Head Moderator Allan Alberto N. Derain