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Ilang Pagtutuwid Pangunahing layunin ng Heights, bilang samahan at publikasyon sa Pamantasan, ang itanghal ang natatanging likha ng mga kasapi ng pamayanan ng Ateneo De Manila. Sa limang dekada bilang opisyal na Publikasyong pansining at pampanitikan ng ating iginagalang na Pamantasan, agarang masasabing pananagutan ng Heights ang maingat na paggabay sa bawat kasapi sa paglilinang sa kahusayan sa pag-aaral ng sining, pananaliksik, pagpapatnugot at gayundin sa pag-ako sa bawat nagawa. Ang naturang pananagutan ng Publikasyon ang naging basehan upang ilimbag ang Sesquicentennial Folio. Layunin ng naturang folio ang itanghal ang kagila-gilalas na gawa ng mga kasapi ng pamayanan sa nakaraang limang dekadang naging saksi at kasangkapan ang Heights sa pagyabong ng sining at panitikan sa Pamantasan. Sa ganang ito, sinikap ng Heights na tipunin ang kinakailangan upang maialay sa pamayanan, sa ika-isandaa’t limampung taon nito, ang tanging folio na nilalaman ang marami sa pinakamatagumpay na beterano at kabataang manunulat, pintor, iskultor na naging kasapi ng Heights at ng ating pinakamamahal na Pamantasan. Sa kabila ng pagsisikap, hindi ipinagkakaila ng Heights na lubha itong nagkulang sa paghahanda sa naturang folio. Sa labis na pagnanais ng Publikasyon na maghandog ng isang katangi-tanging folio, higit na pinagtuunan ng Publikasyon ang agarang pagbuo dito, samantalang naisantabi namin ang kritikalidad na kinakailangan sa pagbubuo. Hindi lubusang mauunawaan ng Publikasyon ang laki ng aming pagkukulang kung hindi ipinagbigay-alam ito ni G. Gilbert Francia. Nagpapasalamat at humihingi ng tawad ang Heights sa kaniya. Nagkamali ang Publikasyon nang ilimbag namin ang larawan ni G. Francia mula sa kaniyang personal na social network account nang walang pahintulot mula sa kaniya. Gayundin, humihingi ng tawad ang Publikasyon kay G. Exie Abola sa aming pagkakamaling maglimbag ng larawan mula sa kanyang personal na social network account nang walang pahintulot mula sa kaniya. Humihingi ang Heights ng pag-unawa


at paumanhin kina G. Yolando Jamendang, G. Mikael Co, G. Miguel Samson, at G. Eli Guieb sa aming pagkakamali sa paglalapat sa kanilang mga akda. Humingi rin kami ng paumanhin kay Bb. Christine Bellen dahil sa maling impormasyon sa kaniyang bionote. Nais naming linawin na hindi pangalawang pangulo si Bb. Bellen ng samahang kuting. Nais ding humingi ng tawad ng Publikasyon sa mga kasapi ng pamayanan na may hinaing at lubhang naapektuhan ng naturang folio. Bilang publikasyon at samahang hayag ang pag-ako sa naging mga pagkukulang, nais naming ipagbigay-alam na ginagawa ng Heights ang pagtutuwid sa mga pagkakamaling ito sa abot ng aming makakaya. Muli, inaako namin ang lahat ng pagkakamali. Nais ipaalam ng Heights na higit naming pagtutuunan ng pansin ang pagsasanay sa bawat lupon ng patnugot. Nais naming magpasalamat kina Dekana Ma. Luz Vilches at Dr. Benilda Santos sa kanilang tulong at gabay sa mga panahong tulad nito, at sa kanilang walang humpay na pagtangkilik sa Publikasyon. Makaaasa ang pamayanan na hihigitan ng Heights ang sarili nito; makaaasa ang pamayanan na patuloy na magiging lunan ang Heights para sa pag-usbong ng mga pinuno, patnugot, manunulat, pintor ayon sa panuntunan at pamantayang Magis. Mabuhay ang ating sining at panitikan! Lupon ng Patnugot, 2010-2011 heights


Heights vol. lviii no. 1 Copyright 2010 Copyright reverts to the respective authors and artists whose works appear in this issue. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any means whatsoever without the written permission of the copyright holder. This publication is not for sale. Correspondence may be addressed to: Heights, Publications Room, mvp 202 Ateneo de Manila University, p.o. Box 154, Manila Tel. no. 426-6001 local 5088 heights-ateneo.org Heights is the oâ„Ścial literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila University. Cover and divider design by Aikaye Bollozos Book design by Jose Fernando Go-Oco


Table of Contents Ramon Enrico Custodio M. Damasing Sa Bukid 3 Hininga 6 lingering 8 Maria Warren Alamat ng Ampalaya 9 Dawn Elizabeth Niekamp Sun Shower 11 Wanton Moments 12 Vida Cruz 6:30 on a Wednesday morning, Commonwealth Avenue 13 Gian Dapul de tabo after the ent 16 Cedric Tan After Math 18 Petra Magno The shuttle begins to move‌ 23 Summer in Three Parts 24 The girl on the phone is sulking‌ 25 Bianca Michaela G. Bes And Then There Was Me 26 Carlo Roman The Finisher 27 Jose Fernando Go-Oco Imprint of Light 34 The Wait 35 Panch Alvarez The World Without Heidi Ortega 36


Jim Pascual Agustin Pamana 38 Gunita ng Aking mga Magulang 39 Gian Lao Happiness 40 Isa Yap The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility Leal Rodriguez Dear Jamal 43 Michelle Tan Vanishing Point 51 Belonging to My Body 60 Glenn Sevilla Mas Two scenes from games people play 71 Kristian Sendon Cordero Parabula ng Kambing 84 Rachel Valencerina Marra Utopia 89 Joseph Casimiro Sa guho ng Babel 91 Ang Hindi Magwawakas 92 Mesรกndel Virtusio Arguelles Pagkatuto sa Pagtula 93

Art Dale Liwanag black.friday 106 Raisa Joelle R. Perez Pieces 107 Jose Alejandro Dolosa flower 108 Neil Palteng Genesis 109 Jan Eli G. Padilla Damnation 110

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Pamela O. Celeridad Panopticon 111 Jessica Amanda Bauza Fold 112 Patricia Alyanna E. Conlu Clarity 113 Alyanna Sison Ap Sangay 114 Katherine Denise S. Yap De-Thorn 115 Kevin Christopher C. Tatco Barren 116 Monica Esquivel Lure 117 Ria Rigoroso Repose 118 Natasha Marie Ringor Feed Me 119 Analyn L. Yap The Sorrowful Mysteries 120 John Alexis B. Balaguer Nightmare of the Idealist 121 Juan Viktor A. Calanoc Kumonryu – Perseverance 122 Doitsu – Wealth 123


Editorial heights revolves around numbers: the 58th year, 10 fellows for the 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop. 3-4 folios a year, each with a varying number of pages. At least 8 talks, and 3 miniworkshops spread out over the 2 semesters. No fewer than 70 members, divided among the 3 deliberating sta∏s and the 2 nondeliberating sta∏s. Roughly 171 volumes of heights separate the very first issue of Heights, and the folio you hold in your hands today. Here’s another number: 1952, the year in which the 1st issue of heights was released, then-editor Emmanuel Torres lamented the death of literature on campus in his editorial. The numbers don’t really tell us anything, really, apart from the obvious: that they are never fixed. In the beginning, the work featured in the folio, primarily essays and short fiction in English, was of a more religious turn, shifting to the political with the advent of the 70’s. 1965 brought with it the Bagay Movement, which saw the first works of Filipino in the folio, as well as the shift towards poetry as the genre of choice for most Atenean writers. Similarly, Art and Design were introduced as integral elements of the folio at a much later date. The pages of the folio you hold today are representative of all the changes that have taken place in Heights since. Around 36 di∏erent writers and artists, ranging from first-timers to multiawarded and multi-published ones, inclusive of students, faculty, alumni, and others associated with the university. In numbers: 44 works of art composed of 27 examples of prose and poetry, as well as 17 examples of visual art. Humor and sentiment are deployed in both prose and poetry alike; words are used to render both sensory and abstract experiences. Representative genres are broken down, and re-explored as we see more and more examples of prose and form poetry, and, dramatic texts, the latter not having been featured in the regular issues of heights for quite some time. Art, as always, presents us with a mixture of traditional and non-traditional mediums:


illustration with inks, markers and watercolours, photography, photo-manipulation, even work done with unusual materials like Styrofoam! Always, however, these draw from life, playing with light, texture, and other elements in order to render the objects of their gaze. Flipping through the pages of this folio can only hint at the many changes that have taken place within heights, in the 57 years since its inception. Perhaps, however, in the light of these works, past published works, and all others still to come, we can begin to refine our understanding of what Torres, and what others after him have repeated. The Ateneo Monthly, Wings, The Ateneo Quarterly – with each renaming of what we now know as heights, the character of the publication evolved. The original intention was to become “a channel for the clear expression of the thoughts and ideals of the Catholic college man.” This was quickly overturned by the politically-charged ideals of the 70’s, and, after a short hiatus, it was resurrected in 1974 as the school literary organ. Changes in the times came with changes in literature and writing – heights died, you could say, all the time, with the incorporation of ‘new’ languages and genres, movements, even writers. Its vision and mission were constantly changing: at times, new ideals bore no similarities to the old ones. In past decades, heights has been established as both a publication and an organization. Although the folios are still the strongest ways by which we interact with the community, other practices are already in place: the ahww, mini-workshops for contributors and sta∏ers alike, art workshops and exhibits, the Creative Talks Series, and socio-civic endeavours like the Kuwentong Pambata. In line with the work that we do, there has always been a conscious e∏ort to adjust the frameworks we use to the needs of the current developments in writing in the Philippines. Poems are no longer just poems, but sound poems, form poems, prose poems. Fiction is di∏erent from nonfiction is di∏erent from creative nonfiction. The way we look at things has to change, as the objects of our gaze change. This is why, with the guidance of our moderators, there has been a conscious shift


from utilizing Formalistic theory to utilizing the skill of closereading, in order to remove limitations that the former may impose in our deliberations. Perhaps the only thing that has remained constant about heights is its role as the literary and artistic publication of the Ateneo. With each folio, each year, everything else, fittingly, changes. Reinvention is inevitable, necessary – and with it, a vague form of death. Tina del Rosario Editor-in-Chief


Ramon Enrico Custodio M. Damasing

Sa Bukid * Mga anino’y nagbubulungan habang tinatakpan ng bukirin ang lumilisang araw. At sa lilim ng santol, mga binatang braso’y yumayapos sa dalagang humihimlay. Mabagal ang pagbuntong-hininga. Sa mga daho’t sanga, nagkukubli ang lalang, mga kulisap at kuliglig, nagpaparaya pagkat hindi sila ang sumusuhay sa rilim, kundi ang pintig ng puso. Kanilang mumunting katawa’y tumutulala’t kumikislig, habang tumatagos sa rilim ang mga tibok. Humihimbing pagkat marahang umuuwi ang lahat sa katahimikan. At paalam ang tanging baybay sa balát, habang bumibitin sa alangaang ang sepiang takipsilim. Dagling mananahan sa mundo ang mga salita, bago likumin ng alaala. * Sumasayad sa lupa ang laylayan ng langit. Sa biri ng kabundukan, nakakintal ang mga bituing marahang kumikislap sa palanas. Nananalamin sa daigdig lviii 1

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ang pulóng-bituing kasing-tahimik at himbing sa lupang lusáw. Sa kapatagan, wari bituin ang itinanim. * Biglang naglaho ang isang talà nang sumibad ang isang maya sa bukirin. Masdan, pumipino ang agwat ng langit at lupa, ng langit at ng alaala habang napapawi ang tanglaw ng iilang kulisap. Sumasabay pataas sa neblinang sumasayad sa daigdig ang iyong mga mata: kay bigat ng kalawakan, iyong wika, habang minamasdan mong yumuyukod, mga sanga ng puno’t mga naglipanang biring-ginto sa pananabik. * Nang binuksan ni Vida ang tabing, tumambad ang matandang santol, umuugoy sa himig ng hangin. Nanlalagas na, bulong niya, habang ang sanlaksang sanga, kumakaway sa ere, bahagyang tinatabunan ang kalawakan. Lumalagos ang liwanag sa mga silat. Animo’y kumikindat ang 4

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mga kanunu-nunuang tanglaw, habang nababasag ang kadili-mang bumabalot sa nanghihinang katawan. Nang dumapo sa ulo niya ang isang dahon, sumipa ang kaniyang sinapupunan. Yumukod siya.

from the 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop

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Hininga I. Dalampasigan Humahaluyhoy ka. Ngunit umaalon sa pinong buhangin, Balasaw mong tinig, mahina’t malihim. May himig ang iyong pagsusuliranin: Nang inihandog mo iyang mga butil Sa langit, marahan ang huni’t pagningning Ng talang hilaga.

II. Alapaap Ang pumapatak Na luha’y alaala: Puso mo’y ulap.

III. Hantungan Lumutang mula sa palad, Aking abong inilahad. Bumabaybay sa aplaya Sa amihang walang hangga. 6

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Dadapo ang mga butil Sa parang na humihimbing At kikislig sa panahon Bilang daa’t alimuom.

Ikalawang gantimpala, Timpalak-Tula 2010-2011

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lingering I am staring through our window until our mango tree becomes two. Hazy, yet visible, its fruits bow, twice heavy, its texture crossing my vision. (I am in a frame where twice you are hanging off a branch as though you were ripe. Hoarsely, I shout—as again a ripe yellow collides with muddy brown) Suddenly lonely is our tree, and twice over liquid becomes my gaze—

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Maria Warren

Alamat ng Ampalaya “What matters”, quoth the fairy godmother, “Is not the outside, but the inside of one— you must be a grade-A pesticide-free princess!” So I ruminated and tossed my thoughts back and forth in my second stomach, till they were as chewed up as day-old cud. And I stumbled upon a strange little reality that devoured with its own jaws, wracked by the curse of blandness, the bits that tasted best, fit best, worked best, swam best inside of me. I ate the existence that itself ate— it was terribly profound, as well as messy— and I ingested at high velocities, green and gold (various other shades of gems, as seen in egg salad fictions), the tangerine curves I always envied, dimples like the puckers of apple dumplings, the lack of poetic in a carrot’s orange, the many glittering eyes of a bittering melon. lviii 1

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All these alliterations, I ate. “Painted with all the colors of the wind?” Yes. I did. I ate them all, awkward thing that I am. But it was quite enough, there was no more room, no more in my third stomach. And now I am crafted like one hideous, still unforgivably bland, ruined by indigestion. At the very least, ’mother, in the next few ticked-off centuries, I might as well be all-natural.

from the 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop

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Dawn Elizabeth Niekamp

Sun Shower Sunlight hangs from the trees drips into lazy puddles of yellow on the lawn droplet beetles scuttle down the window quiver in the breeze I trace their crooked paths with my fingertip on this side of the glass a rumble of thunder —the cracking of a star down pours shimmering fragments thinned by gravity quietly they whisper the possibility of a rainbow

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Wanton Moments Noodle soup steam flickers between us night falls and brick walls whisper warmth into damp conversation drizzling lightly over restless silence, carefully we stir A street lamp sketches amber profiles of you and I sitting cross-legged cupping this close to warm lonely hands salty and familiar to soothe separate yearnings Afraid to ask you to fill in the blanks for fear of spilling over the brim of our friendship I fish for the fillet in my congee Twirling the chopsticks, you stab the shrimp

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Vida Cruz

6:30 on a Wednesday morning, Commonwealth Avenue I’m waiting for my jeep at the usual “stop”, just in front of the row of pink and green karaoke bars, car repair shops, and funeral parlors lining the sidewalk. The sun came up not too long ago, but already, the morning is covered in and taken apart by dust, smoke, and noise. I can’t hear myself think above the blaring car horns, shouting vendors, barking dogs, and clucking chickens. A passenger-crammed jeep speeds by. It practically craps smoke as it does. I cough into my handkerchief, wipe my nose. Black smears, no surprise there. Maybe the government should phase out jeeps, as some activists say—for starters, most of them have ugly paint jobs that mix the Looney Tunes with animé characters and high-speed cars and zodiac signs and the Virgin Mary and the Sto. Niño and images of scantilyclad women and babies with that near-orange skin color these people seem to think can pass for flesh— —And as if on cue, oh my god, there’s this naked woman sauntering down the bit of pavement before the shabby establishments. I don’t know how far and for how long she’s been walking, but she must have the dirt of all of Commonwealth on her by now. I’ve wasted a lot of mornings staring into my full-length mirror in disgust, but seeing the matted hair stuck to her grimy neck made me hug my unflattering horizontallystriped shirt to my torso and my faded denims to my legs. I’m not the only one staring and I don’t expect to be. She’s actually a pretty woman beneath all that grit: almond eyes, jet black hair, unblemished morena complexion—the kind of woman who’d drive me to torture myself with that lviii 1

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aforementioned mirror in the first place. But then again, she’s quite naked and there are mostly men about—and men will always be men, pretty face or slightly plump or the cleanliness of a dog nuzzling refuse aside. The men whistle, gawk, call out offensive sentiments, they move their hands as if to reach out and touch her chest, her ass, but no one dares come near. The men all part as she passes, and she is oblivious to them. The woman is crossing the road now; for someone whose sanity line’s been cut, she’s walking rather conscientiously on the fat white stripes that make up the entirety of the pedestrian lane, and I catch the corner of my mouth turning up as I watch. People are pointing at her now, wondering aloud what to do with her. Wondering what she’ll do with herself. Now she stops. She faces the oncoming cars. She sits. She seems to be waiting for something, there, in the middle of the most dangerous road in the Philippines, with the patience of a saint on her face. She didn’t have to wait long. A beige Honda Civic screeches to a halt just inches before hitting her. The well-to-do young couple inside the car panics: the driver, a young man in his twenties, reaches for his iPhone as the young woman in the passenger seat fumbles with her seatbelt and the car door. Meanwhile, the woman slides her ass across the cutting gravel of the road. She grips the underside of the bumper with both hands and slides her lower body further under the car, perhaps lodging her feet into some mechanism. My jeep arrives just then. It’s the sort with the better spray paint job, the kind with more precise colors and softer edges. I get in first, beating almost all the other potential passengers to the seat nearest the driver. The jeep quickly begins to fill with strangers and chatter and body heat. I talk to no one, look at no one. We take a while to leave, for the driver is collecting details from the other passerby standing by his seat. 14

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Perhaps he remembers that he has yet to acquire the day’s target amount. Ten minutes later, the engine rumbles to life. I do not look back.

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like falls yet not the slide across skin nor its collides with 6 a.m. air that serve to dissolve the anger. It is when the drops

falls like rain

The trickle that runs from this collection swells steadily into a stream,strikes the crown forcefully it rattles and beats these drums presenting only resenting recent remembered,murmurs of minds unending. The water cools these molten cracks these breaks these

de tabo after the ent

Gian Dapul


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thoughts that cling like dirt have drowned. Clearly hear can be no cleaner sound, clearly here can be no keener thought than when the shower of spatter shatters on the hard tile floor, and ceases, and all is quiet. Finally,

a million mirrors cascade into liquid glass clash reflections crash into the brilliance of their blitz—deafening to the

leap from their tips and leave the depressions, departing from below-the-surface tensions that they live but a moment and


Cedric Tan

After Math The first person I noticed was the one seated right in front of me. He was bent over his paper so closely that it looked like he was yearning to kiss the questions that were actually torturing him. Masochist. One of his hands was clutched around his pen, and he tapped it lightly on his desk, repeatedly, as he undoubtedly racked his brain for the answers to the questions. Tap. Tap. Tap. Faster and faster, now, in a steady acceleration… like the racing of his pulse. Since I was seated behind him, I could only see the back of his head, and the light sheen of sweat that was building at his nape. But I could imagine. I could imagine the anguished look that must’ve been on his face, the one that demanded why he didn’t study more, why he spent those last few nights sinking in pools of booze, waiting for the sunrise. This test was going to murder him. Just moments before, I had put my own pen down, having finally shaded in the last circle on my paper with a deep, resounding, indelible shade of black. Personally, I thought that it couldn’t have been much easier. I had finished in half an hour – a mere thousand and eight hundred seconds – and now had the rest of the period to lean back and watch how the others were doing. My class was more interesting to watch than anything I might see on television or catch on stage. There were twentyfour of them in the room with me, each as different as the hours of the day.

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I leaned back, made myself comfortable, and took a deep breath. A little smirk crept onto my face. Time to enjoy the show. Two seats ahead and three to the right was a girl who seemed like she knew exactly what she was doing. She kept glancing up at the clock every few minutes, as if she had scheduled her entire test beforehand, allotted a particular number of minutes and seconds for every question. A second too far for any one question would break her test completely. I could imagine her biting her lip. There was a delicate balance she was trying to uphold. I actually wanted to laugh. Her plan was flawed; there was too little margin for error. Very soon she was going to overshoot on a question. Item 13 was quite difficult, I think. Perhaps it was the toughest question on the whole test. Though it was multiple choice, five possible answers only gave one a 20% chance of guessing it right – not a very inspiring number. When she got to that, she’d spend one second longer on it than originally planned, and then the perfect dominos she had lined up will topple gracelessly. She would crack. Maybe I should’ve felt sorry for her. But I didn’t. Not really. The guy beside me, however, I certainly had to feel sorry for. As he was directly to my left, seated parallel to me, I found it difficult to observe him without being too conspicuous. Still, through my peripheral vision, I saw. He was perhaps the most ignorant student in the whole room. Leaning back in his chair as if he were already done, he had his pen in his mouth, mindlessly chewing on it. Once in a while he’d drop the pen onto his hand and scribble something on his scratch paper before filling in one or two circles on the answer sheet. Then he’d immediately return to idly nibbling on his very writing instrument. He might as well have handed in a paper as blank as he was. There was no effort from him; if lviii 1

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there had been life in him before, he had already abandoned it, either left somewhere at the classroom’s door or surrendered to the test before him. The obtuse angles and quadratic formulas had devoured him whole. It was a crying shame, because the other warriors in the room were still fighting on the battlefield. Granted, not everybody was putting up a very good fight, but at least they were still at it. This one had given up altogether, raised the white flag. Still I continued to watch the bloodbath unfold. My other seatmate was having a more respectable exchange with this test. Seated to my right, his face was screwed tight with concentration; I could almost feel the intensity emanating from his rigid figure. He had spent all night studying; he would not let these questions stop him. Like a man who had made a promise, he was out to turn tides and scale mountains. By all means, he intended to get the highest mark when the results returned. Perhaps, even higher than me. Again, I wanted to laugh. The teacher, seated like a king at the head of the classroom, oversaw us with an apathetic eye. Him, I didn’t mind very much. There was nothing interesting about his place in this silent warzone. He simply sat there, occasionally glancing at nothings on his desk, and occasionally setting his sight upon us like a god who didn’t care. Forget the numbers. Forget direction. Forget that work is a function of force and displacement. He was watching the hundred-kph winds blow from a safe distance. Meanwhile, I was dancing away right in the eye of the storm. Then, there was the girl who was seated at the front and left corner of the classroom. She had a beautiful head of hair, tied back into complicated braids, and petite shoulders that rose 20

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and fell so slightly with her calm and even breathing. Observing her, I noticed that she wasn’t looking down at her test. Her arms were relaxed on the table, and her face was turned towards the window at the slightest angle. She was watching the trees outside, imagining herself waltz along as they swayed in the breeze. My heart skipped a beat; she wasn’t paying attention to the test. Still she was very much unlike the ignorant fool seated to my left. She was... she was done with it. Like me. All the necessary circles on her sheet had been shaded, and like new moons they signalled the end of the day for her. I couldn’t believe it. And, then, slowly, she turned her face away from the window, and twisted in her seat so that she could look back at the rest of the class, at all her struggling classmates seated behind her. Our eyes met, and in what was the longest second I’ve ever felt pass by, I noticed that they were dark, dark brown – so dark that they mocked black. She swept her gaze across the others in the classroom before turning her attention back to the window, the smallest of smiles now etched onto her lips. I continued to watch her back, unable to figure out why she suddenly had me in a kind of stupor, why every one of her little movements suddenly mattered. Had she spellbound me, simply with a single look? The classroom began to change. The four walls and the ceiling and floor were expanding; the spaces between each row and column of desks were becoming greater and greater. I was shrinking, and so were twenty-three other students and the teacher. But the girl at the front left corner of the classroom wasn’t shrinking like us. No... In fact, quite the opposite. She was growing. Very soon she was towering high over the rest of us, and I sank back into my chair, afraid, amazed, and entranced all at once. lviii 1

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I had thought that the world within this classroom, with its gruesome struggles and weathering hurricanes, was mine. Small and powerless, I had just learned that I was wrong. It seemed like forever before I was saved by the bell. When it rang, I automatically stood up, strode to the front of the class, and deposited my paper on the teacher’s desk. The others, triumphant and defeated alike, did the same. But I don’t think anybody was as eager to escape that hellhole as I was. I had half a mind to look back – hoping that my eyes and hers would lock onto each other once more. But as soon as I was out the door, I just marched straight down the hallway without a second glance. It was okay, I told myself. Everything was alright. Nothing needed to change. There were still other worlds out there. They were waiting.

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Petra Magno

The shuttle begins to move. The toddler is secure between his father’s hands, and he bends at the knees and pops back up again and again in front of the subway window. The parents talk idly, gazing at each other, their voices too soft to be heard over the clack of wheels, rustle of people. The child bobs between them, seized with joy at the sight of the world in fast-forward. The shopping bags at the mother’s feet must contain boxes of cereal upon boxes of medicine upon boxes of diapers. The couple ends their respective sentences and in the companionable silence, the child says Mama, and his father looks at his wife, and says the same thing, slower, as if he were the one being taught how to speak

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Summer in Three Parts I. The body remembers in reverse: the feet were once flippers, the hand was a wing. Let it be enough that you place me on a playground swing, and around us grow the necessary flowers we have no mettle to name. The surprisingly tame black dog bounds toward us, shreds of pink clinging to his coat, and already your mouth is memorizing: bougainvillea, bougainvillea. II. Heat of the sidewalk, heat of the growing grass, the girl’s neck as she lifts the heavy curtain of hair, heat on the stones, her dark cheekbones, her gilded stare. III. Larkspur, poplar, jade bushes, santan. Honeysuckle, camellia, ylang-ylang, and the rose. Douglas fir, red palms, false palms, bamboo. Sycamore, sage, and acacia. We hold our hands out to the light and wonder what we called each other in easier times; before we could remember our own names, we had named the world.

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The girl on the phone is sulking; her aunt on the other end is dispensing what she thinks is God’s Word, but the girl knows this all to be a lie – she knows that the world does expand to encompass all kinds of love, that a woman kissing another woman goodbye at the airport does not mean I will see you in Hell, that Hell is not a circle of fire and brimstone but rather the state in which her aunt is calling her, right now, the line a little crackly, the signal about to cut out.

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Bianca Michaela G. Bes

And Then There Was Me Oh but before that, mom was a princess in her castle, drinking tea in little porcelain cups in mid afternoon. By then, the rest of the world was a sun burnt rice cake. But dad still sunk his feet in the paddy fields, at least if he wasn’t climbing up mom’s window and dancing with her late into the night, even until days when mom had awful tastes in her mouth and dad would kiss them anyway.

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Carlo Roman

The Finisher Heart racing and sweat dripping down my temples, I stretch my worn-out muscles. The world seems to be thousands of miles away as I wallow in this zone of focused seclusion, and yet I could hear it pounding against the steel doors of the locker room, begging for me to break out of the dungeon I have locked myself in. Pacing back and forth, I throw up for the second time in the last ten minutes. Deep down, though, I wasn’t scared; I was hungry – for victory, fulfillment, glory. The weeks leading up to this night have been brutal; training has been merciless, and blood has definitely been shed. I still feel the pain of the hundreds of push-ups I’ve subjected myself to; my rock-hard shoulders bear upon themselves the agony of defeats past, and the pressure I now feel as I aim to avenge those losses. The screams outside get louder, but so do the jeers; I lean against the cold, emotionless wall and shut it all out. For a split second, I am oblivious to the world. For a split second, I dream of entering the arena, a warrior out to conquer his demons, the very same demons keeping him from becoming truly satisfied. For that one split second, I see myself emerging from the battlefield victorious. I take one last gulp of water, and as the last few droplets trickle down my chin and onto my furiously beating heart, I open the door. With my entrance theme blaring angrily all over the coliseum, I walk towards the ring. The world title is mine. Of course, the arena was more like my bedroom, and the speakers blaring my entrance music was really just the small television that had seen better days. I really was a professional wrestler though – or at least in my head I was. The crowd that was roaring was actually only my youngest brother – pretty much too young to wrestle at that point – and the two lviii 1

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hulking opponents that I had to conquer today were first and second graders, respectively. On any other day, I’d simply refer to them as my brothers; on days like this, however, when our room turned into a jam-packed arena filled to the nosebleeds with savage, cutthroat fans viciously clamoring for violence, they were the obstacles that I had to hurdle, my bed simultaneously transforming into the merciless canvas-floored ring, albeit with no ropes or turnbuckles. See, I was in love with professional wrestling, and I mean this in the deepest sense. At a time when I was still blind to the reality that pretty much all of their matches were scripted, and that the most bitter of rivals appearing on the shows would actually go home together on a bus after forty-five minutes of bloodying each other up on national television, professional wrestling provided me an alternate universe – an avenue that afforded me the chance to fulfill my deepest desire of emerging triumphant from battle, with thousands of people serving witness to my defining moment of glory. As a kid, I looked up to these wrestlers as modern-day gladiators, admiring how they seemingly gave up everything they had – bodies and souls – for the sheer entertainment of millions of strangers who just wanted to see some gore. It also amused me how each one had his own distinct personality, from Stone Cold Steve Austin – a beerguzzling redneck who basically tried to strangle anything that moved – to The Rock, the charismatic showman who had an ego that dwarfed his already huge physique. To push me over the brink of downright veneration, these personalities would constantly clash, infusing passion and hatred into what would otherwise have been a mere display of athletic ability in the ring – one that I could have found in any other sport. Once I got hooked on professional wrestling, I just had to have more of it in my life. I proceeded to camp out and patiently wait for the latest shipment of spanking new wrestler action figures, complete with ring attire, steel chair, and sound 28

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chip that played the character’s entrance music once plugged into the complementary entrance stage and miniature ring – each sold separately. I would write Santa Claus as early as November, filling up an entire wish list with what action figures I still did not have, and he would gladly oblige, adding to the wide repertoire of plastic professional wrestlers that I would constantly play with deep into the night – on nights that wrestling wasn’t shown on television, of course. Eventually, this would evolve into the addiction I then formed for wresting video games; together with my three brothers, I would pool together our paltry allowances and troop off to Virra Mall, scurrying to our favorite pirated game retailer to purchase the latest PlayStation version of our beloved show. This would mark the beginning of a daunting gaming marathon, dinner and homework be damned. It almost drove us to tears how amazing it felt to actually make our favorite characters follow our every whim, and the pleasure of winning these virtual matches was only surpassed by the satisfaction brought about by the steadily improving graphics that came with every additional edition of the game. At that point in time, I had never felt as passionate for anything in my entire life. When the joints of our action figures started to loosen and our calloused fingers were begging for a break, the fight would then proceed to the bedroom. It would serve for many years as the site of our skilled improvisation, with our makeshift ring and weaponry usually consisting of old toy axes and monobloc chairs. Imitating the nerve-wrecking sound of the bell with our very own vocal chords, we would launch an all-out assault on each other, but never to the point of actual pain. Instead, we would practice the moves we’ve been seeing on TV and the PlayStation, performing throws and suplexes that would’ve made Vince McMahon proud. Once I developed myself into an expert body-slammer while my brothers turned the act of submission into an art form, it was lviii 1

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only a matter of time before we adopted the defining technique of every professional wrestler – the patented finishing maneuver. The finisher was more than just the one move that ensured the attacker the ever-elusive victory; as I saw it, it also served as an outward expression of the character’s very identity. Showy wrestlers would commonly employ high-flying daredevil stunts as their trademark sign-offs, while the largest mammoths would sensibly use their superhuman strength to carry opponents over their massive shoulders and promptly send them spiraling down into the abyss. Being adept at the classic throws was my specialty, and our bedroom ring served as the site of many of my perfectly executed body slams. However, none of them came close, in outright strength or sheer character, to my finishing maneuver – the Rock Bottom. Borrowed from my favorite wrestler of all time, it involved carrying my helpless first grade brother with one arm and simultaneously sweeping his leg off the ground with mine, sending him into the air for a few fleeting moments, where he’s given the rare opportunity of kissing the sky and touching the clouds – all this before I send him crashing back into the ground, his whole body literally swan diving into rock bottom. The impact that emanates from this crash typically leaves the whole bed shaking, and in our scripted sparring sessions that usually conformed to the sacred values of seniority (and the commanding deference that comes with it), it also pretty much signaled the end of the match, the quick one-two-three of the pin serving as a mere formality. It was a finisher in every single way; little did I know that it would finish more than just a few matches. With sweat trickling down my temples, again I entered the ring amidst the roar of the crowd. Facing me a few feet away was my brother, fresh from a battle waged with his penmanship homework, and out to conquer another one with an 30

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opponent two years his senior. We stared each other down, as my other siblings eagerly anticipated the first strike. I slowly moved towards my opponent, engaging him in a critical positioning for dominance. I won, and proceeded to pound him as he lay on the cold, hard mattress. Foolishly savoring my minor victory, I got complacent, accidentally letting go of my mount. He turned me over, and the real match began. Back and forth we went, with each slam of mine (which he obediently let me execute, as any younger brother should) was countered by a crafty submission hold of his (which I reluctantly let him get away with). However, no one would budge; as an unstoppable force would clash with an immovable object, we battled and sweated it out for three minutes – which seemed more like three days when trapped in a figure-four leg lock. By some stroke of fate, however, I managed to escape one of his holds, getting back on my feet and preparing to pounce. We made eye contact for a tenth of a second, and we both knew what it meant – it was time for me to bring him up and send him back down to Rock Bottom; whether or not he wanted to be subjected to this, he really had no choice. I moved in, and the crowd of two fell silent. I locked him in my right arm, lashed my tongue out as a proud show of defiance, and swept his feet. For a few precious moments, we were airborne, and I was looking down on the world like God Himself. But it wouldn’t last; gravity snapped back into action, and I acted with it by forcefully slamming my brother into the mattress. All was silent. I slowly stood up, sniffing the air for that distinct scent of victory, which was masked by the pungent odor of pre-pubescent sweat. The crowd was speechless. I pinned my opponent – one, two, three. Ringing the makeshift bell to signal the end of the day’s war, I waited for the roar of the crowd to bathe me in glory and wash me away; it never came. My brother was still lying on the bed, blood oozing from the lviii 1

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back of his head. The crowd started screaming, all right – for my yaya. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as I made it sound. His head hit the side of the bed, four stitches being the only price – or so it seemed the moment my brother got back from the emergency room. True enough, there was hell to pay, and it hit me right where it hurt. Our parents banned us from all things wrestling. In a span of three days, we would see our action figures moved to the attic, our video games locked up in a drawer, and our cable tv viewing strictly monitored. Come Christmas time, in a visit to the neighborhood orphanage, my heart broke to see my mom unpacking from a cardboard box my favorite wrestling-themed t-shirts, complete with the large facsimile of Stone Cold, his logo proudly earmarked below his beer-stained torso. It all happened so fast, and I could only watch in disbelief at how a love so deep, that took so long to develop, can abruptly end in a few seconds. It’s been eight years since that fateful ban; the wounds, I’d like to think, have already healed. I’ve moved on to more grown-up things like sushi and macroeconomic theory. Reading the words “Oh My God!” has come to trigger a helplessly overplayed party anthem in my head, rather than the helplessly exasperated Jim Ross after a ruthless steel chair to the spine. Heights have become a fear – no longer the glorious launch pad from which I could unleash a flying head-butt, or the treacherous lair an opponent uses against me to crush the family jewels. I know now that Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit injected a little bit too much science into those biceps, and that a Buried Alive Match for the world heavyweight championship disastrously culminating in a burning casket shoved into a makeshift pit never really ends up with any obituaries being written. The scars are there, sure. But I’m a big boy now. 32

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The other day, I was driving to school when I saw Batista on a huge Katipunan billboard. For a split second, my mind went blank; papers to pass and tests to study for disappeared. I was right back at home channeling the Animal himself, pounding on my heavily oiled chest and screaming at the crowd to egg me on for a final spine buster. Wrestling, evidently, will continue to live on in my clandestinely bloodthirsty heart. For better or for worse, big sweaty men shamelessly grappling in trunks will never fail to put a smile on my face.

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Jose Fernando Go-Oco

Imprint of Light Smoke su竏出cates the city and men sitting in alleys and streets congeal in their own shadow. They gaze to the twinkling skyline veiled by listless clouds of smoke; the sky cannot be seen. Across your window, the Belt of Orion, the Little Dipper, and other constellations of street lamps and coursing tra邃ヲc: what is fixed is the imprint of light in your eyes; what is past is present in memory. A star pulsates like your slowing heartbeat. You close your eyes and only the memory of the beating of the ruined star lingers.

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The Wait The earth revolves around the sun in your room, swinging as sure as Galileo was until – You force it to a standstill. The cosmos does not seem to matter.

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Panch Alvarez

The World Without Heidi Ortega Nobody knew Heidi. Nobody knew she kept a part of her soul between the stacks of crossword puzzles on her bed. But she didn’t care. Heidi would just look at the air and remember footsteps. Japanese soldiers stopping to stare, leaving at the sound of gunshots. She would recall how her fear subsided. How the scene behind their footsteps turned into a dream of serene landscapes waiting to be touched and changed. But what mattered was the air. The one above her. The one that sang lullabies and called her name. For that air allowed her to paint water flowing over volcanic rocks. It enticed her to imagine trees that sway as if to whisper the mountain’s desires. It showed her that loneliness was but the sound made by every vehicle passing by. Heidi would close her eyes. Not a crack on her lips would appear. 36

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She would remain motionless dreaming only of stillness, despair unimaginable.

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Jim Pascual Agustin

Pamana Biyolin sa balingkinitang kabaong, walang takip, Tinangay na ng usurero bago ko pa nakalabit Ang bangkay ni Lolo para humiling ng pamana. Tumingin na lang ako sa labas ng kapis na bintana. Umiindayog nang walang himig ang mga tuyong dahon, papalayo.

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Gunita ng Aking mga Magulang Nakalapat ang kanang kamay sa balikat ng kabiyak na pinid ang mga mata. Pinipisil nang marahan ang namuong kapaguran sa maghapon. May kabigatang idinidiin ang bawat daliri sabay may kagaanang pinadadaloy. Hiwaga ng paglapat ng balat sa balat na kapwa pinagbagtasan ng mga taon. Sandali lamang iyon, iglap. Ngunit nakapaglakbay silang dalawa pabalik at magkapiling sa pag-iisa. Humulagpos sa pandarahas ng panahon.

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Gian Lao

Happiness I think it gets in the way like a road sign in Vladivostok saying Остановить. I don’t know what it means either, but I imagine myself lost in some Russian street. Not knowing where to go. As if everything in the world were equally far apart and lovable. I’ve never been to Russia, but look, I’m sitting down on a curb, writing down the opposite of my feelings because I am there, I belong there. I am the type of person who wears his pants inside out, then outside in when it gets dirty. It’s a balancing act of the heart. Some people call it a Russian Reversal and use it for comedy skits. I think it means much more. That it works on some philosophical level 40

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explaining why I treat sadness in reverse expecting much more than one word. Not knowing what’s been created.

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Isa Yap

The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility So this could be an economy too: love, self. The clean mathematics I’ve learned from books, the formulas. The physics. Equations that consist of the smell of your hair, the reek of alcohol on that tie your wear: the argyle one dangling from my bedpost, that you pulled over my eyes. Equals your laughter. Equals the night and its stars silver as bullets. The night that becomes another, where I’m lying down alone. Another where I’m saying your name, and it splinters in the hollow of my mouth. In my memories it becomes miscalculation. Overshot. An experiment of the body. The tangential movement of someone in doubt. When in doubt, check the appendix. Read the stars. Pull your suit off your shoulders and look in the mirror. Understand that it won’t solve anything. Make demands for all you’re worth. I’m drawing the lines, still trying to work it out.

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Leal Rodriguez

Dear Jamal I started, my handwriting a shaky calligraphic mess. The L scratched erratically on the thick white pad, the M a toothy phantom. The paper was full of erasures, marks and doodles. At first I tried to organize my thoughts and form an outline, like they taught me in school. Now I was left with an hour before the cab came to pick me up from my mom’s apartment, where I lived alongside her family. A family which, at that moment, had forgotten I was there. My room was already bare, its once-white walls now stained with the memories of pictures I had put up to hide its hospital feel. Packed and ready to go, I had an hour before I was shuttled off to customs, alone, like how I started two years ago. Dear Kuya, Too endearing, I thought. I did not want him to know there was love between us, nor respect. I knew he was incapable of human decency. J, That’s better. I looked out at the Manhattan skyline. It was still too bright to see the building’s lights. The roof was warm for an autumn day, despite the fact that it was twenty stories above humanity and forbidden to non-authorized personnel. From there I could see the leaves turn brown and the river ebb away into the sea. Sometimes I would throw rocks into the river, causing ripples that the typhoons of my native country could turn into torrents. I would be shipped to the Philippines today; to the floods, the pollution and my lviii 1

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other family – my real family. The one I had almost forgotten. Change had made me apathetic to my situation, being split between mom and dad, having to move from country to country. My features were a testament to my paternal conflict. I had my mother’s dark hair, my father’s sly eyes. My nose carried the diluted Spanish heritage my mother claimed right to, my onionskin complexion a testament to my father’s hidden Chinese ancestry. It has come to my attention... My mid-adolescent crisis made me agree to stay with mom. Feeling the need to remember having a stable female figure to look up to, I had three years to learn to not be her in a land where she would be my only friend. I ignored dad’s violent protests as I knew he would be okay on his own. Besides, Mom needed me. She needed an ally in the war against J. ...that I am leaving in an hour... I did not expect Jamal to come today. I never expected anything of him. That was probably the reason I was the keeper of his stories. He left me the responsibility of ending this chapter of our lives, with more than just empty weekday nights spent silently on the roof. …and I will never see you again. Again, too formal, mechanical, robotic. Everything I loved and he didn’t. It would piss him off. Then again, he might not read it. In his room were discarded letters from his teachers, impersonal post-its from his father recommending certain articles in the New York Times, or Christmas cards from 44

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his mother, the utter irony being that she was Muslim and so was he. I crumpled my paper and started from scratch, one last time. J, I’m leaving soon, and I know I’ll never see you again. Sure we might see each other during funerals and weddings, but it won’t be me then. And it won’t be you... I had forty minutes until the cab driver came to whisk me away to another day wasted, where the food was bad and the trips to the bathroom were long treks through carpeted seas. Flashbacks of here and him would plague me, if left unwritten. ...so I want to say goodbye properly. I used to think that unfinished business would resolve itself. Mom had taught me that when she left Dad. However Mom came back, three years later demanding I leave as well. The notion proved false. Where could I start? There’s so little time to write but… But there’s so little I can say to you. Besides I know all that Ritalin you’ve been snorting probably killed half your brain cells. I remembered that time he had given me Ritalin to help me with my exams. One dose and I was trembling for hours, the letters jumbling up as the number three acquired tenses, turning it into Arabic letters. My friend had taught my to write my name in Arabic so I could put my contact details on the bottom of my shoes. This was done for caution’s sake, in case lviii 1

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my plane was hijacked on its Dubai stop-over. When I told Jamal what I did, the tumors in his lungs jingled Christmas cheer, his chest heaving up and down simulating laughter. I did not know I could make him laugh. I did not know he laughed. I’ll try to keep it simple. In fact, I had never seen him smile. The closest Jamal ever got to smiling was when he barged into my room and demanded I grin for him. I smirked, my sly eyes adding unnecessary emphasis to my already sarcastic gesture. He did not notice, too caught up in his own world. He lifted his bangs to show his forehead. You are vain, self-centered and rude. “Look,” he said, his voice indignant as though he was undeserving of whatever great evil has been cast upon him. “If I lift my eyebrows, I get wrinkles on my forehead. Do yours do that?” Irritated at having to deal with another one of his psychotic rants, I retorted: “No, they don’t. I think you have a deformity.” You’re not afraid to hurt girls. I have the scar on my ankle to prove it. “It might be because you raise your eyebrows at every girl who passes by,” said Nayeli, Jamal’s real sister, my painful reminder that I was not one of them. Sweet Nayeli had come back from college early, and was staying in my room. Her presence was not considered a disturbance, since her arrival meant a welcome shift in the focus of Jamal’s temper tantrums, from me to her. 46

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“I only raise my eyebrows at girls with cleavage,” he retorted. Jamal made Nayeli raise her eyebrows. They had the same bone structure, as though his face was Xeroxed onto her frame, his hair straightened and put on her scalp. They were real siblings. I was Nayeli and Jamal’s ‘step’, there for the novelty of observing their personal lives. You guilt Nayeli into bailing you out of your problems just because she feels responsible for you. You try to be mature but throw fits when you don’t get what you want. “It might be because you keep scowling,” I said “I don’t scowl. I just don’t smile. You need to look G in the hood.” “But you’re Asian,” Nayeli interrupts, laughing at the thought of Jamal wearing headwraps and talking gangsta. “You can’t look G.” You always act tough and end up talking back to my mom and your dad, your sheer ignorance of their love making me think you inhuman. “What you do and who you’re with make you G.” His accent shifted from brown to black. “Lookit me, I wear white cuz white is clean. They respect me cuz I’m clean,” he said, lifting his shirt to reveal a dark-blue bruise. “You gotta fight to earn respect. It’s the hood life.” I smirked again as he stormed off. Another irony. Nothing could make him clean, not even snow-white dunks on his mahogany-colored feet. lviii 1

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I think I’ve always hated you. After all, I was the one who put the toothpaste in your contacts case and locked the door when I knew you forgot your key (though sometimes it was mom’s paranoia of leaving a door unlocked in Manhattan in the middle of the night, just so her delinquent step-son could sneak in past his non-existent curfew). I also messed up your doorknob so it wouldn’t lock and your dad could barge in your room whenever he wanted. It was three years ago when I first saw him. It was New Year’s Eve. He, Mom, Dad and Nayeli were off to their big adventure to the great country of Uncle Sam while I was being shipped back to my motherland, Philippines. We had not talked. We would not talk for another two years, avoiding each other’s eyes in school, averting our gazes in empty hallways when we’d be forced to face each other. I hated admitting we were related, him being the social butterfly, me preferring to be left to my own devices. The thing that made us talk to each other was Ritalin, Ritalin and the roof. But I will always remember the roof. That’s the only place we got to talk. It would be 3 a.m. and I’d be the only one up. You needed me, because you needed someone to brag to, to show your scars to, to smoke up with. I remember how you came home laughing once. You couldn’t stop. It was that bad trip you had with shrooms. You told me never to take them because when you did, you were reborn as an urchin in Mexico. And the first thought that crossed your mind was “shit, I have to start over again”. That was all you cared about: you and your empire of weed, chemical fixes and stories for show. And then there were your unlawful exploits. You had just tagged an Iranian deli with the word Habibti, sweetheart in Arabic.

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I had always been amused by Jamal’s graffiti escapades. He was not sweet, and I did not know if he had a heart. He was the one who told me that boys were mean to girls so that when they did something good, it would be remembered. I never saw the tag. But I noticed that deli door had a fresh coat of paint the next morning. “Why Habibti?” I asked. He was still shaking from the adrenaline rush, his fingers acid green from the tagging he had just done. His friends had left and he was alone on the roof, once more, with me. “My mom used to tell me this story about two sweethearts separated in the war,” he started. “They had had left each other messages on walls all over the city, so that they could meet, and later escape.” Was that what you were about? Bullshit stories that people painted over? The story had told me more about him than he could ever manage to tell himself. I had always known about his need to vandalize, but this had put his acts into perspective. It was on the roof, that sticky summer night, where he told me about his mother, and I realized he was human. The days spent pushing each other’s buttons suddenly seemed unimportant. My blasting heavy metal on Saturday mornings, his throwing dice against my wall on school nights, all these were signs. We needed something. I and he, abandoned, dialviii 1

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metric opposites, trapped in the same apartment with only the roof to go. Ritalin, the roof and your bullshit stories. My mother came back for me. His did not. The ringing of the telephone meant the taxi was downstairs waiting. I had to go. Maybe I’ll make you a story. Maybe I’ll write about you so I don’t have to think you were real, or that I met you. Maybe I won’t feel as bad knowing that you’re not out there, wasting away until you’re a pile of self-produced crap, your lungs drying up from the four packs of cigarettes you smoke every day, your sperm count lowering because of all the dope you take. And then maybe you’ll turn to ash like you deserve, and I can finally get a good night’s sleep without having to hear your bullshit stories. With that, I tore the letter, sending the pieces flying across the Manhattan skyline. “They might actually get to you.” It was time for me to check in. Mom held me tightly at first, then loose as I turned to go through airport security. The day was turning dark. I could see something glimmering in the distance. It was a passing freight train, the last I would ever see in New York. It grew bigger. I turned and saw my name tagged. I knew. I saw the graffiti. Somewhere between the east river and Chinatown, his laugh echoed. I could hear his tumors jingling Christmas cheer.

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Michelle Tan

Vanishing Point The morning after his first affair, Michael de Guzman looked at himself in the mirror and saw that he had aged overnight. His eyes reflected a dull, tired light; his cheeks were sunken; his hair practically turning gray at the edges. Incredulous, he raised a trembling hand to his reflection, and realized that he was smiling. Almost against his will, his mind traveled back to the events of the previous night—the unexpected advances of a woman at the train station; the inevitable dinner and drinks that followed; the two of them wobbling, tipsy with vodka, into a nearby motel in Quezon Avenue. Still staring at his reflection, Michael recalled the red fullness of her lips, the slight dimple on her left cheek, the soft, yielding body that curved submissively at his touch, and he trembled with longing. Instinctively, he cast a glimpse at the reflection of the empty bed behind him, half-hoping that she would suddenly reappear. His gaze swept across the thick covers, taking in the scattered pillows and clothes, eyes lingering over the careless disarray of sheets that still bore the curve of her body, as if she had not moved in her sleep at all, and had simply vanished. Turning away from the mirror, Michael scanned the floor at the foot of the bed and saw that it was littered with pieces of his office uniform, hastily strewn about in the drunken throes of the previous night. He glanced up once more at the bed before letting out a small sigh. Walking barefoot across the varnished wood, he began picking up his clothes and putting them on methodically, stretching his body to fit into the garments of a previous life. When he had finished dressing himself, he walked towards the bed and leaned over to pick up his wallet. But before he lviii 1

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could even reach it, he was stopped by the lingering smell of perfume on the tangled sheets. Michael paused, grabbed his wallet, and withdrew his hand. He closed his eyes and slowly inhaled the musky scent. When he opened them again, he felt like he was seeing things for the first time. Sitting at the edge of the bed, he quickly scanned his memory of the previous night. To his surprise, he could not come up with anything that might help him find the mysterious woman. He had spent more than two hours chatting with her and yet, try as he might, he could not remember a single thing she had said, least of all her name. It was as if she had also vanished from his memory. It appalled him to realize that he could not even recall the sound of her voice. All that he knew of her was what his body remembered—the light saltiness of her skin, the fragrant waves of her hair, the sweet taste of her tongue in his mouth. He had expected a pang of guilt at the memory, and was honestly surprised when none came. He wondered if there was something wrong with him, or if guilt was just something that came with more experience, with practice. Michael felt something throb in his chest. He stood up immediately and crossed the room to gather his belongings before heading straight down to the lobby. Paying no mind to the small group of people waiting in line, he went directly to the receptionist and proceeded to bombard her with questions. The frazzled girl did not know how to respond. Apologizing profusely, she told him that her shift had only begun a few hours ago, and that she could not have possibly seen this woman arrive with him the previous night. Michael glanced at the clock impatiently. It read half past eleven. Without so much as a nod in the girl’s direction, he quickly turned his back on her and stepped outside into the blinding noon sunlight. Rolling up the sleeves of his long white polo, he scanned the busy length of Quezon Avenue 52

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in the hopes of miraculously spotting her among the dozens of commuters hurrying along the uneven sidewalks and into idle jeepneys. As he squinted against the harsh glare reflected by the passing cars, he wondered where she could have possibly gone, and where he was supposed to begin his search. Almost immediately, his mind conjured an image of the bar where she had taken him the previous night. Before he could even remember what the place was called, his feet already began walking. Michael knew that he could easily take a jeepney to the bar, but he chose to walk the entire distance instead—a tiny, irrational part of him hoping that perhaps the more effort he gave to this search, the better his chances of finding her. Ignoring the smoke and dust constantly blowing into his face, he kept his gaze fixed straight ahead of him as he walked briskly through a crowd of faceless people, enveloping himself in its anonymity. Several minutes later, he found himself standing across the street from a familiar Japanese restaurant. As the smell of stir-fried yakisoba and tempura filled his nostrils, he remembered that this was where he had celebrated his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife several months ago. They had left their four-year-old daughter at his parents’ house and treated themselves to a late dinner. Everything had been going well until his wife asked him if he was cheating on her. Michael frowned at the memory. He had been reaching for a second piece of sashimi when she blurted it out. “Areyou havinganaffair?” she had asked, the words tumbling out of her mouth in quick succession: sharp, deliberate, rehearsed. Without even flinching, he had looked at her, dropped his chopsticks, and called for the bill. During the drive home, he kept his silence. On the seat beside him, his wife matched his composure. Neither of them had said anything since they walked out of the restaurant, but lviii 1

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Michael knew that she was convinced of his guilt. He could sense it in how her halting steps failed to keep up with his, from the way she clutched her seatbelt tightly. He knew what she was thinking, and he did not bother correcting her. As he eased the car of the parking lot, she cleared her throat and called him by his first name. He did not respond. He merely listened to her as she calmly composed a list of accusations that they both knew he could not deny. After all, most of the things she said were true. Yes, he often lied to her about working overtime; yes, he regularly sneaked out of the house in the early hours of the morning. But she was also wrong: he had never once kept a lover or visited a prostitute. He usually just drove along Roxas Boulevard with the windows rolled down, savoring the feeling of the cool night wind on his skin. Sometimes he stayed to watch the sunrise. He would park the car a few yards away, take a stroll alongside Manila Bay, and stare at the stars as he waited for dawn. No, up until then he had never cheated on his wife; Michael was certain. What bothered him as he drove home that night was why. Glancing at his wife in the passenger’s seat, he wondered why he had never strayed during the past years. It was certainly not because he loved her too much, or because he was afraid of getting caught. He wondered if perhaps it was because of their daughter, but he quickly dismissed the idea. Not that he didn’t care for her, but he found it too strained, too inadequate a reason. Sliding the car neatly in front of their house in Parkway Village, he shifted the gear to neutral and told the dashboard in a deadpan tone, “I’ve never had an affair.” He killed the engine, and the car shook with the force of his confession. A long silence followed: Michael’s eyes tracing the edges of the steering wheel, his wife contemplating the lines of her palms. Pushing the door open, he stepped out and turned to look at his wife. He hesitated, then slammed the door shut. 54

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Michael had not realized that he had stopped walking. Standing only a few meters away from the restaurant, he quickly blinked back the memory and resumed trudging his feet up the sidewalk, determined to bury his thoughts. When he finally reached the bar several minutes later, he found it empty. A worn sign stated that business hours were only from 6 p.m. onwards. He stood there dumbly for several seconds before turning around and striding towards the train station where he had first met her. This time, he took a jeepney. Accustomed to the noontime commute, he jostled his way past the multitudes of people and hoisted himself onto an already crowded vehicle. Seeing that there was not enough room for him inside, he remained hanging onto the back of the jeepney, firmly gripping a handlebar for support. The metal was surprisingly cool against his skin, and he was strangely reminded of his wife’s cold, clammy hands. He recalled touching them for the first time, as he helped her pick out books in the college library where they had first bumped into each other between shelves J and K. Whispering quietly to themselves, they had strolled together along the narrow corridors, pretending to browse books on poetry and literature. Before they reached Special Collections, he had nervously invited her to lunch, and she had accepted. Michael felt as if he was looking back on someone else’s life. He couldn’t, for the life of him, picture himself standing between rows and rows of books, trailing this young woman who would eventually become his wife. His wife. The word suddenly seemed foreign to him. Without warning, the jeepney driver hit the brake just as they reached a pedestrian lane; Michael gripped the handlebar more tightly. In that instant, he asked himself why he had married her in the first place. lviii 1

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He remembered staring into her radiant face at the altar, her mouth set in a slight smile, his hand enveloping hers. It seemed like he was recalling something from a dream. Even then, as his lips pledged undying loyalty to her, a part of him doubted whether he was making the right decision. But still he had married her, partly because it seemed convenient at the time, and partly because he was afraid that even if he did fall in love with someone else, he would find that it was not worth the gamble. After all, what had kept him going then was the certainty that he always had an option, an alternative: he could always choose to take a risk. In his own twisted logic, the unknown made everything possible. What frightened him was the thought of actually pursuing it, and finding that behind its promise of everything, there was actually nothing. He imagined how it would feel, the last bit of uncertainty slipping away from his fingers, and him facing a world full of the constant, the known, and none the happier. For the rest of the ride, Michael tried to keep himself quiet. With several confused thoughts running through his head, he doubted whether he even stood a chance of actually finding the woman from the previous night. For the first time that day, he wondered what he would do if he did manage to locate her. He honestly had no idea. All he wanted was to see her again, to recover his memory of the previous night. Surely, he told himself, that would be enough. The jeepney had been stopped at an intersection for only a few seconds when a toddler inside suddenly began to cry. She was only about three years old, wearing a bright blue dress and clamoring for her father’s attention. Muttering an apology to the rest of the passengers, he hoisted her onto his lap and tried vainly to distract her with an oversized keychain. But it was too late. Already Michael’s mind had taken him back a year ago, when he and his wife had lost their daughter 56

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during holiday sale at a mall. They had been searching for almost an hour before they finally found her sitting underneath a large Christmas tree, crying loudly for her mother. He had rushed to her side and swept her up in his arms, but she just as quickly squirmed away from him and leapt into her mother’s embrace. Even now, he could still feel the emptiness he had felt then in his arms. The jeepney began moving again, jostling him out of his reverie. Cringing at the child’s loud wailing, he thrust a few coins to the passenger nearest him before jumping down from the moving vehicle. He quickly crossed the street to the curb, hardly noticing the repeated honking of several cars behind him. With the train station only a few blocks away, he let himself be led by the throng of people rushing towards the overpass. Climbing the metal stairs wearily, he struggled to push away images of the previous night, still reeling from the memory of his daughter. As the blazing sun beat down fiercely on his back, something erupted within Michael. He was not entirely surprised. It was not a new feeling for him: cold tendrils sprouting from his back to spread slowly across his body, sinking itself into every nook and cranny, inching its way closer and closer to his heart until there was nothing left but to strangle it, the warm blood oozing from his arteries and veins, freezing into a cold mass of silent complicity. He kept walking. Somehow, the pain felt good to him. But it was not enough. He wanted, needed more, and he knew exactly how to get it. In his mind, he outlined the dainty shape of her fingernails, the curve of her elbows; inhaled the dabs of perfume behind her ear, on her navel; nibbled at the spaces behind her knees, between her toes. He savored these tiny bits of her, every inch that his body had committed to memory, every single inch that he could no longer see, or touch, or caress. Every inch that was no longer his. lviii 1

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Guilt. His mind seized upon the word. It led him places, opened up aspects of himself that he didn’t even know existed. In them, he stumbled upon memories. First, his wife: the milky smell of her skin, the curve of her lips, the exact partitioning of her hair. Then an image of his daughter, many years ago: her tiny earlobes, clenched fists, small baby feet exactly the size of his ear. He knew this because he liked to listen for the thump thump thump of her heartbeat in the unlikeliest places, as if he wanted to measure just how far her heart was willing to extend itself for him. In that instant, he remembered. Just when he thought it would never come, all his memory of the previous night suddenly came together inside him, as if they had been there all along, and had simply been waiting for him to remember. He closed his eyes, and he knew her again: a low, soothing voice telling him that her name was Erika. Michael forgot to breathe. He let himself be swayed, be pushed towards the station. It did not seem to matter anymore. “Guilt,” she had said thirteen hours ago, as she lit a cigarette with one hand. She was sprawled on the floor, a white sheet partly covering her legs. “Still feel it?” she had asked. He had taken a cold shower and was toweling himself by the bed. “No,” he replied curtly. He did not look at her. She rolled over, propped herself up on her elbows, cigarette between her fingers. “Bath did good for you, then?” She took a long drag. Pretending not to have heard, he threw the soiled towel into the open bathroom doorway. He sat down in the middle of the bed and let his wet hair drip onto the white sheets. He flicked a glance at her. She was watching him with disinterest. He shrugged, but did not look away. She narrowed her eyes at him before pulling herself up slowly, conscious of his gaze on her body. His eyes swept over every curve. None of them were unfamiliar. 58

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She climbed the bed in one swift movement, moving closer to him until her face was only inches away from his. She had gotten rid of the cigarette. She was looking at him with amusement, curiosity. Her mouth parted. She leaned in, murmured something into his ear. He was not listening. He didn’t even know if it was a question or not. She kissed him then, and he never found out. Michael found himself buying a ticket, though he didn’t know why. He felt as if he was retracing someone else’s movements last night. He was floating high up in the air, looking down at a copy of himself, lost in a crowd. Then all at once he was back on the ground, and he did not know where to go. He wanted to turn back, confess, apologize, but still he found himself walking on, his feet shuffling along beside the railway. He was just about to sit down on a bench when the train came in, filling the terminal with the hollow roar of its engine. The doors flew open, and suddenly the platform was crowded. He found himself approaching the last compartment, pushing past the other commuters to get to the side nearest the window. The train rumbled, began to move. Michael’s face was turned towards the window. He caught a glimpse of a familiar woman running up the stairs to the platform. She was wearing a fitted red uniform. She caught her breath at the landing, several meters away from the train. For a moment, they stared at each other, him clutching at errant strands of memory, her disappearing into a shadowy silhouette, and then the train sped away from the terminal. Everything blended into the horizon. The railway tracks rolled out into the distance. Michael turned himself away. The city landscape moved past him, slowly, deliberately. The afternoon sun shone fiercely through the window. He did not close his eyes.

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Belonging to My Body I should have been born a boy. At least, that’s what everybody said of me practically the moment I was born. Only then, of course, the idea of being the family tomboy still possessed the irresistible charm of novelty. I could not have known that this joke of an observation would foreshadow the rest of my childhood, following me well into adolescence. Even now, I can almost hear my relatives’ chorus of voices, indistinct and heavy with undertone, strained from having to hide beneath the certainty and protection of a smile. In the eyes of my Chinese family, proper girls came in small, pale, petite packages, like my eldest cousin Ireen, whom I envied until college. Having been too dark and plump for their standards, I became an easy target for my uncles’ shaming jokes and my aunts’ pointed suggestions, mostly given to fill the awkward silences during family gatherings. My father liked to join in on the fun as well. He would tease me and my younger brother that the gods probably had our genders confused, for he had been very pale and thin as a child, and I was clearly the odd one out on the girls’ side of the table. On the way home, he would repeat the more memorable jokes and ask my opinion on them, as if to gauge my capacity for humor. “Michelle,” he would call, glancing at me through the rearview mirror. “Uncle Alex said you ate well again today. What did you think of that?” Usually I tried to avoid these questions, mumbling a comment on something else or pretending to be engrossed in the passing landscape. If I remained silent he would chuckle and whisper to my mother, in a tone that wavered between mockery and nonchalance, “I think she’s angry.” 60

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Mostly she defended me, chastising him for teasing me or skillfully steering the conversation somewhere else. At the time, I considered her my sole ally. Her silent reassurance seemed to make everything much more bearable—until one Sunday afternoon, the day after a Christmas reunion, I found myself standing at a L’Oreal outlet, watching her pile bottles of whitening lotions into a shopping basket. Instinctively, I touched her arm. Placing a firm hand over mine, she quickly led me towards a counter, and I felt myself bristling as a helpful saleslady looked me over from head to toe. My cheeks flushed at the recognition of shame. . . . Once, during a housewarming dinner, I found out that it was all part of a game. My mother had been invited to an aunt’s newly renovated house in Manila, and I had offered to accompany her to the party. We arrived at an elaborate two-story house surrounded by a well-trimmed garden. The front doors opened to a white living room with newly painted walls and gleaming tiles. A crystal chandelier hung elegantly from the ceiling, bathing the room in yellow light. Everything was pristine. I was glad to have dressed well for the occasion. Dinner was held at the back patio. The starless night was lit up by multicolored Christmas lights strewn across the branches of low trees. My mother exchanged greetings with several distant relatives I did not recognize. My eyes wandered around the garden in search of a familiar face. I found none, save for a fleeting glimpse of my favorite godmother, who was busy chattering with the other guests in the kitchen. As the people around me continued to converse, I preoccupied myself instead with visions of warm food, too young and diffident to initiate a conversation. Suddenly, my mother said something in reference to me, and I was pulled out of my reverie. lviii 1

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“Oh. You’re Helen’s daughter?” a distant aunt remarked from across the table, her eyes widening in surprise. For a moment I wondered if she thought I was the housemaid. A dozen ears pricked up at the tone of her voice. I did not know it then, but apparently the game had begun. Lips stopped in mid-conversation, blank faces turning towards me in anticipation. I automatically straightened my posture, selfconscious and eager to please. I nodded vigorously, smiling, grateful for the attention. In the silence that followed, she peered down at me, her face contorting into a frown. “Well, that’s all right,” she sighed, in a tone meant to be reassuring, “there’s always whitening.” And just like that, the game ended. The others turned away, already bored. My smile faded just the slightest bit, a quick retort gathering at the corners of my mouth. I bit my tongue, fingers curling, mentally noted down a point against me. I stole a glance at my mother, seated to my left. She was fingering the edges of her napkin, faithfully swallowing her food. . . . I learned to recognize this game too, eventually. The rules were simple. You played with words, chose your pieces carefully, and lined them up according to merit, weighing the ambiguity of their intentions and their capacity for pain. The players themselves may change every so often, but the roles they play remained the same. It soon became routine for me to spot them in a crowd: the sharp-tongued but seemingly well-meaning aunt, the awkward, pick-of-the-day cousin, his or her suddenly mute parents, the bemused uncles, and my single, oblivious grandmother. Of course, there was also the rapt audience formed by the remaining cousins; after all, like any other performance, the success of the game depended solely on the presence of spectators. 62

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Whenever I had the rare blessing of being part of the audience, I jumped at the chance to observe the proceedings from the perspective of an outsider. I took down notes in my mind. Usually, the beginning of a game would be signaled by a lull in conversation. Some of the younger children would be running around the room, chased by dour housemaids carrying tiny plates of food. Those of us who no longer had the fortune of having single-digit ages would either be talking quietly to each other or fumbling with our cellphones. Someone, an enterprising uncle perhaps, might break the silence by calling attention to any one of us who belonged in that unpleasant stage between childhood and adulthood. Indubitably, everyone’s heads would turn toward the chosen target, who bewilderedly prepared himself or herself for the oncoming onslaught. The rest of us would exhale a tiny breath of relief. The game was underway. Each round would begin with a seemingly innocuous question. “How do you like the food?” someone might ask, for example. All of us watching knew there was no right answer to this, but of course one had to give a reply. “It’s okay,” a cousin might mumble, perhaps already cringing in anticipation of the joke: “Must be why you’ve downed so much already! Didn’t think anyone was looking, huh?” The others would laugh, naturally, and try to keep up the banter. Occasionally, someone would cross a line, and the cousin’s parents would attempt a flimsy defense. At best, they might succeed in introducing a new topic of interest and dissolve the game. At worst, they might end up calling unwanted attention to themselves, upon which the game entered a new phase. I never found out why my aunts liked to play this game, but perhaps part of the excitement for them was the knowledge that even they weren’t immune to it either. I must admit, there was a certain morbid fascination to seeing them launch thinly-disguised criticisms at each other. It was a much more lviii 1

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thrilling version of the game because all of them were much more adept at it than any of us third-generation cousins. As a spectator, you couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of insult they managed to veil with concerned remarks while keeping up appearances at the same time. If you hadn’t been following their dialogue closely, you probably wouldn’t detect anything wrong. With time, I understood the importance of keeping up this façade: the game’s secret lay in cultivating tact and discretion; crudeness was never an option, at least not for my aunts. Watching them, I learned to measure skill in units of sharpness, subtlety, or sarcasm. Sometimes I wondered what it felt like, to be able to flick a glance at someone, a relative, and casually remark on the dullness of her hair, the size of her feet, her current weight. And the smile. Always, always with a smile. . . . Many years later, while waiting in line at a buffet table, a younger cousin would ask me how I had managed to lose weight so quickly. I sensed a hint of envy in her voice, and I told her the truth: puberty; it simply happened. Gemberlie pressed her lips together in disappointment. Perhaps she had expected a different answer, the kind that involved the sharing of dieting secrets, the kind I was unable to give. I stole a surreptitious glance at her thirteen-year-old body, and recalled the many words of advice her own mother had given me before. For a moment, a pointed remark lingered on my tongue, and as I watched her fidget under my gaze, I contemplated playing the game. For once, I held the dice, and I was surprised at how natural it seemed just then. Spiteful words rolled around in my mouth, eager to be spoken, impatient for revenge. I bit down on my lip and considered my options until I reached the buffet 64

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table. As I heaped a serving onto my plate, I was conscious of Gemberlie moving behind me to occupy the space I had filled. In that moment, I was illumined. Seeing her behind me, I was flooded with understanding. Eyes cast down, I concentrated on picking up a spoon. My hand swayed. In the end I chose not to say anything, although even now I can’t explain exactly why. A tiny calmness had spread inside me, as if something had been quelled within, and perhaps that was enough for me. It was a strange feeling. I remember moving away from the buffet table and thinking, it was not that hard after all. But it was not always like that. Adolescence, and the years before, was much more difficult. At eleven, what I knew about myself was limited to a few things: I was not beautiful; I was darker and chubbier than I was supposed to be; and I would always be at the losing end of the game. There was nothing I could have done then, I know that now, and yet at the time it felt like a huge weight rested upon me, like the world was constantly waiting for me to make my move. And so I staged a brief, foolish rebellion. I have memories of refusing my mother’s offers of Coppertone at the beach, arguing that sunscreen was only for people with a fair complexion to protect. I risked my bare skin, daring the sun to do its worst, stubborn in the belief that it was impossible for me to get any darker. I can only approximate the surprise—and horror!—I felt a few hours later, when I came face to face with a mirror, and saw the outline of a swimsuit stamped resolutely on my darkened body. It was my punishment for defiance, I was certain. Submission came quickly afterwards, although not quite as obviously. I remember accidentally peeling a scab on my knee and discovering the tiny, white shape of a scar underneath. I was amazed. It is silly to admit it now, but at the time I dreamed of one day removing this scar of a dark covering lviii 1

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and finally—finally!—discovering white skin underneath. So it had been hiding inside me all this time, I thought excitedly. Perhaps then it was just a matter of waiting for that one moment of redemption. My turn would come, I told myself. All I had to do was wait. And in the years that followed, I did. But for all my anticipation, nothing came. Instead, a lot of things changed. I am not quite sure how it happened. I blinked, and suddenly the game was no more. The teasing faded, disappeared altogether. Jokes turned into praises, pieces of advice into honest queries. I grew up, and suddenly I wasn’t the ugly duckling anymore. Perhaps they had tired of the old game. Maybe it had gone out of fashion, or was no longer the custom. Exactly when it disappeared, I did not notice. Then again, it might just be because they had found someone else. I wonder if they had simply grown tired of me, or if I had finally changed enough to merit their disinterest. Perhaps both. I ask myself: does it really matter? I would never know. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon half an answer. It was December of 2008. We had accepted my uncle’s invitation to spend the week with them in Cebu and nearby Bohol. Aboard the plane, I envisioned white beaches, fresh seafood, tarsiers, and of course, the famed chocolate hills. I was excited. Traveling my own country seemed like a good way to spend the holidays. At the resort, our rented huts stood closely together, situated only a few meters away from the pools and the open sea. We emerged from our rooms decked in swimsuits and ready for the beach. After much hesitation, I had decided to wear my only bikini, covered with a modest skirt. I emerged from our hut feeling very self-conscious and more than a bit embarrassed. I was alone. My family had opted to stay inside the room, too exhausted from the trip. As I walked away from our hut, I encountered Aunt Gerlie and her eldest daughter, 66

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already on their way to the beach. We trudged up the sandy path together, our flip-flops slapping the ground in excited rhythm. In the distance, the sea glistened in the heat of the sun. “Achi Michelle, you’re so slim!” Gemberlie gushed in an envious tone. I looked down at myself and waved her compliments away. I regretted wearing the bikini. “Don’t worry, Gem. You’ll also get thinner,” her mother assured her. “Remember, your cousin was also fat before. Isn’t that right, Michelle?” My back stiffened, but I smiled at Gemberlie and answered, “Yes, of course. Just wait until you grow taller!” She protested, saying that she’s already much taller than me. I knew she was right, but I pretended not to hear. My mind was already far away. I sunk my feet in the sand and thought silently to myself: of course. . . . Just when I was absolutely certain that I could never be beautiful, the people around me started to perceive me differently. The year was 2007, and I had just entered university. I met new friends, who had not grown up in a Chinese setting, who laughed at me when I called myself dark. They thought I was kidding. I became notorious for arguing with people whenever they gave me compliments. I could not help myself; I was not used to the attention. I had a few theories, foremost among them being the simple fact that I was Chinese. I assumed that my Filipino friends took interest in me because I was different from them, because they were not familiar with my features. This argument was immediately shot down by friends who had also gone to Chinese schools. Many of them insisted that they had seen enough of us to be able to judge well, and they wondered lviii 1

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why I kept probing them for reasons, why I could not simply accept their compliments for what they were. I could give them no honest reply. The truth was, I suspected them of mocking me. I remember feeling disturbed whenever someone gave me a compliment, simply because I could not determine whether it was made sincerely or in jest. It was not until my sophomore year that I began to feel more secure about myself. I learned to accept compliments more gracefully (though still not as graciously as others), not because I felt I deserved them, but because by then I knew enough about my friends to know that they would not mock me. For a time I wondered if this meant that my family had a different set of standards from my friends, if I was somehow good enough for one but not the other. Curious, I began to pay more attention to offhand remarks during family gatherings, and sure enough, I notice that even these have changed. My appearance was no longer a topic of interest, save a few comments now and then. Maybe it was around this point that they lost interest in me, or in the game. Either way, this left me feeling very unsettled. I was honestly a bit relieved, grateful even, but more than anything else I remember feeling unsettled. From then on I would always be on my toes, wary and waiting, wondering if there was a hitch to this, and when it would catch up with me. In the years that followed, I would find out. . . . It is the eve of 2010. I am standing beside my cousin, watching the fireworks. A few relatives have come over to celebrate New Year. We have already eaten dinner, and are dutifully lined along the terrace, conversing and laughing, wine glasses tinkling in our hands. Amid the noise, my father holds his 68

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glass up to me and says, “You know, you really shouldn’t stand beside Stephanie. The contrast makes you look even darker.” Something stirs within me, but I ignore it. My jaw drops in mock offense, and I take a step away from my cousin. Jokingly, I put my hands on my hips. Leveling my eyes with my father’s, I chuckle and threaten to abandon fixing his laptop. “Oh no, not that,” he replies, waving his hand around to recant his comment. The crowd laughs heartily, and my aunt slaps him lightly on the shoulder. I smile as I watch them tease each other in Chinese, and it was then that I realize my mistake: the game never did completely disappear. It was just me, after all. It was I who had been changing all along. I lean against the banister and take a sip of wine. Behind me, the fireworks continue their celebration. . . . Christmas the week before. We are at City Best, taking pictures with each other after a satisfying meal. My two uncles take on the role of director, and the children shuffle around the room according to their instructions. I am busying myself with a camera when my eldest cousin Ireen grabs me by the arm and plants me firmly against a wall. My younger cousins Gemberlie and Geslyn soon follow, unable to resist Ireen’s firm resolve. Our other family members begin to gather around us, their cameras poised and ready. I remember thinking that we must have looked quite strange, four girls lined up against a carpeted wall. We all feel awkward, except for Ireen, who is enthusiastically demonstrating various poses for us to imitate. My uncles laugh at me as I slap my forehead in embarrassment. Someone tells us to hurry up, and Ireen resorts to moving our bodies for us. She lifts our hands to our waists and instructs us to bend our knees at an angle. Geslyn, the lviii 1

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youngest, is the last to surrender. Ireen fusses around her a bit more before finally settling herself beside me. The cameras huddle around us. I feel embarrassed, but I find myself laughing and enjoying the moment. I knew we probably looked like fools, but suddenly I didn’t care. I remember smiling at the camera, my body twisted in a pose imitating my cousin’s. The flash blinds us for a moment. My smile lingers just a little longer than usual, and I think, it is not so hard after all.

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Glenn Sevilla Mas

Two scenes from Games People Play “Children are completely egoistic; they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them.” sigmund freud “The monster a child knows best and is most concerned with [is] the monster he feels or fears himself to be.” bruno bettelheim

characters diego – A confused, fatherless boy who turns into an even more confused young man. julio – An effeminate boy who develops into an unhappy gay man. luna – A trusting girl who becomes a nun pursued by the most lustful dreams. These characters are portrayed by adult actors who embody their characters’ childlike qualities, but underline their performances with the cynicism of adults who have, many times, exhaustedly “been there” and “done that.” All three characters are assigned individual spaces on the stage, and unless specified, they never, ever leave these spaces. setting The play takes place in a dark and bare set. time The past and present. Note: The scene titles, the time, and the progression of the characters’ ages should be shown before the start of each scene. For character lviii 1

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shifts – meaning scenes where the characters play roles other than the ones already assigned to them – props or costumes indicative of these shifts – a fan, a shawl, a doll, et cetera – may be used. . . .

scene seven Scene Title: “This Boy’s Life” Time: The past. This scene takes place a few weeks after the previous scene. Lights shine on both Diego and Julio. As in Scene Three, Julio again assumes the role of Diego’s unbelievably passive mother. diego

(To Julio) Sometimes I wish he didn’t leave.

Light also shines on Luna, who goes through her poses again, but with conscious sexual undertones this time. diego

(To himself ) Why are my thoughts about one thing, and one thing only? Why can I not lie in bed and just peacefully go to sleep? (To Julio) Sometimes I wish I’d arrive home and it’s not you I’d find here. (To himself ) Because it’s all I can think of! It’s wrong I know, but it’s all I can think of! And the more I try to not think about it, the more that I end up actually thinking about it! At night, in my room, in the clinic, in the bathroom, at noon, in the afternoon, in church, in the library, in the cemetery, before a game, during a game, after a game, when I’m eating,

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reading, supposed to be studying, it’s all I can think of! (To Julio) Because maybe with him I can talk. And maybe with him I won’t be afraid to ask about these things. Because he might understand and he will assure me so. So I will no longer feel weird about all these. (To himself ) Ay, why can I not stop myself from doing what it is I always do when I’m alone? (A beat, softly) I am a bad person! I am a very, very, very bad person and I hate, hate, hate myself! (To Julio) And maybe … maybe then, I’ll feel better about myself. Myself. My self. (To himself ) Ay Ginuo, I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate. My self. And then Diego slowly, and reluctantly, starts touching himself. Lights out. . . .

scene eight Scene Title: “These Forbidden Games” Time: The past. This scene takes place a few more weeks after the previous one. Lights shine on Diego and Julio’s spaces. An ordinary black chair is placed in Julio’s space. He sits on it, a bit uneasily. In his space, Diego is putting all his marbles inside his pocket. In a while, he leaves his space and enters Julio’s. lviii 1

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diego

Julio! Have you been here long?

julio

Not … really.

diego

But didn’t you say six thirty?

julio

I did, yes.

diego

So why were you here early?

Julio just keeps quiet. diego

Julio?

Julio just shrugs. In a while, Diego takes out his marbles. diego

So come on, let’s play!

julio

Marbles? Ay, no.

diego

What?

julio

I mean, not with marbles again, no.

diego

Why?

julio

Well … I’ve been thinking about it.

diego

About what?

julio

That game. Marbles.

diego

And?

julio

And I’m not sure I still want to play it.

diego

Why?

julio

We’re eleven already, Diego. (A beat) And I always lose.

diego

Sus ta, you don’t. You don’t always lose, Julio.

Julio laughs. 74

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diego

And you might win this time.

julio

Ay, you’ll still win, Diego, that’s for sure.

diego

Why?

julio

Because we’ve played that game since we were … what … five? And you win every time.

diego

What do you mean I win every time? I don’t win every time. (A beat) At least, not every time like … every time all the time.

Julio shrugs when he hears this. diego

Well, all right. If you don’t want to.

Diego pockets his marbles again. diego

So what do we do now?

julio

I don’t know. (A beat) Think of another game, I guess.

diego

Okay. Let’s think then. Another game. Not marbles.

julio

Yes. Another game. Not marbles.

A moment of silence. diego

Although … I really do like playing with marbles, Julio. And you did agree yesterday that we will play with marbles again today. So …

julio

I agreed to play, Diego, yes, but … I didn’t say with marbles.

A moment of silence. diego lviii 1

Something’s … What’s with you today? 75


julio

What do you mean?

diego

You’re acting … weird. (A beat) Did something happen at home? With your nanay?

julio

No. My nanay, she’s fine. (A beat) What do you mean … weird?

diego

Weird. Just … weird! Not like you kind of weird.

Julio sighs. julio

Playing with marbles has become very, very predictable, Diego. You always win, I always lose. It’s boring! And games are not supposed to be boring. They’re supposed to be fun and exciting and full of surprises and …

Diego smiles. diego

All right, all right, I get it! (A beat) So you think of another game then.

A moment of silence. diego

What. Julio, if we’re not playing anything, I might as well go home. I have so many things to do today. My lola doesn’t even know that I’m …

julio

Okay.

Julio stands up, and steps away from the chair. julio

Sit.

A confused Diego just stares at Julio. diego 76

Sit? heights


julio

Yes, Diego, sit.

Diego sits on the chair. diego

And?

Julio goes behind Diego, and lightly touches the latter’s head with one finger of his right hand. He then places this hand in front of Diego. diego

What is that? What are you doing?

julio

We’re playing a game.

diego

What game?

julio

Pitik-bulag.

diego

Pitik-bulag? How do you play that?

julio

We just started. I stand behind you … I touch the back of your head with one of my fingers … I place my hand in front of you … you just guess which finger touched you.

diego

That’s it? That’s the game?

Julio just smiles. diego

And that’s supposed to be fun?

Julio shrugs. diego

All right, Julio. If you say so. Let’s play that new game.

Diego and Julio play several rounds of pitik-bulag. In a while … diego

Sus, Julio, this game is boring.

A moment of silence. julio lviii 1

Boring. 77


diego

Yes, boring! (Laughs) I say this game is even more boring than playing with marbles!

julio

All right. So let’s change the rules a bit. To make the game more fun.

diego

Change how?

julio

Each time you make a wrong guess, Diego, I’ll ask you to do something.

diego

You’ll ask me to … Like what?

julio

You have to make a wrong guess first, Diego. Then I’ll tell you what.

A moment of silence as Diego thinks it over. diego

Okay.

julio

Now face front again.

Diego does as instructed. Julio takes out a handkerchief, and ties Diego’s hands with it. diego

Julio, what are you doing?

julio

Making the game more fun, Diego. I thought you wanted to make the game more fun.

Diego keeps quiet, but soon indicates his acceptance. The game resumes. At first, Diego guesses correctly. In a while, however, he makes a wrong guess. julio

Now, open your shirt.

diego

What?

julio

I said open your shirt.

A moment of silence. 78

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diego

I can’t. You tied my hands.

A moment of silence. julio

So I will do it for you.

diego

What? Why?

julio

Because your hands are tied. And it’s part of the game. You agreed to change it, Diego, remember?

A moment of silence. diego

Do you have to?

Julio doesn’t answer. diego

(Softly, to himself ) This game is weird.

A moment of silence. diego

But fine. Let’s follow your rules.

Julio slowly and awkwardly unbuttons Diego’s shirt. Then, they resume playing the game. After a few turns, Diego again makes a wrong guess. julio

Your pants this time, Diego, I’ll take them off.

diego

What? No way!

julio

Why?

diego

Because I don’t want to.

julio

But it’s just a game, Diego. It’s fun, it’s unpredictable, it’s …

diego

(Overlapping) Just a game? Really, Julio, just a game! And what sort of a sick game is this, anyway? I don’t feel comfortable playing this.

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julio

Why? Does it remind you of something?

diego

What?

julio

Does the game remind you of something?

A long moment of silence. diego

Why do you ask?

julio

I asked first.

Another long moment of silence. diego

Who told you about it?

julio

So it’s true then.

A moment of silence. diego

It was nothing, Julio. It only happened once. And I was sleeping! I just woke up with my shirt open … and my pants open, too. And I’m not … I didn’t do anything. I just let him play with …

julio

(Overlapping) That’s right. You didn’t do anything.

diego

Julio, he is older and bigger! He is already fifteen! And I was asleep when it started to happen! (A beat) And I was only curious!

Julio just stares angrily at Diego. diego

And what’s it to you, anyway?

A moment of silence. In a while, Diego snickers at Julio. diego 80

So it’s true then. heights


julio

True what?

diego

What they say about you.

julio

They who?

diego

The other boys in school.

julio

What?

diego

Come on, Julio. You know what they say about you. I piss in the same comfort room, remember? So I read what they wrote about you. (A beat) Julio agi, may putay sa dahi. (Faggot Julio has a vagina on his forehead.)

Julio glares at Diego, who continues to snicker. julio

Why did you allow him to do it, Diego? You said you didn’t like him. You said you didn’t want to be in his company because …

diego

Because what? Because what, Julio, because what?

Julio doesn’t answer. diego

Go on! I said I didn’t want to be in his company because …?

Julio remains silent. diego

Why can you not say it?

julio

I thought we were friends.

diego

We are friends! We are friends, Julio, we are! That’s why I don’t understand why you …

A moment of silence. julio lviii 1

Why I what? 81


diego

Tied my hands, opened my shirt …

Another moment of silence. diego

… take off my pants. Is that what friends do to their friends, Julio?

Julio doesn’t answer. diego

What.

Julio cannot look at Diego in the eye. diego

So is your game over? Because now that you took it this far, I do have …

Diego slowly smiles. diego

… a suggestion of my own.

Julio slowly looks at Diego. diego

I propose a new game, Julio. But we can only play it once. And once we play it, you cannot play it again. Not with me.

julio

Why?

diego

Because I said so. It’s my game, Julio, remember? So I make the rules.

Diego stares at Julio smugly, and then slowly stretches his legs. julio

So … if I decide to play your game, Diego …

diego

Then that’s it. You cannot play it again with me. You can play it with others, Julio, but not with me.

julio

Ever?

diego

Ever.

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julio

And that’s the end of it.

diego

That’s the end of it.

A moment of silence. julio

But if I don’t …

diego

Then we can play with marbles again.

julio

Marbles.

diego

As often as you like.

julio

In spite of the fact that I’m …

diego

Yes. In spite of that fact.

A long moment of silence. julio

Tell you what, Diego. It’s getting late. It’ll be dark soon.

Julio sits in front of Diego. julio

And in the dark, no one will see anything. Not even us, Diego. (A beat) Promise you won’t tell anyone.

Diego doesn’t look at Julio. He stares ahead. julio

Promise.

Diego closes his eyes, and then leans back on the chair. The lights dim as Julio opens Diego’s pants, and then pulls them down. The marbles inside Diego’s pants fall out of his pockets, and roll off the stage. Lights out.

Second Prize, English Full-length Play 2007 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature lviii 1

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Kristian Sendon Cordero

Parabula ng Kambing Inihanda na ang alagang hayop. Hindi na mahalaga kung sino ang nag-alaga kung kayâ hindi na rin kinuha ang pangalan nito ng eskribano na siyang nakatalagang mangasiwa sa buong ritwal. Hindi nga rin tiyak kung inaalagan nga talaga ang nasabing hayop. Basta ang mahalaga naroroon ito at walang pakiwari sa kung ano ang nakatakdang maganap sa umagang iyon. Dumating ang hari at reyna sakay ng karwahe. Naroroon din ang mga kawal at ang buong taong-bayan. Ginagawa lamang sa loob ng isang taon sa bukana ng bayan, ang nasabing ritwal bago ang ikalawang pamimilog ng buwan at ang paglitawan ng mga kakaibang bulaklak sa parang kung saan bago ito sumibol, madalas na makita ang mga ligaw na tupa, kambing at paminsan-minsan naliligaw din dito ang mga baboy na hindi rin nila pinapansin dahil sa paniniwalang mga naparusahang anghel ang mga baboy. Subalit minsan may isang ketongin na humuli, kumatay at kumain ng nasabing hayop. At balitang may ilang tao sa kaharian na kumakain na rin nito mula nang makita nilang nagpipiyesta ang ketongin. Lasang anghel daw ang laman ng mga hayop. Ngunit hindi tungkol sa baboy ang parabulang ito. Hila-hilang inilabas ang kambing sa kanyang hawla. Katulad ng ibang kambing naging maingay din ang nasabing hayop dahil na rin sa pangangaladkad ng kawal. Sa ritwal na ito, pamumunuan ng eskribano ang panimulang panalangin para sa kapatawaran ng kasalanan ng buong bayan. Ito ang taunang pampublikong pangungumipisal kung kailan ginagamit ang isang kambing bilang alay sa kanilang diyos. Kinakailangang lumahok sa nasabing ritwal ang lahat ng mamamayan ng lungsod, simula sa edad na pito hanggang pitumpu’t-pito. Ang mga wala na o wala pa sa edad ay 84

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hinahayaan na lamang na magsunog ng kamangyan at magalay ng isang dosenang itlog ng pugo sa templo. Ang mga magulang naman ang nag-aalay para sa kapatawaran ng kasalanan ng kanilang mga anak na hindi pa abot sa hustong gulang ng paglahok sa kumpisal ng bayan. Sa pag-usal ng mga dasal ng eskribano, lumakas ang ihip ng hangin at tinangay nito papasok ng bayan ang mga buhangin na nagmumula sa disyerto—dito nila itinataboy ang alay na hayop upang gumala at maligaw at sa kalauna’y inaasahang mamamatay sa gitna ng pag-iisa kasama ang kanilang mga kasalanan. Pagkatapos ng dasal ng eskribano, unang lumapit ang hari sa kambing, na para sa ritwal na ito’y nagsuot ng sako ng abono at naglagay ng abo sa kanyang ulo. Pagkalapit ng hari, lumuhod ito sa harapan ng hayop na walang muwang na ang hari ng lungsod ang naninikluhod sa kanya. Pinigilan ng ilang kawal ang hayop na nababalisa sa kahit anumang nangyayari paggalaw. Sa kaliwang tenga ng kambing, ibinulong ng hari ang kanyang mga kasalanan. Inabot ito ng limang minuto. Agad na tumayo ang hari pagkatapos ng pagbuyboy at nakayukong tinungo ang karwahe habang nakalagay ang kanyang kaliwang kamay sa kanyang dibdib. Sumunod naman ang reyna na para sa okasyong ito nagsuot ng itim na belo. Sa araw na ito, may ilan pang ginawang penitensya ng reyna. Napansin ng taumbayan na hindi ito nagsuot ng sapatos sa kabila ng balitang may isang silid ito na puno ng mga bulawan na sandalyas. Nang umagang iyon, nakayapak itong naglakad patungo sa kambing. Samantalang napansin din ng mga kawal na hindi gumamit ng anumang pabango ang reyna na balitang naliligo sa pinaghalong gatas, tubig mula sa natunaw na niyebe ng isang bundok na, katas ng mga rosas at iba pang mamahaling samyo na regalo sa kanya ng iba pang pinuno. lviii 1

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Katulad ng hari, ibinulong din ng reyna ang kanyang kasalanan. Kanang tenga ng kambing ang nakalaan para sa kanyang pangungumpisal. Inabot ng anim na minuto ang reyna. Ngunit sa totoo lang, tatlong minuto lamang siyang bumulong ng kanyang mga itinuturing na kasalanan. Halimbawa, ang pagkalimot niyang magsuklay at magsepilyo. Nagkunwari na lamang siyang nagbubuyboy hanggang sa makaabot ang anim na minuto. Nakakahiya kasi na lumabas na mas makasalanan ang hari kaysa sa kanya. May ilang kawal at ilang babaeng alalay ang nagsabing hindi raw sinabi ng reyna ang lahat ng kasalanan nito dahil dapat daw ay buong araw itong nakaluhod sa hindi kukulangin sa sampung kambing. Samantalang nag-aamoy alimuom na ang paligid. Ito raw ang amoy ng kasalanan ng kanilang mga pinuno. Pagkatapos ng anim na minuto, tumayo ang reyna kasabay ng eskribano na siyang naghatid sa reyna patungo sa karhawe kung saan naghihintay ang haring nakayuko pa rin. Sa pagtapos ng pangungumpisal ng kanilang mga pinuno, ang taumbayan, ang mga kawal at ang babaeng alalay ng reyna ang sunod na magsasabi ng mga kasalanan. Ngunit hindi ito gagawing pabulong. Tanging ang mag-asawang pinuno lamang ang may karapatan na gawin ang nasabing akto sa ganoong pamamaraan. Pakakawalan ng eskribano sa pagkakatali ang kambing at dahan-dahang isasatinig ng lahat ang kanilang iba’t ibang kasalanan, habang itinataboy ang kambing palabas sa kanilang bayan patungo sa disyerto. May mga magsisimulang magpukol ng bato sa kambing na sa ilang pangyayari’y nagmistula na ring bato ang hayop. Hindi na ito gumalaw kahit anong pilit na pagtataboy. Kayâ minsan, inisip na lamang nilang sunugin ito mula sa hawla. At itapon palabas ng lungsod. Mahalagang mailabas ang labí ng kambing. Hindi kailangang manatili ang kasalanan sa kanilang gwardyadong teritoryo. 86

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Sa maraming pagkakataon, hindi na nakalabas pa ng buhay ang kambing sa bayan dahil nasasapol kaagad ito sa ulo. At katulad ng nakatakda, itinatapon na lamang ito sa disyerto. Noong nakaraang ritwal napatay kaagad ng isang kawal ang alay na kambing kahit hindi pa nauubos na sabihin ng marami sa taumbayan ang kanilang mga kasalanan. Balitang nakiniig sa asawa ng iba pang asawa ang kawal na iyon na ibinunton sa kambing ang galit nito sa kanyang karibal. May mga nagagalit kung namamatay kaagad ang kambing dahil nangangahulugan daw ito ng kamalasan para sa mga negosyo ng kaharian. Dahil hindi lahat ng kasalanan ay naipapasa sa hayop. Ngunit may mga natutuwa rin dahil maagang matatapos ang taunang suanoy na ritwal. At dahil sa napakaraming sabay-sabay na tinig ng mga kasalanan, wala ring naiintindihan ang dalawang pinunong nag-aabang sa mga kasalanan ng taumbayan. Lalo na ang haring nagbabalak sanang ilista ang mga kasalanan ng kanyang mga kawal at ang reyna naman sa kanyang mga babaeng alalay. Maging ang eskribano’y wala ring nauunawaan. Ito rin sana ang okasyon ng isa’t isa na malaman ang mga lihim ng kanilang nasasakupan, subalit wala ni isa man na kasalanan ang nakakalusot sa kanilang mga tengang hawig sa kambing. Sa pagpapatuloy ng ritwal, isang napakalaking halimaw na umuungol mula sa kailaliman ng kuweba, isang baliw na unos, o sigaw ng lehiyon ng mga pinalayas na anghel ang nalilikhang tunog ng pinaghalu-halong tinig ng mga kasalanan. Samantalang kumakaripas naman sa takbo ang kambing palabas sa bayan, palayo sa mga makasalanan. Kapag tuluyan nang nawala sa kanilang paningin ang kambing dahil sa palagay nila’y kinakain ito ng mga buhanging naghuhugis alon sa disyertong kasing lawak ng dagat— isa-isa nang magsisipag-uwian ang lahat papasok sa kanilang bayan. Buong araw silang mamamahinga at patuloy na mag-aayuno. lviii 1

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Habang sa gawing silangan ng disyerto, may isang bayan din ang nagsasagawa ng isang mahalagang ritwal. Isang liturhiya, isang paghihintay at pag-aabang, kung saan ang kambing ang pinapaniwalaan nilang sugo ng kanilang diyos. Sa bayang iyon, walang nakakatiyak kung saan nagmumula ang mga naliligaw na kambing na ito. Mga kambing na dumarating na hapong-hapo. Sugatan. Mga kambing na kailangang iligtas sa kamatayan. Hindi sa lahat ng kanilang pag-aabang, may dumarating na kambing kung kayâ ganoon na lamang ang kanilang pasasalamat sa pagkakataon na may marinig na tinig ng kambing o kaya’y makakita ng aninong gumagalaw at may sungay sa gitna ng disyerto. Kapag dumating ang kambing itinuturing nilang parang ang diyos ang bumisita sa kanila at dahil mula sa sugong ito’y kukunin nila ang gatas at keso, dalawang bagay na pinaniniwalaan nilang kaloob ng diyos, na nananahan sa pusod ng disyerto, sa pinagmamasdang kawalan.

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Rachel Valencerina Marra

Utopia BF Skinner, a known behavioralist, insisted that people are determined by the stimuli that they encounter everyday. Every encounter with a stimulus asks of a response from a person. For example, a child helps a woman cross the street and he is given a candy as a reward. Thus, the next time he sees someone who would need help crossing the street, he would help – as well as expect a reward afterward. If one lies and was punished severely for it, he or she would be hesitant to lie again for the fear of punishment. If we are to manipulate the stimulus present in our society nowadays, every response that the people would give will be calculated. In that way, we will have at hand a systematized society, wherein there is much more importance in the stimulus rather than in the personal interests of an individual. We will have at hand a society geared only for the success of a peaceful and organized society. A Utopia, according to Skinner. However Hindi tapos ang tala. Gayunpaman, ito ng paboritong bahagi ng labing-isang taong gulang na si Melvin sa kuwaderno ng kaniyang kuya. Isang linggo na ang nakararaan nang limasin ang mga gamit sa kuwarto ng kaniyang nakatatandang kapatid. Lahat ay inalis sa bahay: ang kama, ang mga damit, mga libro, mga tropeyo at medalyang napanalunan ng kaniyang kuya sa larangan ng Siyensa magmula pa ng siya’y nasa elementarya hanggang high school. Walang ititira, iyon ang utos ng kanilang mga magulang sa mga kinuha nilang trabahador. Subalit hindi nila napansin si Melvin noong pumasok ito sa kuwarto bago pa man magsimula ang mga trabahador sa pagbubuhat ng mga gamit papalabas ng bahay. Hinablot niya ang unang bagay na mahahablot niya, at ito ay ang kuwaderno ng kaniyang kuya sa Psychology. lviii 1

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Tuwing umaga, binabasa niya ang tala tungkol kay Skinner. Marami rin namang mga interesanteng bagay sa loob ng kuwaderno – halimbawa ay ang eksperimento ni Pavlov sa kaniyang mga naglalaway na aso, ang pagtatalakay tungkol sa Id, Ego, at Super Ego at Psychoanalysis ni Freud, at ang detalyadong mga paglalarawan sa mga sakit sa pag-iisip na depresyon. Ngunit para kay Melvin, wala nang hihigit pa sa ideya ng isang Utopia. Habang binabasa uli ni Melvin ang mga talata tungkol sa teorya ni Skinner, kumatok sa pinto ang kaniyang ina. “Melvin! Matagal ka pa ba? Baba na’t kakain na, magsisimba pa tayo!” “Opo!” Nagmadali si Melvin na tingnan ang sarili sa salamin. Masinop ang pagkakasuklay ng kaniyang buhok na lalo pang pinasinop ng gel. Inayos niya ang kuwelyo ng kaniyang polo. Sa unang pagkakataon, itim na sapatos ang kaniyang suot imbes sa nakasanayan niyang rubber shoes. Tumayo siya nang tuwid at natuwa sa kaniyang nakita sa salamin. Naalala niya ang litrato ng kaniyang kuya noong bata pa lamang ito kung saan nanalo siya sa isang Science Quiz Bee. Kinuha sa stage ang litratong iyon, habang inaabot ng isang matanda ang tropeyo sa kuya niya. Ang mga magulang naman nila ay nakatayo sa likod nito, parehong nakangiti at puno ng pagmamalaki ang kanilang mga mata. Aayusin na lang niya nang kaunti ang pagngiti at para na ring nabuhay ang bata sa litrato. Pag-upo ni Melvin sa kaniyang upuan sa hapag-kainan, bumagsak sa sahig ang hawak na tinidor ng kaniyang ama, tiim ang bagang at nakatitig sa anak. Pagtingin ni Melvin sa kaniyang ina, nakatago ang mukha nito sa kaniyang mga kamay, nagpapakawala ng mga mahihinang hikbi.

90

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Joseph Casimiro

Ang Hindi Magwawakas Natagpuan ko ang isang lungsod. Kay tayog ng mga gusali nito, Kay tayog ng mga gusali Matapos ang apokalipsis. Mula rito tanaw ang mga tore Ng usok. Tanging mga abo Na tumitiklop, tumitiklop Sa hangin, mga paruparo, tumitiklop Sa ating mga palad. Nagdaop.

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Sa guho ng Babel Tinitipon natin ang mga labi matapos ang galit ng diyos. Sa mga tore ng eskombro maingat na hinuhukay ang maaaring Lalim ng mga labing nagpatong-patong, nagtipon-tipon Sa huling sandali. Saanman ibaling ang tingin mula rito Tanging mga hukay na may mga labi ng nabingi sa sariling sigaw: Mga tore ng labi na inaabot na halikan ang mukha ng diyos mula Sa bingit ng kinasasadlakang lalim— Umaabot— Nagdadaop. Sa ating mga kamay ang bigat ng maluwag na hawak ng nawalay Habang nakatingala tayo sa langit at naghahandang maghiganti.

Ikatlong gantimpala, Timpalak-Tula 2010-2011

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Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles

Pagkatuto sa Pagtula Pagkatuto sa pagtula o pagkatuto ng pagtula? Tanong na tila isang hakbang paatras hindi pa man nakasusulong. Pagbabantulot ng isipan na indikasyon din ng kabatiran nito sa kakulangan ng aking alam. Nakatatakot sumuong. Kung nakatatakot magbitiw ng salita kung hindi ito mapanghahawakan, pakiramdam ko ay higit na nakatatakot kung mapanghahawakan ang iyong mga salita. Pagkatuto sa pagtula o pagkatuto ng pagtula? giit ng aking isip. Sa una, ang sinasabi ay ang resultang pagkatuto, pagkakaroon ng kaalaman at kakayahan, mula sa isang proseso o (mga) pamamaraan ng pagsulat ng tula. Sa ikalawa naman, resultang pagkatuto rin ang sinasabi – ang pagkatuto sa partikular ng pamamaraan ng pagtula. Samakatwid, tila mas masaklaw, mas malawak, mas mapanlahat – kung hindi man mas malabo – ang sinasabing pagkatuto sa una. Ano nga ba ang mga natutuhan ko (na ibang bagay) sa pagsulat ng tula? Bagama’t hindi rin maitatatwa ang kalakhan ng sinasabing pamamaraan ng pagtula. Ano nga ba ang natutuhan kong (mga) pamamaraan ng pagtula? Sa simpleng tingin ay munting kaibhan ng pang-abay na “ng” sa pang-ukol na “sa” lamang ito – “pagkatuto sa/ng pagtula.” Gayunman, sa “pagkatuto sa pagtula,” hindi hayagan bagama’t makukuro na natutuhan na ang pamamaraan ng pagtula (anuman ito sa partikular relatibo sa pagtingin o pagtaya ng makata) upang masabing mayroon pang ibang bagay (maituturing na higit na malalaking bagay/kaisipan) na natutuhan mula sa prosesong ito. At nasa kabatirang ito ang higit na malaking tayâ. Hindi lamang kailangang busisiin kung ano nga ba itong “pagkatuto” na natutuhan ko sa pagtula, kundi ang isa pang hinuha ay alam ko ang (aking) pamamaraan ng pagtula, lviii 1

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sapat upang masabing mayroon akong natutuhan mula rito. Dalawang bagay, kung gayon: pagtula, pagkatuto. . . . Nagkamalay ako at lumaki sa lalawigan ng Quezon. Maaga akong natutong magbasa at magsulat, mga tatlo o apat na taon, sa pagtuturo ng sinundan kong kapatid. Dilaw na aklat abakada ang una kong babasahin. Madali ko itong pinagsawaan at hinasa pa ang aking pagbabasa sa tulong ng komiks. Popular na libangan sa aming baryo ang komiks. Halos walang bahay na walang komiks. Pila-pila ang pamilya sa pagbabasa ng komiks. Halinhinan. Siyempre laging kabilang ako sa pagpila sa komiks, bagama’t lagi ring siyang pinakahuling nakapagbabasa. Bilang panlima sa anim na magkakapatid, hindi ako makahindi kapag sinabi ng kuya at mga ate na sila muna ang mauunang magbabasa kahit pa naiiyak na ako sa sama ng loob. Madalas, dahil hindi na halos makapaghintay pa, tumatayo ako sa likod ng sinumang kapatid kong nagbabasa at nakikibasa na kasabay niya. Madalas ding ikinaiinis nila ang ganitong bastos nga namang gawi. Kaya itataboy nila ako at pagsasabihang maghintay kahit pa pakiramdam ko ay ilang araw na akong naghihintay – simula pa sa paghihintay sa pagdating ni Ka Ludy, ang tanging nagpapaarkila ng mga komiks sa aming baryo, hanggang sa sandaling sumayad na sa aking mga kamay ang pinakamimithing komiks. Ang mga komiks: Hiwaga, Tagalog Klasiks, Darna, Horror, Shocker, Aliwan, Filipino, tss, Wakasan, Shogun, Samurai, Ninja, at marami pang ibang karamihan ay inilalathala ng Atlas at gasi publications. Dito ko nakilala ang maraming manunulat sa komiks gaya nina Helen Meriz, Gilda Olvidado, Nerissa Cabral, Carlo J. Caparas, Hal T. Santana, at iba pa. Gayundin ang mga ilustrador na gaya nina Vincent Kua Jr. at Jerry “Poks� Santiago. Lugod na lugod ako sa mga kuwentong tapusan/wakasan at walang patid na sinusubaybayan ang mga serye o nobela. Kay bilis 94

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kong magbasa ng komiks. Tapos sa isang upuan. At madalas sa hindi, kapag natapos ko nang basahin ang lahat ng komiks, uulit-ulitin ko pa ang pagbabasa hanggang sa dumating ang araw ng pagsasauli ng mga ito at makaarkila muli ng mga bagong isyu. Lingguhan ang pagpapalit ng komiks. Kaya naman lubhang nakaiinip para sa isang batang tulad ko ang paghihintay. Upang maibsan ang inip, kapag nagsawa na ako sa muling pagbabasa ng mga komiks, kinokopya ko naman ang mga ilustrasyon sa mga ito. Dito ako nagsimulang gumuhit-guhit. Paborito kong idrowing ang mga tauhang ninja at samurai sa Shogun Komiks. Gayundin ang mga sundalo at mga rebelde o mga tulisan na pawang armado ng iba’t ibang baril at patalim. Mabuti na lamang at hindi naman ako lumaking biyolente. Sa mga komiks ko marahil unang natutuhan ang pagpapahalaga sa mga salita at imahen. Nagbukas ng mga mundo sa aking murang isipan ang kalugod-lugod na pagkukuwintas-kuwintas ng mga salita ng mahuhusay na manunulat at pag-ugnay ng mga salitang ito sa makukulay na larawan at dibuho ng mga batikang ilustrador ng komiks. Napukaw hindi lamang ang aking isipan kundi ang damdamin. Tila maaga kong natanto na makapangyarihan ang mga salita at imahen na kayang magpahinto ng mga gawain hindi lamang ng sambahayan kundi ng buong sambayanan. Mula sa Quezon nangyaring lumipat kami sa Cavite, bagama’t maikling panahon lamang ang aming inilagi sa lalawigang ito. Mula sa mga komiks sa aming baryo, lumipat ang aking pagbabasa sa Funny Komiks, People’s Journal at Manila Bulletin (nakapagbabasa na rin ako ng Ingles), at mga aklat ng aking mga kapatid na noon ay nasa high school, sa partikular ang Greek Mythology ni Edith Hamilton at kapwa ang Noli Me Tangere at El Filibusterismo, gayundin ng mga magasing Time at Asiaweek na binibili ng aking tiyuhin. Malamang na hindi ko pa nauunawaan ang mga binasa kong ito maliban sa Funny Komiks na nagpalapit sa aking puso kina Niknok, lviii 1

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Superdog, Matsutsu at Bardagol ng Planet Op Da Eyps, at Lilit Bulilit ni Tonton Young. Anupa’t tumimo rin sa aking alaala ang madalas ay mapait na mga salaysay sa Griyegong mitolohiya gaya ng mga kuwento nina Pygmalion at Galatea, Orpheus at Eurydice, Pyramus at Thisbe, Echo at Narcissus, at Odysseus at Penelope. Hindi ko pa nga marahil nauunawaan ni katiting ang mga akda ni Rizal, ang mga artikulo sa Time at Asiaweek, ang mga isyung panlipunan at pampolitika sa mga diyaryo, gayunman malinaw sa akin na tila nagsasayaw sa mga mata ko ang mga titik ng mga salitang bumubuo sa nilalaman ng mga babasahing ito na matiyaga kong binabasa kahit pa nga malipasan ng pagkain o abutin ng paglubog ng araw. Waring may nagsasabi sa aking namnamin ang mga salita. . . . Nakabalik na kami sa Quezon nang magsimula akong magaral. Noong nasa ikalawang baitang, isinali ako ng aking guro sa mga estudyante sa lahat ng antas, na pagpipilian upang maging kinatawan ng paaralan sa pambayang On-the-spot Poster Making Contest. Ipinadrowing sa amin ang tanggapan ng punongguro. Sa pagkatanda ko ay masinop at matiyaga kong iginuhit ang gusaling iyon. Kahit ang pinakamaliliit na detalye. Hindi mahalaga sa akin na mapagwagian ang pagsubok na iyon kundi ang maisalin ang larawan ng gusali sa puting papel. Halos ipinaangkin ko sa aking mga mata at itinatatak sa isip ang imahen upang maiguhit. Dahil ako ang napili, higit akong napokus noon sa pagguhit kasabay ng aking pag-aaral. Marami akong nilahukang paligsahan sa pagguhit. Bago ang paligsahan, madalas ang pageensayo sa pagguhit. Pauulit-ulit kong iginuguhit bawat araw ang isang imahen upang makuha ang tamang hugis at hubog nito, ang tiyak na anyo. Marahil ang disiplinang ito ang dinala ko sa paglalapat ng imahen sa tula. Hindi lamang mahalagang mapili ang tumpak na imahen kundi kailangan ding maisalin 96

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ito nang malinaw sa tula upang lumikha ng impresyon sa isipan ng mambabasa. Dahil nahikayat sa pagguhit, at kahit sa kabila ng maaga ko ring pagkilala kalaunan na maliit ang aking talino para rito, naisipan kong Fine Arts ang kukunin kong kurso pagdating ng kolehiyo. Gayunman, anang mga kapamilya, mas mainam kumuha ng kursong arkitektura. Nang magsimula akong mag-high school, nakaprograma na sa utak ko na magiging arkitekto ako pagdating ng araw. Bagama’t nahilig na rin ako sa iba pang gawain kaya hindi na lang nakatuon sa pagguhit ang aking atensiyon. Tumingkad din ang pagkakahilig ko sa mga akdang pampanitikan. Pinipili kong basahin ang mga seleksiyong kabilang sa aming mga aklat sa Filipino at Ingles, mga tula at kuwento, kaysa iba pang asignatura. Sinimulan ko ring halughugin ang aming maliit na silid-aklatan. Suwerteng may koleksiyon doon ng mga akdang nagwagi sa Gantimpalang Palanca. Doon ko unang nabatid ang tungkol sa Palanca. Sinikap kong basahin lahat ang mga akdang natipon sa mga antolohiyang iyon, bagama’t karamihan sa mga ito ay nahihirapan akong unawain. Hindi ko rin pinalampas ang iba pang aklat sa aming library kabilang na ang seryeng Hardy Boys, at kalaunan pati ang seryeng Nancy Drew. Sa aming bahay naman ay iniuwi ng aking tiyuhin (itong tiyuhin ding bumibili ng Time at Asiaweek) ang naipon niyang mga aklat na karamihan ay mga nobela nina Robert Ludlum (kaya tuwang-tuwa ako nang naisapelikula ang seryeng Jason Bourne), Tom Clancy, Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, at iba pang akdang maikakategoryang pulp fiction. Sa alaala ko ay may naligaw sa mga nobelang iyon na akda ni Umberto Eco, ang The Name of the Rose, na sinubukan ko ring basahin. Binasa ko ang mga aklat na iyon at dinadala hanggang sa paaralan, upang mas magmukhang may laman ang utak. Nagsimula na rin akong magsulat-sulat ng mga sarili kong tula, sanaysay, at kuwento sa Filipino at Ingles, bukod pa sa pagsulat ng loveletters sa mga natitipuhan ko lviii 1

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noon. Kinilala naman ang aking wika nga ay “natagpuang kakayahan” sa pagsulat ng pagwawagi ko sa ilang paligsahan sa pagsulat sa loob at labas ng paaralan, gayundin, at ito marahil ang pinakamatinding batayan, ng pagpapagawa sa akin ng loveletters ng mga kabarkada para sa kanilang mga crush. Hindi naman nangya-ring pangalan ko ang aking nailagda sa kanilang mga liham. . . . Arkitektura nga ang kinuha kong kurso nang tumuntong ako sa kolehiyo. Bagama’t hindi pa rin nawawala ang pagkakahilig ko sa pagsulat-sulat at sa pagbabasa. Ewan kung bakit mabilis akong nabagot sa pagkokolehiyo. Hindi pa man halos nakapag-uumpisa, tila sinasawaan ko na ang pag-aarkitektura. Tila may hinahanap akong hindi ko mawari kung ano. Kaya pagkaraan ng isang semestre, ipinasya kong huminto muna ng pag-aaral. Ibig ko nang magbanat ng buto, magtrabaho. May angas na naniniwalang kailangan kong hanapin ang edukasyon sa labas ng paaralan. Subalit ano ang trabahong naghihintay sa isang labimpitung taong gulang na kabataan? Nag-aplay akong service crew sa isang fastfood. Natanggap naman. Hindi biro ang gawain sa fastfood lalo’t para sa isang wala namang alam gawin sa buong buhay niya kundi maging estudyante. Umiyak ako sa aking silid pagkatapos ng unang araw ko sa trabaho. Luha ng pagod at pangambang baka hindi ko mapangatawanan ang pinaniniwalaang dapat kong gawin. Gayunman, nakuha kong ipagpatuloy ang pagtatrabaho. Nagbigay iyon sa akin ng ibang disiplina. Nagbigay rin ng kakaibang pakiramdam ng kalayaan at tiwala sa sarili ang pagkita ng sariling pera bagama’t karampot lamang ito at madalas ay kulang pa sa aking pangangailangan. Nakakailang buwan na ako sa fastfood nang dumating sa buhay ko ang isang taong maituturing na malaki ang naiambag sa aking pagsisimula sa pagsulat hindi man niya alam o 98

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maaari pang malaman. Nagkaroon kami ng bagong superbisor. Bagong graduate ng Journalism sa feu. Minsang nagkasabay kaming kumain sa breaktime, napuna niya ang maliit na notebook na katabi ng aking pinggan. Itinanong niya hindi kung ano o bakit ako may notebook kundi itinanong niya kung nagsusulat ako. Mahirap angkinin ang pagsusulat. Hindi ito bagay na maaari mong bilhin o manahin at sabihing sa iyo, pag-aari mo. Bagama’t dala ng aking kabataan at kaignorantehan sa kung ano ang pagsusulat, sinabi kong nagsusulat-sulat ako paminsan-minsan, pakonti-konti. Tila may umilaw sa kanyang mga mata nang marinig ang tugon ko. “Talaga? Ano’ng sinusulat mo, tula?” agad niyang dagdag. Umoo naman ako. Ipinabatid niya sa akin na nagsusulat siya ng mga tula at kung gusto ko raw ay maaari kaming magpalit ng aming mga nasulat. Dadalhin daw niya ang kanyang notebook ng tula sa susunod na araw. Napatda ako sa ganoong interes na ipinakita niya sa akin. Para bang dahil sa tula ay kaibigan na ang turing niya sa akin gayong halos hindi pa nga kami magkakilala. Napatango na lamang ako sa kanyang alok na pagpapabasa ng mga tula kahit wala naman ako halos maipababasa sapagkat kaunti at pawang juvenilia lamang ang naisusulat ko. Nang sumunod na araw, totoo sa kanyang sinabi, dala ng superbisor ko ang kanyang kuwaderno ng tula at hindi lang iyon – may dala siyang mga aklat na nais niya raw ipahiram sa akin kung hindi ko pa nababasa. Ang mga aklat: Elehiya sa Isang Rebelde ni Rio Alma, Taga sa Bato ni Teo Antonio, at Antolohiya ng mga Nagwaging Tula sa Palanca. Hindi ko mapaniwalaan ang ganoong kagandahang-loob. Hindi ko rin mapaniwalaan halos na buhay pa pala ang mga makatang Filipino na autor ng mga aklat na iyon. Iniuwi ko ang mga aklat at pamuli’t muling binasa. Simula rin iyon ng mas madalas naming pag-uusap ng superbisor ko tungkol sa tula at panitikan. lviii 1

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Naputol ang aming mga usapan nang mailipat ng branch ang superbisor ko. Biglaan ang paglipat kaya hindi ko na nagawang maisoli ang kanyang notebook ng tula. Natangay naman niya ang notebook ko ng mga juveniliang akda. Pagkaraan ng pagtatrabaho ko sa fastfood, ipinasya kong umuwi muna sa probinsiya. Bago ako umuwi, napadaan ako isang araw sa National Bookstore sa may Shaw Boulevard, at nakabili ng isang aklat ng tula sa Filipino, ang Paghipo sa Matang-tubig ni Roberto T. A単onuevo. Dinala ko pag-uwi sa probinsiya ang aklat. Binasa sa bus, binasa nang ilang ulit. Sinaliksik ko pagkaraan ang mga salitang hindi ko alam ang mga kahulugan, inalam kung paano gamitin ang mga iyon. Binuksan ng aklat na iyon sa akin ang disiplina ng pananaliksik. Higit na kontemporanyo ang dating sa akin noon ng mga tula sa Paghipo kaysa sa mga naunang aklat na nabasa ko. Bunsod ng pagnanasang magseryoso sa pagtula, ipinasya kong hanapin si Roberto T. A単onuevo. Nakalagay sa bionote niya sa aklat na kasapi siya ng lira o Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo. Dito ko naisipang sumali sa palihan ng lira. . . . Taong 1998 iyon. Masasabing pinakamapangahas kong ginawa bilang nagtatangkang tumula ang pagsali ko sa palihan ng lira. Ipinasa ko kay Romulo P. Baquiran Jr. sa up ang limang tulang masinop kong tinipa sa makinilya bilang aplikasyon. Punong-puno ako ng pangarap at pangamba. Wala na akong ibang gustong gawin kundi tumula at kung hindi matatanggap sa palihan, hindi ko alam kung saan pupulutin ang sarili. Suwerteng natanggap naman ako. Natatandaan kong iniwan ko ang libing ng aking kinakapatid sa Nueva Ecija upang makadalo sa unang araw ng palihan sa opisina ni Rio Alma sa Scout Limbaga sa Tomas Morato. Walong buwan noon ang palihan, tuwing hapon ang sesyon kada Sabado. Halos linggolinggo kailangang may maipakitang tula sa pangkat. Halos 100

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linggo-linggo nararanasan kong panghinaan ng loob tuwing babagsak ang pinaghirapan kong isulat mula Linggo hanggang Biyernes ng gabi upang maipabasa pagdating ng Sabado. Gayunman, disiplina ang idinidikta ng gawain sa lira. Ipinahahayag nito sa bawat isa sa amin na hindi ka magiging makata o manunulat sa loob lamang ng magdamag. Ang pagkatuto ng pagtula ay hindi parang pagkatuto ng pagbibisikleta o paglangoy na minsan mong matutuhan ay hindi mo na makalilimutan habangbuhay. Ang pagkatuto ng pagtula ay lagi’t laging paglimot sa iyong alam sa sandaling nasa harap ka ng papel o laptop at nangangapa ng mga salita sa kawalan. Ang pagkatuto ng pagtula ay daan lamang sa marami pang pagkatuto at muling pagkakamali. Kinakailangan ang pagkakamali, ang pagkabigo upang mabigyang puwang ang malaking hindi mo alam laban sa liit ng iyong alam. Ang pagkatuto ng pagtula ay magbubunsod sa pagkatuto sa pagtula. Pagkatuto ng iba pang bagay mula sa sining ng pagtula na pinag-uukulan mo ng iyong panahon, pagod, salapi, damdamin, buhay. Ang mga bagay na ito ay maaaring higit sa sining gaya halimbawa ng pag-ibig o kabutihan o kung ginawa kang mabuting tao ng sining. Sa madaling salita, ano ang ginawa sa iyo ng tula kaysa ano ang ginawa mo sa tula? Sandosenang taon na halos iyon nang magsimula akong magseryosong tumula. Mula nang araw na ipangako ko sa sariling wala nang lingon-likod ang pasyang magsulat ng tula sa abot ng makakaya sa mahabang panahon hanggang sa araw na ito, masasabi kong binago ako ng tula. Binago ako ng tula sa maraming paraang hindi ko ganap maipaliliwanag kung paano. Kung ano ako ngayon, kung paano ko tinitingnan at tinatanggap ang mundong kinabibilangan ko at kabilang ng aking pagkatao bilang isang indibidwal, utang ko sa tula. Hindi ko tahasang masasabi kung mabuti nga ba akong tao o dakila ang aking pag-ibig sa kapwa o sa bayan bagama’t dahil sa tula naniwala ako sa isang bagay – sa hiwaga ng salita. lviii 1

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Sa hiwaga ng salitang pakilusin tayo hindi bilang isang tautauhan sa isang pagtatanghal kundi pakilusin tayo ng nararapat bilang isang tao, sa esensiyal na kahulugan ng pagiging tao, sa patuloy na nagbabagong daigdig. Ganap akong pinaniwala ng tula sa isang bagay. Sapat na iyon. Ayon sa makatang si Fanny Howe: “For what does it mean to “believe in” something? I realized that it simply means that you are conscious of the potential for something to become new.”

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Art Editorial Any act of receiving requires a giver, one who presents the possibility of the act, and a receiver, one who realizes that possibility. Between the two agents is the object – a brightly-wrapped Christmas gift, an (un)deserved letter grade, even a warm embrace – that completes the whole equation. The selection of artworks that follow, as part of the first non-themed issue of heights this year, has unconsciously reflected the concept of reception, with all its nuances and variations. At times, art plays the part of the unusually active receiver. In Liwanag’s black.friday, the Christ figure’s open arms invite viewers not only to absorb the gravity of His suffering, but also the irony of His passion. The radial forms of Dolosa’s flower and Padilla’s Damnation imbue the eye with a sense of movement that allows the viewer to enter into little and vast worlds alike. Roles, however, are reversed when the well-hidden light source of Conlu’s Clarity and the cold, dignified aura of Sison’s Ap Sangay keep awed viewers at bay. Reception also happens between the elements of an artwork. While Yap’s De-Thorn captures a dynamic moment of accepting pain, Esquivel’s Lure challenges the very notion of natural attraction. Conversely, revulsion is also evident, as in Ringor’s Feed Me, which portrays a closeted herbivore’s loathing for fancy food. Similarly, Balaguer’s Nightmare of the Idealist depicts the romantic’s blatant rejection of vulnerability. In many ways, visual art is about the intricacy of relationships between the artwork, with its elements and themes, and the viewer, with his prejudices and reactions. It is this relationship that shapes everything, and indeed, everyone it touches. Complex as it is, every individual’s task is to discover the flexibility of his role as giver, receiver, and object in this vast network of relationships.

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In your perusal through the varied selections of visual art in the succeeding pages, it is with great hope that you, the viewer, will relentlessly pursue a richer understanding of art and continue to participate in all its intricacies. Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Art Editor

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Dale Liwanag

black.friday Black marker on styrofoam board

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Raisa Joelle R. Perez

Pieces Watercolor, 11" ÂŹ 17" lviii 1

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Jose Alejandro Dolosa

flower Photography

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Neil Palteng

Genesis lviii 1

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Jan Eli G. Padilla

Damnation Photomanipulation

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Pamela O. Celeridad

Panopticon Oil and acrylic on wood panels, 20" Ă— 20"

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Jessica Amanda Bauza

Fold Ink and watercolor

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Patricia Alyanna E. Conlu

Clarity Photography

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Alyanna Sison

Ap Sangay Markers, 10" Ă— 16" 114

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Katherine Denise S. Yap

De-Thorn Pencil, ink, and digital

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Kevin Christopher C. Tatco

Barren Photography

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Monica Esquivel

Lure Alcohol markers and graphite pencil lviii 1

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Ria Rigoroso

Repose Film Photography

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Natasha Marie Ringor

Feed Me Pencils, Digital lviii 1

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Analyn L. Yap

The Sorrowful Mysteries Photography

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John Alexis B. Balaguer

Nightmare of the Idealist Photomanipulation

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Juan Viktor A. Calanoc

Kumonryu – Perseverance Pen and marker, 6" × 9" 122

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Doitsu – Wealth Pen and marker, 6” × 9” lviii 1

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Jim Pascual Agustin ab English 1990 Nagsusulat sa Filipino at Inggles si Jim Pascual Agustin at naging part time lecturer sa Kagawaran ng Filipino pagkagradweyt. Sa tulong at gabay ng dakilang yumaong Heswita na si Fr. James O’Brien, naranasan ni Jim ang daigdig ng mga estudyanteng hatid-sundo ng drayber at alaga ng yaya – kakaibang-kakaiba sa kanyang kinagisnang pampublikong edukasyon. Ang kanyang mga aklat ay Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil 1992) at Salimbayan: Pagaspas sa Bintana (Publikasyong Sipat 1994). Mababasa ang kanyang paminsan-minsang blog sa www.matangmanok. wordpress.com. Naninirahan siya sa Cape Town, South Africa mula noong 1994. Panch Alvarez ab Political Science 2008 For my grandmother, whose smiles I’ve gathered and kept. I’ll whisper your name, even as I dream. Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles Si Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles ay may-akda ng limang aklat ng tula: Menos Kuwarto (2002), Ilahás (2004), Hindi man lang nakita (2005), Parang (2008), at Alingaw (2010). Kabilang sa kanyang mga natamong parangal ang Gawad Collantes, Gawad Komisyon sa Tula, Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry, at Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Naging fellow siya sa tula sa ika-36 at ika-48 na up National Writers Workshop at kasapi ng lira (Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo) at High Chair. Kasalukuyan siyang nag-aaral ng mfa in Creative Writing sa Pamantasang De La Salle. Ang susunod niyang aklat, Alinsunurang Awit, ay ilalathala ng ust Publishing House.

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Balaguer, John Alexis B. iv ab Communication “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” – Edgar Allan Poe Jessica Amanda Bauza iv bfa Information Design A big thank you to Mama, Daddy, Brandz, Lles and Peep. Bianca Michaela G. Bes iv bfa Creative Writing For my mom, Gel, Ace, Miggy, and Fourth for being there as I wander through the world: Falling. Tripping. Laughing. Loving. Juan Viktor A. Calanoc ii bs Management “I always preferred to hang out with the outcasts, ’cause they were cooler; they had better taste in music, for one thing, I guess because they had more time to develop one with the lack of social interaction they had!” – John Hughes I would like to thank God, my family, P6, R40, and friends for giving me the honor to be in their presence. I would like to dedicate this to Lea, my sister, who will always be my “Buddy-obuddy pal-o-pal in the world!!!” and my “Breakfast Club”: Angel, Kat, Mo, Mon, and Santi. Without them I would have never found myself.

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Joseph Casimiro iii ab European Studies Nagpapasalamat si Joseph Casimiro sa mga kasamahan sa reading appreciation at kay Allan Popa. Pamela O. Celeridad ii bfa Information Design A panopticon is a psychological concept that allows the individual to feel the sentiment of an invisible omniscience (in short, to feel conscience with the absence of an actual/concrete observer). The basic components of a panopticon would include the observer (non-existent force) and the observed. In the traditional panopticon, the person observed should be the one feeling this sentiment of invisible omniscience. But as illustrated in my painting, I alter the idea by personifying the non-existent force as the man, with cupped fingers to his eyes, and make him seem as he is the one feeling the conscience (seen through his expression and gaping mouth as he watches the naked girl in the center). My concept of altering the idea of the panopticon is also seen with the way I replicate and mirror the images to create an amalgam and dramatic play of the figures of the two characters. Patricia Alyana E. Conlu ii bs Management Engineering Still searching for that moment of clarity. Vida Cruz ii bfa Creative Writing I’ve learned so much about writing between the creation of this story and the last one I wrote. I now know that every succeeding story I make from now on is a journey in itself. This story was 128

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originally meant as a short descriptive piece for fa 105, but as usual, it took on a life of its own. My humble thanks to everyone who served as a proofreader: Harley, Sebb, Abby. This one’s for Dad, Mom, and Roni – do any of you remember this happening a long time ago, in my childhood? Ramon Enrico Custodio M. Damasing iv ab Philosophy Taga-Patag, Cagayan de Oro City, si Monching. Isinilang siya noong ika-22 Pebrero, 1991. Ginagawa niya ngayon ang tesis niya tungkol sa wika. Maraming salamat kay Jim Pascual Agustin at kay Rachel Marra sa pagbasa sa ilang akda bago ko pa ipasalang. Sa 16th ahww panelists, co-fellows, at sa 16th ahww team. Sa Bagwisan ng Filipino (at sa mga bagong kasapi!). Sa Heights eb (lalo na sa lechon kawali at sa hallway). Sa dormmates ko, at sa dota. Kay Cat at Shek na ka-almusal ko paminsan-minsan. Sa mga hindi ko naibanggit. Sa lahat ng tumatangkilik sa Heights. Nagpapasalamat ako sa iyo. Ipagpatuloy natin ang gawain ng pagkatha at pagbasa! Kay Rae, na minamahal ko. Gian Dapul ii bs Chemistry with Materials Science Engineering For my first, third and sixth lovers, for whom I have yet to attempt words. Jose Alejandro Dolosa iv bfa Information Design “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?” – Karen Smith, Mean Girls

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Monica Esquivel ii bfa Information Design For a venus fly trap to snap shut, within 20 seconds, the prey must touch at least two of the trigger hairs found on the lobes of the trap or touch one trigger hair at least twice. Jose Fernando Go-Oco iv bs Computer Science? For the little bird on my palm. Kristian Sendon Cordero ma Panitikang Filipino Si Kristian Sendon Cordero ay naninirahan sa lungsod ng Iriga. Gian Lao bs Communications Technology Management, 2010 For all the people like me, especially in Russia. For all the letters in the alphabet, especially the letter Z. Dale Liwanag ii bs Management Engineering To that certain someone who thought binkie wasn’t cute enough…i miss you. Petra Magno v ab Literature – English, Minor in Philosophy Still interrogating the obvious. http://softfloors.wordpress.com

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Rachel Valencerina Marra iv bfa Creative Writing Pasasalamat sa aking pamilya at mga kaibigan, sa Bagwisan at sa kabuuan ng Heights, sa WriterSkill Creative Circle, sa Fine Arts Department, at sa mga nakakasalubong ko araw-araw sa loob ng campus at sa kahabaan ng Katipunan. Sa lahat ng nasa denial stage ng pagtatapos ng kolehiyo, sa lahat ng mga nagpupuyat para sa thesis, sa lahat ng mga nalulunod at nagpapalunod sa katahimikan, sa lahat ng mga natitisod ang nagpapatisod sa mga linya at talata, at sa lahat ng mga tne at hayok sa pag-ibig, kaya natin ’to. Glenn Sevilla Mas English Department, School of Humanities Dawn Elizabeth Niekamp iv ab Interdisciplinary Studies You know full well that your soul has unplumbed depths. Like the ocean, there are things living down deep that might become endangered if you don’t take time to cultivate them – like your creativity, for example! – online horoscope (May 14, 2010) Jan Eli G. Padilla iii bs Electronics and Communications Engineering Para sa mga prof na ayaw ata akong ipasa at sa mga tumatawag sa aking “Cheeseburger”, para sa mga umuubos ng pera ko at sa mga “Magic”-kerong walang “Wrath of God”; Para sa mga di alam ang ginagawa at sa mga alam ang di ginagawa,

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para sa mga nakatunganga sa wala at sa mga walang matungangaan; Para sa mga merong chance at sa mga chuma-chansing sa meron, para sa mga gusto kong bumalik at sa mga gusto kong balikan. Para sa mga Gabi ng himbig, para sa mga Hapon ng ligalig; Para sa mga Pwedeng patutunguhan, at para sa Atin na nandito pa lang. Neil Palteng iv ab Management Economics I’d like to order a venti of iced peppermint mocha twist, soy milk with three espresso shots to go – my name is Neil and I wish to weigh 99 pounds on my graduation day Raisa Joelle R. Perez iv bfa Information Design “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus Ria Rigoroso iv ab Psychology Now knows you’re reading this in Merlo 10/14 pt. Natasha Marie Ringor iv bfa Information Design Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.

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Leal Rodriguez iii ab Humanities We are Realists, We dream the Impossible – Ernesto “Che” Guevarra Carlo Roman iii ab Economics – Honors Carlo will always have a special place in his heart for apple pie, third-pound burgers, and The Rock. Even if one of those three kick-ass things has been (willfully) transformed into a shamelessly manipulated Disney pawn. Alyanna Sison ii bfa Information Design The reason I chose to draw Ap Sangay was 1) I found the 75-year old man’s story and the way he was portrayed by Marie Claire magazine interesting, and 2) I saw this as an opportunity to play with light and shadow. Kevin Christopher C. Tatco iv ab Political Science I started shooting at the age of 11 for my grade school yearbook; I lugged my camera to soirees and class outings all throughout high school. Now in college, I shoot for The Guidon while (sometimes) covering debuts on the side. They say that photos are worth a thousand words, for me photos capture more than just words but unexpressed emotions which evoke a response. I want to make my photos come to life. I want to take photos that make people laugh, cry, angry or that tingly

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heart-tug when your crush brushes by. I want to evoke emotions that people thought they would never feel when they look at photos. Maria Warren iv ab Communication: Film and Media Studies Minor in English Literature Peep only writes when she has time, attempting to balance a growing collection of food-based poetry with recurring experiences in hospital volunteerism in Kythe-Ateneo and the appreciation of the visual arts in the apart Visual Arts collective. Her band Ephesus has also released their first debut album and has their third single playing on the radio. Recently named a fellow of the 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop, she would like to thank all the people who have supported her and encouraged her return to reading and writing: Jamie, Lles, Tina and Brandz; the co-fellows, panelists and Heights team of ahww 16; Lit teachers Max Pulan, Mark Cayanan and Krip Yuson; the Kythe family; Whitefeet; family; and Nica, for always being there and being the best inspiration anyone could ever ask for. Analyn L. Yap iv bfa Information Design I want to search for her in the offhand remarks. Who are you, taking coffee, no sugar? Who are you, echoing street signs – Vienna Teng, “Recessional” photography is merely the world, a large chunk of metal, and the piece of flesh that presses the button.

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Katherine Denise S. Yap bfa Information Design, 2010 “Loverholic, robotronic, loverholic, robotronic” - SHINee Thanks to Gia, Glanddaughter, and Sister for all their help! Isa Yap bs Management Look at the birds. Even flying is born out of nothing. The first sky is inside you, open at either end of day. The work of wings was always freedom, fastening one heart to every falling thing. – Li-Young Lee, “One Heart” Thank you to everyone I can always come home to: family, mellishes (& cows & cows & cows, wink), children, all the people I ambush-hug in the corridors, extended barkada, my awesome blockmates in P5, my Accounting cramming team (have fun in France!), the kindred souls who know what I’m going through, Heightsers new and old, writing friends, AJ friends, and all the amazing people I got to know through Ateneo. I owe all the words to you.

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Pasasalamat Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ at ang Office of the President Dr. John Paul Vergara at ang Office of the Vice-president for the Loyola Schools G. Rene San Andres at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs G. Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz at ang Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs G. Chris Castillo at G. Dino Galvey at ang Office of Student Activities Bb. Marie Joy Salita at ang Office of Administrative Service Bb. Leonora Wijangco at ang Central Accounting Office Bb. Christina Barzabal at ang Purchasing Office Bb. Consolacion Concepcion at ang Ateneo Placement Office Dr. Ma. Luz Vilches at ang Office of the Dean, School of Humanities Dr. Jerry Respeto at ang Kagawaran ng Filipino Dr. Marianne Rachel Perfecto at ang English Department Dr. Benilda Santos, Mr. Xander Soriano at ang Fine Arts Program Bb. Christine Bellen at ang Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) G. Rodolfo Allayban at ang University Archives Bea Cupin at ang Guidon Tresa Valenton at ang Matanglawin Sa Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral ng Ateneo De Manila at Council of Organizations of the Ateneo Sa Haranya ng UA&P, Thomasian Writers Guild ng UST, Malate Literary Folio ng DLSU, UP UGAT, UP Writers Club at UP Quill Sa High Chair 136

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Sa mga panelists ng 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop Sa mga kasapi ng AHWW committee Sa mga kasapi ng Buwan ng Wika organizing committee ng Kagawaran ng Filipino Ang MVP Maintenance and Security Personnel At sa lahat ng tumatangkilik sa mga gawain ng Heights, sa patuloy na nagpapasa ng kanilang likha at nakikiisa sa paghubog sa ating panitikan at sining!

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Editorial Board editor-in-chief associate editor internal managing editor external managing editor art editor associate art editor design editor associate design editor english editor associate english editor filipino editor associate filipino editor

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Tina del Rosario Joseph Casimiro Kyra Castro Ballesteros Joven Angelo Flordelis Alfred Marasigan Jessica Amanda Bauza Jose Fernando Go-Oco Aikaye Bollozos James Soriano Cedric Tan Nicko Caluya Ramon Damasing

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Staffers Art Lexis Balaguer, Tasie Cabrera, JV Calanoc, Christianna Calma, Bea Celdran, Pamela Celeridad, Karl Leslie Chan, Noelle Dumo, Angela Escudero, Monica Esquivel, Momo Fernandez, Wilbur Hernandez, Mark Lacsamana, Nicole Maguyon, Grace Mendoza, Mark Mirabueno, Isabelle Ocier, Veronica Oliva, Jan Eli Padilla, Mary Ranises, Therese Nicole Reyes, Ria Rigoroso, Natasha Ringor, Jee Saavedra, Victoria Tadiar, Carina Tan, Aaron Villaflores Design Sam Bautista, Sara Erasmo, Pamcy Fernandez, Dale Liwanag, Paola Lizares, Madi Villela English Nicole Acosta, Paco Adajar, Felise Aurelio, Mika Avila, Deirdre Camba, Karen Capili, Isabela Cuerva, Gian Dapul, Miggy Francisco, Julienne Joven, Bernadine Lanot, Kathryn Lantion, Sydney Lau, Joseph Ledesma, Sari Katharyn Molintas, DC Mostrales, Katherine Ong, Hannah Perdigon, Carissa Pobre, Anna Katerina Rara, Andie Reyes, Leal Rodriguez, Miguel Sulangi, Jillian Joyce Tan, Pam Villar, Sophia Villasfer Filipino Lester Abuel, EJ Bagacina, Japhet Calupitan, Geneve Guyano, Roselyn Ko, Van Liceralde, Rachel Marra, Karen Medriano, Mike Orlino, Mirick Paala, Karla Placido, Revi Revillas, Jero Santos, John Solito, Pao Tiausas, Jem Vergara lviii 1

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Production Camille Joy Cruz, Aiane Bernadette U. Lim, Pat Santos, Angeline Ople, Edgar Resma, Lorianne Buena, Cara Bautista

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16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop pellows Nicko Reginio Caluya Vida Cruz Isabela Cuerva Ramon Enrico Custodio M. Damasing Joven Flordelis Miguel Enrico C. Paala III Bettina Faye V. Roc Paolo Miguel G. Tiausas Jose Eos R. Trinidad Maria Amparo N. Warren panelists Ms. Cyan Abad-Jugo Mr. Mark Anthony Cayanan Ms. Conchitina Cruz Mr. Adam David Mr. Allan Derain Mr. Vladimeir Gonzales Mr. Danilo M. Reyes Mr. Edgar Calabia Samar Dr. Benilda Santos workshop director Joseph Casimiro 30 July – 1 August 2010 Guillean’s Place Antipolo City

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LVIII 1  

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

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