heights tomo 68 bilang 1 Karapatang-ari 2020 heights ang opisyal na pampanitikang at pangsining na publikasyon at organizasyon ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Reserbado ang karapatang-ari sa mga indibidwal na awtor ng mga akda ng isyung ito. Hindi maaaring ilathala, ipakopya, o ipamudmod sa anumang anyo ang mga akda nang walang pahintulot ng mga may-akda. Hindi maaaring ibenta sa kahit anong paraan at pagkakataon ang kopyang ito. Maaaring makipag-ugnayan sa: heights, Publications Room, mvp 202 Ateneo de Manila University p.o. Box 154, 1099 Manila, Philippines Tel. no. (632) 426-6001 loc. 5448 heightsâ€Š-â€Šateneo.com facebook.com/HeightsAteneo @HeightsAteneo Malikhaing Direksyon: Giulia Clara R. Lopez Dibuho ng pabalat: Giulia Clara R. Lopez Paglalapat: Tricia R. Alcantara, Eli Alconis, Alfonso Arellano, Kessa Avila, Ven Bello, Jana Codera, Lia Datiles, Carmen Dolina, Patricia Grace Fermin, Sarah Huang, Anya Nellas, Ash Santos, MJ Sison, Justin Dhaniel Tan, Trisha Tan, Mia Tupas, Dagny Eran Yenko Folio Launch Team: Faith Santos, Psyche Villanueva, Charles Yuchioco, Mariana Gardoce, Aisha Said, MM Silverio, Cad Dionco, Alex Ferreras, Bianca Mallari, Sofia Guanzon Inilimbag sa mvb Verdigris
Mga Nilalaman Tokador 2 oda sa bl story kong hindi kailanman matutuloy Regina G. Posadas 3 Dito, dâ€™yan, at sa dako roon Adrian Soriano 5 Pakibalik ng Brip Ko Sola Fide Ramos 24 typhoon imperyo John Joseph D.J. Gabata 25 Langit at Biyaya Richell Isaiah S. Flores 29 Alimpungat 30 Sa Tabi ng Bintana, malapit sa Palaisdaan ng di kilalang Kababayan Emmanuel B. Lacadin 33 PAHINA 45 Jerome Matthew Maiquez 34 pulĂ´ 35 orsem Bea Racoma 36 what feet will you wear today 37 There Are No Walls Here, Only Time Mark Anthony Cayanan 39 Motus animi continuus Maria Larga 50 From the Margins Sean Carballo 63 Mutable Fragment 65 Consolation
Pilar Gonzalez 67 Broken Dolls Cate Roque 82 a definitive list of quarantine dreams and headlines Andy Reysio-Cruz 84 Love is the Deep, Dark Woods Regine Cabato 101 Marawi is Trending Mahika Realismo 104 Asin Kerima Ruth M. Sonaco 105 Dalisay Zofia Agama 106 FamilyMart Briana Louise M. Cayetano 108 Iâ€™m getting sadder and sadder every day Pete Manuel L. Roxas 110 Inhibitions Ruby Regine Descalzo 111 pukingan Kristina I. Valera 115 Synchronous Cramming Corinne Garcia 116 20 Seconds (Wash, Rinse, Repeat) Celline Marge Mercado 117 Lost count of
Editoryal The 68th year of Heights opened with confusion and chaos as the fated headline on the novel coronavirus brought the world to an unprecedented halt. In a blink of an eye, the Ateneoâ€™s doors, once packed with bustle and ambition, fell silent and weary, as news of the virus deprived the world of any hope or vision of a future. Many were fearful and uncertain; cooped in homes and holding on to loved ones, while, right outside their doorsteps, the pandemic war went on. Recession, unemployment, and labor cutdown left families indisposed. Elders, infants, health professionals, and civilians were laid to waste, incarcerated, or killed. The country was left starving and devastated while government leaders held mananita parties, constructed dolomite beaches, and accumulated significantly enormous debt in a deliberately ignorant fiasco. As the 67th Editorial Board concluded its term with the noise folio, Tinig, the national government capitalized on the global quandary as an opportunity to hamper censure and dissent with the passing of the anti-terror law expedited and the ABS-CBN shutdown prioritized over gearing efforts toward pandemic response. Within this climate, the publication both struggled and found its direction. Guided by the thrust: emboldening the conscious creation of art and literature in times of upheaval, for its 68th year, the publication heeded to the urgency of being oriented, aware, and conscious of confronting these glaring realities and ascertained that creation today comes with both courage and responsibility. Opening the year with a themeless call for contributions, the publication sought to find answers in overwhelming silence and strife; providing the community a site for oneâ€™s afflictions, introspection, and liberation to define our times in their own terms.
In voicing these narratives from laptop screens, window views, and within the comforts–or discomforts–of homes, Heights LXVIII No. I inadvertently became a rumination within confinement and an attempt to interrogate and understand what it means to grapple with the immediacy, inescapability, and vulnerability that comes in containment. Beginning with how different lives are affected within larger structures, from a critical level to a microscale, Corinne Garcia’s “20 seconds (Wash, Rinse, Repeat)” and Zofia Agama’s “FamilyMart” envision the kind of normalcy we face today with imposed procedures on patterned hand washing and mandatory masks. Normalcy across different walks of life is also explored in Bea Racoma’s “what feet will you wear today” and Emmanuel B. Lacadin’s “Pahina 45” as they bring to light differently angled realities in the shoes of a housewife, a palengke vendor, and a farmer, and in the eyes of an impressionable child who misses playing with his friends outdoors. Underlying these images of the mundane, there is also a melancholic evanescence that is emulated in today’s atmosphere in the validity of grief suppressed in Pete Manuel Roxas’s “Inhibitions”, in the excruciating wait depicted in Celline Marge Mercado’s “Lost count of ”, in the ambivalent emotions represented in everyday pills in Brianna Louise M. Cayetano’s “I’m getting sadder and sadder every day”, and in the poignant feeling of isolation in an island motif in Jerome Matthew Maiquez’s “pulo”, where a farsighted vision of a river is the only thing waiting beyond the horizon. While these grievances and frustrations capture emotions in confinement, there are also works that resist and challenge it through playful discourse, like Pilar Gonzalez’s “Broken Dolls”, where one clamors in being forced to deal with the fears and traumas intensified in the domestic space, or Adrian Soriano’s satirical comedy “Pakibalik ang Brip Ko”, where institutional confines are blurred through an exchange between a criminal and a civilian on the war on drugs, or Ruby Regine Descalzo’s “pukingan”, where viii
one acutely pokes fun at puke’s or vaginas to illustrate the way the problem vacillates from private jokes to global stigma. The works acknowledge that there is something wrong in containment and directs causes to an unexpected storm like that in Sola Fide Ramos’s “typhoon imperio” or to an all-over-the-place dictator like in Mark Anthony Cayanan’s “Motus animi continuus”. In this same vein of recognition, the works in the folio also articulate a rebellion against structures in containment portrayed in Maria Larga’s short story, “From the Margins”, which critiques a disintegrating political atmosphere in the urban setting through a brewing mass insurgency, and in Andy-Reysio Cruz’s folkloric, magic realist romance “Love is the Deep Dark Woods” which characterizes two lovers where one dreams of revolution while the other simply yearns for stability. While there is nonconformity in rebellion, the works in the folio also express nonconformity in the desire to be free as one reflects in a stream of consciousness in Richell Isaiah S. Flores’s “Alimpungat”, as one traverses time and recreates someone as home in Bea Racoma’s “There Are No Walls Here, Only Time”, as one revitalizes wonder and fascination, and reaffirms human connection in Sean Carballo’s “Consolation”, as one calls back fondly to being with friends in Kristina Valera’s “Synchronous Cramming”, and finally, as one remembers the amalgam of today’s realities in Cate Roque’s “a definitive list of quarantine dreams and headlines” marked in virtual headlines we lest not forget in Regine Cabato’s “Marawi is Trending. From the beginning of its term, the publication never fully anticipated what would come out of returning to a themeless call, but it knew that, in facing an exacerbated political climate, it became all the more urgent to open a site for empathy, agency, and freedom. Within constraints, there are many things that have left to pass unattended. In the heterogeneity of preoccupations and plights, individual realities are almost lost in the vast backdrop of the global ix
contextâ€”so what point is there in creating anything today? It is true that art and literature are intrinsically void of meaning, and that they cannot save lives like vaccines nor eradicate the structures that contain us. Yet the impulse to create today is vigorous, alive. Many continue to write for the days stolen, the tears shed, the lives lost, the harrowing wounds procured, and the moments of inspiration, indignation, and exasperation that mark our era. Because survival today is a creative force that cannot be contained. At a historical juncture of alienated normalcy, Heights continues to hark back to the need of re-evaluating oneâ€™s place within these times and returns to the question: what does upheaval mean for the Atenean in the first place? Heights LXVIII No. I ventured to disclose the answers by posing more questions situated in our realities. But where do you stand amid these issues? Zofia Lyne R. Agama December 2020
oda sa bl story kong hindi kailanman matutuloy nang balikan ko ang ating mga larawan at basahin ang mga nakasulat na entry sa journal kong tungkol sa iyo, napaisip ako, paano kung naging tayo? hindi nakatulong na kakatapos ko pa lang manood ng isang thai drama, at sinasabi ko sa iyo, inisip kong doon, tayong dalawa ang bida. kung bakit ba naman nasa likod ng mga sulat noong graduation ang dalawang sulat mong pinakaiingatan ko. pati iyong retratong nasa sala, naka-frame, binuksan ko para basahin ang sulat mo para sa akin. hindi gaanong maganda ang sulat mo sa totoo lang, pero naaalala ko ang paghawak mo sa ballpen, medyo nadudulas dahil napapasma ka. ang kamay na sumulat ng mga sulat na ito ang siya ring kumuha ng mga retratong pinakaiingatan ko. ang mga kamay na tumugtog ng gitarang nagpapakalma sa damdamin ko. di ako makapaniwalang maiisip pa rin pala kita. kung bl ang kwento ng buhay ko, malamang sa malamang nagawan ko na ng paraan para sabihin sa iyo na mahal kita nang higit pa sa inaakala mo. di hamak nang pasmado ka, magpawis ka man sa mga kamay ko habang naglalakad o naglalampungan tayo. pero kontento na ako rito, ang magbasa ng sulat ng kahapong sinulat ng iyong basang kamay. habang nasa akin pa rin ang katanungan, paano kung naging tayo?
regina g. posadas
Dito, d'yan, at sa dako roon Saan ka pupunta? D’yan lang, aniya. Saan ang “d'yan”? Malapit lang, at kahit saan na walang ingay, takot, pagod o lamay. D’yan lang, kung saan talo at maglalaho lahat ng pasaway at hindi masupil; pati na rin yaong karumal-dumal, kahindik-hindik, at karimarimarim. Saan ba ang “d'yan” na 'yan? Hindi ko maintindihan. Sagot mo’y malabo at hindi tiyak. May misteryo ba d’yan, hiwagang taglay, o lihim na nakatago? Basta, d’yan lang. Kung saan may liwanag, linaw, at ligaya. Bagama't hindi matanto, may kukuha at tatanggap, at pagbabagong ganap.
Huwag nang alamin Kung saan ang “d’yan”. Mapa dito, d’yan o sa dako roon, Ang layo at lapit, huwag nang sukatin. Hindi man makita, sana’y maniwala: Bawat hakbang palayo ay paglapit sa tadhana. Ngunit bakit hindi mawala itong bagabag sa iyong pag-alis? Pakiwari ko’y ang “d’yan” ay ang katapusan, isang pagwawakas, at wala nang balikan. Maaari bang sumama? Malapit lang naman. Madadala mo ba ako d’yan? Babalik ka, rito, diba? At hindi mo ako iiwan?
Pakibalik ng Brip Ko mga tauhan lalaki – 22 na taon. Pupunta ng grocery para bumili ng sibuyas at bell pepper. Gagawa siya ng stir fry noodles para sa kanyang pamilya pang tanghalian. Naka-basketball shorts siya at puting t-shirt. May dala-dalang wallet at cellphone. snatcher – 16-18 na taon. Mahirap siya kaya snatcher siya. Nakajersey siya at shorts. Maliit lang siya. Maitim ang kulay ng balat. pulis – Nasa 30’s na. Medyo mataba. Mukhang laging pawis. tagpuan Eskinita. Tapat ng bahay. May mga wanted poster ng mga trabaho, apartment for rent, at ng mga politiko sa dalawang poste.
Magsisimula ang dula sa sigaw ng isang PULIS na tumatawag sa SNATCHER. Tutunog ang isang malaking bagsak. Nakatayo lang ang lalaki sa gitna ng entablado. Maririnig ang mga tunog sa stage left. pulis
Hoy tumigil ka. Bumalik ka dito, snatcher!
Bobo, ba’t ako babalik sa’yo?
Tatakbo palabas ng stage right ang SNATCHER. Huhuliin ng LALAKI ‘yung SNATCHER. snatcher
Pakawalan mo ako, gago!
‘Wag ka nga magulo. Ba’t ka nanggaling sa bakod na ‘yun? At ano ‘yang bag na ‘yan. Sa’yo ba ‘yan?
snatcher Ang dami mong tanong, sino ka ba? ‘Di naman kita kilala. pulis
Hoy may tao ba diyan? Ser, naririnig niyo ba ako?
Opo. Nahuli ko po ‘yung hinahabol niyo. Hintayin na lang ba kita, boss?
Tangina mo, baboy! Ang bagal mo tumakbo!
Kakausapin ang SNATCHER. pulis
Ang yabang-yabang mo. Tingnan natin, barilin kita diyan.
Kausap ang LALAKI.
Ayos, hintayin mo lang ako diyan. Iikot ako. Hawakan mo lang ‘yang pulubi na ‘yan.
Sige lang po.
Aalis ang PULIS. Susubukan tumakas ng SNATCHER. snatcher
Pare, pulis ka ba?
‘Yun naman pala. Pakawalan mo na lang ako. Wala ka namang kinalaman dito.
Ayoko nga. Kriminal ka. Papunta na ‘yung pulis. Bakit pa kita papakawalan?
Sabi nang pakawalan mo ako ‘di ba?
Tatamaan ng SNATCHER ang LALAKI sa tiyan gamit ang kanyang siko. lalaki
Aray ko! Sumuko ka na nga lang!
Ayaw ko! Ayokong makulong gago!
Tinatamaan pa rin niya ang LALAKI gamit ang kanyang siko. Mapapakawalan ng LALAKI at mapapadapa siya sa sakit. Mahuhulog ang wallet at cellphone ng LALAKI. lalaki
Sabi nang sumuko ka na!
Tanga ka rin, ‘no? Ang dami-dami mong dala, sa
tingin mo mahuhuli mo ako? Bobo! 7
Naglalakad kang mag-isa, hawak-hawak ‘yung
cellphone at wallet.
Kukunin ng SNATCHER ang gamit ng LALAKI. Nasa lapag pa rin ang LALAKI. lalaki Hoy ibalik mo ‘yan, pera ko ‘yan pang stir-fry noodles ko! snatcher
Tangina mo, ‘di ko alam ‘yun!
Habang nasa sahig pa rin ang LALAKI, susubukan niyang kumapit sa paa ng SNATCHER. Mahahatak niya ang shorts at briefs ng SNATCHER. snatcher
Hoy… Ano ‘yan? Tigilan mo nga ako!
Hihilain at kukunin niya ang shorts at briefs ng SNATCHER. Tatalikuran ng SNATCHER ang LALAKI. lalaki
‘Yan sige, takas ka na!
Gusto ko lang naman tumakas sa pulis. Bakit mo naman kinuha pati brip ko?
Matapang ka, ‘di ba? Tumatakas ka sa pulis. Gumagawa ka ng krimen. Sige, takas ka na rin sa akin. Hubad ka nga lang.
Paano akong uuwi ng nakaganito? Mag-jejeep ako, nang nakahubad lang? Minsan nga nakasabit
lang ako e. Papalipad–liparin ko lang ‘yung tite ko? Kadiri ka.
Ako pa ‘yung kadiri. Ikaw nga ‘yung nanghubad sa akin.
Tumahimik ka. Itatapon ko ito, sa kanal.
‘Wag naman ganyan, kuya. Balik mo na lang sa akin ‘yung damit ko.
Anong kuya? Fuck you. Ibalik mo ‘yung mga ninakaw mo at sumuko ka na sa pulis.
Balik ko na lang ‘yung sa’yo, kuya. Tapos balik mo ‘yung sa’kin. ‘Wag na tayo magpahirapan.
‘Lang hiya ka. Gusto mo lang tumakas. Sumuko ka na lang.
Hihinga nang malalim ang SNATCHER. Magsasalita siya nang mahina. snatcher
Ididikit ko ‘to, sa’kin.
Anong sabi mo?
Magsasalita ang SNATCHER nang mas malakas. snatcher
Putangina, kung ayaw mong ibalik ‘yung brip ko, gagawin kong brip ang wallet mo.
What the fuck? Anong problema—
Ilalapit ng SNATCHER ang wallet sa ari niya. 9
Gagawin ko talaga!
Wait! Teka lang! Bakit mo ba kasi kailangan magnakaw?
Wala ka nang pakialam doon.
lalaki Bakit hindi ka na lang maghanap ng maayos na trabaho? snatcher
Sa tingin mo ba gusto kong hinahabol ako ng pulis maghapon? Nakakapagod kaya. Ang dungis- dungis ko pa pag-uwi ko!
Wow maarte ka pala sa amoy mo?
snatcher Kuya, buong araw ako takbo nang takbo. Minsan nga puro barya lang ‘yung nasa loob ng mga wallet na ninanakaw ko. Sa tingin mo ginusto kong maging snatcher? Tangina nung isang araw nga ‘yung may-ari ng ninakaw ko, grabe hinabol talaga ako. lalaki
Ano? Kinuha din ‘yung brip mo?
Hindi. Ngayon pa lang nangyari ito sa akin.
Bastos ka lang. Pero ayun nga, hinabol ako nang hinabol kaya naisip ko, wow mahalaga siguro ‘to. Mabigat pa! Mabebenta ko ‘to. Tapos nung nawala ko na siya, syempre ‘yung una kong naisip ay buksan ‘yung kahon. Pero pagbukas ko ng kahon,
walang kwenta naman ‘yung laman! Puting pulbos na naka-paketa! Grabe isipin mo ‘yun, ang dami-dami kong pinagdaanan tapos pulbos lang pala.
Pulbos? Powder ‘yun, ‘di ba?
Oo, walang kwentang powder. Ang labo nga nun, puro paketa ng plastic na may powder. Ang dami pa. Pagbukas ko nahulog pa nga ‘yung isa, binulsa ko na lang sa shorts ko kasi nagmamadali na ako, ‘di ko na mapasok e.
Hoy, ‘di ‘yun powder.
Ha? Pulbos nga lang ‘yun.
Tanga ka rin ‘no? Shabu ‘yon!
Ano? Imposible naman ‘yun!
lalaki Bakit ka pa hahabulin nang buong araw para lang sa powder? snatcher
Malay ko ba! Baka kasi—
Kasi shabu ‘yan! Shabu!
snatcher Shabu nga! Putangina, shabu nga! Hoy, anong gagawin ko? Hala ano na gagawin ko? Bawal ‘yung shabu. lalaki
Gago ka ba? Bawal rin ang magnakaw!
Pero iba naman ‘to, kuya. Tangina droga ‘to. Mga 11
wallet at maliliit na alahas lang ‘yung kaya ko. Big time na ‘to, shet. Hoy, ‘di ko talaga kaya ‘to, kuya. Anong gagawin ko?
Anong pinagsasabi mo? Ano naman gagawin ko?
Tulungan mo ako!
Bahala ka diyan. Ba’t kita tutulungan?
Sige na, mukha ka naman matalino.
Una sa lahat paano kita matutulungan? E, wala naman sa’yo ‘yung shabu. At hindi kita sasamahan para magtapon ng shabu. Pangalawa, bobo ako!
Tulungan mo lang akong itapon ‘yung nasa bulsa ng shorts ko.
Sa shorts ko.
Beat. Onti-onting kukunin ng LALAKI ang plastic sa loob ng bulsa ng SNATCHER. lalaki
Oh my God. May drugs… sa kamay ko! 'Kala ko ba wala sa ‘yo? What the fuck, shabu!
Mahuhulog ng LALAKI ang plastic ng droga. lalaki
‘Yung fingerprints ko nasa plastic na rin!
Sabi ko naman sa ‘yo binulsa ko ‘di ba?
Binulsa mo nga pero ‘di ba kahapon pa ‘to?
‘Di ka ba marunong umulit ng damit? Nako ‘yung mga mayayaman talaga ang aksaya.
lalaki Tangina, ‘yung hawak kong brip at shorts, kahapon pang nililibag? snatcher
Grabe ang bastos mo, a. Umuulit lang ako ng damit, akala mo naman naligo ako sa tae.
Mababaril ako sa tabi ng madumi mong damit. Sige, cremation na lang. Okey na ‘yun.
Nakakatuwa ka e ‘no? At tsaka, ano ka ba? Walang mababaril sa atin. Anuba, kailangan lang natin itago ‘yung droga na hinawak–hawakan mo. ‘Yung droga na hawak mo. ‘Yung droga mo.
Hindi ko ‘yan droga!
At mas lalong hindi sa akin! Snatcher ako ‘di ba? Nakaw lang ‘yan, kuya. ‘Di talaga sa akin.
Kanina ko pa hinihingi ‘yung wallet ko, pero ayaw mo naman ibigay. Sabi ko rin na ibalik mo na ‘yang una mong ninakaw, ayaw mo pa rin.
snatcher Ano naman kasi ang gagawin ko sa shabu? Ang mahal kaya nito. Kahit na mabenta ko ito, ‘di ko naman alam kung saan ilalagay lahat ng pera. Milyon-milyon ‘to. lalaki
Ibalik mo na lang sa may-ari! 13
Ay tama ka nga, kuya…
Madali lang naman—
Bobo ka nga!
snatcher Sige, tama ka. Babalik na lang ako, kung saan ko ninakaw ‘yung droga. Maghihintay ako dun, at maghahanap ng tao na hindi ko naman nakita dahil sa taranta at bilis ng pagtakbo ko. Kapag nagawa ko na lahat, lalapit ako sa kanya, ngingitian ko siya, at sasabihin ko: “Sorry boss, ‘di ko naman alam na shabu ‘yung dala-dala mo. Kalimutan na lang natin.” Syempre, dahil maayos ang pagbalik ko ng shabu niya, ngingitian niya rin ako. ‘Di niya ako papatayin dahil ninakaw ko ‘yung droga niya, binalik ko naman ‘di ba? Grabe ang talino mo talaga, kuya. lalaki
Sinubukan ko na ngang mag-isip ng solusyon, gaganyanin mo pa ako. ‘Di na nga kita tutulungan.
Kuya naman kasi, ‘yung pinag-isipan naman sana.
Paano naman ako makakaisip ng magandang plano? Ang daming nangyayari. Hawak ko brip mo. Naka-hostage crisis ‘yung wallet ko. ‘Yung pulis parating na dito, tapos hawak-hawak ko ‘tong sachet ng shabu! Alam mo, sumuko ka na lang kasi. Kapag ipinaliwanag mo naman sa pulis, tutulungan ka naman nun.
Mas gusto ko pa ‘yung una mong naisip. Mas kapani-paniwala pa ‘yun. Baka nga talaga ngitian ako ng may-ari ng droga 'pag sinubukan kong ibalik sa kanya ito. Siguro tatawa ‘yung drug dealer nang malakas, kapag kinwento ko sa kanya ‘yung plano mong sumuko na lang ako.
lalaki Sino ba ang mas kaya mong bigyan ng tiwala? Syempre pulis ‘di ba? O baka mamaya ‘yung drug dealer na ninakawan mo nga. Kriminal naman kayo pareho. snatcher Nakita mo na ba ‘yung ginagawa ng pulis sa mga taong may hawak na droga? Wala ka bang T.V. sa bahay? lalaki
Pero ‘yung mga ‘yun, sa kanila naman talaga ‘yung droga. Siguro nga sinubukan pa nilang tumakbo o lumaban. Iba ‘yun.
Bakit, sa tingin mo may pakialam sila kung sa akin ba talaga ‘tong shabu na ‘to? Sasabihin ko lang ba sa pulis na nagkataon na ‘yung ninakawan ko kahapon ay may dala-dalang shabu? Nananaginip ka pa rin, kuya. Baka ‘pag narinig nila ‘yun lumabas sa bibig ko, isipin nila na gamit na gamit ko ‘tong shabu na ‘to.
lalaki Ako pa ‘yung kaya mong laitin. Kung itapon ko na lang kaya ‘tong brip mo? Tsaka problema mo naman ito. Dapat ‘di ka na kasi naging snatcher! Ang malas-malas mong tao, tapos delikado pa ‘yung paraan mong kumita ng pera.
Walang tatanggap sa akin, ‘di ako nag-aral. Edi mag-aral ka!
Wala akong pera.
Edi mag-ipon ka.
snatcher Paano? lalaki
Aba malay ko ba! Buhay mo naman.
‘Di mo naman ako masagot nang maayos e.
lalaki Ang dami mo lang kasing rason. Binintang mo na ang lahat ng kamalasan mo sa lahat, maliban sa sarili mo. snatcher
Ang dami mong alam. Mukhang binigay naman ata lahat sa’yo mula nung bata ka pa. ‘Di mo kaya ‘yung buhay ko, kuya. Teka naiirita na ako sa’yo, balik mo na nga lang ‘yung gamit ko, dali.
Pasimple ka pa diyan. Sa tingin mo, ibigay ko ‘yung damit mo? ‘Di naman mahirap sinasabi ko, mali ang gumawa ng krimen. Kaya hintayin mo na lang ‘yung pulis kasi palapit na ‘yun.
snatcher Putangina mo, hirap na hirap na ako. Kanina ka pa sawsaw nang sawsaw sa buhay ko. Nakakainis ka na a. Itatapat muli ng SNATCHER sa bayag niya ang wallet ng LALAKI. lalaki
Hoy teka, ‘wag—
Ibubuka ng SNATCHER ang wallet at iiipit niya ito sa ari niya. Haharap siya sa LALAKI. Tatahimik lang sila pareho. Magtitinginan lang sila. Beat. snatcher
Tangina, ‘di ko inakalang aabot ako dito.
Ang baboy mo. ‘Di ko na ibabalik ‘yung brip mo.
Bili ka na lang ng bago, kuya. Mura lang ang wallet.
Bili ka na lang ng brip mo.
Wala akong pera e.
Wala na akong pakialam sa stir-fry noodles ko.
Kuya, ang OA mo.
Sisiguraduhin kong makukulong ka.
‘Di ka pa ba pagod hintayin ang pulis? Uwi ka na lang muna.
Nagnakaw ka na nga, sinapak mo pa ako sa tiyan…
Teka lang, kuya. Hinga ka lang muna.
Tapos ‘yung wallet ko! ‘Yung wallet ko, sa ari mo!
Chill ka lang, kuya.
lalaki Anong chill? Paano ako magiging chill sa ginawa mo? Unang–una kriminal ka. Sinusubukan naman 17
kita intindihin. Sabi ko nga na sumuko ka na lang sa pulis. Sinasabi ko lang naman ‘yun para ‘di na humirap ang buhay mo. Tapos gagawin mo ito!
Beat. Alam mo naiintindihan ko na. Naiintindihan ko na talaga. snatcher
Naiintindihan ko na kung bakit pinagbabaril kayong mga kriminal. Ang dami niyo kasing kalokohan. ‘Di na lang manahimik. Kaya ayan, patay. Hindi nakikinig sa pulis. Patay. Lumalaban. Patay. Tapos yung inosente kong wallet… binastos mo! Hayop kang magnanakaw ka. Fuck you!
Fuck you ka rin! ‘Di ko nga maintindihan kung bakit, nung una pa lang, ‘di mo ako pinayagang tumakas. ‘Di ka naman pulis!
‘Yun kasi ‘yung tamang gawain.
Ayan ka nanaman. Paulit-ulit. Sino bang niloloko mo? Parang hindi naman ako. Sarili mo, ‘no?
Paano ko naman lolokohin ‘yung sarili ko. Alam ko namang tama ako. Gumaganda ang lugar kapag nakukulong kayong mga kriminal. O ‘di ba, kapag napakulong kita, tumulong pa ako sa kapwa ko.
Bakit hindi ka na lang magwalis ng daanan para gumanda ‘yung lugar mo? ‘Yun gusto mo ‘di ba? Tangina, sana namasukan ka na lang sa MMDA.
Bakit? Anong mali doon?
snatcher Ubod ka rin ng katangahan, ‘no? Tutulong ka na nga lang sa kapwa mo, pulis pa ‘yung tinulungan mo. lalaki
Hindi ka nakakatuwa.
At hindi ka nag-iisip. Lagi ka bang ganito? Naghahanap ka lang ba palagi ng mga kriminal at pulis na naghahabulan?
Hindi, first time lang nangyari ‘to.
Ano ‘yun, napasobra ka lang manood ng mga superhero? Superman ka, kuya?
Hindi! Hindi ganun ‘yun.
snatcher Edi ano? Bakit mo pa ako kailangan pahirapan dito? Para lang masabi mo na may nagawa kang mabuti? Para sa sarili mo lang ba? Para lang may kuwento ka sa mga kaibigan mo? Akala ko ba may kailangan ka pang bilhin? ‘Di ba importante ‘yun? Galit ka lang ba dahil sa wallet mo? Gusto mo ba talaga tulungan ‘yung pulis? Ano na? Sagutin mo ako! lalaki Oo? Hindi? Oo… putangina tumahimik ka na nga lang! snatcher
Gusto kitang intindihin. Bakit mo ‘to ginagawa?
Tumahimik ka na! ‘Di ko alam, putangina. 19
snatcher Alamin mo! ‘Di ‘yung nakikisawsaw ka sa buhay ko kung kailan mo lang gusto, at magpapakasaya ka sa mabuting asal na ginawa mo. Wala kang ibang natulungan kundi ang sarili mo. Sakim! Sakim ka! lalaki
Fuck! Ang dami mong sinasabi. Umalis ka na nga lang dito. Tanginang hampaslupa ka—
Papasok bigla ang PULIS galing stage right. pulis
Kayong dalawa. Anong ginagawa niyo? Ba’t ka nakahubad? Ba’t nasa ‘yo ‘yung damit niya?
Bubunutin niya ang baril niya. pulis Taas niyo ang kamay niyo! Itataas ng LALAKI ang kanyang kamay. lalaki
Sir, ‘wag po!
pulis Tumahimik ka! Taas mo lang ang kamay mo. At ikaw. Tititigan lang ng PULIS ang SNATCHER. Beat. pulis Sige, kahit hindi mo na itaas ‘yung kamay mo. Matagal na kitang hinahabol. Akala mo kung sino ka? Tanginang kriminal ka. Pahirap ka pa sa buhay ko. Kung saan-saan pa kita hinabol. Salot ka lang, hampaslupa. Wala ka nang mararating kundi maging pabigat. 20
Babarilin ng PULIS ang SNATCHER. Mamamatay ang SNATCHER. lalaki
Oh my God!
Ayan, tahimik na rin. Pahirap ng buhay ko.
Bakit mo ginawa ‘yun? Bakit mo siya binaril?
Hindi papansinin ng PULIS ang LALAKI. Ilalabas ng PULIS ang cellphone niya. pulis
Boss. File lang po ng report, unahan ko na. Nanlaban po ‘yung bata.
Anong nanlaban? What the fuck!
Wala po ‘yon. Sige po, salamat. Hintayin ko na lang.
Ibubulsa ng PULIS ang cellphone niya. Tititigan niya lang ang LALAKI. pulis
Akin na nga ‘yan. ‘Di ka ba nadidiri, na hawak mo ‘yung damit ng madungis na bata na ‘yan?
Teka lang. Ang daming nangyayari.
pulis Oo na alam ko, may droga sa shorts niya. Lagi naman. Lalapit sa LALAKI ang PULIS. Kukunin niya ang damit ng bata. pulis
Akin na ‘yung shabu. 21
Ilalagay niya ang plastic sa tabi ng bata. Kukunin niya ‘yung wallet ng LALAKI. Itatapon niya ito sa kanya. pulis
Sasaluhin lang ng LALAKI ang wallet niya. lalaki
Bakit mo ginawa ‘yun?
Tinakbuhan ako e.
Pero ‘di naman na siya tatakbo. Paano pa?
Bahala na. May droga pa nga e. Okey na ‘yun.
Sabi niya sa akin, ‘di sa kanya ‘yun.
P’re, kahit kung sa ‘yo ‘yung droga, sa tingin mo ikaw pa rin huhuliin ko? Dito? Shut up ka na lang, p’re, para happy lahat.
Ilalapit niya sa SNATCHER, nang pasipa, ang shorts at brip ng SNATCHER. pulis
O sige, alis na ako.
Teka lang, ano nang mangyayari sa kanya? Aalis ka na?
Madami pa akong kailangan gawin e. Bahala ka na kung anong gagawin mo. Puwede kang maghintay dito o umalis. Ikaw bahala. May dadating na team dito, kukunin siya. Sige, alis na talaga ako.
pulis Salamat nga pala sa tulong a. ‘Di ko makukuha ‘yan kung wala ‘yung tulong mo. Aalis ng stage ang PULIS sa may stage right. Mag-isa na lang ang LALAKI. Mananatiling nakatingin ang ` sa direksyon ng PULIS. Didilim ang ilaw. telon
sola fide ramos
typhoon imperyo ang mundoâ€™y binabagyo ang sabi sa balitaâ€™y manatili lamang sa bahay ngunit saan maaaring sumilong kung ang tahanaâ€™y nabubungan ng mga ulap?
john joseph d.j. gabata
Langit at Biyaya duon sa pinakamadilim na parte ng makipot na kalsada, duon mo ako masusulyapan. Nakaabang. Nagmamasid. Naghihintay ng kahit kaluskos man lamang o kahit ng sutsot na nagpapahiwatig na "dito ka pumunta." Wala na akong kaba sapagkat desidido na ako sa gagawin ko, at hindi ko na ito unang beses na gagawin. Sa totoo lamang, maraming beses ko na itong nagawa, hindi dahil sa gusto ko itong mangyari, subalit kailangan ko ito upang maipantawid sa kumakalam na sikmura ng aking pamilyang salat sa kaginhawahan. Tumitingin-tingin ako sa paligid, nagmamasid kung mayroong pamilyar na mukha ang nakasunod sa akin. Bigla kong naalala ang lumisan kong nobya, na kamakailan lamang ay bumitaw sa nakatali naming pagsasamahan. Ang aking nobya na napilitang makipaghiwalay sa akin dahil napag-alaman nito ang misteryo sa likod ng maamo at nakapangangagat-labi kong itsura; subalit ang mundong ito ay pinasok ko na. Kailangan kong manindigan, nang sa gayon ay makaranas muli ako ng kalangitan at makatanggap ng biyayang sagot sa aming kakulangan at kasalatan. Naghihintay pa rin ako; kailangan ko nang makatanggap ng biyaya sapagkat may naghihintay sa aking mga umaasa lamang sa natatamo kong biyaya. Suot ang aking itim na paboritong damit, sinuotan ko ito ng pabangong lubha kung makapang-akit. Nagsimula akong mag-isip ng bagay na bumabalot sa mundo, mga kamunduhang bagay na kailangan ko upang makapaghanda sa makikipagdigma kong sundalong kailangan ng galit at katigasan. Alas onsĂŠ, halos tatlumpung minuto na mula nang akoâ€™y martir na nakatayo sa isang sulok ng kalsada. Bilang sa kamay ang
mga nagsisipaglakad sa harapan ko, at wala sa kanila ang nakikilala ko o nakikilala ako. Nawala na ang tigas at galit ng sundalo na kailangan ko bilang instrumento sa pagkamit ng mga kailangan kong bagayâ€” ang langit at ang biyaya. Akmang hahakbang na ako upang umalis nang makarinig ako ng matinis na sutsot na nagsasabing lalaban na ang aking naghihintay na sundalong saglit na nagpahinga mula sa mahabang paghihintay. Hindi ko masulyapan ang kanyang mukha, ngunit batid ko na may nakasuot siyang kolorete sa kaniyang madilim at misteryosong mukha. Hanggang maulinigan ko ang boses niyang binalutan niya ng lambing, at ang sabi'y, "Ready ka na ba?", sabay sagot ko ng, "Oo." Kailangan kong kumapit sa nakapanghihiwang langit upang makatanggap ako ng biyayang anak ng aking kahangalan. Wala naman akong gagawin dito, tanging susunod lamang sa kanya at sa lahat ng orasyon na kanyang isasagawa sa akin. Lumakad kami nang saglitan habang hawak ko ang magaspang niyang kamay, dama ang init ng kanyang kamao at balahibo sa likod ng kanyang palad, upang humanap ng perpektong dako na pagdarausan ng orasyon patungong langit. Lakad. Dahan-dahan. Tanging kariringgan lamang ay ang mga sanga at dahong magiging saksi sa aming kahiwagaan, ang hanging magpaparagdag sa pagtindi ng aming kababalaghan, at ang kaluskos ng aming mga suot na panyapak. Lakad. Dahan-dahan. Hinto, sabay higpit ng paghawak niya sa aking braso. Ito na ang hudyat ng magsisimulang orasyon sa pagitan naming dalawa. Nagsimula nang tumagaktak ang pawis ko nang bigla niyang ilapat ang kanyang magaspang at matigas na palad sa ibabaw ng nakataklob na telang pumuproteksyon sa sundalo kong nagsisimula nang magalit sa labanan. Malakas at mapilit ang kalaban
subalit batid kong ito ang paraan upang makapunta ng langit. Mas lumalim ang aking paghinga, at muli kong naulinigan ang kanyang boses na nagsasabing, "Ako na ang bahala sa gabing ito." Isa... Dalawa... Tatlo... Napapikit ako, at napasabing "Teka lang." Pumasok sa aking isip ang dati kong kasintahan, at biglang nangilid sa mga mata ko ang naghihintay na pumatak na luha. Gagawin ko ito sa kalagitnaan ng pagiging wasak ng puso at damdamin ko, bilang panawid-gutom naman ng aking pamilya sa susunod pang mga araw. Subalit naisip kong nandito na ako. Kailangan ko na itong ituloy. Bigla na niyang itinuloy ang kanyang orasyon. Ramdam kong may ngiti siya sa kanyang mukha sapagkaâ€™t mananakaw niyang muli ang aking kaluluwa, ang bayad patungong langit. Hanggang sa paulit-ulit na siste ng akyat-baba ang nangyayari. Nararamdaman ko na. Sumusulyap na ako sa langit habang nakapikit, at pinipigil ang aking pag-imik. Subalit hindi nagtagal ang aking katahimikan. Naglabas na rin ako ng musika sa kanyang pandinig, na hinaluan ng perpektong harmoniya at melodiya. Hinga. Kanta. Pikit-dilat-pikit. Inisip ko ang mga bagay-bagay. Siya. Sila. At ako. Sa lahat ng maaari kong gawin, tinanong ko ang aking kamulatan kung bakit ito pa. Siya na aking nasaktan dahil sa kahiwagaan kong taglay, sila na walang kaalam-alam kung saan nanggagaling ang biyayang kanilang natatamo mula sa akin, at ako na patuloy na nagpapanakaw ng kaluluwa mapunan lamang ang kumukulong tiyan nila. Habang nararamdaman ko ang bawat pagguhit ng kuryente sa aking sundalong walang laban, nais kong umiyak. Hindi na ako makalaban. Patuloy pa rin akong kumakanta ng musika na nais niyang maulinigan, subalit ayaw ko munang maramdaman ang langit. Datapwat sa pag-iisip kong ayaw ko munang makaramdam ng langit, bigla namang umatake ng unaâ€™t huling bala ang aking sundalo, na imbis na ikabahala ng kalaban, ay kanya pa itong ikinatuwa. 27
Hindi ko ito pinansin. Mas napagtuunan ko ng atensyon ang aking iniisip. Sa pagkakataong ito, nais ko nang umiyak, subalit ayaw kong sa harap ng kasama ko. Tila ba naghihingalo na ang aking paninindigan sa napiling desisyon sa pagitan ng minamahal at ng kinakailangan na mas pinili ko. Tumayo siya, ang nagsagawa ng orasyon sa aking harapan, sabay sabing: "Next time ulit, ha?" Wala na akong nagawa kundi isagot ang nais niyang marinig. Hanggang sa aking paglalakad pauwi ay dala-dala ko ang isang plastik ng manok na nilipasan na ng init, at nakatago sa aking bulsa ang biyayang ipang-aabot ko hanggang isang linggo, na ngayoâ€™y hindi na kasalo ang aking minamahal. At ako ay napaupo na lamang sa mesa sa loob ng aming tahanan, habang nakatutok sa aking gilid ang gaserang lumilikha ng marumi at kagimbal-gimbal kong anino.
richell isaiah s. flores
Alimpungat para akong tinapik ng hangin, gising, sabi niya. di naman ito masamang panaginip, di ba? ang gumising nang dis-oras sa kalaliman ng gabi, ano bang bago? lagi kong naririnig ang magulang kong sabihing mahirap hulihin ang nakawalang antok, kung anong hayop yatang kailangang paamuhin at gawing alaga. ngunit nakawala na ang antok at ang kapatid nyang tulog. sarado ang ilaw. sa kadiliman pala maaaninag ang liwanag ng buwan sa bintana kong walang kurtina. may ilaw pa rin pala ang aninong ito. magkakilala kaya ang araw at ang buwan? ang araw-araw mamuhay nang may walong minutong pagitan, isang tricycle para bagtasin ang kahabaan ng katipunan papunta sa dormitoryo mo. tulog na ang lasing na kapitbahay kong bumirit ng kanta ng aegis kagabi. gusto ko ang ganitong katahimikan. ang marinig ang bentilador at ang aking paghinga. wala na ring makakausap sa messenger. walang bagong tweets. kung sana may katabi ako ritong payapang natutulog, malamang siya na ang naisulat ko. mas madali kong maisusulat ang damdamin. parang kusang nagpapakilala ang mga salitang nais maisulat at maialay. masarap ang may pag-alayan ng damdamin at ng salita at ng tula. sa halip, narito akong mulat sa tapik ng hangin, hihintaying umuwing muli ang alagang nag-alsa balutan.
Marahil ganito ang Kapayapaan, ang marinig ang maingay na pagkukumpuni ng Kapitbahay at ang awit ng mga Manok sa dakong di kalayuan. Marahil ito, ang maranasan ang pagpatak ng Pawis sa kwartong kadalasaâ€™y Pugon
Saksi ang Kwaderno, ang Bolpen, ang Aklat, ang Silya. Kapangyarihan ko ang magbigay-Buhay sa mga instrumento ng pagdanas. Ang mabigay-awit sa mga salita, ang bumuo ng armonya sa pakikipagkiskisan ng papel at ng tinta habang nakatanaw sa bintana, ang makisaliw sa mga ngitngit ng tumba-tumba sa sala, sa ritmo ng Opus ng kapitbahay para sa yero at martilyo. Kailangan kong lumikha sapagkat ito ang di naitatala ng mga Tala, ang tila walang tapos na Karanasan.
Sa Tabi ng Bintana, malapit sa Palaisdaan ng di kilalang Kababayan
richell isaiah s. flores
Kung tutuosin, ganoo’t ganoon din naman ang init ng araw. Lagi’t lagi, nagngangalit sa kanyang pinaroroonan habang pinalilibutan ng bahagi ng sansinukoban. Subalit nagkasundo ang mundo, ang
Kapwa pala kami may talim na tinatangan. At nakiisa sa Pahina ang Pawis, na kaninang nagningning sa ginintuang sinag ng namamahingang liwanag, nakisama sa Sisidlang ito ng Alaala, bago ko maisauli sa aking aklatan.
Dama ko ang bawat Pahinang inililipat Paratian kong hawak ang gilid ng Pahinang nililipad ng Bentilador. Kaya’t bumati ang Galas at ang Galos nang mahiwa ng salita: “Diyan ako naiwan, mahal,”
Marahil ang magbasa.
ang init. Kaya’t kanlungan ang marinig ang ikot ng Bentilador at waring ipahalik ang Binti sa Hangin. Marahil ang maupo— Sumulat. Sumandal. Sumandali. Daldalin ang Sarili kahit minsan.
ulap, at ang araw ngayong arawâ€”kumalma at nanatili sandali nang gawing banayad ang paghaplos sa bubong at sa kisame nang makaupo akong prente sa gitna ng mga unan. Hindi ko alam kung kasama ba ako sa kanilang kasunduan, ngunit akoâ€™y nagpapasalamat. Mamaya, babangon ang hangin at sa kabilang ibayo ay may magsasaranggola, wari alay sa araw na piniling lumapit at magpaabot. Ito ang sandaling kasama ako sa sayaw ng kalikasan, ang kasunduan bago magalit muli bukas ang araw.
emmanuel b. lacadin
PAHINA 45 Dear diary, Bawal pa kaming lumabas hanggang ngayon. Nami-miss ko na sina Jomar at Meimei kahit nasa kapitbahay lang sila. Di naman kasi kami makapaglaro. Naalala ko tuloy yung laging sinasabi ni nanay tuwing nadadapa at nasusugat ako sa pakikipaglaro sa kanila. Binakbak ko yung sugat ko sa siko na mukhang papagaling na ata. Baka sakali lang. Dumugo ulit pero walang lumabas na kanin. Mukhang matatagalan pang mawala yung hapdi sa siko at tiyan ko. Bukas uli! Tenten
jerome matthew maiquez
pulĂ´ tila kabibi ang bungo. nakabibingi ang alulong ng kawalan. araw-araw, pinupuno ko ng buhangin at tubig-alat. nalulusaw sa gabi. sa ngayon, pampang lang ang abot-tanaw. nag-aabang ang mga pating.
jerome matthew maiquez
orsem naiwan ako sa alon mag-isang lumulubog. sinasakal ng musikang labis ang saya. nilulunod ng sayawang papagurin ka. ang lawak ng dagat pero bakit ang sikip? may dumaan na bangka. inabot ang kamay sa akin. nagtatagalog ka rin ba?
what feet will you wear today those of rat-chewed rubber or calloused clay? onto which ground will they lay siege the weary war thrum of moon-crater skin, led by toes that have counted pedometer mileage between sink and bed; and what hands: latex powdered ripped from hummingbird, or slime-coat fishbone palengke plastic, what fingers etch salt mines into eyelid and titanic cheek as they recall very faintly the phantom landscapes of another; what tongue clicking teeth should taste test menu of volcanic ash and dolomite but bite back in concrete, what muscle to cut like farmerâ€™s bolo only to drip slobber that washes away into drain into canal into saltwater lungs; what ears can bear breathing of brothers broken on sidewalks like used posporo: or are there even such ears to wear, are these ears meant to crumple at wailing as cicada season dissonant choir or remain unfurled to silence; whose body will you become by the next midnight primetime? will you be a body of khaki slacks and sacks with traces of guts blooming within cuticle, body of takeout revolution, of quiapo nazareno streets, body beneath soil or houseâ€”all open as the ears, drenched in torrential tongue, with worn feet uncovering warmth. 36
There Are No Walls Here, Only Time In this glass you are whole as womb. I tell my mother that I will break free of this house so I can time travel with you along road of sunflower to Commonwealth Ave. There, we breathe fireworks of tambutso and make vows to rearview mirrors. Dread oozes tendrils from the radio but who gives form to sound waves anyway? I want for once to rejoice: today is the day our cobweb chests resurrect in each other. An obsolescence of love is a proclamation. There is no speaker here. Inside your car the aircon sputters hellfire. Inside your car repentance wraps around the wheel like bakunawa redeeming appetite while we fumble for suggestions of fantasy. Inside your car Perfect might exist. Pleaseâ€”understand that she and I are no longer the same. Understand that I know now the difference between air cupped as sandcastle bricks and true wild wind. Please: make me home. This is not proclamation. For once could you suppress the smoke, suppress the past that claws its way up through artery and vocal cord, suppress anything but the rebirth. For once upon a time we knew what it cost to want and didnâ€™t care. We held the wanting so much we nailed it to the gallery wall and expected obedience from the glass.
We didn’t even need an audience. We don’t need one now. So please admire the glass with me again. We can take the gray seats to the dining table and take our place—driver and passenger, driver as passenger, drivers-passengers both. We don’t need to leave. Sit with me until we become remains for the roaches. If we stay long enough we’ll become paintings on the wall too. Or balete inhabited by magic and myth even before they’re welcome within its rootencased trunk. Or fire tree devoid of red unless there’s love. They’d make fire of us in American fireplace homes. Home is where the hearth is; home is where the heart is; home is where the earth is. Unearth this home with me, will you, if not for the fulfillment of making a home then for the hope of it. Tell me it’s human to hope. Tell me we can drive your car to the edge of hope and dangle our feet over the day. Tell me there’s still a way to give form to the sound of this promise: Halika dito. Payapa na.
mark anthony cayanan
Motus animi continuus 1,2 Of course he loves this servitude, the want, the wishing it away
takes along a needle, when his date leaves the table for a minute, drops blood from the pricked finger into the red wine, admits to this the next day. One must be calm, follow to the end this novelistic logic at the expense of survival
half his body in the drying cement. Theyâ€™ve asked him to sing carols to keep him awake
In the privacy of his bathroom he takes off his dentures, the part that makes him human
not a relic of the past or raffish flirtation but a trap for fools: to say things little by little, to merely relent
early dictionaries house different species of mosquitoes and the six types of fever: daily, tertian, imagined, weak and prolonged, desirous, and severe and incensed
He inhabits the rage of a white man who, white rage over-brimmed, doesnâ€™t know how it feels to be second-guessed
collects the photographs in an album: unmade bed, viscous streak on the vanity, ashtrays crammed with anxiety, everything that deserves photography. Days devoted, at intervals of hours, to following the changes of shadow and blight
the rolling landscape with its reliable winter rains and photogenic summers, the name recalling musket fire and viticulture
With a glass to his lips he indulges in light gossip, the sort that begets ruin. When he leans back on his chair
provocateur, who pours wrath into the wrong cup, puts climax before penetration. This afternoon shame crawls down a wall like the setting sun
the residents sleep on the street, aftershocks continuing well past midnight, the second floor of the apartment resting on a manâ€™s broken back. Four hours with no hope of rescue, the gurgling from his lungs quiets
He spends his most vital years denying the value of revelation, holding with both hands a bouquet of mirrors
the tongue that says, This tastes good, but whose natural modesty forbids it to say more: all other declarations are polysyllabic mysteries on the plastic wrapper
only sugar mills, none worth more than a few pesos. When theyâ€™re drafted to work in gold mines thousands die, unable to farm and forced to live on palms and bananas
When they open fire he runs through the plaza and hides in the cubicle of a womenâ€™s comfort room; the government however grants them omniscience
to realise the plan they bludgeon him, stuff the body into a culvert in a field noisy miners fly in and out of. Then return to their homes
the windiest months, soil frozen from December through most of March
He wears bermudas and sandals, will play nice if they can only prove they’re on his side. He’ll bring them, brothers, back to their families, give them a box of vitamins
the revolution of language isn’t for the prose but for the writer— prose in nylons and lace-fronts and from falsies
from lusty fern clusters, misshapen trees with hairy branches that shoot flowers milky as semen; between the knotty stalks of bamboo the eyes of a tiger sparkle, a dream spores
He knows just when to press the wounds so they prove inspirational enough, can fester before the hypothetical audience
o cautery that heals, o consummating hand, o touch so fine it satisfies eternity. The lamps of burning fire, o deaths out of life
they gut a pig, snap a chickenâ€™s neck, burn the entrails, perform an exorcism, anything to ward off evil: amulet, rice in a cone, red carpet, chain letter, envelopes with sloppy calligraphy
An exaggerated shrug to go with his bewildered expression, as if to ask Who, me, he wears skirts, codpieces, and breasts, all made from the cityâ€™s nightly debris
a little sleep, locked together, for an interval. Let the evening mount. Let him ride
both grander and stranger than someone new can imagine, the graffiti roaring into beauty when the train homes into a station, passengers alert as startled birds. Theyâ€™ve kept the windows open to give the illusion of life without commitment
He hopes, out of his cowardice, for the best: to be the great betrayer. Hearing bits of human voices streaming down the drainpipe—always the belief in being gracious—he slams the window shut
madness being fashionable at the moment: a foul-mouthed dictator and his actors recreate an asylum before a national theatre
on train tracks, in front of an all-girls’ school, across bedroom mattresses and rattan settees, through their fingers a man sprawled on the sidewalk, here’s one last glance:
1 Previously published in Foglifter. 2 Contains passages from Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, translated by Stanley Applebaum. It also draws from the following sources: accounts of Raymond Manalo and Oscar Leuterio, via Patricia Evangelista; the diaries of Joe Orton, entries from Encyclopaedia Britannica; the fiction of Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver, of William Gass, and of Hervé Guibert, translated by Christine Pichini; the letters of Frederick William Rolfe (Baron Corvo); news/feature articles by Jenna Adrian-Diaz, Daniel Berehulak, Tats Manahan, Rey Panaligan, Miguel Paolo P. Reyes; the Nõ plays of Yukio Mishima, translated by Donald Keene; poetry by Anne Carson, St. John of the Cross, translated by Gerald Brenan, Forrest Gander, Jaime Saenz, translated by Forrest Gander, and José Garcia Villa; and the writings of Louis Althusser, translated by Ben Brewster, Linda A. Newson, and Peter I. Rose.
From the Margins North Avenue, Quezon City, 6:00 the city—its existence, and everything that makes it the city—is violent. The Quezon City Central Business District is nothing short of overwhelming: when we look up, we are greeted by the MRT tracks, the skyscrapers that we built, behemoths that stand on the land where our houses used to be. We know these streets like the back of our hands; this is where we used to live before they came and ripped all of us out, even as we stood our ground, dug our fingers into the Earth, watered it with our blood, just so they don’t take it away, and yet they did—with the bare minimum of amounts to move our houses behind the Walls, with confusing contracts, with threats, with arrests, with cranes and bulldozers and men taking the homes we built down with their bare hands. For these buildings to stand, for them to prosper, we have had to shed blood. Tears. Sweat. Perhaps this is why the city still stands, despite the tyranny it wages on us: we built everything on our backs. We fortified them with our own lives. We smoke cigarettes in the back of the pick-up truck we borrowed, loaded with the pieces of what we’re going to leave here. We sit in silence, watching cars come in and out and around, looking for a parking spot on the land where we were once rooted. Tonight, we take it back, even for just the quickest of moments, even for just one night. Mendiola, Manila, 7:00 Inventory check goes like this: yes, yes, we would be stationed at the 50
Transport Hub because it’s the closest to us—here are the stickers, there are the posters and the pieces—for the sticker bombing tonight, put these up everywhere they can see, leave no post nor wall untouched—the wheat paste posters, the spray paint, the stencils—about goddamn time we got back to our roots, this city has become too fucking sterile to be Manila, they’ll cover it up tomorrow, anyway, but hey, this isn’t a futile mission, we can and we will get the city talking. That’s the goal, right? The goal is to get the city talking. To get the city to hear us, to see us. We just need them to see us. Rush hour ends in two hours. It’s a risk, but it’s the perfect time to pull this off, and, if being seen is the goal, Lawton is the perfect place to be. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 10:00 Our timer will start at midnight. We have to get the job done before 4 am, or else there will be too many people in the streets; too many people to bear witness to this act of ‘desecration.’ To the people of the New Metro Manila, the city is sacred in its godly cleanliness; those who can afford to live and survive here breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of streets without us. To the people outside, in the borders and in the margins they have forced us to squeeze ourselves into, the city is a beast that needs to be slain. The city needs to bleed and cry the way we do. The city, that is, the districts—this is what we call Manila now (apart from the New Metro Manila, which makes it sound less dystopian than it actually is, for some reason), ever since the president decided to turn the entirety of the city into a massive business district. As if that’s gonna fix everything that plagues the country. Foreign businesses and investments and perceived economic progress through fancy fucking buildings is a band-aid on a social wound that requires fucking surgery, but they’re not gonna tell us that even if we know; they think we’re brutes. What they did tell us, however, is that the economic boom that follows—would, should follow—their utopian project would elevate living conditions for all of us, or some 51
shit. Maybe we didn’t read the fine print enough, or maybe we missed the tiny footnote to this: elevated living conditions are only for the elite and the slightly-elite. Literally. Nobody seems to live in houses anymore, you know, except for us in the outskirts of town. High-rise condominiums are all the rage. Do we call ourselves the ‘downtown’ now? Is that the equivalent of making us ‘palatable’? We breathe a sigh, suck in a lungful of the cold, dry, airconditioner air that BGC often offers. The penthouse suite smells like paint now, as opposed to the sterile air a couple of hours before, but we do not wrinkle our noses. From the floor-to-ceiling windows, we trace with our eyes the thick, white stripe cleaving the city into two: putting that goddamn wall up meant we had to move further inwards, which shouldn’t have been a problem, had they agreed to assist us, had they agreed to grant us resources, but no, all they told us was that it was for our own good and that they told us they intended to separate the residential areas from the business districts, that this was a part of the New Manila Central Business District Program. They wanted to turn us into a weird, Class-A rendition of a gated subdivision, like a rundown, beat-up, chewed-up-and-spit-out version of White Plains or Corinthian Gardens or Dasmariñas Village. It was a flimsy excuse, we knew what they were doing. We saw the cranes and the bulldozers, we heard of the news. We protested too much, talked too much, caused too much of a ruckus during the first year it was put up—then, it was because we were being killed and evicted day by day in the name of ‘purging’ the city and keeping it ‘safe.’ We knew they wanted us out. We knew they wanted the city clean. Guess that’s what happens when you get Americans in the brain. When you suck imperialism’s cock. The government, as an institution filled with old men, seems to be fond of that. We just suffer the repercussions while they enjoy being the White Man’s Bitch. Bonifacio Global City is the embodiment of that. That’s why it’s the first target—well, aside from the fact that Taguig is the closest to the Walls; technically, we live here, but the air the rich and famous
breathe is different from ours. Theirs is stifling as hell, ours is suffocating. Leaving either side of the wall feels like walking straight into hell, but really, what choice do we have? We are hungry. We are angry. We are being killed, either by an unaffordable, unliveable life or bullets. We have had enough. North Avenue, Quezon City, 7:00 When we look at the parking lot grounds, all we can see are phantoms: houses made out of corrugated steel sheets and wood, men in blue uniforms clashing with residents in plainclothes, barricades, stones, guns, blood. This used to be a warzone, and to see it as a mere parking lot for a haven of bourgeois pleasures is nothing short of nauseating. Here’s the thing: protests in the Districts are met with intimidation, threats, arrests, and, in the case of the last protest that ever happened on District grounds, death—one guard pushed one of us; cracking his head on a large stone they threw at us. The world stopped then, the only thing we heard was the static buzzing in our ears at the sight of the blood carving a small river through the dust. We remember the sight of one of us, slumped on the concrete after being manhandled by private guards, sitting in a pool of her own blood. A miscarriage. We could almost hear the jeers of the police, calling at us, presenting us with papers demanding our signatures, asking that we give up our homes for a sum that can barely pay rent. Before our eyes, a mirage: our feeble homes crushed and destroyed, set on fire, hurled with stones. Leave, leave, leave, they say, without telling us where. We were frozen, paralyzed in the moment—and then there was the anger. The barricade continued for weeks and weeks on end until a mysterious fire broke out on one block, until they buried a bullet in the community leader’s head, until they arrested his wife on some bullshit charge.
(All this, and yet we are still the evils that must be purged.) They banned protests after that, said something about it being our fault because the land wasn’t exactly our property. We had no titles. We had no right to be there. We got gall to be mad. This just speaks volumes of what they think of us: disposable, not human, undeserving of a space to occupy. It is, after all, easier to pretend that our poverty is our fault instead of acknowledging that the system that gave them their privilege and their power and their status is geared towards making sure they stay that way more than it is about keeping us and everyone else alive. We breathe weary sighs and take deep breaths. We share a look, and then we lift the tarp draped over the back of the truck—the guards are too busy inspecting incoming cars. This is where we begin. Plaza Lawton, Manila, 8:00 Manila—as in, Manila Manila, or Manila Loob, as we refer to it—is bizarre in its relation to the districts: we aren’t a Business District, per se, but a large residential area because of its proximity to several universities and the road that leads into the Districts. This is the only thing that stopped them from putting a wall around our existence. Manila is much too alive, much too sprawling to close off to the rest of the city, but of course they’d find way to gentrify the fucking place, demolishing entire fucking barangays to erect these buildings they call the Living Quarters: complexes that are not quite posh condominium, not quite pretty apartment, more slightly dingy college student’s dormitory. We live in rooms that feel like a fucking shoebox and turnover rates are high, most likely because said families (usually the ones evicted from informal settlements) are only given rent for, like, the whole of three months, excluding food, education, transportation allowance. It’s a ridiculous cost of living. Even the wet markets, the beloved talipapa, has been given a building complex, but as our neighbors (a local kakanin vendor and her daughter) have told us, even the rates there are much too expensive for them to afford. 54
(They moved a couple of months ago. It was a shame to see them go, they made fantastic kakanin.) And then there’s Lawton, the Transport Hub, virtually unrecognizable from what it used to be before the Districts were a thing—Park ‘n Ride is no longer the mildly suspicious-looking landmark we knew it to be, but a sprawling terminal for buses going to both the North (into the QC-CBD) and the South (we haven’t been there, but we heard they don’t have walls, but massive, massive subdivisions, courtesy of a certain Senator); behind it, the newlyrenovated LRT 1 Central Terminal Station which now looks like an actual train station instead of a derelict, abandoned one; across it, Liwasang Bonifacio and the Post Office building. They got rid of the colorum van terminals that lined the side of the road and refused to let them operate unless they had a franchise and a spot inside Park ‘n Ride. Not bad, if the entire franchise process wasn’t a bitch and a half to accomplish, on top of the Park ’n Ride fees. They got rid of the vendors surrounding Liwasang Bonifacio. The usual jeepneys that run through the roads are minimal now, too, the original jeepneys find themselves in competition with the new million-peso jeepney models; hulking jeep-bus hybrids with cushioned seats and air conditioning offering rides that start at 15 pesos. Not bad, some people would think, but we cringe in the memory of the many 5-pesocoins we could’ve spent on food. Yes, we have mobility. Yes, we move through cities on empty stomachs most of the time. That’s just the way we do things ‘round here. They stripped Lawton of its informal, underground economy, and the result is a bleak, sterile, airport-like hub—the cleanliness and the renovations wouldn’t have been this unsettling if it didn’t come at the price of its people. It is hard to sit still, to be comfortable in Lawton nowadays. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 11:00 The closer we get to midnight, the quieter we get—the only sound cutting through the thick, tense silence in the living room 55
is the rustling of paper, posters being rolled up, a rubber band snapping, someone sighing, the news playing on the TV at the lowest volume. Nothing is worth seeing there (mostly just news about crime and whatever it is that they’re doing) and we would all rather sit in silence, but we have to keep our eyes peeled. That’s the thing about being the last group to execute a mission—the stakes may or may not get higher depending on how well the others pull this off. The nature of the Districts don’t allow for a synchronized plan, they’re way too different from one another: Manila gets the most foot traffic during rush hour because of its proximity to both the Residential Areas and the Transport Hub, hence, executing the plan at night would raise suspicion all too easily; Quezon City officials are still paranoid after the last protest (the last protest), which meant the CBD is heavily guarded once the malls close; Bonifacio Global City comes alive at night and any witnesses we might get may or may not be too drunk to realize what we’re doing, and the streets are empty once the shops start closing. Not being caught in the act goes without saying; the people need to see what we leave behind and not us, per se. This is the part we need to do insidiously. Everything else will follow. For now, we pack our things into bags and boxes and start stacking them by the door. Below us, the Taguig skyline shimmers, a sea of light, a heaven of decadence, inconspicuous, blind to its crimes, the very image of progress—progress for them, not for us. This is what they need to know, what they need to understand. We leave in 30 minutes. North Avenue, Quezon City, 8:00 The thing with large-scale artworks is that they will catch the attention of people, but it’s an absolute bitch to put up. We parked our truck in the farthest corner of the parking lot, away from the eyes of the security guards, yet our hands still tremble with anxiety and anticipation, expecting to be caught when we should not, as we put panels beside each other, adhering them to their stands, as quickly 56
and inconspicuously as possible, praying that the people in the cars beside ours don’t come back until we’re finished or that the security guards don’t go on patrol. Our minds go on autopilot; when we finish and pull out of the parking lot, we barely look back at the triptych we left, a mural we worked on for weeks: us in the wings, a crowd of people with raised fists, the revolution, if you may, coming to take back what should be ours—land, jobs, food, a life worth living. We close in on the enemy in the middle, a crew of ‘leaders’ who use their positions to gain profit, the elite. In the mural, triumph is near. The mural should be foreboding to the enemy and hopeful for us. The time is ripe, tensions are high, and one wrong misstep in the districts can send everything tumbling down. (For them. From the rubble, from the ashes, we will build a world where people don’t have to go through what we did.) Lawton, Manila, 10:00 Park ’n Ride has two floors: the first floor for ticketing and refreshments, the second for north- and south-bound vehicles, lined up side-by-side across an open-air, rooftop parking lot. We purchased tickets for the last south-bound bus we won’t actually get on and mull around with the last vestiges of the rush hour crowd, making our way towards the edge of the rooftop. We find something to anchor our banners to: a vacant billboard frame, making quick work of attaching the strings to steel before anyone spots us in the dark, and once it’s done, we let go, we cut the strings keeping it rolled up, and let it unfurl, fly in the wind—a simple red banner, calling for the ousting of the president. We see the banner loose, make a beeline for the underpass (a blind spot at night), and begin the ritual of anti-gentrification: pull out a poster, stick our hands into cans of wheat paste, leave the face of Bonifacio (armed with an AK-47 and the emblem of the people’s army) on one post, the image of a woman armed with a gun with the words The Woman’s Place Is In The Revolution beside her on the other. 57
Shake a spray paint can, hold a stencil to a white, white wall, leave it stained and bleeding red with words we want them to hear: calls to oust the president; Lupa, Sahod, Trabaho, Edukasyon, at Karapatan, Ipaglaban; Stop the Killings; End Fascism. On the walls of the newlyrenovated Metropolitan Theater, we adhere our stickers: Artista ng Bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban! Manila has been too clean, too sanitized for far too long. Nothing wrong with that, we suppose—just that this cleanliness is an illusion that hides the truth of the city from most of the people living in it. We leave these on the wall, traditional street art from marches we have not seen in months, wheat paste posters with characters of the revolution; caricatures of the President as the demon that haunts us, as a puppet, a dog; stenciled calls (for the right to housing, the right to fucking eat because the prices of commodities are too damn high for us, the right to access transportation, jobs, whatnot); stickers left on lampposts and stoplights. Red, red, red. Tonight, the city bleeds the way we do. People will talk, of course. They will ask: is this ethical? Does the system not work? They will rage, they will question our ethics, our morality, everything but what the art says—but we know there will be a few whose realities will be broken and shattered to pieces, and then. And then they will find us. This is the thing: when dissent is stifled, it must find other ways to leach out. We cannot be silent for long—not when the Districts try so hard to hide us, to hide the destitution they have forced us into: just a few weeks ago, prices of goods shot up because of this new taxing system they implemented, something that’ll benefit us in the long run, they say (we wonder how, exactly, it’ll benefit us in the long run when starvation will come for us first), but will leave us barely eating in the present; oil prices rose and with it, fares. When dissent is dangerous, it will find ways to leach out, to make itself known insidiously. Destruction of private property, sure. But what is a wall to the lives lost to this system? We will be framed as mere bandits, rascals, public enemies, but we are not—this is what they fail to understand, and is, perhaps, the 58
greatest triumph of this system. (We don’t blame them for it, the others who try to understand. They are potential allies. The others that treat us as vermin is a different story.) Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 00:00 A watch beeps, and we startle—it’s 12 am, but the (fancy) Ford Everest is blessedly silent. No curfew bell cutting through the static, only a faint mishmash of words from whatever radio show is streaming from the speakers. In the darkness, we share sheepish looks: time is Pavlov and we are its dogs. We forget the districts do not have curfews. We do not have curfews, at least for tonight. (Or ever, if we’re being honest. The problem with fascist routines is that, ironically, it makes committing acts of perceived deviance easier, the trick is to not get caught; not getting caught relies on being neurotically careful about everything, even the tiniest pieces of information. Tonight, though, we can get away with a little recklessness—painting walls really shouldn’t be that much of an offense. They’re walls.) We cruise through the labyrinthine High Street streets in our getaway car—provided by the richest of us, who has also made his penthouse suite our headquarters. It’s weird, feels like a treachery to our own kind, but a strategic advantage as well, it’s a lot like finding out what the world looks like from their eyes. Kinda like the Trojan Horse entering the city of Troy (yes, this is war). Here, the buildings touch the sky; which is probably why the people here think they’re gods. We don’t need to leave the car to know that the sight of us in our raggedy bags and plainclothes would warrant raised eyebrows and scathing looks, we got enough of that in the condominium elevators and parking lot. BGC sits in the middle of our residential areas, but it’s us who stick out in this utopia of excess. It’s stupid. We wonder if there’s something in the air, or the dust, or the fancy frou-frou drinks they get from Starbucks that gets them high off this shit and 59
blind to the white, thick fucking stripe running along the middle of the city, easily seen from their expensive studio units. Cheap does not seem to be in their vocabulary. The people here might as well walk dripping in gold and wealth, wearing clothes from brands we can hardly pronounce, toting bags that cost more than our lives, strutting in shoes worth more than ten years of hard labor. Looking at the price tags on those things results in a wave of nausea. We weave through the back streets, the side entrances of these high-rise residences, the parking lots of these big fancy foreign companies. We pick a corner, park the car, take our bags—and then for a moment, we stand in silence. When we look up, we cannot see the night sky, only the tips of these buildings, these big names. Our feet stand firm on concrete, but we drown in the sight of everything that towers over us, everything that the city stands for, everything that the city has become. The weight of it is crushing as it is infuriating: they are the reason we are forced to live like this; power-hungry nations, our own government their dogs, us, nothing more than bodies and cheap labor, not even humans. And when we cry out because of this, we are silenced—dissent is a dangerous task in the Districts, but we have no choice. The plan is to cover as much ground as our materials will allow us: shopfronts, walls, posts; eye-catching places. We run wild with our spray paint cans and stencils, choosing back entrances and side streets—slightly counterproductive, we think, but we know the people of this new business district will see, once the workers in the BPOs emerge from their buildings and go out for a smoke. We reserve the prettier, more colorful, slightly innocuous posters for condominium facades—the security guards will think we are graveyard shift stragglers lounging about on a break as we huddle around one of us as they stick a poster to concrete, we pretend to be drunk, smoking; we will slip right under their noses, and they will only realize once it’s too late and they see a collage, a kaleidoscope of images that we see even in our sleep: left fists raised in protest, red flags, images from the protests that are no longer allowed on the streets.
To blend in with The District’s aesthetics, we leave posters that cater to their taste on closed shop fronts (some say it’s a loss, others will say it’s a strategic advantage): modern typography in bright colors or black and white, just so they can come and take a closer look at the big, red, bold letters spelling out: IMPERYALISMO, IBAGSAK; US IMPERIALIST #1 TERRORIST. We touch the tiles of the Ascott with our dirty hands. We run through the streets surrounding SM Aura and leave our rage in our wake (just so the Sy’s know we haven’t forgotten what it’s like to work in that fucking mall). We tread McKinley Hills, ignore the sterile stench of foreign alcohol and burritos, and make sure they know we were there. When our Ford Everest passes the walls of whatever military compound there is behind the beige walls along Lawton Avenue, they cease to hide whatever they hide: the military, the machinery of the war they wage on us; we like to think our words tell the truth. We don’t even bother passing by the new senate building built there, we are sure the sight of it would fill us with unreasonable rage (since when did pigs deserve such beautiful pens?). Tonight, we strike back. When Bonifacio looks upon Bonifacio Global City, he will see what we have done and smile. Lagusnilad, Manila, 1:00 In the Lagusnilad underpass is a mural, and we stand in front of it, studying the colorful rendition of the things that make Manila Manila: the Holy Nazarene in Quiapo, a jeepney, a kalesa, a sorbetero, a pedicab, the Pasig River and the Malacañan. On the left, a tribute to our doctors for bravely facing a pandemic years ago. On the right, Manila’s spirit of activism rendered in red and orange and yellow, harking back to the 70’s from when the first dictator ruled and was overthrown. It is interesting, we think, how the mural was still kept up and in tip-top shape even after all these years, even after the people in the murals were kicked out of the city—it is a romanticization;
people will think of it as a tribute to history, but to us, to the people depicted in paint, it feels like a farce, an insincere attempt to include us in the spaces we were forced out of. If the city is what it says it is, we would not be crammed inside a pick-up truck, trying to make our way back to behind the wall before curfew; we would not be scattered across Manila, going home to our Quarters, we would not be setting up beddings in a rich manâ€™s penthouse for cover. If the Districts had any respect for the martyrs of history, what we have done to the city shouldnâ€™t be a crime, something to go to jail for; we shouldnâ€™t have had any reason to do it in the first place. We take one last look at the right side of the mural and think back to our banners, our stickers, our own murals: what is it about our art that makes it unacceptable? Why is it unacceptable, when we are only picking up the mantle our predecessors left for us in the long struggle for true freedom? In the morning, we will wake to the people in a fiery rage over their broken cities, their shattered illusions. Here, we will wake to them at our feet, and it will only be a matter of time before they find us. And then can the true revolution begin.
Mutable Fragment Battlegrounds within us where we Bones of the Dead fight to come alive. - Tomas Transtrรถmer Whet a stone to kiss not for what springs beyond the millennium tree but for me, kiss it for when language is a loneliness that trills if only for its own sake. What, to witness the bearing, those indigo horses, that bear in me, the scales of Babel.
This claw of mineral makes a historian out of everyone. Historian of what wreckage? I asked myself.
What was it of this century, the orifice, the horses, the failure, the undone spirit, that was the happening?
You could do this thing for a living, I thought while going over the material for this poem. I couldnâ€™t stop holding you like a thing of the future. I said, Canâ€™t you make it slow down though the stone in my garden remained unturned.
Consolation Making ribbons in the gray sky, the plane a body in motion, in heat, whirring for pulse, seeking sacrifice. You loved it without reservation: the labor, not the eventual violence. Loved the mathematics, like the thrill of creation; logic, like control; measurement, like imposition. Dearest, you must learn to live without me. If you dwell, dwell on the periphery: remember the parasol, the chemise your mother stitched during my bedridden days, the sanitorium where those days diminished with you gone. Maybe in this way you are a god, binding an entire life to your presence. Or absence. You dreamt many nights about the rubble, human deaths as a consequence of your labor.
Not a consequence, you explained, but the desired effect. Come closer, I said finally. Have your smoke here. Holding your beautiful, precise hands as I fade, already a wired woman. And you would have thought shamefully that this losing’s the kind movies were made for. Maybe just the opposite of a god who fetishizes consolation, takes human action for granted. The gust of past years returning to sky. We must try to live. After Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”
Broken Dolls kara buenaventura was thirteen when she woke up to find a damp crimson stain which clung to her shorts and bedsheet. “Is it supposed to hurt this much?” she asked her mother as she lay in bed. “Wait until you give birth, those cramps will feel like nothing.” That night, Kara dreamt of her mother positioning a knife near her abdomen while whistling to the tune of Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera,” cutting through her soft skin like butter. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months; months that waited for blood to hasten the years. A ripping sound of the napkin being pulled from her underwear, and the sour stench of natural death. Possibilities that never found beginnings, shed alongside red tissue linings. “Hey, did you hear?” her seatmate Kelsey whispered to the rest of their tablemates in class, “Yna got pregnant. That’s why she hasn’t been in school the past week.” It was their senior year of high school, and a post-entrance exam lethargy hung in the air as they waited with bated breath for their acceptance letters. Kara was scribbling down notes and trying to concentrate on the lecture. “Oh my god, Yna? Seriously? That girl can’t even take care of herself. Have you seen how haggard she looks on a daily? Now she’s going to have kids? Fucking irresponsible if you ask me,” Sophia, their class president, replied in a hurried whisper. “And you won’t believe it, but the father’s supposed to be an older 67
man. Like, waaaaay older. Nearing his thirties, ata.” Kelsey shook her head with a smirk. “Damn, do you think she’ll get an abortion or something? I honestly feel bad for her baby...Yna’s way too immature to give him or her a good life. Besides, how could she throw away her future like this?” Clarissa, the girl running for batch valedictorian, added. Kara gripped her ballpen hard, her palms sweaty. Kelsey was Yna’s friend for years, but friendship was a fact that became fiction at the mention of pregnancy. Kara knew this because it wasn’t the first time a girl in their batch had been turned against. Pregnancy was like a plague that people like Kelsey used to feel good about themselves. Despite this, Kara found herself feeling relieved that it wasn’t her. Somehow, she found a part of herself agreeing with Clarissa. How could a child raise children? * Kara was now twenty, and though the early days of blood on the sheets had both shocked and disgusted her, they couldn’t compare to this. “This” being the two clay babies that were sitting on her desk, both no bigger than the size of her palm. The baby girl was putting her fist in her mouth, looking at her with shiny eyes while a string of drool dribbled down her chin. The boy had fallen asleep, his chest rising and falling to the beat of his steady breathing. Her predicament started two nights ago: clad in her white nightgown, she had gone to bed early to remedy a blunt but persistent stomach pain that appeared out of nowhere. Beforehand, she had received the news that Yna’s two year old drowned in the bathtub of their small apartment. “Yna went to pick up something from the kitchen, but she forgot to turn the water faucet off. Reckless and irresponsible, as expected,” Kelsey had said in their batch’s group chat—which Kara thought she muted once it no longer served its use for an68
nouncements and reminders. Of course it was Kelsey who had the guts to make the announcement, considering how the batch was quick to remove Yna from the chat as soon as she dropped out to care for the baby. Kara had filled a rubber compress with hot water, pressing it against her lower abdomen.“Your period might be arriving,” her mother had said, nodding her head as though she had a special intuition for the unexplainable punishments of being a woman. Kara supposed she did, to some degree. Kara had been lying in bed, unable to close her eyes and escape the radiating pain. Yeah, it’s probably my period. She stared at the glow of her night light which bathed the white walls of her bedroom in a yellow haze, the figures of her dolls—all neatly lined on her desk— casting soft shadows. She focused her attention on their figures, remembering what a high school acquaintance asked her when they had bumped into each other at SM Megamall the previous day. “Do you still play with dolls?” she asked with a lopsided grin, as though expecting (maybe even hoping) to hear Kara say “no.” So when she replied with a “yes,” a look of confusion flitted across the girl’s face before she gave a pity-injected smile and said, “It was nice seeing you. I have to run some errands now.” Kara loved dolls. They were unchanging reminders of a childhood spent in her lolo’s garden; the tea parties and adventures before the crimson-stained underwear and stomach pains. I wish I were a doll. Kara felt her eyelids grow heavy. To stay the same forever: no pain, just endless days. The dream had washed over her with a feeling of weightlessness. She was lying on a hospital bed, but there was no room, only an incomprehensible black void. Her mother and father sat beside her on the bed, both beaming with pride. Their mouths were moving, but no sound came out. A faceless man stood at the foot of the bed, prying her legs apart. “Push,” she heard him say, though he had no mouth. A pain took over her entire body as she convulsed, every muscle contracting, a wave of pressure hitting her lower back and abdomen. Push. She screamed, but it disappeared into the darkness. She 69
felt every vein on her temple throbbing and threatening to explode if she didn’t stop screaming. The man reached out, shoving his entire latex-gloved hand into the opening between her legs, stretching the skin inside until he pulled out a pulsating lump of warm clay that slid against the beads of sweat on her thighs. Kara had woken up with a start, her heart racing. It’s fine. This is real. She clutched her blanket until her knuckles were sore from the tension. Her pulse had begun to slow down until she heard it: a muffled crying, just a little louder than a whisper. She tossed her blanket to the side and sat up. Between her sweaty thighs was a baby boy, no bigger than her palm. She didn’t know what to do with it. It. That “it” was breathing, looking at her with those strange eyes that seemed to shine, but they were the same terracotta color as the rest of its body. “It” was alive, as far as she could tell. He was alive. She didn’t know what to do with him. Him. I’m still dreaming. This is half a dream. I’ll close my eyes, wake up, and he won’t be there anymore. So she did just that. She saw her parents and that faceless man again. She woke up in cold sweat to find a baby girl lying beside the boy between her legs, both of them in a fetal position. This is how she found herself sitting on her desk chair, staring at the babies that came from nowhere. If she could even call them that. They looked human. She outstretched her hand, letting her pointer finger hover over the sleeping baby boy in hesitation before she touched the side of his cheek. He was warm. She lifted her finger and found that it had left a faint imprint on the boy’s cheek. Just like clay. Kara couldn’t understand how these things came from her. She placed a hand on her abdomen and applied some pressure, as though she could feel if there were more inside of her. Do ultrasounds work on clay babies? Wait, no of course not...where would I even get the funds for one? Nay and Tay can’t know about this. What would they even say?
The baby girl was making incomprehensible gurgling noises. Do I have to feed them? Kara looked at the baby boy, sound asleep and naked. Do they need clothes? She scanned the dolls on her desk, wondering if she could use some of their clothes for the babies. No, they’re just made of clay. My dolls need their pretty clothes. She walked to her closet and opened a drawer, pulling out a folded yellow handkerchief. She also pulled out an intricate plastic home, which housed her Sylvanian Family dolls. One side was covered while the other was open, giving her full access to its interior. It was split into two floors with miniature furniture pieces that she organized herself. She took out the Sylvanian dolls, placing them back in their shoebox before laying out the handkerchief on a small corner of the first floor. She scooped up each baby—taking extra care not to wake them—and laid them on top of the soft fabric. There was a knock on the door, followed by her mother’s voice. “Kara? Kain na, dinner’s ready!” she called out. “Teka lang Nay, I’ll be there in a few,” Kara replied before grabbing the dollhouse and putting it back inside her closet. She stood for a while, eyes glued to the sleeping babies, unsure of what her next course of action would be. “Kara, bilisan mo na, before the food gets cold!” her mother called out again. “Coming Nay!” Kara closed the door to her closet, leaving the little house in darkness. Kara went downstairs to find her mother and father seated at the table with a steaming bowl of tinolang manok at the center and a bowl of rice beside it—both untouched and awaiting their prayer.
“Hay nako Kara, please hurry a bit next time. It’s rude to keep people waiting, and we still have to say grace.” Her mother released a sigh before clasping her hands and closing her eyes. Kara’s father gave a silent nod of agreement before doing the same. “Lord, we thank you for this meal and for this time we have together as a family. May we continue to be blessed with good food and a happy home, Amen.” Kara’s mother opened her eyes and gestured towards the food. “Sige, help yourselves.” After they each got their servings, the table was silent save for the clinking sounds of utensils on plates and bowls. Kara looked at her soup with its pieces of chicken floating alongside wedges of green papaya and chili leaves. “Nay?” “Mm?” Her mother was cutting a piece of papaya, eyes focused on her plate. “Do we have milk in the fridge?” “Oo, ‘nak. Why?” Kara gave a quick shrug as she dug through her rice. “Wala lang. I’m just craving. Maybe later. Also...Nay, what did you feed me when I was a baby? Besides breast milk.” Her mother gave her a quizzical brow before replying. “Well, until you could eat more solid food, it was just breast milk. When you could eat more solids, it was mashed carrots. Can I ask why you’re suddenly curious about this?”
“It’s nothing. I’m taking a basic biology class right now. It just got me thinking about babies and...life in general.” Kara focused her attention on her dinner plate, too embarrassed to look at her parents. Kara’s dad let out a chuckle, taking a moment to swallow before he spoke. “Biology? You learned that in high school, but you never brought up stuff like this back then.” “Kara...are you hiding something from us?” her mother asked. “I mean...being a mother is a gift. God’s gift. Though I’d prefer that you prioritize your studies first. Are you seeing someone?” “I was just curious!” Kara exclaimed, shaking her head as quickly as she could. “I’m not pregnant...and I don’t plan to be.” Kara’s mother frowned. “Anak, I don’t think you should be saying something like that. You go focus on your studies and career, but you’re going to have to settle down someday. Find a charming man and have a family together. Wouldn’t that be nice?” Kara groaned while rubbing her temples. “Nay can we not talk about this?” She gave her father a pleading look, hoping he would change the topic. Her mother rolled her eyes in exasperation. “You brought it up! Diba Cholo? Wag mong sabihin mali yung mga sinasabi ko.” Kara’s father replied with a good-natured laugh. “Well anak, what your Nay means is that you’re going to have to grow up someday.” Kara nodded, not knowing how to respond to such a remark. How are marriage and children markers of maturity? She kept silent for most of the dinner as her parents started talking about the latest neighborhood gossip. Once she was finished eating, she politely excused her-
self (“I have to finish a project for school”), washed her plates, and rushed back to her room. Kara opened her closet door and pulled out the dollhouse, peering into the corner where the babies were sleeping. The rising and falling of their chests had ceased. She scooped them up and found that they felt stiff and dry, no longer as warm as they were earlier. Their expressions were solemn like the statues of saints which lined the altar of their living room. She traced their faces and felt the powdery residue of dried clay clinging onto her fingertips. Just like dolls. She felt her cheeks grow wet, salty streaks invading her lips. It felt as though she saw them for the first time, cupped so perfectly in her palms, their eyes glued shut in permanent slumber. Kara brought out the shoebox where she kept her Sylvanian dolls, placed the babies inside, and closed the lid before stuffing the box into the deepest part of her closet. * It was the same dream again, except it wasn’t. Kara’s favorite doll was in it. Bettina was as big as her, watching her by the foot of the hospital bed with impassive green eyes. Kara always loved the way her braided pigtails rested on her shoulders. Most of all, she adored the way Bettina smiled as though she’d never felt a day of pain in her life. The faceless man stood beside Bettina. “Incompetent. I hope you do better,” Kara heard him say—though he still had no mouth—one of his gloved hands stroking Bettina’s hair. He turned to face the doll, unbuttoning her dress and pulling it down. He moved his gloved fingers between the doll’s thighs, but there was no opening. He simply stroked the peach-colored plastic until Kara somehow felt him inside her. She screamed, but no sound came out. His fingers moved until Bettina’s eyes popped out. He shoved his other hand inside of Kara, and she felt something being pulled out. Then 74
another...and another...and another. She felt warm clay slide against the sore skin inside of her, then the sweaty surface of her thighs, pushing and stretching until she couldn’t breathe. Kara awoke, her whole body damp from sweat as she threw off her covers. She was afraid to look at the space between her legs, but she heard the faint noises. She looked down to find four clay babies: two girls and two boys. She touched each of them with her pointer finger. They were all warm, their chests rising and falling with each breath. * The dream repeated once more, and Kara produced another four babies. Her body began experiencing changes. She stood naked in front of her bathroom mirror, examining herself. Her face and hands felt bloated. Her breasts were swollen and tender at the slightest touch, sagging down her stomach, brown nipples enlarged. The curves of her belly folded onto one another, layers that flattened with a stretch and crevices that extended with a bend. The eight babies now resided in Kara’s plastic doll house; she didn’t know where else to put them. She had taken out most of the furniture to give them more space. Kara found that they needed feeding at least twice a day. She’d lock herself up in the bathroom in the early morning before school, taking two babies at a time, letting them suckle a breast. They latched on, and Kara could only feel a slight suction from their tiny mouths. She searched up how long it took for babies to breastfeed: the results said twenty to forty-five minutes, maybe even longer. These babies were different. They drank fast and always stopped after five minutes. Maybe it’s because they’re smaller...and made of clay. How do they even ingest the milk? When she came home, she’d do the same thing. Every five in the morning and seven in the evening before dinner—if she was late for more than ten minutes, they’d all start to cry. 75
The babies were quiet enough, as long as they were with her. They’d sleep for most of the day, leave pieces of wet terracotta-colored clay excrement, and breastfeed when they got hungry. Kara fashioned some diapers for them out of an old white handkerchief. When she went to school, she kept them in a cardboard tissue box lined with handkerchiefs. The box would be placed inside her bag, and she took extra care to leave the zipper open by an inch so as not to suffocate them. She couldn’t understand why she tried, but she didn’t want to see the man again. If I take good care of them, maybe the dreams would stop. None of the babies had names. Kara only named her dolls. * “Hey Kara, what are those clay sculptures?” her blockmate Macy asked, gesturing towards the tissue box as Kara opened her bag to retrieve a notebook. They were sitting in the canteen while waiting for their next class. “Just a project for my elective,” she said, thinking of a way to change the conversation, but it was too late: Macy’s boyfriend, Nigel, had taken notice of the babies. “Teka ah, can I see them? They look so good! Like, really detailed.” Before Kara could give a reply, he reached for the box in her bag and pulled it out. He pulled out a baby girl, turning her around and squinting as he observed her face. “Nigel, give it back.” Kara was trying to keep the panic from her voice. “Sige na Nigel, Kara’s getting worried. Be careful,” Macy said. “Although I can agree, this baby is so well sculpted.”
“Yeah Kara, this clay is really soft and war—” Nigel’s sentence was cut by a curse as the baby slipped out of his grip and fell on the floor with a splat. It happened so fast, Kara barely had the time to register it. No scream escaped her lips. She simply stared at the baby, her mouth agape. It had fallen head first, body bent at a weird angle. She looked at Nigel, who was apologizing profusely, making an attempt to pick up the body. “Don’t.” Kara said, her voice steady and calm. Nigel’s hand froze. He looked at Kara, his eyebrows knitting together in puzzlement. Kara bent to pick up the body and placed it back inside the tissue box. She didn’t want to look at the baby, but felt the body’s stiffness and the powdery residue. She put the box back inside her bag, zipped it (careful to leave a small opening), and left the table. * “I’m so sorry about what Nigel did to your project earlier. Please let us compensate for it in some way.” Macy placed a hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Thanks, but it’s fine. I’d rather not talk about it, okay? It’s over. None of you can do anything to change that,” Kara paused before continuing, “I can’t do anything to change that.” She gave Macy’s hand a pat before removing it from her shoulder. Macy gave her a look of concern before focusing her attention back to the screen in front of the class. Sir Jared was showing them a video on the process of female pregnancy: everything from the moment of 77
conception to childbirth. Kara found herself wincing in pain while watching it. The act of life sprouting from flesh and bones. There was a ghost pain, as though she was experiencing this maternal damnation all over again, a kind of involuntary empathy or connection—her hand pressed her abdomen and gripped the fabric of her shirt until her knuckles turned white. “You know where you came from?” A classmate onced asked her in fifth grade. “Your mom and dad had sex. He put his dick inside her vagina and squirted you into her. Then you ate all her fluids and grew into a baby. That’s what happens when you want kids.” Kara remembered covering her ears as she heard this, shaking her head and telling the girl to stop talking. “You’re so immature. One day, a guy will want to put his dick into you, and you’ll like it. We’ll be moms.” She thought about the force that stretched the tubes and sacks within her, consumed her fluids, and ripped skin as it kicked and pulled. She glanced at the small opening of her bag, the tissue box shrouded in darkness. She remembered her and Nigel’s recklessness. They wouldn’t like this world. They’ll want to crawl back inside her— better her meager scraps than a world with nothing to give. Better than a mother who can’t care for them. The thoughts themselves frightened Kara, because in some way, it meant that she did care. She cared despite the pain. Isn’t that what society says a mother would do? * Kara got the lifeless baby from the tissue box: her head was flattened at the very top. The baby’s eyes were closed, body frozen mid-turn, as though she knew she’d slip from Nigel’s grip. She grabbed the baby’s head and twisted until it broke off. She took hold 78
of the arms and legs and snapped them off as well. She brought the shoebox where she hid the first two babies, took them out, and did the same thing. She didn’t want to remember that they were once whole. She laid out the parts on a handkerchief, folding them in and tying the fabric’s ends together until it resembled a sort of burial shroud. She kept it inside the empty dollhouse. Kara carried the tissue box with the remaining babies and breastfed them, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She looked at the dark circles beneath her eyes and the way her breasts sagged. Soreness hadn’t spared a single part of her body. She couldn’t stop thinking about the stiff babies. She looked at the two babies suckling her breasts, then at the five sleeping in the tissue box. She knew what she needed to do to take care of them. “Let’s play a game,” she whispered, closing her eyes. The image of the baby girl’s bent body and bashed head seemed to be seared behind her eyelids. She thought about Yna; somehow, she imagined Yna didn’t go to the kitchen to get something. She saw the scenario play out like a film in rewind, Yna moving backwards until she stood by the tub, watching the baby as she allowed the faucet to run, doing the best she could for her child. She got the small plastic pail in her bathroom and filled it up. She grabbed each baby and dropped them into the water: they made no sound, but she saw bubbles of air rising to the surface. She saw their tiny bodies writhing. She chose to look away for a few moments. When Kara looked back, the bubbles had disappeared. She took the bodies out, now covered in a slimy sheen, but otherwise stiff. She grabbed the head of each baby, twisted, and pulled. She snapped their limbs, bits of terracotta clay flying out. Better now than later. She gathered all the parts in her two palms and carried them back to her room. She untied her makeshift shroud in the dollhouse, adding the new 79
parts before she tied it once more. Maybe the faceless man would stop visiting her. The babies were now safer than theyâ€™ve ever been. * Kara went to bed, and true enough, the man hadnâ€™t appeared. She slept through a dreamless night. She couldnâ€™t push away the image of the broken terracotta parts in her dollhouse, but she hoped she could somehow forget about them eventually. She examined her body in the mirror: her breasts were smaller and firmer. She flexed her fingers and lifted them to feel her face, which was no longer bloated with excess fluids. The dark circles under her eyes were the only reminder of what had transpired. Kara allowed herself a deep breath before stepping into her shower. She turned on the water, keeping it at a very warm temperature. As steam began to fog the shower room glass, Kara felt a blunt pain in her lower abdomen. It grew increasingly sharp and began to radiate throughout her body. She clutched her stomach, wincing as she placed her other hand on the damp wall to support herself. She heard a pop, and looked down to find clear fluid gushing down from between her legs, her insides contracting. She squatted on the floor in pain as water continued to pour over her. Kara felt a sudden wave of small lumps pushing through her insides, threatening to rupture them. Lumps of terracotta slid out of her, hundreds of them being pushed out, falling down and sliding across the shower floor until it looked like a valley of terracotta. Kara saw the bodies lying still for a moment. She thought they were dead. They began to move, squirming towards her. Some had no arms, some had no legs, and some had no heads. 80
They moved with a purpose, making their way towards her. Kara stood and backed away, trying to avoid the bodies. She took a sharp turn to exit the shower, but caught a lump under her foot that threw her off balance. She felt her head hit the tiled floor. * The babies were climbing over Kara’s body, crawling on top of it like a swarm of ants, trying to find a warm place to hide. Torsos without heads inched their way into her open mouth like caterpillars, filling it up until her cheeks stretched. The bodies with heads opted to suckle her breasts, trying to get some milk, but to no avail. The severed limbs crawled back into the wet space between her legs, hoping for some warmth, and not understanding why they still felt chilled. “Mama,” they seemed to say, but Kara couldn’t hear them. Somewhere inside Kara’s room was a shroud that lay still, like the pretty dolls that lined her desk and always smiled.
a definitive list of quarantine dreams and headlines Two went to sleep every sleep went together wandering away – Leonard Cohen tonight, when the moon is bright and the rain is soft, go to sleep with your heart on your sleeve. dream of bright storefronts and noisy vendors. you miss when your sneakers step sole-first into the puddles on the sidewalks, so listen to them pitter-patter in your head. good night baby, dream of record stores and grass at dawn. leave the anthills and strange laughter from strangers behind. dream of blue, green, and red taking the place of black and white when we turn our TVs on. dream of park benches and resting your head on my lap. there might be people passing by, think of them fondly. think of them without masks or hesitation to be there. while you sleep, the coast is clear, don’t you worry about pigs in blue or their birthday parties. their guns, or the loopholes that come with their badges. dream of the streets taking on the man on our screens, brimming with spirit and song, dream of the city’s heartbeat when the air is revolution and honeyed words of tomorrow. dream of the day lovers cease the waiting, their hiding between crevices, and taking the shape of their own shadows. while my night is plagued by tingling palms and the turning of cheeks underwater,
bear my hopes and promises as your own. while i am weighed down by a familiar feeling in my sleep, dream of when freedom is no longer a moth feeding on jacket sleeves in untouched closets. while shame crawls out from under my bed, as with every bed iâ€™ve shared my pulse in, dream of the day i put this horse to rest. walk into the future for the night so you can one day feel me again and remind me that we are not dirty, we are only ourselves.
Love is the Deep, Dark Woods Isagani and Elena were once two children named Isagani and Elena, and their love began with a broken balete tree. First, there was a storm: surging from off the coast, it grew from a few ominous specks on the horizon into a maelstrom that in moments enveloped the whole sky, too fast for the children—playing in the forest surrounding their village—to return home, to do anything but hide under the cover of the ancient tree and grip each other’s bodies with taut, silent fear. The roots of the tree went deep, and so did the village’s memory. And yet no resident of Barangay Valentina, living or dead, had experienced anything that could compare to the fear they faced that day when the sky in one great heave retched its demons—and neither had they experienced anything that could compare to the wonder that lit their hearts in the gloom of the morning after, when they found Isagani and Elena still locked in embrace under the wreckage of the uprooted tree, sleeping soundly, completely unharmed. They were inseparable from that day on. Their romance was the substance of legend; old couples looked at them and sighed for long lost days (if they truly ever existed) and the little boys and girls, amidst all their jeering and fighting, knew in the recesses of their hearts that what Isagani and Elena had, they wanted for themselves (maybe someday, maybe someday). Life had always offered plenty to the residents of Barangay Valentina, but from the moment they coupled there was never a day of fishing where Barangay Valentina’s boats didn’t return to shore with fish all but bursting out of the seams, and even the animals in the forest surrounding the village seemed to dance right into hunters. The sound of Isagani’s guitar strings became part of the fabric of the night, and when Elena would join in there
his singing, the moon seemed to inch a little closer to better hear the sound. Everyone was convinced, no one more than the two of them, that the magic that the uprooted balete tree had unleashed that fateful day of the storm was the substance of dreams. But there came a time when the people of Barangay Valentina wondered whether that was as true as they thought—and no one, no one more than Isagani and Elena. Just what happened between the two of them in the darkness of Barangay Valentina’s great balete tree grove would be passed on, puzzled, debated, eventually adapted into a New York Timesbestselling romance novelization by a Fil-Am writer, and otherwise, lost to time’s roiling waters—but even now, there are still fragments to be found, truths honed like river rock, in the memories of Barangay Valentina’s descendants. Barangay Valentina This is how the story of Barangay Valentina’s founding begins: one day, a man fell in love with a crocodile. The man was a Spanish commander named Gustavo Enriquez Garcia, and he’d come to the Philippines—like most young nobles afraid that all great acts of pageantry to be accomplished back home had already been long accomplished and reduced to tedium—for glory. In Gustavo’s dreams, his name and destiny lay teeming in the Philippines’ forests like the sweltering heat; everywhere in Spain there was talk of dark and mysterious forces lurking at the edge of the world. Upon arrival, Gustavo was single-minded in his search for those very terrors—and eventually, after months of exploration, he found something he was convinced could cement his name in the annals of heroes. Within the forests surrounding the coastal area that would eventually cradle Barangay Valentina, natives had whispered in hushed tones about a crocodile so massive that a half-dozen men lain prostrate on the ground couldn’t match its length from head to tail. After much pressure, as the heathen natives believed the crocodile 85
to be sacred and thus forbidden to be disturbed, Gustavo convinced them to assist him and his expedition party in finding it. The search took days—it wasn’t long before Gustavo and his men had lost next to all sense of orientation as the natives led them through endless winding stretches of forest. Eventually, after mercifully reaching a clearing after a particularly suffocating maze of foliage, the natives informed the exploration party that they were near the crocodile. Night had already fallen, and Gustavo made the call to set up camp. He and his men were savagely happy over finally being so close to their prey, and they brought out wine; they drank and sang and toasted themselves, brave adventurers taming a wild and savage land, their skin, already bright red with sweat, turning the color of blood. They offered drinks to their native guides, but they simply sat huddled a distance away, faces cold and quiet. After Gustavo had his fill of drink, he wandered away into the trees to relieve himself. While he was doing so, sharp cries suddenly pierced the thrumming drone of cicadas—half-drunk and befuddled, he tripped over himself as he realized that his men, even more inebriated, were crying out in pain. The natives had tricked them; they’d dared to stir the wrath of the Spanish rather than to assist them in capturing their sacred crocodile. Gustavo still had his sword on him, but he was sober enough to realize he was in no condition to fight. He ran off into the forest as behind him his men’s cries rang out and then were silenced. Just how long Gustavo spent running no one could say, but night was beginning to break when he suddenly found himself fumbling into another clearing and confronted by a massive balete tree, gnarled roots and branches piled on gnarled roots and branches. He gaped at the tree, had never seen anything like it, but soon his attention was stolen whole by something else: nearby the tree was a dark, murky pond, and softly, quietly protruding from its surface was the head of a massive crocodile, its eyes gleaming brilliantly. At that moment Gustavo felt all the alcohol and adrenaline flush out of his body; in their place, a quiet awe began to pulse gently in his veins. He began to notice the wind softly rustling through the trees, 86
and the way the first hints of dawn played with the surface of the water. He wanted suddenly to laugh and to cry, and found himself incapable of either: in his heart and imagination an entire new vocabulary was being written, and its language was the light in the crocodile’s eyes. He was speechless. He felt clumsy and foolish, standing there in the grove. His sword, still in its scabbard, felt limp and futile—as inconsequential as his pipe dreams, now as small in his mind as the crocodile was big. What on earth was he thinking of in the first place—capturing this crocodile whose head alone seemed like it could swallow him whole? Slaying it? It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Then, in a moment that would remain etched in his memory forever, the crocodile turned its great head towards Gustavo and began lumbering out of the pond. Gustavo was entranced. The crocodile was bigger than even what the natives had spoken of. It took what felt like an eternity for it to get its entire body out of the water, and before Gustavo could even process it, it had moved itself just feet in front of him. It didn’t attack—although Gustavo was so utterly convinced there was nothing that could be done if it chose, to that he gave no mental or emotional energy towards feeling gratitude—instead, it just studied him. Gustavo had no idea what it was thinking, but he took the opportunity to gaze back long and deep, and eventually he thought he began to see the beginning of a deep, fervent sadness in the eyes of the beast. The crocodile moved even closer. Gustavo, barely conscious of himself, realized he was reaching out his hand—and even when he realized what he was doing, absurdly, he continued, until his palm rested on the crocodile’s enormous snout. At that moment the breeze began to pick up, shaking the trees—the light of the sun, growing stronger every moment, seemed to turn razor sharp. But then the crocodile closed its eyes, and for an immense, quiet few minutes, all in the world was perfectly still. When it opened its eyes, Gustavo realized that the creature was Old, older than Gustavo could fit into his head. But in his eyes he also began to see what seemed like a brittle, but nonetheless distinct, nonetheless 87
real—glimmer of happiness. The crocodile turned around and charged into the forest. Gustavo could do nothing but give chase. His senses were suddenly attuned to the forest around him—the animals emerging, the birds starting fresh songs, the whole world waking up. He would never feel more alive than he did at that moment, chasing after the giant crocodile hurtling in front of him as light broke through the forest canopy. Finally, it finished—they had ended up on a beach, the open ocean in front of them. Gustavo was uncertain of what would happen next, and after it had happened, it would preoccupy his imagination the entire remainder of his life. The crocodile turned its head, nodded at Gustavo, and without hesitation rushed into the water in a great splash, and swam and swam until its great green hide was an emerald fleck on the horizon. Gustavo collapsed on the shore and remained there for days. If he wasn’t from an important enough family for the colonial authorities to send out a search party for, he likely would have died there. But indeed a search party was sent—they found the remains of the adventurers’ camp, and from there were able to track his path out onto the shore. But even after his rescue he refused to leave—he insisted, was absolutely obstinate beyond all the power of the gates of hell, that he needed to wait for the crocodile’s return. And so Gustavo stayed close to the shoreline. Accommodations were built for him nearby, and soon he became a source of curiosity for all, whether Spanish or indio. And as the Spanish authorities continued their less than open-to-debate restructuring of the lives of the natives, it was discovered that both the coastal and forest areas surrounding Gustavo’s abode were bursting with riches. In time, Gustavo gained more and more neighbors, and a veritable town was established; but even as more people came and settled down, there remained a distinct cadence of mystery and wonder underpinning Barangay Valentina’s day-to-day life, named such after the vigor and health of both the natural environment as well as Gustavo’s commitment to the crocodile, a commitment that would keep him firmly rooted in place until he passed away many, 88
many years later. The Fish
Barangay Valentina, up until its untimely destruction upon Isagani and Elena’s disappearances, always had its way of attracting odd characters (or cultivating them, no one was ever completely sure which was which). One such character was a self-proclaimed mystic named Jomar who claimed he dreamt the words of the fish in Barangay Valentina’s waters on the day that the crocodile swam out into the open sea: Glug! Glug! Glug glug glug. Glug! Glug! Glug glug glug. Fortunately another resident of Barangay Valentina, Aling Nenita, was fluent in fish speak and translated Jomar’s transcription as such: Look and see! Look and see! The crocodile returns to the ocean. Behold! Behold! The cycle is ushered in anew. This story became a rather obscure one throughout the generations, but would remain recorded in a dusty book in the town records, safe until it was needed. The Boy and His Guitar Miguel should have been asleep, but of course he wasn’t—how could he possibly go to sleep when the music was about to start? He clutched his old, battered guitar close to his chest and waited quietly, straining his ears to focus on the sounds of the world outside through his window, not wanting to miss anything. Finally, he could hear it: the dancing of strings ringing out clear and crisp in the night air. Miguel listened, and attempted to follow along on his own guitar, his freshly callused fingers tracing awkward, uncertain paths on the fretboard. Isagani’s playing was surely the greatest anyone in Barangay Valentina had ever heard; if the stories were to be believed, as soon as he and Elena had been found unharmed after the great storm several years prior, he gained a sudden and aweinspiring aptitude for the instrument: picking up the instrument for 89
the first time he’d been able to play with the skill, texture, and feeling of those who’d been playing their entire lives. Barangay Valentina was surrounded by hills on one side, and atop one of the smaller ones that peaked just enough to provide a natural overlook of the town, there lay a spot where the winds were said to be able to amplify anything loud enough for the whole town to hear. It was there that Isagani would, night after night, take his guitar and play and sing, and for years everyone marveled at the wonderful music being delivered on the breeze, permeating the substance of the night itself with aching romance—all the more when Elena, the enduring object of Isagani’s affections, would herself join in the singing. Miguel, on the other hand, had been playing for about a month and a half, and was not particularly good. But he was trying his best: it was Cristina Rocio’s birthday in a month (a thought that created a lump in his throat and made his fingers fumble all the more), and he wanted to be able to play for her. She had been a good friend to him since childhood—and he knew that his older brother would likely laugh and jeer to hear him say that, as if he wasn’t only still just 13, hardly beyond being a child, but Miguel supposed that if you don’t start acting like an adult at some point you never will—and he simply wanted to thank her for it. Or at least those are the words he could find to articulate the strange flush of feelings he’d been carrying with him over the past months. He’d never really noticed Isagani’s playing before, in the same way that in your day-to-day life you don’t necessarily often stop to look up at the moon, or notice the way the water laps on the shore. But now, night after night, there was nothing he could give more attention to—nothing that felt more oddly like salvation, like a ladder to release, than the music that came out of Isagani like a bottomless well. He continued fumbling over chords, and almost without realizing it, began to whisper Cristina Rocio’s name, to everyone and no one in particular. By a few weeks later Miguel felt like he had a decent enough grasp of some of the regular songs that featured in Isagani’s nightly performances. Where at first there was only grim resolve and pain, there was now genuine pleasure and verve in Miguel’s playing—he 90
would spend all his spare time practicing in his room, relishing the feel of the guitar in his hands, like a key turning inside of him: he wondered if it would unlock something in Cristina Rocio too. With time, however, Miguel began to notice something different about Isagani’s music. He wasn’t sure if it was something other people could notice as easily, but after all of his pronounced studying, Miguel was certain he could hear something was wrong: Isagani’s playing was more agitated, with a stiffness so uncharacteristic of his regular ease and grace. When he sang, and he sang little, there were hints of bitterness that stuck out like thorns. And perhaps most unsettlingly, Elena never seemed to join him. Then just a few nights before Cristina Rocio’s birthday, the music stopped altogether. It had been years and years since before Isagani began his evening serenading—this was the first time since then that the night was simply quiet, and it unsettled Miguel down to his bones. Isagani had always been kind to Miguel, as he had been to all of Barangay Valentina, and Miguel had been intending to request a moment for a song of his own the evening of Cristina Rocio’s birthday. Now, the thought of simply taking Isagani’s place altogether felt blasphemous—one night without music became two nights without music became three nights without music, and the whole town was triggered into a state of disbelief and unease, as if they’d woken up to find the sea had dried up. Miguel’s playing and singing would only be a cheap, sad, insulting imitation. What would Cristina Rocio think? At that thought Miguel fell into a deep, sullen angst. All of his work over the past month would be in vain if he couldn’t perform for Cristina Rocio. He was wholly convinced that this was his one and only chance—for letting her know his feelings, for in the first place allowing himself to really discover what those feelings were. Now those feelings would atrophy in limbo, never given the right opportunity to be brought before the light. These were the thoughts occupying Miguel’s head when, shortly after the sun had set on Cristina Rocio’s birthday, he heard the sound of guitar strings thrumming and chiming into life. Miguel’s spirit near jumped out of his body, and he practically threw himself to his 91
window to listen. He was struck dumb. The music, clear to his ears, was not Isagani’s doing—but it was beautiful, and he could feel the entire town opening its ears like parched desert to rain clouds. Grabbing his guitar, Miguel hurtled headlong towards the hill overlooking town. All the while, the music continued, and the residents of Barangay Valentina paid notice: all fresh with grief over Isagani’s music ceasing, they first stepped out of their houses tentatively, afraid that at any moment this wonderful new music would prove itself an illusion and disappear as quickly as it had come. But as the music continued, so did people’s confidence grow, and soon the residents were assembling in the town plaza to dance, or merely be still and take in together with others the sound of the music and the lonely, lovely voice echoing over it—the voice, Miguel only realized with full certainty when he’d reached the hill perch, of Cristina Rocio. Miguel wasn’t sure of what to say. He simply stood there, and listened to Cristina Rocio’s fingers flow exquisitely over the strings of her guitar—she played wonderfully, and her voice was high and sweet, tinged with a maturity that transcended her 13 years of life. When she was finished, and the last strum of her guitar had faded softly into the appreciative night, she turned to Miguel, surprised suddenly at his presence. Miguel was flustered. “H-happy birthday.” Cristina just smiled before breaking into a laugh and inviting Miguel to sit down with her. “I suppose you can play that guitar?” Cristina too had been forlorn when Isagani and his music had disappeared. So, on the day of her birthday, she had decided emphatically to do something about it. Playing guitar, while not something she oft did in public, was something she’d loved for years—each of the songs Isagani played and more was etched onto her heart and fingers. And so she decided to play, she explained to Miguel, before asking him to play himself. To her ears Miguel’s playing was hesitant and unfocused, and his singing alternatingly too pitchy and too breathy, and she told him so— but there was also real heart, and this she acknowledged with a luminous smile. It wasn’t long before the two of them joined in 92
song, their guitars and voices alone on the hilltop, resounding over the entirety of Barangay Valentina. Excerpt from an Interview with Lauren Campo, author of Love is the Deep, Dark Woods (2018) Question: I understand that one branch of your family actually resided in Barangay Valentina before it was abandoned after the Philippine Revolution. What inspired you to write a novel based on popular legends from Barangay Valentina’s folk tradition? Campo: I can count with one hand the amount of times I’ve been to the Philippines. So for me, the choice to write something so heavily inspired by the folk tradition of a Filipino town, a town that actually had a family of mine living in it, it was a personal investment: an attempt at reclaiming identity, if you will. I think that’s what the appeal of folklore and mythology comes down to, for Filipinos, both in the diaspora and in the actual Philippines—so much of our cultural identity across history has just been in perpetual flux, and being able to revisit these stories can help give us some stable ground. Question: But isn’t that a little simplistic? After all, folk tradition and popular mythology comes loaded with its own politics, oftentimes very contextualized to specific time periods and material circumstances. Doesn’t it become reductive to approach folklore as a means of regaining one’s essential self, given that? Campo: I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong, but the presupposition underlying your statement is that our engagement is a passive one. I don’t want or intend for our folk stories to simply be treated like Goldilocks or Cinderella, bedtime reads with simple, pleasing moral lessons. No—I think of how, after the Civil War, generations of African-American slaves would share stories of how Abraham Lincoln personally showed up on their slavers’ estates 93
to free them. I think of how Jose Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines, always seemed to figure in as quasi-divine inspiration for revolutionaries in the Spanish and American colonial periods after and even before his death. The stories we choose—and more importantly, how we choose to use them—have power, precisely because of what they can be made to mean to us. There’s something so dangerous about that, but I believe there’s also so much opportunity in it too. Question: So what is Love is the Deep, Dark Woods supposed to mean to people? Campo: The question that’s always lain at the heart of Isagani and Elena’s story is whether or not they really loved each other. I want to believe it’s meaningful to put faith in that the answer is yes, they did. And I want to be able to say—yes, people left Barangay Valentina not because it ran out of magic, but because its magic was always meant to be shared. Scene at the Beach, an excerpt from Love is the Deep, Dark Woods (2018) “Do you not love me anymore? Now that your plans are ruined?” Elena asked, bidding herself not to cry. They were sitting on the shore, the tide beginning to gently lap at their feet. Isagani was quiet for a moment longer than he wanted. But eventually he said: “They weren’t just my plans.” Plans can change, Elena wanted to grip his arm and shout. But just as soon as the words came out of his mouth he turned to face her and gripped her in an apologetic embrace. “Of course I still love you.” There was a silence, and Elena waited for him to speak further. He didn’t, just continued holding her in his arms. Elena bit her lip as tears started to glisten on her cheeks and little waves played with her toes. It felt cold and unwelcoming. “Then tell me what’s troubling you, Isagani.” 94
Isagani was going to protest again, but there was something in her tone that gave him pause. She had always been a mystery to him—a mystery that over the years he’d gotten to know a little bit further a day at a time, but a mystery nonetheless. There were many girls who wished to be swept up in Isagani’s grand romantic verve, but the truth of their relationship was that Isagani always felt like his actions were merely necessitated by orbiting in her gravity. Sitting there on the shore, the tide suddenly creeping closer around them, he felt keenly all that he didn’t know and didn’t understand about the woman in his arms—especially now, now that she was proposing this mad new undertaking. He let go and began to stare off into the distance. He clenched his hands together. “I’m frightened, Elena. I don’t understand what’s happening.” Elena looked at him straight-on. “Revolution, Isagani.” Standing up, he took a few strident steps forward into the water. “Before, when I would look to the horizon, everything that needed to be clear was clear.” A resoluteness began creeping again into his voice as he gazed into the setting sun. “You, and me, and the love that we share—each step forward had a light to guide it, and it was always enough. Now,” he turned to look at Elena with downcast eyes, “you don’t want to start a family anymore. For revolution.” “I don’t want to bring a child into a world they can’t be free in. Especially now, Isagani—especially now, when there’s a real chance. I’m not the only one in Barangay Valentina ready to join this fight, you know—” Isagani kneeled before her. “I’ve been having bad dreams, Elena.” His eyes were devoid of any of his usual warmth and laughter, and she listened. “In my dreams, you’re always giving birth. You kick and scream and cry, but no baby ever comes. Only blood.” Elena was quiet for a moment. “Those are just dreams, Isagani. We can join this fight, and we can win. Start a family in a better world.” “They found us the morning after the worst storm anyone can ever remember wrapped in a balete tree’s branches like they were a blanket. You and I should know better than anyone that dreams don’t just have to stay in our heads.” 95
Elena’s voice wavered as she said: “They don’t. But you have a choice. Just like now—I have a dream of being free, of Barangay Valentina and of this whole nation being free. I choose to see it happen. What about you?” She took a deep breath and stood up. “Tonight marks ten years since the storm. I’ll be at the balete tree at midnight—meet me there if and only if you’re ready to give me an answer.” Elena walked away without looking back. Isagani stood still for a long while as the tide continued encroaching, the sand beneath his feet giving way further and further. An Excerpt from the Following Chapter in Love is the Deep, Dark Woods (2018): Eventually, he made it to a familiar clearing, and he allowed himself to take in a deep breath. The balete was only a little bit further, he realized with intermingled relief and dread. He still didn’t know what he would tell Elena; he still didn’t know what to tell himself. The truth was he understood the call for revolution—but it frightened him. The consequence would be change, change that he knew could uproot his life and Barangay Valentina’s life like the balete tree during the storm. Near the heart of a dark forest, the wind picking up around him, he never felt so lost in his life. This was compounded when, a few minutes later, he found the balete tree missing. In its place, inexplicably, a massive bahay na bato. Light was gleaming out of its windows, and even from a distance Isagani could hear the sound of warm laughter. He was too dazed to do anything but approach the front porch, where he realized somewhat belatedly a woman was standing. She was the most astonishingly beautiful woman Isagani had ever seen. Her skin was as white as the moon, and her dark hair fell to her waist; she was wearing only a nightgown that clung to her elegant figure. She was smiling at him. “I’ve been waiting for you, Isagani. Come with me.” She took his hand and led him inside the house. Isagani barely 96
had any words for what he saw—there was priceless treasure in that house, and the peaks of sacred mountains, and the deepest depths of the oceans. She brought him past a set of gold stairs (where above, he could still hear the sound of a lively party) and into a dark room bathed in gentle light that seemed to emanate from the walls themselves. The woman beckoned Isagani to come and sit down with her on a massive bed that filled up a third of the room. Throughout all of this, Isagani couldn’t find anything to say. But now he asked: “Who are you?” The woman’s smile grew even wider. “You already know me.” Isagani was incredulous. “You must be mistaken— ” The woman gripped Isagani’s hand. “I am the wonder in your heart when you gaze up at night to the stars. I am the warmth you feel sparking in your fingertips when you play the guitar, rising up your throat into song.” She brought Isagani’s hand to her chest. “I can be the power in water that turns a crocodile magical. I can even be a storm that ignites eternal love.” Isagani didn’t know whether to laugh; the summation of how little sense everything was making suddenly slapped him sober. His hand flinched back away from her. “Where is the balete tree? Where is Elena?” The woman sighed. “How silly of me. I suppose you do need a little clarification.” She stood up, walked to the middle of the room and made a wide, sweeping gesture. “This is the balete tree.” Isagani felt cold sweat as the realization dawned on him. “You’re an engkanto.” The engkanto smiled. “You’re not entirely stupid, then. That’s good. I need you to not be stupid when you consider my offer.” Isagani rose up from the bed, angry. “What offer? Where’s Elena? Have you done anything to her? If you have, I— ” “Elena is perfectly fine. For now,” she said, her smile suddenly disappearing, “as long as you behave.” Isagani didn’t take any further step forward. Satisfied, she continued: “Something was taken away from me ten 97
years ago, Isagani. When that storm hit and tore half of the tree out of the ground, it set loose magic that rightfully belongs to me. You and Elena received a great deal of it. I need it back.” “What do you mean?” “Your wonderful romance, just like everything else fantastical about Barangay Valentina, is to my magic’s credit. But I can see that in the hands of you two mortals, its power is already waning, eclipsed by specters of revolution, isn’t it?” Isagani could only listen in confused, morbid fascination as she continued. “This is where my offer comes.” A beaming smile returned to her lips as she approached Isagani and leaned in to whisper in his ear: “I’ll offer you nothing but the truth—I can’t take the magic from you. It’s already yours. But,” she leaned closer still, “I have a solution that serves both of us. Stay here with me forever.” Isagani staggered back. “Poor Isagani, don’t be frightened. Choose to stay with me, and I’ll have my magic back through you, and everything else besides.” She gazed at him with hungry eyes. “Why?” “What?” “Why should I?” She laughed. “Why wouldn’t you? Deep in your heart, you know you long for wonder, adventure, romance.” She gestured towards herself. “Who could possibly give you more of any of that than me?” “What about Elena?” “Elena?” The engkanto laughed again. “There’s nothing gained from fooling yourself, poor Isagani. You know you feel it—your time is through. Her love is for the revolution, isn’t it, not for you. And besides, whatever she had to offer you I have infinite multitudes more of.” Her voice was high and sweet, and Isagani could feel himself being lost to the rhythms of her words. “Stay with me,” she said, taking off her robe and embracing Isagani, “and there will be no more bad dreams. No more shadows invading your judgement, making each decision you make for your own good appear like a thorn in Elena’s heart. Let her go. I’ll show you things you never imagined, no, not even with a heart as hungry for 98
wonder as yours.” Her embrace was a warm swim in twilight, was the sensation of a melody filling the heart to bursting. Isagani closed his eyes. What Happened at the Balete Tree: Barangay Valentina spawned countless stories with countless permutations, but two main narratives exist when it comes to the matter of what happened at the grove of the broken balete tree, and why whatever happened shortly after heralded the mass exodus of Barangay Valentina’s residents. The first narrative says that Isagani said yes to the engkanto’s offer. He’d lost faith in man’s capacity to handle magic well, most of all in his own; to trust the engkanto was to offer the magic to someone with a much more ancient well of knowledge. After all, it was the balete tree of the engkanto’s roots that had transformed the great crocodile of Barangay Valentina’s past into the divine creature Gustavo Enriquez Garcia fell in love with, starting all of this. Even though he had his doubts, Isagani couldn’t escape that he felt it would ultimately be better not just for him but also for Elena, who he felt it was inevitable he could only disappoint, his heart not being able to dare like she could. Disillusioned by Isagani’s decision to abandon Elena and the rest of the community, Barangay Valentina had a crisis of conscience—if even what Isagani and Elena had could be broken so quickly by the influence of the balete tree, then perhaps it was better for everyone to leave and save themselves from the machinations of the engkanto. For a generation Barangay Valentina endured, but only as a pallid shadow of its former self. And finally, when the revolution broke out, and the foundations of the world itself felt like they were shifting, people decided to leave for new starts—weary with the knowledge that their human hearts were so very frail, that it was so impenetrably difficult for them to be able to properly handle love. The second narrative suggests that Isagani said no. This is what Lauren Campo chooses to go with in her novel, and the engkanto’s reaction is dramatized by her book in this manner: 99
The engkanto was speechless. But then her beautiful features started to wane—her pristine face withered in front of Isagani’s eyes, her luxurious hair turning ragged and wiry. Isagani ran out of the room, and all around him the house was transforming: all the beauty and luster leaking away into the void, the color dissipating into cold grey. Standing at the foot of the staircase (where there was no more trace of gold to be found), Isagani could hear no laughter, only crying. The truth, as he found out, was that what little magic the engkanto had left were illusions and sweet songs; the real substance of it had been well and truly suffused in him and Elena. And though he was tempted, and afraid, he chose to gamble on his and Elena’s imperfect capacity for carrying that love—and he realized the solution was what Elena had already figured out: it was meant to be spread around, to Barangay Valentina and beyond. It was love that demanded a fight. Organizing the people of Barangay Valentina and joining the revolution, Isagani and Elena helped that generation become the most wondrous of any that came before. And so it was that when the fires of revolt truly broke out, and the foundations of the world itself felt like they were shifting, the people of Barangay Valentina spilled out into the world, serving as some of the finest heroes of the revolution, carrying with them the magic of Isagani and Elena, a broken balete tree, and a crocodile still swimming somewhere out in the open ocean.
A list of evidence: the absence of land titles and numbers sprawled on the skeletons
A catalog of buried things: the revelatory lead of a damning news report; the torn genealogy of a royal family, discarded at the bottom of a lake; a woman’s account of escape with a hole in it.
passes. They said they’d keep a backward countdown for every day that went without a trial – they forgot.
what happened in Marawi has happened before. The news is loud until after the anniversary
Listen – I want to be done with poems about bygone bullets and the aftermath. The truth is,
Marawi is Trending*
Surely martial law is meant to be a security precaution, not some Stanford prison experiment, one party armed, beating the balls out of the other because they could because the subjects signed consent forms because power has a way of making a man high
We are always spoken about and never spoken to: Today, it was the Maranao yesterday the Sama Dilaut the Tausug the farmers the fishermen the indigenous the journalists the businessmen your neighbors your shops your boats your harvest your rivers your language
In Mindanao, every violence is different. In Mindanao, every violence is the same. Is this land cursed or unlucky â€“ or are the people upstairs just greedy?
of houses; the bones of a family under the rubble of a government airstrike; a backhoe with the mayorâ€™s name on it.
* One of Three Poems from Notes From the Field First published in Philippine Humanities Review (2019) 1st Prize, Poetry in English, 2019 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
Marawi is trending Zamboanga is trending Kidapawan is trending Maguindanao is trending
At least once a year a city from here rules the front pages because there is a court hearing for terrorism rebellion murder people are dying or fighting or both people have lived on the cursed floor of a covered basketball court for years and for a day
These are true stories: after the siege, a soldier was found in the Nikes of a man whose house was looted; my schoolmateâ€™s missing bicycle was found on the lawn of a Western Mindanao Command residence; and the mosque on Simariki Island rings with silence, another Ramadan without an imam. He is wrapped in a thin malong in a cold cell in Manila. His wife has slept next to a picture since the day they took him without a warrant.
Asin* Ang sabi ni Nanang, bawat butil ng asin na natatapon at nasasayang ng isang tao’y kailangan niyang pulutin pagsapit niya sa purgatoryo. Ngunit tiyak ko rin sa lasa pa lamang ng aking luha, pawis, at dugo, magpupulot ako ng asin. Sa pagpapagal ko, siguradong sa kabuuan ng aking buhay, ang aking malilikom sa aking luhang iniluha, pawis na ipinawis, dugong idinugo’y sapat na asin upang magdanggit at daing ng isdang makakain sa pansamantalang pananatili sa purgatoryo. Ngunit paano silang nagpadugo’t naghasik ng dugo? Silang dahil sa pawis ng iba’y hindi kinailangang pawisan? Silang nagpaluha nang nagpaluha sa danggit lang ang mauulam? Sila’y sa purgatoryo na mabuburo! Walang puknat na magpupulot ng asin sa ilalim ng tirik na araw na magpapatagaktak ng pawis, magpapaluha ng mga mata’t magpapadugo sa mga hiwang latay sa kanilang likod. Lahat ng mga pagpatak na ito’y muling magdadagdag ng butil sa kanilang pupulutin. Sakaling matapos ma’y guguho ang kinatatayuan nila dahil sa bigat ng asin at saka bubulusok pababa. Bubulwak muli ang asin na kanilang kailangang pulutin.
*Naunang lumabas sa TLDTD Journal Issue No. 1
Kerima Ruth M. Sonaco. Dalisay. Digital media. 1800 x 2250 px.
Zofia Agama. FamilyMart (Diptych 1 of 2). Digital Photography.
Zofia Agama. FamilyMart (Diptych 2 of 2). Digital Photography.
artist statement for I'm getting sadder and sadder every day I messaged my OB-GYN when I should stop taking my pills. "For as long as you like. I guess discontinue when you’re ready to start a family :)" she said. I didn’t know what the smiley face meant. I also wondered why my chin trembled and my eyes wet with tears. I didn’t know what it meant.
Brianna Louise M. Cayetano. I'm getting sadder and sadder every day. Pills, ink, paper.
Pete Manuel L. Roxas. Inhibitions. Digital Art. 1800 x 1200 px.
Ruby Regine Descalzo. pukingan (1). Digital.
Ruby Regine Descalzo. pukingan (2). Digital.
Ruby Regine Descalzo. pukingan (3). Digital.
Ruby Regine Descalzo. pukingan (4). Digital.
Kristina I. Valera. Synchronous Cramming. Digital Art. 3600 x 2400 px.
Celline Marge Mercado. Lost count of. Carbon pencil on board. 7 x 16 in.
Corinne Garcia. 20 Seconds (Wash, Rinse, Repeat). Ink, soap, watercolor mounted on board.
Zofia Agama (4 AB Literature-English) Zofi is a 4 AB English Literature major taking up a Philosophy minor. She aspires to doubt like Descartes and live her life in values of layaw, ligaya, and liwanag. Regine Cabato (AB Communication 2016) Regine Cabato is a journalist based in Manila. She is a recipient of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award and Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for poetry. Her poems have been published in Kritika Kultura, Cha Literary Journal, and 11 x 9: Collaborative Poetry from the Philippines and Singapore among others. She hails from Zamboanga City. “Marawi is Trending" is after "Jerusalem is Trending" by Sam Sax. Sean Carballo(3 AB Literature-English) “You could not be born at a better period than the present, when we have lost everything.” —Simone Weil Mark Anthony Cayanan (Department of English) Mark Anthony Cayanan obtained an MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and is a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Their third poetry book, Unanimal, Counterfeit, Scurrilous, is forthcoming from Giramondo Publishing in 2021. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sporklet, The Margins, Overland, The Spectacle, and Lana Turner. Brianna Louise M. Cayetano (4 AB Communication) Brianna believes in the saying "anyone can cook,"—that is, cooking as creating. Anyone can create, can put things together and see something new, to use their whole being in creating, and to share that beauty with people who need it the most. Aside from being a big fan of Disney’s fan-favorite animated film, Ratatouille, she also makes art in the form of collages, editorials, and feature articles. Find her work at medium.com/@februaryfinds. 119
Ruby Regine Descalzo (BS Environmental Science 2020) Lumilikha si Ruby ng sining biswal. Hilig niya ang paglalakbay at pagkukuha ng mga retrato gamit ang kanyang film camera. Pinagsasanib ang pagkakasanay sa agham at kultura, karaniwang pinapaksa ng kanyang sining ang ugnayan ng kalikasan at kultura. Hindi niya alam kung paano ilarawan ang kanyang istilo maliban na lamang sa pagiging “kalat”. Richell Isaiah S. Flores (2 BS/M Applied Mathematics with Specialization in Data Science) Mahigit-kumulang anim na buwang napirme sa bahay dahil sa lockdown, sinusubok niyang patuloy na magsulat kahit hirap na hirap na siyang mag-isip. Patuloy pa rin niyang tinatanong ang mga pagpapakahulugan ng mga salita: sayang, tula, wika. John Joseph D.J. Gabata (3 BS/M Applied Mathematics with Specialization in Mathematical Finance) Sumusulat upang makapiga ng kahulugan mula sa kaguluhan. Corinne Victoria F. Garcia (BFA Information Design 2018) Corinne Garcia is a multimedia artist and graphic designer based in Quezon City. Her works often reflect upon the intersections of places, bodies, the natural world, and time. Her works have been exhibited in the Puón Tadiar Library, The Grey Space, University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts (Diliman Campus), and Ateneo Art Gallery. She has also had visual works published on heights Ateneo & The Brown Orient Journal. She is currently taking a second degree in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus for Studio Arts. Her art practise can be viewed on http://instagram.com/cuckoographs Pilar Gonzalez (4 BFA Creative Writing) Pilar is a writer and artist currently undertaking her BFA Creative Writing degree. She enjoys making comics and fanart of queer 120
witches, and spends her time either daydreaming about meeting the Loch Ness monster or hugging her friends and partner once the current circumstances get better. You can find her writing at https://thetinycaterpilar.tumblr.com/, and her art at https://theartofafflatusssss.tumblr.com/ Emmanuel B. Lacadin (BS Environmental Science 2020) Sinusubukang isingit ni Emman ang pagsusulat ng tula, dagli, at sanaysay sa pagitan ng online na pagtuturo at pag-aaral ng Environmental Science. Makikita ang ilan niyang gawa sa RESBAK Zine, Katitikan: Literary Journal of the Philippine South, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Anak Sastra Literary Journal, Journal, 韻 韻詩刊 刊 Voice & Verse o di kaya naman sa notes ng kanyang cellphone. Sa gitna ng ECQ, natanggap ni Emman ang Joseph Mulry Award for Literary Excellence at isa rin siya sa mga ginawaran ng Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts in Creative Writing (Poetry). Maria Larga (3 BFA Creative Writing) Maria Larga is a firm believer in the arts’ capacity to aid in bringing social change especially if it’s done with (and not only for) the masses, and with the revolutionary tradition in mind—after a political awakening in the tumultuous political climate of 2016, she rekindled her relationship with writing with a new purpose: to portray social realities as sensitively and accurately as possible. Sometimes she wields the pen, sometimes she wields the (metaphorical) gun. She is currently trying to complete a degree in Creative Writing and, in the process, has gone through two workshop classes (the third ongoing); continuing to hone her craft through constant experimentation (mundanity bores her) and, whenever possible, praxis through social action. Mahika Realismo Mahika Realismo ang sagisag-panulat ng isang alagad ng agham na nagtatangkang magsulat sa genre ng tula at dagli. Lumabas ang ilan 121
sa kanyang mga gawa sa Katitikan: Literary Journal of the Philippine South at TLDTD Journal. Maaaring makita ang kanyang mga tula, dagli, at patutsada sa @MahikaRealismo sa Twitter. Jerome Matthew L. Maiquez (2 BS Environmental Science) nagtapos ako sa mataas na paaralan ng pilipinas sa agham. walang honors, kasi tinamad akong mag-ayos. kasalukuyan akong kumukuha ng bachelorâ€™s degree sa environmental science sa ateneo. ito ang napili, kahit wala naman akong talento sa agham, dahil magugunaw na ang mundo. libangan ko ang pagsusulat. hindi ako sumali sa creative writing elective noong high school, dahil nga tinamad ako. sa ateneo na lang ako bumabawi. Celline Marge Mercado (BFA Information Design 2018/BFA Art Management 2019) Celline Marge Mercado is a visual artist and graphic designer. Employing mixed media, she explores themes of memory, identity, and mental illness. She has exhibited in Manila and in San Francisco, with works published in Heights-Ateneo, Graphika Manila, Inquirer.net, The Philippine Star, and Japan Times. Celline is a recipient of the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts in the Visual Arts category. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with BFAs in Information Design and Art Management. Regina G. Posadas (AB Communication 1991) Regina G. Posadas was a student-athlete at the Ateneo and a Guidon sportswriter three decades ago. This poem is her first ever attempt to write and be published in Filipino. Bea Racoma (BFA Creative Writing, Minor in Theater Arts 2018) Bea is a twenty-something socio-politically driven artist and occasional mambobola. She graduated as a Creative Writing major but has been making greater professional use of her Theater Arts minor, notably as an actress with Dulaang UP (Nana Rosa, 2019 and 122
2020, and The House of/Ang Tahanan ni Bernarda Alba, 2019) and a production manager with Positive Space (Stop Kiss, 2019). In this period of uncertainty and drought of physical theater, she hopes she and Writing can rekindle their dormant flame. Sola Fide Ramos (2 BSMS Computer Science) Pulos kolorete na lang sa mukha ang inaatupag. Nagsusulat dahil ang kaluluwa’y isang tapayang puno ng tinta. Nagsusulat dahil maraming mga kwentong karapat-dapat isiwalat. Nagsusulat dahil sa isang banda’y nagmamahal pa rin. Nagsusulat dahil sa kabilang banda’y nagdurusa ang paligid. #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar #DefendPressFreedom #StopTheKillings #OustDuterteNOW Andy Reysio-Cruz (5 BFA Creative Writing, Minor in History and Education) “And into the caverns of tomorrow/With just our flashlights and our love/We must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge” —Bright Eyes, “At The Bottom of Everything” Regina G. Posadas (AB Communication 1991) Writer, editor, homemaker 09177377340 (text only please, do not call) Regina G. Posadas was a student-athlete at the Ateneo and a Guidon sportswriter three decades ago. This poem is her first ever attempt to write and be published in Filipino. Cate Roque (3 AB Psychology, Minor in Creative Writing) Cate is a psychology student taking up a minor in Creative Writing. She is currently a commissioner for the Sanggunian’s Commission 123
on Anti-Sexual Misconduct and Violence and especially likes writing poetry that explores this advocacy. In quarantine, she spends most of her time and energy on just trying to get through the day.
Pete Manuel L. Roxas (1 BFA Information Design) Pete is a freshman information design student interested in exploring self and society through art. Kerima Ruth M. Sonaco (3 AB Interdisciplinary Studies) Batangueño. Maligalig pero tahimik. Adrian Miguel Soriano (BFA Creative Writing 2020) Si Adrian ay nagtapos ng kolehiyo noong 2020 lamang, sa kursong BFA Creative Writing. Siya ay isang manunulat ng dula na nagsimula magsulat nito matapos niyang sumali sa Ateneo Entablado, ang isa sa mga pangkat teatro ng unibersidad. Siya ay umarte sa mga produksyon ng Entablado, tulad ng Ang Pitong Gunggong (2018), Tungkulan (2018), at Macli-ing Rebista (2020). Ginagamit niya ang kanyang karanasan sa pag-aarte sa kanyang pagsulat. Si Adrian ay nakilahok din sa ika-25 na Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop na kung saan kabilang ang kanyang mga dula, tulad ng Ligawan sa Lupa at Laro ng Tatlong Tanga. Kristina I. Valera (3 BFA Information Design) “It’s a long hard fight But I’ll always live for tomorrow I’ll look back at myself and say I did it for love, Yes I did it for love” —Freddie Mercury
Pasasalamat Fr. Roberto C. Yap, S.J. at ang Office of the President Dr. Maria Luz C. Vilches at ang Office of the Vice President for the Loyola Schools Dr. Leland Joseph R. Dela Cruz at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Student Formation Dr. Josefina D. HofileĂąa at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Jonathan Chua at ang Office of the Dean, School of Humanities Dr. Priscilla Angela T. Cruz at ang English Department G. Martin V. Villanueva at ang Department of Fine Arts Dr. Gary C. Devilles at ang Kagawaran ng Filipino Dr. Allan Alberto N. Derain at ang Ateneo Institute of the Literary Arts and Practices (ailap) G. Ralph Jacinto A. Quiblat at ang Office of Student Activities Bb. Marie Joy R. Salita at ang Office of the Associate Dean for the Student and
Gng. Liberty P. Santos at ang Central Accounting Office G. Regidor B. Macaraig at ang Purchasing Office Dr. Vernon R. Totanes at ang Rizal Library Bb. Carina C. Samaniego at ang University Archives Bb. Ma. Victoria T. Herrera at ang Ateneo Art Gallery Bb. Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo at ang AretĂŠ Ang MVP Maintenance at ang mga Security Personnel Dr. Vincenz Serrano at ang Kritika Kultura Bb. Angel Ramos, Marketing and Events Director ng
Teach for the Philippines
Bb. Ednalyn Lebrino, Bb. Issa Yang, Ms. Carol Estudillo, 2018 Teacher Fellows ng Teach for the Philippines Bb. Kristine Nuyda, Instructional Coaching Manager ng
Teach for the Philippines l
Bb. Danielle Margaux R. Garcia at ang The GUIDON
Bb. Caila Noche at ang Matanglawin Ang Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila,
at ang Council of Organizations of the Ateneo - Manila
At sa lahat ng nagpapanatiling buhay ang panitikan at sining sa komunidad ng
Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Manila sa pamamagitan ng patuloy na pagbabahagi ng kanilang mga akda at patuloy na pagsuporta sa mga proyekto ng heights
Patnugutan Editor - in - Chief Zofia Lyne R. Agama [ab lit (eng) 2021] Associate Editor Alyssa Gewell A. Llorin [bs aps-mse 2022] Managing Editor for External Affairs
Giane Ysabell C. Butalid [ab ec-h 2021]
for Internal Affairs
Justin Nicholas C. Barbara [bs mis 2021]
Nathan Myles U. Lim [ab ec 2021]
Art Editor Clare Bianca F. Tantoco [bfa am 2021] Associate Art Editor
Justine Clarisse S. Valdez [bs ch-mse 2023]
Design Editor Giulia Clara R. Lopez [bfa id 2022] Associate Design Editor
Patricia Grace R. Fermin [bfa id 2022]
English Editor Jose Antonio D. Carballo [ab lit (eng) 2022] Associate English Editor
Stanley Triston Y. Guevarra [ab lit (eng) 2023]
Filipino Editor Cydney Maegan M. Mangubat [bfa cw 2022] Associate Filipino Editor
Bernardine B. de Belen [bfa cw 2022]
Production Manager Cesar Miguel V. Fabro [bs ch 2021] Associate Production Manager
Paul Stanlee V. Añonuevo [bs mis 2023]
Heights Online Editor Gianna Paula T. Sibal [ab com 2022] Associate Heights Online Editor Simone Andrea L. Yatco [ab socio 2023]
Head Moderator and Moderator for English Martin V. Villanueva Moderator for Filipino Christian Jil R. Benitez Moderator for Art Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Moderator for Design
Tanya Lea Francesca M. Mallillin
Moderator for Production
Micah Marie F. Naadat
Moderator for Heights Online Regine Miren D. Cabato
Mga Kasapi Art
Lucas Abaya, Mika Alvear, Jude Buendia, Kimiko de Guzman, Regina Due, Pilar Gonzalez, Andrea Isaac, Kevin Javier, Yuji Los Baños, Ana Lucia Pineda, Alexa Denise Salcor, Carla Saludes, Rachel Maxine Tan, Lance Teng, Stel Zafranco
Tricia R. Alcantara, Eli Alconis, Alfonso Arellano, Kessa Avila, Ven Bello, Lia Datiles, Carmen Dolina, Sarah Huang, Anya Nellas, Ash Santos, MJ Sison, Justin Dhaniel Tan, Trisha Tan, Mia Tupas, Dagny Eran Yenko
Ma. Arianne Aleta, Cat Aquino, Alexie Cruz, Ariana Gabrielle S. Domingo, Gayle Dy, Sophia Alexis E. Escarez, Harvey Felipe, Alexandra Glorioso, Maria Angela D. Lanuza, Marty R. Nevada, Ysabel Nicdao, Andre Noel D. Pandan, Andrea Posadas, Nina Respicio, Trisha Reyes, Bea Pauline V. Salcedo, Patricia Sarmiento, Lyle Surtida, Madeleine Sy, Lance Teng, Justine Tiongco, James Tiu, Andie Villegas, Nigel Yu
Jerome Allen Agpalza, Iggy Bunag, Benzi Castro, Angela Cole, Rouella Danao, Frances Joson, Maria Larga, Iva Magsalin, Jerome Maiquez, Psy Panaligan, Mikaela Adrianne Regis, Fide Ramos, Nina Romero, Lars Salamante, Joaquin Santana, Lulay Santiago, Faith Santos, Ryan Suarez
Zianne Agustin, Ashlee Nicole L. Baritugo, Justine Borja, Maria Carmela Cabanos, Brianna Louise M. Cayetano, Louise Janelle Dimalanta, Cad Dionco, Alexis Nicole Ferreras, Mariana Gardoce, Sofia Guanzon, Angelika Portia Lapidario, Robert Kwan Laurel, Lindsey Therese U. Lim, Bianca Mallari, Arnold Manuel Rillorta, Aisha C. Said, Faith Santos, MM Silverio, Psyche B. Villanueva, Charles Bernard Yuchioco
Julia Carpio, Kelly Daphne Y. Choy, Gabrielle Christina A. Cortes, Bettina Coz, Natania Shay S. Du, Mariana Gardoce, Hazel Lam, Arnold Manuel, Maiko Aira Ng, Aletha Payawal, Allianza O. Pesquera, Tamia F. Reodica, Kenzie Sy, Jacob Tambunting, Andrea Tibayan, Kristine Torrente, Iya Zafra
11th ateneo heights artists workshop november 7â€“8, 2020 Online: Facebook, Zoom
Panelists Alfred Marasigan Karl Castro Tokwa PeĂąaflorida Mich Cervantes Brent Sabas Kay Aranzanso Patricia Ramos Meneer Marcelo John Mercader Kenneth Camaro Fellows Luis Changco [acrylic] Nicole Tolentino [gouache] Sarah Huang [digital] Tina Valera [digital] Isti Seredrica [digital] C Crespo [digital] Paul Libatique [3d software] Dane Ronsaryo [3d illustration, animation] MJ Sison [digital] Brescia Amandy [digital] Workshop Director Alyssa Gewell A. Llorin
Workshop Co-Directors Brianna Louise M. Cayetano Andrea Faustine A. Isaac
Workshop Deliberation Committee Ms. Celline Mercado Mr. Benjamin Bernal Mr. Juan Carlos Luna Workshop Team [programs, logistics] Alex Ferreras, Iggy Bunag, Arnold Rillorta, Lars Salamante, Zianne Agustin [documentation] Julia Carpio, Shay Du, Andrea Tibayan Finance Nathan Lim Design Ven Bello, Carmen Dolina, Lucas Abaya Online Gianna Sibal Simone Yatco Workshop Moderator Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Head Moderator Martin V. Villanueva
The First Regular Folio for AY 2020-2021. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila...
Published on Dec 23, 2020
The First Regular Folio for AY 2020-2021. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila...