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Buntong-hininga Walther Hontiveros

Saan matatagpuan ang kabigatang hindi matalos ng mata kundi ng pag- hinga



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God’s Parody Angelique E. Detaunan

RISK #1 He created the fruit, which fruited His creations creating Him. RISK #2 He sent His messengers, whose messages were never sent. RISK #3 He called upon His only son, who called out to His other sons, and died doing it. It began with the best and worst of all. In the beginning, He made love uncontrollable. And in doing so Made risk #1 #2 #3 Seem mistake

#1 #2 #3




Kuwentong Malas Dennis Castro

Ikaw na yata ang pinakamalas na tao sa buong mundo. Noong isang linggo, nagbreak na kayo ni honeybabes, ang mahal mong kasintahan. Ngayong araw na ito, natanggal ka sa trabaho. Kasi naman, kundi ka laging late, lagi kang absent. Huling araw mo na sa opisina, pauwi ka na ngayon. Nadukutan ka pa ng wallet kasi siksikan kanina sa lrt. Mamaya, pagdating mo sa iyong inuupahang apartment, problema rin ang sasalubong sa’yo. Malapit ka nang maputulan ng tubig at kuryente. Kahapon lang, inalis na ang linya ng telepono. Paano mo pa nga pala mababayaran ang mga ito, natanggal ka na sa trabaho, at dalawang linggo pa raw ang hihintayin mo bago mo makuha ang separation pay mo. Naalala mo tuloy ang wallet mo na tinangay na ng mandurukot sa lrt.   Katatapos lang bumuhos ng malakas na ulan at sa barangay n’yo, kahit kaunting ulan lang, bumabaha na agad. Kawawa naman ang sapatos mo na maliban sa pudpod na, nakangiti pa. Kasi naman, di ka na dumaan kay Mr.Quickie para maremedyuhan ito. Ngayon, nilublob mo pa ang nakangiti mong sapatos sa tubig-baha. Lagi kang late o absent sa opisina dahil sa lecheng baha na ito. Nauubos kasi ang oras mo sa kakaakyat ng mga gamit mo sa second floor ng apartment mo para di sila mabasa at masira.   Ngayong huminto ang ulan, para namang mga palakang nagsasaya ang mga kapitbahay mo. Nasa kanto ka pa lang, naririnig mo na sina Regine, Sarah at April Boy, ang mga housemates mo sa apartment na mahilig magvideoke.   “And ip purebers nat inap por mi tu lab yu, ayd spend anader layptaym beybi, purebers nat inap por mi tu lab yu sow.” Kilala mo ang boses na ‘yun. Sigurado kang si Sarah ang kumakanta nang malakas, gamit ang magic sing, pinaparinig niya sa buong barangay ang boses niya na para namang sinasakal na palaka.   Halos isumpa mo na kung sinuman ang hinayupak na nakaimbento ng mga videoke. Eto ka, pagod at nasisante sa trabaho, gusto mong magpahinga 

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pagdating mo sa bahay pero ang mga palakang ito ang sasalubong sa’yo. Bakit nga ba may mga tao na parang naubusan na ng hiya? Pakanta-kanta pa, sintunado naman.   Hindi mo pa nabubuksan ang gate ng iyong apartment ay nakaabang na pala si Manang Britney, ang landlord mo.   “Oy, kailan ka ba magbabayad ng upa? Maghanap ka na lang ng malilipatan para mapagamit ko naman ang kuwarto mo sa marunong magbayad. Dalawang buwan na ang utang mo sa’kin, pinapaalala ko lang,” sabi sa’yo ng manang na sa sobrang kapal ng make up ay parang bangkay na bumangon sa kabaong.   “Pasensya na ho, Manang Britney. Magbabayad agad ako pag natanggap ko na ang huling suweldo ko. Natanggal ho ako sa trabaho ngayon eh,” pilit mong pagmamakaawa sa kanya.   “Siya, sige, may tiwala naman ako sa’yo kasi mabait ka naman,” sagot sa ‘yo ng matanda. Nakahinga ka naman nang maluwag.   Buti na lang at naging sikat ka sa apartment na ‘yun dahil sa pagiging mabait mo. Nung isang taon kasi, halos yakapin ka sa tuwa ng isang Hapones na may-ari ng clutch bag na naiwan niya. Bisita siya ng housemate mong si Regine na dating Japayuki. Kahit nakita mong maraming lapad ang laman ng clutch bag na’yon, di mo ito itinago at binalik mo pa rin kay Regine. Kung may awards night lang sa apartment na ‘yun, binigyan ka na sana ni Manang Britney ng trophy kung saan nakaukit ang mga salitang Most Honest Tenant Award.   “O giliw nasan ka? Bakit lumisan na? Kailangan ko’y ikaw...” Speaking of the devil, si Regine na pala ang kumakanta sa videoke. Ang lungkot naman ng lyrics ng kinakanta n’ya. Naalala mo tuloy si honeybabes mo na nangiwan sa’yo.   Gusto mo na talagang magpahinga at matulog kasi medyo dis-oras na ng gabi. Pero kahit mabigat na ang mga mata mo at napapapikit ka na, napadilat ka kaagad nang marinig mo na may sumisigaw sa ibaba ng kuwarto mo.   “Di ko kayang tanggapin na mawawala ka na sa akon!!! Napakasakit namang marinig na ayaw mo na sa akon!!!” Kilala mo rin ang boses na iyon. Sigurado kang si April Boy ‘yun, ang housemate mong bisaya na tomboy. Akala mo ay may kaaway siya kaya siya sumisigaw, pero naalala 


mong nagvivideoke nga pala sila sa ibaba.   “My loneliness is killing me. I must confess, I still believe. When you’re not with me I lose my mind, give me a sign, hit me baby one more time!” Pati ba naman si Manang Britney, humihirit na rin pala sa videoke? Ang ganda pa ng diction ng lola mo, kuhang-kuha ang pagslang ng totoong Britney Spears. Sayang nga lang kasi di naman niya nakuha ang tono nung kinakanta niya.   “Tell me when will you be mine? Tell me cuando, cuando, cuando..” May ka-duet naman si manang sa sumunod na kanta niya. Kilala mo rin ang boses na ‘yun. Sigurado kang yun ang asawa ni Manang Britney. Ano nga ba uli ang pangalan niya? Engelbert Hump-your-dick? Katapat lang ng kwarto mo yung tinutulugan nilang mag-asawa, nakalimutan mo naman ang apelyido niya.   Parang nananadya na ang mga housemates mo. Parang hinaharana ka nila. Nagpaparinig. Kasi naman, parang tugma sa mga nangyayari sa’yo ang mga lyrics ng mga kinakanta nila, maliban na lang sa kinanta ni Mang Engelbert na di mo mabigkas nang tama ang apelyido. Mukhang sinusubok nila ang pasensya mo.   Nahihirapan kang matulog, nabuo tuloy ang isang balak mo. Magiimpake ka na ngayong gabi, uuwi ka na lang sa probinsiya n’yo bukas na bukas rin. Tutal, pinapalayas ka na ni Manang Britney, wala ka nang trabaho, wala ka pang pera. At wala na rin si honeybabes. Tsk.   Medyo tinatamad ka naman magligpit ng gamit. Pagod na pagod ka talaga. Halos tatlumpung minuto kang nakatayo kanina sa siksikang LRT. Naglakad ka pa sa baha. Naisip mo na lang na bumaba mula sa second floor, pero hindi para sumali sa mga palakang nagvivideoke. Padabog mong isinara ang gate ng apartment sa paglabas mo. Naisip mong magpahangin muna. Kumusta naman, maglalakad ka uli sa baha? Okey lang, nasabi mo sa sarili mo, basta ‘wag mo lang marinig ang boses ng mga housemates mo na sa ’yong palagay, kahit saan sigurong singing contest eh hindi papasa sa audition pa lang.   Sige lang, lusong ka uli sa baha. Naalala mo tuloy ‘yung napanood mong balita sa tv tungkol sa isang estudyante na namatay dahil sa kawad ng kuryente nung naglakad siya sa baha sa Dapitan, yung kalye sa likod ng UST. Malapit lang ‘yun sa apartment na inuupahan mo. Ayaw mong 

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makuryente kaya naisip mong bumalik sa lugar ng mga palakang walang sawang kumokokak.   Nagtatampo ka sa kanila ngayon. Mabait ka naman sa kanila. Kaya ka nga muntik nang mabigyan ng Most Honest Tenant Award. Pag sobra ang sinusukli ni Manang Britney sa binayaran mong upa, binabalik mo sa kanya. Pag nakalimutan ng mag-asawa na singilin ka, sinasabi mo sa kanila ang totoo. Pag kailangan nina Sarah, Regine at April Boy ng magbabantay sa kwarto nila, pumapayag ka naman pag may oras ka. May tiwala sila sa’yo kaya ikaw ang ginagawa nilang tagapagbantay. Kaya ka nga naging most honest tenant awardee. ‘Wag mong kalilimutan ‘yan.   Pero bakit ka nila ginaganito ngayon? Parang nananadya talaga sila. Alam nilang marami kang problema, pero wala naman silang pakialam sa’yo. Kunsabagay, pare-pareho lang naman kayong nangungupahan sa apartment ni Manang Britney. May kanya-kanya kayong buhay, kanyakanyang problema. Matagal ka nang nakatira roon. Siguro magtatatlong taon na. Simula nung umalis ka sa probinsya n’yo para maghanap ng trabaho sa Maynila, doon ka na palaging umuuwi. May pinagsamahan na rin kayo ng mga housemates mo kahit papa’no.   Nung medyo malaki ang sinuweldo mo, nagpakabit ka pa nga ng cable tv. Tuwang-tuwa si Mang Engelbert sa’yo dahil napanood niyo sa pay-perview ‘yung laban ni Manny Pacquiao at Erik Morales. Sabay-sabay kayong naghihiyawan ng mga housemates sa apartment n’yo. Halos mamatay sa inggit ang mga tao sa katabi n’yong bahay dahil alam n’yong napasuko na ni Pacquiao ang kalaban niya, pero sa pinapanood nila, mag-uumpisa pa lang ang laban sa sobrang dami ng patalastas sa Channel 2. Pero isang buwan na nga palang nahinto ang subscription mo sa cable TV kasi wala ka nang pambayad.   Naglalakad ka na pabalik nang marinig mo na may kumakahol na asong itim sa kabilang kanto. Kilala mo ang rottweiler na iyon. Ylmaz ang tawag sa kanya ng amo niyang si Ruffa. Mukhang nakawala si Ylmaz sa pagkakatali niya at himbing na sa pagtulog ang kanyang amo. Nagpasalamat ka sa baha, dahil hindi ka pwedeng habulin ni Ylmaz sa tubig. Pero nakalimutan mo na ba ang dahilan kung bakit naimbento ang salitang “langoy-aso”? Nataranta ka nung nakita mong lumusong din sa baha si Ylmaz at talagang balak kang habulin at kagatin. Napabilis ang iyong paglakad sa tubig. 


Basang-basa ka na naman.   Malapit ka nang makabalik sa apartment nang marinig mo uli ang housemate mong si Regine.   “Heto ako, basang-basa sa ulan, walang masisilunga-ha-haaan..” Papiyokpiyok pa siya habang pasigaw na kumokokak. “Bwissseeeett!!!!” Napasigaw ka na lang at nagpasyang huwag munang bumalik sa apartment.   Mukhang naligaw na si Ylmaz na kanina lang ay humahabol sa’yo, kaya sinubok mong maglakad sa kabilang kalye na di naman malalim ang baha. Naalala mong di ka pa pala kumakain magmula nu’ng umuwi ka. Naisip mong kumain muna ng lugaw sa karinderya roon na magdamag nakabukas. Lalo ka lang nainis nung naalala mong wala na nga pala ang wallet mo kasi nga nadukutan ka kanina. Gutom na gutom ka na pero wala ka namang pambayad. Kawawa ka naman. Ikaw na nga siguro ang pinakamalas na tao sa buong mundo. Kanino ka nga naman uutang ngayon, sa mga palakang kumokokak?   Nagpasya kang magpakamatay na lang, tutal, wala nang kuwenta ang buhay mo. Lumusong ka uli sa baha at naisip mong bumalik sa Dapitan, para makuryente ka tulad ng nangyari roon sa nabalitaan mong estudyante. Kaso medyo malayo na ‘yun. Tinatamad ka nang bumalik doon. T’saka baka malaglag ka pa sa manhole. Hindi nga naman dramatic ang kamatayan mo pag gano’n lang.   Ano kaya kung bumili ka na lang ng insecticide? Iinumin mo nang straight, no chaser. Ilang minuto lang, sigurado, bumubula na ang bibig mo. Puwede mo pang balikan yung si Ylmaz, yung rottweiler na gustong humabol sa’yo, tingnan mo na rin kung di pa siya masindak sa hitsura mo. Magandang idea ‘yan! Naisip mong pumunta sa pinakamalapit na 7-11. Naalala mo tuloy na kahit 24 hours na nakabukas ‘yun, di mo pa rin maintindihan kung bakit may lock ang pintuan ng tindahan na ‘yun. Habang naglalakad ka, kinapa mo ang bulsa mo at saka mo lang naalala uli, nadukutan ka nga pala ng wallet kanina! Buwiset talaga’ng buhay ‘to, sabi mo sa sarili mo.   Naisip mong hanapin na lang uli si Ylmaz para magpakagat na lang sa kanya. Pero mukhang napagod na siya at bumalik na sa bahay ng kanyang amo. Buti pa si Ruffa, may katabi ngayon, naibulong mo sa sarili mo. Siyempre na-senti ka na naman. Kawawa ka nga naman, nag-iisa na lang sa mundo. Walang trabaho, walang wallet, walang honeybabes, 

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walang apartment, walang kaibigan, walang kamag-anak. “‘Wag n’yo kong subukan!”, nasabi mo na lang dahil sa sobrang pagkainis.   Medyo kanina ka pa naglalakad sa baha at napansin mong mahirap din pala ang ganoon. Hindi ka naman si Marimar na nakangiti pa rin habang palakad-lakad sa dagat. Naisip mong bumalik na lang sa apartment mo. Siguro naman, pagod na sa pagkokak yung mga housemates mong palaka.  Tama ang hinala mo. Pagbungad mo pa lang sa apartment, napansin mong tahimik na ang buong paligid. Nakapatay na ang ilaw. Mukhang nagsawa na rin sa wakas ang mga palaka. Dahan-dahan mong binuksan ang kinakalawang nang gate. Ayaw mong mapansin ng mga housemates mo ang pagbalik mo. Dinukot mo mula sa iyong malas na bulsa ang susi ng pinto. Nagpasalamat ka dahil hindi iyon dinamay ng mandurukot sa LRT. Maingat ka rin sa pagpihit ng door lock dahil nga ayaw mong mapansin ang pagbalik mo.   Habang dahan-dahan mo itong binubuksan, parang pigil na mabagal at mahinang pag-utot ang nilikhang tunog ng pinto. Madilim na madilim sa loob ng apartment. Di mo maintindihan ang sarili mo kung bakit pakiramdam mo ay parang may mga taong nakatayo sa paligid mo. Naalala mo tuloy ‘yung pelikulang The Sixth Sense. Magkayakap pa kayo noon ni honeybabes mo noong pinanood n’yo yun. Pero wala na siya ngayon para yakapin ka at nang hindi ka matakot. Nanginginig ka habang pumapasok ka na sa apartment. Medyo giniginaw ka pa ngayon dahil nabasa ka sa ulan at lumusong ka sa baha.   “I see dumb people!” bulong mo sa sarili mo, dahil inis ka nga sa mga dumb people ng apartment na iyon na kanina lang ay parang nananadyang inisin ka sa pagkanta nila.   Pero natatakot ka pa rin. Bahala na, sabi mo. Naglakas-loob ka na lang. Pagod ka na, gusto mo nang matulog. Bukas na bukas rin, aalis ka na sa apartment na ito.   Kinapa mo ang switch ng ilaw para naman di ka mahirapan sa pagpasok. Pagsindi mo nito, siyempre maliwanag na. Nakita mong punung-puno ng pagkain ang mesa sa kusina. May spaghetti, lumpia, hotdog at barbeque. Pinapagitnaan ng mga ito ang isang chocolate cake. Paborito mo ang lahat ng iyon. May naalala ka tuloy. Birthday mo nga pala ngayon! 


Pero naisip mong hindi naman para sa’yo ang mga nakalatag sa mesa. Baka mga tira-tira lang ‘yun sa pagvi-videoke ng mga palakang kasama mo sa apartment. Sino ba naman ang nakaalala ng pinakamahalagang araw ng buhay mo? Kaninang dumating ka, wala namang bumati sa’yo. Si Manang Britney, bayad sa renta ang pagbati niya sa’yo.   Okey. Senti ka na naman. Nagpasya kang umakyat na lang papunta sa kuwarto mo. Pinatay mo na ang ilaw. Siyempre madilim na uli ang buong apartment. Naalala mo na natatakot ka nga pala, kasi nga parang may gumagalaw na anino sa paligid mo. Parang kanina pa nito tinitingnan ang bawat galaw mo. Naglakas-loob kang kumilos paakyat nang maramdaman mong may naglalakad na talaga sa likod mo, na parang kanina ka pa nito sinusundan. Mabilis itong kumilos patungo sa isang sulok ng apartment.   Nanlalamig ka na naman. Nangangatog. Naguguluhan. Nalilito. Gusto mong tumakbo pero di ka makakilos. Gusto mong sumigaw pero natuyo ang lalamunan mo.   Ganito ka rin noon nung nakita mo si honeybabes mo na may kasamang iba. Di mo sinasadyang makita siyang lumabas sa sinehan na may kaakbay. Nagulat din siya pero syempre, break na kayo dahil dun. Kahit sinabi pa niyang pinsan niya ang kasama niya, siyempre di ka utu-uto. Maski naman yung sarili mong pinsan, di mo inaakbayan ng gano’n. Leche, di ba? Umusok ang ilong mo dahil sa galit, at umuwi kang mag-isa, tulad ngayon.   Oo, tulad ngayon. Mag-isa ka na naman. Dumating ka sa apartment na sinalubong ng sunud-sunod na problema. Nagpakasenti ka kanina sa baha habang masayang kumokokak ang mga palaka. Muntik ka pang habulin at kagatin ni Ylmaz. Nagtangka kang uminom ng insecticide. Ngayon, sa pag-uwi mo, minumulto ka naman. Pakiramdam mo ay marami talagang nakapaligid na anino sa’yo.   Hindi mo na kaya. Sobra na talaga. Talagang ikaw na nga ang pinakamalas na tao sa buong mundo. Kahit nangangatog ka na sa takot, magwawala ka na sana. Biglang kumilos ang isang aninong nasa paligid mo.   Nagliwanag ang buong apartment dahil may nagsindi ng ilaw.   “Sssuurrppriise!!!,” sabay-sabay na sigaw ng mga nasa paligid pagdating mo. Nasa harap mo pala si Manang Britney na may mudpack pa sa mukha niya kaya napatili ka nang husto.   “Susginoo! Akala mo segoro, nakalemotan na namen, ano?” sabi ni April 10

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Boy sa iyo sa puntong Bisaya. Di lang niya alam, pero sa sobrang dami ng pinoproblema mo, nakalimutan mo na talaga ang sarili mong birthday.   Kaya naman pala kanina pa kumokokak sa videoke ang mga housemates mo.   “Nge!, ikaw pa ang nakalimot? Pambihira ka naman! Tumatanda ka na talaga. Ulyanin ka na eh,” biro ni Sarah sa’yo.   “Sana maging masaya ka kahit marami kang problema. Hindi ikaw ang pinakamalas na tao sa buong mundo,” sabi ni Manang Britney na parang nababasa ang iniisip mo.   “Kanina ka pa namin tinitingnan, kahit nung lumabas ka. Hinaharana ka namin. Buti na lang, di ka gano’ng pikon. Hehehe,” halakhak naman ni Mang Engelbert. Napangisi ka na lang at sinabi mong “oo nga ho eh.”   “Tutulungan kitang maghanap ng bagong trabaho. May job vacancy sa negosyo ng BF kong nasa Japan, interesado ka ba?” tanong ni Regine sa’yo. Naalala mong may utang na loob ang Hapones na yun sa’yo kasi sinauli mo ang clutch bag n’ya.   “Sige, pero pag-iisipan ko muna,” pakipot mong sagot kay Regine.   Di mo na napigil ang pag-iyak mo ngayon. Naisip mo rin na tama sila. Hindi ikaw ang pinakamalas na tao sa buong mundo. Nakalimutan mo lang na nand’yan sina Sarah, Regine, April Boy, Manang Britney at Mang Engelbert para magpasaya at tumulong sa ’yo. Mag-isip ka naman. Maganda pa rin ang buhay. Tuloy pa rin ang buhay. ‘Wag kang magpakamatay. Oo nga pala, Happy Birthday sa ’yo.

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On the Table Wyatt Ong

There is poetry in medicine And the way I examine my patients. I begin with incision. Watch my cursive begin to write you Watch my script surprise your skin. I am careful to reach just under The barest roots of prickly hairs And unwrap you gently. You are pink inside and still I see where curious races used to thrive. Here I carve the grief From the insides of your wrists And drop it into my kidney pan I drain the fluid from your dreams And watch it pool, confused, Between shades of color Bubbling glumly beneath the fingers Of my gloves. In this way I paint you, Tiny nicks on texture of bone, See here the one you broke when you were five, The break now smooth and clean Like the lines you have created with your body The lines I write to end the story you whisper through wisps of blanket I arrange around these retired limbs.

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I lift these lingering secrets clinging to The hollows of your elbows. The quiet hum of needle and thread Sign you even as they stitch Closed forever the remnants of your skin.

13


Quick, the Tomatoes Sasha Martinez

  It is morning, and Sofia knows, as she wakes, that she is alone. The first thing she does is to turn over and run her hand over the other side of the bed to see if Ben took care to right the sheets and the pillows he used. She knows the mattress has long ago lost the heat it hoarded from his body. There are mornings, though, like today, when she finds the sheets slightly damp, and she knows then that he sat down with a towel around his hips, fresh from the shower. What did he do then? Cleaned his ears? Checked his phone messages? Watched her sleep?   She nudges sleep away, thinks of last night when her husband slipped into bed with her, wrapping his arms around her that she could press her back against his chest. “Will it be okay?” he whispered, and she assured him that it was, will be. This morning, Sofia remembers the slow, comfortable, careful caresses, the hands slipped into shadowed places. They made love, unhurried, their moans tiptoeing all over the house until they finally slept, spent.   Her eyelids flutter close once, then again. It is almost midday. She brings her hand low on her navel, imagines a faint heartbeat pulsing against her palm. So long since she imagined so, careful as she has been to push away wistfulness and whimsy. Years ago, on mornings like this, while her husband slept on beside her, she would lie on her side and would draw her knees to her chest, cradling her stomach with joy, a silly smile gentling the creases the pillows had left on her face. And then, later, much later, and too soon at the same time, she spent the first moments of her day tracing the contours of her softened belly, knowing no one was with her on that bed.   (I’m not moving, she told her husband, her eyes bright and too-clear. You can’t make me move. The two of us are staying right here.) She sighs. It is too early for this, for big words, such jarring thoughts she need not think about. Because, after all, she is happy now. Content. Of course she is. She has told and assured Ben so, many times. 14

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She gets up with one push off the bed, looks for her slippers and makes her way to the kitchen. She sees he has left a mug with coffee half-gone. She takes a careful sip, knowing she shouldn’t, and finds it cold. Bitter, too – she did not remember to leave out her own mix before she went to bed last night. Pleasured fatigue claimed her. No thoughts of coffee at midnight, not even for her Ben.   She puts the mug in the sink, wonders if that tiny sip would do so much wrong. No, just a little sip, no harm done. And no one would be the wiser. Sofia looks out the window above the counter, to her backyard and sees them: the tomatoes are dying.   Even from her kitchen, she can see the way their small leaves have curled up at the edges, the way the soft stems droop to touch the earth that held them up. Oh yes, the earth is an opaque, dusty brown. Ben was probably too much in a hurry this morning to tend to his beloved plants. He would be standing in the same spot she is in now, dressed for work, drinking coffee, looking out at the tomato patch. Too much of a bother to roll his sleeves and pants up, to remove his leather shoes and change into slippers, to tuck his necktie inside his shirt. Leave it to Sofia, she will notice too.   Or maybe he just forgot. He forgets sometimes, the way she forgets to make him coffee that won’t linger at the roof his mouth until midday. Sometimes, she forgets him too, forgets that she has a husband who wooed her with mangled poetry – “Allow me to bloat / your handkerchief with my tears / instead of yours” – and kisses that tasted of cherry Coke. There are hours in the day that she walks around, oblivious of having a husband.   Cleaning the house on weekday mornings, humming to Tony Bennett – no reason to think of Ben when she is on her hands and knees, coaxing dust bunnies from underneath cabinets. At the grocery store, she’d stand in front of the magazine rack, choosing between one drugged-and-drunken socialite and another. Why would she conjure the image of her Ben when she is scrubbing mildew from the bathtub? Jogging down the street and nodding at the neighbor’s dog? Stealing a smoke as she waited for the washing machine to finish its rumbling?   She forgives herself, shrugs away these slights. Sometimes, she thinks they are amusing. Sometimes. Could she start this evening’s dinner conversation with, “Honey, I didn’t think of you once today”? And she’d say that with 15


a smile, make him think she means the exact opposite. And Ben would indulge her with a grin, then compliment her pasta sauce.   Forgetfulness, a little infidelity committed. Part of the trivial, harmless wrongs that make up a marriage. She does nothing that could prove fatal, no mistakes she hasn’t already made. It’s just those little things, really.   She makes up for them anyway. Sofia does her best around the house while he is gone, so he will be welcomed home with a cleaner carpet, righted bookshelves and the scent of sauces laced with fragrant ground herbs. She is a loving wife, she knows what to do. She edges along the side of the house, walking along the patches of shade. The sunlight is giving everything a shimmering black outline. She blinks her eyes repeatedly. This heat, at its heaviest on her nape, must not be good for her, and yet here she is, struggling beneath its stare with a bucket of water. Already her feet are wet, and dust is digging into the skin between her toes.   She reaches the plant box that holds the tomatoes. A hand is raised to her forehead to shield her eyes. The plants have bent, kowtowing to the heat of the day and the soil’s thirst. Sofia crouches, fingers the fuzzy surface of one stem, then follows the gentle arc of the plant until she reaches a pair of pale yellow flowers. She pokes at their faded centers, as though to discourage their reticence.   “You must not die,” Sofia whispers. “All too soon, we shall have fruit.”  The leaves are speckled white with aphids. She plucks the improvised sprinkler – an empty can of tuna bored with crude holes – from the bucket and brings it over a spray of leaves yellowing at the edges, threaded with crisp brown and muddy white lines. The flight of aphids makes her wince, stand straight, and she swats away at the air in case they come too close.   “Go,” she demands. She has waited so long for these plants to bear fruit, looking over her husband’s shoulder whenever he tended to them. And now, finally, those flowers – they are so close, so very close. “Go,” she bids the aphids. “Go.”   She empties the bucket over the plant box, not bothering with the sprinkler. The can clatters to the soil, unnoticed, beneath the canopy of speckled leaves. The aphids release themselves into a startled haze above 16

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the tomatoes, so dense, so thick, that Sofia has to step back, one hand covering her mouth.   “Damn it.” She fumbles in her pockets for a cigarette, her lighter. Hands shaking, glaring at the swarm and their silent buzzing, she lights a stick. The smoke wobbles from her puckered lips, hesitant to let loose in the air, to battle with the lucent cloud of insects.   Watching the screen of smoke and bugs build in front of her, Sofia keeps her lips puckered, her lower lip jutting out. One cigarette, she tells herself. One. No lasting effects, nothing shall be ruined. “Just to rid of the aphids,” she says aloud. It is for a good cause. Her lips tighten as they close around the lit cigarette once more, and as she billows smoke, her mouth holds its shape. And then she stubs the cigarette by pressing it to the wall. She tosses the mangled stick over the fence, to the neighbor’s yard.   She left the tomatoes then, throwing the back door open and slamming it shut. Back in the house, she looks for a calendar and flips through the pages, back and forth, until the resignation slackens her lips.   It is true then, of course it is. She is pregnant. She knew that weeks ago, when she stared at the remains of her breakfast splattered all over the kitchen sink. She is pregnant. Again.   She smiles now, just a little, just as she did weeks ago, leaning over the sink that is too low for her. She is sure that this smile does not match the grins she reveled in and shared with her Ben, years ago, when the first suspicions of pregnancy would send her and her husband moving around the house in all-too-constant daydreams, remembering the names they have always wanted to name their babies with.   Oh, her Ben. Both of them nearly fell into each other crying, nothing short of rapture, when she told him she had missed her period. And it was Ben, her Ben, who stood beside the open bathroom door, waiting for her to pee on the white plastic stick; Ben who held her hand while she leaned against the tiles of the bathroom walls as both of them stared at the tab, waiting and willing for it to say yes. A tiny smile for a baby, a sad little face for an empty womb.  The image appeared, and it was too slow, too gradual, making them more uncertain with each second. And then: “A smiley face on the pee-pee stick,” Ben whispered, his calm, almost reverential tone at odds with the 17


silliness of his words.   Sofia threw her arms around his neck and held him. In months, she thought, she would not be able to hold him in a way that their hips would touch. In months, she figured, she would not be aware that she still had hips. She giggled. “The pee-pee stick says yes, Ben. The pee-pee stick says yes!”   When they made love, right there in the bathroom, it was with the quietest of passions, rivaling the quivering intensity of their early days, of their first time, when they’d held hands for as long as it lasted. Afterwards, with her sprawled on the bathroom counter, Ben’s hands were but a light breeze over her breasts, her hips, her thighs, the arches of her feet, as light and as quiet as the kiss he dropped to her navel.   “Was that safe?” he murmured. “Should we have done it on the bed?”   Now she traces the little dots on the corners of the days on the calendar, noting that she stopped marking those weeks upon weeks ago. She is pregnant again. She is more sure of this now. In a month or so, her body would not be able to keep her secret any longer. It is better that she confess soon. Late in the afternoon, she goes to the grocery store. She spares a glance at the counter displaying gleaming cigarette packs and lighters with naked women printed on them. At the last minute, she adds two magazines to her shopping cart. Sofia smiles at the cashier, who pretends not to notice. On her way out, her legs tangle with a little boy being chased by his mother, who gives Sofia a frazzled, distracted smile of apology before taking the child by his wrist. The boy smiles at her too, showing off a grin wanting of two front teeth.   When she gets back, the phone is ringing, and she leaps across the living room to answer it. It is Ben, asking if she needs anything. “I’m not making dessert tonight,” she tells him.   He makes a sound of mock disappointment, meant to amuse her, not to offend. “How about some ice cream? To bring in the summer. We can spend the weekend arguing about leaving the spoon in the tub to freeze.”   Sofia smiles, tests the weight of the shopping bag with one arm. “Ice cream would be nice. And get some fruit to go along with that, okay?” 18

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“Craving anything?”   Sofia pauses for the tiniest of moments, that neither of them even notice that she does so. “No, of course not. Bye, Ben. Drive safe.”   And then she spends two hours making dinner. Opening a can of halved tomatoes, dumping the contents into a pot. Adding herbs from packets. Stirring until the smells meld. Frying shrimp, peeling off their shells. Waiting for the tell-tale rise of bubbles and froth.   She leaves the fire on low, prepares another pot to boil the pasta. She toys with fusilli for tonight’s dinner, dispensing with the usual Friday night penne. The spirals would look good with the curled shrimp, the ridges catching the sauce, specks of herbs.   Someday, she thinks as she clears the wrappers and packets and tin cans, someday all she has to do is go to her own backyard to make pasta sauce from scratch. Someday soon. In a few weeks, one Friday afternoon, all she will have to do is pluck tomatoes from their stems, gather herbs from where they grow close to the ground. In a few months, then years, she will have a garden rising from the soil, their roots like a network of clasping and grasping fingers beneath the ground, and yet another Friday afternoon then, she could be calling to someone else within the house, asking for a spare basket, a glass of water, could you please lower the sound of the television, honey? Sofia looks at the clock on the wall. Her husband will be home within the hour.   She leaves the kitchen, careful to make sure the heat won’t char the sauce or melt the pasta. She bathes, changes into a yellow dress. She settles into the sofa in the living room, and, after giving the air a perfunctory smell, thumbs through the magazine she bought.   All too soon, she hears the garage gates squeal open, then the startled screech of metal against wall. Sofia presses her hand to her chest. “Calm down,” she whispers, both to that excitable fist of muscle and to herself. She has had years of waiting for him to come home from work, and she has already found ways to busy herself during that time. And yet she has discovered that no amount of distraction could prevent the heavy patter of her heart whenever the gates are opened. Not a magazine, not two hours of cooking, not the fact that she hasn’t exactly thought of him since noon, 19


until he called.  Too long ago, in the weeks following the confirmation of her first pregnancy, she ran to him when he came home, her hands splayed on her still-flat stomach, a huge grin on her face, looking every day of her youth. At the last moment, she threw open her arms and collided into him. As the breath whooshed out of him, Sofia cradled his face in her hands, ran her fingers through his black, black hair.   “Oh, Ben, I felt her, Ben. She’s moving!”   “What’s he doing?”   “Moving, Ben. She’s moving. Just before you came through the door. The moment the gates opened, love. She moved! Kicked!”   He smiled at her, and his hands moved up and down her bare upper arms, curving over her shoulders, running down her back. “Must be excited to join us out here, then.”   Ominous words that both of them took as the joke Ben intended. (No one to blame here, neither of them could have known.) So Sofia simply pouted and said, “Oh, she won’t dare – I’ll never let her hear the end of it!”   She was young then. He was only younger.  Tonight, Ben greets her as he comes in. She lifts her head. His smile easy and his eyes crinkle at the corners in a not unpleasant manner. Sofia smiles back, removes her hand from her chest. She goes to him, and both of them push the door closed behind him.   “Honey, I’m home,” he says, making her giggle. He lifts two plastic bags. One holds the shape of a tub of ice cream, the surface of the plastic sweaty with cold and condensation. The other bag reveals several ripe mangoes. Sofia can see places were the sap glues the plastic and fruit together. “Vanilla,” he says, and gives a little shudder for show. He has always liked chocolate. All previous tubs of ice cream have always been a swirly combination of their two flavors.   “Thank you,” she tells him, and means it.   And then he gathers her into his arms, that she is flush against his body. Their hipbones are comfortable against the other’s, as are their navels, their thighs. She can feel his heat through his clothes, smell the tired smell of confined air-conditioning. 20

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“How was your day?” she murmurs against his neck. His hands, warm around her waist, rest against her hips. He is giving her flesh little squeezes, little rubs.   “Too busy.” Ben guides her farther into the house, backing her into it, his hands still around her waist. “I’m hungry. The house smells good.” She scoops rice on his plate. As she takes her seat, she doesn’t think twice before saying, “Honey, I didn’t think of you once today.”   But is it true? Is it really inevitable that she thinks of Ben when she finds a discarded sock, gray with dust and cobwebs, underneath the cabinets? Or when she chooses to read about the latest foibles of young Hollywood, she’d pick up a copy of Reader’s Digest for his lazy weekends? Or when she’s setting things straight in the bathroom, tossing away dulled razors that would dot his jaw with a little rust? Going for a brisk walk down their street, smiling at the neighbor’s dog, which looks very much like the one they had years ago, before they were married, she thinks, thinks. Even with a cigarette by her washing machine, she is careful not to blow the smoke towards things that would grasp the scent. All this time, has she been mindful, very much aware? Oh, Ben. If only she knew, if only he did.   Her husband smiles at her now, and then the smile grows into a grin. She is fond of the creases on his face. She lifts her hand to trace them with her finger. Ben’s smile falters.   “How’s the food?” she asks him, drawing her hand back. She puts it low on her stomach, her fingers splayed.   “This sauce is succulent,” he says. He laughs when she raises an eyebrow.   “You look good in yellow,” he tells her. Sofia lets the water run over the scrubbed dishes. She picks a half-eaten piece of fusilli from the froth and lather, and runs her fingers along its slippery ridges. She throws it away.   Bent over the sink, her hands studded with soap bubbles, she hears the back door open then close. She has not noticed her husband pass. From outside, Ben calls, “Just checking the tomatoes.” Moments later, the white flash of a naked light submerges the backyard into a surreal landscape of 21


soft plants with stark shadows on even darker ground.   A reluctant smile tugs at her lips. Her husband is paying a visit to his plants, his babies, hours before midnight. It is his way of apologizing, his way of saying, I’m sorry I had gone without even nimble rub of your stems.   She twists the knob on the faucet. The tops of her thighs rest against the damp edge of the counter. The sink is too low. When they first moved in, she pointed that out to him. Ben promised to fix it. He never did, but then, she has gotten used to the small twinge of pain at the small of her back after the dishes have been stored away into lined cabinets.   She eases that small ache now, rubbing her fingertips over the spot in a slow, steady circle. Tonight, perhaps she can persuade him to give her a massage. It has been so long, and he is in a more amiable mood than what he’s usually in. She will tease him by saying it would be practice for the months to come, and he will probably duck his head to hide a pleased smile, before the realization of her confession dawns on him.   Drying her hands on the skirt of her dress, she looks up to watch him through the window. He is crouching over the tomatoes, digging in the dirt. The stark light paints his hair almost white, catching the glimmering silver that threads through it. The tomatoes seem to have swayed toward him, their leaves, now full and at their greenest, stroking his face, his neck. Ben does not brush them aside.   She goes outside, and she is heralded by the clap of the screen door. She does not mind the soil against the bare soles of her feet or the grass that tickles her toes. Sofia crosses her arms, thankful for the slight chill in the evening and the absence of mosquitoes.   She walks over to Ben. He has a trowel in one hand and a clump of grass in the other. There is a fresh mound of soil in front of him. The sprinkler, forgotten until now, lies beside it. She watches as Ben places it on the edge of the plant box.   “I’m going to burn grass to smoke the aphids out,” Ben informs her.   She nods, steps back. He takes out a box of matches from his pocket and lights a small fire to the grass he has now placed on the ground beneath the tomatoes. She tells him to be careful. All too soon, the sweet, damp smell of burning leaves rise to the air, along with a haze of smoke, that Ben fans away from him and Sofia. He uses the trowel in his hand, his wedding ring 22

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glints. Sofia finds herself looking for patterns in the smoke. She notices how even smoke leaves shadows on the soil.   “I don’t think that’s effective,” she says. (When the blood was running down her thighs, when the pain in her abdomen and navel was making her scream, when she knew she was about to lose their baby, Sofia had sat as still as she could on one of the dining room chairs, hands wrapped around herself, her legs clamped shut. I’m not moving, she told her husband, her eyes bright and clear. You can’t make me move. The two of us are staying right here.)   “Oh,” she says.   “What’s wrong?” her husband asks, without looking at her.   “The tomatoes,” Sofia says, looking at the back of his head. “They’re healthy now. They were near death when I checked on them this morning. Their leaves were shriveling.”   He surprises her by laughing quietly. Ben stands up stands beside her. “Ah,” he says. “You mean I shouldn’t have buried that one there?” He points to the mound on the soil with the trowel.   (I’ll lose her if I move Ben, she said. I know it.)   Sofia smiles, sighs. “There was still some hope for him,” she teased, “and you took it away.”   Ben tosses the trowel into the plant box. He uses broad sweeps of his arm to drive away the smoke curling towards them. In a few moments, he stands still, watching the tomatoes yield to the cloaking of the sweet haze.   Sofia slips her hand in his, rubs the pruned skin of her fingertips against the mud-spattered roughness of his wide palm. “You want to come in for ice cream?”

23


Hawak mo ang Oras Rachel Marra

Ngunit bakit sa iyong mga nakatiklop na kamay ay pinong buhangin lamang ang tangan - tangan?

24

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Homegrown Nicole Marie Reyes

We drove in the morning drove in the morning away from the sun. And we were gone. We went missing went missing in more than one place, in hundreds of ways. We were never attached to anything, anyway: not to your eyes, not to your hands, not to your last-minute fragile plans. Maybe someday you’ll find us in that secret corner where the sea keeps all the souls she’s claimed or in the empty spaces inside you.

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There Is No Mourning Gian Lao

Ideas float you away into the welcoming shores of Oslo But it is still colder here The February wind that funnels through my hollow heart And the starshine that burns your name into my skin Like a prison tattoo They become familiar: Like your skin romancing with my calloused fingers Like our lips, not locking, but dancing before wrapping each other up In essence, the cold reminds me of your warmth But then in many ways I’ve pondered and squandered finding Not one answer to my prayer When you come home wearing the dull Norwegian cold.

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Tatlong Kurimaw Allan N. Derain

sakay ng tatlong trak ng sundalo ang mga bakwit. Tumatakbo ang mga kulay itim at lumot na trak na ito sa lubak at maalikabok na kalsada papuntang bayan. Pagsapit sa bayan ibinaba ng mga trak ang mga sakay sa harap ng isang paaralan. Bitbit ng mga nagsibaba ang kani-kanilang mga kahon at sakong may lamang mga damit, kaldero, at bigas.   “Hanggang kailan tayo rito?” tanong ng batang si Sagira sa kaniyang ama.   “Dito tayo habang hindi pa natatapos ang gulo.”   Pagsapit ng gabi, may mga naglatag ng mga higaang banig, karton, at diaryo. May mga nagsabit na rin ng mga duyan para sa mga sanggol. Sa labas, kani-kaniyang gawa at sindi ng mga lutuan ang mga tao. May mga nagbukas ng sardinas, may mga nagsaing ng kanin at kamote. Samasamang kumain sa lapag ang mga magpapamilya. Matapos kumain, maagang natulog ang ilan. Ang ilan nama’y nag-aabang ng balita sa radyo.   Nakahiga na sa banig si Sagira pero ayaw siyang dalawin ng antok. Habang naririto sa loob ng silid-aralang tulugan ngayon ng may limang pamilya, naaalala niya ang mga huling aralin sa kanilang paaralan. Tungkol iyon sa ugnayan ng mga halaman, hayop, at tao.  Tulog na ang kaniyang mga kapatid at magulang pero may iba pang mga gising at nag-uusap. Pinipilit na niya ang pagtulog nang biglang may tumawag buhat sa labas.   “Sagira! Sagira!” Boses iyon ni Haron.   Bumangon ang tinawag at saka lumabas ng silid. Nakita niya ang kaibigang nakatayo malapit sa geyt.   “Naghihintay sa atin si Emir doon sa puno ng duhat,” inginuso pa ni Haron kay Sagira ang direksyon ng puno.   Sumama sa kaniya si Sagira hanggang sa labas ng paaralan. Pagdating nila sa may puno ng duhat, naroon nga si Emir at nakaupo sa harap ng 27


isang maliit na siga. Tuwang-tuwa ang dalawa nang makita ang kalaro. Simula nang mangyari kasi ang gulo sa kanilang lugar noong isang buwan, paminsan-minsan na lang nila itong nakakasama.   “Pangontra,” ang nakangiting bati at paanyaya ni Emir kina Sagira at Haron. Pangontra ang tawag sa paborito nilang laro ng pabilisan ng isip.   “Ako na’ng mauuna,” sabi ni Sagira. Sabay silang naupo ni Haron sa harap ng siga. Dumampot si Sagira ng isang tuyong patpat, idinagdag iyon sa siga, at saka siya nagsimula.

Kurimaw I  Sagira: Noong unang panahon, halos nasa ilalim ng dagat ang buong kaharian ng Mantapuli. Ang mga tuktok lang ng matataas na bundok ang nakalitaw sa ibabaw ng tubig. Dito nakatira ang mga tao. Tahimik pa ang buhay noon. Hanggang sa magising ang tarabusaw. Isang malakas na pagsabog ang narinig buhat sa malayo. Sandaling nanahimik si Sagira. Nakiramdam. Pero hindi na nasundan ang pagsabog kaya nagpatuloy siya.  Sagira: Sintaas siya ng puno ng niyog. Puro balahibo ang mukha at katawan. Mayroon itong dalawang bibig sa harap at likod ng kaniyang ulo. Parang troso ang kaniyang mga braso at binti. Lagari ang matatalim niyang mga ngipin at kulog naman ang kaniyang boses. Nang dumating siya sa Mantapuli, nayanig ang lupa. Hindi alam ng mga tao kung saan sila tatakbo. Tinumba ng tarabusaw ang mga bahay. Kinain niya ang mga tanim sa bukid. Kinain din niya ang mga alagang manok at baka ng mga taga-Mantapuli. Naubos nito ang pagkain at nagutom ang mga tao. Dumating ang mga tulong na mga trak ng sardinas at noodles galing sa bayan. Pero hinarang ito ng tarabusaw at siya rin ang kumain sa mga karga nito.  Haron: Paano niya nabuksan ang mga lata ng sardinas?  Sagira: Di nga ba lagari ang ngipin niya? Pero madalas sa sobrang gutom, hindi na niya ito binubuksan. Kinakain na lang niya kasama ang 28

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lata.  Haron: Kung ganoon, mga bomba ang ilalagay ko sa loob ng mga lata. ‘Yong katulad ng mga bombang inuuwi minsan nila Tatay sa bahay. At paglunok niya, saka ko pasasabugin. Tiyak sabog din ang tarabusaw!  Sagira: Pero iuutot lang ng tarabusaw ang mga bomba mo. Ganoon katibay ang kaniyang sikmura. Kaya tuloy siya sa paghahasik ng lagim.  Emir: Pero nang maubos ang pagkain sa Mantapuli, tumakas ang mga tao papunta sa kabilang isla.  Sagira: Susunod ang tarabusaw sa kanila. Magbabagsak siya ng mga puno ng niyog para gawing balsa. Doon siya sasakay para makarating sa kabilang isla.  Haron: A! Pero pagdating sa gitna ng dagat, lulubog ang sinasakyang balsa ng tarabusaw dahil sobrang bigat niya.  Sagira: Lalangoy ang tarabusaw. Marunong siyang lumangoy.   Haron: Pero hindi siya lulutang.   Sagira: Bakit naman hindi?  Haron: Dahil sa sobra nga niyang bigat. Mahilig siyang lumamon pero hindi pala siya tinutunawan! Lahat ng mga kinakain niya naiipon lang sa loob ng katawan. Kaya hindi siya makakalutang. Malulunod siya sa dagat. At kinabukasan, makikita ng mga tao sa pampang ang kanilang mga tanim, manok, baka, mga supot ng noodles at lata-latang sardinas na ‘di pa nabubuksan-- lahat iniluwa ng dagat.   Haron at Emir: Ang dali-dali palang umutas ng kurimaw.   M  ay ikakasa pa ba ang utak ng halimaw?     Isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat, lima...   Sagira: Wala na.   Haron: Tapos na si Sagira. Ako naman! Biglang napansin ng tatlong kanina pa pala pinatay ang ilaw sa posteng nasa harap ng paaralan. Ang bilog na buwan lang at ang dingas sa siga ang pinanggagalingan ngayon ng kanilang liwanag. Patay na rin ang mga ilaw sa mga silid-aralan. Pinatay na pala ang kuryente sa buong lugar kaya lalong nabalot ng dilim ang paligid. Dumampot ng tuyong patpat si Haron at inilagay iyon sa siga.

29


Kurimaw II  Haron: Mas matindi ang aking kurimaw. Nakalilipad ito nang mataas. Raho ang tawag sa kaniya. Kaya niyang dagitin nang sabay-sabay kahit apat na baka. Dinadala niya ang mga baka doon sa kaniyang pugad. Biglang naalala ni Haron ang sariling mga alagang baka. Nang magkagulo sa paglikas kaninang umaga, pinawalan niya sa burol ang kaniyang mga alaga. Ngayon, nag-aalala siya kung saan na kaya natutulog ang mga ito.  Haron: Tuwing gabi, lumalabas uli ang raho para lamunin naman ang buwan. Kaya laging naglalaho ang buwan at laging madilim ang mga gabi. Kung ngayong gabing ito lalabas ang raho para lamunin uli ang buwan, anong pangontra ang itatapat ninyo sa kaniya?   Emir: Tirador!  Haron: Kahit tamaan ng matutulis na bato, hindi masasaktan ang raho dahil patong-patong ang balahibo nito na kasintibay ng yantok.  Sagira: Aakyatin ko ang kaniyang pugad at susunugin ko. Ang sabi ni Ama, madaling masiraan ng loob ang ibong walang sariling pugad.  Haron: Hah! Paano mo gagawin ‘yon? Nasa tuktok ng bundok na mas mataas pa sa mga bituin ang pugad ng raho!  Sagira: Sasakay ako ng rocketship.  Haron: Malayo pa lang sasalubungin ka na ng raho. Dadaklutin niya ang iyong rocketship gamit ang kaniyang mga bakal na kuko. Dadalhin ka nga niya sa kaniyang pugad pero para mapaglaruan ng kaniyang mga inakay. Naku, ayan na siya! Ayan na siya! Huwag kayong maingay. Nasa paligid lang ang raho. May sinusundan siyang isang kawan ng mga papauwing baka.  Emir: Pero hindi makalapit ang raho sa mga baka. Natatakot siya sa pastol.  Haron: Bakit siya matatakot doon sa pastol?  Emir: Dahil tinutugtugan nito ng plawta ang mga alaga habang dinadala pabalik sa uuwian. Doon sa tunog ng plawta takot ang raho. Maibigin siya sa liwanag pero takot naman siya sa ingay! Pagdating sa bayan, ipagsasabi ng pastol ang kaniyang natuklasan. Sama-samang lalabas ang mga tao dala ang kanilang mga kaldero, kawali, balde. Sama-sama 30

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nila itong hahatawin. Aakyat pa sa bubong ang mga tao para lalong mabulabog ang higanteng ibon. Natakot ang raho sa narinig niyang ingay. Kaya nagbalik ito sa kaniyang pugad. Magmula noon, alam na ng mga tao kung ano ang gagawin tuwing lumalabas ang raho. Hindinghindi na mawawala sa kanila ang buwan.   Emir at Sagira: Ang dali-dali palang umutas ng kurimaw.   May ikakasa pa ba ang utak ng halimaw? Isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat, lima....   Haron: Wala na.   Emir: Tapos na si Haron. Ako naman!

Kurimaw III  Emir: Mayroon akong isang malupit na kurimaw. Isa itong dambuhalang ahas na nakatira sa ilalim ng lawa. Gurita ang tawag sa kaniya. Sa sobrang laki ng gurita, kaya niyang lamunin ang isang buong barko. Kapag nagpapaaraw, madalas pa itong napagkakamaliang isla. Nang maubos nito lahat ng puwedeng kainin sa lawa, umahon ito sa tubig at sa Mantapuli naghanap ng makakain.  Sagira: Para makaligtas sa gurita, nagtago ang mga tao sa mga kuweba. Sinarhan nila ng malalaking bato ang bunganga ng mga kuweba. Hindi na sila doon lumabas.  Emir: Pero paglipas ng ilan pang mga araw, nag-alala na ang mga tao sa kanilang mga kaanak na sa ibang mga kuweba naman napunta. Marami nang nagkakasakit. Gusto na nilang lumabas at makita ang araw pero paano nila haharapin ang kurimaw na nag-aabang lang sa labas?  Sagira: Darating ang dalawang magkapatid na bayani ng Mantapuli, sila Indarapatra at Sulayman. Darating sila sakay ng isang lumilipad na bangka. Tutudlain ni Indarapatra ang ahas gamit ang sibat niyang Hinagud.  Emir: Pero tatalbog lang ang sibat dahil makapal na katad ang mga kaliskis ng dambuhalang ahas.  Haron: Kung ganoon, tatagpasin ni Sulayman ang ulo ng ahas gamit 31


naman ang espada niyang Jaru Pakal.  Emir: Pero tutubuan lang ng dalawa pang ulo ang gurita at lalo pa itong tatapang. Dalawa na sila ngayong tutugis sa magkapatid na prinsipe.  Sagira: Ililipad ng bangka ang magkapatid papunta sa malayong gubat.  Emir: Hahabulin sila hanggang doon ng gurita.  Sagira: Sa gubat, ililigaw ni Indarapatra at Sulayman ang ahas. Maghihiwalay sila ng daan.  Emir: Pero dahil may dalawa nang ulong may mahahaba pang leeg ang gurita, ang isa’y susunod kay Indarapatra at ang isa’y susunod naman kay Sulayman.  Sagira: Magpapasikot-sikot sila sa buong gubat. Magkakapulu-pulupot ang katawan ng ahas sa mga punong madaraanan. Hanggang sa marating nila ang kabilang dulo ng gubat. Sa kabilang dulo magtatagpo ang dalawang bayani. Magkikita rin ang dalawang ulo ng ahas pero hindi na sila magkakilala! Mapagkakamalian nilang kaagaw at kaaway ang isa’t isa kaya magtutuklawan sila.  Haron: Samantala, babalikan ng bayaning magkapatid ang mga tao sa loob ng mga kuweba. Tutulungan nilang makalabas ang mga tao lalo na iyong matatanda’t may mga sakit. Kahit kailan, hindi na sila guguluhin ng gurita na hanggang ngayo’y nakapulupot pa rin sa mga kahoy ang katawan at patuloy na nagsisinghalan ang dalawang kambal na ulo.  Haron at Sagira:Ang dali-dali palang umutas ng kurimaw.   May ikakasa pa ba ang utak ng halimaw?   Isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat, lima...   Emir: Wala na.   Sagira: Tapos na si Emir. Iyon na ang huli. Sabay-sabay na ginatungan ng tatlo ang siga. Lumakas ang apoy. Nagtuloy-tuloy ang dingas. Itinaas ng hangin ang nagbabagang mga alipato na parang gustong sumama at sumali sa mga bituin. Sabay-sabay na kumanta ang tatlong bata. Kaisa isa niyan, Kaduwawa niyan, Katelotelo niyan 32

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Kapating ginapatan…

Tumayo sila at sumayaw sa harap ng siga. Inulit nila ang ginawang pagdiriwang ng mga taga-Mantapuli matapos silang salakayin ng mga kurimaw. Sa Mantapuli kung saan naghahari na ang kapayapaan, malaya na ang mga taong magtayo muli ng kanilang mga tahanan, magtanim at mangisda. Ang mga nanghina sa kanila’y binalikan na ng sigla at ang mga bata ay muli nang nakapaglalaro at nakapag-aaral. May umiihip ng mga plawta at may bumabagting ng mga agong, at doon ang mga nakaaalala pang sumayaw ay muling sumubok magsayaw. Kawalo barubugan Kasiyam kaban-kaban Kasapolo bindasan. Matapos ang kasiyahan, nagpaalam na sina Haron at Sagira sa kanilang kalaro. Babalik na sila sa kanilang mga tulugan. Naiwan si Emir sa ilalim ng puno ng duhat at siya ang nagpatay ng apoy. Nakita pa nila Haron at Sagira kung paano naglaho ang kanilang kaibigan nang maglaho rin ang huling dingas buhat sa siga.   “Si Emir naman talaga ang pinakamahusay sa atin. Hindi na magiging katulad dati ang ating laro kapag wala na si Emir,” sabi ni Sagira kay Haron habang naglalakad sila pabalik sa paaralan.   “Kaya nga pinipilit pa rin niyang makabalik para makalaro tayo, e.”   Hindi nila nakasama si Emir noong unang magbakwit ang kanilang mga pamilya noong unang nagkaroon ng gulo sa kanilang nayon noong isang buwan. Nagpaiwan ito para bantayan ang mga bahay at mga alagang hayop ng mga tao sa kanilang lugar. Hangang-hanga sila sa tapang ng kanilang kaibigan. Bayani rin ang kanilang kaibigan. Kaya malamang, tulad nila Indarapatra at Sulayman, sa Mantapuli na rin ito uuwi ngayong gabi matapos makipaglaro sa kanila ng Pangontra. Pagbalik ni Sagira sa kaniyang higaan, sandali niyang minasdan sa liwanag ng buwan ang mga mukha ng natutulog niyang mga kapatid. Nakadama siyang bigla ng lungkot at takot. Pero alam niyang mayroon ding mabisang pangontra kahit sa lungkot at takot.


Renaissance Wyatt Ong

I closet myself in your study to breathe in your absence to touch what little of you was left behind and to check for dust on your astrolabe I would hate for you to return with your spices your cumin and pepper and cayenne to see dust on your astrolabe. My hand hovers over that for which you have traded your soul At risk and certitude of no return. I trace the dots on the map and follow the path of your ship Outside the study the servants hear my sighs They enter thinking what is unsaid: What a good wife I am, how faithful She pines for her love and surrounds herself with his presence Waiting for his return But under the slide of my fingers your mistress, the parchment feels nothing like love or pining But the coarse sacks that spill gleaming silver and hold the saffron I use to flavor my paella. If you are alive, love, this map tells me you are in India Is it tomorrow there, today? Does sunlight in your eyes blaze in hope of shore? Do you sit on your deck; do you tire of sea?

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Light streams into your study And the women and I see that there is much to clean The women and I, and much to clean. We have darted through the corners of time Appearing in paintings and pottery Our shape in shrubbery and the occasional poetry For everything else, disappearing. For our brilliance we flowers are Awarded seconds of fame we trade for whoredom And single beheadedness (if I am to die, then spare me at least my face) We are fugitives in the history of His story. I remember now your arms around my waist your lips upon mine: goodbye. You left me waving at the pier I wait by the beach, My white silk scarf billowing in the breeze, bidding you return One foot stealing into the sea to see how it feels. One foot planted on shore, as if never to leave before I turn away and closet myself once more in your study, in your world, my lord in Your world. in your man’s world in your man’s world woe to man’s world.

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Minsan Akong Nagbakasakali Jan Brandon Dollente

Kay hirap. Minsan, isang madaling-araw, sinubok kong lumuhod. Pagdarasal kung tawagin ng iba. Sa iba, parusa. Sa labas, may lumalagari sa kalsada: mga traysikel na humihiwa sa hamog at panglaw. Itinatapon ang ilaw papasok sa aking bintana. Sa dingding, naitampok ang anino ng isang punong nanginginig. Ngunit walang anino ng pakpak. Bakit? Ano ang silbi ng panalangin kung walang nariyan upang makinig? Hindi kayang tangayin ng hangin ang ganito kabigat na mga daing. Paano pa makaaabot sa langit ang mga ito kung patuloy na pinakakapal ng usok ang alangaang? Kung nilulunod ang aking tinig ng mga asong nakatitig sa buwan? Mga asong umaalulong, nananalig.

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Sonnet for a City Zoe Dulay

I inhale your dust, swallow your sky. The half-baked concrete buildings stand like spokes, ready to burst the sinking sun because you would rather be seen in dimness. You like how nightlight and neon deceive, for there are no stars on your sidewalk, only spit and footprints, and everywhere, you are cracked, almost breaking as we are born to you, and then leave you, sometimes never returning. You will cry tonight, I know, for you are grey and breathe a cool, sorrowful wind to signal me home, though I despise your streets, your helpless filthiness that I hope to forget when I leave. Then again, you have carried me so well that I love you, from darkest, most sullied parts of my heart.

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Hidden Things Harvey King

As a child I was taught that there were three kinds of objects. There were those that I can immediately see with my eyes, like the socks I wore on my feet or the denim shorts and the shirt which covered my body. Then there were the invisible ones, the ones which could not be seen because they were either too big or too small but were always present, like the harmful germs which gave me fevers or my mother’s love which made me feel better. Yet my favorite was the last kind, the hidden things. They were always lying somewhere in between visibility and invisibility, waiting for me to pull them from their nonexistence and into the world with my eager eyes and my curious hands. Hidden things meant puzzles, riddles, hide-and-go-seek and mysteries, but most of all they meant secrets.   At a certain age all children are taught that they, like the rest, have secrets locked away in their bodies. These were to be guarded at all times, never to be seen and touched by others, always hidden, tucked away beneath layers of cloth. They taught me that the girls’ were different and, having no sister to show me, I was naturally curious. I wanted to know the secret.   One of the biggest secrets was made on August 24, 79 A.D when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the entire Roman city of Pompeii under tremendous amounts of volcanic ash. Hidden from the rest of the world for almost 1600 years, the city was accidentally rediscovered in 1748, with its houses and the artifacts well preserved and almost perfectly intact, promising insights on ancient Roman life. In 1819, after much excavation, countless artifacts were deemed obscene and pornographic. These included items which used phallic symbols or enlarged penises to symbolize fertility and paintings and frescoes of naked people in sexual poses. All the “pornography”, along with the statue of the elegant yet partially nude statue of Venus Kallipygos, were then confiscated and hidden inside a cabinet to be treated as a Secret Museum unfit for the impressionable minds of the youth,

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uneducated people and women. For a small fee, gentlemen were allowed to see the ancient artifacts hidden inside the cabinet. The Secret Museum was a subject of much controversy and followed a series of closings and re-openings until it was recently opened once more for public viewing in the year 2000. My uncle had his own secret museum. On one of our regular family visits to my grandparents as a kid, I wandered into a cramped and modest room in my uncle’s house. I vaguely remember its walls being a light shade of peach and the room’s distinct smell of stacks of unused paper. It was on that day that I found out that secrets could be captured through cameras and displayed on calendars to satisfy curious minds like mine. Soon after that, I learned to look forward to our visits, never forgetting to sneak in and check if my uncle had procured any additions to his collection. Some of the women and their bodies would at times be rolled up and placed neatly on one corner, untouched, while there would always be one hanging on the wall. I would then stand in front of her, always in awe. I knew nothing of sex, only that there was something private, a secret I was not meant to know hidden away in the nakedness of the woman’s body. I would then quietly marvel, at her delicate breasts, at her frozen smile, searching for answers half-hidden, unraveling her mysteries with my eyes.   Some secrets cannot be perceived by our eyes alone. Before 1872, the actual nature of the horse’s gallop eluded all men. A horse would often be depicted leaping with all its legs stretched like a pouncing leopard and people argued if indeed there was a moment when all its legs were above the ground. It was only when Eadward Muybridge used 50 cameras to capture the truth behind the horse’s movement that this much debated topic was settled. 28 years later Thomas Edison would invent the movie camera. It wouldn’t be long before a different kind of secret action would be captured on film.   Certain acts we perform are private or sacred. The kiss is one of the more mysterious gestures of affection. At an early age I was taught that kisses to the cheek were for my aunts and uncles while kisses to the lips held a special significance known only by the couple. My interest with the mysteries of the adult world grew with each passing year. During the times our family would

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rent videos, the more my parents asked me to close my eyes, the more I peeked through transparent pillowcases, looking for the secret movement of the naked bodies.   One memorable encounter was with my neighbor’s son. He had invited me over to their house right beside ours. I remember entering through a jade bead divider and climbing up their stairs, breathing in the strange air which was heavy with caution and perhaps the slight sweetness of novelty. We entered what I think was his parents’ room and sat on the floor, right in front of a small black television set. He popped in a Betamax tape and jumped to the scenes we weren’t allowed to watch. Later he would ask me if our house had similar entertainment to offer. To my disappointment we only had “Peterpan” and the “Ghostbusters”, though I remember thinking “Pretty Woman” sounded promising. Halfway through the second scene his mother walked into the room and caught us. Since he was the older one, he was reprimanded while I was allowed to ponder on a different lesson. For years to come I would continue to wonder about them. I still remember the woman on top of the car with her legs wrapped around the man while he kissed her in places concealed by the shadows of the parking lot, or her elegant body as she lay on the bed, carefully caressed by the man’s hand, illuminated only by the hundred flickering lights atop fingers of wax.  The definition of pornography changes through time. A Betamax scene which I considered pornographic as a child, I may now perceive as erotic and sensual. It is in the same way that the kinds of images which the people of Pompeii displayed on their walls, we now keep hidden in our secret museums. In Walter Kendrick’s work on pornography in modern culture, he defines pornography as the set of representations which the dominant class decides to censor in an attempt to prevent the less dominant class to come into contact with it. Although Kendrick’s definition of pornography as a form of elitism is too broad and fails to consider pornography’s sexual nature, it confirms the fickleness of what is considered pornographic by different communities in different times. Nevertheless, whatever society may deem pornographic, it is, as Peter Michelson said in The Aesthetics of Pornography, “for better or for worse the imaginative record of man’s sexual will”.   I learned how to use my hands and what to do with the “imaginative

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record” when I was thirteen years old. It was my turn to lock the door to my bedroom. Secrets are born when we deny their existence and like ghosts, they end up haunting us.   Masturbation was a word I learned to hide. As innocent curiosity gave way to more carnal aspirations, I learned to keep my own secrets. Throughout my childhood, the sexual world was kept in a box, never to exist in the open. It was something to be embarrassed about, always hushed or hidden, as an artifact in a secret museum, as a censored scene in a video or as an innuendo in a joke. The pursuit of sex, the evidence of sexual arousal, the need for release or feeling full, I was taught, could only be admitted behind closed doors.  The church frowned upon it. In school it was called “playing with one’s self”, treating it as something trivial and ridiculous. I also remember my mom warning me half-jokingly that I should not use the internet to look for the bastos. I answered her with a loud yes, as if the very idea of looking for pornography was offensive. I then listened patiently for her footsteps as she went down the stairs before I locked the door. Although my intention was hardly educational, in the years that followed I learned about foreplay and the different places and ways people could kiss. I also found out that there are less conventional ways of attaining sexual pleasure. Hidden away in the collective sea of man’s fantasies, isolated from the persecution of the world, sex and sexuality were free to enter countless interpretations.   “Pornography is the theory. Rape is the practice” This was the popular slogan of Anti-pornography Americans of the 1980’s. In 1986 Ronald Reagan appointed the Messe Commission in an attempt to settle the debate on the dangers of pornography, allowing anti-pornography feminists and moralists to authenticate their claims legally.   Commissioner Park Elliott Dietz believed that a person who learned about human sexuality through pornography in America was someone who did not conceive of sex as an act following marriage or falling in love. Commissioner James Dobson claimed that pornography “was degrading to women” and believed that a “small but dangerous minority will then choose to act aggressively against the nearest available females” Both statements support the sentiment that pornography encouraged an abnormal violent

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sexuality. To the radical feminists, pornography was an extension of the abusive nature of heterosexual intercourse. It was merely another form of male violence. The scenes of women on their knees, performing fellatio were condemned as violent, degrading as well as inaccurate portrayals of “normal” sexuality. Rape scenes found in pornography, especially in some of the pocketbooks catered to women were often cited as explicit examples of the misleading nature of pornography. On the other hand, moralists considered pornography dangerous as it perpetrated deviant approaches towards sexuality such as homosexuality, orgies and casual sex.   “Is it true?” she whispered to me. I was having lunch at a nearby pizza parlor with two of my friends from our church. One of them wanted to know my secret. She looked at me waiting for an answer. She wanted to know if it was true. She had heard that high school boys like me could not help but be obsessed with sex, watch pornography and do the dirty deed. I admitted that most of it was true, except the part where we spend most of the day drooling at the thought of nude ladies. I teased her and asked her if she did as well. She furrowed her eyebrows and let out a long overemphasized “eeew” as if to say that respectable girls like her did not have sexual fantasies.  There is danger in the assumptions on the natures of sexuality and pornography made in Dietz’s and Dobson’s statements, along with the slogan mentioned before. According to Linda Williams, an anti-censorship feminist, the slogan often used against pornography implies that there is a causal relationship between pornography and rape. It is interesting to note though that in 1969, Denmark made pornography legal to people 16 years old and above and research concluded that the availability of pornography had no effect on the frequency or the gravity of sexual offenses. Ms. Williams also explains that Dietz’s and Dobson’s statements assume the existence of a “normal” sexuality which is inherently non-violent. A “normal” woman therefore does not derive pleasure in performing fellatio. They proceed to claiming that Women who privately found pleasure in rape fantasies through pocketbooks were participating in the cycle of male violence. The disagreement with the sexual portrayal of women in pornography implies that “normal” women are not sexual by nature, an idea which surprisingly originated from the Victorian era when women were thought of as naturally 42

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asexual beings. In the same way, the moralists’ statement that pornography provides a perverted view of sexuality imposes on society their perception of what a “normal” sexuality should be.  There are still secrets, after four years of watching naked bodies bear themselves. I cannot help but ask questions as I watch her frozen smile and her delicate breasts. I wonder if she truly is just another victim of men’s violence, coerced by this patriarchal society to participate in my fantasies. I consider if perhaps she entered the business willingly, fully aware and in control of her decision. Yet I feel that what I want to know lies beyond that. I realize that I still don’t know her secrets.   “What was your childhood like? Have you ever had your heart broken? Does it hurt? Are you tired of it? How does he feel about it? What will your children think? What is your name?”   Pornography revealed to me hidden aspects of the person. It allowed me to explore her body and study the touch of her hands and the embrace of her thighs. It showed me her countless secret desires and the different ways to please. Most importantly, however, it taught me that certain mysteries cannot be unraveled through our eyes or movie cameras. Film can capture only so much of the person and there is still an intimacy more precious and more sacred beyond the naked body. This perhaps is a secret not yet meant for me.   I have not seen the woman on my uncle’s calendar for maybe a decade now. I stood in front of her waiting for an epiphany, perhaps for an answer that would tell me who she was. In some ways I have not left that room. I’m still standing there in front of her body looking for a secret I know I cannot find with my eyes.

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Nunal

Michael Orlino

Ngayon lang siya muling nakabalik. Nakilala mo siya bagamat puno na ng pasa ng pagkabalisa ang kanyang katawan. Ang mukha niya’y kinulubot na marahil ng lungkot o katandaan. O baka ng lungkot at katandaan. Matagal na rin mula nang huli kayong nagkita. “Sa Hong Kong,” ang sabi niya “mas malaki ang kita.” Ngayon siguradong siya ang kaharap mo. Nakatatak sa nunal sa talampakan ang kaniyang pagkakakilanlan. Madalas na maging sanhi ito ng inyong away. Bakit laging kailangang umalis? Bakit laging Minsan lang ang pagbalik? Wari’y mga bibig na nais magpaliwanag o magsumbong ang mga nakabuka niyang sugat. Kanina ang sabi sa balita, Bangkay ng isang ofw na binugbog ng amo, ipinadala na sa Pilipinas. At habang sinisiwalat mo ngayon ang kaniyang katawan, matatagpuan mong may mas malaki pala siyang nunal na nakatatak sa dibdib at balikat. At di mo siya masisi. At di mo na siya nasisi.

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Because tomorrow they come and it will be raining when they do Sasha Martinez

1 – In this house, the same candles are used for mourning and celebration. The last time someone I knew by name died, I asked my daughter Ines to bring out the yellowed candles from the top drawer and light them by the front door. Let them stand, I said, And say what prayer you know. I studied with nuns, she said, and she prayed in a language the world has long forgotten. On my birthdays, she takes the same candles and lights them at the foot of the bed, and makes her daughter Lea sing me a happy birthday. Lea is eighteen, and last week she cut her long hair and put it in a box. She comes to me in the mornings to keep me company and tells me stories about how she fell in love a year ago. I tell her to be careful, because that is what men like me should say. Last night, a typhoon bearing my name tore down the Meralco posts in our neighborhood. Ines came to my room and lighted a candle. And then she went out. I heard Lea in her room upstairs, and she was sighing. Her sighs were loud. So were the thumps of shoes thrown to the floor. She sighed, there were giggles, there were more sighs turning liquid by the moment. I turned my face to the pillow. I called for Ines, but she was in her room, and she did not want to hear anything. 2 – Lea is Ines’ daughter. Ines’ is Matilde’s daughter. Matilde is the woman I first married when we were children. We were nine, in her mother’s living room. She told me a story about how she saw her parents kiss, but this kiss wasn’t like any other kiss. It looked messy, but eager. Somehow it made the top of her head tingle, as though someone had trickled cold water on her hair. I said, It’s what married people do. She said, Will you marry me? And I said, Sure, why not? And we kissed. It was messy, but she said her head didn’t tingle, so we stopped being married. She said she’d ask again. I asked, When? She said she didn’t know. Matilde died ten years ago. I wasn’t home when it happened.

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3 – The night of our wedding, I held her naked beside me and thought, This is what the world has been keeping secret from us. 4 – Matilde was pregnant with Ines when this happened: I was waiting in line at a drugstore, buying her medication. She chose to wait outside, staring at a display rack of cotton balls and nail files. I looked at her, and looked at her, and at that moment, I saw her the way someone who knew her only by name but never uttered her name would see her. I loved her, of course, but that was far-off when I looked at her then. I thought about how old she looked, how sudden that oldness was, how even the hair curling at her temples couldn’t soften her. And then the woman at the counter called me, and I looked at her, and then I looked at my wife, and I saw that I was back to loving her again. She was beautiful. 5 – The first few months of our marriage, I was kissing someone else. I do not want to remember her name, because there are more important things now that I take care not to forget. But I was kissing her. I did not love her more than I loved Matilde. She was simply proof that Matilde was not the only woman I loved. I kissed her, she did not want to know whose name was written on the inside of my wedding ring, and that was fine by me. In those months, I was a man who kissed a woman in the mornings, then kissed someone else in the afternoons. It had to be done. 6 – One night, years into our marriage, Matilde turned to me in bed, and asked, Have you kissed anyone else since you met me? I said, Yes. 7 – Matilde died before Ines gave birth to Lea, and so sometimes, I allow myself to think that my granddaughter bears something of my wife in her walk, in the hair curling at her temples, in her wide eyes, in the mole in the shadow of her jaw. Lea is the same age as Matilde was when we married. This is wishful thinking, I know that much. When Lea comes to my room in the mornings and she notices how intently I look at her as she talks about the man she fell in love with, she thinks the softness in my gaze is simply that of a grandparent on his deathbed.

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8 – Lea bought perfume that smells like grass after a night of rain. My wife smelled like bread. I tell Lea, You smell like soil, and she laughs and says my name, shaking her head, tells me I am silly. 9 – When my granddaughter cut her hair, she put it in a box and put the box inside the drawer where the candles roll about. She said, It was getting too long but I knew you liked my hair. And so she cut her hair and put it in a box, and gave the box to me. I told her, I cannot bring this with me. She said, It does not matter. And she went on with her story about the day she fell in love with a man whose name I still do not know. 10 – Sometimes Ines comes and interrupts her daughter, and Lea knows to keep silent. Papa, Ines will say, You need to get cleaned up. When my daughter wipes me down with a towel dipped in warm water and alcohol, she turns her head away. By then, Lea will have tiptoed out of the room. Papa, Ines will say, Other side, Papa. Sometimes, my daughter talks to me the way she used to talk to Lea, before she fell in love. 11 – When Ines says Papa, she must think of her husband, whom she called by the same name. Like, Papa we’re having a baby. Papa look at Lea. Don’t worry about Lea too much, Papa. Papa, the wind is too strong, Papa, please, do not go out. 12 - This house is the last familiar thing all the dead people saw: Torres (Lea’s father) stepped out into the grasp of a typhoon five years ago. Matilde was at the door, waiting for me to come home when she fell to the ground, clutching her heart, her head against the spot where I ask Ines’ to light candles whenever someone has died. Soon, the ceiling with its brown veins will be the last familiar thing I see. Often, I wish it will be morning when it happens, so it is Lea’s voice that will be the last thing I hear. 13 – There are days when I wake up and Lea is already halfway through her tale of summer love. Sometimes, I think she is Matilde and I call her Matilde. She smiles, angles her head, and says, No, it’s Lea, and she goes on with her story. Once, I asked her what her love’s name was, and she only 47


shook her head. She said, I can’t say, it’s a secret. And I asked her, Why is it a secret? She said, Mother does not know. But then I think, But I hear you when all the lights in this town have gone off, surely everyone else has heard you too. 14 – Loving Matilde was never a secret. I got married to her at nine, but moments after, she changed her mind. At seventeen, I kissed another girl for the first time, and in a way, loved her too, although I liked to remember how kissing another nine-year-old felt like – this though was what I was carrying with me when I saw Matilde walking from the church, the wind shaping her dress around her thighs. That night, I asked her to marry me. I pressed a finger to the mole at the shadows of her jaw and said, Marry me, Matilde. She said, But, but then said, Yes. I married Matilde again when we were eighteen. I kissed that other girl for three months after I wore a ring around my finger for the first time. I never kept that one secret, even when Matilde asked me. 15 – Matilde is the only woman I have made love to. She does not know this, because she faltered when I answered her question about me kissing anyone else since I met her. It hurt that she didn’t want to ask more, that she didn’t want to ask, Have you made love to anyone since I linked your name to mine? And so in her silence, I simply cupped her face in my hands, let my fingertips brush against the hair curling at her temples and said, It’s you I love, Matilde. 16 – Her name is Anna, the name I’d chosen not to remember. Now I wonder what I have forgotten, now that I have uttered her name. A birthday, perhaps, the classmate who died in a car accident last year, who bought the candles rolling about in my top drawer, what Matilde’s favorite color is. You must know that she does not matter, this Anna. I have told Matilde she does not matter, and this is what I tell you, because this is true. 17 – I was away when Matilde died. This was ten years ago. She’d been waiting for me to come home, because it was getting late, and I had no business at my age to go out gallivanting with men who have their own 48

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families. I always tell my wife not to worry, nothing will happen to me. She says, I’m worried about something happening to you, and I always laugh because this never makes sense. She died waiting for me to come home, she was standing at the front door. She clutched at her breasts, and died. She fell to the floor. That was how I found her, hours later. 18 – This morning, Lea said, Pablo. She said, That is his name, Pablo. And she smiled.

49


Dear Alexander Zoe Dulay

This morning, I woke up with your shadow pressed onto my blankets, and the walls flinched, as I brushed off the punch that came when I discovered how any sense of nearness could betray me. It never gets old, this absurd novelty of having coffee with a burglar, not to mention, admiring how good of a crook he is. I even brought out the wine, got drunk and applauded how well he ran away with everything, including my grandfather’s pipe. But if my sigh is any indication, I know that against my sheets, you really should appear to be nothing more, but the faintest suggestion of a shape.

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Ikot Jeep Cyan Abad-Jugo

 Last night it had been too late to have a look around campus. They were tired, dizzy, and confused, having launched from the docks in a taxi that seemed to puzzle its way, randomly choosing narrow streets, dark tunnels, and soaring flyovers in the labyrinth that was Metro Manila. Having arrived at the dorm, in the room arranged for them to share, they collapsed atop their beds without bothering to change out of their travel wear, leaving their unpacked luggage higgledy-piggledy at their feet.  The fourth bed was still unoccupied in the morning. They used it to spread out their clothes, before folding them again as neat as they could without help of mother or sister, and stuffing them into their respective closet spaces. They filled the air with a lot of hoots, and jeering, and a lot of experimental cursing, the string of words becoming more and more lurid and complex, and therefore more and more interesting and invigorating.  They could not help it, this nervous energy on their first day away from CDO. A day’s ship-ride from their parents, a couple of months past high school graduation, and they were men now. This was going to be their school, their campus, theirs for the conquering, for they were chosen ones, and not everyone in their school – or any school for that matter – had been accepted at the state university in Diliman.  They could not wait for lunch and the afternoon. They wanted to see the sights, the length and breadth of this new freedom, the classrooms they would have to drag themselves to each day, and most importantly, the girls. Outside, they had a little bit of trouble: which way now, left or right? Buildings surrounded them on every side. A jeep, painted in bright colors of blue and yellow and white over shimmering chrome, stopped and shuddered in front of Les. Upon its side, in red, bold letters, Les read “Ikot,” and looked at his accomplices, who nodded, Why not? They jumped into the vehicle, chortling and ribbing each other.  The jeepney driver eyed them through the rearview mirror, before 51


he received coins from the passenger behind him, a girl with long hair who avoided eye contact with these frisky boys. She hugged her folder to herself, bare shoulders gleaming. There was another shorthaired girl across her who dressed similarly, in jeans and a sleeveless shirt, nearer the boys. She would look at them from the corner of her eyes, and they would wink at each other. There were five other passengers, an old lady with a bayong brimming with green leafy vegetables, three serious-looking men who wanted no part of the boys’ camaraderie, and a middle-aged lady in skirt and spectacles, like a stereotypical teacher.   Just as the jeep started on its way again, the old lady called out “Para!” Les tried to offer help by reaching out for her groceries, but she simply snatched them back with a grunt. Les contented himself by touching the wrinkled elbow as she descended, but that was snatched away from him too, amidst the jeers of Jomel and Dexter.  The jeep purred and sputtered and moved along once more. Dexter looked around at the interior, at random names in script painted along the ceiling, at the small plastic Virgin Mary and the larger Sto Niño on a small dais above the driver’s head. On the panel separating the driver and front seat from the passengers in the back, there glittered a two-dimensional, billboard-like painting of the most voluptuous and curvaceous woman, lounging in a red and black negligee, her legs in the air. Dexter grinned, his eyes slanting further. He began chanting softly to his two pals, “Ikot, iyot, ikot, iyot –”   And Les, disgusted, scoffed, “Bayot.”  There was lots of room to spare beside Les, now that his old woman had got away, so Dexter flung himself into the space and wrapped his arm around Les’ neck, mussing his hair with the other hand and making kissing noises.  The rhyme had not been lost on Jomel, sitting across them, the small moustache he took pains to groom glinting a little with perspiration. He took up the chant, laughing, “Ikot, iyot, bayot –”   “Hoy,” the jeepney driver roared over his shoulder, at the same time stepping hard on the gas so that the jeepney reminded them of a speedboat. “Huwag magulo!”  They settled, snickering, winking at the two girls who had been bounced 52

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about on the cushioned benches by the boys’ rough play. The shorthaired girl smiled, her lips a little lopsided, before looking away. The stereotypical teacher straightened, coughed into a Kleenex, and fiddled with her blouse’s collar button.   “A good thing,” boomed Jomel, “we all got the same room at Kalayaan.”   “Oh,” Dexter shrugged, “I had Pa arrange it for us.”   But Jomel had said it not really to count his blessings or to express his attachment and loyalty to his old school chums, but for the benefit of the girls. Just in case. So that they knew. These boys were not just there for the ride; they were rightful students living in the newest of the campus dorms.  Les caught on, and coughed into a fist, looking slantwise at the girl with the long hair and blushing. He had always been the most timid of the three. The girl called out, “Para…,” and he looked as if his heart were about to break.   Dexter and Jomel burst out laughing. As the girl bent and crossed the length of the jeepney to let herself off at the tail end, they caught a whiff of something flowery and young. “Goodbye, miss,” Jomel whispered, wiping at his eyes with his sleeves and sniveling, giving an exaggerated interpretation of what he thought Les felt. Dexter snickered and crossed to Jomel’s side once again.  Les ignored them, turning to the teacher-like lady across the void the longhaired girl had left, and pointing to the building behind her. “Ma’am, what is the name of that building?”   She looked, cleared her throat behind her Kleenex, said “College of Music” in a strained voice. She shifted in her seat as if to turn her back on him, but then relented, and pointed. “Mass Communications across.”  Then just as the jeep began to go full throttle, something fleshy bumped its side, and a bundle of rags stumbled onto the step, wracking up a cough, reeking of asphalt and piss. A wrinkled, blackish face smirked around at each of the boys, at the scholarly men, at the shorthaired girl, and at the schoolmarm. “The Lord hath come,” he cried joyfully. “Rep-pent!” A spray of saliva shot out of rotten teeth and hairy mouth.   “Alis dyan!” the jeepney driver yelled.  The scholarly men took to his suggestion. “Let’s walk,” one said, and the 53


two with him nodded. They stood and left the jeep in single file. The bundle of rags made the sign of the cross over them with a filthy hand, and made a clutching motion as if he were catching mosquitoes before each of their foreheads as they passed.   “Sinners,” he intoned, and burst into tears.   “Alis,” the jeepney driver yelled again. The schoolmarm made a move to stand, when the jeep lurched and sped onwards.  Les realized the three of them had not paid yet. He looked around him uncertainly, ignored the old ragged man that had settled beside him nearest the exit, and addressed the shorthaired girl, who seemed much closer to him now than she was a moment ago. “How much is the fare?”   “Two p –”   “Silence,” sobbed the old man, and thumped Les on the back.  Les stared, shocked, at his two comrades, who were beginning to think the whole situation funny, their cheeks puffed up, their eyes dancing with mirth. He scowled, reached into his pocket, fished out two one-peso coins, and showed them to Jomel and Dexter. The old man leaned forward and made a clutching motion over his hand, but Les was quicker, and closed his hand upon the coins.  The old man giggled.   Jomel began a collection of their two pesos, and Dexter made a fuss about getting rid a whole handful of twenty-five centavo coins, counting them studiously as the old man made more clutching movements. The schoolmarm and the shorthaired girl decided to look out their respective windows. Finally, Jomel snatched at Dexter’s coins, counted out his and Les’ share, then gave a whole five-peso coin back to Dexter. “Bayad ho,” he called, and his other arm shot across the schoolmarm and dropped six pesos into the waiting hand of the driver.   “Money,” Dexter said, mimicking Jomel, but assuming an American accent. “Money, hoe.” He glanced sidelong at the old man and then pretended to be in the middle of a class discussion. “You see, classmates, money makes the world go round. In fact, money is round.” His smooth cheeks flushed red.   “As the world is round.” Jomel nodded sagely, smoothing his moustache and scratching his stubbly brown chin. 54

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“But money,” and Dexter leaned forward, “is also... the root of all... evil.”  There was a brief pause, a vacuum created, as if everyone had drawn breath at the same time, and then the old man screeched “Evil! Be gone! Begone!” He made wild clutching movements, sometimes making contact with their foreheads, so that the schoolmarm shrank away and the shorthaired girl screamed. The jeep ground to a halt and the driver leaped out, just as a gum-chewing grade school boy in uniform and baseball cap slid into the front seat. The boy turned around quickly as he sensed the commotion behind him.  The jeepney rocked.  The jeepney driver appeared at the entrance. “Out,” the jeepney driver commanded, pointing at the old man. “Ikaw, alis!” The driver’s face turned purple, then a string of exclamations spewed out of his mouth and around the side of the jeep. He had turned his head away to curse.  The bundle of rags rocked, whimpered, leaned and shriveled into Les, while Les stiffened and recoiled in sudden fear and disgust. The shorthaired girl gasped sharply behind him as his shoulder bumped hers.   “Huwag … ” the old man spread out two deformed hands caked in mud and studded with sores. His fingernails were cracked and yellow. He held them out, supplicating the jeepney driver.  The driver spat on the asphalt and stormed off, muttering, waving his arms. The passengers looked at one another anxiously, as the jeepney continued to rock with the old man’s movements. Even Dexter and Jomel were at a loss for witty remarks. The schoolboy in front, still watching, languidly blew a bubble.  The bubble grew. Round and wet and pink.   When it popped, the bundle of rags jumped, whimpering, and heaved himself backward into Les, attempting to sit in his lap. Les cried out and pushed away with all his might, but the filthy hands had found their way around his shoulders, and one clamped down upon his neck so that his breath was effectively cut off. Les panicked and kicked out, hitting Dexter on the knee so that Dexter yelled, and cursing, got up and snatched at the man’s arm. Jomel grabbed at a fistful of the man’s rags and pulled.   Air suddenly rushed into Les’ lungs as he kicked out again and fell, the crusty metal floor scraping into his elbows and nape. The old man lost his 55


balance and fell face down the other way, his head bobbing over the step outside. The jeepney driver, who had come back with two security guards, took hold of his shoulders and hauled him out.   “Evil,” the old man shrieked, and the sound of his wails skirled strangely around them. He struggled with the men, as the passengers watched, dumbfounded; and then he was surrounded and suddenly blocked from view. There was a thud, a whimper, and then another thud. The two security guards stilled their truncheons.   Everyone looked away, out the two long, open-air windows, as the jeepney driver got behind his wheel again. Les found that he had held his breath for too long, and exhaled. He made the mistake of looking out the exit, and found that Jomel and Dexter did the same. They saw two men in white and blue clutching at a limp bundle of muddy rags, growing smaller in the distance.  They were quiet the rest of the way back. First the schoolmarm got off – “The grade school,” she said, but not to Les or anyone, but to herself. The schoolboy hopped off at the same time. Two blocks away, the shorthaired girl stopped the jeep again, leaving so quietly that the three amigos barely noticed. She neither glanced to her left nor to her right this time, not even through the corners of her eyes. The jeep picked up many more passengers, but this time the boys remained inattentive and withdrawn. The jeep, true to its name, stopped again at the corner where they had boarded it.   As they dropped out of the jeepney, one at a time, Les saw the jeepney driver scowling at them through his rearview mirror. Les simply shrugged and turned his back, walking after Jomel and Dexter, who were rushing ahead of him round the corner and up the sweeping driveway towards the dorm. As he reached them, he heard Dexter cursing.   Jomel laughed and flung his arms around Les, pointing at him and booming, “Evil!”   Dexter mussed Les hair and cried, “Be gone! Begone!”   And Les pushed at the both of them and clenched his hands and shook his head and said, “It’s not funny!” Both Jomel and Dexter drew back, grinning and eyeing him. Their grins faltered. Les slowly lowered his hands, blinking, shuddering. He drew a deep breath, then threw himself at them, hooting, engaging them in a tussle of three. 56

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Sinturon Alison Sangalang

Yakapin mo nang mahigpit ang numinipis kong katawan nang walang makasilay sa ibinigay mong latay.

57


Si Karding at ang Buwaya ni Pinatola i’ Kilid April Jade Mison

Inaalon na sa gutom si Karding pero hindi pa rin siya umaalis sa may batuhan. Ayaw niyang umuwi ng bahay dahil tiyak na kulang pa sa kanyang mga kapatid ang samplatitong dilis.   Malayo pa, naririnig na niyang nagtatawanan ang mga alon. Nagtatalsikan ang laway nito. Tinamaan at nakiliti siguro ang pusod ng dagat sa mga batong ihinahagis at pinatatalon-talon niya. “Anong tinatawa-tawa mo d’yan? Ang lalaki ng mga alon mo, ang lawak-lawak mo, wala naman akong mahuli!” sigaw ni Karding. Bumuwelo siya nang husto sa paghagis ng isang lapad na bato. Muntik na siyang mawalan ng panimbang kundi lang siya napadantay sa isang malaking bato. Inakyat ni Karding ang nilulumot at nangingitim nang bato. Sa pag-akyat, nahablot niya ang alunang mga hibla ng halamang-dagat.   Nilalamon na ng dagat ang araw nang makarinig si Karding ng mga lagutok sa mga bato. Umangat ang malaking batong kinauupuan niya. Napahawak siya sa patulis na bahagi nito. Pero agad niya rin itong binitawan dahil bumuka ito. Muntik nang masagpang ang kanang kamay niya.   Nahulog si Karding. Hindi siya makakapaniwalang isang dambuhalang buwaya pala ang bato.   “Bakit mo ‘ko ginising?” sigaw ng dambuhala.   “Huwag mo po akong kakainin!”sigaw ni Karding, “gagawin ko po ang lahat, ‘wag n’yo lang po akong kakainin.”   “Ano’ng kailangan mo? Bakit mo ako ginising?” tanong ng buwaya.   “Nagpapalipas lang po ako ng gutom at sama ng loob. Di ko po sinasadyang magising kayo. Pasensya na ho. Aalis na po ako.”   “Teka, ano’ng pangalan mo?”   “Ako po si Karding. Nangangako po ako, magsisimba na po ako arawaraw. Hindi ko na po ipagpapalit ang pagsisimba sa paglalangoy at paglalaro, paalisin n’yo lang po ako. Naghihintay na po ang mga kapatid 58

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ko.”   “Huwag kang umalis.” utos ng buwaya.   Napansin ni Karding na hindi mabangis ang buwaya pero wala siyang balak makipagkaibigan sa isang dambuhalang kayang-kayang lamunin nang buo ang isang kabayo sa isang lunukan.   “Paalisin n’yo lang po ako’t ihahanap ko kayo ng mapapangasawa,” sabi ni Karding, “isa ring dambuhala ang ipapakilala ko sa inyo!” Nag-isip ang buwaya.   “Sige, iharap mo sa akin ang dambuhalang sinasabi mo. Kapag nagawa mo iyon, gagantimpalaan kita. Hinding hindi ka na muling magugutom pa. Bumalik ka rito bukas pagkagat na pagkagat ng dilim.”   Nagtatakbong lumayo si Karding. Ikinuwento niya ang tungkol dambuhalang buwaya sa kanyang ama at sa kanyang mga kapitbahay. Nagtawanan ang mga ito. May buwaya raw bang mabubuhay sa tubigalat? Isa pa, wala na ngang talangkang gumagapang sa may pampang, buwaya pa? Kung dambuhala ang buwaya, e di sana’y naramdaman nila ang pagyanig ng lupa nang bumangon ito. At kung totoong may ganoong nilalang na nakita niya, bakit buhay pa siya’t nakakapagkuwento? Dati, sinabi niyang nag-ahunan ang lahat ng mga isda sa dagat, maging mga balyena at pating. Pero walang naligaw kahit dilis sa pampang nila. Hindi kaya’t naglulubid na naman siya ng buhangin? Nang isalaysay niya na nakipagkasundo siya sa dambuhalang buwaya na hahanapan niya ito ng dambuhala ring asawa, lalo silang nagtawanan. Nababaliw na yata si Karding sa madalas na paglalagi sa dagat.   “Uy, hainan n’yo nga ‘yang kuya n’yo ng dilis,” utos ng ama ni Karding sa mga kapatid niya. “Baka nalipasan lang ‘yan ng gutom. ‘Yan ang napapala kapag naglalalagi sa walang silbing dagat!”   Ipinaliwanag ni Karding sa kanyang mga kapatid na nalipasan nga siya ng gutom pero hindi lang tinatangay ng dagat ang kanyang imahinasyon. Ikinuwento niyang nangako pa nga ang buwaya hindi na sila magugutom kapag naihanap niya ito ng mapapangasawa. Napalunok ng laway ang kanyang mga kapatid at nangakong tutulong sa paghuli sa loob ng buwaya.   Kinaumagahan, umakyat si Karding sa pinakamatayog na puno ng niyog para matanaw ang batuhan. Payapa ang dagat pero nakita niya 59


ang malaking batong inupuan niya kahapon. Bumaba si Karding sa puno. Tinaga niya ito nang tinaga. Tinawag niya ang kanyang mga kapatid at pinagulong patungong pampang ang katawan ng puno. Tuwang-tuwa ang mga kapatid niya na akala’y laro-laro lang ang lahat. Iningatan ni Karding na hindi masira ang ulo ng niyog. Pinagtulungan nilang itindig ang katawan ng niyog malapit sa batuhan. Dahil kurbado ang katawan nito, sinuhayan nila ito ng mga tungkulang bato para makatindig.   Pagkagat ng dilim, nakausap muli ni Karding ang dambuhalang buwaya sa may batuhan.   “Narito ang mga bulawan. Magiging luya ang mga iyan kapag hindi mo sa akin naiharap ang dambuhala. Nasaan na ang mapapangasawa ko?” tanong ng buwaya.   “Narito po siya. Ahas ang katawan, pugita ang ulo.”   Dumaluyong ang mga halakhak ng buwaya. Sa lakas ng kanyang pagtawa at ng paghampas ng alon, nayanig at bumagsak ang nakataling dambuhalang may ahas na katawan at pugitang ulo.   “Akala mo ba’y hindi pa ko nakakakita ng puno ng niyog?” ngisi ng buwaya habang unti-unting nagiging luya ang mga bulawan.   “Aalayan ko po kayo ng mga inahin bukas. Kung gusto n’yo po’y ipagtitinola ko pa kayo. Patawarin n’yo lang po ako. Napakababaw kong mag-isip. Hindi ko po napansing hindi ito dambuhala.”   “Sumakit ang panga ko kakatawa. Huwag kang mag-alala, hindi kita kakainin. Gagantimpalaan pa nga kita dahil sa lakas ng loob mo.” Pagkasabing-pagkasabi nito, dahan-dahang dinampot ng buntot ng dambuhala si Karding at isinampa sa kanyang likuran.   “Kumapit ka nang mabuti sa likod ko. Pupunta tayo sa ilog na itim. Dadalhin kita sa bayan ni Mebuyan, sa kaila-ilaliman ng lupa. Iyon ang gantimpala ko sa’yo.”   “Dadalhin n’yo po ako sa impiyerno? Kainin niyo na lang po ako kaysa dalhin doon!”   “Anong impiyerno?”   “Isang lugar sa kailaliman ng lupa na pinalilibutan ng kumukulong apoy at punung-puno ng gutom.”   “Walang kumukulong apoy sa ilog na itim at hindi ka magugutom sa bayan ni Mebuyan.” 60

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“Sino po ba si Mebuyan? Paano na ang mga kapatid ko? At ang tatay ko, baka mag-aalala na naman ang tatay ko sa akin.”   “‘Wag ka nang masyadong mag-alala. Darating ang panahon at susunduin ko rin sila. Magsasama-sama rin kayo sa bayan ni Mebuyan at hindi na kayo makakaranas pa ng gutom. Bibilisan ko ang langoy para maabutan natin ang pag-atras ng ikapitong dagat, kung hindi, mapipilitan kang malagutan ng hininga.”   Hinimatay si Karding sa likuran ng buwaya. Natawid na nila ang ikatlong dagat nang mahimasmasan siya sa malalakas na sampal ng alon. “Hindi ako makalangoy nang matulin dahil baka malaglag ka. Kumapit ka na nang mabuti para mabilis tayo. Nagugutom ka na ba?”   “Matagal na po akong inaalon sa gutom. ”  Lumangoy pa ang buwaya para marating ang batuhan kung saan nakabilad ang mga hugis-buwayang suman at mga pagkaing gawa sa malagkit, kaing-kaing mangga, buwig-buwig na saging, at sari-sari pang prutas.   “Bakit iniiwan lang ng mga tao sa islang ito ang mga pagkain sa batuhan?” usisa ni Karding habang nangingnig na tinatalupan ang hugisbuwayang suman.   Kakagatin na ni Karding ang ulo ng hugis-buwayang suman nang mapansin niya ang hugis nito. “Bakit po kahugis n’yo ito?”   “Ito ang isla ng buwaya. Kung aakyatin mo ang bundok na iyon, matatanaw mong hugis-buwaya ang islang ito. Alay sa akin ng mga inapo ko ang mga pagkain. Kung magbabaon ka, magbaon ka lamang nang sapat. Marami pa tayong madadaanang batuhan na may mga alay ring suman.   “Kain po tayo,” yaya ni Karding. Napakagat ng dila si Karding nang maalalang buwaya ang kanyang inaalok.   “Huwag mo akong alalahanin,” sabi ng buwaya, “matagal-tagal pa bago matunaw itong kabayo sa tiyan ko.”   Nabilaukan si Karding nang marinig iyon. Dumaluyong na naman ang halakhak nang mapansin ng buwaya ang takot ni Karding. Hinampas niya ng kanyang buntot ang isang puno ng niyog. Naglaglagan ang mga bunga nito. Dinampot ng buwaya ang isang buko gamit ang kanyang buntot. Inumpog niya ito sa isang bato para mabiyak. 61


“Inumin mo ‘to. Pagkatapos mong kumain, pulutin mo pa ang mga bukong iyon at isampa sa likuran ko. Pamatid-uhaw mo’yan pagdating sa laot.”   “Paano po natin ito mabubuksan sa laot? Saan po natin ito ihahampas.”   “Ilalagay mo lang sa pagitan nitong mga ngipin ko itong buko at bubuksan ko nang ganito,” paliwanag ng buwaya habang parang tinalupan ng anit ang buko gamit ang kanyang mga pangil.   Hihimatayin sana ulit sa takot si Karding pero naisip niya, pinakakain at pinaiinom naman siya ng dambuhala. Hindi naman siguro siya mapapahamak. Ang ipinagtataka lang niya: bakit ba siya ang gustong dalhin ng buwayang ito sa bayan ni Mebuyan? Sino ba si Mebuyan?   “Karding, tingnan mo ang dagat, payapang-payapa. ‘Wag kang magalala. Makikita mo rin ang hinahanap mo sa bayan ni Mebuyan.”   Sumakay sa likod ng dambuhala si Karding. Parang narinig niya ang pagtawag sa kanya ng dagat sa mga panahong inaalon na siya sa gutom. Pero ngayong busog siya, tinatawag pa rin siya ng dagat. Hindi kaya sigaw iyon ng kanyang mga kapatid na naghahanap na sa kanya? O di kaya iyon ang mga mura’t palatak ng kanyang nag-aalalang ama?   “Karding! Karding!” tawag ng dambuhalang buwaya. “Papunta na tayo sa ikalimang dagat. Humanda ka sa ’yong makikita. Huminga ka nang malalim.”   Naglulutangan ang mga isda sa ikalimang dagat. Itim ang tubig at patay ang lahat ng mga isda. Halos malunod sa hangin si Karding; hindi siya makahinga sa sangsang ng amoy.   “Bakit po…ganito ang dagat na ito? Nag…pa…patis na ang dagat sa sobrang daming patay na isda,” pasinghap-singhap na tanong ni Karding. “Hawig ang dagat na ‘to sa dagat sa inyong isla. Walang mahuling mga isda dahil kahit ang mga pating at balyena, namamatay kapag napapagawi rito. Ikaw rin ang makakasagot sa tanong mo. Ano ba ang ginawa n’yo sa dagat?”   Nagduduwal si Karding. Ito na pala ang totoong pakiramdam ng inaalon sa dagat. Akala niya’y hindi maselan ang bituka niya. Pero kahit pala ang tiyan niya’y hindi masisikmura ang hitsura’t amoy ng patay na dagat. 62

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Kahit nagdududuwal, mas lalong binilisan ng dambuhalang buwaya ang paglangoy para makalayo’t marating na ang ikaanim na dagat.   Nanginginig ang ikaanim na dagat. Naging dambuhalang mga yelo ang mga isla. Wala ring makikitang mga buhangin. Napalitan ang nagkikislapang buhangin ng yelo. Si Karding na halos malunod kanina sa mabahong hangin ay naginginig naman ngayon, at ang bawat hinga niya’y nagbabantang tumigil at manigas.   “Karding, kailangan mong pumasok sa loob ng aking tiyan para hindi ka ginawin. Sakaling maubusan ka ng hangin sa loob ng tiyan ko, sipain mo lang ang ngala-ngala ko. Ibubuka ko ang panga ko nang ganito para may makapasok na hangin.”   Hindi malaman ni Karding kung may kasama na bang takot ang kanyang panginginig. Pero matagal nang panatag ang kanyang loob sa buwaya. Kusang-loob niyang pinasok ang bibig nito para marating ang tiyan nito. Napasipa siya sa takot nang makita niya ang hindi pa natutunaw na buhok ng kabayong nilulon ng buwaya. Sa pag-aakalang hindi makahinga si Karding, ngumanga ang buwaya at nakahinga siya nang maluwag.   Napansin ni Karding na hindi na lumalangoy ang buwaya at mukhang nasa pampang sila. Sumilip siya sa bunganga ng buwaya at natanaw niya ang napakalawak na ilalim ng dagat. Lumabas si Karding sa bunganga at umangkas muli sa likod ng buwaya.   “Bakit po nakikita ko ang mga korales? Bakit wala ang mga alon?” tanong ni Karding.   “Taon-taon, umaatras ang mga alon sa dagat na ito. Kailangan nating marating ang lagusang iyon papuntang ilog na itim. Kailangan nating marating iyon bago bumalik ang mga alon, dahil kung hindi, malulunod ka. Ito na ang huling dagat na dapat nating tawirin. Handa ka bang malagutan ng hininga saka-sakaling dumaluyong muli ang mga alon?”   “Sabi n’yo po sa akin kanina, huwag akong mag-alala. Pero natatakot po ako kasi baka hindi na ako makabalik sa pamilya ko. Baka po mamamatay ako.”   “Karding, hindi ko na ikakaila sa’yo, kailangan mong malagutan ng hininga para makarating sa bayan ni Mebuyan. Wala pa akong hinatid sa kanyang bayan na hindi inabutan ng pagbabalik ng mga daluyong ng ikapitong dagat. Handa ka na ba? Kung hindi, hayun lamang ang 63


pampang, puwede ka nang tumakbo. Magtatakbo ka nang magtatakbo hanggang sa marating mo ang burol na ‘yon. Bilisan mo ang takbo dahil napakataas ng darating na mga alon.”   “Sasama po ako sa inyo,” sagot ni Karding, “alam ko pong tutuparin n’yo ang pangako n’yong hindi na kami magugutom pa ng pamilya ko.   Sinalubong ni Karding at ng dambuhalang buwaya ang higanteng alon na nagbabalik-pampang. Gaya ng inaasahan, namatay si Karding.   Itinawid sa kabilang buhay ng dambuhalang buwaya si Karding.   Nang makadaong sa ilog na itim, masiglang sinalubong ni Mebuyan si Karding. Gulat na gulat nang makita ni Karding si Mebuyan. Isa itong dambuhalang may isang libong suso! Noong una’y inakala niyang mga bunga ng niyog ang kanyang nakikita. Pero hindi inaawatan ng sanlibong sanggol ang mga suso ni Mebuyan. Totoo nga, walang magugutom sa bayan ni Mebuyan.   “Ang sabi ni Mebuyan, puwede na kitang idiretso sa Gimokudan.” sabi ng buwaya. “Hindi mo na raw kasi kailangang sumuso pa sa kanya. Sa Gimokudan, masagana ang ani ng mga palay. At hindi ka mauubusan ng pagkain. Pero bago ‘yon, kailangan mo munang ilublob ang iyong ulo sa ilog na ito para hindi ka na muling makabalik pa sa’yong katawang-tao,”   “Ayoko pong lumublob. Gusto ko na pong bumalik sa bahay namin. Gusto ko na pong umuwi.”   “Matapos nating tawirin ang pitong dagat, uuwi ka? Dito, sa ilalim ng lupa, hindi ka na muling magugutom pa.”   “Kailangan po ako ng mga kapatid ko. Kailangan po ako sa bahay namin. Makakakain nga po ako, pero gutom naman sila.”   “Huwag kang mag-alala, ibinilin ni Mebuyan na sila naman ang susunod kong susunduin.”   “Kung ganoon po, sasama po ako sa inyo sa pagsundo. Gusto ko pong makatulong ako sa pagtawid sa kanila papunta rito sa bayan ni Mebuyan.”   Muli, umangkas sa likod ng dambuhalang buwaya si Karding. Nang marating na nila ang laot ng unang dagat na kanilang dapat tawirin, napahalakhak nang malakas ang dambuhalang buwaya. Sa tubig kasi’y naaaninag ng dambuhala ang tindig ni Karding. Para siyang isang makisig na bangkerong nakatindig sa kanyang bangka, magkasalikop ang mga braso, at tinatanaw ang mga alon nang walang kapanga-pangamba. 64

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A View of the Water Marie La Viña

Map-less, compass-less, pockets turned inside out, we went in search of a house with a view of the water. Sat eating evening rolls on the curb as the lights in the bakery went off one by one. Gutted fish at the marina when the skiffs came in. Sold my earrings for a rental car and two nights at an inn. Your hat for a bowl of soup. Pawned our watches for mileage and good time, then forgot about time. We wore out the soles of our shoes and kept going. , We were hungry, but with a hunger accustomed to waiting, in search of a house with a view of the water. We imagined it just outside a city named after a woman, someone’s mother or lover, we thought, the kind of woman you couldn’t walk away from. (They must have felt about her the way we felt about the ocean.) What sort of name could circumscribe this space? Another word was on our lips. Home. , We lost our way again and again. It was impossible to ask for directions, impossible to say where we were going. We were looking for a house with a view of the water, just a house with a view of the water. We couldn’t ask the man on the corner who nodded, stepping out of the light of a streetlamp. But he seemed to be smiling at us, and we went on. , Zhuangzi once said of the Tao: There’s nowhere where it’s not. You can’t load it into words, you can’t load it into silence, either. Laotse said: Knowers don’t speak, speakers don’t know. ,

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And then it appeared to us, off the coast, built on stone, a house with a light inside—we could see it a mile away in the dark—one dangling bulb. Nothing else inside. Windows without panes, doorways and no door. It appeared ownerless, bare, and we stepped in, settled on the floor. A sense of dislocation puzzled us and, for hours, we sat gazing at the walls, the ceiling, each other, with unfamiliar eyes. Like waking up with a stranger, not entirely unpleasant; a coming home to nothingness, which is the truest home. We’d never been there before. We knew we were in the right place. , Syllable by syllable, we spoke each other’s names. Outside lay the sea in its long inarticulate rumbling. , The house: there was nothing enviable about it but its starkness, how free it was from anything but space and the kind of honesty one finds in a naked thing. We didn’t want to paint its walls or build a door. There was no urge to fill it with objects. It resisted locks, refused to be owned by what we owned. The sea turns everything to rust anyway, we thought. This is the place to bring a memory. We were drawn to its emptiness and the notion of emptiness: how a doorway is absence of wall and a window is most itself when open. The house opened itself to us. , , We couldn’t draw a map to this house, even if we wanted to. A map conceals. You wouldn’t find it. We couldn’t write a guide describing the landscape. The landscape goes in circles. We sent postcards to friends in distant cities but they were only filled with words, and words conceal. We scribbled our names and sketched a view of the water, but the lines were inkblots and ripples. We think they were lost in the mail. And our mail never reached us except once, when a friend sent us a photo of his dog. Seeing it, we felt curiously alone. Our address was the house built on stone near the ocean, or simply the one with a view of the water. We rarely spoke to the neighbors. 66

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Matapos Itaboy ng Tag-araw at Kalungkutan mula sa Lungsod Mikael Co

Malamig dito sa kabundukan. Dumating ako nang mag-isa, naghahanap ng katahimikan, ngunit ano ang sumalubong kundi mga kuliglig na humuhuni ng sarili-sariling pagdurusa sa ilalim ng makapal na damo? Tinatawag ng mga kuwago ang mga kaluluwa ng nagsilagas na dahon. Pinagpapasahan ng mga puno ang tinig ng mga nag-iinuman sa pusod ng gubat, iniaabot sa nakapinid kong bintana. Paano kong malilimot ang daan pauwi? Ibinubulong ng mga bulaklak ang huling linya ng tulang ito. Mapangutya ang titig ng buwan. Walang sapilitang paglimot.

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Matapos Matanggap ang Mensahe ng Isang Kaibigang Makata Matagal na kaming hindi nagkikita ng makatang si Diego. Malungkot din kaya ang huni ng mga kuliglig sa bayan ng San Pablo? Hindi ko mailarawan ang kagandahan ng mga ilog sa San Pablo sapagkat hindi pa ako nakararating doon. Kanina, nabasa ko ang kaniyang mensahe: “Masigasig ang kalikasan sa iyong mga tula ngayon, kaibigan.” Hinaharaya ko siyang nakangiti, kamay-sa-tiyan, habang sinasabi ito. Sa labas ng aking bintana, umuugong ang mga sasakyang tumatahak sa Avenida. Naglalako ng sampaguita at ilang-ilang ang mga paslit sa paanan ng Labingwalong Istasyon ng Tren. May mabibili kaya ang isang pirasong baryang pilak na nakasabit sa kalangitan? Maalinsangan sa sinapupunan ng Maynila. Sa susunod na buwan, pupunta ako sa San Pablo at magdadala ng isang boteng alak. Mapilit ko kayang uminom si Diego? Pakikinggan namin ang tinig ng mga nalalagas na dahon. Magkukuwento ako tungkol sa bundok na nakasiksik sa aking dibdib. Sakaling malasing siya, tiyak ko, tatanungin niya ako, “Paano kang nakauwi?” At tutugon ako, “Hindi naman ako umalis.”

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Liham 1. Kaninang madaling-araw, dumungaw ako sa bintana at buong-lakas na isinigaw ang iyong pangalan. Nangatal ang mga dahon. Patuloy na nagsayaw ang nag-iisang gamugamo sa paligid ng umaandap-andap na ilaw-poste. Umusad ang mga ulap. Nagkubli ang buwan. Walang sinumang lumingon. 2. Gusto kong ipaalam sa iyo kung gaano nang kahirap ang dumilat. Nagdurugo ang kalawakan sa bawat kong pagtingala, nagiging simbigat ng tingga, at wala na akong magawa kundi abangan ang marahas nitong pagbulusok. Ilang libong taon nang uso ang kamatayan, sabi ng isang makata, at oo, ilang libong taon na nga tayong binabagabag ng mga hangganan, ngunit iyon at iyon pa rin ang katahimikang sumasakop sa ating mga lalamunan sa tuwing napagtatantong di na babalik ang lumisan. Iyon pa rin ang mga pagnanasang alam nating di kailanman makakamtan: 69


Gusto kong isiping naririnig mo ako, nababasa mo ito, at sa gilid ng papel, napapansin mo ang isang linya, nangungulila, walang mapagsingitan: Nasaan ka na? Kayhirap magtanong nang walang tumutugon. Kayhirap pumikit nang nalalamang kadiliman din lamang ang sasalubong sa aking pagdilat. 3. Kailangan kong magpatuloy. Sapagkat may mga bagay na hindi mo nagawa. 4. Kayraming balakid sa paglimot: Dalawang talukap, kalahating kabang langib, isang tabong dugo. Sa pader ng kusina, sintaas ng tuhod, may sampulgadang linya. Iginuhit mo iyon, dati, gamit ang pulang krayola. Hanggang dito ang inabot ng huling baha. Sandakot na abo. Singsing, kupas na salamin. Pitak sa marmol na sahig. Sa ibabaw ng aparador, may bukbuking kahon, puno ng mga luma mong liham. Paminsan-minsan, ibinababa ko pa rin iyon, hinaharaya ang tinig mong binibigkas ang mga linya. Hindi mo kailangang magpaliwanag. Naiintindihan kita. Butas-butas na maleta.

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May-lamat na kopita. Kalawanging kuwadra ng mga ibon. Sa tokador: Ilang aklat. Kuwaderno, listahan ng mga ipamimili. Huwag kalilimutan! Tinitigan ko nang masinsin ang lahat nang ito, isinilid sa isang baul, pilit pinagkasya sa bukbukin kong puso. Sa hardin, nakaukit sa sandalan ng bangko, isang puso, pangalan mo, pangalan ko, Mayroon pa bang kulang? Mayroon pa bang naiwan? Sapagkat kailangan kong sunugin ang lahat nang natira. 5. GAMUGAMONG NAGSASAYAW: Kaylapit nang magliwanag, ngunit di ko matiis na lumapit sa iyong init. UMAANDAP-ANDAP NA ILAW-POSTE: May hanggan ang halat. GAMUGAMONG NAGSASAYAW: Alam kong kapag lumapit ako nang tuluyan, masusunog ako. UMAANDAP-ANDAP NA ILAW-POSTE: May mga pagkakataong kailangan nating magpasya. GAMUGAMONG NAGSASAYAW: Ngunit kaydilim ng lungsod! Kaylamig! Kailangan ko ng kapirasong liwanag. Iyon lamang, at maaari na akong pumanaw.

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UMAANDAP-ANDAP NA ILAW-POSTE: Huwag nating pag-usapan ang kamatayan. 6. Kailangan kong magpatuloy. Sapagkat malapit nang magliwanag. 7. Gusto kong pagkasyahin sa iilang saknong itong dambuhalang kadilimang dumaragan sa kumikipot at kumikipot kong sulok ng lungsod. Ngunit paano? Kung bukas, may maalala ako, isusulat ko na lamang iyon sa lumang diyaryo, sa likod ng kalendaryo, ibubulong sa mga ibon, iguguhit sa hangin, at saka hihipan. Aasa na lamang na babalik sa akin ito bilang hininga, o ulan. Aasa na lamang na maririnig mo ako. Gusto kong isigaw, paulit-ulit, buong-lakas, ang iyong pangalan. Gusto kong bulungan ako ng bintana gamit ang nangangatal mong tinig. Kayrami ko pang gustong sabihin, ngunit sadya nga sigurong tungkol ito sa mga hangganan. Gusto kong maglaho ang lahat ng hangganan. Gusto kong ipagbawal ang kamatayan.

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Gusto ko nang pumikit, at dumilat nang hindi nangungulila, nakaantabay sa muling pagliwanag ng kalawakan, at naririto pa rin, palagi, umaalala.

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Art Editorial Philosophy begins with astonishment, with wonder. It is the Greeks’ childlike innocence that brought about their fundamental understanding of the world and existence. We can clearly say that today, we have somehow lost this innocence thus leading to a loss in that correspondence. It is important that we constantly keep in touch with the child-like nature that we possess. Once it is forgotten it can never be retrieved. One way that this contact is not lost is through embracing our moments of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past. The feeling is usually associated with a specific period or place. Normally it is a happy personal association. In these moments, which seldom occur, bring us back to our memories of the good old days. It is not merely a simple regress but it is a way of retrieving a copy of our naivety and innocence. This will in turn aid us in keeping a playful mind puts you in touch with a part of part of yourself that you may have thought to be completely lost.

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Certain acts remind us of what we enjoy doing in our childhood. Chasing Butterflies by Bauza shows just that. Through engaging in such activities, we are able to return to our child like playfulness. Nothing else would seem to matter except for the act itself. Javier’s artwork portrays nostalgia as that of engaging in deep thought. When we are in this state of contemplation, we will be able to clearly perceive things, which help us in retrieving this child like innocence. Mementos are good reminders of what kind of person we used to be as well as why we are the way we are right now. La Viña and Mercado’s works perfectly exhibit this nostalgic characteristic. What we will present to you, the thoughtful viewer, is a collection of works that have value, if not sentimental value, for the artists. Nostalgia may be different for every person, but we invite you still to relish on these works. We are hoping that you yourself will be able to long for and relish that uniquely special memory.

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Miguel Mercado associate art editor August 2008


The Beach Marie La Vi単a Lomography 2007

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Chasing Butterflies Jessica Amanda Bauza Watercolor, pencil and ink 2008

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Taguan (si Kuya ang Taya) Maurice Wong Acr ylic 2008

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Head in the Clouds Eliana Laurice Javier Colored pencils and ink 2008

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Notes Miguel Mercado Mixed media (pencils on board and digital) 2008

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LVI 1  

The first regular issue of volume LVI. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila Un...

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