Heights vol. lix no. 1i Copyright 2012 Copyright reverts to the respective 足authors and 足artists whose works appear in this issue. No part of this book may be 足reprinted or reproduced in any means 足w ithout the written permission of the copyright holder. This publication is not for sale. Correspondence may be addressed to: Heights, Publications Room, mvp 202 Ateneo de Manila University, p.o. Box 154, Manila Tel. no. 426-6001 local 5088 heights-ateneo.org Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila University. Layout and cover design by Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan and Sara Nicole C. Erasmo Book design by Pepito Go-Oco Typeset in mvb Verdigris
Contents Lester Abuel 3 Cain 4 Sirkero Eugene Soyosa 5 Sayaw sa Papel Genaro Gojo Cruz 6 Hamog Nicko Caluya 8 Digmaan 143 [We believe in nothing.] Paolo Tiausas 9 Imago 10 Night Life 83 One Night Mirick Paala 11 Pangasinan Mikael de Lara Co 12 Walang Sinisinong Bathala 110 Orca 111 What Passes for Answers 112 Song Robi Goco 13 Gutom lang ‘yan Joseph Casimiro 14 Voyager 144 from Eternities Monching Damasing 16 [Kay raming araw akong humimlay sa lilim]
Allan Alberto N. Derain 17 Giyera ng Dalawang Kuwento Deirdre Camba 34 Until He Loves You 35 Before Pyramus John Alexis Balaguer 36 Postscript Regina Angela A. Bengzon 37 To Elias, From the Small House Isabela Cuerva 39 Matin 40 [What it was, originally— remember how words are bent] Marie La Viña 48 Outdoors 49 Museum Worker Leo Francis F. Abot 51 Gods of the Internet Mira Tan Reyes 56 The God of Small Tears Maria Amparo Warren 67 [Hands / Machine] Gian Lao 68 After You Jumped Out the Window 70 Company 72 The Voynich Manuscript Luis Wilfredo J. Atienza 74 All Broken Lawrence Lacambra Ypil 76 At the Piano 80 The Love of Books Keisha Kibanoff 82 A Midday Glint Exie Abola 84 Disappearances
Cedric Tan 98 The Girl Who Ran with Scissors Rafael Antonio San Diego 114 Literature Major Studies for Math Exam Isabel Yap 115 A Body Too Small Asterio Gutierrez 117 The Big Man 140 Death poem exercise 64 Andrea B. Teran 141 Weight Without Gravity Jose Fernando Go-Oco 145 from The Obscure
Art Patricia Lascano 164 No Different Natasha Ringor 165 Dive Therese Nicole Reyes 166 Deception John Alexis Balaguer 167 Non Omnis Moriar Adrian Begonia 168 What Goes Up Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan 169 Skybound Kriselle de Leon 170 Wreath
Editorial In the last editorial, Joseph Casimiro wrote that heights is always simultaneously engaged in two acts of seeing: a looking back on its rich tradition of beauty, and a looking forward to the new and everevolving tides of culture, technology, forms of criticism and modes of discourse. These two acts form the dimensions and modes of critical thinking engaged in by the Organization and every individual heights member.1 It is therefore only fitting, as heights commences its’ year-long celebration of 60 years as the official literary and artistic Publication of the University, to reflect on what it means to look back and to look forward, and to pay attention to its identity and position in a Filipino, Jesuit, and Atenean context. Over the past four years, heights has been engaged in the reclamation of its memory, from its efforts to archive all previous folios, to the compilation of an alumni database, and most recently, the attempt to render all these folios in a digital format for online access. This project, which has been and will continue to be undertaken by successive generations of “heightsers”, reflects the effort of the Publication and Organization not only to remember its history, but to preserve it for future generations to reflect and look back on. It is an exercise towards reflexivity: an active, deepened, and critical sense of the Organization’s identity and position, and the ways these have evolved or remained constant in light of ever-changing times. With these changes in time come changes in the tides of religion, politics, technology, and culture; these bring along with them changes in art and literature, in forms of criticism and modes of discourse. It cannot be denied, as Tina del Rosario wrote two years ago, that heights has changed with them: “heights died, you could say, all the time…its mission and vision were constantly changing; at times, new ideals bore no similarities to the old ones.”2 Since Emmanuel Torres wrote in 1952 that literature was dead on campus, x
the Publication has continuously encountered its own death in the ceaseless processes of revision, revolution, and re-invention. Simultaneously, it is confronted with the continuous death of literature and art, which threatens to constitute the death of consciousness and memory. It is thus no coincidence that the creation of art is always an attempt to confront the death of memory by preserving it, by rendering it and giving it form as one continuously creases and folds paper to make a thousand paper cranes.3 It is in this act of preserving and rendering oneâ€™s experience that the creation of art deepens and is given meaning. As Walther Hontiveros noted in his editorial three years ago, it is this innate desire of the writer or artist to give form and meaning to experience that foregrounds and even motivates the creative process, the effort to take the work through the painstaking processes of critique and revision, and to confront the possibility of its own death. This is, simultaneously, essentially, the struggle against the death of memory and identity, against oblivion. This is no mean feat. Art begins with inspiration, as they say, but only in the rarest of instances can the sheer force of momentary inspiration coalesce into something which resembles art. Instead, as Fidelis Tan argued four years ago, art is craft: the creation of art begins when inspiration ends. It is a testament to the spirit of the artist that despite the odds, he or she is able to create critical, cohesive, organic works: works that can only be described as beautiful. heights therefore, in service to its tradition of beauty, pays homage to these works by publishing them, â€œby providing the best medium for these works to make the last and most critical transition from inspired mote of creative potential, to actual, recognized, and appreciated art.â€?4 In looking back on tradition therefore, it is clear: the history of heights is the tradition of beauty5 and, in its history of continuous change, from the shifts in subject matter from the religious to the political, to the first inclusions of works in Filipino or rendered as visual art, all the way through to the recognition of Heights as both Publication and Organization, what has remained constant in the last xi
six decades is its sacred responsibility to publish, and therefore pay homage to, the very best works of art and literature the community has to offer as the official artistic and literary Publication and Organization of the University.6 The 60th anniversary of heights is a celebration of continuity and dynamism. Where the theme of the first folio was a blueprint, the theme of this issue is of setting things in motion: as a switch ignites an electric circuit, as a single domino sets others after it in continuous motion. At the beginning of the year, the Editorial Board framed the agenda and made the plans for the school-year and the commemoration of the 60th year of heights; four years before that, it defined the initiatives for the preservation of its memory through archiving efforts, which is the foundation of the identity of the Publication and Organization. This year, heights takes action to ensure the stability and sustainability of the Publication and Organization even as it continues to evolve, in view of that ever-elusive concept of organic unity. It is work that is never finished. As heights moves beyond the blueprint into crafting and implementation, from raw material to work-in-progress, it is always only on the verge of capturing the essence of beauty. Each folio, by itself a finished work, is always part of a continuum of folios, all of which contain the form and meaning of beauty of the Atenean, which has continued to evolve in the last six decades, and will continue to evolve in the next. Thus the work of heights always continues; like the creative process, it is always itself a work-in-progress. james soriano Associate Editor January 2012 Editorial, Heights Vol. 59, No. 1 Editorial, Heights Vol. 58, No. 1 3 Editorial, Heights Vol. 57, No. 1 4 Editorial, Heights Vol. 56, No. 2 5 loc. cit., 1 6 loc. cit., 2 1
Cain Tumupi na naman ang panahon paloob, at pinilas ang nakaraang papel ng mga araw at buwan patungo sa lupang alabok kasama ng mga nabubulok habang nananatili siyang hindi pumuputi ang buhok.
Sirkero Dito ako nananatili sa pisi ng kawalangkatiyakan. Naiiwang nakakapit sa tagdang balanse: hindi makayapak paharap samantalang napapako ang titig ng madla waring sinasabi: â€œMahulog ka.â€?
Sayaw sa Papel Sa pagtatapos ng tugtog ang napipintong pagkahulog. Nakalatag sa lapag ang diyaryo. Nakalantad ang espasyo. Lapit ng katawan sa katawan. Lapat ng kamay sa kamay. May nahahanap at naliligaw sa mga landas na likaw-likaw. Lahat ay hinihila, nilalamon ng grabedad. Nakabitin ang laro. Nakabitin sa bawat maingat na tupi ang marahang pagliit ng agwat.
genaro gojo cruz
Hamog (Kay JM, isang Batang Hamog sa EDSA)
Sa katanghaliang-tapat, pumatak Ang hamog sa iyong mga palad. Sa ragasa ng mga sasakyang walang anino, Tinawid mo ang tila dagat na daan. Walang takot mong binuksan Ang pinto ng langit upang maumit Ang asam na pangarap. Gumuhit ang kidlat sa iyong mata Nang lumakas at dumalas ang patak Ng mga kaibigan mong hamog. Tumagos lang ang iyong murang katawan Sa mga nagdaraang-sasakyan. Ngayon, Hawak mo ang kulay ng bahaghari — Mababasâ na uli ang iyong labì Ng paborito mong inumin, pipintog Ang tiyang umimpis nang ilang araw, Saglit na makaliligtaan ang halimuyak Ng solvent — papalit ang amoy Ng nilisang lalawigan sa Mindanao. May hamog ding pumatak Sa iyong mga palad nang dalhin ka Ng iyong Tatay sa Maynila — Ito ang mga gabíng hanap mo Ang iyong mga magulang, Ang mga araw na papasok ka sa paaralan, Ang mga panagimpang ikaw ay nakauwi na. Ikaw ang muog na sumanib sa iba pang muog Upang magpalakas at mabuhay —
Muog na may dalang panganib At pangamba sa mga nasa daan. Kumulimlim at nagpinid ang langit sa iyo. At sa unang pagkakataon, Di tumagos ang iyong katawan Sa isang humaharurot na sasakyan. Biglaâ€™y nadama mo ang init ng aspalto, Ang pagtagas ng dugo sa iyong katawan. Mabilis na mabilis, dumating ang iyong Nanay Upang sunduin ka, nakauniporme ka At papasok na sa paaralan, nakauwi ka na Sa tahanang nilisan. Sino ang aangkin at mag-uuwi ng iyong katawan? Sa malamig na semento, Hamog kang nabasag At di na muling nabuo.
Digmaan* Unti-unting lumilitaw ang araw. Lumulusob ang libu-libong anino patungo sa lungsod na nilulukuban ng mga ulap. Inuusog ang kumot na hamog, pinapalitan ng usok. Tinutusok ng mga palasong liwanag ang bawat kalsada, kanal, sasakyan. Pagbitiw sa bingit ng katahimikan: babangon muli ang mga katawan.
*â€ƒ Grand prize, Timpalak Tula 2011, Kagawaran ng Filipino.
Imago Bakas sa pintuan ang iyong hubogâ€Šâ€” ang liwanag ang anino pagkatapos.
Night Life Darating din ang unang sikat ng umaga? Huwag. Saluhan natin ang dilim. Ialay ang sarili sa pagtatanghalâ€Šâ€” kung paanong sasakay tayo ng jeep at hindi natin alam kung saan pupunta. Bumaba tayo sa dulo ng ruta at sumakay ng bago. Ulitin. Magpakaduling tayo sa naghahabulang ilaw sa highway. Masdan: ang pula ang dilaw ang pula. Bilangin ang mga tao sa mga sasakyan, tignan kung magkakasya pa ang dalawang pasaherong naghahanap ng mauuwian. Kung wala, sa gabi tayo mananahan. At mananahan muli. Ibulong mo ang iyong lihim, hindi ka bibiguin. Walang magbabago. Malamig pa rin ang aspalto, nakakasindak pa rin ang ligaw na preno. At kahit nariyan na ang araw, bukas pa rin ang mga ilaw ng kotseâ€™t ilaw-poste.
Pangasinan Kay Inang
Inapuhap kita sa iyong silid at nadatnan kitang muling nakatanaw sa bintana. Nagpakilala sa iyo ang lungsod bilang tubong pinag-aagusan ng baog na hangin, mahigpit na nakatanim sa iyong lalamunan. Mahapdi pa rin ang turok ng karayom sa nangungulubot mong balat. At alingawngaw ang tanging sagot ng mga pasilyo sa mahihinang palahaw. Hinagkan kita sa pisngi at hindi ka nalingat. Inapuhap kita at ang isinukli mo ay pagsusumamoâ€Šâ€” hinog na ang mga bunga ng santol at kamyas sa bakuran. Nanlilimahid ang alagang baboy sa kural. Nakukubli na ang tirahang kubo sa sapot, sa alabok. Ngunit narito ako sa lungsod. Nasa mata ko ang Pangasinan na nangungulila rin sa iyo.
mikael de lara co
Walang Sinisinong Bathala Walang sinisinong Bathala ang mga uwak. Dilat na bulag ang mga bangkay sa parang. Sumilip ang isang putikang kamay mula sa talukbong ng itim na pakpak. Nagkresendo ang paghuni. Bakit masisindak sa multong umaaligid? Bakit maghihintay? Walang sinisinong Bathala ang mga uwak. Dilat na bulag ang mga bangkay at nagkalat ang basyo ng bala, utak, piraso ng lamang parang basang tinapay. Tao lang marahil ang may ganang maglamay. Nauuwi ang lahat sa pagkain o burak; walang sinisinong Bathala ang mga uwak.
Gutom lang â€™yan Sumipol ang kanyang amo. Walang kaanu-anong kumawag ang kanyang buntot na nakondisyon. Oras na para kumain. Habang lumalamon ng mumo at tira, Walang kaanu-anong napaisip ang utak na inilagay sa kondisyon: â€œDiyos ba akong hinahandugan o Diyos ba silang naghahandog?â€? Unti-unting naglaho ang tanong nang mapawi ang gutom.
Voyager Ang anyo â€™Di nila mabuo Binuo ko sa mundo Matapos Itinanghal ko ito Hubad Ganap Malayo Sa mundo *
Sa kabilang silid Pinipitas Mga talulot Mga pakpak Mga binti Ng nahuli Sa mundo Binabaklas Ang sandata Ng diyos.
monching damasing *
Kay raming araw akong humimlay sa lilim ng mga ulap, minasdan ang hubog ang salimbay ng mga lumilisang ibon sa marupok kong mga palad. Kay bilis magbago ng mga anino ng akasya nang biglang umalpas sa kanlungan nito ang sanlaksang ibong wari sa pamumulaklak at ipinapagpag sa mga sanga ang mga taon. Noo’y nagsimula na rin akong umugoy at manlagas ng gunita habang kumikintal ang araw sa mga naglipanang gusali. Kay bagal huminga ng lupa, kay bagal ng mga araw at buwang dumiriin sa palad ng mga puno’t paslit na hinahabol ang anino ng mga ibon sa mga aspaltong daan. At maraming ulit kong inilahad ang aking mga palad sa malawak na bughaw — wala akong natutuhan kundi pumikit at humaraya mula sa sarili kong nakaraan. Kundi balikan ang iniukit ng liwanag sa aking loob habang nagsisimula akong huminga ng maiitim na anino, iyong tinatawag nating usok.
* 2nd Prize, 2011 Maningning Miclat Poetry Awards.
allan alberto n. derain
Mula sa Nobelang Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag*
XX Giyera ng Dalawang Kuwento Nang marating ng Samahang Banal ang kabilang ibayo ng ilog, nakaramdam sila ng gutom kaya agad nilang pinasok ang isang sagingan. Habang naghahanap sila roon ng mga hinog na bungang makakain, may narinig silang mga boses ng matatandang tila mainitang nagtatalo. Sa isang hawing bahagi, doon nila nakita ang isang matandang pagong at isang matandang matsing. May nakataling bandana sa ulo ng matandang pagong. Sa talukab niya nakasilip ang mga mata ng kaniyang espiritung gabay. Nababalutan ng sarisaring kalmen ang kaniyang leeg. Samantala, may balabal namang nakabalot sa katawan ng matsing. Nakatatak sa balabal ang mga dasal at ang tetragramatong pangontra sa mga tulisan at kaaway na nakaharang sa daan. Kapuwa may hawak na mga tungkod itong pagong at matsing na tila ipanghahambalos nila sa isa’t isa ilang sandali na lang. Sa kanila nanggagaling ang naririnig na ingay ng Samahan. “Mga baylan sila ng kani-kanilang mga pangkat,” paliwanag ni Aninag sa kaniyang mga kasama. Nakilala niya agad ang mga baylan hindi dahil sa kanilang mga anyo kundi dahil sa talas ng kanilang mga dila. “Wala nang tatalas pa sa dila ng mga baylan dahil ang talas ng kanilang dila ang nagpapakita ng talas ng kanilang diwa. Kailangan nila ito bilang tagapag-ingat ng mga kuwento ng kanilang mga pangkat,” dagdag pa ng asong itim na nasisiyahan sa kaniyang sarili tuwing naipapamarali sa iba ang kaniyang kaalaman.
* Grand Prize, Nobelang Filipino, 2011 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
Lumapit ang Amang Jojo para awatin ang dalawang matandang nagsisimula nang magkagirian. “Magsitigil kayo,” ang sabi niya sa mga ito. “Ano ba ang inyong pinag-aawayan at nag-aasal kayo nang hindi tama?” Agad namang nagsitigil ang dalawang matanda dahil madali nilang nabatid kung sino itong umaawat sa kanila. “Itong burikak kasing ito, inaangkin ang di naman kanila samantalang alam ng Dios kung kanino talaga ang kanino!” sumbong ng baylang pagong. “Ulol! Ginamit mo pa’ng pangalan ng Dios e sinungaling ka namang balasubas ka. Para malaman mo, dito sa sagingang ito namatay ang aming mga ninuno kaya dito na rin kami mamamatay!” buwelta naman ng baylang matsing. “Talagang dito na kayo mamamatay at gagawin namin kayong pataba kung ipagpipilitan ninyo ang pagiging suwapang. Binabaliktad mong duhapang ka ang istorya. Ang mga ninuno namin ang una talagang nagtanim nitong mga puno ng saging kaya paano itong magiging pag-aari ng mga ninuno n’yo? At para makita ng lahat kung gaano ka kasinungaling, sinusumpa kong lalabasan ng isang kuyog ng mga ahas ‘yang malisyoso mong bibig!” “Para makita din ng lahat na ikaw talaga ang mapag-imbento, sinusumpa ko namang lalabasan ka ng marami pang bibig diyan sa iyong nangangandutil na mukha!” “Kapuwa magaganap ang inyong mga sumpa kung hindi kayo magpapakahinahong pareho!” sansala muli sa kanila ng Manunubos. “Isa-isa kayong magsalaysay sa akin ng inyong mga kuwento at ako ang huhusga sa bandang huli kung sino ang nasa tama at kung sino ang nasa lisya at sa wakas ay makikita ng lahat kung kanino dapat mapunta itong sagingan. Tandaang ibabatay ko lamang ang aking paghatol sa bisa ng inyong pagkukuwento kaya pagbutihin ang pagbabalik-tanaw.” Bago sila nagsimula, pinapunta ng Manunubos ang dalawang baylan sa isang maliit na yungib sa di kalayuan para kumuha ng tigiisang itlog mula sa pugad ng isang bayawak na nakatago roon. Sa
harap ng Amang, sabay nila itong binuksan. May lamang perdible ang itlog na nakuha ng pagong kaya siya ang unang magsusulit sa harap ng Amang. Ngunit bago magkuwento, nag-alay muna siya ng dasal at isang maiksing ritwal para sa paggabay ng kanilang mga anito. Lumatag na ang dilim nang magsimula siya sa kaniyang pagsasalaysay. Lumitaw sa kalangitan ang buwan at mga bituin na kaniyang inanyayahang makinig sa gaganaping pagbigkas ng kuwento. Naupo naman ang Manunubos sa isang buwal na puno ng mulawin para makinig. Ang Kuwento ng Pagong Taga-ilog kaming mga pagong at tagabundok naman silang mga matsing. Payapang nabubuhay ang dalawang pangkat noong unang panahon. Katunayan, naging magkaibigan ang aming mga bayani, si Leguyan ng mga pagong at si Karakar ng mga matsing. Isang araw, bumaba si Karakar buhat sa bundok para humingi ng pahintulot kay Leguyang mangisda sa ilog. â€œWala namang kahit sinong nagmamay-ari ng ilog na puwedeng magbawal sa iyo kaya malaya kang bumaba rito at mangisda kahit kailan mo gusto,â€? sagot ni Leguyan kay Karakar. Bilang patunay sa kaniyang mabuting loob, sinamahan pa ni Leguyan ang matsing sa pangingisda. Alam kasi niyang walang alam sa pangingisda itong mga tagabundok kaya kailangan pa silang alalayan at turuan. Habang nasa pampang, nakakita sila ng isang puno ng saging na mabilis na inaanod ng ilog papunta sa isang malakas na puyo. Mabilis itong sinagip ni Leguyan at dinala sa baybay habang si Karakar ay tulo-laway lang na naghihintay sa inaakalang malaking isda na nahuli nitong magiting na pagong. Nang makaahon sa tubig si Leguyan, noon lang napagtanto ng matsing na puno ng saging pala itong dala ng isa, isang punong tila kabubunot pa lamang sa lupa dahil sa matingkad na luntiang mga dahong di pa nalalanta. Lalong nasabik ang matsing. Dahil likas na sa kanilang lahi ang pagiging duhapang,
doon nabuo sa kaniyang maitim na puso ang balak na pagsambot sa puno. Ngunit ang totoo, hindi na talaga ito kailangan pang gawin ni Karakar dahil sa kusang loob namang ibabahagi ng pagong ang puno sa bagong kaibigan. “Kaibigan, paghatian natin ang puno at itanim natin sa mga harap ng ating bahay,” alok ni Leguyan sa palamarang matsing kahit na kung tutuusin ay di naman kailangang alukin pa itong huli dahil dayo lang naman ito at wala namang naitulong na kahit na ano sa pag-agap sa puno. Hinati nila sa dalawa ang puno, ang ibabang bahagi na panay mga ugat at ang itaas na bahagi na katawan at dahon. Sa isip ng matsing: “Tiyak na ibig ni Leguyang makuha ang itaas na bahagi dahil ito ang bahaging namumunga. Pero ako ang kailangang makakuha ng bahaging ‘yon.” Kaya nagsalita ang matsing, “Kaibigan, dahil ako ang dayo at ikaw naman talaga ang tagarito, pagtitiyagaan ko na lamang itong ibabang bahagi. Kahit na di kami nakatitiyak kung talagang nakakain nga itong ugat pero isasahog namin ito sa sabaw kasama ng kamote at gabi na siyang magiging hapunan naming mag-anak ngayong gabi sampu ng aking maliliit pang mga anak.” “Hindi tama ang iyong tinuran,” tugon naman ni Leguyan. “Ikaw ay aking bisita kaya marapat lang na sa iyo mapunta ang bahaging mas mainam. Sa iyo mapupunta ang itaas na bahagi kung ito ang ibig mo at hayaan mong ako na lamang ang mag-uwi nitong ugat.” Ito lang naman ang hinihintay talaga ng matsing kaya di niya halos maitago ang tuwa nang makita ang sariling pasan-pasan na ang inaasam na puno. Samantala, sinikap din ng matalinong pagong na maitago ang kaniyang tuwa. Iniisip niya na iniisip ng matsing na iniisip niyang gusto rin niya ang itaas na bahagi ng puno at ito ang nais niyang isipin ng hunghang na matsing. “Kasinungalingan! Kasinungalan!” Patalon-talon ang baylang matsing habang isinisigaw ang kaniyang pagtutol. “Ginagabayan ka
ngang mahusay ng inyong mga anito. Ginagabayan ka nila kung paano maglubid-lubid ng buhangin.” “Hindi pa ako tapos sa aking pagsasalaysay. Itikom mo na muna ‘yang bibig mo’t patapusin ako, burikak!” sagot ng baylang pagong. “Amang, nais ko po sanang ituwid ang mga pagbabaliktad na nasimulan nang gawin ng tampalasang ito. Hayaan po ninyo akong makapagsalaysay bilang pagtatama,” hiling ng baylang matsing sa kanilang Hukom. “Pero hindi pa nga ako tapos. Nasaan ang katuwiran sa nais mangyari ng matsing na iyan?” panggagalaiti ng baylang pagong na nawalan na ng konsentrasyon at ugnay mula sa kanilang mga anito. “Hayaang makatugon ang baylang matsing. Pakinggan natin ngayon itong pagtatama na gusto niyang gawin,” hatol ni Amang Jojo sa wakas. Dahil dito, mabilis na isinagawa ng baylang matsing ang sarili niyang ritwal na may kasamang sayaw upang humingi rin ng gabay sa kanilang mga anito. Ang kaninang mga bituing ubod ng layo sa daigdig ay nagsilapit pa nang bahagya upang higit na marinig ang sasabihin ng baylan. Ang Kuwento ng Matsing Tagabundok kaming mga matsing at taga-ilog naman silang mga pagong. Payapang nabubuhay ang dalawang pangkat noong unang panahon. Katunayan, naging magkaibigan ang aming mga bayani, si Karakar ng mga matsing at si Leguyan ng mga pagong. Isang araw, umakyat ng bundok si Leguyan upang humiling sa mga tagaroon ng kahit isang maliit na lupang mapagtatamnan ng palay. “Kaibigan, ang lupa ang nagmamay-ari sa atin at hindi tayo ang nagmamay-ari sa lupa,” tugon ng bayaning si Karakar sa panauhin. “Malaya kang pumili ng lugar na maaari ninyong pagtamnan ng palay.” Bilang patunay sa kaniyang mabuting loob, sinamahan pa ni Karakar ang pagong sa pagkakaingin. Alam kasi niyang walang alam sa pagsa-
saka itong mga taga-ilog bukod pa sa sobrang kupad nilang kumilos kaya kailangan pa silang alalayan at turuan. Sa gubat, nakakita sila ng isang puno ng saging na nakatimbuwang sa gilid ng isang matarik na bangin. Ilang matatalas na bato lamang ang pumipigil para tuluyan itong malaglag sa ilalim. “Hinugot marahil ito ng bagyo at inilipad diyan,” ang sabi ni Karakar at pagkasabi’y maliksi niyang nilusong ang bangin at gamit ang pambihirang lakas, maingat niyang hinila ang puno patungo sa ligtas na lugar. Samantala, nagtatakip naman ng kaniyang mga mata ang pagong sa sobrang takot na baka tuluyang mahulog sa bangin ang puno ng saging. “Kaibigan, paghatian natin ang puno at itanim natin sa ating mga bakuran,” alok ni Karakar sa pagong kahit na kung tutuusin ay di naman kailangang alukin pa itong huli dahil dayo lang naman ito at wala namang naitulong na kahit kaunti sa pag-agap sa puno. Hinati nila sa dalawa ang puno, ang ibabang bahagi na panay mga ugat at ang itaas na bahagi na katawan at dahon. Biglang sinaniban ng espiritu ng pagkagahaman itong pagong. Sa isip ng pagong: “Kailangan kong makuha ang ibabang bahagi ng puno dahil ito lang naman talaga ang puwedeng itanim na magbubunga muli ng isa pang punong magbibigay ng mga prutas. Itong hunghang na matsing, tiyak na ang itaas na bahagi naman ang gustong kunin dahil dito tumutubo ang paborito niyang saging. Marahil, iniisip ngayon ng matsing na gusto ko rin ang itaas na bahagi dahil ito ang mas mainam na bahagi sa biglang tingin. Ito nga ang gusto kong isipin niya.” Natunugan agad ni Karakar ang pagsanib na iyon ng masamang espiritu sa isip at katawan ng lilong pagong. Sa isip ni Karakar: “Gustong makuha ng pagong ang ibabang bahagi dahil itong mga ugat lang naman talaga ang puwedeng mapakinabangan. Pero iniisip nitong pagong na gusto ko ang itaas na bahagi ng puno dahil dito tumutubo ang mga saging. Nakalimutan niyang magsasaka ako at hindi ako gano’n katanga gaya ng iniisip niya. Pero iyon nga ang gusto kong isipin niya.” Kaya nagsalita ang matsing, “Kaibigan, dahil malayo pa ang iyong 22
uuwian, itong ugat na mas madaling pasanin ang iyo na lang dalhin. Ang itaas na bahagi ng puno na lubhang mas mabigat ang ibigay mo na lang sa akin.” Dahil ang parteng ibaba ng puno naman talaga ang ibig ng pagong, hindi na siya tumanggi sa alok ni Karakar. Sinikap niyang ilihim ang kasiyahang nararamdaman sa pag-aakalang naisahan niya ang matalinong bayani ng kabundukan. Masayang umuwi ang pagong dala ang kaniyang parte ng puno. Samantala, sa halip na iuwi rin ang kaniyang parte, iniwan na lamang ni Karakar ang puno ng saging na di man lamang ito nahihipo. Batid niyang wala naman siyang puwedeng maging pakinabang pa rito. Ibinalita niya sa mga kasama ang nangyari. Tinanong ng mga kasama niyang matsing kung bakit ito pumayag na tangayin ng pagong ang ugat ng puno. “Hindi mabunga ang mga puno ng saging na dito sa bundok itinanim. Mabato kasi ang lupa natin dito. Samantala, mayaman ang lupa doon sa tabing-ilog kaya malamang na mamumunga nang marami ang saging na doon itatanim. Kaya minarapat kong dalhin ng pagong ang ugat ng puno. Hayaan nating siya ang magtanim at mag-alaga ng puno. Pagdating ng anihan, makita ninyo’t makakatikim din tayo ng saging,” paliwanag ni Karakar sa mga kasama. Nakita ng mga kasamang matsing ang katalinuhan sa pasya ni Karakar kaya ipinagbunyi nila ang kadakilaan ng bayani. Hindi nito pinabayaang maisahan ang lahi ng mga matsing ng mga mapanlinlang na taga-ilog. “Kung inaakala mong magpapatulong sa pag-akyat ng puno si Leguyan pagdating ng anihan ng saging, nagkakamali ka,” sabat ng baylang pagong. “Hindi isang sampay-bakod ang aming bayani tulad ng inyong bayani. Kaming mga pagong ay mapamaraan. Hindi kami palaasa tulad ninyong mga matsing.” “Nais kong patunayan mo iyan,” utos ng Amang Jojo sa baylang pagong. “Nais kong malaman kung paano aanihin ng pagong ang mga saging nang hindi humihingi ng tulong sa matsing.” “Kaya ako naman ang pakinggan ninyo mahal naming Manu-
nubos. Sisikapin kong isalaysay ang karugtong ng aking kuwento upang maipakita ang galing na taglay ng aming lahi.” Ang Kuwento ng Pagong Totoong si Leguyan ang nag-uwi ng ibabang bahagi ng puno ngunit habang nasa daan, pinag-isipang mabuti ng matalinong pagong ang dahilan kung bakit madaling nagparaya ang matsing sa pagbibigay sa kaniya ng mas mainam na parte. Kinutuban siya nang masama at naisip na niyang lahat ang pandarambong na binabalak ng sukab na matsing pagdating ng anihan. “Talagang likas sa mga matsing na iyan ang pagiging tulisan,” ang sabi niya sa sarili. Buong tiyagang itinanim ni Leguyan ang ugat, diniligan ito hanggang sa sumibol at maging puno. Habang inaalagaan ang kaniyang tanim, nag-iisip na si Leguyan ng mga paraan kung paano niya maiingatan ang mga magiging bunga nito mula sa nagbabantang magnanakaw. Namunga nang buwig-buwig ang puno ni Leguyan. Hindi pa man nahihinog, nagpasya na siyang pitasin itong mga bunga bago pa dumating si Karakar. Pero dahil hindi niya kayang akyatin ang puno kaya kumuha siya ng isang panungkit na yari sa mahabang kawayan. Mayroon itong matalas na kalawit sa dulo. Isa-isa niyang sinungkit ang mga buwig at nang maani na lahat ng bunga isinilid niya ang mga ito sa isang malaking tiklis, itinago sa ilalim ng lupa at tinakpan ng dayami upang doon kusang magpahinog. “Ngayong naitago ko na ang aking mga saging, ang pagdating naman ni Karakar ang aking paghahandaan.” Noon din, pinatibay ni Leguyan ang tanggulan ng kaniyang kuta at pagkatapos ay nagkayas siya ng maraming palaso at sibat. Hindi nagtagal, dumating nga si Karakar. Buhat sa itaas ng kaniyang tanggulan tinanong ni Leguyan ang kaniyang sadya. “Kaibigan, nais kong kumustahin ang iyong tinanim na punong saging. Nais ko ring mag-alok ng tulong. Kung sakaling hindi mo kayang akyatin ang puno ay ako na ang siyang aakyat para sa iyo,” sagot ng matsing buhat sa malayo. “Kung gayon, tumuloy ka, matsing,” paanyaya ni Leguyan at nang 24
makalapit pa nang kaunti ang kawatan ay saka niya ito pinatamaan ng pana. Dahil asintado ang pagong unang palaso pa lang nasapol na niya ang matsing sa pagitan ng dalawa nitong mata, doon sa gawing ilalim lang ng noo. Bumulagta ang bayani ng mga matsing sa harap ng kuta ni Leguyan. Bumaba ang pagong sa kaniyang tanggulan upang lapitan ang matsing. Nang matiyak niyang wala na itong buhay, sinuri niyang mabuti ang bangkay. Napansin ni Leguyan na kasinglambot ng dahong buyo ang mga tainga nito, kasinglutong naman ng ikmo ang buntot nito at ang utak nito na nagsisimula nang lumabas buhat sa bungo ay kakulay ng apog. Hindi na nag-aksaya ng oras si Leguyan. Hinila niya ang patay na matsing at dinala sa likod ng kaniyang bahay. Nang hapong iyon, habang namamahinga buhat sa buong araw na paggawa, mapayapang nagnganganga si Leguyan ng mga pinaghalohalo niyang mga sangkap na noon pa lamang niya natikman kung gaano kasarap. Nangatas ang nganga sa bibig ng pagong at nag-iwan ito ng kulay pulang tila kulay ng dugo sa kaniyang labi at mga ngipin, at tuwing napipiga na sa katas ang nginunguya, idinudura niya ito sa isang maliit na bao na kung titingnang mabuti ay yari mula sa pinakintab na bungo ng matsing. Hindi nagtagal, sumugod din ang iba pang mga matsing sa kuta ni Leguyan. Pero buong giliw naman silang sinalubong ng pagong at pinatuloy sa loob ng kaniyang bakuran. Hinahanap ng mga matsing ang kanilang pinuno pero nang makita nilang namumula ang kulay ng labi at mga ngipin ng pagong, labis silang nainggit dito. Gusto rin nilang magkaroon ng ganoong kulay ang kanilang mga ngipin. Kaya isinilbi sa kanila ng pagong ang natitirang nganga. Makalipas nilang nguyain ang nganga, sumuka ang ilan sa kanila, nahilo ang ilan at namatay naman ang iba. Sa ganito nagapi ng nag-iisang pagong ang isang pangkat ng mga matsing na sumugod sa kaniyang kuta. Gwaark! Nagsimula nang masuka ang tukong si Benito sa narinig na kuwento. â€œAmang, hindi ko na po matagalan,â€? ang sabi niya habang nagkukulay luntian ang kaniyang dating kulay dilaw at kahel na balat.
“Ako rin naman ay isang mandirigma pero hindi pa ako nakarinig ng ganyan kalupit na mandirigmang ngumunguya pa ng laman ng kaniyang kaaway,” hirit naman ni Talyaw. “Pero hindi kayo dapat magulat sa inugali ng aming mandirigma,” pagtatanggol ng baylang pagong. “Ang lakas ng aming mga kaaway ay nakukuha namin habang kinakatas ang kanilang laman.” “Pero wala naman akong kabayanihang nakikita sa inugali ng inyong busabos na bayani,” sagot ng baylang matsing. “Panay kalupitan lang. Makinig kayong lahat sa akin at aking isasaysay ang kawalang katarungan ng lahat ng inyong narinig buhat sa pagong.” Muling nagkuwento ang baylang matsing at sa pagkakataong ito, di lang mga bituin sa langit ang nagsilapit para makinig. Naghanap din ng kani-kanilang mga puwestong malapit sa mga baylan ang mga panggabing ibon. Dumagsa rin ang ibang mga hayup sa gubat gaya ng sawa, alamid, usa, baboyramo, tamaraw at bayawak, maging ang mga engkanto, lamang lupa, maligno at ang mga kaluluwang ligaw na napadaan lang. Ang Kuwento ng Matsing Nang sumapit ang anihan, bumaba si Karakar mula sa bundok para bisitahin ang kaibigan niyang si Leguyan. Sa kaniyang pagbaba, daladala niya ang isang kaing ng mga sibuyas, kamote at gabing ipagpapalit niya sana sa mga saging na nais niyang bilhin mula sa pagong. “Siguro naman naging mabunga ang ani ni Leguyan at sobra-sobra pa sa sarili nitong pangangailangan ang saging sa kaniyang kamalig. Kaya hindi niya ako pagdadamutan kung ipagpapalit ko itong aking mga ani sa kaniyang naging ani,” sa isip-isip ni Karakar. Hindi pa nakalalapit sa kuta ng pagong, isinisigaw na niya ang pangalan ng kaniyang kaibigan. Lumitaw si Leguyan buhat sa tanggulan at sa tabi niya ang iba pang mga pagong na may kani-kaniyang hawak na pana at sibat. Hindi na nila binigyan ng pagkakataong makapagsalita si Karakar para sabihin ang kaniyang sadya. Pinaulanan nila ito ng mga sibat at palaso. Sinikap ni Karakar na ilagan ang
mga sibat at palaso. Ginawa niyang pananggalang ang dalang kaing ng mga sibuyas, kamote at gabi. Pero isang palaso ang tumama sa binti niya. Napahandusay ang matsing sa gitna ng daan. Pero hindi pa nasiyahan ang mga pagong, nagpatuloy sila sa pagpapaulan ng kanilang mga sibat at palaso hanggang sa wala na silang mga sibat at palasong maipaulan, ang kahit ano na lang na matatalim na bagay mula sa kanilang mga bahay ang kanilang ibinato sa walang kalabanlabang matsing. Sa ganitong paraan, pataksil nilang napatay ang bayaning si Karakar. Di nagtagal, isang hukbo ng mga matsing ang bumaba sa bundok upang hanapin ang kanilang pinuno. Nang marating nila ang kuta ng pagong, magiliw silang sinalubong ni Leguyan. Dahil ang kanilang bayani lang naman ang kanilang sadya at hindi away, nagpakitang giliw din sila sa sukab na pagong. Pinaghanda sila nito ng nganga bilang tanda raw ng kanilang pakikipagkaibigan. Dahil dito, hindi na nila tinanggihan ang alok ng pagong. Pero habang ngumunguya, napansin ng ilan na ginayat na katawan ng matsing pala itong kanilang nginanganga. Dahil dito, namatay ang ilan sa kanila. Samantalang hindi naman nasaktan ang mga hindi pa nakatitikim ng nganga. Sa galit ng mga natirang matsing, sinunog nila ang buong kuta ng pagong. Pinagpapatay nila ang pamilya nito kasama na ang iba pa nitong mga kalahi. Itinira nilang buhay si Leguyan para igapos at dalhin sa bundok para doon pagbayarin sa kaniyang mga kasalanan. Iniharap nila ang halimaw na pagong sa kanilang baylan upang ito ang mag-isip ng parusang hatol. “Ipasok siya sa lusong para bayuhin hanggang sa maging pino,” ang sabi ng baylan. “Kung babayuhin ninyo ako, lalo lamang akong lalapad,” ang sabi ng pagong. “Kung gayon, itambog siya sa kumukulong tubig.” “Pupula lang ang aking balat at lalo lang akong gaganda.” “Tagain siya ng itak hanggang sa magkatilad-tilad ang kaniyang katawan.” “Lalo lang akong dadami.” “Itapon siya sa ilog.” 27
“Huwag po! Huwag po sa ilog! Malulunod ako. Hindi ako sanay lumangoy.” “A, kung gayon itapon siya sa ilog.” Gano’n nga ang ginawa ng mga matsing. Buong bayan silang bumaba sa ilog para saksihan ang paglunod sa pagong. Tuwang-tuwa naman si Leguyan dahil sa tingin niya, muli na naman niyang nautakan ang mga matsing. “Tila hindi alam ng mga timang na ito na kaming mga taga-ilog ay sanay lumangoy sa ilog,” sa isip-isip nitong pagong. Pero siyempre, alam ito ng mga matsing. Kaya bago nila itinapon ang pagong sa ilog, tinalian muna nila ito sa magkabilang paa ng mabibigat na bato para matiyak na hindi na lulutang pa kahit kailan ang sukab nilang kalaban. “Pero hindi diyan nagtatapos ang kuwento! Hindi pa diyan nagtatapos! Hindi pa katapusan ni Leguyan. Mabubuhay pa siya,” pahayag ng baylang pagong. “Paano naman nangyari ‘yon,” tanong ng Amang upang lalong mahikayat ang pagong na dugtungan ang kuwento. “Ganito ang nangyari matapos siyang lunurin, makinig kayo.” Nagsimula muli sa kaniyang pagkukuwento ang baylang pagong. Samantala, may ilan pang mga nagsidating sa sagingan para makinig sa giyera ng dalawang kuwento. Dumating ang mga pandak na agtang munsing-munsing kung tawagin. Naninirahan sila sa pinakapusod ng gubat na iyon. Kasunod lamang nila ang mga malignong hindi madalas magpakita kahit sa dilim ng gabi kaya kakaunti lang ang nakakaalam sa kanilang pag-iral. Sila ang mga sigbin, alok, balbal, kakag, oko, onglo, wakwak, ik-ik, at mantiw. Dahil nahuling dumating ay nagpakuwento na lamang sila sa kanilang mga nadatnan para naman makahabol sa buong istorya. Kaya may dugtungan at pasahan din ng mga kuwentong nagaganap sa hanay ng mga nakikinig at madalas pa nga’y naiiba o nababaluktot din ang kanilang mga kuwento, ang iba nama’y tuluyan nang nababaling sa iba ang paksa. Magkagayon man, masaya silang lahat dahil sa may ganitong uri ng pagtitipong ngayon lang nila naranasan sa gitna ng kagubatan.
Ang Kuwento ng Pagong Itinapon ng mga matsing si Leguyan sa ilog at para matiyak na hindi siya lulutang, itinali ng mga ito sa bato ang kaniyang mga paa. Pero mula sa kaniyang talukab, inilabas ng pagong ang kaniyang munting kutsilyong gamit niya madalas sa paglilinis ng isda. Ito ang ginamit niya para putulin ang mga lubid na nakatali sa kaniyang dalawang paa. Nang makalagan ang sarili, nanghuli muna siya ng malaking isda bago umahon. Nang makahuli ng isang malaking karpa, lumitaw siya sa ilog at ipinainggit sa mga matsing ang huli. “Hoooy! Tingnan n’yo, may isang malaking kaharian ng mga karpa dito sa ilalim ng ilog!” ang sabi niya sa mga matsing. “At nagsisiksikan silang lahat dito.” Dahil sa narinig nilang ito, nagsitalon lahat ng mga matsing sa tubig para sisirin ang sinasabing kaharian ng mga karpa. Sa sobrang kasabikan, nakalimutan nilang hindi pala sila marunong lumangoy. Kaya nalunod ang lahat ng matsing nang araw na iyon. Pero sa may pampang sa may di kalayuan, namataan ni Leguyan na may isang tumatakas na matsing. Nakita niyang buntis ito kaya hindi puwedeng pawalan nang gayon na lamang. Mabilis na lumangoy ang pagong para habulin ang buntis na matsing. Nang mahabol, nilunod niya ito para matiyak ang ganap na pagkalipol ng kaniyang mga kaaway. “Hindi ganyan! Hindi ganyan ang nangyari!” buong panggigigil na isinisigaw ng baylang matsing. “Makinig kayo nang malaman n’yo ang tunay na nangyari.” Muling nagpatuloy ang baylang matsing at sa garalgal ngayon ng kaniyang tinig, mahuhulaan ng mga nakikinig na nalalapit na siya sa dulo ng kaniyang pagsasalaysay. Samantala, sa hanay ng mga nakikinig, nagkakaroon na pala ng pustahan sa kung sinong magwawagi sa dalawang baylan. Ang mga baboyramo, usa, bayawak, tiyanak, kapre, mantiw, kakag, at ilan sa mga agta at ilan sa
mga bituin ay pumusta sa matsing. Ang mga sawa, tamaraw, alamid, panggabing ibon, engkanto, tikbalang, sigbin, oko, alok, wakwak, at ilan sa mga agta, at ilan sa mga bituin ay pumusta sa pagong. Samantala, hindi makapagpasya ang buwan pati na ang iba pang mga naroon kung kanino itataya ang kanilang pusta. Ang Kuwento ng Matsing Matapos itapon ng mga matsing sa ilog ang pagong, nakita nilang muli itong lumitaw na may kagat-kagat pang isda. May sinasabi ito sa kanila pero hindi nila maintindihan dahil sa kagat-kagat nga nito ang isang isda habang nagsasalita. Magkagayon man sinikap nilang dakpin muli ang kanilang kaaway. Kaya bagamaâ€™t alam nilang hindi sila marunong lumangoy, itinaya pa rin nila ang kanilang mga buhay para mag-unahan sa paglusong sa ilog at mahuli ang pumatay sa kanilang bayani at mga kasamahan. Pero isa-isang nagsilubog ang mga matsing at tuluyan na nga silang nalunod. Samantala, sa di kalayuan, nakita ni Alinaya na asawa ni Karakar ang lahat ng mga pangyayari. Natakot siya hindi para sa sarili kundi para sa sanggol na dinadala niya sa sinapupunan. Alam niyang kakainin ni Leguyan ang kaniyang sanggol kapag nahuli siya nito lalo naâ€™t kung malalaman ng pagong na ang sanggol ay anak ni Karakar. Kaya mabilis siyang tumakas papunta sa gubat. Hinabol siya ng pagong pero dahil sa sobrang kupad ng pagong kaya siya nakatakas mula rito. Narating ni Alinaya ang isang yungib. Doon niya isinilang at inalagaan ang kaniyang sanggol. Habang lumalaki ang bata, ikinukuwento niya rito ang nangyari sa kaniyang ama at sa iba pa nilang mga kasama. Dahil sa mga narinig na kuwento, tumatak sa isip ng batang matsing ang paghihiganti kay Leguyan. Ngunit bago niya gawin ang paggapi sa pagong, naisip niyang magtatayo muna siya ng sariling
tirahan malapit sa ilog upang doon matupad ang dating pangarap ng amang makakita ng mga puno ng saging sa tabing-ilog na hitik sa bunga. Ang batang iyon ang nagpatuloy sa lahi ng mga matsing na muntik nang malipol ni Leguyan. Siya rin ang nagtanim nitong mga puno ng saging na pilit ngayong inaangkin ng mga gahamang pagong. At diyan, mahal naming Manunubos nagtatapos ang aking salaysay. “Tinapos na ng baylang matsing ang kaniyang kuwento at sa ganito napangatuwiranan niya ang kanilang karapatan dito sa sagingan. Nasa iyo naman ngayon baylang pagong ang pagkakataong bigyan din ng katapusan ang iyong salaysay at sa ganito’y mabigyan din ng katuwiran ang iyong inaangking karapatan,” pahayag ng Manunubos. “Hindi ko na po patatagalin,” tugon ng baylang pagong at sinimulan na niya ang pagtutuldok sa kuwentong nasimulan. Ang Kuwento ng Pagong Matapos makipagdigma at mapatay ang mga kalabang matsing, bumalik si Leguyan sa kaniyang kuta. Wala na siyang nadatnang buhay sa kaniyang mga kaanak at kasama. Giba-giba ang kaniyang tanggulan, at ang kaniyang kamalig maging ang tinagong mga saging sa dayami ay nilamon ng apoy. Naupo sa isang batuhan ang pagong. Pinagmasdan niya ang ilog habang lumulutang-lutang doon ang ilang pirasong bahagi ng kaniyang mga mahal sa buhay kasama ng ilang pirasong bahagi ng kaniyang nasirang tanggulan. Sa unang pagkakataon, noon lamang niya naramdaman ang labis na pagkapagod. Nang may sumaging bigla sa kaniyang isip. Agad siyang nabuhayan ng loob pero kasabay nito ang paggapang ng matinding kaba sa dibdib niya. Mabilis niyang pinuntahan ang isang lugar di kalayuan sa kaniyang bakuran, doon sa pinagtaniman niya ng puno ng saging. Nakahinga siya nang maluwag nang makita niyang nakatayo pa rin ang kaniyang tanim na puno. Nang lapitan
niya ito, nakita niyang may isang munting sibol na puno pa ang sumuhay sa tabi nito na tila bagong anak nitong kaniyang tanim na puno. “Ngayo’y makapagsisimula muli ako,” ang sabi ni Leguyan sa sarili. Masigla niyang pinulot ang mga ginamit na sibat na nagkalat sa daan. Itinulos niya ang mga ito sa paligid ng kaniyang tanim na puno upang magsilbing bakod. Ang punong ito ang pagmumulan ng marami pang mga puno ng saging na ngayo’y inaagaw sa amin ng mga matsing. Dito naman, mahal naming Manunubos nagtatapos ang aking salaysay. Tumayo sa wakas ang Amang Jojo mula sa kinauupuang buwal na punong mulawin upang ipahayag ang kaniyang naging hatol. “Madaya ang ating alaala,” simula niya. “Pinipili lamang nito kung ano ang ating aalalahanin. Pinipili rin nito kung papaano natin aalalahanin ang mga gusto nating alalahanin.” “Anong sinasabi niya?” tanong ni Talyaw kay Aninag. “Pinahihiwatig lamang ng Amang Jojo na pantay ang dalawang baylan pagdating sa katuwiran ng kanilang mga salaysay,” bulong ni Aninag sa katabing tandang. “Pero paano niyang ibibigay sa karapat-dapat ang sagingan gamit ang ganitong uri ng pangangatuwiran?” tanong ni Talyaw sa aso na may pag-aalala na baka hindi malutas ng amo ang problema. Yumukod ang Amang upang magsulat sa lupa gamit ang kaniyang daliri. Hindi gaanong mabasa ng mga naroon ang sulat dahil madilim na pero kung tatanglawan, makikitang ang mga ito’y pangalan ng dalawang bayani: ang kay Leguyan at Karakar. “Kaya upang malutas ang inyong away, balikan natin ang alaala ng inyong dalawang bayani at tularan natin sila,” patuloy ng Amang. “Bubunutin muna natin lahat ng mga nakatanim na puno dito sa sagingan at saka natin hahatiin sa itaas na bahagi at ibabang bahagi ang bawat isa sa mga punong ito. Kung kanino mapupunta ang mga ugat at kung kanino mapupunta ang mga dahon ay siya naman natin ngayong pagtatalunan.” Nanlumo ang dalawang baylan sa hatol na narinig gayon din
ang nakikinig na buwan, pati na ang mga kasamang bituin, ang mga ibon, hayop, engkanto, maligno at mga kaluluwang napadaan lamang doon. Dahil dito, isa-isa silang nag-alisan. Lalong nagdilim ang buong sagingan nang magtago sa ulap ang buwan at ang kasama nitong mga bituin. “Masisira po ang buong sagingan kung gagawin natin iyan,” tutol ng dalawang baylan. “Pero iyan ang kapalit ng tunay na katuwiran: isang kaayusan ang kailangan munang sirain,” paliwanag ng Amang Jojo. Nang marinig ng Tres Pilares ang matalinong hatol ng kanilang panginoon, sinimulan na nila ang paghugot sa mga puno. Pero di pa halos sila nakabubunot ng kahit isang puno nang biglang dumating ang isang pangkat ng mga lalaking may dalang mga karit at panungkit. Inaani nila ang mga saging. Kaya lalong nagkagulo ang mga naroon. “Panginoon, kinukuha nila ang ating pagkain!” sigaw ni Benito sa gitna ng madilim na gubat ng saging.
Until He Loves You after Villa
Gracefully, you shatter the small porcelain girls cradled in a corner of grandmotherâ€™s house. Father tells me in hushed tones: shut your ears, implores that I remember to say my prayers at night. I think he fears your heart is ill, and hopes for your repentance. But Mother, I know your heart better. It beats closest to me, the way children are closest to heaven. Tonight, in my prayers, I will accost heaven. I will carry your pulse in cupped hands, hold it against Godâ€™s ear and when He cannot hear what I hear, I will batter His skull as you do dolls, I will batter His skull till He loves you.
Before Pyramus after Rimbaud and Ovid
Long past the moonrise, a mockingbird swoops down a field of grass, instructing each blade with urgent song to point at the tree that bears white fruit. In a forest nearby: old stones, slumbering under a blanket of moss. The quietest of cracks rests slender on a wall. It allows for slivers of moonlight, empty on either side. The wind coaxes the branches of trees to bend as arms would in beckoning. They point towards the city where a household, sound asleep, is yet to discover a boyâ€™s empty room, his toy swords abandoned, wooden shield gleaning the moon. A raindrop is falling on the palm of a leaf. It skitters to meet a stream. Under the shade of a mulberry tree, a girl waits with hands knotted near the heart. Cradled in the shadows of beckoning arms, she is straining to see in the dark, thinking to see your face, love, thinking you are near.
john alexis balaguer
Postscript The gentle breeze pushed a paper boat. Where you had no breath, the sea hummed for you words rocking in a cradle Iâ€™ll wait for you. Iâ€™ll take you home. My lungs take in the immensity of water, compressed by the pressure of your parting. Then I was not afraid, remembering your dissolved letter from the other side. In this fine line we neither drowned nor floated. The stars watched over as we drifted, dispersed.
regina angela a. bengzon
To Elias, from the Small House You reach for my hand, as though to tell me better with touch what cannot be spoken. This is what it means to be always leaving-behind — the day’s end, red and gold and shadows under trees, stretching spindle-fingers toward our feet. Long after your steps have dwindled into the gathering dark, I begin packing my life away. I, too, know what it means to be always leaving-behind — the house where I once lived, the pale flowers opening unseen by the doorstep, the green slanting light of every afternoon you have ever given me. What remains, I gather into a single square of cloth, tied together with string and a prayer. Carried under my heart:
the hope that you will find me, still, on a morning we glimpse only faintly from this place. You must remember, where the first light of that day fallsâ€”there will be the warmth of my hands, closing your eyes.
Matin In the mornings sparrows perch on our tree. Maps of leaves gather dew that catches light as the sun manages to extend its rays in a most precise manner, unfolding wings revealing the sudden feel for flight — unaware of what they carry within their chests, these sparrows fly to the minuscule beat that sings: for now you are alive for now you are alive —
What it was, originally — remember how words are bent from their stems, how to will them from their roots; do not attempt the lyric, do not even try — note the jagged cuts of my speech: translate & transcribe; transpose: (don’t you know the violin cannot play what the piano does?) these are my imperatives. Else we find ourselves lost again. Voicelessness a pain — echoing: echoing, echoing. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Limitation its price. As children: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in. Quite sincerely. Straightforwardly.
What it was originally — remember words. Bend from their stems, will them from their roots. Not the lyric, do not even try — jagged cuts of speech: translate & transcribe; transpose: (a violin cannot play the piano) these are my imperatives. Else we find ourselves lost again. Voicelessness a pain—echoing: echoing, echoing. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Limitation its price. As children: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in. Quite sincerely. Straightforwardly.
What it was, originally — remember words. Bend from their stems, will. Them from their roots. Not the lyric, do not even try — translate & transcribe; transpose: (a violin cannot play the piano) imperatives. Else we find ourselves lost again. Voicelessness a pain—echoing: echoing, echoing. As children: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in. Quite sincerely. Straightforwardly.
What it was, originally — remember. Bend stems, roots — translate & transcribe; transpose: (a violin cannot play the piano) imperatives. Else we find ourselves lost again — voicelessness echoing: echoing, echoing. As children: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in. Quite sincerely. Straightforwardly.
What it was, originally — translate & transcribe; transpose imperatives — echoing: echoing, echoing. As children: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in. Quite sincerely. Straightforwardly.
What it was, originally — translate & transcribe echoing: echoing, echoing: gaya-gaya puto maya — we desire to be in.
What it was, originally — gaya-gaya puto maya —
marie la viña
Outdoors from Stones and Other Poems*
He says, we’ll get out of the city, rents a car, takes me skiing in Highmount, hiking on Wildcat Mountain. Covers me in wool, polyester, Gore-Tex. I fall twenty different ways with my newfangled feet. Toeless, slippery, five feet long. We wake at dawn, drive for miles through small New Jersey towns through snaking highways, to the mountains where we lose the trail, find the trail, lose it again, like Hansel and Gretel, I say, but he doesn’t smile though he is always smiling at the face I make when I’m trying not to make a face, feeling his eyes on me. My default expression he calls uncertainty. The perfume I wear though I don’t wear perfume. We make love in the woods, against boulders. In daylight, facing the lake, no one in sight for hours. I am learning to think in Celsius, learning to think in miles. Beneath the drooping leaves of unnamable trees. Their names don’t escape me. I never knew them. Lost half the time. North, south, east, west are all the same to me. Everywhere surrounded. Without a word for anything.
* 2nd Prize, Poetry, 2011 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature; 2nd Honorable Mention, 2011 Maningning Miclat Poetry Awards.
Museum Worker from Stones and Other Poems
Morning serves a breakfast of groans on the 7. Whistling over the tracks, jerking from borough to borough. A sudden glide— These trains, they are teaching me patience. Swimming through impressionistic fog, a swollen blue, into Manhattan. At a quarter to ten. Not wanting to be late, not wanting to arrive too early, or sometimes at all. Still I find myself in the lobby, all windows, quiet and empty, filled with light, as Balzac casts a shadow in the garden, before the crowds arrive. ˘ What I know about Expressionism: “It has a real quality to it. I love the quality to it.” – Silver-haired man before The Storm by Edvard Munch ˘ At lunch, one lingers in the galleries, lets the weight of the objects sink in. Each paean, each complaint, its own question. Or else I pay the vending machines a visit in the basement, marvel at the range of sugar for quarters. ˘ Art is a) figment b) oddment c) what she meant d) what he meant e) to tell a riddle. ˘ “I don’t get it.” – Young woman before the disassembled chandelier from the former ballroom of the Hotel Majestic ˘ The job is tedious, the pay decent. Floods my weekends with color, light, a stretch of sixty gorgeous hours. A little nothing time, little calm, room to myself. What I know about Impressionism: In gallery x, trees twisting in
wind, propulsive wind, fiery night, an oversized moon spilling light on a violent earth. Rain shatters a city into glistening droplets. Landscapes kaleidoscope into pinwheel umbrellas, water waking water. ˘ Audio tour of my neighborhood: At the station, glance through the Hopperesque windows, blue waves on the bright tinted panes from the stairs ascending to the platform. How expertly the light clings to the steel of the oncoming train. When you walk home in the evening, notice the sidewalks Pollocked with birdshit. Monet’s glassy eye in a mossy pond, puddles of muck swallowing sunlight. The streets specked with litter and dust. Catch a whiff of the markets redolent with spices, a gaudy nostalgia. Approach Skillman. Here the house is cold but the rooms are warm. You may enter. See my tin can of letters, odds and ends, makes a Joseph Cornell of my suitcase. ˘ Art is a) slanted mirror b) planted fissure c) sharpened scissor d) sweet incisor e) cross-eyed juror ˘ The museum is open everyday except Tuesday. Backpacks and long umbrellas must be left in the complimentary checkroom. Photography without flash is allowed in the permanent collection. No photography in the special exhibitions please. The galleries close at 5:30, except on Fridays we’re open till 8:00. Please have your payments ready as you approach the counter. If you’re a student, have your student ID out. Audioguides are available on the first desk to your right. Here’s a list of current exhibits. You’ll find a map at the end of this desk. Not in Russian, unfortunately. Up the steps to your right, entrance to the galleries. Thank you. Enjoy your visit. ˘ Meanwhile the poems begin to percolate in the little house in Woodside. The house is cold, the room warm. In the meantime Mr. Serkin plays the Moonlight Sonata on Pandora. A fire engine siren wails beneath the attic window. Across the street, the metal doors of the supermarket shut like eyelids. A poem refuses to write itself.
leo francis f. abot
Gods of the Internet* I remember the first time I was able to use the internet: it was like heaven. I did not mind that I was using a second-hand desktop my dad brought home. I did not care if it used Windows 98. It did not matter that I had to put up with a slow internet provider in those days when I knew nothing of DSL. It was at a time I recognized Internet Explorer as the only reliable browser; that was before I discovered the wonders of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. The point is that what I had before me was liberating; it could take me anywhere beyond the four corners of my PC screen, the confines of my room, the black and white of my world. One thing that made the internet so appealing to me is its size and scope. I knew at once that I could never get tired of it. There is just so much to see in this whole, new, virtual world. At times, I would go overboard and end up finding my eyes glued to the monitor for hours on end. I knew it was not right, but the internet to a new user could get very addictive. I would end up with migraines. At this stage, I was testing the waters, figuring out how it would serve me best and get headaches along the way. On my first few excursions, I would simply browse through my favorite sites. My thirst for knowledge was easily satiated by this embodiment of the Information Age. I would go back and forth between sites like Yahoo, Google, and everyone’s favorite: Wikipedia. I was stupefied by how much I was learning everyday. It seemed as if those who wrote here knew everything. It was as if God himself authored it all. Who else would possess so much knowledge and readily give it out to eager young minds like myself? Of course, I knew myself as not only eager. I was gullible as well. Everyone who ever trusted Wikipedia would know what I am talking * 3rd Prize, Kabataan Essay, 2011 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
about. I began seeing junk like “Makati is the capital of the Philippines” or “Sharks are ugly dolphins.” At first I would believe the more reasonable trash one could just edit on the public website. But as they grew worse, I abandoned Wikipedia altogether, especially for doing my homework. I had disowned the gods I had relied on so much for my research. Well, these “gods” did not know everything after all. At least, they just pretended to. Some claim facts their own. People are ruthless with copy-paste, aren’t they? It was at that time that I started calling internet users “gods.” They were most of the time unseen, but they made their presence felt. They were very influential, and had untold powers when logged on the internet. Many of them even have a band of loyal followers. When I got tired of the usual sites I visited, I turned to my other interests. I began to explore the internet beyond my established comfort zone. I went to websites of significance, such as Catholic Answers and Pinoy Exchange, as well as websites of insignificance, like Pokemon. com or World of Warcraft Wiki. Either way, I indulged in them heavily. I think forums on sites such as these are one the best uses for the internet. As I read through all these forums with such broad topics as society, religion, the economy, literature, and even one’s wardrobe, I was compelled to join them. In forums such as these, internet users, the gods, are able to voice out their own opinions and spread the knowledge. And that knowledge would add to my meager stock, which I know I will be able to use in real life. From e-bay to answers. com, from all manners of self-help sites, I found the internet as not merely a way of escape but also a mode of reentry to the real world as better and more “educated” in a sense. Forums, in this way, become avenues for freedom, self-expression, like a sort of virtual democracy where one can engage in intellectual discussions, healthy debates, constructive criticism, formal dialogue, sharing of interests, or even small talk and quick chat. I realized that the people here are the real gods. They might not exactly know everything, but they have the politeness, courtesy, and brevity that suggest a majestic demeanor. After becoming a member in a number of such sites, I did something for the first time in my “virtual life.” I contributed to Wikipedia. 52
That infamous site which has gained notoriety for attracting vandals who have nothing better to do, I sought to fix. From correcting subtle lapses in grammar and spelling, to writing full articles, I did it all. In my own little way, I was able to make Wikipedia a better place. Another website made itself known to me by storm. This time, it was Youtube, that video phenomenon. Indeed, whereas I enjoyed all the previous sites by skimming through thoughtfully written articles and forums, Youtube gave me the opportunity to enjoy the internet as if I were in the family room watching television without having to wrestle the remote from someone else. It was an absolutely amazing experience which I enjoyed very much. I was able to catch up on episodes of my favorite shows, especially those I would miss because of my tight schedule. I could watch full-length movies without having to go all the way to the theatre. I could enjoy my favorite band or singer’s latest music video over and over again. I was able to watch online classes and tutorials that actually helped me with my schoolwork. Youtube gradually eclipsed Wikipedia, Google, and Yahoo as my most-visited site. However, there was one flaw that ruined my Youtube experience. It was the comments section. I am always open to other people’s opinion. I have great respect for these gods and my reverence for them is greatly supported by their actions in the internet. But unlike the previous sites and forums, which are carefully monitored by online officers or GM’s as we call them, Youtube hosts a comments section heavily diluted with less healthy debates, racism, sexism, all sorts of prejudices, swear words, vulgarities, and utter nonsense. Practically all videos have them. Music videos have haters who unreasonably bash at one’s favorite artists. National anthems and patriotic videos are swarming with racists. The same holds true for many more videos, even the less serious ones (generally the less serious videos attract the more serious issues at hand). For instance, I was watching a math tutorial when I saw in one of the comments someone blaming Obama for all the problems of their country. Sometimes people would try to sell items in sites which host comments sections. Seriously, I respect freedom of expression but some people just abuse it. And they do so 53
with impunity. People who say nasty things online are cowards, especially if they hide behind a username. I know that these gods are the evil types who have nothing else better to do than spread their hate instead of spreading knowledge and love. Worse, they harass other gods with bitter words, even obscenities and promiscuities. It became clear to me that the internet is being wrongly used as an instrument of hate. Obscenities in particular are what I have learned to avoid. Pop-up windows leading to pornographic sites are indeed, to put it bluntly, disgusting and abominable. They do not deserve a place in a heaven like the internet, where only good things ought to exist. Finally, there are social networking sites and blogs which provide the biggest connection between the real and virtual worlds. Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger have taught me to raise my now braver and more mature voice. I need not be like the cowardly gods who hide behind usernames. I can use my own identity and spread knowledge and love starting with the people I already know in the real world, and the people who regularly read my works online. And what I can do is far more profound than giving away a spare cow in Farmville. It is on looking back at my journey through the internet that I realize the most valuable lesson I learned upon using this important tool. I feel like Dante, who after having gone through all the tiers of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, and encountered different kinds of gods along the way, has embraced his more spiritual self and has become more enlightened and resolute. This is the most valuable lesson I have learned in the internet: I have discovered who I am and what I can do. Like any other internet user, I am a god in the virtual domain. As such, I have the all power to use or abuse the internet. Through all the knowledge I gain, I can come close to being omniscient. Much more importantly, I can choose to treat my fellow internet users benevolently, or malevolently. I have the choice, to silently read whatever is posted, or actively post my thoughts and opinions; to close pop-up windows of obscenities, or actively seek and indulge in them; to avoid creepers like online harassers or bullies, or be an online predator myself; to be ignorant and apathetic of real 54
life events, or to donate spare change online to make a difference; to simply be polite and formal, or to be a rude, vulgar, and insensitive jerk. I realize that I possess the same powers I see the other gods exhibit. But I also have responsibilities that equal them. Not only that, in being an active internet user, I have discovered who I am and consequently who I want to be in real life. What I do in the internet, whether I use my real name, my username, or expose myself in a webcam, is a reflection of who I am, my values, and my potential to make not just Wikipedia, but also the whole world, a better place. Earlier I had wanted to find out how to use the internet to best serve me. Now I want to use the internet to best serve others, virtually or otherwise. Realizing what power I have as a god of the internet, I have the firm resolve to be a part of the celestial host of responsible internet users. That way, I can better not just the heavenly World Wide Web, but the real world at that. It is a big lesson learned, a simple resolution made, and an attitude nothing less than divine.
mira tan reyes
The God of Small Tears The first spiritual director I handled was Fr. Moaney. The root word of Moaney is, of course, Moan. He has this sacerdotal disorder of delivering soap opera homilies and crying over them himself. The first time he cried, I had the suspicion that the novices must have been secretly dropping cockroaches in his coffee; you know, priest or no priest, boys will always be boys, and big boys like big toys. If not that, perhaps he’s nurturing some pharisaic ambition to become famous as the mystic masseur of Margery Kempe. I came to him because they said he is the “Master Formator” although what I really needed was an exorcist because my complaint was demonic infestation. The vital signs were all there: tables rattling and doors banging all by themselves whenever I immerse in Zen samadhi; my faculty friends vomiting green sticky phlegm all over the place whenever I tell them that my students definitely love me; the dean speaking in subterranean languages whenever she comments about the way I dress and behave; and my spunky Basset hound, Heidegger, turning bloodshot eyes, circling me viciously after poo-ping on the bed and flying in the air whenever we combat whose territorial rights are infringed as who is the veritable being-inthe-world. I told Fr. Moaney that after my ten years of philosophical studies, I have turned atheist. I don’t believe in God anymore and to prove to God he doesn’t exist, I shall test if he will come to my succor by killing myself. “It’s not true that you don’t believe in God anymore,” he said. “And how is that so?” I buffed. “Because the threat to kill yourself is addressed to him. It’s actually a sign that God is very real to you.” I thought that was a very logical statement with no Habermasian performative contradictions whatsoever. I gained more confidence in the soapy Master Formator. But he was condemned to be refor56
matted first. The poor Jesuit had no idea I was going to turn him into an exorcist. The theory of shadow-boxing in forensic parapsychology is crystal clear- that the shadow of one picks on the shadow of another but one hardly knows it because it’s all shadowy in the world of shadows. It happens in psycho-thrillers. I threw in the sophistic argument that nobody loves me, and that was why I didn’t feel that God loves me, ergo, it’s as good as him not existing. “And what about me?” Fr. Moaney asked, thinning his lips and hissing through his teeth. “Haven’t I shown you any care by giving you time?” “No, of course not! I am just one of your Deo Militare duties.” And that pushed on the control panel which activated the entire reformatting process. He argued that I have a problem about my definition of love. I argued that I just probably have my own definition of love which is certainly not defending the Citadel of Pamplona without heeding the wounds – of cosmetic surgery. We debated ad majorem Dei gloriam whose Idea of love will certainly arrive to the Platonic heavens first. He kicked his files scattered on the floor complaining he didn’t even have time to arrange them. He coughed up rasping that he’s been suffering from asthma. And before I knew it, the floor rattled and there was electric green bronchial goo splurged all over his files. He levitated to the ceiling upside down, screeched his Chucky neck around 180 degrees, spoke the gibberish languages of Babel, and warned me in a burly tone, “We mayday mayday haftus stoppus da retreatimus.” But I wasn’t frightened at all because I felt totally relieved. It transmigrated to him. I dashed to the refectory, scooped a handful of Fita, sprinted out into the Balete gardens chuckling Yipi-yayayey-yipi-yayow. I tossed them in the air, catching each biscuit with my two front teeth and leaping on paddy paws, flapping my ears the Bugs Bunny way. In the mass the next day, Fr. Moaney delivered the gospel of the Wedding at Cana, saying that God always serves as the host even in a feast when he is the guest, how he cannot be overrun in giving. It 57
was so beautiful that he wept over it with such fervent devotion that he slobbered monster goo all over the bible and slathered the entire lectern with it. The next day was Part II of “Stairway to Heaven”. For the first time, something welled up in me. I thought I had to be grateful to him for hosting the immigration services but I wasn’t very good at feeling gratitude for anything, much less expressing what I feel. In my next session with him, he asked if I had been crying in my prayers. Certainly I cried to release my anger over how Zeus and Hera messed up my life, but crying while talking to God is another thing. It suddenly occurred to me if I ever talked to God at all. I thought a lot about God but I never talked to him how I felt or thought about him. I began to wonder if I had misread the books of Carmel, about how prayer is more elevated when it’s silent, about how the true mystic soaks up solitude and silence in the bones and prefers the austerities of the desert over the luxuries of the audio- visual discourse. Since I am not made of the stuff the Leprechauns have in the Patrologia Latina, I had to cope with the aridity of the desert by inflating my Powerpuff. I tried to amuse Fr. Moaney with some yipi-yayayey jokes on a card so that he may feel better but I did not feel better even if I was so Bugs Bunny happy. I recalled the morbid ending of Exorcist I, how Fr. Damien challenged him-who-must-not-be-named “to come and get him” and the phantom flew out of Rags but grabbed his collar and yanked him out of the window. It was the first time I feared for someone’s life and felt accountable for it. It surprised me that the reason why I probably felt that nobody loved me was because I haven’t really cared about anyone for a very long time. If Fr. Moaney leaps over the veranda, I would have to account for the precious life of the novice master before Ranchero Moustachio – and that scared me. Ranchero Moustachio would have to account before Chairman Mao – and Chairman Mao would have to account before the Black Robe - the Black Robe would have to account before the German Shepherd. The German Shepherd would canonize Fr. Moaney with the title “Soapy Patronus of All Spiritual Dementors”. He would extol the virtue of the jihad defense of souls by ordering that all Jedi of the Deo Militare should learn the dark 58
arts in the Gregarious University of Hogwarts and lo and behold! the apocalypse of the Ateneo. Now you see what distortions Levinasian studies could do to your conscience! I’ll tell you how I turned into a Powerpuffed Rabbit. When my mother left us, I stopped crying. But before that I was a crybaby, rocking between being the nuns’ pet and pet peeve of school bullies. I grew up in a family of men. My father was a writer who valued monastic silence and voracious reading. Among my gargantuan grade school reads were Story of a Soul and Fanny Hill. My two baby brothers competed on who pees higher on the wall, farts loudest and foulest, who would give me the bigger poop for my birthday present all wrapped up in a dandy box - games which they continued to play poetically in adulthood. My elder sister boxed the ears of slumboys who trailed her from school and cursed her first menstruation. She had a boyfriend who was a pusher so she baked marijuana brownies and gave me some for baon when I roamed the neighborhood playing Catherine of Siena, looking for a cave where I could live as a hermit, subsisting only on the bread of life. She ransacked her boyfriend’s baggy shorts in our bedroom while I read St. Thomas’ treatise on angels , freely availing of the sneak preview of Deep Throat. Among our toys were my father’s box of multi-colored condoms which we blew into little balloons for our junkie parties. I cut out his Playboy magazines and turned the girls into paper dolls which I dressed up in my own designs of French sprigged petticoats like the dresses of my imaginary playmate The Little Flower. My father entertained film directors and producers in the house and so we had a bar with a collection of the most deadly tequila, and I played Paracelsus with it, experimenting with spirits and infusions, imagining that I could brew some substance that would knock out an eternal vision of God. My childhood was a festival of surprises because my father allowed everything except crying. While other fathers thrashed their children until they cried, my father thrashed us until we stopped crying. After the retreat, I wondered for a long time about why Fr. Moaney cries. I cry when I read my students’ reflection papers not because of their dramas but because the grammar is in a state of a national ca59
lamity. But I have never cried from reflecting about God, nor from any profound emotion about God. I perused the diaries of the Iggy Boy to spot some insights about the mystery of the slobbering lectern. I found this. Thursday May 22 (1544). Ascension. Before Mass, in my chamber and in the chapel, many tears. Friday (May 23). Tears. Saturday (May 24). Without tears. Wednesday (May 28). Before and after Mass, tears. Friday (May 30). Without tears. Wednesday (June 4). Many and unceasing tears. I slammed the book shut. That’s the abominable proof from the diary of the wimpy kid. The root word of Moan is Iñigo. After the retreat, I seemed to be acquiring behaviors I never had before but I couldn’t figure out if they were merely eclectic or Paracletic in origin: like praying more often because I “felt” like it, chanting at 3 a.m. during the witching hour, cupping my palms the Dalai Lama way, hugging the bible comme teddy bear, kissing the floor and prostrating like doormat. When my students finally gave me chocolates, I felt that the lascivious bars were charged with the grandeur of God but then I had to discern if that was a consolation or a desolation or a negative consolation or if it was a scrupulous vacillation or if I simply should end up in flagellation altogether. That was intolerable. I found some goo drops on the floor. Oh my gulay! I contracted the rabies. My friends in the Athena society were all curious about it, “But why are you crying?” they asked. “Maybe it’s just hormones.” Guada Loops, my Yoda friend said, “You call it the gift of tears.” The worst regret in my spiritual practices was asking God to patch up things with my brother whom I have kept the cold war for years. The image that appeared in my prayer was that of the young Matteo Ricci, severely sick and dying in my arms but it was really my brother. The Pamplonic challenge was what I would say to my brother if he were 60
dying – that was how I really felt about him and it’s just buried up by all the issues. But crying and cooing cheesy cheesy is just not my thing and so I clammed up the monster goo and dismissed Matteo, “Stop playing charades with me because you are not my brother! You have your own chinky-eyed brother in Rome with the Black Robe. Why don’t you just windhover around his flawless complexion and make him the first Asian Vatican Pope? Then we would all be rejoicing in the Asian Provinces!” Matteo disappeared and never came back in my prayer images. My analysis was that he was irked by two things that did not tick like clockwork: first, one cannot selflessly pledge direct obedience to oneself, unless one wants to become the cadaver of modern ego; second, tautologous cadavership cannot be professed, in any case, if one has a tone of voice that’s down down under when it is addressed to the over over above. That is an error major major. I was bubbling on the surface but I felt murky down there. It had to do with this silly copious crying. I remembered that the bible described Jesus as crying bitterly when Lazarus died. There is such a thing as crying that can’t get through because the tear ducts are constricted. It’s either that there is torrential Niagara but the well is dry, or that there is Ondoy but the floodway is only a pin hole. Naturally the tsunami will rise on the chest and the ribcage will tremble. If there is no explosion, the only way is to implode. The next spiritual director I handled was a Kung Fu Panda who had a squeaky mouse voice. He officiated a mass that he had to cut short because his voice disappeared mystically like that of Zechariah so another priest was called to continue the rite. And to think I hadn’t even started the reformatting. So the instruction was delivered on whispering hope after a long winter of whimpering hope and it’s a good thing that retreatants do most of the talking so at least we had some audible passion for the possible. I was told to report everything that transpires within the prayer period without editing and so I fed him with a gay parade of images: the God-Snail with orange polkadots who carried me on his back; the God-Bae Yong Jun who made love to me in the Korean drama “The Legend”; myself as the red suc61
culent tomato that God was ripening, the God-heron who taught me to walk through the pink waters that had fish bubbles…complete with the colloquy of what God said and what I said . The Panda waggled his arms and rolled his eyes white. It’s quite frightening to watch it because they showed through two patches of insomniac hematoma. His voice fluctuated between Twitterbird and Pavarotti, “What about feelings? Did you feel anything through all of that? What – increase in faith, or in hope, or in love?” I couldn’t decide that easily since he gave such an exhaustive menu. The Panda, obviously, has never been exposed to the emotional landscapes of Alphonso Lingis. Suddenly, like a cannonball charging through the fortress, his voice came booming back. “Let us stop the ‘I said’ and the ‘God said’ and focus more on the affective!” The next exercise had to do with contemplation of sin. The Panda taught me some Kung Fu which pleased me because I did ballet and yoga. “You have to use the body to invoke depth of feeling. You know, you could lift up your arms (which means I could also do the Sirshasana) or you could bow to the ground (which means I could also do the Danurasana). “ I licked my paws for that grand performance. That was the greatest challenge of my mystical vocation: to know and feel deeply that I am sinful even if I’m not really. I could stomach that and I didn’t even have to be some Doctor of Gastronomic Physics from Georgie Techie to command the forces of nature. I was all Jett-set for it! So I sanitized the floor with alcohol gel and put on my leotards and tights. I sprayed Anais in the air and plugged my earphones to the beatific chanting of the Carmelite nuns from my Thérèse OST album that Guada Loops gave me. I did the Matsyasana. Danurasana. Sirshasana. But nothing happened for the sake of the bodhisattva. I had to tell the Panda that something should have happened sana if I did the Kung Fu better. He was peculiarly delighted that nothing happened. His voice mysteriously returned to originally solid cannonball quality. “You see, prayer is not something you labor for. Let prayer happen to you. It is God who is in charge.” It was a sizzling summer day at Sacred Heart Novitiate but a cool 62
breeze was beginning to blow dappling the twine braids of the ancient trees. The wispy clouds were gathering and absorbing some ethereal vapors from the earth. There was a drumming of distant thunder. I drew the curtains in my room, sat on the floor, and felt my intestines churn. I knew what was wrong. Prayer is a process of becoming real. And I cannot pretend what I am not. I am not sinful. Nobody has ever told me that. I mean, does your dean ever tell you that – you’re sinful? Or your department chair? Or even your best friend? It’s all plain silly. Of course, everyone has had a sin or two, but to be sinful, you know what that means – you’re full of sins! Since when did I start collaborating with the Al Qaeda? Why is this a Deo Militare obsession anyway – to feel and acknowledge that you are sinful? I mean, what do you want me to do? Flagellate myself raw? I’m going to clobber that Panda and deepen his eyesockettey hematomas and I will pluck out the moustachio from the Ranchero if he does not commission him to the frontier of the tundra where even Xavier would collapse the second time. Jesus Christ! Don’t do this to me. Don’t sniffle my nose. No, this is not happening. I hate the Lévinasian ambush. The Sartrean nausea. The Kierkegaardian fear and trembling. And all the snortling. What am I – a pig? Owwwp. Goorrrk. Now do you see what I belched out? That’s my SHN hearty breakfast of hotdogs and omelette all over the sink! I knew I need a PhD in Gastronomic Physics! Now do you see that noodle squiggling on the floor? That’s my body. Of course that’s not yours! You live in a golden monstrance with your momma close by! I have never told you why I hate you? Well, I am going to tell you now. You never asked my permission if I wanted to exist. That is your sin. That is the original sin. The sin is not on us. And yet you make us feel sinful. You seized the right to create and you inoculate yourself from all questions because you say you are not subject to any moral law. We are beholden to the stipulations on the tablets of Moses but you say you are not covered by any of those because you are what you are, well go burn in the bush for all I care! You throw us into the world but you do not provide another sanctuary in case we find it a sordid life and we want to give back the ticket. You don’t play fair. But where can I run from your love? If I climb to the heavens you are there. If I fly to Kilimanjaro, or sail on the Titanic, you’re still there! You are the omnipresent Lévinasian Totality and Beckett’s No Exit! Don’t you realize 63
it? I don’t want your love. You torture people when you love them even if you woo them at first. This is Nazi occupation. I need to run away from you. Now where is that squeaky Panda? I need a ride to Norroway to escape from Dust. You tell me that the first law about existence is to recognize our dependence on you. Outside you there is only wretchedness not because you condemn but because it’s the natural order of things. It’s either I accept it or I don’t. Take it or leave it. The problem is I don’t like depending. When my mother left, I didn’t have to depend on anyone, not for food, nor for cheesy love; I was tough and earned my way through. And I’m proud of it. I’m not beholden to anyone for anything. And I liked it that way. Then one day you came. I was 22 years old. I was younger than the Iggy Boy! You came as quietly and stealthily as I would not know if the sun was rising and the cock was crowing and I was slipping on my willowy socks on my feet, my silken feet into my rubber shoes, the vagabond shoes that walked on which were not mine, not knowing where to go or what was it all about, like a sleepwalker following a dream fermenting inside my shadow. I squeezed my towel and the desire poured out as copious tears. Do You remember that day? God of all my life, do you remember the dawn, many years ago, when you first led me to Sacred Heart Novitiate? Dawn had not yet broken, and light refused to stream out through bearded trees because you didn’t want anyone to know, not the novices who were up about tinkering with chalices and lighting candles for the altar, not the priests who were mumbling half-drowsed the homilies they will say for the first mass, not the birds chattering and puckering their early gossip for the day, not the wooden benches squirming to reveal all that had transpired during the night. You didn’t want anyone to know that I was there, not even myself, because had I known the true reasons why you took me there, I would run away, and that was to be kept a secret until the day I expire. You insist that I would not be able to understand, anyway, because Your reasons are larger than my own reasons for existing. So you just held me tightly, so tightly I thought I was the one breathing, I was the one imagining, I was the one stepping on the grass, that I wasn’t sure if it was You looking at me or it was I looking at you when I tugged inside my soul and it was then that 64
I grasped what it means to be holy. My Lord and my God, to be holy is not being or doing good because there are times you lock me up within the halo even when I keep a Prada jacket from a shivering greased man. To be holy is when You gaze at us, when Your Mercy has stoked us out from the crowd of people, the concrete jungles, the burly thickets of trees, the massive mountain ranges, the endless patches and patches of ricefields, the ocean sky that bursts out into the immensity of space in a vast litter of stars, meteors, comets, planets all splurged on the Milky Way. They are all sucked out into the galactic hole because they are all void of substance. I am the only one You died for, and that is what pushed me out of my turf to see others, to defer my place for them as they do for me, that is how You come to count us all as Your Own, and that is how we all exist and live and sweat and sigh and dance to the primordial circle of belonging. My loving Father, to forget this vision is sin. But no one understands how it happens or why it happens, or how we are snatched from the cradle of all belonging and how we slip out little by little until we get lost and lose the sense of all light. It goes before all our foolish acts, in all that we regret doing. When we refuse to give, we have forgotten when You overfloweth our cup. When we refuse to understand, we have forgotten when You understood us in every hair on our head. When we do not forgive, we have forgotten You forgave us seventy times seven. To cry is to be reconquered by the Love that once found me. If that is so then I would like to cry unto the River Nile, unto the Red Sea, unto the Mediterranean Ocean, back to the Lake of Galilee, back to the River Jordan, back to the wellsprings of Siloe, and to Jacobâ€™s well when You first talked to the Samaritan woman. You knew she was the first wife of my grandfather, the beloved he left in Amoy, when he boarded the ship for the Philippines to hunt for gold. You witnessed him fall in love with my grandmother, and married her as the first woman he chose since the earlier one was arranged by custom. You knew my grandfather sent gold pellets to his first beloved in China, but they were devoured by vultures who stole them, and they left her impoverished during the war. You realized she struggled to keep 65
one beautiful son alive for him. Finally, You saw that in despair, she threw herself in that well and cursed all of us who will come through the bloodline of my grandmother. You knew I came to the world already cursed. But then You called me by name, and You prompted my father to bless me a holy name even if he recognized no religion. You called me Myrrh; when you were born, a Wise Man gave me to you. In Spanish, the name meant “sight”, the same sight of the priestesses of Avalon who looked into the scrying glasswell and saw death before it happens. You knew that my grandfather looked at the stars and predicted the exact hour and date and year of his death which came to be. My mother told me that such gift runs in all our kin, but I wondered about it because I never had it. I don’t think that was my sight. The sight that You gave me springs from the myrrh that perfumed your lifeless body when You were laid in the tomb. I was your myrrh at birth but I was also your myrrh in death. These two polar ends, You strummed the discord between them and healed all forms of brokenness and alienation and suffering. To grasp that mystery within the sanctum of your soul is to be infused with sight. In a dream I saw myself jump into the same well, and clambered onto the filth, only to scrape out coagulated blood. I saw myself slip and drop and sink daintily into a tub of pure, refreshing and gleaming blood. You washed me in Your blood, My Lord and my God, and You made me sleep in it for a thousand years, a thousand years, oh, but I outlived it, because I was fully awake and alive in one blink of a pearl even when it was dropped all the way from a primal well that haunted us for generations. You gave her water from which she need not thirst for anything anymore. You freed me.
maria amparo warren
[Hands / Machine] For what it’s worth my knuckles will become shapes I am working on something needful whatever that means to you; in the process of drafting I learn a language — where everything is contrivance and controlling little thoughts things I hide in the lines of my palms transposed into more secrets I am working my way towards you there are uncontrolled sequences patterns I want to disrupt I can’t seem to bring myself to master my hands
to measure you become betweenness (something I will make) I will be like secrets, metaphor — devices of my conjuring in the creases of my fingertips well preserved to touch you I perpetuate images think of you and your endpoints
I want to grasp myself and become cogs to connect everything to channels of veins equations of covert function sheathed in skin, blood, iron, assembly lines of cells and screws, a thousand mindless ones replicating needfully or needlessly blueprints for continuity in infinity in progression in playback examine these workings find your touch
After You Jumped Out The Window I remembered sixth grade: school afternoon, the teacher’s mouth open, leaking what I recall only as gibberish. You tapped my shoulder to ask me just how wet vaginas got. I don’t know what I told you; but we laughed exactly the way two kids should after discovering how they’re entitled to the world’s every pleasure, every height. Did you think the snow would break your fall? Does winter cease the flow of womanly fluids specifically in Canada? High school for us ended the brotherhood between pens and phonebooks. Now I cannot know the weather that took your last breath. We only shared happiness,
which is sad, when you think about it. But Adrian, even if your face never frames itself in my head when I have sex, whenever I order a beer in a place colder than common, I think of the goodness still promised to both of us, and I remember some old discoveries: How true it is, dear friend, that life happens so wellâ€Šâ€” how before we know it weâ€™ll be holding cocktails in some placeless balcony, telling each other how life is good and so is sex; and how if you do it well enough, it almost feels like falling.
Company I am in this room full of things that own me. I have lost everything that has remained mine. I have found a dictionary filled with words for feelings Iâ€™ve never felt. I want to discard it and begin speaking in words. I spoke to a man, once, who lost a father and I thought of a bed and all the hopeless sunlight coming through a hospital window. I spoke to the birds and saw in their eyes the many things I will never see before I depart this world: A home in hues of blue. The stratosphere. The sunrise from behind a cirrus cloud. I want to speak in words that bear the weight of our passing through this world. So before I die I will have memorized the name of every flower in every language. The dead dialects of their beauty. Then I will rename the human soul 70
so that one day, when I think of you, I can climb a cold mountain and breathe and come down. I can sit in front of a fire to sing a song with my eyes closed, trying to keep the heat in the palm of my hand, imagining nothing.
The Voynich Manuscript “In 1912, the antiquarian book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich bought a number of medieval manuscripts from an undisclosed location in Europe. Among these was an illustrated manuscript codex of 234 pages, written in an unknown script… What is commonly called the herbal section fills about half the volume. It consists of page-filling drawings of single plants with short paragraphs of text written beside them.” – René Zandbergen, from “Voynich Manuscript” It was written by an Englishman who was sick of his language, or so a theory says. Another theory is it was written to be read. Saying: This is how a plant was created – entropy. This is what God felt like. How sound comes to name a world: How does one name a plant one’s never seen? Call it hoax like everybody else? Or sift through the grainy gaps of tongues and find that this is a reminder of nothing, or when nothingness still held
the imaginable. Imagine a lake overflowing with ghosts. Describe what you see. Think about whoever invented the word ghost – translation: a thing visible only to some people. Can you feel the small hairs on your arms standing attentive to everything that doesn’t have a solution? Or the shaking of those hands that have long forgotten how to create fire from flint? It is cold. Here is a drawing of a blooming flower beside a lake. Beside it, the first man who ever lived, slowly vanishing from the frame. We call him ghost. And we call what we feel fear – translation: the avoidance of the memory of being alone.
luis wilfrido j. atienza
All Broken I told you not to leave the window open. Now look where we’ve ended up. There are insects everywhere, and the rain has gotten in. Not the strongest rain, but still enough to get everything wet. It was the wind that caused all the trouble. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be anymore. The chairs have been knocked down, the table un-set. And your hair’s been blown all over; it looks like that cut you hate so much. You always said it was too layered, too complicated. Not worth the effort for something so superficial. But now you’re wearing it and you haven’t the slightest idea. Our afternoon is completely ruined. We were going to have tea and listen to old records, remember? We were planning it all week, but now the teapot is shattered on the floor and the records have been all scratched up by twigs. They’ll still play but just barely. You were late, you know? I started the kettle and poured myself a cup while waiting for you to arrive. You came in, and never having seen you in the state you were in, I was concerned. And why wouldn’t I be? You seemed tired, or sad. I didn’t think much about what kind of displeasure it was, I just wanted to help. You said you just wanted to rest by the window. I told you to close it before long, but you were too distracted looking at a glass cow on the cabinet to notice when the first tiny leaves started dancing their way into the kitchen. I can’t blame the wind. I’m sure it was just passing through, and for all the chaos it caused I’m sure it didn’t mean any harm. Of course I think to blame you. Only for a second though, then I just blame myself for leaving it open. Even though I asked you to close it, while I was busy setting your place. My cup of tea is probably cold by now. It’s one of the few things left untouched, somehow. I don’t expect you to help clean up. It is still my house after all. My teapot, my records. My glass cow in pieces on the floor. But you’re 74
still staring out the window. I know the view is beautiful. The knotted, wrinkled willow tree. The sky, which could be cerulean, or azure, or anything but plain blue. The butterflies and the deer, and the rabbits chasing the clouds. The way it all turns back into something pretty right after it rains. I’ve seen it all. I’ve looked out that window. But I did ask you to close it, and I’m sure I said please. You could at least sit and chat while I’m sweeping.
lawrence lacambra ypil
At the Piano from The Highest Hiding Place*
Wanting to cleave clearly in the mind the wooden chopping boards of the house into piano keys, and the long tables of the dining room into some imagined concert: Do you hear it? Yes? Do you not since then not realize this grand scale? The poor boy is playing a sonata in his head, yes? Yes. Now. (Pushed into agreement as if pushed by birth into an empty room without choice and flowers for wallpaper and a mirror kept blind dark in a drawer) There was a piano, once, in my head. And a stage. And the world surprised by what had been found. Difficult piece: the left hand flying over the right and the air-pedal stepped through and clean to sustain. And all the world standing behind kitchen counters and the dinner plates waiting for the imagined overture to complete its applause: If only there was no need to explain. If only the real thing was as clear and as audible as once the beautiful music.
*â€ƒ Winner, 2011 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award.
* Brown beaver in a stream and the grass green Small girl on a swing and a bird wing And because he thinks it’s meant to be spring, he colors the clear edges of all living things in his piano book — Where the paw touches sharp the blades of the green patch and the bare arm of the blonde girl arcs her slender reach to the sun. And old Brahms who lifts his hand in a wave, even if this is meant to be a slow waltz he’s playing, and a packed piano concert hall he’s set in where a bright blue blazer’s not the right suit for this true master to wear. This genuine thing: Every day before the sun rose, I dreamt the world already in color. Ivy on the old wall greener by far than any I had seen the lush trees bending some friends hiding behind jars, sliding doors snuck into the empty cabinets of the garage wanting to be found and: everyone loved. Wanting to tell the truth, to play it. Song remembered from somewhere else and someone else’s mistake: the bored boy on the waiting couch knows the girl now playing the piano has no applause in sight. The day could be awash with light!
what colors blind him with the waiting bird on the wing wrap his hands with a song small girl’s swing fill his eyes while he’s playing a fast loud trick of a trill in his head in what was said to be “with feeling” terrible terrible thing
* All encompassing terror of the grand design I wanted the great concertos, the Bach arias. I wanted: Praise be to God who fashions with his own hands the universe and all of creation out of a deep love for everything without choice. Without being dramatic. I wanted the long pause. I wanted the audience stunned to tears because: this we have not heard before in the streets this song this beautifully done. It moves. It brings us to the edge of our sight. I am not the light. I was not even part of its terms of recovery or perfection. Joy without end without just reward. Who has not, faced with a sin, said: I want to be good? For he hears even our thoughts. I wanted that silence. I wanted the huge applause after the silence.
lawrence lacambra ypil
The Love of Books from The Highest Hiding Place
I’ve seen far better pictures of this love between two men: two legs entwined, two hands held tight, a whisper in the ear that’s meant to mean we close our eyes when no one’s looking close. Yet still, I find myself returning always to this picture of two boys who don’t know well each other yet, but choose to read two books together under the same lamp. Who’ll turn the page at just exactly the same moment when the page of one says Bless and then the other ends: me Father for I’ve sinned. The sin that says it’s wrong to end another brother’s sentences. Or to decide it’s time to turn it off: the light, the lamp. The book that’s still not done, that’s left half-opened face to face
that’s meant to mean we read what can’t be said by hand when we’re not reading.
A Midday Glint Light pans the lawn, scope-like, and a single glint is caught in a shard of broken glass that lies half-hidden but still sharp, brilliant as quiet crystal. The bite of its brightness is heady but fleeting â€“ and this is how I feel when I wake after dreaming about you, left lying, facing sky, stolen from the innocence of sleep, after your light is caught on the sharp edges of remembering.
One Night It is too soon for me to rest, you say, and so we turn our respective pages. And so we learn rule number one: betray former rules and selves. What gauges we must follow for the sake of consistency. I and you, also known as the great divide of ages. Why, exactly? Kindly see rule number three: don’t forget to pray before you sleep. God, in this case thee, comes before me. Now, we’re talking. Though knee-deep in books, the world’s never been tightly knit as tonight. Though I doubt we’d entirely keep this language suspended alive, I admit: tonight’s lamplit opera is quite nice. If only these glass clocks permit midnight hours as hours that suffice. You know, you’re slowly dozing off. The old reading lens, hanging imprecise on the bridge of your nose, slides off. I take your book. From sleep, you stir a bit. Rule number two talks about love and how you’ve already earned it, how I must teach myself its ways. Tonight, maybe, I recommit. 83
Disappearances* It finally made the news: Rina Robles was missing. Her real name was Maria Regina Robrigazo, said the paper, but she had gone by Rina Robles since forever. I remember her from those inane late-afternoon variety shows which Zeny, our housemaid, would be watching when I got to our San Juan home from school, Rina in bright yellow or pink blouses on top of black miniskirts, a gangly and grinning teenager in the company of other awkward teens who believed, or had been told, that they had looks and talent. My childhood is scarred, among other things, by the memory of watching her dance alongside a thickthighed Alma Moreno. Then when I was in college and old enough to drive I took my car to a shop on Santolan, where a large calendar on the back wall featured Rina Robles in all her pale-skinned glory for rum-addled bums to gawk at. Some girls had debuts; many in Rina’s line of work took their clothes off. From her neck hung long threads of gold, which was all she wore, and the straight shimmering lines contrasted nicely with her oh-so-grownup curves. She came out in a TV series (she played the charmingly brain-dead love interest of the male lead), a few movies (an action movie with Bong Revilla, a comedy with Dolphy), then disappeared from the public eye. I didn’t think about her for years. Then I started seeing her in the same building I lived. Elysia is a condominium in Greenhills that overlooks the shopping center. I moved into it five years ago, and you can’t live here long without knowing about Rina Robles. You would bump into her from time to time, or hear her name spoken by the staff or the security guards in front. “It’s Miss Rina,” one said as I hovered about the lobby picking up my junk mail and bills. I turned to look past the double doors at * 2nd Prize, Short Story, 2011 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature; previously published in The Philippines Free Press
the driveway, where a Hi-Ace had stopped. Two burly men with bad moustaches, aviators, and jackets descended in a comic flurry of action, as if assassins would spring from just around the corner. Then a woman in heels and short denim shorts descended, her pale slim legs grabbing your eye first. I’d hated the heels-and-shorts combination the moment it went in style — lots of young girls love it but have no idea how to pull it off — but I guess it depends on the quality of the distance between them. No one would confuse her with any of the younger faces you now see on TV — and I saw enough of them just on the small set the guards kept in the lobby to keep them awake, their voices tinny, hair slicked and smooth, skin scrubbed to a shine under the lights. Rina used to be one of them. She was pretty as the rest, a longish tisay face, large kind eyes, and a cute laugh that sounded like a squeal stuck in the throat. Her shoulders were too narrow, which made her bosom seem too full — she sometimes looked like she would fall over — but the long slim legs were killer. Two decades after her star waned she still had them, though the rest of her had, shall we say, moved on. And she could croon half-decently. She put out an album of pop songs once. The producers gave her a nickname: the album cover proclaimed her Rina “Ring-Ring” Robles, and in the photo her lips formed a bow-shaped pout. Jingle magazine said it was terrible. It was; when my younger sister entered the no-man’s land of tasteless teenagerhood, she bought a cassette and played it too many times. The limits of her singing talent didn’t matter to Rigoberto “Bobit” Magadia. A governor of some northern province where dozens died at every election, Magadia fancied the starlet, and soon she would be seen on his arm everywhere he went, never mind that he was already married. (This was about the time she was making movies.) The good governor made it into the papers a few years ago when he had his wife’s lover beaten to a bloody pulp. On the show I caught in the lobby TV, his head looked like a peeled swollen fruit that had been dropped too many times. “Poor bastard,” Lito the security guard said. Mrs Evangeline Magadia has probably learned the error of her ways and is now utterly devoted to her loving husband.
Shortly after I moved in Rina Robles did too, and I saw her often. We all did. I would bump into her maybe once or twice a week, at the 7-11 nearby, her face emerging from behind a rack of potato chips or cup noodles, or going to the Wash-and-Wish (that you’d done a better job? taken your laundry elsewhere?) just past the school with a huge image of a female saint painted on its facade, or just walking through the lobby. She would barely acknowledge you, maybe nod a little, her eyes flitting nervously about behind large sunglasses, before passing you by. I was down in the lobby a lot just chatting with the guards or Meng the receptionist, if not walking out in the street or through the shopping center. You can’t stay all day in a thirty-two-square-meter studio and not go crazy. Then she suddenly became scarce. The guards told me they hadn’t seen her in days. Of course they would notice; there was nowhere else for her to go if she went out anywhere, and besides, there was always a fat bodyguard or two with her. And where would she go? She was always driven around in the van if she didn’t make short trips to the convenience store or the laundry. Crossing the street meant going into the shopping center, Greenhills Theater, V-Mall (the new and deodorized version of Virra Mall, haven of pirated goods), which also meant at least a pair of goons with her. Now they all said they hadn’t seen her for a while. Sure, sometimes she wouldn’t appear for two or three days right after Governor Bobit visited. She would descend later, the dark spots around her eyes or on her arms almost gone or hidden behind the big shades and long sleeves, and she could pretend that everything was fine, it was great being a politician’s kept woman, and no one would tell her otherwise. I was in the lobby late one afternoon when the good governor came out of the elevator — sunglasses two decades too late to be hip, a hairpiece subtle as steel wool, a barong tagalog stretched over a gut the size of his province — looking really angry. Everyone around him looked scared, like he would turn and flip him through a glass panel in a heartbeat. I thought she’d taken a real rough one from his fists, except he never came down looking like this. He always looked big, even cocky, like a boxer who’d thumped some prick dumb enough to get into the 86
ring with him. I guess slapping around a defenseless woman made him feel like a man. But today he looked like he’d been beaten, as if the dumb prick had hit back and laid him on the canvas. The guys around him were jumpy, and it made me nervous being around a roomful of nervous men who have guns tucked into their pants. The entourage left, everyone let out a breath, and Meng started talking from behind the counter. He’s never like this, she said, and I agreed. Later she told me the reason for the governor’s agitation: Rina wasn’t in her unit. Nobody knew where she was. The last time Gov Bobit visited she was there, then the next day she wasn’t. No one — the goons, the maid, the cook — had seen her leave. They were there when the gov was there, then went to bed that night, and when they woke up the next day the miss was nowhere to be found. Worse, they let more than a whole day pass before letting him know. Maybe she’d gone out by herself and would return later, they thought, and didn’t think it worth the bother to tell him. The welts on the maid’s face told us what the gov thought of that. A few nights later Meng told me that a woman claiming to be Rina’s mother showed up that morning demanding to see her. The most Meng could do was ring her room, but of course they said she wasn’t there. The woman demanded to know where she was, demanded that she be allowed to go upstairs and check for herself, and of course Meng and Boyet (who was on duty at the time) couldn’t let her. She shouted and fumed and finally left. Then the news was on TV and in the papers (both the Inquirer and Stardevoted a few inches to the story in their metro sections) because the woman had gone to the press. We saw her face on TV Patrol weeping with anger, claiming that Gov Bobit had had her killed and gotten rid of the body. During all of this, nobody had bothered to ask me anything. Of course. Why would they? And if they did, I might not have told anyone the truth anyway: that I was the last one to see her alive. I didn’t know it at the time. I wasn’t even sure what I had seen exactly, if I had seen anything. It was only after the news broke and I’d pieced together the details — when she’d last been seen, when she disappeared — that I figured out what had happened. 87
Rina Robles was last seen on a Saturday, the first one of April. That was the day Clara broke up with me. We had been together two years and making plans. I thought she was the one I could settle down with, and after nearly a dozen girlfriends and flings, I thought this was finally it. I was turning thirty-six later in the year, and it made me happy to know that finally, finally, someone thought I wasn’t completely hopeless after all. And then it ended, this one with a big fight. It had started small, as most fights do — I had forgotten to pay some bills again — but it blew up quickly. She called me thoughtless and selfish and broke stuff, and I think I called her a stupid bitch and broke some more. She got in my face and shouted. Then I hit her. It was more than a slap but not quite a punch; I’d tried to pull it back but couldn’t before my open hand got her right on the chin. I was horrified but couldn’t bring myself to say sorry. She reeled, put her hand over her mouth, then the angry tears came. She walked out of my room. It wasn’t even noon and the day felt terribly empty, as if a hole had been blown through it. I went out to the tiangge, the narrow and crowded stalls in the heart of the shopping center, a place so busy and throbbing with life it’s the loneliest place I know. I walk there a lot, looking at things without buying, the fake shoes and knockoff bags and tinkly trinkets and cheap watches, the noise and chatter and smells of people who don’t care what the fuck you think of them. That afternoon I walked and walked and walked. Maybe Rina Robles had walked here a lot, too. I had never hit a woman before, and lord knows there were girlfriends who I should have smacked before Clara. Anyone but Clara. But it was her I had hit. Walking along those tight passageways I thought of Governor Bobit, his face fat and oily and smug. He made it a habit to smack his women around, got off on it like some drug. Was I turning into him? How different was I? After all my righteous anger at the way he treated Rina Robles, the only things that separated us were power and money. Were I in his place would I have treated her any better? I felt like thrashing a few stalls right then. When my feet had had enough I went to Unimart for some beer and went up to my room. I cleaned up the broken mugs, picture frames, 88
and other things that we had thrown. I took out the plastic bags I save for taking out the garbage and started putting Clara’s things in them. Pants, blouses, underwear. A few pairs of ratty shoes, slippers worn at the balls of the feet, a few books. Then it was TV time. A documentary on the mating rituals of insects. One on ancient China. Cop shows (who can tell them apart anymore?). CNN, the latest disaster in the Middle East. Then two cooking shows on a channel devoted to cooking shows, as if we don’t have anything better to do with our lives than tickle our palates. A rerun of an NBA game between two lousy teams. The tail end of some insipid Meg Ryan romantic comedy. (You got old, Meg.) Then I went out to the balcony. It’s a joke of a balcony, barely three feet across and six wide, but it’s enough so I can put a plastic chair out there, smoke, and drink while watching the rest of the world, or at least what I can see of it: the dark hulk of the Greenhills cinema in shadow, the backside of the Promenade. My room faces an entrance to the shopping center, so I sit and watch the cars disgorging themselves of their dainty girls and snappily dressed guys. I usually stop after two bottles of Red Horse, never more than three. When I finished the sixth I looked at my watch. It was almost four in the morning, and many of the bars and restos had probably closed. Fewer cars, kids standing around smoking, waiters and cooks walking home, less noise wafting from afar. I thought of Clara. I’d been thinking of her all day, of course, but I thought of her and how I thought things would be different with her. I was a better person with her around, and had cleaned up my act — no more drinking, no more late nights out with the boys or with girls who gave you names you knew weren’t theirs — but it wasn’t enough. The road you thought you were on turns out to be taking you somewhere else. I got up and leaned on the edge, the only thing that kept me from going over. I closed my eyes and felt the cold concrete against my palms. What if, what if? I stood like that for a while, then when I opened my eyes there she was in front of me. Falling slowly. Wearing her signature shorts and loose blouse, as if sitting on an invisible chair. Her hands on her lap. Grinning a 89
peaceful grin. Vivid and vibrant and young. I’d forgotten how beautiful she was when she was younger. The lurid calendar in the car shop was wrong, all the images on TV I had seen were wrong. They’d twisted her features into something vulgar, coarse. She was beautiful, really, and the proof was before me. Her calm brown eyes met mine. I thought I heard her speak to me, in my mind, It’s okay, everything will be fine. And she kept drifting slowly downward. Then she was beyond my view. I shut my eyes again. Then I crumpled into my chair and started to cry. For some stupid reason it all came out, and I sobbed like a stupid little boy who didn’t care how silly he looked or sounded, and I cried and cried and cried. For all the stupid things I’d done. For all the stupid years that had gone by in a blur. For all the women who’d seen through me and saw, when they cut through the bullshit I threw up, someone they couldn’t possibly love, who they’d been stupid enough to even get close to. I don’t know how long I was out there. When I’d been all cried out I looked up into the dirty darkness of the night. I stood and looked down onto the street. A few cars, people walking, lights going out. Then my vision got bleary and the streetlamps looked like blowtorches burning out my eyes. I crawled into my room and fell onto my bed and lay there for a long time. When I got up — it was Sunday afternoon — I went downstairs and asked Meng as casually as I could if Rina Robles had made an appearance that day. I expected her to be shocked that I hadn’t heard, to fill me in on every grim detail of the late starlet’s grisly demise, on how the cops and media people and cameras had made her day a living hell (all this told in breathless excitement). But she shrugged and said no. I couldn’t believe it. I walked out onto the sidewalk, crossed the street, then turned to look back at the building. I looked up at my balcony on the ninth floor and then the spot on the concrete road where her body would have been found. It was empty and seemed clean enough for a city street. I looked up at the twenty-first floor, at the balcony twelve floors directly above mine. All this time the eerie vision played again and again in my mind. I ran back up to my room and looked 90
out at the street from the balcony. No sign of anything unusual for miles around. I tried to focus, to remember what I had seen when last I looked out before going back into my room. Had I looked down onto the street right below? And seen—nothing? No body? I couldn’t remember, and it disgusted me. After a while I went to the McDo in front of Shoppersville and turned over the events of the past day in my aching head as I chomped on a Big Mac. Seeing her fall past my balcony in the wee hours—had I dreamed it? Surely I was depressed, I was drunk, my eyes couldn’t be trusted. Yes, that was it. Because odds are, when you jump out a window twenty-one floors up you die but leave a body behind. Except, she really was gone. The story stayed in the news for a while, as such stories do, then died a quiet death. Rina Robles never turned up, and her body was never found. Some police chief promised a thorough investigation, but it came to nothing. Her mother cried righteous tears on TV for a while then disappeared. Gov Bobit didn’t show up again, and he put the unit she had been staying in on the market. The notice was on a slip of paper on the corkboard behind Meng; his selling price was three times what I’d paid, and am still paying, on my studio. For months after I didn’t think of Rina Robles anymore, though once in a while, at moments I couldn’t predict, I would suddenly see the beatific face in front of mine. As I swept the floor hurriedly once a week, picking up a small item — an earring of Clara’s maybe, some other piece of cheap and gaudy costume jewelry she was fond of. Picking hair from out of the shower drain. Drawing up a meager list of supplies to buy. Often just walking along the aisles of the 7-11 brought her back. Or a glimpse of a smooth leg protruding from snug denim shorts. Just walking in the tiangge made me feel that she was nearby, and she would be there before my eyes, the picture of neverwilting youth and beauty, drifting down the night sky. It was about a year later that I heard her name again. I was sharing wooden bowls of siomai and hakao with Angie. We’d met at an ATM outside the Greenhills cinema — it was offline, she was behind me, and after it spat out my card I told her we were better off lending our 91
money to drug lords than to this bank, at least they didn’t pretend to be upstanding businessmen. She laughed, I became my charming funny self, and later that afternoon we were in a noodle house behind Unimart, one that had been around decades ago when this whole place wasn’t crowded and profit-maximized to the gills. It also turned out that she lived at the Elysia, three floors below me, and her unit looked out to the shopping center as mine did. For some reason we were talking about celebrities, maybe because we both spent our working days looking at images of them (I edited video at a production house, she managed photo shoots at a glossy that featured tastefully underdressed women on its covers). She was regaling me with stories of how the agents of nubile starlets and glorified GROs kept bugging her about featuring their clients in her magazine. Occasionally politicos pimped their girlfriends. “Like Bobit Magadia,” she said. “He once asked me what I thought about having Rina Robles on the cover. He was dead serious.” “Rina Robles?” “Yes! Of all people. I couldn’t tell him, sorry, we feature people who are, uh, at least a decade younger and actually still beautiful.” I did my best to chuckle. “She was beautiful, in fairness,” I said. “When she was younger.” “Yes, she was. People forget that. But this was just a few years ago, when she’d gotten thick around the waist.” “And I guess there’s only so much you can do to hide the bruises.” “Ah, yes. Those.” “The things men are capable of.” We took a few moments to chew and slurp. The conversation had hit a tender spot, and we both knew it. I wonder if I should mention what I knew. Could I trust her to take me seriously? Was this something you brought up with someone you’d just met who you wanted to keep meeting for a while longer? Maybe I’d already said too much. “It’s too bad she was never found,” I said. “Yes, too bad. Poor girl.” “Of course, she’s out of her misery.”
“I remember her in her sunglasses trying to hide the black eyes. I couldn’t look her in the face then.” “I know what you mean.” “I would see her in the 7-11 or Starbucks and I’d feel like taking her hand and asking her if she was alright, if there was anything I could do.” “I don’t think we could have done anything.” “Did she have anyone to turn to?” I didn’t know what to say to that, and I thought she laughed nervously. “Hmm, funny,” I said. “We’re assuming she’s dead.” “True. Though it’s been a year. Still, her loved ones must keep on hoping, since they haven’t found a body . . . ” “I saw her the day she disappeared.” There, I’d blurted it out. “I was the last one to see her alive.” She changed the subject, started talking about work and her jerk of a boss. I didn’t press on. I listened attentively, or hoped I seemed to do so. Then we split the bill, and we went out and walked through the tiangge. She said she needed to buy some cold-weather clothes for a visit to her mother in Vancouver, and I joined her. We took our time looking through the sweaters and jackets. I picked out a striped scarf and paid for it, even though she insisted on paying. Our dialogue consisted of words for the things before us, not for the thing we couldn’t see that hung in the air. We were sort of like a couple who’d just had a baby that died. Hours later she had a few bundles to lug around, and I helped her carry them to a coffee shop at the edge of where the pond used to be, just after the poor excuse of a playground. I was tired from the walking, unusually tired, too tired perhaps to think straight. “I was the last one to see her alive.” My reluctance was gone. It didn’t matter now if she hated me for bringing it up again. “Who?” “Rina Robles.” Before she got a chance to change the subject again I added, “I’ve never told anyone that.”
She didn’t answer, just sipped her cappuccino and jabbed at the dry and crumbly slice of carrot cake. For a moment we seemed intent on listening to the whirring of the asthmatic air-conditioner. “I think I was the last person to see her alive.” Her fork clanked on the plate. She sat up and looked me in the eye. “That’s hard to believe.” Suddenly I was testy, as if I was being graded on an exam. It all came out of me in one guilt-wracked blur. It was foolish, reckless. She could have laughed me out of the room. Or clapped me in a straitjacket. I was beyond caring. I knew what I had seen and I told her. When I was done she was quiet. Then she asked for an ashtray and moved to the open-air section. I joined her. She started talking about Henry. They’d been together more than two years and had been living in at the Elysia for most of that time. They had decided to get married, then he’d had the bright idea of prac ticing in a small barrio somewhere in Central Luzon; she couldn’t even find it on the map if she had to. He’d been able to put some money away thanks to his obstetrics practice and had gotten it into his head that he wanted to give something back by spending a year in a barrio, just as a few of his friends had already done. She thought it was awfully idealistic of him, couldn’t he put if off a while and think about it some more, but he insisted. I’ll be with friends from UP Med, so I’ll be safe, he said. He left. He would come back for a day every month. He told me how fulfilling the work was, but that he had to fend off the overzealous evangelicals who condemned him for treating women who’d gotten induced abortions. (How many of them have you treated? I asked. Too many.) Then the soldiers would warn him against helping out the communist rebels, or even their families. It was the same thing for almost a year. Then just a week before his scheduled return, he disappeared. He would text me a few times a day; he suddenly stopped. I was frantic. I called his friends; they told me he’d been picked up one night by armed men. They hadn’t seen him since. She’d gone there herself to find him. An uncle and a cousin who were lawyers helped. They didn’t find him in hospitals or jails. No one knew anything, no one said anything, certainly not the police 94
and military. She came up against a brick wall. And he had not been heard from since. Three years to the day after she last saw Henry — it was the first Saturday of April, she remembers — Angie was sitting in her balcony, a bottle of Johnny Walker Black beside her, slowly emptying it as the anniversary wore on. It was very late, she’d lost track of time. At one point she’d stood and looked out onto the street, wondering what it might feel like to jump and land on the concrete. Her skull would explode on impact, scattering her brains on the pavement. She imagined what the scene might be like, as if she were separate from her body, looking down at the corpse of this victim of despair. At least there would be a body to gawk at, even if bits of it had to be scraped off the pavement and put into a box; the mourners would have a body to grieve over, not some unfilled space made up of dreadfully cold air. Something inside her coiled tight then snapped, she was about to put one leg over the edge, when she saw her, Rina Robles, floating in space, drifting down as if on a bed of cool night air. Angie had been a huge fan of hers as a child, had bought her album, had learned all the words to the songs, had waited for each episode of each TV show she appeared in, had gotten her mother to accompany her to her movies, and when she got to high school, had turned her obsession into ridicule and marveled at her dreadfully bad taste. Then there she was before her, full flesh and blood, beautiful and young again as she was two decades before when Angie hadn’t even known boys or kisses or final goodbyes. Rina had mouthed reassurance, or so Angie thought, before drifting beyond her sight. Then Angie fell back into her chair and wept. When next she opened her eyes it was morning. She got up and looked out onto the street. Nothing. Then she rushed downstairs and found the sleepy-eyed Meng, who had just arrived. No sign of Rina Robles, no dead body on the pavement, no commotion. Later she heard about Rina going missing and wondered if what she had seen was real. “I thought it was all a dream,” she said. 95
“That’s what I thought, too.” “So we both saw her.” “She really did jump.” It was quiet for a while. Our cigarettes were out and we didn’t light new ones. “But she never hit the ground.” “No.” “Why?” “I don’t know.” “No one would believe us.” “No one.” “Where do you think she is now?” “A better place. I hope.” Later that night we were in her room, a small studio unit just like mine. She made mint tea. We talked some more, but not of the same things. As the night wore on I had the eerie sensation of being with someone who had a huge hole blown through their chest, a hole no one else could see. A little after midnight I thanked her for the tea, and for the day together, and said she should let me know when she got back from Vancouver so I could take her out. She thanked me too, then as I stepped just outside the doorway and wondered whether I should kiss her, she said, “I’m moving to Vancouver. I can’t stand it here anymore. Sorry. Thanks for letting me talk. I needed it. Goodbye.” I stood outside her door long enough to notice how uneven the enameling of the wood was. It remained shut, and instead of going up to my room I took the elevator down then walked out into the balmy evening. Cars came and went, picking up and dropping off the young, the old, those who hadn’t known any pain, those who would come to know plenty. The parking building to the right of the cinema obscured V-Mall and some of the night sky, the Promenade to my left obliterated the other half of it. More buildings were going up around me, and taller ones too. I turn and glance back at the Elysia, at its snaggle-tooth checkerboard of lights on and off, just in case I catch a glimpse of bodies fall96
ing. Then I’m suddenly mad at the governor, my face is flushed with it, and if he had been there in front of me I would have pounded my fists into his ugly face again and again. And I’m enraged because I know it would never happen. His goons would mow me down before I could take a swing at him. I think of myself falling to the ground in a hail of gunfire. In glorious slow-motion, like in a movie. Who knows, perhaps I will disappear before the bullets hit. Or before I touch the pavement. It just might be possible. It is a kind of comfort to know that it could happen, if ever the pain becomes too much to bear. I walk briskly down the street to work it off and let my blood cool, my impotent fists in my pockets, to where the road curves past the school with the saint on its facade. I’d seen it many times before and still haven’t decided if it is merely tasteless or garish. Tonight as I turn to look at it the painted figure stops me in my tracks. I can barely make it out in the darkness and the dirty glow of streetlamps, but it occurs to me — a strange thought that freezes me where I stand — that the woman looks oddly familiar. After a moment of dizziness — I need to blink it away — all I can think of doing is utter a prayer. Santa Maria Regina, forgive me my sins, and let Clara know I’m sorry, I really am. Forgive us all our terrible ignorance of the pain, the frightful pain, we cause others. And give the wounded among us, especially those wounded and abused beyond the tolerance of saints, the strength to endure.
The Girl Who Ran With Scissors Jojo’s hobby of collecting sharp things started a long time ago. I just wasn’t sure when exactly that was. At first, I thought it started that day in grade school she got her finger stuck in the pencil sharpener. Her cry was like that of a puppy’s – weak, absolutely helpless. It didn’t seem so bad at first. It looked like her forefinger was simply inserted in the hole of the small, yellow, plastic sharpener. The look on her face, however, told a different story. It was only when I leaned in for a second look that I noticed the red streaks peeking out from beneath the stainless steel. Panic shot through my body; it was the first time I’d ever seen blood. I automatically screamed my teacher’s name for help. Our teacher very quickly strode over to the pair of us. If the alarm in my voice hadn’t been enough to get her to realize the urgency of the situation, maybe Jo’s tears were. Jo held her stuck, bleeding finger out to the woman, as if she would readily fix everything, make it all better with a snap. Unfortunately, by the time her finger was free, the damage had been done. The supple skin had been sliced off her finger, and two ugly gashes had cut open her fingernail as well. We were seven, when it happened. Curious, stupid, seven. “Are you okay, Jojo?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered. “Really?” “Yeah, I’m okay.” She was still holding the pencil sharpener. The worst was over; she knew she’d get better. In fact, after the accident, she seemed rather relaxed. She stuck the pencil sharpener in her pocket as easily as if it were a piece of candy she was saving.
* Just a few years ago, we decided to cook some pasta at her home. The countertop was a mess – a telltale sign of our inexperience in the kitchen. Nonetheless, we refused any offer of help from her mother. We wanted this meal to be our own, and stubbornly continued to plow through the challenge known as “Recipe: Bacon Carbonara”. “How’s the sauce?” she called over to me. “What do you think?” I shot back, sarcastically. For the last ten minutes, I’d been answering the same question with the same reply: “Still cooking.” “Just checking,” she said, her voice sing-song. “Remember, if we screw this meal up, it’s your fault.” “I don’t think that was part of the deal,” I chuckled. “Now, it is.” She continued slicing away at the bacon, strip after strip. Eventually, it seemed that everything would go exactly as we planned it. Lightly salted water, pasta cooked al dente, mushroom cream and milk and a little salt and pepper – it was all coming together so well, I was convinced we’d soon be able to serve the meal without any further difficulties. “This is surprising,” I said. “What is?” She’d slid the meat in the saucepan and put the knife down. “The stove hasn’t blown up yet, that’s what.” “Ha ha, you...” I took a couple of steps toward her, closing the distance between us. My hand rested on the kitchen counter, inches from hers. For two seconds, I looked right into her eyes. For two seconds, she stared right back. It was after that moment that she slid her own hand backwards – away from mine – carelessly knocking back the knife that lay on the edge of the counter. Her foot was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the blade fell from the countertop.
The worst part was that moment – that short, deathly moment, when the knife fell through the empty space between the table’s edge and her shoe. So many different thoughts crashed through my head in that span of time. None of them translated into action, save for a sharp breath. Jo was the only one to scream. Shocked at seeing the blade embed in her rubber shoe, I couldn’t even answer her agonized cry. She did all the flailing too, while I just stood there, paralyzed. I don’t know how long it took for her to pull the knife out of her foot, but only after she did that could I approach her and try to help, repelled though I was by the blood on the kitchen floor. Fortunately the knife wound wasn’t very deep, and she got home from the hospital the same night. We even managed to serve the pasta for dinner. Only, I threw it up afterwards. A few days later, Jo showed me the same kitchen knife that had fallen on her foot. She was keeping it in her room, on display on the desk. * The most important day I’d ever spent with Jo was that day the weather was as close to perfect as could possibly be. We were seated in the shade of a tree, sipping milkshakes. A young man dressed in a colourful outfit passed by, fixing his garish ensemble as he rushed away. Clearly, he was headed for the small theater just on the other side of the courtyard. “What’s Greg up to?” I chuckled, curiously eyeing his extravagant costume. “Rehearsals,” Jo answered me. “What play?” I turned back to Jo. “Romeo and Juliet.” “Who’s he playing?” “Romeo.” “Oh.” We continued sipping. The sounds of that, and the lazy whisper of the wind in the foliage above us, were the only things audible for a long while. It suited me just fine. Really, that was what I loved about 100
Jo. We could sit beside each other for hours at a time in silence. With anybody else, the pressure to start a conversation, to drop words, eventually came up. I cast a sideways glance at her. At that moment, she decided to look over at me, too. It was a good moment, a nice moment. We shared a laugh. After that, sipping again, and the wind. “Did you see what Greg was wearing?” she suddenly asked. “With his costume, I mean.” “What?” “At his side. He was wearing a dagger. Like, a silver dagger. Did you see it?” “A dagger? I don’t think so. Why, what about it?” “I’m going to steal it.” * It was an odd addiction. First, she ripped a page out of a zoology textbook after giving herself a papercut. The page, which contained unremarkable photos of elephants and tigers, was folded neatly in two and left in a cabinet. Some time later, she accidentally nicked herself with a paper cutter while we worked on a school project. The cutter went into the cabinet, too. A collection of the most mundane items came together in a funny sort of shrine – a haven of secrets that she put together with quiet persistence and shared only with me. At first, I never questioned her about it. It was just like that time she picked up a rock off the road after scraping her knee against the pavement. We just continued jogging that day. I said nothing. With Greg, though, it was different. When it came to Greg, I wanted to ask questions. The theater’s backstage area wasn’t strictly guarded, and Jo and I snuck our way inside without being noticed. Here, a fine mess of people and props was scattered about – a stone wall of cardboard, a feathered hat, a boot. For a moment we stood in the shadows at the wings of the stage, and looked on from the sides as Greg and his fellow performers practiced some unfamiliar scene. 101
“This is wrong,” I muttered. “It’s alright,” Jo assured me. “Relax.” But relaxing was the last thing I could do. * A few weeks before that, she told me about her family’s plans. I’m not sure if I ever felt stranger than I did then, sitting there while she hit me with the news. “They’ve decided,” she said. “We’re moving.” “I...” I paused, put on the appropriate look of disbelief, and continued. “Why?” “I don’t know. Because this place isn’t for us anymore, I guess.” She didn’t seem so sad. Sitting there, one leg dangling over the edge of her bed, with her eyes turned to the sunset out the window, she looked perfectly at ease. I wasn’t sure what kind of expression I was supposed to show. Did she want me to act devastated? Indifferent? How much was I supposed to care? “Hey, you want to see something cool?” Jo suddenly asked. She walked over to her closet and opened the doors, momentarily revealing her treasure cove. There was a nail clipper there. A steel wire. A dead insect. Many, many other things. I only ever saw things go inside the closet. This time, though, she reached in and pulled something out – something tiny. She walked over to me, and asked me to hold out my hand. I did. The thing that she dropped onto my palm was a little jagged shard, not a centimetre across, transparent as could be. First I was impressed – I thought it was some precious gem. “What’s this?” I asked. “The first of my collection.” “The first…? Not the sharpener?” “Nope. This.” “Well, it’s beautiful. What is it? Diamond?” “It’s glass, stupid.”
* Some girl from fourth period math class burst into false hysteria as she fell upon Greg’s unmoving body. Juliet was doing a very good job. Even her cast mates looked impressed. Anybody watching would’ve felt the effort she was putting into the run. Her voice shook with anguish – a little exaggerated, but almost just right. “O happy dagger!” she cried, taking the prop from Romeo’s limp hand and holding it above her breast. At first sight, the dagger startled me – it looked deceptively sharp. If I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve believed it was real. “This is thy sheath! There, rust, and let me die...” She did the deed, and collapsed likewise on the stage. “No blood,” Jo observed. “That’s funny.” “Cut!” the director called from his seat in front of the stage. “Good, good. We’ll do it again after a break. Take five, everyone.” Greg and the Juliet girl both came back to life, smoothed their costumes, and began to walk toward the wings of the stage, headed for the backstage area. Jo spun around, turning her back to them so her face wouldn’t be seen, and moved closer to me. “Look at me,” she ordered. “Huh?” My eyes glanced at Greg and Juliet, who had started conversing casually with their similarly costumed cast mates. The dagger-prop had been laid down on a nearby table. I could make out the details on its gray scabbard, notice the dim luster of silver paint. “Look at me, or they’ll notice,” Jo said again. “Pretend you’re talking to me.” I did as she told, and looked straight into her eyes. They were startlingly intense; I could see that, even in the darkness of the backstage. For a minute or two, we remained that way. The cast of the play were still talking amongst themselves. Hopefully, to them, Jo and I just looked like a couple of stagehands, a couple of people to ignore completely I felt a rush in my chest – something I wasn’t quite comfortable with.
“Hey,” she whispered, sensing my anxiety. “Stay with me, here. Don’t let them notice us.” “Jo,” I breathed. “Why are we doing this?” “I want the dagger.” “Yeah, but... you’ve never stolen anything before. The things you keep, you find them yourself, right? But you don’t steal. Why are you doing this?” I could tell she wanted to glance over her shoulder at Greg and the others, but kept her eyes on me, for fear that he might see her, might recognize her. “Because,” she answered, coldly, “he stole something from me, first.” * A couple of days after she let me know her family was moving, I decided that she deserved some kind of send-off gift. I’d never put so much effort into a single present. I was talented at creating things, but what Jo was going to get had to be more special, more beautiful than anything I’d ever come up with before. Each snip of the handy pair of scissors was with care. Slowly and surely, the paper came to life. An intricate pair of wings emerged, followed by a pair of talons. The best parts were the final touches – paper feathers on its body, neck, right up to its exquisite beak. “A paper bird,” Jo said, amused. We were in my room, this time. I was a little embarrassed about not having been able to clean up the place: a stack of mishandled textbooks lay in the corner, a neglected pair of socks peeked out from beneath my bed. I didn’t even get to tidy up my desk, on which the leftover pieces of paper from my handiwork was scattered, along with the scissors and a half-used gluestick. Fortunately, Jo didn’t even bat an eye at the mess. “You’re really going to miss me, aren’t you?” she asked, gingerly setting the paper bird down on a bedside table – the only clear surface she could find.
“It’s a phoenix,” I said, proudly. “Really? Can’t tell. I thought it was a kiwi.” “Well, I’m glad you like it either way.” “Except for the fact that I have no idea how I’m supposed to bring this onto the plane without crumpling it.” She fondly touched the bird’s fragile wings. “Oh. I didn’t think of that.” She moved over to sit right next to me on the bed; she was so close I could count her eyelashes. “Was there something you wanted to talk about?” “The glass shard you showed me, the other day. Where’d you get it?” Now she was smiling. “You’ve never asked me about these things before.” “I guess not. So, what happened?” She looked up toward the ceiling fan before she spoke. Her voice was a long way away. “Some time, when I was really young, I was playing jump rope with my sister. We were outside. I was having a hard time with the sandals I was wearing, so she suggested I take them off and just jump rope barefoot instead. I did. Well, next thing I know, I found that piece of glass with my foot. The pain told me that something had dug into my skin.” “Ouch. Well, then what happened?” “I started crying. My sister ran back inside to call for mom’s help. She left me out there on the pavement, glass stuck in my foot, just crying. And you know what?” Jo chuckled once before continuing. I didn’t see where the joke was. “I got it out on my own, before my mom even got there. I picked the shard out of my foot with my own nails. Got blood all over my fingers, too.” And why the hell did you keep it?” “You’ve never asked me these things before. Why––” “Why’d you keep it?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It felt right. Actually, I thought the same thing you did, at first. I thought it was a diamond.” “And how about everything else?” I pressed on. “Those needles, and that Swiss knife, and everything... Why do you keep them?” “Because I deserve them. I don’t know. It feels like they’re part of me, somehow, you know? It’s not like I plan to do it, I just do...” At that moment, Jo must’ve seen the incredulous look on my face, because she frowned deeply and stopped talking. “What?” I spluttered. “I just don’t get it.” “You have no idea how many times I’ve hurt myself, do you? How many times my body’s been scarred, just because of some careless accident, or some stupid thing I did, or someone else...” “Jo.” “Look, I’ll show you.” She stood up, and right in front of me, began to take her clothes off. * “Are they gone?” Jo asked, quietly. Greg, Juliet, and the other members of the show’s cast had finally gone off to the make-up rooms. I breathed a little easier. “Yeah,” I said. Purposefully, Jo turned around and walked toward the table where they’d left the dagger. She picked it up and stared at it for many moments. It seemed like it was the lightest thing in the world. “There,” I urged. “You got it. Let’s get out of here.” “Wait,” she said. She pulled the dagger out of its sheath. I’d never seen such a fantastically made prop. The way she gripped it, the way she allowed a bit of light to glance ominously off the blade, only made it more impressive. It really couldn’t have been any sharper without being real. “Jo.” “I said, wait.” “You know, you don’t have to do this. Whatever it was that you and Greg did —” 106
“What he did,” she corrected. “I didn’t know what was happening, but he did. I remember that it hurt, though. He hurt me bad.” “But what happened already happened. Jo, you can just let it go.” Jo faced me and gave me a quizzical look. For a brief moment, all the years I’d known her flew right out the window. For a moment, the two of us became complete strangers. She laughed softly, brandished the dagger around, and asked me a question that hit me like a ton of bricks: “Come on. Do I look to you like someone who lets go?” A shuffling of footsteps caught our attention. Greg and the others had reappeared, looking all ready to perform another rehearsal run from the top. This time, Jo didn’t hide. She approached him with the dagger held behind her back, barring the narrow way back to the stage. “Jojo,” Greg said, certainly surprised. He didn’t seem pleased to see her, though. “What’re you doing here?” “The door was open,” she answered with a smile. “We thought we’d come in and have a look. You’re very good, you know? Romeo’s the perfect part.” “Oh, thanks.” I smiled uncomfortably, too. I saw Jo clutch the handle a little more tightly. “We have to keep rehearsing, though,” Greg said. “Sorry.” “Yeah, of course. No problem.” Greg moved a little to one side, hoping Jo would do the same and make room for him to pass. Instead, she just stayed where she was, blocking his way, smiling innocently up at him. The awkwardness was thick in the air. What I noticed most was the way Jo kept clenching and unclenching the dagger behind her back. “Uh... excuse us, Jo,” Greg finally said, unable to inch around her toward the stage. “Sorry, Greg. It’s just, you left this behind.” She finally held the prop back out to Greg with its sheath. He took it after a moment’s hesitation, as if he didn’t quite recognize it at first. “Um, thanks.” “No problem. Break a leg.” Then Jo turned to me. “Come on. Let’s go.” 107
When we left the theater, Jo seemed to have a renewed bounce in her step. I walked after her quietly, padding across the grass like an obedient dog. All the questions I wanted to ask – and there were a few of them – remained unasked, somewhere at the back of my throat. We ate lunch together that day, but I couldn’t even bring my focus to the food. I just kept remembering the dagger, the damn dagger. * Finally I saw her off. I met up with her at the airport, just before she checked in with her family. The weirdest thing was that there didn’t seem to be much to go in the way of goodbyes. “Do you have––” “Yeah, I got your little kiwi,” she said, somehow reading the question before I could even ask it. “I flattened the thing to make it fit in my bag.” My face fell. “I worked for hours to make that thing.” She shrugged. “They weren’t going to let me carry it aboard.” Her family was already calling her toward the check-in counter. She bit her lip for a long while, and for what seemed like the millionth time, we just looked into each other’s eyes, waiting for someone to say something, for something to happen. “See you when I see you,” Jo finally said. “Soon, I hope.” We shared a last embrace, and then that was it. If there was anything else she still wanted to say to me, she didn’t say it. She was too proud to tell me she was going to miss me. Soon her plane was off, and gone, and so was she. She fascinated me, and always will. There were parts of her I knew, that much was certain. But then there was that part of her that was completely a mystery to me. Maybe it was meant to stay that way. Maybe that was one puzzle I wasn’t supposed to put together. It didn’t matter that all the pieces were already there.
I turned around and went home. When I opened the door to my room, I noticed again how much Iâ€™d been neglecting to clean up. My bed was unmade; more clothes than usual were strewn on the floor. My desk was also still a mess from when Iâ€™d made her farewell gift, with sheets of paper in disarray all over the table, along with an uncapped gluestick. But, I noticed that my scissors were missing.
mikael de lara co
Orca from What Passes for Answers*
We got to the shore before dawn. From the waterâ€™s surface some hidden thing risked our sight, enormous and as if on the verge of flight. I sat by the slope of a dune while the creature sunk and faded, anointed by the gray water. There is sometimes awakening, a quickening, communion: sacrament of sand against palm, rapture of shimmering arc. A body, wet and half-lit. The steady throb of two hearts, one heavier than the other. I am not alone, only human.
*â€ƒ1st Prize, 2011 Maningning Miclat Poetry Awards
What Passes for Answers from What Passes for Answers
What disturbs the trees? Perhaps my gratitude. I have laid my palm on every trunk for the last thousand paces. I have called every small animal by its name, and they have called me by mine. Lonely warbler, from a fallen bough I have carved you a wife and left her by a bed of leaves. Will the gods grant her flight and allow you her company in song? Bathala says, Hunt no more than what will ease your hunger; take no more from the forest than what you need for shelter. The berries keep me full, and I have taken nothing from the forest but these lines. My clothes dampen from sweat and dew. Two birds flit past, answering each otherâ€™s caws. My heart quickens. I am warm.
Song from What Passes for Answers
Nothing but music from this point on. Nothing but the sing-song drone of black holes heard from fifty light-centuries away, a single endless Om which in some dead mountain language might have meant boulder or caterpillar or I was coming for you why the hell did you have to leave, you couldâ€™ve at least left a note. Nothing but chirps and whirs and the name of that secret weave a daughter learns from her mother when sheâ€™s just about to die, Come here, she says, hold the needle like this, burnt sienna under magenta and tug at it enough so it bleeds. The first time I saw the ocean it was just about to rain, and I must have looked for a word for it, my first poem nothing but water water water. And stones, jagged and unrelenting under my soles. Where the fuck did all the water go, where was I when the steam rose, hello, can you hear me over the static, hear me howling like some animal, wriggling free before the drowning? Once we were spirits, warlocks, winged things that spoke to rain,
scowled at mountains, told them to yield, made war over rice then peace and many children. Once we were angels, and sometimes we still are, when weâ€™re sane enough to let go of the husks of pain like a second set of teeth past our tongues, when we remember to be wild like that single bright syllable trembling inside our throats. Sometimes. Once. Here, let me reach into your mouth and dig that song out of you. There. Listen. I can still hear it beating.
rafael antonio c. san diego
Literature Major Studies for Math Exam I look for love between the integers and pace my mind for long answers. This is a language that has no room for lies. You cannot use it to woo anyone. If I had a word for every couple of people whose trains cross at ungiven hours, then Iâ€™d have created a reason to shake off all that motion, and accept that when the second is up Joey and Jane will never meet again. Like that line they say never touches zero. Always inching toward the impossible. I therefore conclude that there is longing in every curve that aspires for the infinite. But who am I to say that when the day comes, I give up on calculation and just pencil in the arrival, that my teacher wonâ€™t notice that I cheated the mystery? He will still probably give me a big fat zero. I will touch that zero with my cold living fingers, and never ever show it to anyone ever again.
A Body Too Small Because no one will tell you what to listen for and no one can say when to feel sorry is enough at all, it will always be simpler to cry. Crying is the same music that weakens the bones into water, the same sound that turns a body so small into something larger than itself. Can you describe this in terms of light, she asked, and he said I will tell it to you in a way that will hurt less: when you grasp it here, where the sunlight falls, it becomes godâ€™s eyelashes; when you let it slip through your fingers, so that shadows become lullabies, it is the hair of a child embraced by sadness, who lived as long as he did, sustained only by your love.
Bolado de Makiling, 2003
The Big Man The legend of the greatest Philippine basketball player* When the Philippine Basketball Association elevated its newest Hall of Fame class in 2007, what seemed the entire host of local basketball faithful gathered at the Araneta Coliseum; from the full-force Barangay Ginebra population, to familiar Premium Box patrons such as Manny V. Pangilinan and Fred Uytengsu, right up to basketball institution brass the likes of Sonny Barrios, Chito Salud, and Quinito Henson. Before them stood legends such as Olympian Manny Paner, the original skywalker Danny “Daredevil” Florencio, and the singular Abet Guidaben, who, after more than a decade of epic battles with Mon Fernandez, ended his career as the second-leading scorer and rebounder in league history. Yet all eyes — including theirs — were fixed on the immense figure literally casting a long shadow on all of them: the 7’6” Bolado de Makiling. He is by far the earliest to ascend the pantheon, unanimously voted in just three years after his final pba game. Hardly surprising, after submitting a career built on Herculean feats. Rookie of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year. mvp. All in the same season. The most points ever scored in a game with 108, together with the highest season average at 64.3. The most rebounds in a game with 57, to go with the top season average at 35.2. The most blocks with 18, on top of his 10.1 season average record. And then there is his most mythical achievement: becoming the first ever full-blooded Filipino to play in the nba. Yet it was when his tribute audio video presentation ended and then-commissioner Noli Eala stepped onstage to present his hall-of*
1st Prize, Short Story, 2011 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
fame medal that the world got a glimpse of what exactly Bolado had accomplished. In an ill-fitting barong, a buzzcut, and an apologetic, even goofy, grin on his clean-shaven face as he bowed, then crouched, then finally knelt, just so the three usherettes could drape it around his neck, there was little to suggest that he was the single greatest basketball player in Philippine history. And even less that he was what’s known in local folklore as a kapre. The seeming obliviousness to his past figures in the hundreds of features and documentaries on his career. Whatever the take on his ‘origin story’ (if at all), it will almost always open with his descent from Mt. Makiling with Norman Black — as if he’d been born fully-grown, entering our world already the fabled frontcourt force he would become. This is due not only to the more interesting — and ultimately more significant — fact of his career, but also to his well-documented reluctance to speak about his family and their community. To this day the normally candid and genial Bolado has politely declined to answer any questions as to where and how exactly they may be found, giving reasons that seem reasonable enough: first, he does not know if they would be as open to being revealed to the world; and second, the last thing he wants is a swarm of scouts scouring the forest for draft picks. Out of respect and perhaps a little protectiveness of the national hero, the public — and, surprisingly, even the government — have not prodded further. Fortunately for sports historians (as well as folklorists), what little he has said already reveals much, both of his origins and their lore. He was born to Bunlaweg and Yagra in the early ‘70s (a ballpark date deduced when he’d mentioned being nine or ten when construction began on the Philippine High School for the Arts). While their home, a patch of forest in the heart of Mt. Makiling, conforms to myth, their love story does not. His father was not the specter crouching in the trees waiting to snare a wife, and his mother was certainly no innocent virgin wandering in the woods. They were both simple (if that word still applies) kapres living simple kapre lives, and in a charming turn, they’d actually met through a common friend. More superstitions 118
are debunked with every slice of their daily life he has consented to share. They do not smoke tobacco but herbal “cigars” rolled with a special assortment of cut-up plants and roots, and do so strictly for health reasons. He has never heard of any invisibility-granting belts, and does not recall them ever misleading travelers or stealing their belongings. They have no preternatural strength or speed other than what any tree-climbing seven-to-eight-footer would have. As for the mysterious rustling leaves, it’s simply some catnapper almost lolling off a branch. In fact, it is only upon his introduction to basketball that one bit of lore is finally proven true — that once a kapre finds his true love, he devotes the rest of life to it and never looks back. For sports historians and critics, Norman Black’s fateful trip to Laguna reads something between cliché and archetype; made art by classics such as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and of course King Kong, cheapened by Hollywood sports flicks such as Kevin Bacon’s The Air Up There. Yet in the very real world of basketball, it is, if anything, nothing new. There was Hakeem Olajuwon from Nigeria, recruited on a tip by Guy Lewis for his Houston Cougars in 1980. Then Dikembe Mutombo, snapped up from Congo by John Thompson’s Georgetown squad in 1987. Even Philippine basketball itself has its own microcosmic take, with Joe Lipa and Joel Banal digging Ateneo’s college program out from decline in the early 2000s by recruiting from provinces as far-flung as Zamboanga and Negros — a practice which has now become the norm. From Miggy Escaño’s comprehensive feature in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, it appears Black’s own journey started no more auspiciously. A year earlier, Black recounted, he’d been re-hired by San Miguel to replace Jong Uichico (who in turn had inherited the job from the legendary Ron Jacobs, for whom Black had been originally eased out) and curb their spotty championship record. While he’d managed just one title at his stints with Sta. Lucia and Pop Cola, a change in fortunes was expected now that he was back with the franchise he’d led to the historic ‘89 grandslam. “Only thing was,” 119
Black explained, “I had nobody. No Samboy [Lim], Mon [Fernandez], Ato [Agustin], or even an Ives [Dignadice].” With half of what starters he had out for the season with injuries, they not just missed the playoffs, but finished last in the All- Filipino and Commissioner’s Cup conferences and second to the last in the Reinforced Cup. Yet in a remarkable case of kismet, it was precisely the disastrous amount of losses that ended up dealing Black the ace he needed: first pick in the 2003 draft. Certainly, it was no guarantee. Among those who’d already declared, while there were two or three genuinely talented prospects — uaap mvp Mike Cortez chief among them — there were none of the transcendent, once-in-a-generation players Black would need to re-establish a dynasty. But perhaps that too was part of fate, given its implications on Black’s next move. “I knew I’d have to go on a recruiting trip,” he said. “At least we had first pick, so whomever I discovered, [it was] finders keepers.” His first stop was Zamboanga, where other scouts had time and again struck gold. But after three days, the best he could find was a 210-pound streetballer who topped out at a scant 6’5”. He turned to Surigao, visiting the jerry-rigged courts by the shore where the Muro Ami kids played well into the night. Good lungs, but once again not nearly enough size. Davao, Cebu, Leyte, and Baguio all yielded nothing as well. “By then I was getting closer back to Manila,” he related, “and starting to get a bit desperate.” This desperation led him to recall a dinner he’d had with Bobby Parks and his Filipina wife Shane years back. “She told this story of eight, ten foot monsters, like Filipino bigfoots, that were being spotted at Pampanga. Bobby laughed and said if they were real, they’d make great centers.” Black laughed along as well that night, but on his tour, as it became more and more apparent that he might have nothing to show for the weeks he’d logged and the tens of thousands he’d spent — and more alarmingly, no franchise player to suit up — Black decided he had nothing more to lose anyway and took the side trip. Leaving nothing to chance, he collected everything he’d read he would need. The shirt to be worn inside out. The purse of the finest tobacco he could find. Even the golden rope that, when put on the 120
neck of a kapre at night, would yield a pot of gold in the morning. Claiming a need for utmost secrecy (more likely embarrassment), he left his rented vehicle in town (more likely he didn’t), refused the company of a local guide, and set off for the long hike up Mt. Makiling. He did admit to being a touch nervous — as well as the sole reason he persisted. “I’m thinking if they’re real, I’m face to face with an eight foot monster,” he said. “On the other hand, I had a center.” At this point — much to the noticeable dismay of Escaño, not to mention hundreds of historians and researchers — Black refused, and continues to refuse, to divulge more, citing respect for Bolado’s wishes despite their later falling out (some are more skeptical; Tim Cone and Chot Reyes claim Black just doesn’t want to share trade secrets). He closes that chapter by simply saying that his quest lasted three nights, after which he texted assistant coach Siot Tanquincen that the trip was a success. He had found their champion. Barring the blank history page, the gem of the interview becomes the two months more he would spend up the mountain, in which he molded Bolado from kapre into serviceable big man. From his own pocket, he gathered a team around Bolado, binding them with a vision of something greater than all of them — and, more importantly, ironclad confidentiality contracts. He called in Gerry Buted, his acquaintance from the build-and-sell Palanca contractors, to erect a makeshift halfcourt gym fitted with a Germany-imported security system. While waiting, he asked in stylist Eric Pineda, who trimmed Bolado’s scraggly, waist-length hair, shaved his 13- inch beard, and replaced his leather loincloth with custom-tailored 6xl sweats and size 20 sneakers. Also called in was Dr. Felicitas Pado, a up professor who refined Bolado’s guttural grunts into rudimentary English. Arriving on her heels was Luigi Bercades, a fitness instructor and nutritionist at ua&p, tasked to get Bolado’s cardio and fine motor skills as close as possible to the demands of professional sports. Last to arrive was Benjie Paras. Since Black could not work with Bolado directly — league rules forbid teams from personally working out with players before draft camp — he rang the former Shell center, who, luckily, was not employed by any team at the time. Black pitched 121
him the job, explaining the circumstances and wisely getting it in on record that it was not official San Miguel business so he would get nothing for his trouble. Paras set foot at the makeshift gym a day later. Of his own initiative (a point Black stressed again and again) the celebrated “Tower of Power” drew up a crash course to equip Bolado with the skills he would most need in the least amount of time. He spent a week on the rules, going through the league manual and playing Bolado hours of tape. From there, they moved on to rudimentary drills — running, backpedalling, side-stepping, and then dribbling and passing. Finally, they came round to frontcourt training. He armed the kapre with the drop step, the jumphook, and of course, the dunk — a basic arsenal Paras himself had lived off on. After a month of 16-hour training days, Paras blew his whistle a final time. Bolado was ready. All six accompanied Black and Bolado on their first trip to the San Miguel offices. For all the giant’s potential, he was still supposedly a mythical creature, and Black expected anything from a drawn-out argument to an outright battle with management. What he hadn’t expected was what actually transpired. “After I played the clips Benjie took,” he said, “they gave their buy- in instantly. [It was] the easiest sell I ever had to make.” Black didn’t have time to stay astonished. The very next day, December 26, 2002, a retinue of Ramon Ang’s bodyguards accompanied Bolado — complete with legitimate papers Danding Cojuangco himself had procured — to the pba office. To a dumbstruck press, he announced that he was declaring himself eligible for the upcoming draft. Predictably, everyone reacted as they would to a National Enquirer story. A kapre? Seryoso? Sports columnists and bloggers all dismissed him as a fraud. Some speculated it was yet another pba marketing stunt, a desperate if creative attempt to parachute their free-falling ratings. Others snorted that he was probably another Fil-Sham trying to get in through the back door. Magandang Gabi Bayan analyzed the pictures of the clean-shaven, beaming big man and declared him a hoax. Saksi solicited the opinion of Dr. Damiana Eugenio, the country’s foremost authority on folklore, who proclaimed that based 122
on her extensive research, she was certain that whatever Bolado was, he was not a kapre. Yet it was what followed that would turn out the strangest occurrence of the entire stretch. Within weeks, the jeering died down and settled into hushed speculation — only it wasn’t about Bolado’s roots. In a true reflection of the mystical Filipino love for basketball, the question on everyone’s lips was: Can he play? Sure the kapre is real, but is he for real? The intrigue only intensified when Black and San Miguel refused to divulge anything. They declined to make statements or release Paras’ scouting videos. They instructed Bolado to hold back at the mandatory draft camp. And as draft day loomed closer, it became clearer and clearer that he was generating very real fear. In moves reminiscent of the injustice — and hilarious absurdity — of the Nancy Navalta investigation, team officials, led by none other than Chito Narvasa, filed cases for Bolado’s disqualification from the draft. Whatever grounds they could dig up, they raised: that the “male” qualifier in the rule “Any Filipino male may apply” applied only to human males. That kapres may count time differently, potentially creating a loophole to the “at least 21 years of age” requirement. That he may not be a kapre but a bigfoot — hence, not a “natural-born Filipino”. Expectedly, every single charge was dismissed, and on January 6, 2003 Bolado’s eligibility was confirmed. A week later at the Glorietta Activity Center, Norman Black himself handed Bolado his symbolic San Miguel cap and jersey. And once the season began, opponents found out that mysterious rustling leaves were the last thing they had to fear. At the time the pba was in a dark period. Attendance and ratings were at an all-time low. While they would not admit it, the reason was obvious enough: Fil-Ams had overrun the league. Having cut their teeth in prestigious us college programs, and all bigger, burlier, and quicker than their pure Filipino counterparts, they smashed local records, snatched practically every individual award, and divvied up the past four seasons’ 12 conference championships among 123
themselves. The old guard —Patrimonio, Lastimosa, Codiñera — all issued statements against their invasion, but well past their primes, they could not hold their own on the court and were eventually forced to retire. Then-commissioner Jun Bernardino made some small effort to turn them back, issuing indefinite suspensions to ‘FilShams’ including repeat mvp Eric Menk, but he would also be the author of new rules granting them easier entry, such as permitting teams to directly hire one Fil-Am each. Asserting dominance both on the frontcourt and the front office, the “conquerors”, as Rafe Bartholomew labeled them in his groundbreaking book Pacific Rims, ruled the league. And then the stranger known only as Bolado came to town. His first game, broadcast on the now-defunct Vintage Sports on February 23, 2003, became the most watched event in Philippine television history at the time. In a savvy move by newly-installed commissioner Noli Eala, San Miguel opened the season against the Talk n’ Text Phonepals, which boasted of the league’s most dominant center, 6’8” Fil-Tongan Asi Taulava. The very first sighting of Bolado in action is burned into the nation’s collective memory. How without seeming to leave his feet, he tipped the jumpball to their side. How Olsen Racela dribbled upcourt and calmly raised a finger to signal a low post isolation. How Bolado instantly stepped into his sweet spot and caught the perfect entry pass. And how, with Taulava crouched low as possible to establish a seemingly immovable base, Bolado simply curled towards the baseline and with hardly a hop, rattled the rim with a dunk. The rest of the season became one big game in which every team tried coming up with their own ‘solution’ to Bolado. FedEx traded for a two-center line up of Andy Siegle and Dorian Peña. Shell did them one better with a frontcourt of Rudy Hatfield, Ali Peek, and Mick Pennisi. Red Bull simply hired the dirtiest Fil-Ams left and hacked him at every possession. Bolado took them down one by one with a mighty arsenal of dunks and hooks, while on the other end, he blocked shot after shot until every team began settling for lowpercentage jumpshots. San Miguel swept their entire calendar by 124
an average of 27.3 points to win the championship, and Bolado was unanimously voted Best Player of the Conference. The second and third conferences looked to be a different story. With each team now allowed a full-blooded foreigner with no height ceiling, the most formidable set of imports the pba had ever seen began flying in. Alaska signed up 7’1” Tahj Holden, who’d just started for the Maryland ncaa championship team. Sta. Lucia suited up 7’0”, 260-pound Dejan Koturović of the 2002 Serbian fiba gold medal squad. Talk N’ Text spent six million pesos for former Chicago Bull James Dickey Simpkins to come in a year earlier than he’d been slated. Black never blinked. For both conferences, instead of maximizing the height ceiling, he hired 6’2” Tony Rutland, who’d run Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan-centered sets under the famed Dave Odom. As for Bolado, Black brought him to none other than Mon Fernandez to develop the big man’s quickness and agility. And once again, San Miguel tore through everyone. Against the now taller and stronger opposition, Bolado combined his height with his enhanced speed, exploding across the court to catch an alley-oop or swat a lay-up. San Miguel swept both conferences to capture only the fourth grandslam in league history. When the smoke cleared, Bolado had averaged 64.3 points, 35.2 rebounds, and 10.1 blocks. He’d easily surpassed Mon Fernandez’s revered 1984 27-point, 15 rebound, 9.9 assist statline, and had outdone Paras’s Rookie of the Year + mvp debut by also winning Defensive Player of the Year — laying to rest even the most enduring achievements of his proverbial fathers. And not only did he set records in virtually every category, his new marks eclipsed even the import records, which had traditionally been separated from the locals’. It seemed one of those improbable seasons in a sports league’s infant years, with the rules yet to be refined, the playing field yet to be leveled, freaks of nature yet to be foreseen. When he was done, it was clear to everyone that Bolado was simply out of their league. The first ‘Filipino’ in the nba was Raymond Townsend. A 6’3” 175pound point guard, he played college ball at ucla under John 125
Wooden and was part of the 1974 national championship team. He would be selected 22nd in the first round of the 1978 nba draft by the Golden State Warriors, and eventually end his nba career three years later with Indiana. But despite the national custom of claiming anyone with so much as a drop of Filipino blood, the opposite is the case with Townsend. As he himself has grumbled, hardly anyone knows of him. Several explanations have been offered: the nba was hardly televised globally; he came at a time when black and white were the only races that mattered; more important events were occurring in Philippine society. Yet what seems closest to the truth is the simple fact that he was half-American — and everyone knew it was his American half doing the playing (some would even say it was his Filipino half that kept him from lasting more than three seasons). So despite having Townsend in the books, the nation waited before laying claim to a Filipino nba player. It seemed that player had finally come in 1998, in the form of Johnny Abarrientos. After leading Alaska to a grand slam and bagging the MVP trophy in ‘97, every columnist declared that the 5’7” point guard could be the first true Filipino with nba potential. The chatter culminated in a much-hyped offer from Charlotte Hornets scout Jon Bettencourt to participate in their summer camp. Abarrientos, however, declined. At the time, he was the best player on the best team, with millions guaranteed, and he wasn’t going to put it all on the line for a try-out. And so the myth of the Filipino nba player remained a myth. It was a myth that would lose its luster in the years to come. The Philippines had long been on a string of disappointing results in international competition, and after another heartbreaking finish to the 2002 Asian Games, it seemed that even the Filipino’s famed indomitable passion for basketball was waning. The pba declined to send players to the 2003 fiba Asian Championships. A bloc of congressmen proposed bills to cut basketball development funding to hardly any resistance. Columnists — e ven those who’d churned
countless prescriptions on what the Philippines must do to crack the international scene — wrote that perhaps the disproportionate resources would be better spent on sports Filipinos were genetically better- equipped for, perhaps football and track, besides well-tilled ground such as boxing, bowling, pool, and even chess. Quinito Henson himself wrote in the Philippine Star, “While I too dream of seeing our players make it globally, perhaps it’s time we treated the national past time as what it really is: a past time.” The lone dissenting voice was longtime PBA sage Recah Trinidad. In his Inquirer column, he came out with a bold, grand prediction:
Despite the heartbreaking non-event of Abarrientos’ nba bid and our recent international disappointments, I believe our time will yet come. One day, the Philippines will spawn a player with the right skills, the right height, and the right heart to make it to the biggest league and restore glory to Philippine basketball. I can only hope to see him in my lifetime.
Of course, no one took his words seriously at the time. Like Black when Shane Parks had told him about kapres, everyone considered the idea ludicrous, agreeing with Henson that basketball was a past time whose time had passed. That is, until December 15, 2003. That day — the day after San Miguel sealed their grand slam — Sev Sarmenta’s Inquirer column would famously read the headline, “Why Bolado Can Make it to the nba.” In characteristic Sarmenta rococo, he proclaimed:
He has not just height, but a heightened sense of height... He has power, but not just a gorilla’s brute strength, but the owl’s wisdom to know when to bang it inside ala-Shaq, and when to feather it in ala-Hakeem... He isn’t just graceful, he is also gracious; he does not trashtalk, not even after smashing a dunk on someone’s face... Finally, the Philippines has found its Yao Ming, its Dikembe Mutombo, its King Kong. World, meet Bolado.
And just like that, the hope that seemed to have died with Abarrientos’ flare-out had returned, this time stronger, louder, giddier. Everyone weighed in with every kind of opinion, from Conrado de Quiros’s flighty “I’ll be the first to admit, I was never a fan of the bloated support and attention thrown basketball’s way. But I guess that’s the real magic of Bolado. With his Clint Eastwood-style annihilation of his pba foes and now his very plausible pba bid, he has united a 7,107island, 80 million-population nation, and lent some childlike hope to even the most cynical, cranky opinion writers,” to Bill Velasco’s scholarly “To be perfectly frank, the difference between Abarrientos and Bolado is that Abarrientos was trying to get in through the backdoor. What was a genetic shortcoming in height was being sold as a strength. On the other hand, Bolado has the capacity to join the world’s best at his own position, on his own terms.” The speculation ended (some would say truly began) on January 3, 2004. At a press conference at the Peninsula Manila, Bolado finally made an announcement: he’d received blessing from Danding Cojuangco to leave San Miguel, and was taking the rest of the year off to train for the nba. And suddenly the public, as much it loved having Bolado around — he endorsed everything from Gillette razors to a.b.e. International Business College, had appeared in a movie (Gil Portes’ Homecoming, in which he became the first pba player not to be cast in a comedic role) and a slew of tv shows (most notably a unintentionally hilarious appearance as a ‘traditional’ kapre in gma’s Pedro Penduko), and most tellingly, local boys were sporting his pba jersey everywhere (something that would’ve been too embarrassing with any other local player) — could not wait to see him go. Every imaginable kind of merchandise flooded tiangge stalls and online stores, all with a Russian constructivist-style portrait of Bolado and the line ‘The Promised One’. His decision was not without its detractors. pba old-timer Manolo Iñigo foresaw a Wang Zhizhi tragedy where Bolado would turn his back on invitations to participate in the national team. Political analyst Alex Magno predicted that after a few months of hanging out
at Beverly Hills or Manhattan with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee, he would eventually renounce his Filipino citizenship. But there was none more vocal than Norman Black. With what can be supposed is fear at San Miguel’s inevitable collapse (and, some quipped, a mentality that reflected he’d become truly Filipino), he was quoted by Beth Celis saying, “He’s good, no doubt. But the nba? I don’t know... I played there a couple of years... I’ve attended a few games and practices recently. To be honest, I don’t think he has the skills to make it... I never taught him any of that.” With that, Black exited frame on whatever his former ward’s future held. Which would lead to the entry of perhaps the most critical figure in Bolado’s career: the enigmatic, heretofore unknown Wilson Tan. Together they would show everyone that while they’d already watched Bolado change history, the truth was, the world hadn’t seen anything yet. Urban legends about Tan abound. Red Bull coach and Pampanga vice-governor Yeng Guiao claimed he was a brilliant but disgruntled assistant trainer to the Chinese National Gymnastics Team in the 80s. bulgar published a report about purported ties to Philip Medel. His Wikipedia page contains speculations of antropophobia and agoraphobia. None of these stories, however, cite credible sources; by all accounts, the most accurate facts about his life have come from interviews with former employees and business associates. According to them, Tan was born in 1971 to Fookien migrants. A self-made multi- millionaire, he made his part of his fortune from an empire of small shops: toy stores, computer boutiques, appliance centers, snack stalls. But in large part, it was from running the local nba gambling syndicate. In the early 90s, he’d read about the glut of European nba signings and predicted a global boom which could prove lucrative. He put up big money betting circles and recruited ambitious Ateneo and Benilde students to run them. His forecast was spot on. By the late 90s, nba gambling was a multi-million peso industry, and Tan
was its unseen (and reportedly untouchable) epicenter. As with most great kingpins, his success lay in how he was an obsessive student of his business. He devoured autobiographies, biographies, books, magazines, dvds, everything that had been or was being written about the league and its players. He watched every game beamed through his 3 satellite tv subscriptions, sometimes 8 or 9 at a time. He made regular trips to the us to sit in at training camps and workshops and catch live matches. He anonymously joined hundreds of online fantasy leagues and was abreast of practically every player of every team. Studiously observing the game from his secluded mansion in Baguio, the bigger picture always in sight, it is no wonder he was able to grow his pet enterprise so effectively. And why, more than anyone, he was the best possible mentor to Bolado. In 2006, the rarely-seen Tan appeared on Pia Hontiveros’s Shop Talk for his first — and so far, only — interview. At his request it has never been replayed by anc, but for those who had the fortune of catching it, it is one of the most riveting on-camera interviews in Philippine television history. Hontiveros led off with the question that had been on everyone’s mind for years: How did he land the job? “It was simple,” he replied with a backhand wave, as if it had indeed been the simplest thing. “When I confirmed rumors that he was announcing his retirement, I asked my people to set up a meeting. I presented my plan, and named my price. No more, no less. He signed on the spot.” Yet it was not the gossip that would be the most revealing part of the interview, but the tale of Tan’s tutelage. When Hontiveros asked how the camp kicked off, Tan’s ruthless perfectionist streak was immediately apparent. “He asked me to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I told him no. The first thing he needed to understand was that as far as the nba was concerned, he had no strengths.” He pointed out the holes in Bolado’s game: he had a single post move, could only play off isolations, and his main weapon, height, was irrelevant: many others, including some much taller than him — the 7’8” North Korean Ri Myong Hun, the 7’10” Yasutaka 130
Okayama from Japan — had all met with rejection by the nba. “I needed to destroy any idea he had of being successful and make him feel small. Only then could I build him up to something of value.” The actual work-outs sound like a textbook intensive sports camp, as well as a storybook Rocky montage. They began with basic biomechanics. “I believe that like the tallest buildings, the best centers are built from the ground up,” Tan said. “So we started with his feet.” From there, he painted a picture of the first four months, in which Bolado performed no less than 50 different footwork and balance drills every day — and nothing else. Furthermore, the drills were not limited to basketball. Tan had Bolado master footwork techniques from other sports: chasséing from badminton, rompre, passe arriére, and saut en arriére from fencing, crossovers and fakes from football, and even intricate plyometric patterns from hopscotch. The tortuous sessions lasted from 6 am to 8 pm every day. “After every session, he would go — urggghhhh!” Tan recalled. “Then he’d wobble to the lockers and ice his feet for three hours.” When describing their ensuing regimen with actual basketball skills, Tan displayed the terrifying extent of his basketball knowledge. In clipped, rapid-fire English, he rattled off what seemed an entire glossary of basketball terms. For defense, Bolado did superman drills, six-and- in drills, tap drills, hook drills, blocking out drills, then exercises on man-to-man defense, zone defense, blocking the lane, covering the weakside, defending the pick-and-roll, rotating, recovering, switching, reading fakes, and even staying out of foul trouble. For offense, Bolado practiced set shots, jumpshots, lay-ups, bank shots, floaters, hookshots, scoopshots, free throws, as well as what seemed every post-up move in the book, from up-and-unders, spins, turn arounds, step-backs, drop-steps, to every possible two or three-move combination of them. But it was when Tan recounted the final phase of their training that the biggest revelation was bared: he was not just some sports trainer but a modern-day Chironian tutor, shaping Bolado into more than just a would-be NBA center, but a champion. “I wanted him to 131
beat even the best of the best,” he said. “And for that he would need a special weapon.” What followed would become one of the greatest Philippine sports legends of all time, immortalized in Paolo Villaluna’s 2008 documentary Hook of Longinus. “In 1997,” Tan related, “I had the chance to sit in at a training camp with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Chicago. I arranged to speak with him after the session, and for a price — I mean a very big price — he gave me a demonstration of the Sky Hook.” At that disclosure, even Pia Hontiveros could only stare blankly. Certainly, even she had heard of the Sky Hook; it was long held as the single most devastating move in basketball history, the one weapon which allowed Jabbar to end his career as the nba’s leading career scorer. But it was also an ancient move no one had seen in more than twenty years. Tan went on to narrate how he’d passed it on to Bolado. To impress its latent power in his mind, Tan showed him endless tape of Jabbar — both as a gangly rookie and a washed up 38- year old — facing monster athletes such as Chamberlain, Unseld, Malone, Walton, Parish, cutting them all down with the seemingly magical move. From there, Tan taught him its intricacies step by step. The critical footwork. The necessary quickness. The feathery touch from any spot on the floor. Bolado, Tan said, needed all of two months to master it. By then he was taking and making it from as far as three and half meters. And the training that had started with feet reached its conclusion with the ball arching perfectly from the tip of his fingers and into the hoop. The interview ended there, but the rest of the story is wellknown. Tan, it turned out, had one last brilliant move of his own. On September 21, 2004, he went on abc5 for a live press conference. He introduced himself as Bolado’s trainer, and revealed that for the past year, he had been preparing him for the nba. Then in a stroke of business genius (and, some say, what the entire arrangement had really been leading up to) he announced that he was holding a two- hour demonstration event at the Fort Bonifacio open field in a month’s time, billed simply as “The Exhibition.” 132
The entire nation was stunned. No one had ever seen or heard of the stern, inscrutable middle-aged Chinese man to whom Bolado had apparently entrusted his — and the country’s — nba dreams. The mystery all only added to the anticipation, and “The Exhibition” rolled on to become the most bankable show of the decade. Dozens of multi-nationals signed up to sponsor. Commercial air time was reportedly sold at 10 million a spot while tickets to the live event were sold at 10,000, 30,000, and 50,000 pesos. Everyone got their money’s worth. To a crowd of a size last seen at Michael Jackson’s ’96 HIStory concert in Asia World City, Bolado showed exactly where the time off had gone. For the first half, Tan had flown in 10 seven footers from China, all of them starters in the Chinese Basketball Association, half of them past or present members of their vaunted national training pool. In a skills demonstration, they ran various permutations of double and triple and even quadruple teams against him — all of which he beat back with a stunning new arsenal of both finesse and power moves. In the defense portion, each of the Chinese big men tried scoring against him in a football penalty kick format. He repelled them just as easily, blocking or altering even their craftiest shots. The second half was only more astounding. Tan had assembled a squad of Americans imports from every major Asian league — all of whom had played no less than two seasons in the nba — to play a 40-minute full court game against Bolado and the Chinese players. They fed him every possession and went at him every time on defense. Bolado displayed yet another new skill at every turn. In addition to powerful dunks and elegant whirls and pump fakes, he also made pinpoint passes out of triple teams to speeding cutters and spot-up shooters. As the final buzzer sounded, every one of the 60,000 in attendance got up for a riotous ten minute standing ovation. Thousands lined up for the one-hour P7,500-a-pop photosouvenir session. Every piece of merchandise hawked at the gates — jerseys, posters, t- shirts, bobbleheads, even calendar-rigged ball pens — was sold out. Best of all, a day later Tan would receive a phone call from Rodney Heard, who introduced himself as a scouting director for the nba 133
Atlanta Hawks. He’d been very impressed by what he saw, he said, and was inviting Bolado to try out at their summer camp. Nothing made fact that he was starting from scratch clearer than the press his arrival received. Once more, his origins came into discussion, only this time, the skepticism he’d already faced with the Philippine media was laced with outright ridicule. Atlanta newspapers and tabloids ran satirical press releases, features, and even comic strips, most riffing to Eddie Murphy’s Delirious bit about Puerto Rican Bigfoots. The mockery achieved national attention with a Bill Simmons Sportsguy column; in it, he described about an imaginary interview with Shaq, asking him to create a nickname for the newcomer who was apparently the big foot of the Philippines. Shaq, Simmons wrote, replied that “If I’m the Big Aristotle, and Tim [Duncan] is the Big Fundamental, I guess he can take the Big Monkey.” (A quip for which predictably the Philippine government demanded a public apology, which predictably Simmons never gave). Yet once again, Bolado’s play soon made believers out of everyone. A week after his first few work-outs, espn Insider’s Chad Ford wrote, “Invited by the Atlanta Hawks to their summer camp, Filipino Bolado de Makiling has been displaying the skills, and certainly the height to make it to the nba.” cnnsi reported, “After Japan and China, another Asian nation just might make it to the big leagues. The 7’6 behemoth from the Philippines has been knocking expectations out of the park — and seasoned vets to the floor.” Back in the Philippines, the hometown crowd gobbled it all, never missing a line, hungry for any scrap of news. espn.com reported that 60% of its traffic was coming from Philippine- based urls. tv Patrol and 24 oras added special “Bolado nba Report” segments. Atlantabased Filipinos attended training sessions and posted daily blog posts and YouTube videos. And so everyone was ready on October 17, 2004, just two weeks before the season began, when the news broke on the ap: “Hawks sign Filipino center to one-year non-guaranteed contract.” A dvd of the entire season was released by Solar Sports in partnership with the nba, which sold out within two months (and 134
perplexingly, has not been reissued). Entitled A Season of Bolado, it features every one of his games — to which, amusingly, the film’s writers each gave nicknames. It begins, of course, with “First Blood at Phoenix”. Played November 3, 2004, it broke Bolado’s own pba debut record as the most-watched event in Philippine television history, and kicked off the trend of live sports broadcasts becoming promotional draws at cinemas, bars, and even fine dining restaurants. He entered the game in the second quarter. Alarmingly, his first few possessions evoked memories of Shawn Bradley rather than Yao Ming; he was easily outpositioned by Amar’e Stoudemire every time and did not receive a touch. But as the half wound down to the final two minutes, Bolado managed to jostle his way into his sweet spot, and was rewarded by a quick entry pass. Before Stoudemire even had the chance to lower his forearm, Bolado whirled to the center of the lane and lofted a jumphook. It hit the bottom of the net clean. While hardly anyone cheered at Atlanta — it was just another basket in the second quarter, by a reserve no less — the entire Philippines erupted. Globe and Smart broke down for an entire fifteen minutes. Magandang Tanghali Bayan was interrupted by a newsflash and never resumed. Both am and fm stations looped Bolado’s Magic Sing hit Tuktok ng Bundok well past midnight. It would become one of those cultural watershed moments, akin to the Eraserheads rising to the stage to the opening bars of Alapaap at their reunion concert, and Charice Pempengco entering frame on Glee. He would end up with four points and two rebounds; the game ended up contested to the last minute, so he did not enter the fourth quarter to possibly pad his numbers in garbage time. But as the rest of the dvd episode list showed, greater things were still to come. There is the “Breakthrough at Washington”, his first double digit game twelve contests later, followed by “Double Double at Milwaukee”, which featured his 10-point 11-rebound effort against the Bucks. And then there are his match-ups against the marquee centers of the time: “Clash at Denver” against Marcus Camby, “Battle in New Jersey” against Alonzo Mourning, “Stand at Golden State” against Eric Dampier. Yet by far the most memorable — and 135
significant— was “The Battle at Houston”, against none other than the 7’6, 305-pound Yao Ming. It was, without question, his penultimate challenge. Yao was two years removed from his rookie season, and — with Shaq entering his twilight and Dwight Howard still a rookie — was slowly coming into his own as the league’s best center. Even in Philippine newspapers, pregame previews were grim: what could Bolado possibly have against the similarly fleet-footed and fundamentally rock-solid giant? The answer came in the very first quarter. Bolado started the game and to that point had limited Yao to zero points on three bricks. But Bolado was being dealt even worse punishment. He’d been blocked twice by Yao, both on his trusted jumphooks. On his other touches, he couldn’t even gotten a shot off; Yao was simply too big and strong to be backed down, forcing Bolado to kick the ball back out. When he called for the next entry pass, the crowd began to cheer — clearly, he had nothing against Yao. This time, however, he did not go to the drop-step or jumphook. Instead he drove to his left, startling Yao, who shuffled to get back between Bolado and the ring. But even his quick recovery could not stop Bolado’s next move: he planted his left foot perfectly parallel to the baseline, and then lifted his right leg. At the same time, he palmed the ball and raised it with his right arm, which seemed to extend higher and higher and higher. Hitting the apex of his reach, he coolly flicked the ball forward, casting it in a perfect arch from his fingertips, above Yao’s outstretched arms, and into the waiting net. It fell in with a swish. A whole second of dead air filled the commentary box. Yao and the rest of the Rockets stood in their tracks, thunderstruck. The crowd fell still, their mouths in frozen o’s as they stared at Bolado, as if trying to remember where they’d seen that move — or perhaps stunned they were actually seeing it once more. A moment later, the stadium broke into respectful applause. By the all-star break, he was averaging 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a block in 18 minutes of playing time, and had become the Hawks’ 136
most potent threat off the bench after fellow rookie Josh Smith. While he did not make the all-rookie squad (once again causing public outrage and political grandstanding in the Philippines), the snub only seemed to fuel him. In the ten games that followed he turned in six double doubles, upping his season averages to eight and six, and began starting almost every game. After a 21-point, 13-rebound performance against Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs, espnAtlanta columnist Kenny Fernandez remarked that Bolado’s season had begun to mirror Yao Ming’s own rookie run, where after a slow start he played a break-out game against the Lakers, and from there ended the season with 13.5 and 8.2 rebounds — easily making the all-rookie first team and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. The hype was picked up by a host of national papers and websites, and soon Bolado was being discussed in every us sports media outlet. slam and Sports Illustrated ran features on his rise. 11-time sportswriter of the year Rick Reilly dashed off one of his signature human interest pieces for espn the Magazine. Mixes of his highlights popped up on YouTube. His replica jersey cracked the nba.com store’s top-20 best-sellers. Bill Simmons himself changed his tune, devoting an entire two-week, four-part article to the similarities of Bolado to characters from fantasy genre films. Interestingly his nontraditional origins had come to the fore once more, but this time in a completely opposite light — he was cast as a figure of fantasy, an epic archetype, a heroic avatar. And then March 14, 2005 came. Simply entitled “Detroit” in the dvd, they were up against the defending champion Detroit Pistons. Assigned to Bolado was reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, the titanic anchor of their feared interior defense. It seemed to matter little. Against Wallace’s superior strength and the Pistons’ vise-like double and triple teams, Bolado simply turned to his nimble feet, slipping and spinning into position before they could smother him. By the end of the first quarter he had eight points, six of them off uncontested Sky Hooks. As the second quarter started, he looked to do more of the same. Just three possessions in, he managed to whirl by Wallace to catch 137
an entry pass once again, and wasting no time, he drove and planted his left foot parallel to the baseline as he’d done a hundred times. But this time, as his giant left foot hit the ground, his entire body froze. A grimace split on his face. A full second later, he crumpled to the ground. His mouth was fixed in a mute scream as spasms of pain shook the length of his body. The camera quickly zoomed in, revealing his hands wound in a white-knuckled grip around his foot. A referee called for an injury time-out, and the team doctor scrambled to Bolado’s side. He pried the big man’s fingers open and pressed at the foot for few seconds. Noticeably paler, he asked Bolado a question, leaning an ear to catch his response. Even before Bolado completed his sentence, the doctor had bolted up and was waving frantically for a gurney. The fall, broadcast live in the Philippines, elicited nationwide concern. Hours later, Ateneo and La Salle held joint masses praying for a successful mri. gma and abs-cbn broadcast hourly reports and flashed all-day update tickers. A contingent composed of Fr. Carmelo Caluag, Congressman Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Robert Jaworski and Bong Revilla got on flights to Atlanta. The entire nation held its breath, holding vigil for their fallen hero. The news broke at 7 a.m. the next day on cnnsi. Bolado, the report read, had suffered a stress fracture on his foot — a major injury that often afflicted oversized centers. Even more horrifically, not only was it season-ending, it was also potentially career-ending. The doctor revealed that his feet had simply taken too much torture, both from training and from having supported his extreme height and weight for so long. A week later, Atlanta declared that they would have to waive him—it was, after all, a non-guaranteed contract (in an laudable display of magnanimity, Atlanta management paid Bolado the remainder of his contract, as Chicago had done with Jay Williams after his career-ending motorcycle crash). Ironically, the burden his feet had endured to take to him to the nba had also led to his downfall. As big of a legend as he was, in the end he was human after all.
His last stand at Atlanta would be the last professional game he has ever played. Sure enough, he was invited by the pba to return — it’s been said Danding Cojuangco offered to put up an entirely new league around him — but he declined, and continues to decline every offer. He is well aware that even with a bum foot he would be too much of advantage for any team. As for those still hoping for a return, there is the vow he had made at the press conference upon his arrival: on the long-awaited day when the Philippines could make a serious bid for the Olympics finally came, he would take to the court and do battle once more. Until that day comes, he has plenty to occupy him. Last year, he opened the doors of the Basketball Center for Big Men, with the goal of training the next generation of centers. His vision, he explained, is for Philippine basketball to be ready when the next seven-footer comes along. And from the televised inaugural work out, it seems the future of Filipino big men is in good hands. In attendance were Rico Espiritu, the 6’6” uaap mvp from De La Salle, Zedrick Tapang, the gangling 6’9” ust senior who was Rico’s junior division mvp Counterpart, and 6’8” Filipino-Chinese Jedrek Lao, the second pick in the year’s pba draft. As he drilled them on the jumphook, whistling, correcting, whistling, correcting, he was the consummate instructor, explaining the logic behind every minute movement, giving direction rather than directions. Best of all, he was teaching by example; hyperbole has always been among the clearest ways to dramatize a point, and with Bolado, it doesn’t get any more dramatic. Still, it boggles the mind that anyone might actually match his achievements. In a span of three years, he put in the most amazing career any Filipino basketball player — many would say any Filipino athlete — has ever had. Much more than proving the myth of the kapre true, he proved the myth that the Filipino basketball player can hold his own against the world, without contextualization, without commiseration, without any brand of affirmative action. Living up to his legend would seem impossible, except that once upon a time, none of us believed that kapres existed, either.
Death poem exercise 64* I propose that everyone replace the word “died” with “wore red skintight leather pants” in all personal essays. So lead-ins like On this day last year, Munying, my cat, my friend, my sister, accidentaly ate a dead frog. 24 hours later she wore red skintight leather pants, would now sound silly for the right reasons, while the recollection of how When grandfather wore red skintight leather pants I smiled, knowing he was finally in heaven, would be heart breaking but no longer in a sad way. Now it must be considered that people who do wear red skintight leather pants don’t need any more grief. That’s why I also propose the exchange go both ways, and so we learn that When Jon died at his coming out party, everyone clapped and cheered him on, which is much happier, in a much happier way.
Featured in the 2010 Best of the Net Anthology by Sundress Publications; previously published in Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry
Weight without gravity*
There is no weight without gravity. But matter and weight have come To mean the same things: What keeps our feet on the ground, what pulls At clouds to return to sea, why we fear The fall. We have assigned them, too To other things: meaning and burden. Weight no longer belongs to the body.
My mother’s weight keeps her pinned To this hospital bed, chained By our fears, by all she has to fight. She is her body now more than ever. The pressure of her hand in mine A collection of mere molecules—
* 3rd Prize, Poetry, 2011 Philippines Free Press Awards for Literature; Previously published in The Philippines Free Press
Matter acted upon by gravity. And I waver at the edge of You and This is not you, I tell her. The weight of our worry pulls the water from her eyes. 3 I do not fear the words dead, weight. The part of my mother I wait to waken Weighs nothing and means all.
nicko caluya after a friendâ€™s poem
We believe in nothing. Just like how this poem starts: we believe it needs sound from two birds chirping, perched on the edge of their nest. We know their shadows as light strikes from outside the window to the surface of our hands weaved together. We only stare at each other and we know. How light and sound these words are; they fill our days when we confess our miseries, these birds fly to our windowpane, wanting to live here. Look, then listen: we know this poemâ€™s name.
from Eternities In a well-lit room. Two bodies Naked. That rare Form. Caught Is instance.
jose fernando go-oco
from The Obscure
It was utterly night. He woke up as if in revolt to slumber itself. He tried to focus on what was in front of him but a blot like the shadow of a light yet to come, a scar from a wound in darkness, persisted in his vision.
He closed his eyes. The scar took as its form a faint pulse of light at the center of his vision, and like an infection its imperious cadence persisted despite the absence of sight. It was the only source of light within the night.
Light, light wounding the night. Light murmuring from within the night.
He opened his eyes and the scar peeled off. From the pain, something ancient, something immemorial pierced his memory. The wound in the night gaping, his eyes gaping, gaping. Am I blind, he asked.
This place of dissimulation; place of simulation. Site without sight, sight without site.
Before, the day. Someone was gripping his arm, leading him through the alleys. Silhouettes of faraway objects arrested his gaze when they crossed wide streets. His vision bounded the day like a window slanting light into an empty room, everything dazzled him and the light dazed his sight. Who are you, he asked, the outsider turned to face him, the day. I only need your name, he thought, so I can call you, I must call you. Before him was his destination, he had arrived before the entrance.
The wound, the light which guided his vision toward its center, obscured it. It was like the law which he had to defer to, demanding from him a compliance which he was reluctant to give, yet at his moment of surrender had become diffused and vague like a thick fog, obstructing him.
What day is it? Standing up, he tried to find the door, trusting his memory to correct his vision, but at the moment of taking the first step an incomprehensible heaviness had set about him. He resisted this motion sickness, he kept his eyes open, finding refuge in the murmuring light.
Was it the wound that made him remember, he thought. The wound in the night echoing the day.
Remembering, there was nothing left to do but wait, the obstructing force of the threshold in the dreamâ€Šâ€” What day is it?
The remembrance of the place, this place of remembrance. Recall, recall that which calls from beyond sight, from beyond night. That beyond, that promise of escaping this incessant pulse of light in sight, that beyond, that promise of beyond sight.
This place meant: this has no place.
The space which he perceived before him was an absence of place. This place, this place, this place.
The dream, the threshold obstructing the waiting, leaving nothing to do but remembering.
Art Gallery It has been one of heights’ traditions to look at artistic works with a different eye, an eye that is open to forms and concepts both old and new. The collection of art works in this folio emphasizes the evolution of looking at art. With the artists’ explorations of traditional to new mediums, techniques, styles, and concepts, we believe that the selections of visual art in the succeeding pages explore the undying discourse between tradition and innovation. Reyes’ Deception and de Leon’s Wreath demand us to look twice — a revisiting, as both works portray something that is not what it seems. The works Skybound by Marasigan, Dive by Ringor and What Goes Up by Begonia next show a choosing of direction in which one can look — a movement from one’s current view to another. Lastly, Balaguer’s Non Omnis Moriar and Lascano’s No Different brings forth an insight — from merely looking, one begins to see, and a discovery is realized. Like turning on a light switch, darkness disappearing swiftly, the artistic works in this folio make clear the continuous movements of visual art. As preparation for the 60th anniversary of heights, we trust that more than looking at the evolution of art in all its forms and ideas, one needs to participate with it in order to see what is more.
john alexis balaguer Art Editor January 2012
Patricia Lascano. No Different. Digital.
Natasha Ringor. Dive. Mixed Media.
Therese Nicole Reyes. Deception. Ink.
John Alexis Balaguer. Non Omnis Moriar. Photomanipulation.
Adrian Begonia. What Goes Up. Digital Photography.
Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan. Skybound. Acrylic on canvas (12 Ă— 12 in).
Kriselle de Leon. Wreath. Digital.
Exie Abola (English Department) Exie Abola teaches with the Department of English and the Fine Arts Program. His first book, Trafficking in Nostalgia: Essays from Memory, is forthcoming from the Ateneo Press. He is at work on a book of short stories. Leo Francis F. Abot (1 AB-MA Political Science) “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” — William Ernest Henley, Invictus I turn over the reins of my clumsy soul to God, Author of all that is Good, for I have erstwhile been a faulty master and erring captain, one whose art and scribbles are but straw to the Divine. May He steer it in the right direction. To my parents, mentors, and friends, especially Block II, thank you for all the support. To myself, thank you for putting up with me (hey, we won big time, didn’t we?). To the master of my fate, thank you for the future. Lester Abuel (4 BFA Creative Writing) “Si Cain ang tunay na makata — kinitil niya ang nakaraan upang pagbigyan ang bugso ng kanyang damdamin. Nakikita niya kasi na mayroong kawalan na siyang kailangang punan ano man ang kabayaran. At anong kapalit nito? Mula sa isang kalagayan ng kawalang-kapangyarihan, iniwan niya ang larangan ng karaniwan upang maging diyos. Sino ba namang mag-iisip na ang salahilo pa ang magkakamit ng buhay na walang hanggan?” Halaw mula sa pagbasa ni Ma’am Beni (Santos) ng tulang Cain.
Luis Wilfredo J. Atienza (1 BS Biology) Billy wishes he could be a wandering bard, but since that probably wouldn’t turn out very well, he has to settle for being a regular student for now. Billy would like to thank all the people whose time he took up by asking for help with not just this piece, but almost everything else he’s ever written. He also hopes he can stop writing like this in time for his Lit midterm on Monday. John Alexis Balaguer (4 AB Communication, Minor in Creative Writing – Poetry) Non Omnis Moriar concludes my published secret series. Also, finally, a poem. For Heights and the Art staff whom I shared and dedicated my passion to, I hope I have inspired you in one way or another. For Kai, who has kept me sane, and Kenken, who I am not afraid to be vulnerable with, I’m still here because of you. For Ma’am Devi, Ma’am Cathy and Ms. Alay, thank you for believing. For Pa, Kuy, and Ryan, I am following my dreams. I hope I have made you proud. Lastly, for Mama, who is more beautiful than art itself, you are the reason why I’m still creating. I miss you. “Here comes the mystery.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher.
Nica Bengzon (3 AB English Literature) Sometimes Nica writes. Mostly she lives in the world. This particular ‘sometimes’ is for some wonderful people, who are so full of poetry they escape the page — ASK, Kythe-Ateneo, the Kythe kids, Isa, Keisha and Stef, Deirdre/ Hannah (haha), Micasol — and for Pipay, and for whatever it is that brings all sailors home from the sea. Adrian Begonia (2 BS Chemistry with Materials Science Engineering) radial (rey–dee–uhl) –adj 1. arranged like radii or rays 2. having spokes, bars, lines arranged like radii, as a machine. 3. Zoology. pertaining to structures that radiate from a central point, as the arms of a starfish. et cetera. For the trees. I am fond of them. Nicko Caluya (3 BS Computer Science) We are the kings and queens of promise We were the victims of ourselves Maybe the children of a lesser god Between heaven and hell 30 Seconds to Mars (2009) Maraming naitulong ang pagtulala sa bintanang katabi ng mesa ni Nicko para makatulong sa kanyang pagtula at paglalarawan ng lungsod, langit, o halos lahat. Bukod pa roon, nanggagaling ang inspirasyon niya sa “Digmaan” 176
mula sa isang music video at sa nagturo sa kanya kung paano susundan ang mga bituin tuwing gabi. http://fireflights.wordpress.com Deirdre Camba (3 AB English Literature) Deirdre owes the most fabulous semester (thus far) of her collegiate life to Sir DM, Miss Mookie, Sir Jacobo, and Sir Gus. She thanks them, most sincerely. For Maggie, in that city far away that sounds vaguely like my name. Joseph Casimiro (4 AB European Studies) Si Joseph Casimiro ay magtatapos ng European Studies (with Latin Honors), na may minors sa English Literature at Hispanic Studies, sa Pamantasan ng Ateneo De Manila. Nalathala na ang kaniyang mga tula sa Heights, High Chair, Kritika Kultura, Philippines Free Press at sa iba pang publikasyon. Siya ay editor ng Spindle. Kay Isabela Cuerva, iyong mapagmahal na anyo. Mikael de Lara Co (BS Environmental Science 2003) Mikael de Lara Co works in government, and hopes to finish and release his first book of poetry in 2012. He was an editor of Heights and Matanglawin. Genaro R. Gojo Cruz Si Genaro R. Gojo Cruz ay nag-aral ng Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Ateneo De Manila University noong 2000 at naging fellow sa tula sa 2nd Ateneo National Writersâ€™ Workshop noong 2001. Kasalukuyan siyang nagtuturo sa De La Salle Universityâ€“Manila.
Isabela Cuerva (3 BFA Creative Writing) Sab dreams in color. For JC, who has (finally, finally) silenced the voices in my head: to you I owe my metamorphosis. Monching M. Damasing (AB Philosophy 2011, Minor in Literature in English) Mahahanap ang karamihan ng mga tula sa collection sa mga folio ng Heights noong SY 2010-2011. Kriselle de Leon (3 BFA Information Design) To my family, my best friend, IU, ex-schoolmates, VE girls and Kuya Ron and Kuya Ivan — people who have always helped me practice and who occasionally said nice things about my stuff (and me, sometimes). Even though I know that most of them are crap. Thank you? And to Heights, who allowed me to experience lots of firsts. I feel really lucky. Allan Aberto N. Derain (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Guro ng Kagawaran ng Filipino sa Paaralan ng Humanidades si Allan N. Derain. Nagtuturo siya ng panitikan at malikhaing pagsulat. Awtor ng Iskrapbuk na aklat ng kaniyang mga maikling kuwento na inilabas ng UP Press. Ilalabas ng Cacho Publishing ang una niyang nobelang Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag ngayong taon. Jose Fernando Go-Oco (5 BFA Information Design) Pepito Go-Oco’s works have been featured in Heights, Spindle, Matanglawin, and Kritika Kultura. He designs books, and aspires to be a translator.
Robi Goco (4 BS Life Sciences) @dogsdoingthings Dogs writing in their Hello Kitty diary, “Rationality is a form of terror.” Para kay Rae, sukatan ng kagalingan sa pagsusulat. Inspirasyon. Salamat sa pamilya ko para sa walang humpay na suporta, sa kabila ng lahat ng kalokohan. Hello sa lahat ng mga kaibigan ko. Oh ha, ‘di niyo aakalaing makapagsusulat ako sa Heights no! Salamat sa Heights. Nabawasan na ang list na tinutukoy ko sa twitter bio ko: I love a lot of things I don’t do. Asterio Gutierrez (AB English Literature 2006) Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez has published fiction and poetry in the Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, Philippine Speculative Fiction 6, Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, Playboy, and TAYO (California), among others. His work has received Palanca 1st Prize awards as well as an inclusion to the international Best of the Net anthology, for poetry. Keisha Kibanoff (2 AB Psychology) “For this moment’s sake, I do not become me.” — Mraz But at the same time, she does. Keisha writes to sort out disorder. Her obsessive-compulsive tendencies extend to all things but her love of getting lost. She secretly hopes for more chaos. And orange chocolate. Marie La Viña (AB Philosophy 2010) is on vacation Patricia Lascano (2 BFA Information Design) The mask will always be your face. The face, the mask.
Gian Lao (BS Communications Technology Management 2010) Gian Lao posts his poetry at http://giancantdance.wordpress.com/ For Adrian Go Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan (3 BFA Information Design) Alfred feels old after learning a lot from the past, living more often in the present, and looking forward to the future. Marami pa rin siyang alam, pero mas masaya na siya ngayon (at least, until the next twist of fate happens). He’s also excited to leave after years of just dreaming about it. He dedicates this piece to God, to his loving parents, to himself, to the Heights EB, to his FA friends, to Khail, Geneve, Kyra, Mo, Pao, Rihanna, and Nicko, and to you who wishes fat and fluffy clouds would stop looking fat and fluffy when they aren’t fat nor fluffy at all. Follow Alfred at artistbynecessity-sketchbook.tumblr.com. Mirick Paala (3 BS Management Engineering) Hindi mabubuo ang tulang Pangasinan kung hindi dahil kay Sir DM, ang mas naglapit sa akin sa mundo ng tula, kay Adel, ang patuloy na nagtitiis na basahin ang aking mga akda at siyempre kay Inang, ang dahilan kung bakit hinahanap-hanap ko pa rin ang Pangasinan. Salamat din sa mga taong pinaghuhugutan ko ng inspirasyon: ang Tanghalang Ateneo, ang aking mga kaibigan at ang aking pamilya. Lubos ang aking pasasalamat sa inyong lahat. Kahit mawalan na ako ng salita, patuloy akong magsusulat, isang araw, isang tula. One day, one love. — Old Japanese Proverb
Mira Tan Reyes (MA Philosophy 2000) Mira Tan Reyes is a masteral graduate of philosophy from the Ateneo and presently chairs the Philosophy department of Miriam College. She is Associate Editor of Antig, the magazine of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. Mira served as Secretary of the Philosophical Association of the Philippines for two terms and was a scholar of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Therese Nicole Reyes (3 BS Psychology) cir•cum•stance / ˈsərkəmˌstans / An event or fact that causes or helps to cause something to happen. We were never victims of circumstance, we are circumstance. Special thanks to: the Creator of flower crab spiders, my parents, little bro, Tito Manny, Heights (especially Jamie, Alfred, Lexis, and JV), the people who keep my world spinning, Teacher Lalaine, Teacher Erwin, and Sir Temporal. Natasha Ringor (4 BFA Information Design) Fact: The world is a beautiful place — once in a while. Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky. Textbook Statistics — Arkaye Kierulf Rafael Antonio C. San Diego (AB English Literature 2005) Waps wishes the world was run by words in stead of numbers.
Eugene Soyosa (AB Economics 2009) Kahit pusong umibig ngang walang-gatol Hahatulan nating musmos o nabaliw, Di na tayo umiibig tulad noon Pagkat puso’y mga plastik at de-motor. — Rio Alma Cedric Tan (3 BS Management, Minor in English Literature) For Vida, Maia and Che, the ladies on the dance floor. For Perry and Miguel, the gentlemen at the wings. For Mare, JV, Lambert and Lara, the marching band. For the angels and demons of the 17th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop. Life’s a mess, but it’s a fine mess. Andrea Teran (BS Environmental Science 2001) Andrea Bugna Teran graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from the Ateneo de Manila in 2001. Science has always figured strongly in her life, and thus in her writing. She is currently working for a bicameral commission on science and engineering. The poem Weight without gravity first appeared in The Philippines Free Press. Paolo Tiausas (3 BFA Creative Writing) “Oo, oo, street child of mine!” Si Paolo Tiausas ay naging pellow sa tula noong 16th Ateneo Heights Writers’ Workshop. Laking pasasalamat sa kanyang pamilya, sa Bagwisan, sa Igne, sa mga guro/tinitingala sa tula (Ma’am Beni, Sir DM, Miss Mookie), at sa kanyang hindi kailanman nagsawa magbasa sa mga tula ko kahit alas-tres na ng umaga: Ako. Joke. Hello Kyra.
Maria Amparo Warren (AB Communication 2011) Peep is now starting from scratch and looking for more time for coffee breaks after a year of province-hopping, attending exacting grad school classes at UP Diliman, and teaching English to the little high school girls in Goldilocks uniforms. She is indebted to her family, the Whitefeet, Jamie and Lles and Mary, her neighbors, the Kythers, her classmates and her students, and most especially Turtle, for providing a partner drink to a lonely cappuccino or Okinawa milk tea. Isabel Yap Isabel Yap studied for two years in Ateneo (and was a proud member of the Heights English staff) before transferring to California, where she is currently finishing a degree in Marketing. Her work has appeared in Heights, The Philippines Free Press, The Philippine Star, Philippines Speculative Fiction 4, 5, and (the upcoming volume) 7, and Diaspora Ad Astra. She likes reading, videogame music, and squealing over fat cats. She would like to dedicate this poem to Carlo, Tita Toni, and Tito Boy. She would also like to send love to all of her friends back home in Manila, especially those who will soon be graduating. ♥♥ ♥ Lawrence Lacambra Ypil (English Department) Lawrence Lacambra Ypil is taking an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Washington University in St. Louis, under a Fulbright scholarship. He is the author of The Highest Hiding Place (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2009).
Erratum Isinalin nina Paolo Tiausas at Deirdre Camba ang Kuwentong Pambata ni Robi Goco na Bago Ako Makalimot. Inilunsad ng Heights ang aklat noong Disyembre ng nakaraang taon.
Pasasalamat Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ at ang Office of the President Dr. John Paul C. Vergara at ang Office of the Vice-President for the Loyola Schools G. Rene S. San Andres at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs G. Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Ma. Luz C. Vilches at ang Office of the Dean of the School of Humanities Dr. Marianne Rachel G. Perfecto at ang English Department Dr. Ricardo G. Abad at ang Fine Arts Program Dr. Alvin B. Yapan at ang Kagawaran ng Filipino Dr. Edgar C. Samar at ang Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (ailap) G. Christopher F. Castillo at G. Daniel T. Galvey at ang Office of Student Activities Bb. Marie Joy R. Salita at ang Office of Administrative Service Bb. Leonora P. Wijangco at Bb. Christina Cabudsan ang Central Accounting Office Bb. Christina R. Barzabal at ang Purchasing Office G. Rodolfo Allayban at ang University Archives Ang mvp Maintenance and Security Personnel Bb. Aika Lim at ang Guidon G. Alfie Pe単a at ang Matanglawin Sa Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral ng Ateneo De Manila at sa Council of Organizations of the Ateneo Sa College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Haranya ng ua&p, Thomasian Writers Guild ng ust, Malate Literary Folio ng dlsu, up ugat, up Writers Club at up Quill Sa mga kasapi ng 2nd Ateneo Heights Artists Workshop committee At sa lahat ng tumatangkilik sa mga gawain ng Heights, sa patuloy na nagpapasa ng kanilang likha at nakikiisa sa paghubog sa ating panitikan at sining!
Editorial Board Editor-in-Chief Joseph Immanuel G. Casimiro [ab eu 2012] Associate Editor Enrique Jaime S. Soriano [bs mgt-h 2012] Managing Editor Nicko R. Caluya [bs cs 2013] Art Editor John Alexis B. Balaguer [ab com 2012] Associate Art Editor Juan Viktor A. Calanoc [bs mgt 2013] Design Editor Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan [bfa id 2013] Associate Design Editor Sara Nicole C. Erasmo [bfa id 2013] English Editor Deirdre Patricia Z. Camba [ab lit (eng) 2013] Associate English Editor Carissa Bernadette A. Pobre [ab eu 2014] Filipino Editor Paolo Miguel G. Tiausas [bfa cw 2013] Associate Filipino Editor Emmanuel John L. Bagacina [bs ece 2012] Production Manager Carmela Monica L. Bautista [bfa id 2013]
Head Moderator and Moderator for Filipino Allan Alberto N. Derain Moderator for Art Dr. Wilford Almoro Moderators for English Martin V. Villanueva Moderator for Design Gisela Maria T. Banaag Moderator for Production Severino R. Sarmenta, Jr.
Adrian Begonia, Pam Celeridad, Kriselle de Leon, Mon Esquivel, Momo Fernandez, Mayu Ferrer, Patsy Lascano, Mo Maguyon, Alfred Marasigan, Gracie Mendoza, Maan Mendoza, Miko Migriño, Moli Muñoz, Veron Oliva, Eli Padilla, Shane Ramirez, Therese Reyes, Tasha Ringor, Aaron Villaflores
Timothy Chuang, Pamcy Fernandez, Karen Fuentes, Pepito Go-Oco, Bea Ignacio, Dale Liwanag, Paola Lizares, Meggie Ong, Bea Policarpio, Gino Tuazon
Paco Adajar, Luis Atienza, Felise Aurelio, Natasha Basul, Christabel Bucao, Isabela Cuerva, Gian Dapul, Justine Dinglasan, Joseph Ledesma, Jenina Ibañez, Clara Pangilinan, Elijah Pascual, Hannah Perdigon, Deo Mostrales, Katya Rara, Margarita Reyes, Rie Takumi, Cedric Tan, Jillian Tan, Pauline Villar, Kazuki Yamada
Lester Abuel, Chise Alcantara, Ace Ancheta, Japhet Calupitan, Nicko Caluya, JC Casimiro, Pepito Go-oco, Robi Goco, Geneve Guyano, Roselyn Ko, Isay Lagunzad, Ariane Lim, Mo Maguyon, Mike Orlino, Hannah Perdigon, Lorenz Revillas, Jero Santos, John Solito
Punky Canlas, Audrey Ferriol, Kriselle de Leon, Harvey Parafina, Pat Santos, Renzo Santos
2nd ateneo heights artists workshop
7 January 2012 The Aerie, Ateneo de Manila University Panelists Mr. Anton del Castillo Mr. Rob Cham Mr. Riel Hilario Ms. Tata Yap
Fellows Adrian Begonia (Photography) Mary Anne Collantes (Photography) Monica Esquivel (Digital, Traditional) Marielle Ferrer (Digital, Traditional) Matthew Lee (Photography) Kriselle de Leon (Digital) Nicole Maguyon (Photography,Traditional) Natasha Ringor (Digital, Traditional) Workshop Director JV Calanoc
Workshop Deliberation Committee Ms. Jamie Bauza Ms. Tasie Cabrera Ms. Elie Javier Ms. Ria Rigoroso Ms. Alyza Taguilaso Workshop Committee Assistant Director: Lex Balaguer Finance and Logistics: Nicko Caluya Workshop Portfolio: Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Documentation: Sara Erasmo Assistance: Pam Celeridad, Momo Fernandez, Eli Padilla, and Therese Reyes Design Editors Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Sara Erasmo Heights Moderators Mr. Allan Alberto N. Derain Mr. Martin Villanueva
Since 1952, Heights, as an Atenean publication and organization, has stood as a local bastion of literature and the arts. In its pursuit to deepen literary and artistic appreciation, Heights continues to publish both emerging and established writers and artists from the University. As such, Heights aims to continue contributing more to the Ateneo literary and artistic tradition of excellence through the publication of semestral and special issues, and the annual sponsorship of the Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop and the Ateneo Heights Artists Workshop that aim to develop homegrown literary and artistic talent. Join Heights as it commemorates sixty years of discovering and promoting art and beauty. Email your literary and artistic contributions for inclusion in the special folio of the Sixtieth Anniversary.
The 2012 second regular issue of Heights Vol. 59. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo...