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LX

HEIGHTS' 60th anniversary folio Vol. 60

No. 2


LX: Heights' 60th Anniversary Folio vol. 60 no. 2 Copyright 2012 Copyright reverts to the respective 足authors and a足 rtists whose works appear in this issue. No part of this book may be 足reprinted or reproduced in any means whatsoever w 足 ithout the written permission of the copyright holder. This publication is not for sale. Correspondence may be addressed to: Heights, Publications Room, mvp 202 Ateneo de Manila University, p.o. Box 154, Manila Tel. no. 426-6001 local 5448 heights-ateneo.org Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manila University. Cover illustration and design by Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Layout by Meagan Ong and Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan Typeset in mvb Verdigris


Contents Ace Ancheta and Natasha Basul   1 Heights History (1952-1972): Tradition & Transformation   319 Heights History (1972-1992): Reiteration & Refutation   357 Heights History (1992-2012): Change & Continuity Allan Alberto N. Derain   5 Ang Batang Ito na May Alagang Aso Allan Popa   11 Ang Mga Pangalan ng Kalsada   15 Musika Para sa Isang Pelikula Benilda Santos   16 Kinaumagahan Christine Bellen   17 Ulan Danilo R. dela Cruz   18 Square! Edgar Calabia Samar   20 Tagpo   21 Sa Isang Madilim Alwynn Javier   22 Hinuha   24 Dead na Si Lola Eugene Soyosa   26 Langit-Lupa   28 May Hindi Ka Nakikita Jan Brandon Dollente   29 Walang Ibang Liwanag Jason Tabinas   30 Muli, ang pagbubukas ng mga pintuan   31 Baha


Kristian Cordero   32 Dito   36 Ang Tatlong Mistiko Mark Benedict Lim   40 Maria at Ligaya Mikael de Lara Co   59 Kung Babalik Tayo   61 Sapagkat Naaangkin ang Liwanag   158 Pastoral   161 The Doomed Rachel Valencerina Marra   62 Hinog / Lamog   156 Poetry Class JC Casimiro   63 Diptych Vladimeir Gonzales   65 Empake Zosimo Quibilan   69 Para sa Mansanas na Masarap Ariane Lim   73 Ang Flower Girl Japhet Calupitan   75 Paikut-ikot, Bali-baligtad Angelica Maria de Asis   77 Kaawaan Mo Po’t Patawarin ang Kaluluwa ni _____ Julz Riddle   94 Ang Manisalat Abner Dormiendo   99 Kumpisal Aidan Manglinong   101 Tinta Harley Barcenas   102 Ang Mga Salita ni Joss Jenina Ibañez   111 Liham Para Kay _____   229 Alamat


Kenneth Isaiah Abante   113 Paalam Marc Christian M. Lopez   115 Tetris Paolo Tiausas   116 Prologo Ralph Menchavez   117 Akyat-Bahay Michael Rey Orlino   118 Awit ng Pag-asa Jim Pascual Agustin   119 Ang Unang Tulay   120 The First Bridge Nicko Caluya   121  (Gemini) Gregorio Brillantes   122 The Flood in Tarlac   135 The Apollo Centennial Brian Giron   143 I Like Walking Sticks Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez   144 Sculpture   145 While Drinking Rice Wine Under a Bo Tree I Read Letters Between Li Song and Al “Kneecap” Fabroni Isa Yap   148 [This morning I find a storm...]   149 Begging in a Cordial Language Kyra Ballesteros   150 A Soul Seller’s Wife Isabela Cuerva   157 Bathsheba Nadine Ramos   162 Discussing Love With An Intellectual


Douglas Candano   163 A Reply to a Query Gemino Abad   187 Twin Brothers   189 Prayer Vincenz Serrano   191 [I am walking around Manila with my friend] Deirdre Camba   192 excerpts from “Burning Heart” Catherina Dario   201 The Goose Carissa Pobre   210 The Tenacity of the Foreign Element Maria Amparo Warren   211 Once Leaving Mark Cayanan   212 What To Call It When It Ends   215 A Fatal Error Has Occured Agustin Rodriguez   216 Fucking Buckley Rie Takumi   217 A Job in the Morning Christine Lao   226 Gretel   228 Sylvia’s Mirror Cyan Abad-Jugo   231 Feast Day Vida Cruz   236 To Megan, with Half My Heart


Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta   249 Wedding Song for a Tikbalang: Or Half light, Ghost rain Ramón C. Sunico   250 To Defy Gravity Stefani Tran   252 Go back to the mountains, Au Co Michelle T. Tan   257 Her Afternoon Lives Martin Villanueva   268 Rooms Gian Lao   269 For When the Heart Tears Into Itself   271 The Dark Cedric Tan   273 Dangerous Game Alfred A. Yuson   281 A Winter Shade   293 The Ten Most Memorable Moments with D. Thus Far, & Why I Can’t Let Her Go Jose Eos Rodriguez Trinidad   295 Moving Stasis Alyza Taguilaso   301 Aphasia   302 Examination Glenn Sevilla Mas   305 An Excerpt from “Children of the Sea”   310 An Excerpt from “The Death of Memory”


Art Jose Tence Ruiz   324 Doña Angelica Carpaccio   354 Icarus in the Age of Spandex Jose Alejandro Dolosa   325 Do Not Overuse Your Whitening Cream   326 Witching Hour   327 Banahaw Kylo Yu Chua   328 Essence of the Masquerade   334 Savannah Tintin Lontoc   329 Control Noelle Pabiton   330 The Gray Juan Viktor Calanoc   331 Solipsists Meagan Ong   332 Windmill Matthew Lee   335 Better Half Therese Nicole Reyes   336 Creation Cycle Pamela Celeridad   338 Delilah Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan   339 Traverse   355 Microcosmos


John Alexis Balaguer   340 Yoni Nicole Maguyon   341 Bago Kita Masdan   345 Maselan Vi ctoria Isabel Yap   342 If only you looked through Tommi Principe   343 Illustration II Panch Alvarez   344 Santiguar Angelo Juarez   346 Living on a Prayer Regine David   347 (untitled) Wilford Almoro   348 Anatomika III (The Heart)   353 Anatomika II (The Eyes) Patricia Lascano   349 Grocery Shelf Peter Paul Blanco   350 Golden Harvest   351 Pahiyas Festival Jessica Amanda Bauza   352 Great Distances


Editorial Any act of remembering brings back to some sort of life whatever time, circumstance, and obscurity has claimed. All commemoration, then, becomes discovery by virtue of unearthing truths for present consumption. For the past few years, and spanning almost three editorial boards, it has been heights' aim to bring its 60th anniversary together, which has certainly proved to be a difficult but fulfilling feat of discovery.   Going through the history of heights has made us want to share it because this very history has empowered our current sense of identity. In the early stages of preparing for this anniversary, we perused the University Archives and documented folios that few from our generation have seen before. We have discovered that more than nourishing homegrown talent, heights as a folio has garnered awards such as the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Award (1953 - 1962), the Gawad Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr. Award (2002), and the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg Best Literary Organization Award (2009) throughout the years. Found in these pages are not only our history but the very people who made it — a long line of passionate heightsers who have sought to create, question, and push the boundaries of Atenean writing and visual art. Owing as much to its esteemed members, heights has always tackled socially relevant issues head-on such as Catholicism, Filipinization, bilingualism, nationalism, homosexuality, and feminism.   In bringing these achievements to light, we are confident that heights’ years of excellence will not end anytime soon, especially with more than a hundred accepted works of alumni, current members, and non-heightsters alike. This renewed awe embodies the essence of discovery in this commemorative folio.   The same vigor fuels heights to explore its contemporary milieu. In recent years, we have begun to recognize a new era of publishing — one that requires not only central products and services such as the folio and the workshops, but also auxiliary materials such as a website, digital editions of the folio, online modes of creating and receiving contributions, social networking initiatives, and non-traditional promotions all in the spirit of reaching a broader audience while maintaining the same quality output. Perhaps facing the same inevitability of total digitization that Encyclopedia Britannica and, more recently, Newsweek has gven in to, Heights now exists in a wholly new, challenging, and possibly daunting context. While the Information Age offers another world of possibilities in terms of medium, it also presents issue after thought-provoking issue regarding plagiarism, censorship, identity, and semantic disconnect in the form of Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and 9gag memes. xi


heights has initially responded with an internal sense of appreciation, but more so with an active attempt to mine beauty from this context. As such, LX: Heights' 60th Anniversary Folio is a compendium of works so diverse in terms of form, genre, medium, voice, and background, but still radically faithful to an unspoken and ever-changing standard of art-making. Our continuous pursuit, then, brought us to the realization that contemporary beauty lies in timelessness, plurality, and dynamism — the values that lie beneath heights’ efforts to not only find its place in what was, but also in what is. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, these very same values constitute anyone’s act of unearthing truth to share with the world.   Is it not, then, in relentlessly braving these layers of context that one finds truth? This truth, in turn, will become another layer of context that those ahead of us will brave, and thus, such a cycle of discovery will keep the substrate of Atenean literature and art fertile.   To embody these ideas, the LX Folio cover has the 1952 heights Issue painted in the style of mild cubism partially underneath a layer of scratchable material. While cubism in Western art emerged as a manifestation of the post-WWII man's fragmented worldview, transparent cubism in Philippine art flourished because it rendered in gradients and geometry the many facets of a then-simple culture. Thus, deconstruction for the West became enrichment for the Filipinos. Filipino artists, however, could not bring themselves to fragment the human figure totally, hence, a ‘transparent’ cubism popularized by painters Vicente Manansala and Carlos “Botong” Francisco. The infinite and plural spirit of the LX Folio, a grateful nostalgia at what was and a dynamic response to what is, occurs in the same cubist vein.   What you hold in your hands is another layer of context that began six decades ago, in our early efforts at archiving, or now as it is being read. Take the pick, and scratch this folio's surface. It awaits another cycle of discovery. Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan November 2012


1952-1972 Tradition & Transformation

This was the so-called Period of Apprenticeship/Emergence, according to the 1986 HEIGHTS Historical Study. Major concerns of this period include Catholicism and Christianity, Filipinization and nationalism/sociopolitical influences.


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he year was 1952, and it was a time of many changes. As Ateneo moved from Padre Faura to the new campus in Loyola Heights, the Ateneo Quarterly literary magazine became heights — named after the school's lofty position in the hill overlooking Marikina. Yet the lack of student response — which led to the demise of the Quarterly — still seemed to hound the new publication in the beginning. Indeed, its first editorial by Emmanuel Torres, published in October of the same year, lamented this fact, saying that perhaps the editors are "justified in pronouncing that literature (alas!) is dying if not actually dead, and it has been suggested in pontifical grave tones that what it probably needs is a decent burial." The only solution, he added, is for the writers in the college to "leave their complacent cocoon and start. Writing is hard work and consists of groping, compiling, selecting, writing, and re-writing." This "hard work" sought by the magazine was eventually recognized, as heights was awarded by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in New York in 1954. It would hold the distinction for 8 consecutive years, owing to its "character and personality", as well as its "stiff policy". Tradition and Catholicism were clear influences in the early years of heights. Indeed, Fr. Miguel Bernad, its adviser in 1954, clarified that its "stiff policy" was not just


to "develop giants in the field of literature. Rather it is a channel for the clear expression of the thoughts and ideas of the Catholic college man." This was also evident in the publication of the Marian issue in 1954, as well as the ACIL and Ignatian issues in 1955. In the following years, however, heights started to take on a more nationalistic orientation. Published works began to look more and more at the Philippine scene for inspiration, such as Teodoro Katigbak's The Automobile and the Carabao (1957) and Roberto Rodriguez's The Short Happy Life of a Cicada (1957), and Herminio Ordonez’s piece on the Huks (1959). This was also reflected in the editorials of 195659 which commented on national issues such as the government's interference with education. In line with this was the rise of poetry, as editors noted an increase in poems submitted while there was a decrease in submissions for short stories and essays. In fact, an issue dedicated to essays in 1962 was released in order to encourage submissions for the genre. Despite this, poetry continued to dominate the magazine, with its high point in the Bagay Movement in 1965-1966. In 1968, Canadian professor Jacques Schnabel would even look back at 1962-1966 as the "Golden Age of heights Poetry".


As the fervor of nationalism swept Ateneo, so did the beginnings of fascination with communism and student activism. Norman Quimpo noted in 1966 that "the restlessness in the fashion of student activity‌ is beginning to make itself felt [in campus writing]." This culminated in 1969-1972, as the 1969 editorial proclaimed that “Ang bagong heights ay magiging sigaw ng pagbabago sa Ateneo para sa maysakit na lipunan. Ang pakikibaka sa larangan ng kultura at pulitika ang magiging layunin natin. Hindi na papayagang ang magasing ito ay maging boses ng mga ilang gustong kumapit sa mapagsamantalang pagwawalang-bahala sa mga nangyayari sa ating paligid. Ang magasing ito ay magiging magasin ng bagong Atenista at ng mga Atenistang nais makahulagpos sa sapot ng katauhang dayuhan na nakapulipot sa kanilang katawan." Further changes came as heights became Pugadlawin in 1970-72, continuing to focus on communism and nationalism with such pieces as Jose Maria Sison's The Need for a Cultural Revolution (1970) and Edicio dela Torre's The Challenges of Maoism and the Filipino Christian (1972). The publication was stopped with the declaration of Martial Law.


allan alberto n. derain

Ang Batang Ito na May Alagang Aso Nagpaparamdam na ang init ng panahon sa balat ni Josemarie. Sinusundan siya nito hanggang sa kaniyang mga panaginip. Gumising siya sa himig ng Four Seasons ni Vivaldi na kaniyang pinatutugtog nang mahina papalakas sa kaniyang utak upang batiin nang may pananabik ang bagong araw . Tapos nang mag-almusal ang kaniyang mga magulang kaya’t kumain na lamang siya kasabay si Loreta. Si Loreta na gustong tumabi sa kaniya para kainin ang kaniyang longganisang hubad. Ilang ulit din niyang sinaway ang aso. At sa tuwing sasawayin, inaasam naman niyang marinig ang sagot na “Yes, milord.” Lorelie sana ang dapat na pangalan ni Loreta. Lorelie. Galing sa pangalan ng paborito niyang mermaid character na madalas maupo sa ibabaw ng bato para mangakit ng mga nagdaraang marino. Pero Mama niya ang nagpangalan ditong Loreta na mula raw sa pangalan ng isang aktres na naging isang espiritista. Nakita na niya ito. Minsan habang pinanonood nilang mag-ina ang pelikulang Morena Martir, sabik na itinuro ng nanay niya ang gumaganap na bida sa black and white na palabas. “Iyan si Loretta Marquez. May sariling simbahan ang babaeng ‘yan.” “Maamo po’ng mukha. Parang santa talaga.” “Artista lang ‘yan, dong,” paalala ng kaniyang Mama. “Talent talaga niyan ang pagpapaamo ng mukha. Itong si Loreta natin ang totoong maamo.” Hiniwaan ni Josemarie ng kaprasitong ulam si Loreta. Inihulog ito sa ilalim ng mesa na parang si Queen Catherine the Great lang na nagtatapon ng barya sa mga tao sa lansangan. Napanood din ni Josemarie ang biopic ng nasabing royalty. Katarin. Ito ang narinig niyang bigkas ng mga tauhan sa pangalan ng mabunying reyna. Marami siyang hindi naintindihan sa pelikulang iyon pero hindi ito naging hadlang para maging inspirasyon sa buhay si Katarin. Kaya naghagis pa siya ng isang maliit na piraso ng longganisa sa may paanan. Sa ganitong paraan lang mailalagay sa dapat nilang kalagyan ang kaniyang mga nasasakupan. Doon sa ilalim ng mesa. Gaya ni Loreta. “Bilisan mong kumain d’yan,” utos ng bata sa aso. “Papasyal tayo ngayong umaga sa manggahan.” “Yes, milord,” asam naman niyang isasagot ng aso. “Shall we go bird watching this morning, milord?” “Alam na alam mo kung anong gusto kong gawin tuwing walang pasok,” pagpansin ni Josemarie na nasisiyahan sa itinatakbo ng kanilang kumbersasyon. “I have known you since you were a tiny child, your grace,” sagot naman ng aso sa kaniyang hiraya. Nagiging si Lorelie si Loreta kapag ito’y nag-iingles. Dito

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naman sisimulan ni Josemarie ang pagkukuwento tungkol sa isang pangyayaring naikuwento na niya noon pa sa aso. Isang umaga habang naglalakad siya papunta sa kanilang manggahan, isang tauhan sa kanilang farm na walang suot na kamiseta ang sumalubong sa kaniya. Napansin niyang nakahubad ito dahil ginamit nitong pambalot ng kung anong bagay na iyon na kaniyang hawak-hawak ang kaniyang pang-itaas. Nakangiti nitong iniabot sa batang amo ang hawak-hawak. Natakot si Josemarie sa simula. Hindi niya tiyak kung tatanggapin niya ang iniaalok sa kaniya. Ngunit nang mailahad sa kaniya ang laman ng kamiseta, dalawang maliit na pagong ang kaniyang nakita. Magkalaguyo raw ang dalawang iyon, sabi ng tauhan na di pa rin naaalis ang ngiti sa mukha. “Paano mo nalamang magkalaguyo sila?” tanong ni Josemarie. “Ano ang magkalaguyo?” Nagkuwento naman ang tauhan. Sabay niyang nahuli sa batis ang dalawang pagong dahil nasa akto ang mga ito ng pagtatalik nang kaniyang makita. “Ano naman ang pagtatalik?” Dito na nagsimula ang interes ng bata sa mga hayup. “Ngayong umaga, panonoorin natin kung paano pagkaguluhan ng mga ibong pilipili ang mga bagong namumulaklak na puno ng mangga,” pahayag ng munting prinsipe na parang nagtatalumpati sa harap ng kaniyang tapat na alipin. “Pag-aaralan natin ang kilos nilang parang mga lumilipad na gunting. Titingnan natin kung paano nila iniiwasang madaiti at mahiwa ang isa’t isa habang nililigid ang malalagong sanga.” Pero bago makalabas ng bahay, pagsapit ng mag-amo sa sala, isang binata ang nabungaran nila roon. Mag-isa itong nakaupo sa sopa at tila may hinihintay. Kinahulan ito ng aso. “This man wants to see you, your grace,” pahayag ng mahinhin ngunit mapang-akit na si Lorelie samantalang bilang si Loreta, iba naman ang sinasabi nito: “Uy, ako po ang unang nakakita d’yan!” Dahil minsan lang sila magkaroon ng bisita, naupo rin sa may sopa si Josemarie para samahan ang binata at mag-usisa. Tuluyan na nitong nalimot ang mga pilipili sa manggahan na balak sanang puntahan. Samantala, sasampa din sa sopa ang Labrador para magampanan pa sana nang mas mahusay ang papel nito bilang anino ng amo pero tinampal ito ni Josemarie. Kaya doon na lang nahiga ang pobreng hayup sa sahig, sa gawing paanan ng amo, marahil doon na lang din hihintayin kung kailan siya lilimusan ng matagal nang hinihintay na paglingap. Narinig ni Josemarie na may kinakausap sa terasa ang kaniyang Mama. Kaya sa halip na hintayin itong gumawa ng kahit ano para sa kanilang bisita, sinimulan na ng bata ang pag-eestima sa kaharap sa pamamagitan ng larong titigan, isang larong magdudulot kay Josemarie ng isang uri ng panghihinayang na hindi pa niya nararanasan. Abot hanggang balikat ang buhok ng binata. Makapal ito, unat pero nakatikwas ang gawing dulo na parang isang malapad na dahong bumabalangkas sa hugis puso nitong mukha. Maamo ang mukha bagaman may manipis itong bigote at kutis na sunog sa init ng araw. Mukhang masayahin din ang binata. Di gaya ng mga tauhan nila sa farm na dahil sa labis na paglubog sa mga trabaho’y naging mga katawang lupa na lang at huminto na sa pagiging mga buhay na utak at puso. Pero hindi pa nga kasi natitikman 6


ng binatang ito ang magtrabaho sa kanilang farm kaya may pananabik pa ring makikita sa mga mata nito. Dito magsisimula ang panghihinayang ng labindalawang taong gulang na ibang-iba sa mga dating panghihinayang dahil ang bagong sumisibol na panghihinayang na ito’y nakatuon ngayon hindi para sa sarili kundi para sa iba. Tumitig din pabalik ang binata. Hindi ito natagalan ni Josemarie. “Sinong hinihintay mo dito?” tanong niya sa binata. Bahay namin ito at ang lakas ng loob mong titigan ako. Ito talaga ang gusto pa sana niyang sabihin pero sa halip, tinanong na lang niya kung ito ba ay may kasama. Sa halip na sagutin ang mga tanong, sumandal lang sa likod ng sopa ang binata para ipakitang hindi banta sa kaniya itong bagong dating, na hindi siya naiilang dito. Sa halip, lalo pa nga siyang napalagay ngayong may kasama na siya. Idinantay pa nito ang mga braso sa pasamano ng upuan, inilibot ang mga mata sa mga muwebles sa paligid. “Bahay n’yo ba ‘to? Hanep sa gamit,” panggigilalas ng binata na parang ang hinahangaang bahay ang inaasahang titirahan simula ngayon at sa mga susunod na araw. May bakas pa ng kaunting puntong Bisaya ang kaniyang pananalita, napuna ni Josemarie. Pero di tulad ng punto ng mga kamag-anak ng kaniyang nanay na nauna na rito bilang mga trabahador, laging parang galit o nagmamadali kapag nagsasalita, nagdaragdag ang manipis na puntong ito ng lambing sa katauhan ng nagsasalita. Matagal-tagal na rin siguro sa Maynila itong isang ito. Hindi niya alam kung bakit ang pagdating ng tag-ulan ang walang kaginsa-ginsa’y pumasok sa kaniyang isip gayong nagsisimula pa lang ang tag-araw. “E sino nga’ng hinihintay mo rito?” Inginuso ng lalake ang kausap ng kaniyang Mama sa terasa. Kasama pala nito si Inday Amparo na tiyahin niya sa ina. Taga  –  Cebu ito pero naninirahan na raw sa fishing village ng Navotas. Ang sabi ng kaniyang Mama, sa tuwing dadalaw daw sa farm ang kanilang mga kamag-anak na taga  –  Navotas, tatlo lang ang laging sadya: uutang ng puhunan, magsasangla ng alahas, o magpapasok ng tauhan na galing Cebu o Maynila. Mula sa kaniyang kinauupuan, dinig ng bata ang usapan sa terasa dahil sa lakas na rin ng pag-uusap ng mga naroon. Mula sa kaunting salitang Bisayang alam niya, naintindihan niyang itinatanong ng kaniyang Mama kung talaga kayang matino itong isinama ngayon ni Tiya Amparo. Iyong huling boy kasi na dinala nito sa farm, itinanan ang kanilang kusinera. Nito lang nagdaang buwan iyon nangyari. Tiniyak naman ni Tiya Amparo ang likas na kabaitan ni Jacildo  —  dahil iyon pala ang pangalan ng binata  —  at saka binanggit ang pangalan ng mga magulang nito na taga  –  Cebu rin, na agad namang naalala ng kaniyang Mama na mga dati pala niyang kapitbahay hanggang sa ang usapan ay nauwi na sa mga pangungumusta sa kung sino-sino pa rin ang mga naroroon na gustong lumuwas at magbakasakali. Iniayos ni Josemarie ang kaniyang pagkakaupo pahilig sa panig malapit sa terasa upang mas marinig pa ang pinag-uusapan ng matatanda. “Wala ka bang mga games diyan sa kuwarto mo?” tanong ni Jacildo sa kaniya. 7


Ibinaling muli ni Josemarie ang pagkakatitig sa mukha ng binata. Hindi agad siya nakasagot dahil hindi niya akalaing tatanungin siya tungkol sa laman ng kaniyang kuwarto nang ganito kaaga. Sumungay naman ang ngiti sa mukha ni Jacildo na parang paruparong bagong labas sa krisalis. Dito napansin ni Josemarie na hindi totoong bigote na tulad ng sa ilan sa mga tauhan nila sa farm ang nakalatag sa nguso ng binata kundi mga tila balahibo ng higad na layo-layo ang tubo. Kung aahitin marahil ang mga sibol na iyon ng balahibo at kung magpapagupit pa ito ng buhok, nakikinita ni Josemarie ang kaharap na halos kagaya rin niyang isang bata  —  naghahanap ng games. “Wala akong games. Bawal dito sa bahay ‘yon. Ayaw ni Papa,” sagot niya sa wakas pero agad din siyang nag-isip kung ano naman ang mayroon siya sa kaniyang kuwarto na puwede niyang ipakita kay Jacildo. “E anong meron ka?” “Meron akong dalawang pagong sa itaas. ‘Yong isa Henry ang pangalan, ‘yong isa naman Geoffrey. Gusto mong makita?” “Pareho silang lalake?” “Hindi ko alam. Siguro. Bakit, paano mo malalaman kung lalake o babae ang pagong?” “Malungkot ‘yon... kung pareho silang lalake.” “Masaya sila.” “Paano mo malalaman kung masaya o malungkot ang pagong?” “Lagi silang naglalarong dalawa.” “Talaga? Pa’no sila naglalaro?” “Nagpapatungan sila.” Tumawa nang malakas si Jacildo. Sa pagkakataong ito, hindi na lamang larawan ng nag-iisang paruparong umaalagwa sa sariling krisalis ang nabubuo sa isip ni Josemarie kundi laksa-laksang mga ibong pilipili na nagtitipon at sumasabog mula sa mga puno ng mangga. Biglang tumayo si Loreta, kumahol habang nangangalisag ang balahibong nilapitan at dinamba ang binata. Ganitong-ganito rin ang kahol at pangangalisag ng balahibo ng aso isang gabi nang may napansin itong kung ano sa loob ng bodega. Inabangan ng mag-amo kung ano o sino ang lalabas galing sa bodegang iyon. Si Tonito na kanilang boy kasama si Manang Mila na kanilang kusinera. Sabukot ang buhok nilang pareho. May panghihinayang na naramdaman din si Josemarie nang gabing iyon pero panghihinayang iyon para sa kaniyang sarili. Gustong sawayin ng amo ang kaniyang alaga pero napatda na lamang ito sa kinauupuan dahil sa takot. Agad na nagpulasan din sa isip ng bata ang mga ibong pilipili sa puno. Sa halip na salagin ang biglang paglapit ng aso, iniabot pa ni Jacildo ang isang kamay at inihain ang kaniyang palad. Inamoy-amoy iyon ni Loreta at anumang halimuyak ang nasinghot doon ay sapat na para muli itong mapayapa. “Loreta, sit down!” Nakahanap sa wakas ng boses ang batang amo ngunit huli na dahil ang kaniyang si Loreta’y nasa iba nang panig ng mundo at iba na ang pinapanginoon. Ilang sandali lang, nakalapag na sa batok ng aso ang isang kamay ni 8


Jacildo. “I said, sit down!” Banayad nitong hinahaplos-haplos ang batok ng kaniyang alaga patungong likuran hanggang tagiliran. Sinuyod nang ilang ulit na paghagod ang kulay krema’t mabalahibong katawan. Kinabahan sa simula ang bata. Batid niyang sensitibo ang kaniyang alaga. Noon pa lang nangyaring may ibang kamay na humawak dito   —   kamay na may butuhang mga daliri na bilugan halos ang bawat dulo na tulad din halos ng sa kanilang mga trabahador. Sa tuwing naglilibot sa manggahan ay kung bakit dito na madalas halos nababaling ang kaniyang tuon: sa mga brasong nagpuputol ng kogon at bumubuhat ng mga talaksan ng mangga, sa mga kamaong nagpapagatas sa mga baka, sa mga braso at kamay na nagkakadkad ng niyog, sa mga katawang nababasa sa pawis dahil sa pagkababad sa titig ng araw at may panginginig na idinudulot sa kaniya ang ganitong panginorin. Alam niyang hindi sila magtatagal sa farm dahil pagsapit ng tag-araw isa-isang magsisilisan ang mga tauhan. Magsisibalik sila sa kani-kanilang mga probinsya, sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya. Matitira lang ang ilang matatandang katiwala ng kaniyang ama. Samantalang ang mga mas batang kasing edad ni Jacildo ay sa tag-ulan pa muling magpaparamdam. Gusto na niyang kaladkarin palayo ang alagang aso. Gusto niyang bawiin ito mula sa mga kamay ni Jacildo. Siya lang ang among dapat na kinikilala nito. “Loreta, sinabi nang upo!” Pero nakarating na sa gawing tiyan ni Loreta ang mga daliri ni Jacildo at doon sa bahaging iyon, batid ni Josemarie na narating na rin ng aso ang rurok ng pagpapaubaya at pagtitiwala dahil iyon ang bahaging pinakamaselan at di dapat ginagalaw ng isang estranghero. Inilabas ng aso ang dila na parang nang-aasar kasabay ng sunod-sunod at mabilis na paghingal. Hindi pa nagkasya, dinamba muli ng aso ang kaniyang bisita, ipinatong ang dalawang paa sa hita ng binata, tila sinasabi sa binatang nagugustuhan nito ang ginagawa. “Ang bait-bait. Anong pangalan mo nga uli? Lorita? Parang pangalan ng magandang bebot.” Dinilaan ni Loreta ang isa pang kamay ni Jacildo na parang inuutusang paglaruin din ito sa kaniyang katawan tulad ng ginagawa ngayon ng isa pa nitong kamay habang hindi naman tumitigil sa paghimas ang binata. Paulit-ulit ito sa iisang daloy mula batok, likod, tagiliran, at tiyan. Batok, likod, tagiliran, tiyan. Bumibigat pero bumibilis din ang ritmo. Sinusundan-sundan ni Josemarie na parang gustong umigtad sa kinauupuan. “Loreta pangalan niya,” pagboboluntaryo na ng batang amo dahil hindi na nito natagalan ang sariling panginginig ng tuhod at laman. Tumango-tango lang ang lalake na nakatingin pa rin sa aso. Hindi tiyak ng bata kung naunawaan nga nitong kausap ang impormasyong kabibigay lang, kung gaano ito kahalaga, kung gaano ito kasagrado. Lorelie sana sa halip na Loreta ang ipapangalan dito. Galing sa pangalan ng paborito niyang mermaid character. Pero Mama niya ang nagpangalan ditong Loreta na mula raw sa pangalan ng isang sikat at napakagandang aktres noong dekada sisenta na naging isang espiritista at nakapagpatayo ng sarili nitong simbahan. Pero ano nga ba ang mayroon sa pagbibigay ng kumpletong pangalan sa isang estranghero? Ano ang inaasahan niyang 9


mahihita mula rito? Marahil, kung may matututuhan lang na kahit isang bagong bagay ang estranghero tungkol sa kaniyang alagang aso, may pag-asang makikilala pa nang lubusan at maunawaan din nang lubusan ng estrangherong ito ang anumang hilahil na iniinda ng kaniyang alaga at sa ganito, makakatuklas ang estranghero ng mga bago pang paraan ng paghawak, paghimas, at pagdama sa kaniyang alaga. “Jacildo!” Nagtatawag na si Inday Amparo mula sa terasa. Tapos na kasi itong kausapin ng kaniyang Mama. Agad binitiwan ni Jacildo si Loreta. Biglang naputol ang hipnotismo ng sandali. “Jacildo,” muling pagtatawag ni Inday Amparo sa alaga, mas malakas ngayon ang tinig pero tinig na tila nanggagaling na sa malayo, sa isang malayong dagat na hindi abot ng init ng tag-araw. Mabilis na sumunod ang binata sa narinig na tawag. Patakbo itong lumabas ng kanilang bahay. Ni hindi man lang nagpaalam kahit kay Loreta. Muling nakaramdam ng panghihinayang ang batang si Josemarie, isang lumang panghihinayang, panghihinayang para sa sarili na tulad nang dati. Tumayo siya para sundan si Jacildo. Susunod din sana si Loreta pero bigla siyang sinipa ni Josemarie kaya bahag-buntot itong kumaripas para sumilong sa ilalim ng sopa. Sa bungad ng pinto, makakasalubong ng bata ang inang papasok na ng bahay. Gusto niyang kausapin ito para makibalita. Sila ba’y babalikan pa ni Jacildo sa tag-ulan? Pero nakasunod pa rin ang kaniyang tanaw kay Jacildo na kasama na ni Inday Amparo, kapwa naglalakad palayo patungo sa mga puno ng mangga kung saan naroon pa rin ang mga ibong pilipili, maligalig sa kanilang paglipad.

10


allan popa

Ang Mga Pangalan ng Kalsada Maikakatas ng katawan lahat ng kailangang kulay upang maimapa ang siyudad. Laging nangangapuhap sa hanggahan ang hubog ng sarili. Ihahatid ng tanaw sa sapat na layo ang pinakawalang kalapati bago talikuran ang bintana. Kung kanino ako muli't muling babalik.

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Nagkasala-salabid ang maiitim na kable ng kuryenteng bumibigkis sa mga kalsada. Nakahilig sa hangin ang mga posteng nagpapatatag sa pananampalataya. Tinutuklap ng hangin, binubura ng ulan ang nakapaskil na mukha ng mga nawawala. Liwanag sa landas ng maraming panaginip ang mga dilaw na ilaw  –  trapiko.

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Anong dokumento ang pinunan, saan mo iniwan ang marka ng hinlalaki upang mapabilang? Pakiramdam ko, ligtas ako kung mananatili sa anino ng nagtataasang gusali. Sa tulad kong takot mabasa ang kaluluwa, walang higit na nakauunawa kundi ang tubig  –  ulan. Nagtatapos ang bawat araw sa pakikinig ng ulat  –  panahon.

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Nanunuot ang sirena ng ambulansya sa pinakakubling pangamba. Nananalamin sa kintab ng balat, sinusulsihan ako ng mahahabang sintas ng bota. Kailangan kong marinig sa gabi kung gaano kalayo ang mga panganib bago makatulog. Makikilala kita sa lalim ng pinsala na maipasasaling sa iyong daliri.

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allan popa

Musika Para sa Isang Pelikula (Kay Jema, na nagtanong kung ano ang tunog ng alikabok)

Taimtim tulad ng dasal ang pakikinig sa marahang pagdatal ganito katahimik lumalawak ang pagi-pagitan tumitining ang bawat sandali hanggang marinig ang sariling nakikinig Ang isusulat sa alikabok nakasulat na sa alikabok

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benilda santos

Kinaumagahan Bumagsak ang pader-pader na ulan Umaangil ang bubong, nasisindak Kung paano naging solido ang likido Kung paanong ang likido ang tinggalan Ng may bigat na ngayo’y lumulutang Binabawasan ng timbang ang siyudad Ang maramihan ginagawang isahan Papalayo nang papalayo ang tsinelas sa kapares Ikinakalat ng putik ang mga hakbang Inililigaw sa nalulusaw na kailaliman Sa katahimikang bumibingi sa lahat May nag-iisang buto  –  binhi ang nabalatan Kumawag-kawag saka nagsulputan Maninipis na ugat balintunang kadenang matibay Makukunat na sinulid mula sa bobina ng lakas Tumahi humabi sa buhangin putik layak bato Kinabig sa sarili bawat makapitan ng tendril Nanginginig sa pananabik na maikawing Muli sa anumang nabuhaghag nakalag nawalay Iyang matipunong singsing at sumpa ng buhay

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christine s. bellen

Ulan Tulad ng patak ng ulan ang pagdating ng mga biyaya sa aking palad unti unti mabagal na mabagal. Walang panganib ng pagbaha. Sapat lamang na masalo at masapo ng pag-unawa na sa patak nagsisimula ang daloy ng isang lawa.

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danilo r. dela cruz

Square! (Para kay Boy Biyak, aking ama)

“SQUARE tayo! Ano?! Duwag ka pala, eh!” Nang hamunin siya ng “square” ni Rodrigo, sa tapat ng mga tindahan ng mga laruan, gulaman, bignay, at pabunot, at kung saan ay mayroon ding larong pula – puti at nagbebenta ng mga gagamba, tiningnan niya lamang sa mata si Rodrigo, hinigpitan niya ang paghawak sa kanyang mga libro at school bag na may tatak na “Superman,” at saka siya nagpatuloy sa paglalakad pauwi ng kanilang bahay. Si Rodrigo ay siyang bully ng mga bully sa Mababang Paaralan ng Daanghari sa Navotas pero hindi hahayaan ni Quintin na ang haragang kaeskuwela ang magbigay ng kahulugan sa kanyang pagiging lalaki o kaya’y sa mismong pag-iral niya bilang tao. Hindi ang imaginary square ni Rodrigo. At lalong hindi ang muse ng kanilang paaralan na si Victoria na may crush sa kanya, na dahilan kung bakit naging mainit siya sa mata ni Rodrigo na palaging nanlilisik. Sa slam book na umiikot sa mga kaklaseng babae bago napasakamay ng mga lalaki sa Section 1, isinagot ni Victoria sa tanong na “Who is your crush?” ang buong pangalan ni Quintin–Quintin R. Guevarra at ang isinulat nito sa “Name” ay “Maria Victoria Bernabe Guevarra.” Si Victoria rin ang nagbigay kay Quintin ng kabiyak na puso na gawa sa felt paper sa Valentine’s Day noong nasa Grade 5 pa sila. Sabi ni Quintin sa sarili habang pumapasok sa kanilang bahay: "Hindi ako magpapakahon! Square?! Ano ‘ko, bale?!” Sa kanila na ang mga Maria Victoria ng mundo! Ito raw ang isinigaw ni Quintin, kung paniniwalaan ang testimonya ng punong duhat sa bakuran ng kanilang bahay at narinig din ng biyak-ang-nguso na si Marcial, ang tauhan sa babuyan ni Aling Puring, ang asawa ni Mang Ernesto, isa sa mga unang seaman sa Pilipinas. Hinayaan lamang ni Quintin ang pambu-bully ni Rodrigo sa mga natitirang buwan ng school year at nakapagtapos siya, na kahit paano, ay kasama sa top 10 na ang puwestuhan ay pinag-agawan ng anak ng kanilang adviser, ng apo ng principal, ng pamangkin ng matandang dalagang English teacher na nagbebenta ng tocino, make-up, at panties, at “pinapamangkin” ng baklang HE teacher na si Mr. David. Kaya hindi pa man nakakasalamuha ng 12 taong gulang at hindi pa tuli na si Quintin ang mga aktibista sa University of the Philippines sa Diliman, Quezon City, na kanyang magiging unibersidad sa kalaunan ng kanyang buhay sa mundong ibabaw, maaaring sabihin na nasambit na niya sa sarili ang mga salitang “hindi ako papakahon!” na bagama’t isang statement na de-kahon din pero ligtas gamitin dahil politically correct naman. 18


Ito marahil ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit lihim na mapapangiti ang freshman na si Quintin nang mag-room  –  to  –  room sa classroom ng kanilang block ang isang student leader at nagsabi: ”Mga kapwa ko na mag-aaral, ‘wag sana tayong magpatali sa apat na sulok ng ating silid-aralan. Lumabas tayo at ating labanan ang pagpapabaya ng rehimeng US  –  Ramos sa sektor ng edukasyon sa Pilipinas!” Ang totoo niyan, marami pang bagay na hindi alam si Quintin na ang pinagmumulan ng kahambugan ay ang pagiging valedictorian ng kanyang batch sa St. James Academy sa Malabon, pakikipagtalik sa mga naging Prom Queen ng kanyang high school (third year and fourth year), at pagkatanggap sa kanya sa UP College of Engineering. At may isang “karangalan” siyang natanggap na pilit niyang isinasama sa listahan: Itinanghal siyang St. James’ Mr. Pogi, isa sa pinakakaabangang annual contest sa kanyang high school. Kaya hindi mauunawaan ni Quintin (na naging miyembro ng League of Filipino Students o LFS sa pagtuntong niya nang second year) ang diretsong pagtatapat ng pag-ibig ng isang babae na kapwa niya aktibista  —  si Sarah na maganda, mapaganalisa, nakikibaka, at higit sa lahat (turn –  on ito sa mga aktibista!), itinakwil ang kanyang uring pinagmulan para sa layuning makamit ang tagumpay ng rebolusyon. Nagmula si Sarah sa isang angkan ng mga haciendero sa Bacolod. Nang tanggihan ni Quintin ang proposisyon ni Sarah, na sa termino ng mga aktibista ay “programa,” walang masasabi ang babae sa lalaki kundi: ”Napaka-feudal mo, kasama, napaka-feudal mo!” Iiyak si Sarah at tatakbo palayo ng Vinzons Hall at maiiwang nakanganga si Quintin na nag-aakala pa rin na malalim na malalim na ang kanyang pagkabatid sa mga talinghaga at hiwaga ng mga kahon at bilog. At pati ng tatsulok. O kaya ng parabilog o parihaba. Ng lahat ng hugis sa lipunan. Hindi pa kasama sa usapin ang kulay. Madilim na sa campus noong oras na iyon at makikita na lamang ni Quintin ang anino ng brokenhearted na si Sarah na palusong sa Sunken Garden. Nasa tabi na siya ng rebulto ni Andres Bonifacio sa harapan ng Vinzons Hall pero hindi magpapatuloy si Quintin sa paghabol sa dalaga. At iyon na rin ang huli nilang pagkikita. Sa pagtuntong ni Quintin sa dapithapon ng kanyang buhay at ng kanyang pag-iisa at kalungkutan, pilit niyang aalalahanin kung anong awit ang kanyang naririnig nang gabing iyon na nagsusumamo ang puso ng tunay, palaban, at makabayang si Sarah. Hindi na maaalala ni Quintin pero kailangang maalala ng kanyang humihina nang memorya. Magdedesisyon siya. Ang kanta nang gabi iyon ay Walang Hanggang Paalam ni Joey Ayala. “Oo. Iyon nga. Inaawit ng kapwa ko mga aktibista sa Vinzons Hall, na noon ay nagpapahinga lamang bago ipagpatuloy ang gawaing propaganda para sa malawakang welgang bayan kinabukasan. Ah, hinanap ko sa hanay si Sarah. Hinanap ko siya sa kalsada, ang lunsaran ng aming pakikibaka… Parang punyal ang hugis ng buwan sa kalangitan. Gusto itong kunin ni Quintin at itarak sa kanyang puso. 19


edgar calabia samar

Tagpo Pitong taon ako nang una ko siyang makita: hindi tao, hindi hayop, nakasiksik sa sagingan na tinatanuran ng matandang poso. Tiyanak! Sabi ko, nanlalaki ang mga mata. OA, sabi niya, naroon at wala sa panahon. At lumundag siya’t tumuntong sa balikat ko, buong buhay kong pinasan, mahigpit ang kapit sa ulo ko. Hindi siya nakikita ng iba  —   ang halimaw na laging may puna sa iniisip ko’t binibitiwang salita, tulad ng, “Pitong taon ako nang una ko siyang makita,” dahil bulag ako’t naliligaw at siya ang nakatagpo sa akin.

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Sa Isang Madilim Gubat ang laberinto sa gaya kong lumaki sa Ciudad. Naroon ang katawang naliligaw bagaman may kaluluwa ang mga naga at lawan at banug at halimaw na maaari sanang hapunan ng pagal na isip. Narito ang Pluralidad na hinananap: Sanlaksa ang biyaya, at hindi mabata ng tao, ligalig at pag-ibig. Kaya’t ipinakilala ang Dios: Nag-iisa at madilim ang pinagmulan, ipinamana sa atin ang paghahangad ng liwanag, na bahagya, lamang ay  —  Ay! Tumatakas ako’t tinatakasan ng kalikasan.

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alwynn javier

Hinuhà Sabi mo, kaya mong hubaran ang kulay ng araw sa pamamagitan ng tiyak na gamit ng salita, at mababantad ang pinakamatigas na diyamante at ang pinakadalisay na sinag sa kalawakan. Ako namang si gago, may naamoy na tustadong pinipig nang basahin mo sa akin ang tula. Bagay na bagay sa malagkit na suman at hinog na mangga. Civet cat run over by a truck. Posterior crushed. Listen.   The stench of blood musk   shit. Ay, ulitin mo nga ang iyang sinabi mo! May alamid na nasagasaan ng trak, warak ang puwerta? Narinig ko ang sinasangag na buto ng kape, ang marahas na pagdikdik sa almirés, ang unti-unting pagbuhos sa kumukulong tubig. Here, this creative space + chair broken leg, table… Baroque frame, corroded GI sheet. Spurt! paint on the floor. Can you feel red, rust midnight blue? Nalalasahan ko ang pawis sa iyong sentido. Halika, sabayan mo ako sa parisukát na paraiso: “Tayo na giliw sa malawak na kalikasan at salubungin ang bukang-liwayway; madarama mo ang pagsabog ng liwanag, mahahawakan mo ang bahaghari at ang sinag.”

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And the scent of that summer as I was cooking those words. Tatlo iyon: isang babaeng nakabelo, isang pugot na ulo, isang batang nagiging musang, baboy-ramo. I know, but did you hear yellow, orange, white? Pagkuwa’y dilaw na cello? Kahel na viola! Isang puting-puting biyulin. Yes, yes, and yes. Oo, siguro, at hindi para sa akin.

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alwynn alwynnjavier javier

Dead Deadna nasisiLola Lola I was busy hanging out with friends nang tumawag sila. I thought kailangan kong kumuha agad ng de luxe bus ticket pauwing probinsya para maabutan ko pa ang Lola. Iyon pala, patay na siya noon at ginusto pa yata nilang parang eksena sa pelikula ang aking pagdating: humahangos ang bida galing Maynila para habulin ang maysakit na ina, ngunit malayo pa ay matatanaw niya ang maraming taong papunta sa kanila, ang maliwanag na ilaw sa buong bakuran, ang mga nakaitim na kamag-anak; tatambad ang kabaong, at tatakbo siyang sumisigaw ng “Inay? Inay? Inaaayyy!” But I had a feeling na hindi maganda ang daratnan ko, so tumawag ako at nang aminin nilang ganoon na nga, sumugod ako sa supermarket — tears and all — at nag-panic buying ng 9 days’ worth ng panlamay: 2 dozens ng malalaking kandila, 20 jars ng instant coffee, 30 bags ng creamer, iba’t ibang klase ng biscuits, wafers at nuts. Hindi na ako nakatulog sa biyahe pauwi dahil sa anxiety at sa matinding hassle ng pagsakay sa backseat ng regular aircon bus. Pagdating ko, kapansin-pansing puro mga babae at bata ang naroon: may mga nagmamahjong at tong-its sa paligid, may mga tahimik na nag-iiyakan sa hagdan, ang iba’y nasa harap ng kabaong — handang umalalay in case melodramatic ang aking moment. Bad trip sa mga miron, kaya umupo na lang ako sa isang tabi at hinanap ang mga pinsan kong lalaki. Nag-aabang daw sila ng tubig para sa irigasyon ng bukid. 3 months nang walang ulan at mainit na ang lahat ng magsasaka. Hindi man sabihin sa akin, alam kong kargado silang nagbabantay lalo’t rampant na ang harangán sa mga lagusan ng tubig. I thought about it for a minute, pero nagdesisyon ding huwag nang pumunta sa bukid dahil baka mapahamak pa ako. Pinalambot na ng libro at computer ang aking combat at shooting skills; and besides, para saan pa ang aking pinag-aralan kung matutulad din lang ako sa mga pinsan kong sanggano? So I got myself settled para gampanan ang aking obligasyon: pay homage to the dead at siguraduhing magawa ang lahat ng ipinagbilin niya sa akin —  magpadala ng mga taong magra-round sa lahat ng kamag-anak; isa-isahing pasalamatan ang mga bisita; tiyaking araw-araw ang merienda, at sapat ang kape, asukal, gatas at sitsirya. Ok na rin, at least nabigyan ako ng pagkakataong muling marinig ang kuwento ng mga bisita —  kung paano niya inalagaan ang napakaraming bata kahit hindi niya anak; ang pagbigay niya ng matitirhang lupa sa maliliit naming kamag-anak; ang bilis niyang magtusok ng dahon ng tabako, ang tibay niyang magbuhat ng sako-sakong munggo. At paano sumasabog ang temper niya sa mga magnanakaw — sa trabahador na nakatikim ng latigo nang magpuslit ng sampung kaban ng palay, o sa apong suwail (hindi yata nila alam, yours truly) na hinabol niya ng nagbabagang plantsang de-uling nang mahuling nangungupit ng barya.

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Nitong mga huling araw ng Lola, paulit-ulit daw niyang sinasabi na huwag ma-involve ang mga pinsan ko sa conflict sa tubig. Lagi raw niyang ipinapaalala na tutal daang-ektarya pa ang lupain niya, ipagwalang-bahala na lang ang lahat dahil bukid lang iyan, nariyan pa naman ang mga punong pwedeng trosohin at mga alagang hayop na pwedeng gatasan o katayin. Alam naman ng lahat na matagal nang nilustay ng kanyang mga anak ang lahatlahat, kaya tinrato na lang ang kanyang instructions bilang hallucinations ng isang ulyanin na malapit nang mamatay. Actually, dito sa ancestral house pa lang ay hindi na maitatanggi kung gaano kalala ang drought: nagsisimula nang magbitak ang maalikabok na lupa sa palibot, naglalabasan na ang mga ipis at garapata mula sa siwang ng sahig; at nang mauhaw ako’y nalaman kong ga-patak na lang ang tumutulo sa posong freeflow. Grabe na ang discomfort, so uminom ako ng isang bote ng ipinabiling mineral water, pagkatapos ay nagpahid ng maraming anti-itch lotion sa binti while showing my trademark smug face sa mga sumisilip na tsismosa. Madaling araw na, at tahimik akong humihigop ng freshly brewed coffee sa tabi ng kabaong ni Lola. Iniisip ko kung paano tutupdin ang pinakamahigpit niyang bilin sa akin: sa araw ng libing, bubuhatin ang kanyang kabaong ng mga lalaking apo sa buong stretch ng kanyang ari-arian; pagdating sa intersection papuntang simbahan, sasalubungin siya ng pari at mga sakristan, isasakay sa isang lumang kariton na hihilahin ng pinakamatanda niyang kalabaw, at susundan ng mga tumatangis niyang anak at mga natulungang tauhan at kamag-anak. Sa di-kalayuan, may narinig akong putukan. Malamang may nag-engkwentro nang magkalabang grupo ng magsasaka — kung sino man ang mga iyon, I have no idea. Mabilis na nagtakbuhan papunta roon ang ilang nagpapalahaw na kababaihan. Tanaw ko mula sa bintana ang kislap ng iwinawasiwas na itak at nagliliparang tingga, parang fireflies na sumasayaw sa kumpas ng apoy ng marubdob na kandila sa ulunan ng Lola. Hinipan ko ang kandila, tuloy-tuloy hanggang halos maubusan ng hininga. Bakit ako tumutula?

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eugene soyosa

May Hindi Ka Nakikita Alam mo ang maaaring mangyari nang pasukin mo ang silid. Humahalinghing ang mga dingding na pinanglaw ng mahabang panahon ng pagharap sa paglaho. Wala silang pinahintulutang pumasok maliban sa isang dakilang makata. Baguhin mo ang buhay mo, wika niya sa isang tula. Hindi mo man nakikita, alam mong napupuno ang silid ng mga tula. Mapusyaw ang mukha ng dilim. May pag-aalinlangan kang lumapit sa lumang mesita. Natisod ka sa nakakalat na rosaryo sa iyong paanan. Umupo ka sa bakanteng silya at sumalubong ang maraming tanong. Naiipit ka sa namamagang puwang tulad ng isang batang naliligaw, nag-iisa sa gitna ng miron. Tulad nang minsang mapanaginipan mo ang sariling nagsasayaw sa ibabaw ng nagbabagang uling habang painit nang painit ang bawat lapat ng balat. Tulad nang minsang managinip kang marahang nagpapakawala ng bangkang papel sa rumaragasang ilog at wala kang magawa kundi makinig. Tulad nang minsang managinip ka ng mga ginagahasang kalansay sa ilalim ng yungib at wala kang magawa kundi manalangin. Tulad ng mga gabing nagising ka sa isa na namang panaginip sa loob ng isa pang panaginip. Namamaga ang puwang. Bumibigat ang bawat 26


buntonghininga. Inilabas mo ang panulat. Makata ang tawag sa lumikha ng tula. Makata ang tawag sa tagapaglikha. May hindi ka nakikita ngunit may nadarama.

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eugene soyosa

Langit-Lupa Matapos awitin ang inulit-ulit na himig, tatapat ang hintuturo sa dibdib, mapipili ang taya, tatalilis sa nakaangat na patag, ang panatag na hindi kailanman mahahawakan. Sasaglit sila sa hangin at mawawalan ng bigat ang buong katawan. Mga anghel na walang pakpak, nakayapak silang aakyat sa mga piraso ng langit: kinakalawang na dram, bundok ng basura at nangangamoy na putik. Paano magtatapos ang lahat gayong ang langit, lupa, at impiyerno ay nasa iisang mundo  —  

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jan brandon dollente

Walang Ibang Liwanag Walang patutunguhan ang panalangin kundi sa babasaging ilog ng pag-iisa. Ilatag ang talukap at hayaang magpabuhat sa agos ang iyong loob paloob sa kuwebang walang – hanggan ang magdamag. Huminga. Magpahinga. Pakinggan: ang lahat ng bagay sa iyong paligid ay tinutubuan ng puso. Pakinggan: nagpapakilala ang mga tahimik na bato sa bawat sugat sa iyong tuhod. Buhay na tubig. Nangungusap na hangin. Dingding na patuloy binibitiwan ang sarili. Pakinggan: pumapatak ang awit at namumuo sa mga butas na pinipili mo pa ring kahulugan hanggang ngayon. Simulan nang sindihan ang mga hiling. Walang ibang liwanag kundi ang sasalubong sa iyo sa bungad ng pagdilat.

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jason tabinas

Muli, ang pagbubukas ng mga pintuan Pasara na ang mga pintuan ng tren at naghahabol Ng hininga ang mga pasaherong nilulukso Ang mga hagdan. Kung kailan isang kamay na lang Ang agwat, ang tuluyang paglapat ng mga pintuan. Sa loob, marahang kumakaway ang isang estudyante Sa mga nasa kabila ng salaming pinto. Baaa  —  baaay! Pangiti-ngiting sabi at sabay-sabay nagtawanan Ang magkakasama. Sa loob ng tatlong segundo, Ang inaasahang pag-usad ng tren bago ang hindi Inaasahan  —  Muli, ang pagbubukas ng mga pintuan.

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Baha Tatlong beses nang lumubog ang mga palayan sa baha, Magkakasunod. Ikatlong linggo nang makalitaw Ang mga nabulok na dahon, uhoy, at mga butil  —   Magtutulyapis pa lang ang ilan pero mabibilog na Ang karamihan. Sa araw ng pamamalengke, nakalatag Ang mga talbos ng kamote, kamoteng-kahoy, at gabi Mula sa bundok. May mangilan-ngilan ring bagong huling Maliliit na karpa, tunsoy, at tilapya. Mas marami pa Ang nagtitinda kaysa sa mamimiling walang pambili, Pansin ng ilan. Sa gabi, maraming bata ang hindi Makatulog dahil sa pagkalam ng sikmura habang sa kalye Sunod-sunod ang kahol ng mga aso. Nagugutom rin Siguro kaya hayaan na lang, palagay ng mga matatanda, Maging sila man ay hindi makatulog. Saksi ang bilog Na buwan sa maingat na pagpuslit ng ilan sa mga tindahan Habang mag-isang tumutungga ng gin ang mamang Nabulukan ng daan-daang sako ng bagong aning palay. Sa umaga, mabibigla ang mga may-aring nanakawan Ng mga paninda. Nang tanungin ang mamang saksi, walang Naisagot kundi ang pag-ikot ng mapupungay na mata.

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kristian sendon cordero

Tatlong Mistiko I. Aral Tungkol Sa Gabing Madilim ‘¡Oh noche que guiaste! ‘¡Oh noche amable mas que el alborada! ‘¡Oh noche que juntaste Amado con amada, Amanda en el Amado transformada!’ - San Juan de la Cruz, ‘Noche Oscura’ Lantang hasmin ang isinabog sa aking panaginip. Ngunit nang magising, amoy bulok na kamatis ang simoy nitong gabing naglalandi ang mga bituin. Marahil nagtatalik din sila  —   Saksakan ng libog siguro ang mga tala. Ginawa silang ganito upang manganak nang manganak ng mga purong liwanag, na sa ati’y magbibigay direksyon tayong mga matiyagang nagmamatyag kung nasaan ang kanlungan ng hilaga o ang silangan ng timog. Tayong nakikiramdam sa hangin. Ngayong gabi, muling pumapasok ang hamog at humihimlay sa aking noo. At sa labas, ang mga katedral at kastilyo’y mistulang mga pasong pusporo  —   ako nama’y naririto sa isang moog na di makabog-kabog: isang bihag ng higanteng paniniwala. 32


Inaamin kong naghihintay ako ng manunubos na ganap na susupil at lulusaw sa mga aninong nakapaligid sa akin. Isang kisapmata niya lamang at mapaparam na ang nakapaligid na dilim. Mapapawi ang agam-agam na tuwinang lumulukob sa aking walang hanggang pagkadismaya. Isang salita niya lamang at ang katawan ko’y papaimbulog, at yayabong akong katulad ng balete, magnanaknak kasing dami ng mga kabuteng ulam ko, araw  –  gabi. Ay! unti-unti nang humahaba ang aking buhok  —  ito ang magiging baging para sa lalaking magiting. At maghihintay ako nang maghihintay sa kanyang banal na pagtawag sa akin, upang sa ganun tuluyan ko na itong mailugay. II. Aral Mula Sa Mga Gagamba ‘Nada te turbe Nada le falta quien a dios tiene sola dios basta.’ - Santa Teresa de Avila, ‘Nada te turbe’ Huwag mabahala. Huwag magambala. Mag-asal gagamba na matiyagang sinusulsi ang kanyang balay. Kunin ang susi ng pagtitimpi. 33


At buksan ang tarangkahan para sa pagdating ng hintay na dalaw. Ipagpatuloy ang mga gawaing bahay. Magtipid ng laway. Laway lamang ay sapat na. Laway lamang ay sapot na. III. Aral Mula Sa Mga Tinik Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour. Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon. Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union. Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité. Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi. Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance. Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière. Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie. -Buhat diumano kay San Francisco de Asis ang dasal na ito na unang lumabas sa wikang Pranses. Kapatid na mga halaman, angkinin ninyo ang aking laman. Sa bawat butas ng aking kublit itarak ang inyong mga tinik. Padaluyin sa akin ang inyong kapayapaan at pag-unawa, sipsipin ang nalalabing nasa at lumbay. Turuan ninyo akong magpatawad tulad sa kung paano ninyo di iniinda ang pagbali sa inyong tinik, pagbakbak 34


sa balat o ang pagpitas sa mga bubot na bulaklak. Nawa’y magpatuloy akong huminga katulad ng inyong mga sanga. At maangkin ko ang karupukan, bilang pangangailangan, sumagad man ito sa ulirat, o umabot sa pinakadulo ng ugat. Bago man sana ako mautas, ganap sana akong maging hinog na bunga: isang makatas na prutas. Kung sasapitin ko na ako’y mapipitas, kakainin ng isang may masamang budhi huwag mo na akong iadya, hinihiling kong iluwa na lang niya sana ako  —  lahat ng aking binhi sa naghihintay na lupa. At ipinapangako ko, tutubo ako bilang isang matinik na halaman  —  bago, sa lilim ng saganang sikat ng mga kapatid na araw at buwan, at maghihintay rin ako ng mga panibagong handog na katawan: silang nais ring maging pilapil ng iyong biyaya’t paglingap. Sa ganitong paraan nais kong magwakas at mapakumbaba akong papaloob sa siklo ng paghahalo ng balat sa tinalupan.

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kristian sendon cordero

Dito I. Labas-masok ang mga kargador sa pantalan. Nag-uunahan ang mga paa sa pagdiskaraga ng mga kakailanganin sa piyesta. Kailangang makaalis ang baroto bago pumatak ang alas-otso nang di abutin ng pag-aati ng dagat. Bawat minuto ng pagkaantala sumusulpot ang Roca Encantada  —   ang islang batobalani na kinakatakotan maging ng mga oragon na timoner. Sumasama sa hangin ang maliliit na buhangin at kumakapit sa buhok. Tumitilamsik ang mga alon sa balat ng mga pasahero at nagiging bubog ng mga asin. Ganito nila hinahabol ang oras. Ganito sila hinahabol ng oras. II. Ang nalunod na bangkay na ating sinisilip sa loob ng puting kabaong ay parang buwang pilit

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na sinasalok mula sa napakalalim, napakalinaw na balon. * Ang balong ating sinisilip sa loob ng puting sasakyan ay may mukha na parang sa buwan  —  napakalinaw, napakalalim ng kanyang pagkalunod higit sa nasalok na bangkay. * Ang buwang na ating sinisilip sa loob ng puting silid ay parang nalunod na bangkay na hindi natin masalok-salok mula sa napakalalim, napakalinaw na balon. III. Tuwing tag-ulan napupuno ng mga patay na palaka ang kalsada. Kailangan ng ang mga ito’y makatawid nang matuwid sa matubig na lugar. Likas na batas ang paglikas kaya marami pa rin sa kanila ang nakaliligtas. Sa magkakasunod na gabi, maririnig ang isang orkestra ng mga palaka, nakaplakang tinatawag  —   ang lahat ng mga duwag. IV. May isang baguhang payaso sa sulok. Nag-aabang ng pagtawag sa kanya. Ito ang dapat na gawin: Kunin ang isang dos por dos at saka piringan ang mata katulad ng babaeng Libra. Lumakad papunta sa palayok habang inaasinta ang pagpalo dito.

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Kaunting katuwaan lang. Kinakailangang huwag kaagad tamaan ang palayok na may laman. Magkunyaring naliligaw ng direksyon habang iwinawasiwas ang hawak na kahoy: mag-ingat. Kung malapit na sa palayok, dalawang beses na dapat na muling magkamali. Pakiramdaman ang pananabik ng lahat. Huwag kalimutan magbilang ng hakbang. Pagkatapos ng lima hanggang pitong minuto dapat na mabasag na ang palayok. Inaasahang mag-aagawan ang lahat sa laman ng loob. Agad na alisin ang piring sa mata. Tandaan: kahit na nakita kung sino ang nauna, huwag kailanman mamagitan sa sinumang mag-aaway dahil sa isang piraso. Ipagpatuloy ang sunod na laro sa paglabas ng mas malaki’t kulay gintong palayok. Piliin at piringan ang sa tingin mong nadehado. V. Umuupo siya sa harap ng kanyang maliit na kahon mula alas otso ng umaga hanggang alas singko ng hapon. Dito niya inaabangan ang mga kustomer na magpapaayos ng relo. May ilang relong di umaandar ang nakasabit sa loob ng kahon at ang mga bateryang kanyang ibinebenta. Kasamang nakadikit sa loob ng kahon ang isang 1983 na pampitakang kalendaryong may larawan ng birhen. Habang hinihintay ang huling kustomer, hindi siya makatitiis na di tumingin sa isa sa mga sirang relo. At tila maalimpungatan at tahimik na mapapatawa sa pakiwaring saktong-sakto sa ipinapalagay na tamang oras ang sinasabi palagi ng mga patay na kamay  —  5:05.

VI. Punerarya ang terminal sa mga madaling-araw. May amoy ng pormalin ang hangin. Animo’y

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mga sepulterero ang bawat pasahero. VII. Pagpasok na pagpasok sa silid na ito na madalas ko nang ginagawa nitong huli na parang pusang natututo muling umuwi sa bahay ng kanyang tagapag-alaga  —   Muli kong tinitingnan ang dating ilaw, sahig, kama, banyo, bibliya, maliit na aparador na para akong piping imbestigador ng isang ‘di kapani-paniwalang krimen. At parati akong lumilingon upang tawagin ang Boy na laging mabilis kung umaalis. VIII. Tatlong linggo matapos pitasin ang mga bunga sa puno at dumanak ang mga dagta  —  namahinga ang mga ito sa isang estante. Nanunuot ang kalburo sa laman. Pilit na pinatatanda ng init ang mga bungang hilaw, pinapanipis ng apog ang balat: lantang dilaw ang kulay ng mga saging, may abo sa puyo ng abokado, nakukumutan ang manibalang na papaya. Pinipiga nito ang natitirang asim sa kaloob-looban ng mga ligaw na dalandan. Pinapalitan ng tindera ang pundidong pulang bombilya habang nagmumura nang nagmumura.

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mark benedict lim

Maria at Ligaya Bago niya naisawsaw ang kaniyang kamay sa agua bendita at mag-antanda, nakita ni Soledad na nakaukit sa tubig ang mga pangalan ng kaniyang isisilang pa lang na kambal. Maria at Ligaya. Ang mga pangalang iyon ang magdidikta ng kanilang tadhana. Ng kanilang katawan. Ng kanilang sumpa.  —    Isagani, Daan-daang Kamatayan (1972) “MATAGAL KO NANG kilala ang gabing ito,” ang sabi ni Ligaya isang madaling-araw habang nakatayo sa itaas ng edsa Shrine, “ito ang gabi ng katapusan.” Sa sandaling iyon, napakalapit niya sa kaniyang pinagmulan. Binigkas niya ang unang linya ng nobelang yumanig sa Filipinas noong kasisimula pa lang ng Batas Militar. Dahil sa nobelang iyon, nakuha ng mga Filipino na manahimik sa kabila ng mga kaguluhan at karahasan. Iyon ang pumuno sa kanilang alaala. Ngunit dahil din doon    —    kung maniniwala sa mga aklat ng kasaysayan    —    nagising sila at nagalit, at muling umasa. Iyon ang hawak-hawak ni Ninoy Aquino pababa ng eroplano bago siya tamaan ng higit sa sampung punglo mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng paliparan. Isa sa mga bala ay napadpad sa nobela. At nang humandusay sa tarmak, katulad ng may-ari nito, duguan din ang aklat na may dilaw na pabalat. Lahat ng 1230 na pahina nito, may bahid ng kamatayan. Ngunit hindi alam ni Ligaya ang lahat ng ito   —   ang nobela at ang bayang ilang dekada ring tila nahubog mula lang sa mga pahina nito   —   walang kahit anong paraan na malaman niya. Matagal na niyang tanggap na hindi siya bahagi nitong bayang sinubok din niyang ituring na tahanan. Itong bayan na pinatatakbo ng gulong ng magagaspang na palad, ng mga sampal na nakapagbabago ng buhay at mga luhang nagbibigay-buhay ngunit nang-aagaw rin ng buhay, ng mga kamatayan at aksidenteng dinudulot ng sama-samang sama ng loob, ng mga sanggol na pinagbubuklod ng iba’t ibang pangalan ng tadhana, ng mga pag-ibig na wagas at nakapapaslang ng kung sino man   —   ang bayan ng sanlaksang dalamhati na tumataboy sa kaniya, gaano man niya sinikap na mapabilang, gaano man niya kahalintulad ng katangian at kaugnay ng kasaysayan si Ligaya ng nobelang humubong sa katauhan ng Filipinas. Unang lumitaw sina Ligaya sa bansa noong araw na una ring inilabas ang Daandaang Kamatayan, dalawang araw matapos ideklara ang Batas Militar. Ito ang una at tanging nobela sa Filipinas na ibinenta sa halos lahat ng bilihan sa bansa, mapa-mall man, sari-sari o palengke. Ang mga sundalo mismo ang naghahatid ng mga kopya nito. Hindi lumalampas sa 25 piso ang presyo; mariing utos ito ng pamahalaan. Agad-agad itong bumenta. Nakalimutan ng taumbayan ang telebisyon tuwing hapon, minsan, pati ang pakikinig ng radyo. Kahit sino, may bitbit nito. Kahit ang mga tambay sa 40


tindahan, uupo sa bangko at papalipasin ang oras sa pagbabasa. May kumalat pa ngang balita na may taong grasang nagsumikap baguhin ang buhay niya dahil nabasa ito. Ang nobela ang naging pinakamabisang instrumento ng pamahalaang Marcos. Ngunit walang sinasabi ang aklat kung sino ang nagsulat. Parang bigla lang talaga itong sumulpot sa buhay ng mga Filipino. Iyon daw ang binabasa ni Marcos noong araw ng pagdeklara. Iyon daw ang agarang dahilan ng kaniyang pasiya. Si Imelda raw ang nakaisip na ipakalat ito sa buong bansa, sa murang halaga. Ngunit hindi rin daw alam ng mag-asawa kung saan o kanino ito nanggaling. Natagpuan lang daw ito ni Marcos sa kaniyang mesa pagkagising noong makasaysayang araw na iyon   —   isang pagtatagpong katulad ng pagkatagpo ni Padre Damaso kina Ligaya. Habang nagdarasal sa may altar, nakarinig si Padre Damaso   —   ang kura paroko ng isang simbahan sa Baranggay San Diego sa may Balintawak   —   ng magkasabay na hagulgol na nanggagaling sa pulpitong hindi niya kailanman ginamit. Hagulgol iyon ng dalawang sanggol. Umaalingawngaw ito sa paligid ng simbahang napakatahimik at binabalutan na ng sapot. Ngunit nakakandado ang pulpito at hindi alam ng pari kung nasaan ang susi. Habang dinig na dinig ang iyak ng mga sanggol, hinalughog niya ang mga gamit sa kaniyang kuwarto, na kuwarto rin ng mga dating kura. Naghanap siya sa tokador, sa mesa kung saan naroon ang halos lahat ng mahahalagang dokumento ng parokya, sa pagitan ng marurupok na pahina ng mga inaalikabok nang libro, sa kama, sa ilalim ng kama, sa ilalim pa ng Santo Niño na putol ang kanang kamay, kahit sa likod ng larawan ng Birheng burado na ang mukha; ngunit wala siyang nakitang susi. Lubusan siyang nataranta nang tumahimik muli ang paligid. Nagsumikap tumakbo ang kurang noon pa lamang naranasang mabahala, magmadali, mapawisan nang malamig, at makakilos nang higit pa sa kaya ng katawang laging kumakain nang mamantika, natutulog na parang mantika, at naglalabas din sa mukha ng parang mantika. Nang sa wakas ay makarating siya sa pulpito, higit siyang pinagpawisan, higit siyang nagmantika bagaman nanlalamig na nga siya. Nag-antanda siya nang marahan. Bukas na ang pulpito, tila nasira ang kandado ng pag-iyak ng dalawang sanggol na pagkakita ng pari ay mahimbing nang natutulog. Matagal-tagal din siyang tulala, ngunit nang matauhan na siya, binuhat niya nang buong ingat at takot ang dalawa. Noon lang siya nakabuhat ng sanggol mula nang maging pari siya. Bata pa siya nang huli niyang magawa iyon, noong buhay pa ang kaniyang pamilya. Noon nga lang din siya nakakita ng sanggol sa simbahang iyon. “Hulog sila ng langit,” bulong niya, na para bang kailangan pa niyang kumbinsihin ang sarili bago makapaniwalang sa langit talaga sila nagmula. Nang masabi nga niya ito, nalaman na rin niya ang kailangang gawin. Sa altar niya ibinaba ang mga sanggol. Nataranta siya nang kaunti na para bang may mali, ngunit kumalma agad siya at dumeretso muli sa kaniyang kuwarto. Pagkabalik niya sa altar, may dala-dala na siyang malalambot na sapin at bote ng Agua bendita. Dinamitan niya ang dalawa 41


gamit ang mga sapin at agad-agad na sinimulan ang sakramento ng binyag. Dahil siya lang din naman ang saksi, naisipan niyang hindi isagawa ang pormal na ritwal at sa halip ay iyong pribadong binyag na lamang na para sa mga di-inaasahang pangyayari, katulad ng paghiling ng naghihingalong di-Kristiyano na mabinyagan. Kung tutuusin, paliwanag ng pari sa sarili, hindi rin naman inaasahan ang mga nagaganap noong mga sandaling iyon. Ngunit sa kaniyang kalooban, hindi niya alam kung iyon nga ba ang dapat gawin. “Binibinyagan kita sa ngalan ng Ama, Anak, at ng Espiritu Santo,� sabi ni Padre Damaso habang sa bawat persona ng Diyos na binabanggit, nanginginig siyang nagbubuhos ng tubig sa noo ng sanggol na mas malapit sa kaniya. Hindi niya napansing ngumiwi ito, parang nasaktan, ngunit nanatili pa ring tulog. Nang matapos, tumungo naman siya sa pangalawa. Gayon din ang kaniyang ginawa, higit nang panatag sa kaniyang mga kilos. Ngunit nang Espiritu Santo na lang ang kaniyang bibigkasin, nagising ang nabinyagan nang sanggol at umiyak nang napakalakas. Nagulat ang pari; natawag pa rin niya ang huling persona at nabuhos ang tubig, ngunit walang kahit isang patak na tumama sa noo ng pangalawang sanggol. Kaagad niyang binuhat ang una, ngunit bago pa niya mapatahan ito, nagising na ang pangalawa. Sinubok niyang buhatin din ito ngunit parehas silang malikot. Napatingin siya sa lumuluha nilang mata at naaninaw ang kulay ng mga ito. Itim ang mata ng kaniyang kinakarga, at bughaw naman, kumikinang na bughaw sa gitna ng kadiliman ng simbahan, ang nasa altar pa. Noon niya naalala ang binabasa niya kaninang nobela na nabili niya noong namalengke siya. Noon din niya nabatid na wala pa palang pangalan ang mga sanggol. Hindi siya nag-alangan at napagpasiyahan niyang pangalanan silang Maria at Ligaya. Wala namang makaaalam, isip niya. Si Ligaya ang may bughaw na mata at si Maria ang may itim. Hindi sumagi sa kaniyang isipan na maaaring ang agua bendita ang dahilan ng pagkakaiba ng mata ng dalawang sanggol na magkasabay na magkasabay na umiyak at saka nanahimik noong unang sandali nila sa mundo. Hindi niya naisip na maaaring lalo pa silang ipaghiwalay ng pangalang Ligaya at Maria. Mula nga nang sandaling iyon, hindi na sila nagkatulad. Natuwa ang pari sa kaniyang pasiya at naisip na ito’y mabuti. Habang kinakanta ang Ama Namin, idinuyan niya sa kaniyang bisig si Maria, samantalang tinatapik niya si Ligaya sa puwitan. Si Maria, katulad ng inaasahan, ang unang nakatulog. Kinaumagahan, hindi na naman mapakali si Padre Damaso. Natanto na niyang kailangan ng mga gamit at gatas. Kailangan na niyang magpalit ng lampin na wala siyang kaalam-alam. Ngunit ayaw rin naman niyang maghanap na lang ng maaaring magpalaki sa mga bata. Sa wakas, ang sabi ng kaniyang kalooban, magkakaroon na rin siya ng kasama sa simbahang iyon na tila kinalimutan na ng nagmamadaling mundo at nagbabagong lipunan. Bago magmisa nang alas-siyete, nang nakaabito na, humangos siya doon sa malaki-laking tindahan ng isang Tsinoy na alam niyang alas-sais pa lang bukas na. Ngunit hindi siya napapansin ng tinedyer na nagbabantay kahit na sumisigaw 42


na siya. Tuloy lang ito sa pakikinig sa radyo. Kinailangan pa niya itong kalabitin upang tumingin ito sa kaniya. Ngunit hindi ito nagtanong kung ano ang kailangan niya. Sinabi na lang ng pari ang mga naisip niyang pangangailangan nina Ligaya. Para sa lampin, Good Morning towel na lang ang naisip niyang pupuwede. Pagkabigay sa kaniya ng mga iyon, bumalik sa pakikinig ang bata, na para bang walang nangyari. Bumuntonghininga ang pari, nag-iwan na lang ng pera, at umalis para magmisa. Sanay na siya sa mga ganoong pangyayari. Ganoon na talaga ang pakikitungo sa kaniya ng mga tao roon. Parang hindi siya umiiral, kailangan pa niyang ipadama sa kanila ang kaniyang sarili. Parang kasama ng paglimot nila sa simbahan at sa pagsimba, nakalimutan na rin nila ang nagmimisa. Kahit mismo ang simbahan, tila matagal na ring kinalimutan ng mundo, naiwan ng pag-unlad ng bayang napakaraming simbahan. Maaari pa ngang hindi ito kailanman naalala ng mundo. Kahit pa ang obispong nagpadala sa kaniya roon, hindi na makaalala. Bagaman lagi siyang may naaabutan sa pintuan ng simbahan tuwing huling araw ng buwan na sobreng may salapi ngunit walang nakalagay kung kanino nanggaling, wala siyang natatanggap na liham mula sa obispo. Isang beses, naisipan ng pari na puntahan na ito upang malaman kung bakit gayon ang nangyayari. Nang makarating siya sa tirahan ng obispo at tanungin niya ito kung bakit walang nagaganap na komunikasyon sa pagitan nila, tumayo ito mula sa kinauupuan, dahan-dahang nagpaumanhin, nahihirapang hinawakan ang kaniyang balikat ng kulu-kulubot at nanginginig na nitong kamay, at nagsabing hindi siya nito kilala. Ngunit, tandang-tanda pa niya ang araw na ipinadala siya sa kaniyang parokya. Unang nakapunta si Padre Damaso sa Balintawak nang sabihin ng kaniyang obispo na isa na siyang kura paroko. Araw iyon ng kamatayan ng kaniyang kababata at matalik na kaibigang si Pia. Ngunit hindi na niya nakuhang pumunta sa burol nito. Kura paroko na siya ng isang simbahan sa Baranggay San Diego na nagngangalan na namang San Antonio de Padua at kailangan na raw niyang pumunta roon agad-agad. Ngunit wala nang iba pang impormasyong sinabi sa kaniya; isang beses pa lang daw nakapunta roon ang 70 taong gulang na obispo. Bago siya magpaalam, nagbabala ito na maaari ngang lubos siyang mahirapan sa paghahanap. Nang makarating nga siya sa Balintawak, walang nakapagsabi sa kaniya kung nasaan ang simbahan o ang baranggay. May Baranggay Apolonio Samson at Unang Sigaw, ngunit walang San Diego. Isa lang din daw ang simbahan doon, ang San Jose Manggagawa. Ngunit sigurado naman ang paring hindi siya nagkamali ng dinig. Nagpasiya siyang hanapin pa rin ang kaniyang simbahan. Ang lugar na iyon, isip niya, ang kaniyang parokya, ang kaniyang responsabilidad, ang kaniyang payak na pangarap. Binisita niya ang San Jose at naabutan doon ang kura. Bago ang simbahan. Sa katunayan, hindi talaga San Jose ang pangalang nakapaskil sa harapan kundi St. Joseph, the Worker. Sementado ang dingding at pininturahan ng puti. Simpleng parihaba na ang hugis ng simbahan at hindi iyong malakrus, bagaman mayroon pa 43


rin itong simboryo na hango pa rin sa disenyo ng mga luma. Kinausap siya ng kura sa isa sa mga bangkong halata pa ang pagkakabarnis. Wala rin daw itong alam na San Antonio de Padua sa Balintawak. Sa desperasyon, paulit-ulit ang pagtatanong ni Padre Damaso kung nakatitiyak ba talaga ito. Baka hindi sa Balintawak, pero malapit lang doon. Baka iba na ang pangalan. Nasabi pa nga niyang baka San Antonio ang dating tawag sa San Jose. Ngunit sa bawat pag-uulit niya, lalong tumitibay ang paninindigan ng kura na wala talaga ang kaniyang hinahanap. Imposibe, ang sabi nito nang tuluyang mainis, imposibleng magkaroon ng dalawang parokya sa Balintawak; masyadong magiging maliit ang sakop ng bawat isa. Umikot ang tingin nito habang ikinukumpas ang kamay at sinabing masdan niya ang simbahan; wala itong bahid ng kalumaan. Napatigil ang kura; nahalata marahil ang kayabangan niya. Nagbiro na lang ito na kaya siguro nawawala ang simbahan ay dahil si San Antonio ang padron ng mga nawawala. Ngunit hindi natuwa si Padre Damaso at magalang na nagpaalam. Hindi na nagtanong ang pari sa kahit kanino. Humahapon na at hindi pa siya nakapagtatanghalian. Sa pagod, napaupo siya sa isang bangketang katapat ng bukana ng isang erya ng mga iskuwater. Habang pinupunasan niya ang pawis sa kaniyang mukha, hindi niya namamalayang nakatitig siya sa dalawang batang babae na naglalaro ng Nanay, Tatay. Nakailang ulit sila ng laro at hindi kailanman nalinga ng tingin ang pari. Hindi siya gumagalaw. Tila wala sa sarili, wala sa mundo. Nang tumakbo ang isa sa kanila upang makaiwas sa parusa, na hinabol naman ng ikalawa, bumalik ang ulirat ng pari at ang nakita na niya sa pinagpuwestuhan ng dalawang bata ay isang makitid na daang hindi niya napansin noong napaupo siya. Nawala ang kaniyang pagod, nakutuban ni Padre Damaso na malapit na siya sa kaniyang hinahanap. Nagmadali siyang tumayo. Iyon lamang ang nadaanan niyang hindi sementado at habang papalayo siya nang papalayo sa kanto, pakaunti din pakaunti ang mga barong-barong, hanggang sa wala na nga siyang makitang tirahan at mapalitan ang mga ito ng matatandang narang may mga dilaw na bulaklak na unti-unting nahuhulog. Hindi nagtagal, para na siyang haring naglalakad sa alpombrang dilaw patungo sa kaniyang trono. At sa dulo nga ng alpombrang iyon, nasilayan ni Padre Damaso ang simbahang wala mang tore ng kampana ay pinapalibutan naman ng mga bulaklak ng kampanilya. Wala siyang pagdududa, iyon ang kaniyang simbahan ng San Antonio de Padua. Sa pagpasok niya, hinawakan niya isa-isa ang mga inaalikabok nang bangko. Ngunit wala siyang pakialam sa naiipon na dumi sa kaniyang kamay. Naramdaman niya noon na doon nga siya nararapat manahan. Nilibot niya ang simbahan at natagpuan ang kuwarto para sa kura. Kompleto pa ang kagamitan, maliban lang sa salamin. Napangiti ang pari nang malaman niya ito. Mayroon ding gumagalaw pang orasan na nagsasabing alas-sais y medya. Nagtaka siya, hindi niya napansing dapithapon na pala. Nang lumabas siya ng simbahan upang tingnan kung tama ba ang oras, hindi siya makapaniwala. Tama nga, ngunit hindi alas-sais y medya ng gabi noon. Umaga ang nasaksihan niya. Malalambot na sinag ng 44


bagong araw ang humaplos sa kaniyang pisngi. Sa pagkakatanda niya, hindi naman siya dinatnan ng malamig na hangin ng gabi habang naglalakad sa dilaw na alpombra. Kitang-kita nga niya ang kadilawan ng mga bulaklak. Ngumiti na lamang muli siya at inisip na gawa iyon ng Diyos upang makapagmisa na agad. Naghanda siya para sa alas-siyete. Mula nga noon hanggang sa matagpuan niya sina Maria, araw-araw, kahit linggo, tuwing alas-siyete na ng umaga siya nagmimisa. Iyon lamang ang idinadaos niya sa buong araw. Isa lang din naman kasi ang nagsisimba, kung maituturing nga iyong pagsimba. Noong umagang una siyang bumili ng gamit ng dalawang bata, katulad ng nangyayari nang halos tatlumpung taon na, dumating ang matandang nakabelong itim, mga sampung minuto bago siya magsimula. Kahit hindi niya ito tiningnan, alam na niyang dumating na ito. Lumuhod ito sa bangkong pinakamalayo sa altar at doon nagrosaryo. Pagsapit ng alas-siyete, nagsimula na si Padre Damaso, kahit na hindi pa tapos sa pagrorosaryo ang matanda. Sa bawat pagkakataong kailangan ng tugon, siya na mismo ang sumasagot sa kaniyang sarili. Dumating sa homiliya, tuloy pa rin ang matanda sa pagrorosaryo. At tumuloy rin siya, nagsabi ng sermon nang walang nakikinig. Pagdating sa ikalawang bahagi ng misa, naghanda pa rin siya ng ostiya para sa matanda, bumaba mula sa altar at hinintay ng ilang minuto ang matanda. Ngunit nanatili itong nakatingin sa malaking krusipiho sa harap. Umakyat siyang muli, nilinis ang mga kasangkapan, kinain ang ostiya, at tinapos ang misa. Pagkababa niya ng altar, tumayo na rin ang matanda at lumabas ng simbahan. Kinasawaan na ng pari ang magtaka sa gawing ito ng matanda at hindi na rin siyang nalulumbay sa kaniyang pag-iisa sa bawat misa. Sinasabi na lang niya sa kaniyang sarili na kung hindi siya magmimisa, titigil na ang tanging aktibidad na nagpapakapari sa kaniya, at saka, lalo pa siyang mawawalan ng magagawa araw-araw. Laging matinding palaisipan sa pari ang maaari niyang gawin matapos ang misa. Ngunit dumating na nga araw na hindi na niya ito kinailangang problemahin. Pagkatapos niyang magmisa, umalingawngaw na muli sa simbahan ang iyak ng mga sanggol. Hindi na niya nabuklat ang nobela, na binili niya upang mapalipas ang oras. At hindi na nga niya ito kailanman nabasa. Ngunit katulad pa rin ng iba pang Filipino, ang mga nagngangalang Maria at Ligaya ang naging laman ng kaniyang mga araw. Lampin, gatas, pagpapadighay, pagpapatahan, pagpapatulog ang lagi nang nasa kaniyang isip. Noon namang nagigising na sina Maria habang nagmimisa pa siya, naisipan niyang itabi ang kutsong tinutulugan nila sa may altar. Tuwing nagigising sila, o umiiyak, matitigil ang misa. Papatahanin niya sila o papatulugin, bibigyan ng krus o ng rosaryo upang may malaro. Dahil dito, umaabot nang hanggang dalawang oras ang misa, ngunit iyong matanda, tumatayo pa rin sa saktong pagtatapos nito. Napangiti si Padre Damaso nang una niyang mapansin iyon. May epekto rin pala talaga sa matanda ang misa, isip niya. Hindi nagtagal   —   at hindi rin naman talaga namalayan ni Padre Damaso ang 45


tagal ng mga taong iyon   —   naghahabulan na ang dalawa sa simbahan, kahit habang nagmimisa siya. Hindi sila sinuway ng pari, at hindi rin naman nagambala ang matandang nagrorosaryo. May kani-kaniya silang mundo sa misa, may sari-sariling uri ng paggalang sa banal. At matapos ang matagal na panahon, marahil dalawampu o dalawampu’t limang taon, sa isang misang napakalakas na ng halakhakan nina Maria at Ligaya na noo’y nagtuturingan nang magkapatid, naramdaman muli ni Padre Damaso, habang isinasagawa ang konsekrasyon, na doon, at marahil doon lamang nga siya nararapat na mamalagi. Naramdaman din naman iyon ng dalawang batang kahit na nasa lugar kung saan tila umuulit-ulit lang ang mga araw ay lumaki at nagdalaga naman. Ngunit hindi nila ito naramdaman sa misa, kundi sa kanilang paglalaro sa labas ng simbahan tuwing hapon kung kailan natutulog ang kanilang tinatawag na Tatay. Sa larong iyon, malaya nilang napaglalaruan ang buhay. Sa paligid ng simbahan, hindi nawawala ang mga bulaklak ng nara at mga kampanilyang kapuwa nagmistulang dilaw na alpombra noong pagdating ni Padre Damaso. Hanginin man ang kapaligiran sa gabi, pagsapit naman ng umaga, naroon muli ang mga bulaklak, walang sawang kinukumutan ang lupa, magkahalo ang lantanglanta na, at ang mga waring kahuhulog pa lang. Noong una, naghahabulan lang din ang dalawang babae at sinisipa-sipa ang mga bulaklak, ngunit isang hapon, noong mga anim na taong gulang na sila, matapos mapagalitan si Ligaya ni Padre Damaso dahil hindi pa rin niya masau-saulo ang mga tugon sa misa, may minithi siyang magawa sa mga bulaklak. At, sinubok nga niya itong gawin, habang pinagmamasdan siya ni Maria na may naiisip na ring gawin. Noon nila natuklasan ang kanilang kaaaliwang laro, na laro pa nga lang noon. At hindi man nila namalayan, natuklasan na rin nila ang kanilang kapangyarihan, ang kanilang magiging saysay, at marahil pati na rin ang kanilang sarili. Nagsisimula ang kanilang laro kapag isa-isa nang hinahawakan ni Ligaya ang mga nahulog na kampanilya at bulaklak ng nara. Dahan-dahang lilipad ang mga ito patungo sa mga sangang pinagtubuan nila, habang unti-unti ring bumabalik ang sigla ng kanilang kulay. Kikinang din ang bughaw na mata ni Ligaya habang nakangiti niyang pinagmamasdan ang pag-angat ng mga bulaklak. Bago sila makarating sa kanilang sinilangan, hahawakan naman sila ni Maria, at kung gaano sila karahang lumipad, ganoon din sila karahang babagsak sa lupa, ngunit higit na silang lanta kaysa noong hindi pa sila nahahawakan ng kamay ng dalawa, higit nang malapit ang kulay sa itim na mata ng nakangiting si Maria. At sa pagbagsak ng lahat ng pinalipad ni Ligaya, kapuwa sila tumatawa noong bata-bata pa sila, at kontentong ngumingiti naman noong tumanda-tanda na sila, ngunit hindi na nga magkasabay, hindi na nga magkatulad. At kapag hindi pa palubog ang araw, muli nilang sisimulan ang kanilang laro. Noon, wala pa silang nagagambala, wala pa silang nasisira, at nabubuo. Noon, wala pang kahulugan ang lahat. Noon, tumatawa’t ngumingiti pa sila. Ang mga tawang iyon, ang mga walang kahihinatnan at walang kasalanang 46


pagkabuhay at pagkamatay ng mga bulaklak, ang mga hapong dilaw ang lupa at maging ang langit, ang panahon ng kanilang pagkabata, ang mga tanging sandaling masasabi ni Ligaya na nakaramdam siya ng saya. Ang mga iyon ang nasa isip ni Ligaya habang nakatayo sa edsa Shrine, sa gabing nakilala niya bilang katapusan. Lampas sa mga footbridge at fly – over ang kaniyang tinatanaw, lampas sa kahabaan ng Ortigas Avenue, lampas sa kung ano mang maaaring makita. Ayaw na niyang maglakad pa. Matagal na siyang walang hinahanap at pagod na pagod na siya sa mga daang wala nang patutunguhan, sa mga oras na walang pahinga. Dalawang buntonghininga ang lumabas mula sa kaniyang kalooban, isa para sa kaniya, at isa pa para kay Maria. Doon na siya magpapahinga. Doon, kung saan sila naghiwalay o pinaghiwalay ng landas at magsimulang mapadpad sa iba’t ibang sulok ng tinataguriang puso at ubod ng bayan. Hindi iyon marahil sinasadya ng kung sino o ano mang nagdala sa kanila sa simbahang nawawala sa mapa ng kamalayan ng mga tao. Ngunit maaaari ding iyon talaga ang itinadhana sa kanila ng gulong ng kanilang palad, o ng mga pahinang isinulat ng may-akdang walang pangalan. Ang tiyak lamang, nagsimula iyon dahil sa hindi mawaring kasalanan. Si Maria ang naging paborito ni Padre Damaso. Si Maria ang nakaintindi sa kaniya. Matagal bago nakapagsalita si Ligaya, at kahit noong nakapagsasalita na siya, napakatipid pa rin ng kaniyang mga sinasabi. Hindi katulad ni Maria, na bagaman walang ibang alam na lugar kundi ang simbahan at ang paligid nito ay daldal nang daldal, kuwento nang kuwento ng naikukuwento sa kanila ng pari. Ang mga talinghaga mula sa Bibliya. Ang eksodus. Ang henesis. Ang hinaka ng paring kuwento ng matandang laging nagrorosaryo. Sa mga pagkukuwento at muling pagkukuwento na ito, nananatiling tahimik si Ligaya, taimtim na nakikinig, isinasaloob na lang ang nais sabihin, kung mayroon man siyang nais sabihin. Ngunit hindi iyon ang kinainisan ni Padre Damaso. Hindi matuto-tuto si Ligaya ng kahit isang dasal, hindi makompleto ang sampung utos, hindi makaintindi ng kahit isang turo ni Hesus, hindi makaunawa ng kasamaan ng kahit isang kasalanan. Samantalang si Maria, napakabilis matuto. Hindi ito maintindihan ng pari. Akala niya noong una, dahil bata pa lamang si Ligaya at mabagal lang ang pagkatuto. Kaya’t nagtiyaga siya, tinuruan niya ito, dalawang beses pa sa isang araw, at higit na matagal kaysa kay Maria. Ngunit sa tuwing tatanungin niya ito kung naintindihan ba nito ang sinabi niya, iiling ito, at may mamumuong luha sa mata. Noong una, naaawa pa siya rito, niyayakap pa at pinapatahan, ngunit pagtagal, noong napapansin na niyang hindi na pala musmos si Ligaya, naubos na ang kaniyang pasensiya at awa. Sinigawan na niya ito, pinatayo nang ilang oras, ilang beses na pinalakad nang paluhod patungo sa altar, pinalo, pinatulog sa bangko, ikinulong sa kumpesiyonaryo, para lang mapilitan itong matuto. Ngunit walang nangyari, hanggang sa sumuko na lamang siya, tumigil sa pagtuturo kay Ligaya, huminto sa pakikipag-usap dito. Hindi naging mahalaga sa pari, o marahil hindi niya napansin, na si Ligaya ang higit na masunurin, higit na nakinig sa kaniya 47


bagaman wala ngang naintindihan, higit na nagsabi ng totoo, at marahil pa nga, higit na nagmahal sa kaniya. Humantong nga sa panahong may mga pagkakataong nakakalimutan na ng pari na dalawa ang kaniyang kinupkop. Ngunit kahit na naputol ang ugnayan ni Ligaya sa pari, hindi pa rin nag-iba ang pakikitungo nilang magkapatid, kung magkapatid nga sila, sa isa’t isa. Hindi pa rin tumigil ang kanilang paglalaro sa mga bulaklak tuwing hapon. Mula noon, natuon ang oras ni Padre Damaso kay Maria. Mula sa simpleng katekismo, tinuruan niya ito ng teolohiya at kristolohiya, at mga araling para na sa pagpapari. At naintindihan pa rin siya ni Maria, bagaman hindi pa ito lumalagpas ng sampung taong gulang noong una niya itong tinuruan ng mga natutuhan niya sa seminaryo. Sa misa, si Maria na ang naging sakristan at kailanman hindi siya pumalya. Habang nagsasalita si Padre Damaso, sumasabay rin siya, at minsan pa nga, nauuna. Natatandaan din nga niya kung ano na ang ebanghelyo para sa araw na iyon. Sasabihin niya ang naiisip niyang dapat na basahin, at si Padre Damaso, sandaling mapapakunot ang noo, magmumukhang galit, biglang magtataka, matataranta, ngunit agad-agad namang maliliwanagan at sasang-ayon. Hindi rin siya pumalya roon. Noong nabatid ni Padre Damaso na wala na siyang maiturong bago sa nagdadalaga nang si Maria at nababagot na nga ito sa kaniyang mga leksiyon, naisipan niyang pagmisahin ito. Katulad niyong pagpapalaro sa kanila habang nagmimisa, hindi naisip ng pari na mali ang balak niyang iyon. Sa susunod na araw, si Maria nga ang nagmisa at si Padre Damaso ang naging sakristan. Katulad ng dati, sa harapan nakaupo si Ligaya, ngunit noon, nakangiti siya habang pinagmamasdan ang kaniyang kapatid. Si Maria naman, walang kakaba-kaba, alam na alam ang gagawin at ikikilos, ngunit seryoso ang mukha, damang-dama ang bigat ng sotanang sumasabay sa malambot na ihip ng hangin. May kinang noon ang sinag na pumalibot sa simbahan at sa liwanag na iyon, nagkaroon ng angking kagandahan maging ang mga sapot na para bang mga hibla na ito ng bulak at lalong tumingkad ang mahaba at maitim na buhok ni Maria na tila pangalawang kasulyang taimtim na nakalapat sa puting sotana. Nang magsimula si Maria na maglakad sa altar nang napakarahan, napatigil sa pagrorosaryo ang matandang nakabelo, na para bang nakaramdam siya ng panibagong misteryo na kaiba sa misteryong sinasambit niya. Nanginig ang kaniyang kamay. Halos mabitiwan niya ang rosaryo, halos mawala siya mula sa paikot-ikot na landas ng mga butil na kaniyang tinatahak. Si Ligaya lamang ang nakapansin sa kaniyang takot. Ngunit bago pa man makarating sa altar ang babaeng naging pari, tumigil ang kaniyang panginginig, humigpit na muli ang kaniyang hawak, at tumuloy na sa paglalakbay sa misteryong alam niya. Habang nagmimisa na si Maria, sinubaybayan ni Padre Damaso ang kaniyang mga ikinikilos at sinasabi, ang mga kumpas, ang mga dapat sabihin, ang paglilipat ng pahina ng libro sa altar, ang binabasa niya rito at ang saulado na niya, ang paglilipat ng tingin sa mga bakanteng upuan, ang paghihintay sa mga tugon hanggang sa siya na rin mismo 48


ang magsabi nito, ang pag-aayos niya ng sotana at ng kaniyang hinahanging buhok, ang maliliit niyang kamay na nagtaas ng ostiya, ang namimintog na pala niyang dibdib na nakikita tuwing lumalapat ang tela sa kaniyang katawan, ang mga labing nakakadama sa mga salitang napakabanal at sa paghingang napakalambot. Hindi namamalayan ng pari na ang kaniyang pinagmamasdan na pala ay hindi ang ikinikilos ni Maria, kundi si Maria na mismo, ang babaeng nasaksihan niyang lumaki, ang babaeng binibihisan pa niya noon at tinulungan sa hindi naman niya naranasang pagdadalaga, ang babaeng tinuruan niya ng tama at mali, ng banal at hindi, ang babaeng itinuring niyang tunay na anak, ang babaeng sa sandaling iyon ay naging unang babaeng natingnan niya nang may pagnanasa. Kahit kay Pia noon, na inibig siya nang lubos, na inibig din naman niya, na sumasandal pa sa kaniyang balikat noong seminarista pa siya, na nagtatapat pa rin ng pag-ibig sa kumpesiyonaryo, na nilalapitan siya pagkatapos ng bawat misa, walang namuong nasa sa kaniyang kalooban, naiwasan niyang may mabuo. O marahil hindi pa lang iyon ang tamang panahon. Sa misa ni Maria, bigla-bigla siyang tinigasan, at pumasok sa kaniyang isipan, habang nakatitig kay Maria, sa katawan ni Maria, ang maaari, ang nais niyang gawin sa anak-anakan niya. Hindi na niya nakuhang isipin na mali iyon, na kailangan iyong iwaksi. Sa isang iglap, nag-iba ang tingin niya kay Maria, nag-iba ang kaniyang sarili. O sadyang lumabas na lamang talaga ang kaniyang tunay na sarili, ang tunay na isinulat sa kaniyang mga palad. Katulad ng narasanan ng taumbayan noong Batas Militar sa pagbabasa ng nobela, tuluyang napuno ang isipan ni Padre Damaso ng imahen ni Maria. Pagkatapos ng misa, sinabihan niya itong pumunta agad sa kuwarto upang mapag-usapan nila ang naganap. Nakangiting sumunod si Maria, at nakangiti ring isinara ng pari ang pinto, samantalang si Ligaya, sa labas ng simbahan, pinagmamasdan na ang mapayapang pagpatak ng mga bulaklak sa lupa at sa kaniyang mukha. Hindi niya ito ginagambala. Dumating ang gabi nang hindi sila nakapaglaro at nanatiling nakahimlay ang mga bulaklak, at may iba pang talulot na hindi tumigil sa paghalik sa pisngi ni Ligaya, tila nasa kalagitnaan ng pagkalanta at muling pamumulaklak, kumikislap-kislap ng dilaw, pumipiglas-piglas. Naabutan ng dalagang nagbibigay-buhay ang kaniyang kapatid na nakaupo sa harapang bangko, nakayuko, halos masaniban ang katawan ng kadiliman, walang kilos na mahahalata, kahit pagluha, walang paghingang maririnig. Sinubok ni Ligaya, dahil iyon lamang ang naiisip niyang gawin sa sitwasyong iyon, at sa mga susunod pang sitwasyong ganoon, na hawakan si Maria na nababalot sa dilim. Ngunit bago pa man dumampi ang kaniyang palad sa balikat nito, nagsalita si Maria, at tuluyang nalanta ang mga talutot sa pisngi ni Ligaya. “Umalis na tayo rito.� Kahit salita lamang ang mga iyon, nanghina si Ligaya, namutla, nakaramdam ng lamig sa kaniyang kalooban na noon pa lang sumapi sa kaniya. Hindi niya noon mawari ang lamig na iyon, maging noon pang gabing nasa itaas na siya ng edsa 49


Shrine at naalala na lamang niya ang pakiramdam. Parang siya mismo ang nalalanta, nahuhulog, ngunit walang lupang sasalo sa kaniya, walang paghihimlayan ang kaniyang katawan. At kahit pa man noong muli at huli silang nagkita ni Maria sa ilalim ng Birhen doon, kung saan ang naramdaman niya ay lamig at lamig lamang sa gitna ng libo-libong taong nagdiriwang, nakatulala lamang ang kaniyang isipan, nangingisay sa mga salita ni Maria. Sumunod siya sa utos ni Maria na umalis sila sa simbahan. Pagsunod lamang ang kaya niyang gawin sa sandaling iyon. Noong malungkot na gabing iyon na hawig sa mga gabi ng lungsod tuwing Pebrero, umalis sina Ligaya sa lugar kung saan sila lumitaw, lumaki, nagdalaga at naglaro, bitbit-bitbit lamang ang kulay rosas na bag na kinuha ni Maria mula sa kuwarto. Halos hindi makalakad si Maria noong una. Kung hindi nakayapos sa kaniya si Ligaya, babagsak marahil siya. Ngunit walang naibibigay na sigla ang init ng kamay at katawan ni Ligaya, kahit na buong lakas niyang sinubok. Sa paglakad nila sa kalsadang hindi sementado, nagliwanag si Ligaya at nagmistulang tala ang kaniyang asul na mata sa pagsisikap na bigyang-buhay si Maria. At ang mga kampanilya at dilaw na talulot ay unti-unting pumailanlang, nagliwanag din, umikot sa paligid nilang dahang-dahang naglalakad, saka bumalik sa mga sanga, at doon patuloy na nagliwanag kasama ang iba pang bulaklak na naroon. Ang simbahan, sa una’t huling pagkakataon, dulot ng mga halos mag-apoy na kampanilya, ay nailawan na para bang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, na para bang alam din nito ang pasko sa ibang simbahan. Ngunit, si Maria ay nanatili sa dilim ng gabing iyon. Kinabukasan, nawala siya. Iyon ang simula ng ilan ding taong paglalakbay ni Ligaya sa pinakalungsod ng sinasabing bayan. Hinanap niya sa mga sulok nito si Maria na hindi niya nalamang pinili ring mawala at hindi mahanap. Inakala ni Ligaya na hinahanap din siya nito, na magkatulad sila ng nais. Wala sa kaniyang hinagap, sa kaniyang katauhan ang posibilidad na sa simula pa lang, pinaghiwalay na sila ng landas, pinag-iba na sila ng mga pangyayari. Hindi rin niya naisip na sa lungsod kung saan nagsisisayaw ang mga anino at ang liwanag ay nakasusugat, ang pagkaligaw niya lamang ang maaari. Iniligaw siya ng lungsod sa mga nakatago ngunit iniingat-ingatang bahagi nito   —   sa mga eskinitang may sari-sariling daigdig o buhay, sa mga kalsadang paikot-ikot at may dalawang pangalan bagaman iisang daan lamang ang nilalandas, sa mga gusali at bahay na lumilitaw at nawawala, sa mga baha-bahagi ng bangketa na para sa isang taong grasa ay kasinglawak ng uniberso at kasingkitid naman ng isang patak ng ulan para sa mga naghihintay ng masasakyan o ng maiibig muli, sa mga paligoyligoy at bako-bakong isipan ng mga nagmamadaling taong nakakasalubong niya na may mga matang nakapagsasalaysay ng isang buong kasaysayan sa loob lamang ng sandali, sa mga di-matatawirang tadhana ng dalawang magkatulad na taong sabay na bumaba ng dyip ngunit sa magkaibang direksiyon naglakad, at kahit pa sa mga sangandaang pananaginip ng ilang dumadaang makata sa iisang babae na bigla-bigla ring sumusulpot sa kaniyang isipan. Ngunit higit sa lahat ng mga ito, iniligaw siya ng lungsod sa ilalim ng mga ilaw  –  poste. 50


Ang kadiliman sa ilalim ng mga nakapatay na ilaw-poste ang pinakakinatakutan niya. Ibang gimbal ang naidudulot sa kaniya ng dilim na iyon. Higit pa niyang pinipili ang gitna ng kalsada kung saan nasa harap o likod niya ang liwanag, bagaman binibingi siya ng mga busina. Doon, higit siyang panatag na malayo siya sa bingit ng kamatayan. Nang una niyang matanaw sa gabi ang mga ilaw  –  poste   —   kasama pa niya si Maria noon   —   kinilabutan agad siya. May naaninag siyang anyo, o mga anyo, sa ilalim ng bombilya, gumagalaw na parang usok, ngunit mas madilim pa sa gabi, na para bang may sariling kadilimang kaiba sa itinatakda ng mga paglubog ng araw at pagpikit ng mga mata. Napansin niya noon na sumisigla si Maria, nagkakabuhay habang papalipat sila sa poste, halos dalhin nga siya nito doon. Ngunit sa takot niya, pinigilan niya si Maria, gaano man ito pumalag. Lumayo sila sa mga ilaw  –  poste, na lubos niyang pinagsisihan nang maglaho si Maria. Paglaon, natanto niyang sa bombilya mismo nagmumula ang dilim, na ang kadiliman ay hindi pala basta-basta kawalan lamang ng liwanag. Hindi rin nagtagal, sa nais niyang makita si Maria na lagi niyang naaalalang nagkalakas at nagpumilit tumungo sa isang poste, nangahas na rin siyang magpasailalim sa kadiliman ng mga ito. Nasa tulay siya ng Jones noon, kung kailan sira ang lahat ng mga poste. Nakatayo lang siya sa gitna, tinititigan ang pinakamadilim na poste, hindi pinapansin ang mga kotseng galit na dumaraan ngunit hindi siya kailanman tinatamaan. Para siyang multong napadpad sa tulay na iyon. At iyon nga rin marahil ang nais iparamdam sa kaniya ng kadiliman. Parang bumubulong pa ito, ngunit mas tahimik pa sa katahimikan, hindi tumatawid sa hangin at deretsong tumatagos sa kaniyang kalooban, pinipilit siyang sumuko at tumungo sa mga tila nagsasayaw na anino. Iniisip niya si Maria, na posibleng naroon siya. Ngunit hindi nawawala ang kaniyang takot, gaano man siya tuksuhin ng mga nananahimik na bulong, gaano man siya nakatitiyak na ang kadiliman ang susi sa pagtatagpo nila. Humakbang siya. Napakabigat ng pag-apak niya sa lupa, parang bigla-biglang nadala niya ang lahat ng taong buhay patungo sa poste. Ngunit nagpatuloy siya. Noong napakalapit na niya sa ilalim ng poste, naramdaman niya ang lamig na dulot lamang ni Maria, iniangat niya ang kaniyang kamay na parang aabutin ang mga anino at minadali ang huling hakbang bago mapasailalim sa madalim na ilaw. Ngunit sa sandaling mararating na sana niya ang dilim, umilaw ang poste at muling kinumutan siya ng liwanag. Nasa ilalim na siya ng nagliliyab na bombilyang iniikutan pa ng ilang gamu-gamo. Wala si Maria. Mula noon ay naglalakad na siya sa bangketa tuwing gabi, naghahanap ng mga posteng nagbubuga ng kadiliman, nagbabakasakaling maabutan si Maria. Sa lungsod na iyon na higit na buhay sa dilim, hindi siya nauubusan ng mga pupuntahan at, sa kasamaang palad o sa kabutihan, naiilawan. Naiisip niya minsan na si Maria ang may kagagawan din ng pagpatay sa mga ilaw, na nakikipaglaro pa rin siya, ngunit noon naman, si Maria na ang nauuna. Hindi niya iyon matanggap. Hindi siya natatawa o nangingiti. Natatakot na siya sa kanilang laro, kung maituturing pa iyong laro. 51


Maaaring naghahabulan na naman sila bagaman hindi na sa simbahan at hindi na kailanman nagpapang-abot, gaano man sila kalapit sa isa’t isa. Maliban kay Maria, marami siyang naaabutang para bang naiiwan ng kadiliman. O nalilikha ng liwanag. Isang beses, sunod-sunod na namamatay ang mga ilaw sa kahabaan ng edsa. Sinundan niya ito. Sa may Guadalupe, nadapa siya sa ilalim ng isang ilaw  –  posteng umaandap-andap. Natisod siya ng bangkay ng isang taong grasang halos hindi niya makita ang mukha sa lubos na dilim ng grasa. Noon lang siya nakaharap sa kamatayan, at sa kamatayan pang hindi niya maaninag ang mukha. Tumingala siya at tiningnan ang bombilya upang umilaw ito nang maayos; sandali itong nawala ngunit agad ding lumiwanag. Wala pa ring nagbago sa bangkay, hindi nawala ang nanuot na dilim sa katawan at mukha, katulad ni Maria noong umalis sila sa simbahan. Saka niya naisipang hawakan ito, katulad ng ginawa niya dati sa mga bulaklak na nakapaligid at nakapalibot sa simbahan. At nang hinawakan nga niya ito, para bang narinig niya ang tahimik na batingaw ng mga kampanilya, parang bulong ng hangin sa simbahan tuwing umaga at para din nga, sa isang iglap, may lumipad na mga dilaw na bulaklak sa kaniyang paligid, patungo sa ilaw-poste. At dumilat ang taong grasa. Puting-puti, kasingputi ng mga ulap sa tag-araw ang kaniyang mata, nakatirik sa pagitan ng buhay at kamatayan. Nang pabalik na ang kulay sa kaniyang mata, nakita niya agad ang payapang mukha ni Ligaya at namuo ang kaniyang galit. Bagaman parang anino pa rin ang kaniyang mukha, kitang-kita at damang-dama pa rin ni Ligaya ang pagngangalit sa kaniyang matang unti-unti nang umiitim sa gitna. “Bakit mo ako binalik dito, pinatay mo na ako,” ang nakasisindak na sigaw ng taong grasa. Gulat na umiling si Ligaya. Ngunit mabilis din niyang natanto ang dahilan. Magkamukha pala sila ni Maria. Humindi siya nang humindi, hindi siya iyon. Humakbang siya palayo, palayo sa mga nanlilisik na mata, sa mga itim na balintataw na buong-buo, palayo sa liwanag na lalo pang nagpapatingkad sa kadiliman ng taong grasa. “Umalis ka na rito. Umalis ka na rito.” Tuluyang napaatras si Ligaya, habang inuulit-ulit ng taong grasa ang pagpapalayas sa kaniya. At umalis nga siya, tumakbo siya nang tumakbo nang hindi alam kung saan tutungo. Nilampasan niya ang mga nakatingalang nilalang na naghihintay ng huling pagbaba ng mga bituin o ng payak na pagpatak ng ulan. Halos matabig niya ang mga tumatawid sa magkabilang bangketa ng tulay. Napamura ang mga baliw na naramdaman siya. Napaluha bigla ang mga naghahanap din katulad niya. Tumakbo siya nang tumakbo sa tila hindi matapos-tapos na gabing iyon, hanggang sa mapagod siya at mapahinto sa isa na namang maliwanag na ilaw  –  poste. Habang hinihingal, natanto niyang hindi na lamang siya naliligaw sa lungsod sa kahahanap kay Maria. Naligaw na rin siya mula sa kaniyang sarili at hindi niya na ito mahanap. Sa sandaling iyon, namatay ang lahat ng ilaw-poste sa paligid, maliban sa kinatatayuan niya. 52


“Naliligaw ka yata,” sabi ng isang boses na nagmula sa harapan ni Ligaya. Hugis lamang ng katawan ang kaniyang naaaninaw, hindi niya makita ang itsura ng nagsalita. Lalaki ang tunog, pamilyar sa kaniya, ngunit hindi niya alam kung bakit. Nawala bigla ang kaniyang pagod, at uminit ang kaniyang kalooban. Nakaramdam siya ng kapanatagan na noon lamang niya naranasan. Parang wala siya sa lungsod noon, ngunit hindi rin naman ang simbahang naituring niyang tahanan ang kaniyang nadama. Nagsalita muli ang lalaki. “Mukhang matagal mo nang pinag-iisipan kung bakit ka nagigimbal sa nilalabas na dilim ng mga ilaw  –  poste. May isa akong alam na kuwento tungkol dito. Isang gabi, itinapon ng isang makata sa ilog ang lamparang liwanag sana at kinabukasan ng bayang ito. Ang kadilimang hindi mo maabot-abot ang sumpang dulot ng kaniyang kapangahasan o karuwagan. Ngunit may palagay akong alam mo na ang kuwentong iyon.” Tama siya. Nang sabihin pa lang niyang may alam siyang kuwento, nagkaroon na si Ligaya ng alaala nito na kasingtingkad ng liwanag ng ilaw sa kaniyang itaas. Sa sandaling iyon, bigla-bigla siyang nakaamoy ng mga lantang dahon, katulad ng kinawiwilihang gawin ni Maria noon. Ngunit hindi niya matandaan kung saan, kanino o kailan niya unang narinig ang kuwento ng lalaki. At hindi rin ang paglalaro nila ni Maria ang naipapaalala ng amoy. At lalo pa siyang napanatag sa halip na mabagabag. Parang may yumayakap sa kaniya, maiinit na haplos na nagpaparamdam sa kaniya ng ilang nagdaang dapithapon, parang hinahatid siya ng mga pangyayari sa isang tahanan na hindi niya mailarawan sa kaniyang isip, isang tahanang higit pang malapit sa kaniya kaysa simbahang kaniyang kinalakhan. Parang nasa isang asoteya siya. O hindi kaya sa dalampasigan ng isang gubat habang umaawit siya ng kundiman. O sa tuktok ng isang kumbento habang umiihip ang hanging kasinglambot ng hanging humahagkan sa kaniya nang mga sandaling iyon. Napapikit siya. Sa madidilim na ulap ng kaniyang nakapikit na mata, nakita niya ang nagliliwanag na lalaki, ang kaniyang amerikanang suot, ang itim na sombrerong hugis-kabote, ang maliit na pangangatawan, ang pakurbang ayos ng buhok na hinati sa kanan, ang malapad niyang noo, ang katamtamang ilong na hindi katulad ng sa kaniyang Tatay, ang matang kasingbughaw ng sa kaniya, at ang maninipis na labing may sasabihin muli. “Nagtataka ka rin marahil kung bakit ganiyan ang nararamdaman mo. Katulad mo, naligaw rin lang din ako. At katulad mo, inaakala ko rin ngayon na iniibig kita. Ngunit kapuwa tayo nagkakamali. Hindi iyon maaari sa daigdig ng kuwentong ito na hindi naman atin. Marahil, sa isang walang pangalan eskinita o sa ilalim ng isang puno ng baleteng hindi pa tinatahanan ng kung sinumang nilalang, may kuwentong naisalaysay sa isang gabi ng pangungulila, at doon sa kuwentong iyon na nalimot na ng mga nakarinig at ng mismong nagsalaysay, doon tayo marahil umibig.” Hindi makatugon si Ligaya na para bang may itinuturo na namang dasal sa kaniya si Padre Damaso, ngunit wala na iyong dating takot at kaba. Napalitan na ito ng isang katotohanang nadarama lamang niya, nababanaag sa mga salita at sa mukhang 53


nagliliwanag sa dilim ng kaniyang talukap. Hindi pa rin niya ito kilala. Hindi pa rin niya naiintindihan ang nangyayari. Ngunit, pakiramdam niya, nakauwi na siya, na maaari na siyang tumigil sa pagtakbo, na maaari na siyang tumahan. Sa sandaling iyon, sapat nang tugon ang katahimikan. “Buweno, kailangan ko na ring umalis. Kanina ko pa natagpuan ang tamang daan para sa akin. Hindi naman ako narito upang tulungan ka o tapusin ang kuwentong ito. Napadaan lang ako, katulad mo. Umaasa akong mahahanap mo rin ang matagal at dapat mo nang mahanap sa lalong madaling panahon. May kutob akong malapit na iyon. Ngayon, at marahil hanggang ngayon lamang, nais ko sanang hawakan mo ang aking kamay, kung maaari.� At binuksan niya ang kaniyang palad. Lumapit si Ligaya, nakapikit at walang pag-aalangan. Magaan na ang kaniyang mga hakbang, parang nagpapadala lamang, lumulutang, malaya sa kung ano mang nagdaang pasanin. Naghihintay ang lalaking kinakausap pa rin siya, sa pamamagitan naman ng asul na mata nito. At siya rin, kahit at dahil nakapikit, nakatitig sa lalaki, itinatawid ang hindi matawid ng liwanag at salita. Kahit siya, nais ding mahawakan ang kamay ng lalaki, nais makaramdam ng buhay. At nang magtagpo nga sila, nang magdaop ang kanilang palad, naglaho, ang lalaki. Sinalubong ang pagdilat ni Ligaya ng liwanag ng ilaw-poste. Tumingala siya, pinagmasdan ang bombilya, at katulad niyong ng mga nadaanan niyang nilalang na marahil ay hindi rin bahagi ng tinatahak niyang kuwento, nanatili siyang nakatingala, damang-dama pa rin ang init ng palad ng lalaki. Kinabukasan ng dapithapon, napadpad na siya sa simbahang dati niyang itinuring na tahanan. Hindi niya namamalayan, noong una, na patungo siya rito, na dinadala siya ng kaniyang paa, o ng lungsod, pabalik doon. Natagpuan na lamang niya ang kaniyang sarili na nasa bungad ng hindi sementadong kalsada. Alam niyang patungo siya sa kaniyang dati at tanging tirahan, ngunit naninibago siya, parang hindi siya nagmula roon. Pinulot niya ang unang talulot na nakita niya, lumiwanag itong katulad na ng libo-libong bombilyang kaniyang nadaanan. Ngunit matagal bago ito lumipad mula sa palad ni Ligaya, parang naninibago rin, parang nasindak ito at nanginig, umangat nang bahagya, saka pa lamang lumipad nang marahan. Pinagmasdan niya ito nang walang naaalalang kahit ano. Nagpatuloy siya at hindi nagtagal, hinahawi na ng kaniyang mga hakbang ang mga nahulog na bulaklak na gabaha na sa kapal, parang pinipigilan siya ng mga ito sa halip na patuluyin. Walang muling pagkabuhay na naganap. Nang malapit na siya sa simbahan, sinalubong na siya ng isang malungkot na dapit-umaga, parang isang alas-singko ng Enero pagkatapos ng pista ng tatlong hari. Mga sanga na lamang ang nakapulupot sa simbahan. Pagpasok niya, nadala pa niya sa loob ang ilang lantang kampanilya. Banaag pa lamang ng liwayway ang sumasapit doon. Umupo siya sa lagi niyang puwesto dati tuwing misa; agad-agad, naramdaman niya ang kapal ng alikabok, ngunit hinaplos pa rin niya ang nanlilimahid na kahoy. Noon niya naalala ang mga nangyayari sa paulit-ulit na misa at lumingon siya sa likod. 54


Naroon na ang matandang nakaitim na belo. Sa unang pagkakataon, nagkalakas ng loob si Ligaya na lapitan ito. Tatanungin niya ito kung bakit dumating na kahit hindi pa nagsisimula ang misa. Ngunit, nang nasa tabi na siya nito, tumitig sa kaniya ang matanda at sa wakas, noong malapit na ang wakas, nakita niya ang mukha nito. Buto at kulubot na balat na lamang ang natitira sa kaniyang mukha at kadiliman lamang ang nakikitang mata ni Ligaya. Kadilimang lumuluha ng makinang na dugo. At habang nanginginig at pasukong hinahawakan ang isang butil ng rosaryo, marahan niyang sinabi kay Ligaya, “Aba, Ginoong Maria, napupuno ka ng grasya. Ang Panginoong Diyos ay sumasaiyo. Bukod kang pinagpala sa babaeng lahat.” Hindi na narinig ni Ligaya ang kasunod sapagkat, katulad ng ginawa niya noong kausapin siya niyong taong grasa, umatras at tumakbo na siya palayo. Nakukutuban na niya ang mga pangyayari at ang matagal nang nakapangyayari. At hindi pa man nanunuot sa kaniya ang takot sa mga maaari nang mangyari, nakatitig na siya sa bangkay ng kaniyang Tatay na pari. Hindi ito naagnas, parang ilang oras pa lamang ang nakalilipas matapos itong mapaslang sa kama. Sindak ang makikita sa dilat na dilat ang mata ng kura at isang hindi matapos-tapos na hinagpis ang sa bukas na bukas na bibig. Alam ni Ligaya na ito ang taong nagpalaki at nag-alaga sa kanila, ngunit pagtitig lamang ang kaya niyang maialay para dito. Hindi para sa pari ang paghawak niya ng kamay nito; para sa kaniya lamang iyon. Unti-unting bumalik ang maputlang kulay ni Padre Damaso, untiunting nawawala ang bakas ng pamamaslang. Lumiwanag siya nang bahagya habang nakapikit si Ligaya at muling huminga. Hindi nakita ni Ligaya ang unang galaw ng mata ng pari. Napadilat lamang siyang muli nang sambitin nito ang kaniyang pangalan. Hindi siya bumitiw at gayon din ang pari. Kapuwa na nila alam ang dapat nilang gawin sa sandaling iyon. Napagpasiyahan ng paring siya ang magsisimula ng katuparan nito. “Ito ang sinabi ni Maria na mangyayari, Ligaya. Sa tagpo raw na ito, magtatagpo muli ang ating buhay at ang kailangan ko na lang gawin ay magsalaysay. Pinaghubad ko siya, Ligaya. Hindi ko napigilan ang sarili ko. Pumayag siya, tumalikod sa akin at nagtanggal ng sotana.” Habang naghuhubad, kinausap ni Maria si Padre Damaso. Ngunit wala na ang dating lambing. Matagal nang pinaghahandaan ni Maria ang sandaling iyon at alam na niyang makararamdam ng pagnanasa ang pari sa kaniya. Nagpasalamat siya sa mga tulong at turo, sa tirahan at alaga. Ngunit dumating na ang panahon para umalis siya, para simulan ang dapat simulan at tapusin ang dapat tapusin. Nang wala nang kahit anong suot, lumapit si Maria sa kaniyang Tatay at bumulong. Hindi makakalimutan ng pari ang huling mga salitang kaniyang narinig bago pumanaw, bago ilapat ni Maria ang kaniyang mga palad sa mukha ng pari. Inulit iyon ni Padre Damaso kay Ligaya, na para bang si Maria na mismo ang nagsasalita. “Tapos na ang papel mo sa kuwentong ito. Hindi ka na dapat manatili rito. Ngunit

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balang-araw, babalik dito ang ligaw na si Ligaya upang sirain ang mga nakatakda. Iyon na marahil ang sariling parusa ko sa iyo. Iiwan ka ulit niya upang magpatuloy sa paghahanap. Hindi niya alam kung anong gulo ang ginagawa niya rito.” At hinawakan ni Maria ang kura. Dahan-dahan niya itong binawian ng buhay, habang siya rin ay tila nag-aagaw  –  buhay. Sinubok pumiglas ng pari ngunit wala na itong lakas. Hindi na naramdaman ng kura ang lambot ng kaniyang kama. Nang buhayin siyang muli ni Ligaya, wala na siyang alaala kung saang lupalop o kuwento nakarating ang kaniyang kaluluwa. “At iiwan mo na nga ulit ako?” Tumango si Ligaya. Tinulungan niya ang paring tumayo, bumitiw at nang walang pamamaalam, lumabas ng kuwarto. Alas-siyete ang nakasaad sa orasan. Kinuha ng pari ang hinubad na sotana ni Maria, na para bang sandali lamang ang lumipas mula nang tanggalin niya ito. Sinuot ni Padre Damaso ang sotana at lumabas din upang magmisa. Nakayuko na ulit ang matanda at patuloy pa rin sa pagrorosaryo. Nang matapos ang misa, sa wakas, nakatayo ang matanda at nakalabas na muli ng simbahan. Ngunit hindi na iyon nasaksihan ni Ligaya. Dere-deretso siyang umalis, nang walang kahit anong paglingon, katulad ng ginawa nila noon ni Maria. Ang mayroon lamang noong mga sandaling iyon ay ang kaniyang pag-alala, habang naglalakad, sa una niyang pag-iwan sa simbahan. Hindi alam ni Ligaya kung saan sila tutungo ni Maria; naglakad lang sila nang naglakad sa daigdig na bago sa paningin at pakiramdam niya. Nagpadala lang siya sa landas ng mga walang katapusang kalsada. At pagsapit ng umaga, nagpadala rin si Ligaya sa agos ng daan-daang taong nakadilaw. Lingid sa kaalaman niya, at marahil ng buong bayan, nakarating sa mga panaginip ng mga Filipino noong gabi ang mga nagliliyab na bulaklak ng nara at kampanilyang napalipad ni Ligaya. Pagkagising nila, nasa likod na ng kanilang isip ang mga bulaklak na dilaw at nang tuluyang kumalat na ang panawagan na tumungo sa edsa, ang naisuot ng marami sa nagpasiyang pumunta ay ang kani-kanilang mga dilaw na damit. Mula sa kadiliman ng gabi at ilawposte, hindi nag-atubili si Ligaya na sumama agad sa mga nakadilaw na nakasalubong nila; ang dilaw na lamang ang kaniyang makakapitan. Nang makarating sila sa edsa, tumindig ang mga balahibo ni Ligaya. Napakaraming mga nakadilaw, libo, milyon, sanlaksa, na para bang naging tao ang mga nahuhulog na talulot sa paligid ng simbahan at lumipad ang lahat ng ito sa lugar na iyon. Naramdaman niyang may nangyayari din kay Maria. Nakasandig pa rin ito sa kaniya ngunit gumagaan na ito. Lalo pang nabuhayan si Ligaya. Nilibot niya ang paligid, nagagalak sa dami ng nabubuhay na dilaw. At tuwing napapadaan nga siya, sumisigla ang paligid, lumilipad ang diwa ng mga tao, napapasigaw ang ilan ng mga islogan, napapakanta naman ang iba ng makabayang awit, samantalang ang ilan ay napapatayo, kakausap ng hindi pa kilala, mangungumusta kahit noon lang sila nagkita. Kakaibang saya ang naramdaman ni Ligaya sa ganoong uri ng pagbibigay-buhay. Lumibot siya nang lumibot, na para bang 56


ginintuang hapon muli noon at naglalaro ulit siya sa paligid ng simbahan. Ngunit, sumagi sa isip niya na hindi lang pala pagbibigay-buhay ang laro; kasa-kasama niya si Maria. Napahinto siya, at natantong hindi na nakakapit si Maria sa kaniya. Lumingon siya at walang ibang nakita kundi ang baha ng dilaw. Doon sa pook na iyong pinaghintuan niya, doon siya muling dinala, mula sa simbahang nakaranas muli ng misa, halos labinlimang taon na rin ang nagdaan mula nang mawala si Maria, doon sa pook na isa na noong monumento ng Birhen, kung saan pumapalibot na naman ang libo-libong tao ngunit hindi na nakadilaw, doon sa pook na iyon, nagkita silang muli ni Maria. “Wala na, sa wakas, ang mga kampanilya, Ligaya,” ang bati ng kamukha niya. At katulad niya, walang nagbago sa suot ni Maria. Dala-dala pa rin nito ang kulay rosas na bag. “Maria,” ang nasabi lamang ni Ligaya. “Nahanap mo na rin ako, ngunit sa tingin ko, hindi na ako ang hinahanap mo, tama ba?” Nagsisigawan na ang mga tao, dumarami na ang umaakyat sa monumento. Walang nakapapansin kina Maria na nasa gawing likod. Sa tanong ni Maria, walang naisagot si Ligaya. Ngumiti si Maria. “Hindi ko alam kung bakit ka napadpad dito, kung bakit dito ka isinilang, kahit na wala ka namang papel na gagampanan, kahit na ako lamang dapat ang nabuhay. Hindi dapat naganap ang kamatayan sa paliparan. Hindi dapat nagkaisa ang mga tao sa iisang kulay. Hindi dapat naganap ang kahit anong pagkabuhay. Pero hindi mo iyon nauunawaan. Matagal nang dapat nangyari ang katuparang isasagawa ngayon. Hindi ko inasahang mababago mo ang takbo ng kasaysayan dahil sa kapangyarihan at kawilihan mo. Napakalaking gulo ang naidulot ng iyong pagkaligaw, Ligaya.” Nanatiling tahimik si Ligaya at nanatili ring malayo. Patuloy ang sigawan. Lumalakas na rin ang boses ng nagsasalita sa mikropono. Ngunit sa paligid ng dalawang babae, boses lamang ni Maria ang naririnig. “Hindi bale, nasa yugto na ng katapusan ang kuwentong ito ng bayang umiibig sa kamatayan at pinapaikot ng kamatayan. Malapit ko nang tuparin ang kanilang hiling, matapos ipangako nang walang maliw ang walang hanggan. Saksihan mo na lamang, Ligaya, ang katapusan.” Nang mailapat ng isang maliit na babae sa kanilang harapan ang kaniyang kamay sa Bibliya, inilapat naman ni Maria ang kaniyang kanang kamay sa dibdib niya. At nang magsimulang magsalita ang babae, nagwika rin si Maria. “Paalam, Ligaya, marahil sa ibang kuwento, magkatulad tayo.” At bago pa man masalo ni Ligaya ang katawan ni Maria, humandusay na ito sa semento ng monumento. Nagdiriwang na ang mga tao sa huling yugto ng kasaysayan ng kanilang bayan, habang si Ligaya, sinasapo ang mukha ni Maria, katulad ng ginawa nito sa kanilang Tatay. Lumuluha niyang sinikap na buhayin itong muli, katulad ng 57


ginawa niya sa kanilang dating Tatay. Lumiliwanag siya, nag-aalab. Ngunit gayon din si Maria; umaapoy, kasingliwanag ng mga bombilyang binibigyang-buhay ni Ligaya. Taimtim siyang nasusunog. At katulad ng mga talulot na pinapalipad ni Ligaya, dahandahang ding tumutungo sa langit ang nagsasaabong katawan ni Maria. Nang tuluyang lumisan ang mga taong nagdiwang, wala nang nahahawakan ang mga palad ni Ligaya. Sa ilalim ng Birhen, naiwan siyang ligaw at tulala, wala nang magawa pagkatapos ng katapusan, hindi nakapagbigay-buhay, walang kabuhay-buhay. Doon na siya nanatili. Paminsan-minsan, tatayo siya at maglalakad, paikot-ikot sa monumento, na para bang nilalakbay niya muli ang mga walang katapusang kalsada, naliligaw muli at naghahanap, ngunit wala nang pagkabigo, ngunit wala na ring pag-asa. Makalipas ang ilang araw, mapapaupo na lang ulit, hihiga at matutulog. Hanggang sa isa ngang madaling-araw, nagising siya. Nakaramdam siya ng matinding pagod, ng lungkot, naalala ng lahat ng naganap, na para bang ilang oras lamang ang lumipas matapos maging abo ni Maria, at nakapagsalita. Nahanap na niya ang kaniyang gabi. O nahanap na siya nito. Pumikit si Ligaya at nanaginip ng isang daigdig na magsisimula sa kaniyang sinabi.

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mikael de lara co

Sapagkat Naaangkin ang Liwanag Sapagkat mas madaling magsalita, nakinig ka. Marahil ito ang una mong aralin sa pisika: Musmos kang pinalapit sa pisara, tinanong ng guro: Aling puwersa ang nagpapainog sa mundo? Paanong nabubuo ang anino? Nang pinatayo ka sa isang sulok, ibinulong mo sa pader: Huwag kang maingay, may nakikinig. Ang sabi ni Debeljak: Walang wikang may laban sa katahimikan. Ano ngayon ang sinasabi ng kuping tansan sa kalsada, ng malagihay na kumot sa sampayan, anong pampang ang binabaybay ng kanilang mga pangungusap? Tahakin ang ingay ng nakikita upang makarating sa katahimikan, tuklasin ang lihim na arkitektura ng bawat puno, ng bukbuking bahay sa tabi ng riles, alamin ang pangalan ng patpat na pilit mong itinindig sa bangketa: Kapag naglaho ang anino, tanghaling  –  tapat na. At ano ang ipinagtatapat ng tanghali? Sapagkat mas madaling magsalita, makinig ka. Nakasabit ang kalansay ng mga saranggola sa kawad ng kuryente, kumupas na ang mga kuwadradong iginuhit sa semento. Basag na holen, gusgusing pamato sa piko, palad na nakaumang sa harap mo. Anong puwersa ang nagpapainog sa mundo? Ikaw na nakatapak dito. Paanong nabubuo ang anino? 59


Sapagkat may apoy na nagliliyab sa kung-saang ibayo. Sapagkat nagkalat ang nakikita at minamasdan mo ito. Marahil ito ang una mong aralin sa pisika. Musmos kang nagsindi ng posporo. Naaangkin ang liwanag sa pagtitig lamang.

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mikael de lara co

Kung Babalik Tayo Parang dambuhalang kamao ang batong inupuan namin sa dalampasigan. Nagsagutan ang hangin at ang hilik ng mangingisdang umiidlip sa kanyang bangka. May nagtanong: "Naaalala mo ba noong Setyembre, nang dumalaw ang bagyo?" Naalala ko ang sapilitang paggising, ang pagtitig sa maraming mata ng pinsala: namamagang braso ng punong nakahambalang sa kalsada, kinang ng bubog mula sa nilapastangang bintana. May dumapo sa aking paanan: ligaw na kumpol ng lumot. Nagbulungan ang buhangin at asin, iginiit ng mga bituin ang nagliliyab nilang katawan sa aking paningin. "Kung babalik tayo sa susunod na taon," tugon ko, "ganito pa rin nating daratnan ang mga konstelasyon." Nilaro ng mga alon ang isang biyak na bangkay ng niyog. Sa abuhing liwanag, parang nagsasayaw ito. Marahil nasasabik sa tubig. Handang sumalubong sa nakaambang pagguho.

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rachel valencerina marra

Hinog/Lamog Puno ng mangga ang aking palaruan sa bakuran ni Amang: hinog na bunga ang aking kabataan. Nang bumalikwas mula sa sanga   —    lumagapak, naglatak sa huling patak ng inuming handog ng aking paslit na anak.

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jc casimiro

Diptych Ang bilin ng guro: Tanggapin ang aking laman.

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Sariwangsariwa kay Tomas ang simula ng alinlangan

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vladimeir gonzales

Empake Hindi ko alam kung paano ako magsisimula. Kung sa anong anyo, kung sa anong salita, pangungusap, talata dapat magmarka ng umpisa. Talata ba, o taludtod? Hindi ako sigurado. Kawalan ng ideya, pagiging hilaw ng ideya, o takot sa kung saan o paano mamumunga ang ideyang ipupunla. Sasabihin ko sanang “ewan ko, hindi ko alam,” pero may nagsabi sa akin nito-nito lang, wala naman daw talagang pangyayaring nagkataon lang. Lahat ng aksyon at reaksyon ay nagmula sa isang aktibong desisyon. Maraming aksidente, pero marami ring mga pinili. Walang kahit na sinong malaya sa anumang responsibilidad, walang kahit na sinong natangay lang ng pagkakataon. *** Naaalala kong naiinggit ako sa mga kaibigang laging may sukbit na bag. Mga kaladkarin. Mga tipo ng taong nasa backpack na ang lahat ng kailangan at pwede mo na silang hatakin sa kahit na anong panig ng mundo. Handang matulog kahit saan. Matulog, o maupo lang sa kahit na anong sulok, makipagkuwentuhan mula gabi hanggang mangamusta na ang umaga. At dahil sa ang mga una kong nakilalang ganito ay halos puro mga kaibigang manunulat, iniisip kong kaakibat ng bawat byahe’t pagpupuyat ang walang katapusang mga kuwento’t tula. *** Aaminin kong may pagkiling ako sa mga bagay na sigurado. Tiyak na oras ng paguwi. Paghiga sa sariling kama, sa sariling kuwarto. Paghimlay ng de-scoliong likod sa manipis na kutson na naiilaliman ng matigas na plywood, lahat ay niyayakap ng bedsheet na may disenyong mga bituin at buwan. Abot  –  kamay na telebisyon at computer na may Internet sa mga sandaling mailap ang idlip. Cellphone sa tabi, laging may load, laging fully  –  charged. Banyong di nauubusan ng tubig at sabon. Wallet na may nakatagong pera at credit card. Pinakanakasisindak sa akin ang mga pagkakataong kailangan kong magbihis nang lampas sa mga kupas na shorts at t-shirt, lumabas sa nakasanayang ginhawa ng sariling bahay, bumiyahe sa mga lugar na hindi pa napupuntahan kahit isang beses man lang. ***

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Gusto ko ang pakiramdam ng may pinapasan. Mas pipiliin kong makuba sa kakabuhat habang naglalakad sa halip na maglakad na ang tanging buhat-buhat ay ang damit na nakabalot sa katawan. Kinikilala ko man ang korelasyon ng bawat isa  —  ang gaan at bigat, gaan bilang pagpapahalaga/pagkilala sa pagtakas ng bigat  —  gusto kong sabihing nasanay na ako sa mga araw na may humahatak sa akin. Oo, laging laman ng mga pangarap ko ang isang araw ay matutunan ko kung paano makalipad, pero gusto kong isiping may ginhawa sa mga puwersang nagpapanatili ng aking mga paang nakadikit sa lupa. Baka totoo ang sinasabi ng isang medyo kilalang manunulat (basta sa panig ko, kilala ko)  —  bawat nilalang, may isang kimera, isang buhay at gumagalaw na halimaw, aksidente o sinadya’y pinipiling buhatin at hindi pabayaang makawala. *** Sa mga oras na kailangang lumakad, sa mga pagkakataong kailangang bumiyahe, pinipili kong maghanda ng gamit sa oras na pinakamalapit sa oras ng pag-alis. Pinipili ko ito sa pagtitiwalang mas magmumukhang aksidental ang lahat, na nagtitiwala ako sa biyaya ng pagkakataon. Pinipili kong maniwalang may sapat na liksi at listo ang isip, kayang magproseso sa pinakamaiksing paraang posible, at anumang aberya ang sumulpot pagkatapos, pinipili kong maniwalang pupunuan ng pagkakataon ang anumang pagkukulang. Kahit man lang ang sariling pagkukulang na ipaliwanag ang kawalan ng paghahanda. *** Isa sa mga pinakakinasusuklaman (minsan ay kinatatakutan) kong klase ng tao, higit pa sa mga taong namamahiya ng sarili nilang magulang o magulang ng iba, kasunod ng mga taong walang paggalang sa oras ng iba, kawangis ng mga taong hindi marunong humingi ng paumanhin at maggawad ng pasasalamat, lampas nang kaunti sa mga taong nakikisama sa iisang bahay at hindi marunong magpasabi kung gagabihin o uumagahin ng uwi, iyon siguro ay ang mga taong palaging nakakalimot dalhin ang kopya ng kanilang susi. *** Noong unang panahon, naadik ako sa larong “Diablo.” Hindi ko na matandaan kung sino ang nagsabi (baka pinili kong kalimutan), pero may isang nagturo sa akin kung paano magiging mas maunlad sa videogame na iyon. Sabi niya  —  kung sino man ang “siya” na iyon  —  nasa diskarte lang iyan ng pagdadala at paglalaglag ng items sa iyong inventory. Habang bumababa sa impyerno, kunin ang items at perang kaya ng mahiwagang sisidlan, sikaping makahanap ng teleportation portal, pag nakahanap 66


ay mag-teleport pabalik sa surface at ihagis ang lahat ng items na nakuha, itira lamang ang mapagdedesisyunan bilang may halaga. Kung umabot man sa sandaling napakiramdamang nagkamali ng mga gamit na isinuksok sa bag, may pagkapanatag sa kaalamang maaari pa namang bumalik sa mundo sa taas, basta makahanap ng portal bago katayin ng butcher na sumisigaw ng “fresh meat.� *** Iniisip ko kung anu-ano ang pagkakaiba ng bigat sa bagahe ng mga taong paalis mula sa, at ng mga taong pabalik sa, mga lupaing kanilang kinalakihan. *** May phase ako nito-nito lang, ito ang phase na lagi lang akong may nakahandang bag na may nakalagay na damit-pambahay at damit-panlakad, toiletries, underwear, charger para sa telepono (minsan ay para sa kamera), ang bag ng mga gamit ay nakalagay sa likuran ng kotse (mapanglansi ang pahayag na ito, maaaring pinili kong sabihin ito para ihayag lang na may kotse ako, na totoo naman, mayroon naman talaga). May kung ano akong pantasya na magmamaneho ako paroon at parito, ite-text at tatawagan ang kung sino mang kaibigan, kaibigang magyayaya sa isang masayang adventure, at pagkatapos ng adventure, kapag minamadaling-araw na, magyayaya siyang sige, matulog muna ako sa kanila, doon na ako magpalipas ng magdamag. Nauna akong magsawa sa pagsasalpak ng bag sa likod ng sasakyan bago pa mag-materialize ang ganoong pantasya. *** Interesanteng ibahagi na kung kailan ko isinuko ang bag phase na iyon, saka naman ako palaging inuumaga. Pero pinipili ko nang hindi magdala ng kahit anong bahid ng kahandaan. Walang sipilyo, walang deodorant, walang extra underwear o set ng bagong-labang damit. Hindi ko pa rin mapakawalan ang pagkiling sa aksidental, sa ilusyon na ako’y tuyong dahong hinangin-hangin lang ng pagkakataon. Baka ayokong mahusgahan na marunong akong gumawa ng mga kumplikadong iskema at plano. Baka pinili kong maniwalang masama ang mahusgahan na naghahanda. Baka pinili kong magmukhang hindi sigurado. *** Ayoko sa mga pagtatapos dahil palaging may sakit dito. Pero alam ko ring masakit ang habambuhay na nakabitin, masakit dahil sa walang-patid na kawalan ng 67


kasiguraduhan, habambuhay na agam-agam. Ayokong magtapos sa mga bagay na wala akong kontrol o responsibilidad. Kaya pipiliin kong magtuldok sa mga bagay na kabisado’t alam ko. Alam kong there’s no place like home, pero may mga tao at lugar na maaaring ituring bilang pangalawang tahanan; alam kong masakit sa katawan ang mag-umakyat sa gate na nakakandado na’t kailangang akyatin dahil nakalimutan ang kopya ng susi; alam kong mas nakakasusyal ang mga puma-plan ahead at puma-pack light, alam kong nakakairita ang mga nahuhuli; pero alam kong aksidental man o hindi, hindi lahat ng bagay ay bagaheng tungkol at pinapabuhat sa akin; alam kong desisyon ang mag-alok at tumanggap ng tulong, ang pagdesisyon ng pag-agapay; alam kong minsan, katumbas ng pag-uwi sa sariling tahanan ang makatanggap ng mensaheng “nasa bus na ako, malapit na ako sa dapat kong puntahan.” *** Hindi ko alam kung paano ito/ ayoko itong/ pinipili kong ito’y hindi dito tapusin.

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zosimo quibilan, jr.

Para sa Mansanas na Masarap Kaya nga nang may nagtanong, nanahimik na lang sila. Naunang nautal si Putakte. Di nagtagal, nang patapos na ang coda ng “Sa Dulo ng Dila, Dilaw,� may sumiksik na gamugamo sa ilong niya. Nagkaligaw-ligaw ito sa lalamunan at kinumbulsyon si Putakte ng mararahas na pagbahing-ubo. Sa kabilang panig ng entablado, umiiling-iling lang si Patatas. Nanunumbat. Ayan, sabi na kasing huwag nang patulan ang gig na ito, naisip niya. Tumatango naman si Patok na salisi sa tiyempo ng tambol. Parang nagkaunawaan sila ni Patatas nang magkahagipan ang mga paningin nila. Parang. Magdadalawang linggo na nang bumagyo at bumaha pero hindi pa rin humuhupa. Kinulambuan ng gamugamo ang ere. Para tuloy isang dambuhalang kalabaw ang buong Bambang na susuga na sa kung saang lusak. Malaking bagay nga nang magpalakpakan ang mga miron. Libo-libong gamugamo ang hindi na kinailangan pang maghanap ng apoy para matupok ang maseselang pakpak. Patuloy na umubo-bahing si Putakte. Hindi niya namalayang may feedback mula sa Lumanog Acoustic/Electric niya. Dahil mahirap magkakitaan gawa ng mga gamugamo, inakala ni Patatas na uma-adlib si Putakte. Sinabayan niya ng bass line; harmonic minor scale, kunyari nakakakilabot. Pumadyak-padyak naman si Patok na naging katapusan ng ilang henerasyon ng mga gamugamong nagba-body-surfing sa entablado. Kasi nga, merong nagdala ng sulo. Di nila kilala kung sino sa mga groupie ang may bitbit nito. (O sige na nga, roadie. Wala pang nagkakamaling sumabit na groupie sa banda nila.) Hindi rin nga masiguro kung may sulo talaga o kung meron lang nagtaas ng kamaong naglalagablab. Magkakaalaman na lang pagkatapos ng gig. Nagkaroon ng imbestigasyon (pero hindi na aabot dito ang kuwento) na magkakatulad ang naranasan ng mga naroon sa gig na: a. Naglaway at kumulo ang sikmura ng bawat isa. Maihahambing ang amoy ng nasusunog na gamugamo at kamao (kung kamao nga ‘yon) sa amoy ng isaw na iniihaw sa may kanto ng Aurora at EDSA ng bandang alas tres katorse ng hapon. b. Napabilang sila ng hanggang tatlo at nakipagtagisan ng kaalaman tungkol sa samu’t saring imaheng sasagi sa isipan dulot ng bilang na ito. (Sundan sa huling bahagi ang listahan.) c. Sa hindi maipaliwanag na dahilan, hindi nila mabigkas ang pangalan ng Pangulong sinundan ni Tita Cory. Nasa dulo ng dila nila, pero walang makabasa.

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Lahat ng banda noon, siprado ang Plush ng Stone Temple Pilots. Paano ba naman noong una, akala nila Pearl Jam ang tumugtog nito. Tapos noong mapanood nila sa MTV (matapos ang ilang oras nang pagpihit-pihit sa antena sa mga kalawanging bubong) nalaman nila ang katotohanan. Hindi man si Eddie Vedder ang kumakanta, napansin din naman nilang astig yong banda. At napaso ang mga mata nila sa tingkad ng pagkakapula ng buhok ni Scott Weiland. Tama ka, sinadya kong isalpak ang detalyeng ito, para ipahiwatig (ipamukha, sige na nga) na kopyang-kopya sa Plush ang tinutugtog ng banda ni Putakte. Binali lang nang konti. Ginawang saliwa ang palo sa tambol. Arpeggio naman ang banat sa gitara. Chromatic scale naman sa bass. Ang dating tuloy sa mga nanood ng gig, napakapamilyar ng kanta. Napakalapit sa damdamin nila. Mas marami tuloy ang naantig ang damdamin. Yong iba, nagkapit-bisig sa gitna ng slam pit. Yong iba naman, pinunit ang suot na itim na t-shirt. Para sa kanila, unang beses nilang narinig muli ang kanta. Kung wala nga lang gamugamo, sumabay na sila sa koro. Anthemic naman talaga. Marami ngang ginawang dikdikan ng gamugamo ang mga dibdib. (Oo, kahit na yong mga malalambot at malulusog ang dibdib. Oo nga, walang groupie sa bandang ito pero meron naman fans na babae. Sige na nga, sila yong mga syota ng hardcore fans na walang magawa sa oras ng gig dahil ipinasara yong perya nang may nalunod sa baha habang nagbi-Bingo nang lasing at di na rin itinuloy ang Amateur Singing Contest sa kanto nang may ilang naghuramentado nang kumanta ng First of May yong isang kagawad at nagchuchuwariwap ang mga miron.) Bago pa lang nagsimula ang gig, nag-alisan na ang mga judges. Ah, hindi ko ba nasabing battle of the bands ito? Hindi ako sinungaling. Pinagbibintangan mo ba akong bulaan? Naliliitan ka ba sa katawan ko? Nahihinaan sa boses ko? Puwes, ayan nasabi ko na. Battle of the Bands ito. Guest band ang banda nina Putakte. Alam kong naiinip ka na kung ano ba ang patutunguhan nito. Darating tayo dyan. Ano bang puwede mong panghawakan para ipagpatuloy ang pagbasa nito? Kuwento? Hindi pa ba sapat ang mga inilahad ko mula sa simula nito? Teka, heto kaya? Di ko pa sinasabi ang pangalan ng banda. Ipagpalagay na nating ito ang punto ng kuwento. Na kailangan mong tapusin para matanto mo sa huli ang pangalan ng banda. O ayan, meron ka nang pakay. Ulitin ko lang ha, ang kuwentong ito ay tungkol sa pagsakay mo sa kuwentong maaring meron o walang kuwento para matukoy mo ang pangalan ng bandang bida sa kuwento. Yon e, kung papayag kang hindi ikaw ang bida. Papayag ka ba? Papalag ka ba? Pero malaya ka. Puwedeng tapusin na natin dito. Puwedeng… Sa paglantak nina Putakte, Patatas at Patok sa malagkit na leche flan na binanlawan ng Marka Demonyo at maligamgam na Gold Eagle Beer, naisip nilang simulan ulit ang larong hindi nila natapos nang bumaba na sila sa stainless na jeep ni Patatas. “Ano na?” simula ni Putakte. “O, tatayo yata ‘to.” sagot ni Patatas. 70


“Aba! Bababa ba?” ang palaging unang banat ni Patok. Tuloy-tuloy lang ang hirit hanggang sa maubusan. “Nasa bayabasan.” “Asa.” “Aba lata sa talaba.” “Sila, aalis.” “Para sa mansanas na masarap.” “Yehey!” At eto na ang hudyat na puwede nang mandaya. Yong tunog-palindrome lang. “Mitam.” “Mecam.” “Mectam.” “Ama, Anak at Espiritu Santo.” “Susmaryosep.” “Lucifer, Belzebub and Azazel.” “Manilyn, Sheryll, and Kristina.” “Don Vito, Michael and Vincent.” “Winking, Blinking and Nod.” “Abiste.” “Abite.” “Abitem.” “Kurt, Krist and Dave.” “Al, Jay and Harley.” “Cairo.” “Oedipus.” (Nasa dulo ng kuwentong ito ang iba pang mga salitang nabanggit/narinig sa laro ng tatlo.*) Ang huling sumagi sa isip ni Putakte nang mautal at tuluyang manahimik? Ang butil ng latik na naligaw sa hiwa ng leche flan. Di niya malilimutan ang kakaibang tamis nito. Nagbukas ito ng pinto ng isang masayang alaala na nangyari noong bata pa siya. Inaalog ng tatay niya ang puno ng aratiles (sa halip na mansanas) na hitik sa mapupulang bunga. Walang katapusan ang pag-ulan ng mga aratiles hanggang mabasa na siya ng malagkit na katas nitong tadtad ng laksa-laksang maliliit na butil. Sa lupa naman, parang mga higanteng garapata ang mga napisat na bunga. Natakot pa nga si Putakte kasi dumudulas yong iba at para ngang mga garapatang naghahanap ng masisipan ng dugo. Nakakangilo ang tamis na malalasap sa simpleng paghinga. Sa simpleng singhot. Sa maluwag na pagbuga. Kaya nga noong sumabog, wala nang saysay ang lahat. At dahil sa pangungusap na ito, wala nang saysay ang mga paliwanag (hal. Putok ang tukso ng dalawa kay Patok,

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pero hindi dahil sa pagsabog kundi sa amoy). May nagsabing mapanganib daw ang mga bala na sinidlan ng pulburang (natuyong pulbos ng mga gamugamo?) pinagputik at pinatuyo. Nagsigawan ang lahat habang bumabale-balentong   —   AAA. Pero huwag mag-alala. May soundtrack akong naisip habang sumasabog ang lahat. May cover ng “Holiday” ang banda nina Putakte. Heto rin ang lagi nilang huling kanta sa bawat set. Magsisimula silang tumutugtog at kumakanta. Pagdating sa bahaging, Pipipipipipi, a capella na. Tuloy-tuloy lang ang pagkanta hanggang hindi na sila maka-pipipipipipi dahil hindi na sila makapagsalita. Papanawan sila ng boses. Magpapatuloy ang katahimikan dahil maririnig dito ang lihim nilang pangalan. Talababa.

***

*Nabanggit ang mga ito pero hindi ayon sa pagkakasunod-sunod ang listahang ito. Kung tutuusin, puwede ka ring magdagdag na sarili mo. Di ako magagalit. Peksman. “Tito, Vic & Joey. Big Three Sullivans. Tatlong Itlog. Larry, Moe and Curly. Harry, Mark and John. Dodong, Robert and Erap. John, Paul and George. Jimi, Noel and Mitch. Jack, Ginger and Eric. Don, Mel and Mark. Dave, Andy and Stewart. Alex, Geddy and Neil. Billie Joe, Mike and Tre. Shiva, Krishna and Rama. The Soft Machine, Nova Express, and the Ticket that Exploded. Border. Foundation. The Lord of the Rings. His Dark Materials. Star Wars. Godfather. Indiana Jones. Sandinista. Julius, Pompeius, and Marcus. Augustus, Anthony And Lepidus. William, Jack and Allen. Sexus, Nexus, and Plexus. Mark Anthony, Jomari and Eric.”

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ariane lim

Ang Flower Girl Dulang may isang yugto

mga tauhan girl Batang babae edad siyam o sampu. Nakasuot siya ng korona ng bulaklak at puting dress na may asul na laso. May nunal siya sa pisngi. flower girl Mga batang babae katulad ni girl ngunit may mga maliliit na pakpak sa likod. bride Babaeng mga dalawampu’t taong gulang. May nunal siya sa pisngi katulad kay girl. groom Lalaking mga dalawampu’t taong gulang. pari Paring nakasuot ng pulang kasubla. manonood ang tagpuan Isang pahabang pasilyo. May hagdanang papataas sa dulo nito na papunta sa isang elebasyong katamtaman ang taas. Ito ang magsisilbing altar. Mga bangkong makikita sa simbahan ang upuan ng mga manonood. Nakahilera’t dikit-dikit sa isa’t isa sa tabi ng pasilyo. Dapat may lagusan sa likod ng mga bangko kung saan maaaring pumasok ang mga flower girl upang magsabog ng mga talulot. Hindi dapat halata ang lagusan. Dahan-dahang iilaw. Tutugtog ng masayang himig. Papasok si GIRL mula sa pintuan. Titigil siya’t titingnan ang kahabaan ng pasilyo at ang mga manonood. Ngingiti siya.

girl

La, la, la, la…

Maglalaro siya ng piko sa nakaguhit nang mga kahon. Maghahagis siya ng maliit na bato sa susunod na kahon. Bebuwelo siya’t tatalon sa kahon. Masasakto siya sa tinapon niyang bato’t madudulas. Iiyak siya nang iiyak pagkabagsak. Tatayo si MANONOOD at aalokin siya ng kendi. Matitigil sa pag-iyak si GIRL. Mabagal niyang kukunin ang kendi at ilalapit sa bisig niya. Hihilain ni GIRL ang kanyang kanang binti’t hihipan ang kanyang tuhod na mapula-pula sa pagkakahulog. Dahan-dahan siyang tatayo’t papagpagin ang kanyang damit. Mapapansin niya ang maliit na bato.

HIYA! (sinipa ang bato papalayo) Susungitan pa niya ito. Babalik ang tingin niya sa kendi at mapapatingin kay MANONOOD na nakaupo na. Matamis na ngingiti si GIRL at yayapusin si MANONOOD.

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Salamat! (tatawa) Tutugtog ng himig mula sa Swan Lake. Maririnig ito ni GIRL at masisiyahan. Sasabay siya sa himig at sasayaw ng ballet. Matatapos ang sayaw niya sa pagtapos ng musika. Hihintayin niya ang palakpakan ng lahat bago magbibigay pugay.Papatak ang dugo mula sa loob ng kanyang skirt. Hindi niya ito mapapansin at lulukso pa siya pababa ng pasilyo. Magiging seryoso ang himig na tumutugtog. Babagal si GIRL at hahawakan ang kanyang tiyan. Mapapatigil siya nang makita niya ang kanyang pagdugo. Bigla siyang uupo’t itatago ang kanyang duguang mga binti gamit ang kanyang skirt. Ipapasok niya ang kanyang kamay sa loob ng skirt. Paghila ng kanyang kamay, puno na ito ng mga pulang talulot ng rosas. Titingin lamang si GIRL dito at paglalaruan niya. Hahayaan niyang bumagsak ito sa lupa. Ipapasok niya muli ang kanyang kamay sa loob ng skirt at mas maraming talulot ang kanyang makukuha. Ipapasok niya muli ang kamay niya hanggang puno na ang kanyang dalawang kamay ng mga talulot ng rosas. Tatayo siya habang nakatingin lang sa mga rosas. Patuloy siyang maglalakad pababa ng pasilyo habang sinasabog ang mga rosas. Titigil siya sa paanan ng hagdanan at hahawakan muli ang kanyang tiyan. Mapapahiga siya sa kirot. Pasok PARI at GROOM sa tuktok ng hagdanan. Tutugtog ang organ. Pareho silang titingin pababa ng pasilyo. Habang tumutugtog ang marcha, papasok ang mga FLOWER GIRL mula sa likod ng mga manonood. Pasasabugin nila sila ng marami pang talulot ng rosas. Tatawa sila’t hihilig sa mga bangko. Pasok BRIDE mula sa pintuan. Nakangiti siyang baba sa pasilyo. Magagalak ang mga FLOWER GIRLS sa kanyang pagpasok. Ngingitian ni BRIDE ang mga manonood. Pinakamalaki ang ngiti niya kay MANONOOD. Titigil siya sa paa ng hagdanan. Matatakpan niya si GIRL na nakahiga pa rin gamit ang kanyang malaking gown. Magpapakasal sila ni GROOM. Dahan-dahang mamamatay ang ilaw habang naririnig ang dasal ng pari. Telon. Katapusan.

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japhet calupitan

Paikut-ikot, Bali-baligtad Pag-uwi Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan makararating hindi sa paroroonan. Salamin Dumating ang lingon sa pinanggalingan at sa paroroonan. Malayo Lingon sa pinanggalinganhinding-hindi sa paroroonan makakarating. Mito Lingon ang pinanggalingan hindi ang pagdating hindi ang paroroonan. Pagtawag Galing ang lingon hindi sa pinanggalingan kundi sa paroroonan.

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Kasaysayan Pinanggalingan ang nais paroonan ngunit hinding-hindi makakarating  —   lingunin na lamang. Sikap Sa paroroonan lumingon hindi sa pinanggalingan upang makarating. Medusa Sa isang lingonhindi na makakarating sa paroroonan ni sa pinanggalingan. Labirinto Makakarating ba sa paroroonan? o sa pinanggalingan? Saan lilingon? ‘Di-naniniwala Lumingon man o hindi sa pinanggalingan, sa paroroonan makakarating.

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angelica maria de asis

Kaawaan Mo Po’t Patawarin Ang Kaluluwa Ni _____ (isang sipi)

mga tauhan adeng 80 taong gulang, relihiyosa, deboto ni San Isidro Labrador, hipag sina Sally, Milagros, at Trining sally 70 taong gulang, strikta, animo’y kagalang-galang, asawa ni Lando na bunsong kapatid ni Adeng trining 77 taong gulang, limut-limot, asawa ni Artemio na pangalawang kapatid na lalaki ni Adeng milagros 78 taong gulang, moderna at mapustura, asawa ni Rodrigo na panganay na kapatid ni Adeng Ika-lima ngayon ng Mayo taong 2012. May nagaganap na padasal sa tirahan nina Adeng at Sally. Tahimik ang paligid. Habang unti-unting nagliliwanag ang entablado, maririnig ang tila inaantok na tinig ng tatlong babae. Inuusal nila ang Aba po, Santa Mariang Reyna.

adeng, sally, trining Ay aba, pinipintakasi ka namin, ilingon mo sa amin ang mga mata mong maawain, at saka kung matapos yaring pagpanaw sa amin, ay ipakita mo sa amin ang iyong anak na si Hesus. Santa Maria, Ina ng Diyos, maawain, maalam, at matamis na Birhen. Makikita sina Adeng, Sally, at Trining na nakaupo sa mga antigong upuan, nakapikit, at may hawak-hawak na rosaryo. Sa gitna ng mga upuan ay may baul kung saan may nakapatong na maliit na krus at dalawang kandilang may sindi. Sa isang bahagi ng sala, nakapatong sa isang estante ang imahen ni San Isidro Labrador. May nakatirik ding kandila sa magkabilang gilid nito. Sa isa pang bahagi, mayroong mesang napaliligiran ng apat na upuan at pinagpapatungan ng mga lalagyan ng pagkain.

adeng

Ipanalangin mo kami, Reyna ng kasantu-santuhang Rosaryo.

sally, trining Nang kami’y maging dapat makinabang sa mga pangako ni Hesukristo. 77


adeng

Maawaing Hesus ko, lingapin ng mahabagin mong mata ang mga kaluluwa ng nangamatay sa binyagan, na ipinaghirap mo’t ikinamatay sa krus.

Mapapaiglip si Trining.

sally

Siya Nawa.

Magtataka si Sally kung bakit siya lamang ang sumagot. Didilat siya at makikitang natutulog si Trining. Tatapikin ni Sally si Trining. Magigising ang huli na mukhang nagulat at nahiya sapagkat nakatulog siya sa gitna ng pagdarasal. Muling pipikit ang dalawa.

adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa masaganang dugong ipinawis mo sa halamanan nang manalangin ka sa Amang Diyos,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Tiago. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa tampal na tinanggap ng mukha mong kagalang-galang,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Talia. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa limang libong hampas na tiniis mo,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni sally/ trining Jose/ Artemio Didilat ang tatlo.

sally

Dapat si Jose muna dahil siya ang unang namatay.

trining

Pero mas matanda si Artemio kay Jose kaya si Artemio muna.

adeng

Sus! Pareho kayong mali! Si Rodrigo muna dahil siya ang panganay.

trining

Ay, oo nga. Si Rodrigo nga pala muna.

78


sally

Sige, Ate Adeng, ulitin natin.

Pipikit muli ang tatlo at itutuloy ang pagdarasal.

adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa limang libong hampas na tiniis mo,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Rodrigo. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa tinik na ipinutong sa Iyo na naglagos sa ulo mong kasantu-santuhan,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Artemio. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa paglakad mo sa lansangang kapait-paitan na pinapasan mo ang mahal na Santa Krus,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Jose. adeng

O Diyos Amang naghabilin sa amin, sa mga bakas ng paghihirap mo at sa mapalad na sabanas na ibinalot sa kabanal-banalan mong katwan ng maibaba ka ni Hosep sa Krus, ipagkaloob mo sa amin, maawaing Panginoon,

Didilat si Trining habang inuusal ni Adeng ang dasal. Sisilipin niya kung nakapikit nang mabuti ang dalawa niyang kasama. Nang masiguro niyang mataimtim na nagdarasal ang dalawa, sisilip siya sa kanyang bulsa. Kasabay naman nito ang pagdilat ni Sally. Hahawakan ni Sally ang kamay ni Trining saka iiling. Tanging ngiti ng pagkahiya ang maitutugon ni Trining. Hihilahin ni Sally ang kamay ni Trining na nasa loob ng bulsa at pilit aalamin kung ano ang sinisilip-silip ng kasama. Bibitawan ni Trining kung ano man ang hawak niya sa loob ng bulsa. Ilalabas niya ang kamay at ipakikita kay Sally na wala naman siyang hinahawakan saka niya ipipikit ang kanyang mga mata.

adeng

Alang-alang sa pagkamatay mo at sa pinagbaunan sa Iyo na ang kaluluwa nina Sergio  —  

Tatangkain pa rin ni Sally na alamin ang itinatago ng kasama. Kakapain niya ang bulsa nito. Dahil sa gulat, mapapalo ni Trining ang kamay ni Sally.

79


adeng

Maawaing Hesus ko, lingapin ng mahabagin mong mata ang mga kaluluwa ng nangamatay sa binyagan, na ipinaghirap mo’t ikinamatay sa krus.

Mapapaiglip si Trining.

sally

Siya Nawa.

Magtataka si Sally kung bakit siya lamang ang sumagot. Didilat siya at makikitang natutulog si Trining. Tatapikin ni Sally si Trining. Magigising ang huli na mukhang nagulat at nahiya sapagkat nakatulog siya sa gitna ng pagdarasal. Muling pipikit ang dalawa.

adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa masaganang dugong ipinawis mo sa halamanan nang manalangin ka sa Amang Diyos,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Tiago. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa tampal na tinanggap ng mukha mong kagalang-galang,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Talia. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa limang libong hampas na tiniis mo,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni sally/ trining Jose/ Artemio Didilat ang tatlo.

sally

Dapat si Jose muna dahil siya ang unang namatay.

trining

Pero mas matanda si Artemio kay Jose kaya si Artemio muna.

adeng

Sus! Pareho kayong mali! Si Rodrigo muna dahil siya ang panganay.

trining

Ay, oo nga. Si Rodrigo nga pala muna.

80


sally

Sige, Ate Adeng, ulitin natin.

Pipikit muli ang tatlo at itutuloy ang pagdarasal.

adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa limang libong hampas na tiniis mo,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Rodrigo. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa tinik na ipinutong sa Iyo na naglagos sa ulo mong kasantu-santuhan,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Artemio. adeng

Hesus ko, alang-alang sa paglakad mo sa lansangang kapait-paitan na pinapasan mo ang mahal na Santa Krus,

sally, trining Kaawaan mo po’t patawarin ang kaluluwa ni Jose. adeng

O Diyos Amang naghabilin sa amin, sa mga bakas ng paghihirap mo at sa mapalad na sabanas na ibinalot sa kabanal-banalan mong katwan ng maibaba ka ni Hosep sa Krus, ipagkaloob mo sa amin, maawaing Panginoon,

Didilat si Trining habang inuusal ni Adeng ang dasal. Sisilipin niya kung nakapikit nang mabuti ang dalawa niyang kasama. Nang masiguro niyang mataimtim na nagdarasal ang dalawa, sisilip siya sa kanyang bulsa. Kasabay naman nito ang pagdilat ni Sally. Hahawakan ni Sally ang kamay ni Trining saka iiling. Tanging ngiti ng pagkahiya ang maitutugon ni Trining. Hihilahin ni Sally ang kamay ni Trining na nasa loob ng bulsa at pilit aalamin kung ano ang sinisilip-silip ng kasama. Bibitawan ni Trining kung ano man ang hawak niya sa loob ng bulsa. Ilalabas niya ang kamay at ipakikita kay Sally na wala naman siyang hinahawakan saka niya ipipikit ang kanyang mga mata.

adeng

Alang-alang sa pagkamatay mo at sa pinagbaunan sa Iyo na ang kaluluwa nina Sergio  —  

Tatangkain pa rin ni Sally na alamin ang itinatago ng kasama. Kakapain niya ang bulsa nito. Dahil sa gulat, mapapalo ni Trining ang kamay ni Sally.

81


Maririnig ni Adeng ang pagpalo ni Trining. Didilat siya at titigil sa pagdarasal. Tititigan niya kapwa sina Trining at Sally, isang pagpapaalalang sila ay nagdarasal. Biglang yuyuko at pipikit ang dalawa. Itutuloy na ni Adeng ang pamumuno sa dasal.

adeng

Na ang kaluluwa nina Sergio, Talia, Rodrigo, Artemio, at Jose ay dalhin mo sa tinatahanan at pinaghaharian ng Diyos Ama, Diyos Anak, at Diyos Espiritu Santo, Diyos magparating man sa walang hanggan. Siya Nawa. Ave Maria Purisima,

sally, trining Sin pecado consevida adeng, sally, trining Sa ngalan ng Ama, ng Anak, at ng Espiritu Santo. Amen. Hihipan ni Sally ang apoy ng mga kandila sa baul.

adeng

Sally, kuhanin mo na ‘yung mga pinggan.

sally

Sige, Ate.

Lalabas si Sally ng entablado at tutungo naman si Trining sa mesa.

trining

(Habang naglalakad) Ano ba ‘tong mga niluto niyo?

Sisilipin niya ang mga inihandang pagkain.

trining

Lumpiang sariwa. Sayang wala si Milagros. Paborito pa naman niya ‘to.

adeng

Iyon talagang si Milagros. Mula nang bumalik galing Amerika hindi na pumupunta sa mga padasal at nobena.

trining

Marami sigurong dinadalaw. Ganoon din naman ako no’ng kababalik lang galing I-states.

Patuloy pa rin sa pagsilip sa mga pagkain.

trining

Dinuguan!

adeng

Akong nagluto niyan.

82


trining

Ate naman. Ba’t ka pa nagluto ng baboy? Baka mag-high blood tayo niyan.

adeng

Sus! Minsan lang naman.

trining

Sabagay.

adeng

Saka kaya nga me gamot e. Para pwede kang kumain ng masarap. (Pasigaw) Sally, matagal ka pa ba d’yan?

sally

(Offstage) Malapit na, Ate.

Darating si Sally na may dalang mga pinggan at kubyertos. Ipapatong niya ang mga ito sa mesa.

adeng

Salamat, makakakain na rin. Kanina pa ko nananakam sa pansit.

Tutungo na si Adeng sa mesa. Kukuha na rin siya ng pagkain tulad nina Sally at Trining.

sally

Sige, kumuha ka lang, Ate. Mabuti ‘yan sa iyo. Pampahaba ng buhay.

trining

(Sa sarili) Kailangan pa ba nito ng pansit e ang masamang damo matagal

sally

Anong binubulong-bulong mo, Insong Trining?

trining

Sabi ko tamang kumain ang Ate ng pansit nang humaba ang buhay niya.

mamatay.

Kukuha na ng ibang putahe si Adeng. Si Trining naman ang kukuha ng pansit.

trining

Makakain nga rin ng pansit.

Magsisiupo ang tatlo pagkatapos kumuha ng pagkain. Sa tabi ng mesa uupo sina Sally at Adeng. Sa sala naman pupuwesto si Trining.

sally

Bakit nga pala wala ang Insong Milagros? ‘Di ba kayo nagkausap, Insong Trining?

trining

Hindi e. Baka nalimutang may padasal kaya dumalaw sa ibang kaibigan.

83


adeng

Sus! Nananadya lang yata‘yang si Milagros. Puro iba ang inuuna.

sally

Tama. Dapat kahit ito man lang padasal, pinuntahan niya.

trining

Baka nga nakalimutan lang.

sally

Hindi pa naman makakalimutin ang Insong Milagros.

trining

Pero matanda na rin ‘yun.

adeng

Tumigil ka na nga, Trining. Ikaw nga ‘tong limut-limot. Noong isang taon nakalimutan mo rin ‘tong padasal. Mas naalala mo pang magbingo.

trining

Ay, oo nga pala. Pero talagang ganyan ang matanda, limut-limot.

Mapapakamot ng ulo si Adeng habang mapapabuntung-hininga naman si Sally.

adeng

Pero ang bingo hindi mo naman nalilimutan. Mabuti nga ngayon dumating ka.

sally

Dapat ganyan. Unahin ang pagdarasal kaysa kung anu-anong bisyo.

trining

Hindi naman bisyo ang pagbibingo. Kailangan ko ‘yun para di ako mabobo. Gumagana kasi ang utak ko kahit pa’no pag nagbibingo.

Darating si Milagros. Bihis na bihis siya, may make-up sa mukha, at kulot ang buhok.

milagros Sorry, late ako. sally

Sobrang late. Malapit na nga kitang markahang absent.

milagros Ikaw naman. Nakaabot pa naman ako. adeng

Pero tapos na ‘ng padasal.

trining

Hayaan niyo na. Magkainan na lang tayo.

milagros Maya-maya na ako kakain. Busog pa ako. adeng 84

Bakit? E oras na ng merienda.


milagros Nanggaling kasi ako sa clubhouse ng mga Senior Citizen. Ininvite ako sa birthday ni Donya Liling. Nakakahiya namang hindi pumunta. Akala ko nga magkikita kami doon ni Trining.(kay Trining) Hinanap ka ni Donya Liling. Bakit daw hindi ka nagpunta? trining

Ay, nalimutan ko. Ang iniisip ko kasi e itong padasal.

sally

Tama naman na itong padasal ang tinandaan mo. Hindi katulad ng Insong Milagros. (susulyap kay Milagros) Mas inuuna ang party.

milagros Pinaunlakan ko lang si Donya Liling. Saka Mila na lang. ‘Yun ang tawag sa’kin ng mga kaibigan ko sa States. sally

(Madiin at nanggigigil) O, sige, Mila. Pero late ka pa rin kaya wala kang

trining

Blessing? Kailan pa naging santo ang Inang at Itang?

blessing galing sa Inang at Itang.

Pandidilatan ni Sally si Trining.

milagros Sally, may point si Trining. But anyway I’m sure hindi ako malilimutan nina Inang at Itang dahil ako ang asawa ng panganay nilang anak. adeng

Sus! Kung di ko pa pinaalala, nalimutan na ng dalawang ‘yan na banggitin kanina si Rodrigo.

trining

Bangayan kayo nang bangayan. Kumain na lang tayo. Ikaw rin, Milagros, a e, Mila. May lumpiang sariwa. Paborito mo ‘yun, ‘di ba?

milagros Oo. Mabuti pa ngang kumain na lang. Kukuha ng pagkain si Milagros. Pagkatapos, uupo siya sa tabi ni Trining. Pabulong na magkukuwentuhan ang dalawa.

milagros Hay, quiet na lang muna tayo. Alam mo naman ang dalawang ‘yan. trining

Ay, oo. Laging pinapansin ang mga ginagawa natin. Walang magaling kundi sila. Bago ka nga dumating e ako ang pinag-iinitan.

milagros Wag na nga natin silang pag-usapan. Baka magka-wrinkles lang ako.

85


Masira pa ang beauty ko dahil sa kanila. Aayusin ni Milagros ang kanyang buhok gamit ang isang kamay. Pinagmamasdan ni Trining si Milagros habang nag-aayos.

trining

Nagpakulot ka pala ng buhok?

milagros Oo. Noong isang araw. Timing para sa birthday ni Donya Liling. trining

Buti’t nakakapunta ka pa sa parlor. Ako’y wala nang ganang magpunta sa ganyan.

milagros Hindi naman ako pumupunta sa parlor. Nagpapa-home service ako. Baka gusto mo ring magpagupit. Ibibigay ko sa’yo ang number ng stylist ko. I-text mo lang, darating ‘yun. trining

‘Di naman ako marunong magtext at wala akong selpon.

milagros Bakit? Lahat na ng tao ngayon marunong magtext. Kahit nga tindera sa palengke may cell phone. trining

Binigyan na ako ng selpon dati ng anak ko pero ‘di ko naman natutuhan. Ayoko na talaga ng mga ganyan-ganyan.

Biglang tutunog ang cell phone ni Milagros. Magugulat si Trining sa lakas ng tunog nito. Mapapaurong siya ng bahagya sa inuupuan. Mapapatingin naman sina Adeng at Sally kay Milagros. Kukunin ni Milagros ang cell phone sa loob ng kanyang bag at babasahin ang natanggap na text.

adeng

Ang lakas naman niyan!

milagros Sorry, Ate. Sige, hihinaan ko. Makikiusyoso si Trining habang binabasa ni Milagros ang cell phone nito.

trining

O, sino ‘yan?

milagros Si Donya Liling. trining

86

Anong sabi?


milagros Nag-thank you lang siya sa gift ko. Ibabalik na ni Milagros ang cell phone sa bag. Tapos nang kumain sina Adeng at Sally. Lalabas sila ng entablado upang alisin ang kanilang pinagkainan.

sally

Kapag tapos na kayo ilagay niyo na lang ‘yung mga pinggan niyo sa lababo. Iwan niyo lang. Akong maghuhugas.

milagros Ok. trining

Kumusta nga pala ‘yung party ni Donya Liling? Anong handa?

milagros As usual, may pansit. Meron ding rellenong bangus, inihaw na tanigue, lumpiang ubod, at lechon. Ang dessert naman sapin-sapin  —   trining

Wala bang ice cream?

milagros Syempre meron. Mawawala ba ‘yun? Sugar-free pa nga at yung favorite mo, ube flavor. trining

Ang sarap naman. Sayang, hindi ako nakapunta. Ba’t ko ba kasi nalimutan?

milagros Kasi ayaw mong mag-cell phone. Sana na-remind kita sa text. Pero sabi mo binigyan ka dati ng cell phone ng anak mo. Nasaan na? trining

Ay, naku. Kabagu-bago naiwala ko.

milagros Kaya naman pala di ka natutong magtext. Ba’t di ka nagpabili ng bago? trining

Binigyan nga ako ng bago kaso naiwala ko ule. Kaya ayaw ko na talaga ng ganyan. Kung saan-saan ko naiiwan. Sayang lang.

milagros Ah. Ok. Uubusin na nina Milagros at Trining ang pagkain sa kanilang pinggan.

87


trining

(Kay Milagros) Halika na’t dalhin na natin ‘to sa lababo.

Kasabay naman ng kanilang paglalakad palabas ang pagpasok nina Adeng at Sally. May dala si Adeng na llanera ng leche flan habang may dala namang apat na platito si Sally.

adeng

Tamang-tama. May dala kaming panghimagas.

milagros Uy, leche flan. trining

Naku, ang sarap. Makasalanan nga lang kainin. Puro gatas, itlog, at asukal.

adeng

Naku! Iyan ka na naman. Kaya nga me gamot e.

trining

O, siya, siya. Sige na. Titikim ako kahit konti.

sally

Kaya dalhin niyo na ‘yang pinggan niyo sa lababo.

milagros Ok. Tara na nga Trining. Tuluyan nang lalabas sina Milagros at Trining. Maiiwan sina Adeng at Sally. Uupo sila sa may mesa. Sila naman ngayon ang magkukuwentuhan.

adeng

Totoo ba ‘yang sinasabi mo?

sally

Oo. May sinisilip siya habang nagdadasal. Pakiramdam ko talaga, bingo card at pera ‘yun.

adeng

Kailangan na talaga nating iligtas ‘yang si Trining mula sa pagbibingo.

sally

Oo, Ate. Kita mo, nagdadasal, nakukuha pang isipin ang bisyo niya.

Maririnig ang tawanan nina Milagros at Trining. Ititigil nina Sally at Adeng ang kuwentuhan. Darating sina Milagros at Trining. Kukuha sila ng platito at kakain ng panghimagas.

milagros Wala ka na bang balak bumalik sa States, Trining? trining

Hindi na.

adeng

Kumbinsihin mo pa ng konti, bibigay din ‘yan. Ganiyan naman si

88


Trining. Ang hindi ngayon, bukas e oo na. trining

Ayoko na talaga.

sally

Totoo ba ‘yan?

trining

Naku, nakakainip sumakay sa eroplano. Ayoko na.

milagros Sabay naman tayo. Hindi mo ba namimiss ang mga anak at apo mong nasa Illinois at California? trining

Nakakausap ko naman sila. Nakikita ko pa nga sila sa… sa… ‘yung… parang telebisyon… Ano nga bang tawag do’n… Nalimutan ko…

milagros Ah. Computer? trining

‘Yun nga, ‘yun nga. Ewan ko nga kung paano ‘yun ginagawa ng apo ko. Talaga ‘yung apo kong ‘yun, masyadong tek-tek.

milagros Tek-tek? trining

Tek-tek. ‘Yung magaling kumulitingting ng kompyuter.

milagros Aaaah. Baka Techie. trining

‘Yun nga. Tek-tek, techie. Pareho lang ‘yun.

adeng

Sus! Pa’no naman naging magkapareho ‘yun?

trining

Pareho kasi ang naiisip kong ibig sabihin.

sally

Mali nga ang tek-tek. Walang salitang ganoon.

trining

O, siya, siya. Sige na nga. Milagros   —   

sally

Mila nga raw.

trining

Ay, Mila. Magkwento ka na lang tungkol sa bakasyon mo sa I-states.

89


milagros Sure. Saan ko ba uumpisahan? Ah! Minsan pumunta kami ng apo ko sa Disneyland. adeng

Disneyland?

milagros Oo. Ang saya-saya doon. Nakita nga namin sina Donald Duck at Mickey Mouse. Tuwang-tuwa ang apo ko. trining

Ay, napuntahan ko na ‘yan! Ang dami ko ngang kuha kasama si Tiny.

Lahat ay magtitinginan kay Trining na tila nagtataka. Hindi nila maunawaan kung sinong Tiny ang tinutukoy nito.

milagros Sinong Tiny? trining

‘Yung asawa ni Mickey.

Mapapailing si Sally, mapapakamot sa ulo si Adeng, at matatawa naman si Milagros.

milagros Hindi Tiny. Minnie. trining

Ah, Minnie ba? Ang tanda ko e Tiny.

adeng

Hay, naku. Ito talagang si Trining, limut-limot nang talaga.

trining

Pagpasensyahan mo na ‘tong utak ko. Ganiyan talaga ang tumatanda.

adeng

Naku! E mas matanda ako sa’yo pero malinaw pa ang memorya ko.

milagros Ate, may iba ngang 40 pa lang, limut-limot na. Kaya hayaan mo na si Trining. Magpasalamat ka na lang na mahusay pa ang memorya mo. trining

(kay Milagros) Ituloy mo na ‘yung kwento mo. Saan ka pa ba pumunta?

milagros Ah! Alam niyo ba ang Las Vegas? sally

‘Di ba sugalan ‘yun?

milagros Ah, oo. Marami ngang sugalan doon.

90


trining

Ay, maganda doon.

Habang nakatitig sa langit si Trining na para bang nangangarap, matatalim na tingin ang ibibigay sa kanya nina Adeng at Sally. Kabaliktaran naman ng reaksyon ng dalawa ang reaksyon ni Milagros na aliw na aliw sa tinuran ni Trining.

trining

Maganda talaga. Maraming maningning na mga ilaw.

Nakatitig pa rin sa langit si Trining kaya kakalabitin siya ni Milagros.

milagros Nakapunta ka na rin pala doon. trining

Oo. Isinama ako ng kaibigan ko sa California.

adeng

Naku! Kung saan-saang lugar ng demonyo kayo nagpupupunta.

sally

Nalilimutan niyo bang kasalanan ang magsugal?

trining

E hindi naman ako nagsugal doon.

adeng

Anong ginawa mo do’n?

trining

May dinalaw kaming kababayan na dating taga-California. Nadaanan lang namin ‘yung lugar na may sugalan.

sally

(kay Mila) Kaw naman anong ginawa mo sa Las Vegas?

milagros Nagtour ng buong lugar. Kumain. Hindi ako nagsugal. Sumilip lang ako para ma-explore ang place. sally

Mabuti kung gano’n.

milagros Pero gusto ko nga sanang bumalik. Maganda rin namang i-try for the sake of experience. Bumalik ka na kasing States, Trining. Samahan mo ‘kong pumunta sa Las Vegas. adeng

Idadamay mo pa sa masama si Trining.

milagros Isang beses lang naman. Hindi ko naman gagawing bisyo.

91


adeng

Papa’no kung si Trining ang mawili? Madali pa naman ‘yang mabuyo. Naging bisyo nga niyan dati ang pagbibingo.

sally

Dati nga lang ba?

trining

Paminsan-minsan e nagbibingo pa rin ako.

sally

Sabi ko na nga ba. Siguro bingo card at perang pantaya ang sinisilipsilip mo sa bulsa mo kanina, ano?

trining

Hindi.

sally

Talaga?

trining

Oo, hindi.

adeng

Sus! Ang gulo mo naman. Ano ba talaga? Oo o hindi?

trining

Oo.

sally

Kita mo, umamin din. Bingo card nga.

trining

Hindi nga. Sabi ko, hindi.

adeng

E kasasabi mo lang na oo.

milagros Para malinaw. Tanungin ulit natin si Trining. Oo ba o hindi? trining

Ay, naguguluhan din ako sa inyo. Oo sa ano? Hindi sa ano?

sally

Hindi ba talaga bingo card ang nasa bulsa mo?

trining

Oo.

adeng

Oo na bingo card?

milagros Ganito na lang, Trining. Ipakita mo na lang ang nasa bulsa mo para hindi na tayo magkagulo.

92


trining

Mabuti pa nga.

Ipakikita ni Trining ang mga laman ng kanyang bulsa  —  susi ng bahay, panyo, at banig ng gamot.

adeng

E wala naman palang bingo card, Sally.

sally

Pero may nakapa ako kaninang parang karton!

trining

Baka itong banig lang ‘yun ng gamot. Nakalimutan ko kasi kung nadala ko ba o hindi kaya kinapa ko habang nagdadasal.

milagros Iyon naman pala. Hayaan mo na, Sally. sally

Oo na. Akin na nga ‘yang mga platito niyo. Maghuhugas na ako ng pinggan.

Aalis si Sally dala ang mga platito. Magpapatuloy naman ang kwentuhan nina Adeng, Milagros, at Trining.

93


julz riddle

Ang Manisalat Totoo pa rin ang hulang walang gayumang kagaya ng kay Lila. Mataman din naman ang ibang mga dalaga sa pulo kung maghalo ng sari-sarili nilang timpla, mataimtim kung humiling na mahalin din ng minamahal. Palihim silang pumupuslit mula sa kani-kaniyang mga bahay tuwing gabi upang maghanap ng iba’t ibang isasahog, iba-iba ng pinananaligan sa kung alin ang pinakamabisang mga uri ng kabute, mga kulay ng halaman, mga bahagi (tainga ba o tiyan o dila?) ng iba’t ibang hayup. At sa mga gabing buo kung magpakita ang buwan, maririnig silang bumubulong ng kanikaniyang dasal habang ibinibilad ang mga botelya o palayok sa bakuran o durungawan ng kanilang mga tahanan. Gaya ng mga guhit sa iba’t ibang palad, walang dalagang nagkakatulad sa paggawa ng gayuma. At lalong walang katulad ang gayuma ni Lila, palibhasa’y walang ibang may alam ng lihim na sangkap niya: higit sa sari-saring lahok sa kumukulong palayok, isang pusong walang pag-ibig. Pitong bagong buwan na rin ang lumipas mula nang una siyang dumating sa bayang ito. Bilang niya pa kung ilang bayan na ang nadaanan niya, walong tantos sa isang pinakinis na talukab ng niyog na ginagamit niyang sisidlan ng mga sahog. Ibaiba ang bilang at uri ng kalalakihan sa bawat bayan, iba-iba ng kinailangang panahon ng pamamalagi, pagpili, paghahanda ng mga sangkap. Iba-iba rin ng pagtanggap sa isang dalagang naglalakbay nang mag-isa na tulad niya. Pero ni isang beses, sa alinman sa mga bayang ito, hinding-hindi pa siya nabibigo. Sumisigok-sigok na ang mga nakasalang sa palayok ni Lila, at siya, nakaupo sa bingit ng papag, nilalaro-laro ang itim na tuta na naligaw sa dampa niya. Tumitilamsik na ang mga likidong pinakukulo niya, parang tumatawag para hanguin na ang mga piraso ng tila ba pumapasag pang buntot ng paging ibinabad sa langis, dahon ng pandang nilaga nang makatatlong ulit, dinikdik na kuko ng puting kalapati. Ngunit habang nag-aapura na ang mga sahog niya, si Lila, ni hindi nililingon ang nilulutong panlumay. Hindi pa, ang sabi ng pang-amoy niya, sabi rin ng mata niyang tiyak sa kulay at lapot ng gayumang husto na, kahit pa sa ilalim lang ng sinag ng buwan na pinatutuloy ng maliit niyang bintana. Hindi niya na mabilang kung ikailang ulit niya nang ginagawa ang ganito, gaya ng hindi niya nabibilang kung ilang ulit siyang humihinga, parang mga alon sa dagat, aalsa  –  huhupa nang bahagya ang maliliit niyang dibdib. Maya-maya, matapos iwan ng kalarong hayup, nang mabagot ay nagsimulang mamapak si Lila ng tira-tira sa dinikdik niyang luya at sampalok. Ang tagal, isip niya habang pinanonood na maglaro ang apoy sa ilalim ng palayok. Maya-maya ay ihahalo niya na sa gayuma ang tubig-ulan na naipon niya sa isang maliit na banga. Ang sabisabi sa ilang bayan, pangontra gayuma raw ang tubig-ulan. Pero alam niyang sabi-sabi 94


lang iyon, dahil ilang ulit na niyang inihalo ang tubig sa sarili niyang timpla para makita kung totoo nga, kung mawawalan nga ng bisa ang gayuma niya, pero hindi naman gumagana. Nang tumagal-tagal ay sumubok na rin siya ng iba pang bawal  —   tainga ng baboy, buntot ng bubuwit, iba’t ibang uri ng mga talbos at bunga. Nakakabagot din kasi ang gayon at gayon na lang sa tuwing naghahanda siya ng ipanlulumay. Sa kabila ng lahat, nananatili pa rin namang tagumpay ang gayuma niya. Sa mga bintana ng iba pang kabahayan, sabik nang nakasilip ang mga dalagang tulad niya sa buwang bilog na bilog sa gabing ito. Kung makikinig nang maigi, maririnig ang sabay-sabay nilang pagbulong ng daing, ipinagdarasal sa kani-kaniyang paraan na mahalin din sila ng isang binatang malamang ay nahihimbing na matapos ang isang masaganang huli; tumataas ang dagat sa mga gabing gaya nito, at lumalapit ang malalaki at malulusog na isda sa pampang. Marahil ay tulog na rin si Abat ngayon sa sarili niyang higaan, naisip ni Lila, parang mga along tumataas at kumakati ang dibdib nito sa paghinga habang nahihimbing, gaya kapag nagtatapon ito ng lambat o nagsasagwan tuwing nasa dagat. Baka sa pagtulog nito ay bahagyang gumagalaw ang bibig, parang may kinakausap sa panaginip. Minsan lang silang nagkausap ni Abat. Pero gusto niya ang mga labi nito, maliit sa karaniwan, tila nagtitipid sa mga salita at umuusli nang bahagya kapag nakatikom. Hindi gaanong naiiba si Abat sa ibang kalalakihan. Katamtaman ang tangkad at may tabas ng katawang gawa ng mga gawaing pangmangingisda. Bukod sa hugis ng mga labi, wala ring di pangkaraniwan sa hubog ng mukha. Hindi makakapantay sa husay ng ibang binata sa pag-awit o pagkukuwento. Pero sa bayang ito, si Abat ang natatangi sa paningin ni Lila. Gusto niya ang mabagal na paglalakad nito papuntang laot para ihanda na ang bangka. Sa iilang sandaling nagkausap sila, tumitingin ito nang tuwiran sa mga mata niya, parang wala silang kailangang itago o ikatakot sa isa’t isa. Pero higit sa lahat, may isang dahilan kung bakit si Abat ang napili ni Lila, kung bakit para kay Abat itong gawa niyang gayuma: saksi siya sa kung gaano kamahal, kung paano minamahal ni Abat ang bata nitong asawa. Gaya ng iba, handa na rin ang gayuma ni Lila para ibilad sa liwanag ng buwan. Bitbit ang sariling palayok, nakayapak siyang lumabas, hinahanap ang bahagi ng lupang kilala na rin ng mga talampakan niya. Dito niya ibinilad ang gayuma, saka naupo sa tabi nito. At kasabay ng ibang mga dalaga, ibinulong niya ang sarili niyang dasal: baliin po ang sumpa, baliin po ang sumpa, baliin po ang sumpa. Gaya ng lagi, nahiga siya sa tabi ng palayok niya (nakakaburyo ang paghihintay), pinanonood ang pagdaan ng mga ulap sa buwan habang naglalaro ang liwanag nito sa payak niyang mukha. Ilang bilog na buwan na rin ang nasaksihan niya, at nagtataka siya sa kung paanong hindi siya nagsasawa sa pagtingin dito, na para bang may sarili itong gayuma at siya naman ang sinisila nito. Ilang sumpaan na ng mga mangingibig ang nasaksihan nito? Ilang binata na ang sumumpa rito ng pangakong laging iibig sa kanilang mga inasawa, mga lalaking isinumpa para hindi na magpaakit pa sa gayuma ng iba? 95


At si Abat? Naiisip ni Lila ang mukha nito, sinasalo ang basbas ng buwan sa sumpang laging ibigin ang asawa. Ano kaya ang ipinanggayuma ng asawa dito? Mas makapangyarihan kaya sa gayuma ni Lila? Pero hinding-hindi pa nabibigo ang gayuma ni Lila. Ngayon pa lang, tila nadarama na ng katawan niya ang balat ni Abat, ang bigat ng malalamang braso nito sa balikat niya, ang gaspang ng mga talampakan at palad nito sa katawan niya. Paanong iba ang haplos nito sa iba pang sumuko na sa gayuma niya? Matatauhan ba si Abat kapag napansin nitong hindi ang asawa ang kayakap, hindi buhok ng asawa ang hinahaplos-haplos, iba ang hugis ng baywang at braso at binti? Mabulas ang asawa nito at ganap na sa edad na labinlima ang hugis ng katawan, at naaangkop na ang mga kilos sa isang may-asawa. Si Lila, kahit matanda nang tatlong taon ay tila hindi pa dinadatnan ng pagkahusto sa gulang, parang paslit pa kung kumilos at magsalita. Ni hindi malay sa mga napapatanghod sa tuwing lumalabi siya kapag nag-iisip, o sa mapaglarong galaw ng mga kilay niya sa tuwing matutuwa o magagalit nang husto, o maging sa tunog ng mahina niyang pagbahing. Ang sasabihin ng iba, palibhasa’y labingwalong taon na ay wala pa ring asawa. Iba ang kapalarang inasahan ng mga kababaihan sa bayan nila para sa kaniya. Noong labintatlong taon siya, noong hindi pa pinamimintog ng bawat paglipas ng bilog na buwan ang mga hita niya’t dibdib, noong unang dalawin siya ng buwanang pagdurugo, sinamahan siya ng mga kababaihan para maligo sa ilog at magbabad sa ilalim ng buwan, ipinagdarasal na makahanap siya ng mabuting asawa ngayong isa na siyang dalaga. At natuwa ang lahat nang sabihin ng pinakamatandang Kaka sa kanila na iba si Lila, ibang-iba sa ibang dalagang tulad niya  —  walang gayumang tulad ng gayumang malilikha niya. Noon niya nalamang hindi siya tulad ng iba. At wala pa man din sa isip niya ang tungkol sa pag-aasawa ay may nadama siyang kapanatagan, dahil kapag dumating ang araw na gustuhin niyang mapaibig ang sinuman ay magagawa niya. Hindi siya matutulad sa ilan nang nasaksihan niyang luhaan dahil ano mang busisi ay hindi makapagpaibig sa tinatangi. At napanatag siya, hustong kapanatagan, at sa isip niya ay alam niyang hindi na siya kailangang umibig, alam niyang kahit hindi na siya umibig ay parang nakamit niya na rin ang pag-ibig na iyon kung gugustuhin man niya. Walang ikinabagabag ang bata niyang puso  —  hindi tulad ng ibang dalagitang may ikinasisikdo ang mga dibdib, may munting lihim na nagpapakaba sa damdamin. Kasabay ang mga kababatang kasabay din niyang natutong tumayo at lumakad sa sariling mga paa, natutuhan niya  —  sa ibang kababaihan, sa mga sabi-sabing walang nakakaalam kung saan nagmula, sa sariling pagtuklas sa iba’t ibang sangkap sa mga taniman at kakahuyan  —  kung papaanong magtimpla ng sarili niyang gayuma. Ngunit batid ni Lila na hindi tulad ng gayuma niya ang gayuma ng iba, na nilikha ng masidhing hiling at pangamba kung gagana ba, kung uubra ba sa lalaking pinaglalaanan nila ng sari-saring sangkap at panalangin. Hindi, hindi pangkaraniwan ang kay Lila, at kailangang hindi rin pangkaraniwan ang paglalaanan niya ng kapangyarihang taglay 96


nito, kailangang higit sa pag-ibig ng isang binatang tiyak na siyang kaya niyang makuha. Nagdaan ang dalawang taon. At nang napagpasiyahan na ng panahon na handa na siya para subukan ang sariling likha, batid niya nang hindi ang bisa ng gayuma niya ang sinusubok niya; susubukin ng gayuma niya ang sinumang lalaking mapili niyang paglaanan nito. At nang dumating nga ang oras na iyon, nang una niyang gamitin ang gayuma niya, nabatid niyang hindi nga nagkakamali ang hula ng Kaka: Ikaw, Lila, ang sabi ng matanda habang namamangha sa mukha niyang basang-basa sa liwanag, ang gagawa ng pinakamabisang gayuma sa pulo. Walang lalaking hindi mo mapapaibig, walang loob kang hindi kayang baliin. At hanggang ngayon nga ay nagpapatotoo pa rin siya sa hula  —  hindi pa rin pumapalya ang gayuma, wala pa siyang sumpaang hindi pinananagumpayang wasakin. At hindi niya man aminin sa sarili ay tiyak siyang kahit sa gabing ito ay tagumpay siya. At alam niyang mamaya, gaya ng lagi, gaya ng gagawin din ng ibang dalaga sa mga bahay nila, kapag husto na ang pagbibilad ay babangon siya at mauupo sa pintuan, dala-dala ang palayok, at unti-unting ilalapit niya ito sa mga labi niya at makikilala ng dila niya ang iba’t ibang alat at lansang inaasahan na. Mamaya, guguhit mula lalamunan hanggang kalamnan ang mainit-init pang likido, pati na ang mga piraso ng sahog nito, maglalakbay sa iba’t ibang sulok ng loob ni Lila, sinusubok kung karapatdapat siya sa kaloob nitong kapangyarihan. At gaya ng lagi, matatagpuan na malinis ang loob niya, na wala itong mapagdamot na pag-ibig para kaninuman, na siya nga ang karapat-dapat sa lahat para putungan ng ganitong kapangyarihan  —  sa kaniya ang pinakakaakit-akit na liwanag, puting liwanag sa mukha niya at buhok, mga daliri at palad, leeg, sakong, dibdib, tainga, labi. At kahit magliliwanag din ang bawat bahay ng mga dalagang may maalab na hiling para sa isang tinatangi, tiyak na pinakamatindi ang liwanag na magmumula sa munting dampa ni Lila. Alam ni Lila na mamayang hatinggabi, kung kailan maririnig na ang mga yabag ng mga kalalakihang gigisingin ng mga dasal at susunod sa liwanag ng mga tumawag sa kanila, hinding-hindi maliligaw si Abat, matatagpuan nito ang sarili sa harapan niya, sa paanan niya, lango sa liwanag na nagmumula sa kaniya. Patutuluyin niya ito. Handa na ang banig para sa sandaling ibabalot ni Abat ang mga bisig nito sa kaniya, saka ilalatag siya, ang mga braso’t binti niya, at saka buong pagsambang yayapusin siya nito gaya ng sinumang nasa ilalim ng sumpa ng gayuma. At sa ilalim ng lalaki, napapako ng bigat nito, pagmamasdan ni Lila ang mukha nito, mag-aabang para sa mga senyales ng pagtataka, pagkagulat, pagkamuhi sa sarili kapag nabatid na nitong si Lila at hindi ang asawa ang kasiping. Maghihintay siya gaya ng lagi, at matagal na siyang naghihintay na may magising sa pang-eengkantong gawa ng gayuma niya. Pero hindi, hinding-hindi pa siya nabibigo! Siya ang may pinakamakapangyarihang liwanag sa pulo. 97


At mamaya, kakapit siya kay Abat nang mahigpit, iaasa rito ang kapalaran niya, hanggang sa dumating ang inaasahan niya na: sa ibabaw niya ay magsisimulang maginit ang balat nito, madarama niya sa dibdib nitong humahalik sa dibdib niya, sa mga nagbabagang palad nitong naglalakbay sa balat niya. Saka ihahanda ni Lila ang sarili  —   at hanggang ngayon ay hindi niya pa rin tiyak kung kahit kailan ay naging handa nga siya  —  para sa sandaling magningas ang katawan ni Abat, mula sa tiyan hanggang sa ulo, pati ang buhok at mga kuko. Habang nagliliyab ang katawan nito, luluha si Lila, tatanggaping tagumpay na naman ang gayuma niya. At sa pakikipagniig niya sa umaapoy na katawan ay papasuin ang balat niya ng init mula sa nalulutong laman ni Abat. Mababanlian siya ng kumukulong tubig at dugong aapaw mula sa bibig at tainga nito, hindi naiiba sa ibang lalaking sinubok na ng gayuma niya, bawat ulit ay sing-init at singsakit pa rin ng una  —  nang una niyang malaman ang tunay na kakayahan ng gayuma, nang una niyang masaksihan ang pataw nito sa mga lalaking tulad ni Abat na ngayon ay nasusunog sa ibabaw niya. At habang naiihaw ang balat nito, yayakapin ito ni Lila nang buong awa at paninisi dahil binigo siya nito, dahil nabigo itong tumupad sa sinumpaang pangako sa asawa, sa sarili, sa buwang noon pa man ay tuso na’t alam na walang sumpaang makasusupil sa liwanag na handog nito sa kaniya. Ngunit hihingi rin siya ng tawad dito dahil siya, si Lila, ang kinailangang tumupad ng kaparusahan sa kataksilan nito, dahil siya ang sumpang tutupok sa lahat ng may mahinang loob na gaya nito. At bilang pagtitika, ididiin pa niya ang sarili rito, patawad, patawad. Mamamaltos ang mga bahagi niyang nasasaling nito, magbabaga rin siyang gaya nito. Pero hinding-hindi siya matutupok. Si Lila ang may pinakamalinis na loob sa pulo. At mamaya, kapag wala nang natitira kay Abat, papagpagin niya ang mga alabok nitong magsisikapit pa rin sa nalapnos niyang balat, parang nagsusumamo pa na sumama sa kung saan siya pupunta. Dahil tiyak na aalis siya. Babangon siya para isilid sa mga tampipi’t bayong ang kakaunting pag-aari niya, mga palayok at sahog na sa mga piling lugar lamang makikita. At bago magbukang-liwayway, bago pa magsigising ang mga dalaga’t binatang pinalad kagabi, aalis siya sa bayang ito at hindi na babalik; hindi tanggap sa anumang bayan ang tulad niyang manisalat. Mamaya, hindi pa rin siya mabibigo, malalaman niyang pinakamabisa pa rin ang timpla niyang gayuma. At hangga’t hindi siya nabibigo, hangga’t may bagong buwan ay gagawa siya ng gayuma hanggang sa may bisa pa ang hula sa kaniya. At hanggang sa araw na iyon, hanggang sa makatagpo siya ng lalaking may loob na kasinglinis ng kaniya, may sumpang kasingtibay ng sumpa sa kaniya, ay patuloy siyang hihimlay gaya ngayon, titingala gaya ngayon, bumubulong pa rin sa buwan, baliin po ang sumpa, baliin po ang sumpa, baliin na po sana ang sumpa. 98


abner dormiendo

Kumpisal kay Mike

Gasgas na kung sasabihin kong umiiyak na naman ang langit pero di maitatago ng lagapak ng ulan sa bubungang-bakal ng iyong Innova ang panginginig ng iyong tinig nang aminin mo sa aking gusto mo na siyang umuwi; gusto nang umuwi ng tatay mo dahil pagod na siyang makipagsapalaran sa ibayong dagat. Gusto ko sanang sabihin sa iyo na titila rin ang bagyo, na lahat ng tubig ay babalik sa pusod ng pinanggalingang karagatan ngunit buong araw nang walang-patid ang pagbuhos ng ulan at hindi ko maipapangako sa iyo ang paghupa ng unos bukas. Nangingilid na ang tubig-baha sa mga gutter ng kalsada. Nangingintab sa liwanag ng poste ng ilaw ang bawat patak ng luha na dumadausdos sa pisngi ng iyong side mirror. Umuungol na ang makina ng kotse, parang gusto nang mamahinga. Akala mo siguro ay di ko napapansin ang ganitong mga bagay: na hindi ka lang basta nagmamaneho, na nagdaramdam pati ang kotse mo

99


na punasan mo man ng wiper ang basang windshield ng kotse mo ay malabo pa rin ang ating hinaharap pero wala tayong magagawa kundi ang lumusong, ang lumusong nang tayo’y makaahon. Napabuntong-hininga na lang tayong dalawa, at namuo ang ating ibinugang hininga sa bintana na agad namang nalusaw sa lamig nitong pag-ulan. Sa ngayon, ligtas tayo. Sa ngayon, ligtas tayo.

100


aidan manglinong

Tinta Tumiklop ang mga kamay na sugatan nang mapatakan ng ulan. Isinalin sa kanyang mga palad ang mga panalanging hindi nanatili sa dulo ng kanyang dilang kalyado. Matutunaw lamang ang poot pag-nalunok na ang apoy. Mamamayapa lamang ang dati pa lumisan pag-dumugo na ang mga daliring nagtangkang sumulat.

101


harley barcenas

Ang Mga Salita ni Joss (isang sipi)

eksena iv: Maririnig ang isang ringtone na tunog Lupang Hinirang. Biglang kukunin ni Joss ang cellphone saka sasagutin.

joss

Oh Phine, musta na? Ah, eh, nandito ako sa presinto eh. Oh, oh, wag ka naman sumigaw, eh, ah, kasi.

Mapapakamot si Joss sa ulo

Tumutulong ako dito sa kaso, alam mo naman trabaho ko. Oo nag-iingat ako. Eto nga lang may onting problema. Kasi, yung mga gumagawa ng kaso, halos hindi ko mautusan. Hinihingi ko yung detalye, walang mabigay. Eh nakaaway ko nga yung isa eh. Sus, okay lang, weak  –  shit si gago. Akalain mo, manghahamon ng away, dahil lang hindi ako mapatahimik. Eh yung isa naman, sobrang drama. Kinuwento yung buong buhay sakin, halos panteledrama. Hinde, hindi rin nakatulong sa kaso. Nagdrama lang. Susmaryosep, naku, etong kaso kay Tandang Jethro, hinding-hindi mareresolba to. pulis #3

Sir, you have no authority to use your phone in these premises. Please surrender that immediately.

joss

Ay naku, nandito na si Tsip, sige usap na lang sa susunod.

Papatayin ni Joss ang cellphone.

pulis #3

Sir, if you may?

Hihingin ni Pulis #3 ang cellphone ni Joss. Ibibigay naman ito ng lalake.

Thank you, sir. Hindi niyo po ba alam na bawal po kayong gumamit ng cellphone?

102


joss

Teka, bakit ba?

pulis #3

Protocol po.

joss

Protocol, para saan?

pulis #3

Sir, please be silent, we really need your cooperation.

joss

Okay…

Katahimikan

Ah Miss, kayo na po ba ang maghahandle ng kaso ko? pulis #3

Please sir, you have the right to remain silent-

joss

Hey, do not state the Miranda Warnings on me. Hindi pa napapatunayan na ako ang sumaksak kay Tandang Jethro.

pulis #3

Sir, you are held under contempt. Kahit na gustuhin ko man, hindi po namin pwedeng i-reveal sa inyo ang kaso hangga’t wala pa kayong abogado.

joss

Teka, kelan ako na-contempt?

pulis #3

Sir, inaway niyo po yung unang gwardiya dito, diba?

joss

Oh tapos?

pulis #3

That’s all I can say, kailangan niyo pong antayin ang abogado niyo.

joss

Abogado? Hindi ko pa kailangan ng abogado ah, wala pa ngang ebidensya kayong pinapakita eh.

pulis #3

Sir, kung wala pa kayong abogado, magdedelegate kami ng isa para sa’yo.

joss

Hindi ko kailangan ng abogado, kailangan ko yung nangyayari sa kaso.

pulis #3

Sir, mawalang-galang lang po, pero kahit pinaghihinalaan pa lang 103


kayo, Prime Suspect pa rin po ang tingin ng korte sa inyo. You’ll need an attorney. joss

I need the specifics of the case miss. Si Tandang Jethro, ano na ba ang lagay niya.

pulis #3

Hindi namin pwedeng sabihin sir.

joss

Pero sinabi nung una  —  

pulis #3

Violation of Protocol ang ginawa niya at na-penalize na po siya.

joss

Eh, may ebidensya na ba kayo na ako yung pumatay?

pulis #3

Sir, may mga ebidensya na kami, pero medyo kulang pa siya.

joss

So, pwede na akong umalis?

pulis #3

Sir, kahit kaunti pa lang ang ebidensya malakas naman po ito para ituro na kayo yung salarin.

joss

Oh, eh bakit hindi niyo pa ipakita para mapag-usapan na natin?

pulis #3

Protocol po. We cannot release new evidences.

joss

Protocol na naman? At anong new evidences? Eh wala pa nga kayong pinapakita sa akin eh. Miss naman, kung desidido na kayo na ako yung pumatay, wag na nating ituloy to. Ipakulong niyo na ako.

pulis #3

Sir, sinusunod ko lang po ang batas.

joss

Batas?

pulis #3

Sir, strikto po ang batas namin. Totoo ngang halos walang sumeseryoso sa batas natin, pero kung titingnan, walang bias at organisado naman po ang saligang batas ng Pilipinas.

joss

Naku, eto na naman tayo, sige ilabas mo na.

104


Papagitna si Pulis #3 na parang hindi narinig ang huling sinabi ni Joss. Papasok si Extra 2, nakauniporme ng pulis, gaganap siya bilang si Pulis #3. Papasok din sina Extra 1, suot ang medyo gusot na pananamit, may mga maiitim na mata at may hawak na bag, at Extra 3 na naka-casual, mayroong dalang manibela.

pulis #3

Mula noong pagtatapos ko sa pagpupulis, nakita ko ang malaking halaga ng saligang batas para sa bayan.

Maglalabas ng maraming traffic signs si Extra 2, ipapakita kung paano niya pinasusunod ang mga batas

Pinilit kong maging isang tapat na pulis, marunong sumunod sa batas, iniintindi at isinasapuso ang bawat utos na ibinibigay ng pangulo ng bansa. Naging ganito ako ngayon dahil sa saligang batas, isang strikto, ngunit maalalahanin. joss

Ha?

pulis #3

Matalino at maunawain,

joss

Maunawain?!

pulis #3

Tapat at umiintindi sa kapwa.

joss

Teka, umiintindi sa kapwa. Eh ako at ang kaso ko nga hindi mo maintindihan, yung kapwa pa.

pulis #3

Sir, patapusin niyo muna ako.

joss

Sus, may pahabol.

pulis #3

Ilang beses na ako natulungan ng batas na ‘to. Si Dodong na aking dating kasintahan. Nalaman ko na isa pala siyang adik nang makumpiska ang kanyang bag. Kung alam ko lang na nagtutulak at naghihithit siya ng marijuana, baka nagahasa o natuluyan na ako.

Tatawa

Todo tanggi naman si Dodong, pero nang makita ko mismo, ha, agad na akong umalis, ipinakulong ko na agad siya.

joss

Baka nga totoong hindi siya nagtutulak. 105


pulis #3

Si Alberto, ang binata kong nasa kolehiyo, minsan na siyang nahuli ng mga pulis sa kanyang kotse. Dahil sa striktong pag-iimplement ng traffic rules and safety na itinuro ng mga pulis sa kanya, hindi na siya uling nahuli ng batas  –  trapiko.

Biglang tatayo si Joss sa mesa

joss

Naku, naku, naku. Miss, please lang. Ang kwento mo, masyadong maraming butas.

pulis #3

Sir, bawal po kayong tumayo.

joss

Sus, okay lang hindi naman ako tatakas. Siguro may problema ka sa pananaw mo ng batas kaya hindi mo nakita ‘to no?

pulis #3

Ano?

joss

Nung makitaan mo si Dodong na may Marijuana, nakinig ka ba sa paliwanag niya.

pulis #3

Bakit, eh nahulihan siya ah, may ebidensya na.

joss

Fourth article of the Miranda warning: “the evidence must have been the product of interrogation”. Pinahuli mo kaagad si Dodong nang hindi man lang siya nagpapaliwanag. Malay mo totoo yung sinasabi niya, na siguro may ibang naglagay sa bag niya ng Marijuana. Marahil ibang tao, marahil isa itong inside job na gawa ng mga pulis.

pulis #3

Sir, that’s pure fiction masyado naman po yan…

joss

May search warrant ba ang mga pulis nang pasukin yung bahay niya?

pulis #3

Wala, pero…

joss

Pero, may nahulihan ng Marijuana? Miss, violation of Protocol yung ginawa ng mga nagsearch sa kanya. Bakit hindi sila naparusahan.

pulis #3

Sir, teka.

joss

Mas nakinig ka sa batas mo kaysa sa minahal mo, tsk. Tsk. Tsk. 106


Ihuhulog ni Extra 1 ang hawak na bag. (Sa mga manonood) Guys, ingat kayo ha?

pulis #3

Sir, tama na po.

joss

Yung sa anak mo naman, pwedeng hindi nga siya sumusunod sa batas.

Katahimikan

Oh nakotongan siya. pulis #3

Sir, sinusunod na ni Alberto yung-

joss

Ako rin naman ah, at siguro karamihan sa lahat ng mga driver dito sa bansa. Lahat tayo, pinipilit nating sumunod sa batas  –  trapiko. Pero madalas naman tayong sumablay diba. Si Alberto, isang beses lang nahulihan ah.

pulis #3

Dahil masunurin si Alberto.

joss

Magkano ang binibigay mong pera kapag aalis siya gamit ang kotse?

Ihuhulog ni Extra 3 ang hawak na manibela. Maglalabas ng wallet si Extra 3 saka itatapon ang pera sa sahig. Biglang mangingiyak-iyak si Pulis #3

pulis #3

Imposible po iyon sir, natuto naman po talaga siguro si Alberto.

joss

Sus naman, mahihinang mga halimbawa lang yung pinagsasabi ko. Hindi naman siguro totoo yung mga sinabi ko, pero totoo baluktot din minsan ang batas… Teka, bakit ka naiiyak diyan?

Uupo ulit si Joss sa itim na upuan. Magpapahid ng luha si Pulis #3.

pulis #3

Oo nga po, mahihinang example lang nga po iyon. Sir, siguro nga totoo po iyon, siguro may mga baluktot nga ang batas.

joss

At alam mo ba kung ano ang isa pang mahinang halimbawa ng baluktot na batas?

Itinaas ni Joss ang kamay nangg bahagya na parang itinuturo ang kasong kinasasangkutan niya.

107


pulis #3

Sir, we cannot divulge any information right now.

joss

Eh bakit nga?

pulis #3

Kasi po eto yung batas!

joss

Gago naman eh!

Hinampas ni Joss ang mesa.

pulis #3

Sir, you have no right to say harsh comments, nor express violent reactions. Anything you say or do may put you in contempt.

joss

Nakacontempt na nga ako eh. Miss, yung kaso ko. Hinding-hindi matatapos ito hangga’t walang nangyayari.

pulis #3

Wag po kayong mag-alala, hahanapan na po namin kayo ng inyong abogado.

Maririnig ang tunog ng isang lifeline, matatawa nang kaunti si Joss.

joss

Wag na, konting panahon na lang, tapos ang kasong ito.

pulis #3

Sir, wag po kayong mawalan ng pag-asa, kapag may nahanap kaming abogado, mananalo po kayo.

joss

Pilit mo pa ring pinoprotektahan ang baluktot na batas, ano? Wag ka nang umasa, hindi batas, o abogado ang hinahanap ko.

pulis #3

Ah eh, sir, wala pa po kayong abogado, sige po ako na lang po ang maghahanap.

Lalabas si Pulis #3 papunta sa mga upuan ng manonood. Doon siya “maghahanap� ng abogado para kay Joss. Sa entablado, uupo nang komportable si Joss sa upuan, ipapatong ang paa sa mesa habang pinapanood si Pulis #3. Makikitang mangingiyak-iyak ulit si Pulis #3.

pulis #3

Sandali na lang po sir, may mahahanap na po akong abogado.

joss

Hindi abogado ang hinahanap ko.

pulis #3

Sandaling-sandali na po sir, may abogado na po kayo, may pangil man,

108


mabait po ang batas. joss

Hindi batas ang hinahanap ko.

pulis #3

Abogado, abogado, abogado!

joss

Hinihingi ko ang Katotohanan!

pulis #3

ABOGADO!

joss

Si Tandang Jethro!! Buhay pa ba si Tandang Jethro!!

Titigil sa paghahanap si Pulis #3. Maririnig ang malakas na flatline. Titingin siya kay Joss at kay Extra 1, 2 at 3. Hahatakin bigla ni Extra 1 at 3 si Extra 2 sa kamay. Bubuhatin ni Extra 1 at 3 si Extra 2 papalabas ng entablado. Iiyak si Pulis #3 papalabas sa mga manonood. Ngingiti si Joss sa kanyang upuan.

joss

Hanggang sa huli, walang makapagbigay sa akin‌ ng Katotohanan.

Katahimikan.

Pero alam niyo, wala naman talaga akong paki eh. Sa huli, matatapos na lang ito‌ na parang bula. Pipitik si Joss. Titibok bigla ang naririnig na life support system. Habang tumutunog ito, untiunting didilim ang entabaldo. Maririnig ang flatline, kadiliman.

epilogo Papalakas nang palakas ang lifeline, unti-unti uling bubukas ang ilaw. Titigil ang tunog ng lifeline, mapapalitan ng masayang tugtugin. Wala na sa entablado ang lahat ng props. Papasok ang mga Pulis na naka-casual attire, sina Extra 2 at si Joss. Mula sa mga manonood, maglalakad papunta sa entablado si Extra 1 na suot-suot ang mga damit ni Tandang Jethro. Papalakpak ang lahat ng nasa entablado.

pulis #1

Buhay si Tandang Jethro!

lahat

Mabuhay!

pulis #2

Buhay si Tandang Jethro!

lahat

Mabuhay si Tandang Jethro! 109


pulis #3

Buhay si Tandang Jethro!

lahat

Mabuhay!!

joss

Party party na!!

Pupunta sa likod ng entablado ang lahat ng mga tauhan maliban kay Joss. Pupunta si Joss sa harap ng entablado.

joss

Tatlong araw, lumipas ang interogasyon, hindi pa naman tapos ang kaso, pero‌ nabuhay si Tandang Jethro. Nakaligtas siya sa saksak, at pagkatapos ng halos dalawang buwan, balik ang lahat sa normal. Parang walang nangyari. Yung kaso? Nakita niyo naman, yun talaga walang nangyari. Napawalambisa dahil hindi mapatunayan. Abswelto sa kaso. Hay sa hinaba-haba ng prusisyon‌ Pero yun na nga eh, kung hindi ako, sino? Sino ba ang sumaksak kay Tandang Jethro?

Titingin-tingin si Joss sa paligid ng entablado.

Ah basta, wala nang may pakialam. Basta ang alam ko, tapos na ang ISYUNG ito. Papasok si Extra 3 sa entablado, mapapansing parehong-pareho ang suot ni Joss at Extra 3.

joss

Okay, panobagong isyu naman tayo!!

Nag-apir sina Joss at si Extra 3. Lalabas ng entablado si Joss saka gigitna sa entablado si Extra 3. Tutunog ulit ang ingay ng wang-wang. Magkakagulo ulit ang mga pulis sa likod ng entablado at ni Extra 3.

extra 3

Tatlong araw. Tatlong araw na ang lumipas at hindi pa rin mahanap kung sino ang gumahasa at pumatay kay Donya Margarita. Naku, napakalaking isyu nito, sa sobrang laki, nadaig pa ang debate sa RH Bill. Sino nga ba si Margarita Esteban? Si Margarita Esteban ay isang sikat na actress‌

Pahina nang pahina ang boses ni Extra 3 mamatay ang ilaw ngunit tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang ingay ng wang-wang.

110


jenina ibanez

Liham Para Kay _____ I happened to be reading a news report on the fascinating discovery of what appeared to be the ‘Higgs boson’  —  the missing subatomic particle that could explain the origin of the world. So crucial is the Higgs boson to accounts of the formation of mass that it has sometimes been referred to as the ‘God particle.’  — Randy David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 7, 2012 Palagi tayong humihingi ng paliwanag. Isang pananaliksik. Minamasdan natin ang isa’t isa sa pag-asa na mahagilap ang nakalipas. Hindi natin masagot ang sariling mga tanong: Bakit nawawalan ng bisa ang wika, Gaano kalayo mula rito hanggang sa pagguho ng pag-iibigan, Saan bumabagtas ang ating mga kapalaran. At sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, naniniwala ka pa rin. Pananampalataya. Nais kong maniwala Na nagpatuloy tayo mula sa nag-iisang kaganapan. Hinahalughog natin ang mga sarili sa paghahanap ng katunayan. Natuklasan na lumalawak ang uniberso nang namasid na ang lahat ng bagay ay walang hanggang lumalayo sa isa’t isa.

111


Na sa paglawak ng puwang ay humihina ang puwersa na minsang humila sa atin. Hindi na ako maghahanap. Hindi pamamanhik ang lahat ng panalangin. Hinikayat ko ang aking mga palad na matutuhan muli ang sining ng paniniwala. “Iniibig kita, iniibig kita.�

112


ken abante

Paalam Paalam   —    singhapdi ng karayom na biglang tumurok sa hintuturo ng mananahi: nabaon, nagkubli nang di-inaasahan sa kamatis na duruan Paalam   —    napabulalas siya sa empuntong kirot sa dulo ng daliri, tanging nais sana'y ipagtagpi, panyo na kanyang natastas, napabayaan, at napunit Paalam   —    pumatak ang nagdaang butil ng dugo sa iskarlatang kamatis, sinipsip ang likido, at naglaho sa kapulahan nito, tulad ng ga-ilog na luha ng nagmahal, ng minahal, na pinahid ng panyo at paulit-ulit na natuyo sa kawalang-alumana hanggang nagutay ang kayo Paalam   —    nakaligtaan ang didal wari ng tagasulsi, nahayuma pa raw sana 113


ang mga punit; gayunman 'di niya na matatangay muli ang karayom na nagkubli sa pula pa ring kamatis, sa takot na siya'y muling masugatan o 'di kaya makasakit Paalam   —    magmula noon, hindi na siya mananahi.

114


marc lopez

Tetris Tulad ng dati ay sinasalansan mo ang mga salita sa pagnanais na mabuo muli ang mga linyang minsan ay inyong pinagsaluhan. Pinagtatagpi-tagpi mo ang lahat ng sumasagi sa iyong isipan: iyong minamahal, iyong tunay. Ngunit sadyang di sumasakto ang mga ito sa mga puwang. Gumuguho ang lahat sa isang maling pagpihit sa kapirasong salita. Sa oras naman na halos mabuo mo na ang mga linyang inaasam-asam ay buburahin ang mga ito ng iyong mga agam-agam Sa kabila nito ay nais mo pa ring maniwala na hindi naman talaga naglalaho ang mga linyang binibigkas. Umaasa kang pumapatungo lamang sila sa isa pang pagkakataon, at doon mo nanaising manatili upang patuloy na maghanap at magsalansan, kahit na umabot pa sa hangganan ang bloke ng mga salita at kailanganin mo muling magsimula: sa wala.

115


paolo tiausas

Prologo Binuksan ko ang sisidlan ng aking wika at mekanismong naghanda ang bunganga  —   ang pagbuo ng pagitan sa labi mula labi at ngipin mula ngipin, ang unang pagbali ng dila mula sa napakatagal nang himbing handang samuin mula diyos ang hinihiling  —   ilog at kalkuladong pagbubungkos ng tunog ilalatag ang kay tagal nang binubuong lungsod at sa kisapmatang sandali ng wagas na pagbuo ito ba iyong tungkol sa X, sinabi na sa akin iyon. Minsan, may pagkakataong kulang ang mundo kung ipapataw ang istruktura ng pagsundo at paghahatid ng kinikitil nating mga salita. Pilit nating pinagkakasunduan ang mga babala. Ngunit minsan may umaangkin sa pagsambit at naiiwan tayong mekanismong nauumid, naghahanap ng bagong kahulugang pilit babawi sa mga kinupit nating pag-ibig.

116


ralph menchavez

Akyat – Bahay Tanging buwan lamang ang nakaaalam nang aking subukin ang inyong bakuran, sirain ang pinto, pasukin ang bahay, at sa kadilima’y marahang manulay. Pagningas ng lente, sa aki’y tumambad ang salang tahimik. Ako yata’y malas   —  walang makulimbat ni pekeng alahas, ang kapalaran ko ay mukhang nasilat. Pagpasok sa kwarto, ako'y napahinto mayro’ng kumalabog dito sa ‘king puso. Ikaw sintang tulog, daig pa ang ginto; sa ganda mo, dilag, mata ay napako. Irog, hindi ka man maa’ring mabitbit, naisilid naman dito sa ‘king dibdib.

117


michael rey orlino

Awit ng Pag-asa Para sa aking pamilya

Halika, halika, magsiawit tayo. Kunin ang gitara, kahit sintunado, Kutsara’t tinidor, kalampagi’y plato. Halika, halika, magsiawit tayo! Kahit na sumapit ang gabing madilim, Kahit na tutong ma’y walang maihain, O kapeng mainit, itong piging nati’y Wala, wala, wala ni isang pipigil! Itahan ang luha, tayo’y mananahan Sa Bahay na iyon, nandoon ang Buhay. Takot, pagdududa, halika na’t iwan. Iya’y pawang bigat sa’ting pagsasayaw. O kung sakali mang umaga’y sumapit at muling magising sa mundong malupit, dalit ay pag-asa, paos man ang tinig, halika, halika, tayo’y magsiawit!

118


jim pascual agustin

Ang Unang Tulay para kay Noel Romero del Prado

Punong yumao ang unang tulay pinabagsak ng lakas ng hangin at ulan o kaya’y mga matimping anay o kung anong kapatid ng alabok. Tulay ito bago pa man binigyang pangalan at tinawid dahil hiniling ng katahimikan ng ilog. Simbigat ng tipak ng bato ang parehong katahimikan, hinugis ng kahabaan ng panahon at ‘di ng kamay. Nasaling ng latigo ng araw maging ng hininga ng buwan. Puno, ilog, bato. Tatawid tayo nang batid kung ano ang huminto at ano ang patuloy sa pagdaloy.

119


jim pascual agustin

The First Bridge for Noel Romero del Prado

The first bridge was a dead tree fallen by force of wind and rain or perhaps by patient termites, or something akin to dust. It was a bridge before it was named and it was crossed because the silence of the river called for it. The same silence is heavy as boulders, shaped by the ages and not by hand. Touched by whip of sun as by breath of moon. Tree, river, stone. We cross knowing what has stopped and what rushes on. -o13 Agosto 2009

120


nicko reginio caluya

ď (Gemini) And I begged the heavens to keep breathing with me And you laid there, cold as clouds that covered your body, you And I turned to stars, eyes burned bright as I slept And you grieved for a wake, wished you were dead, and begged

121


gregorio brillantes

The Flood in Tarlac Afterwards, whenever Dr. Jose Caridad tried to recall exactly how the events of the last days of that May began for him and his family what formed in his mind was a recollection of heat, bright and oppressive, and strangely, utterly silent. The heat at the beginning had been, as Dr. Caridad would remember it, a humid glare pressing down upon the town from a white sky like a lens magnifying the shrouded glow of the sun; but the absolute stillness was merely conjured by his imagination, influenced perhaps by the vast desolation at the end. In the hot dazzle of that Sunday afternoon in Tarlac he had driven home across town, from the Rotary Club luncheon at the Central Luzon Emerald Hotel for the newly elected governor. He had not voted for the man, who had won by only a narrow margin, in his view nothing but a fraudulent upstart, a deceiver of his class, appealing to the electorate with his glib socialist pretensions; and having to listen for the better part of an hour to the politician’s cordial clichés, about democracy and social justice and genuine land reform, whatever that meant, had only made him wish he had gone instead with Maripaz and the girls. After the ten o’clock Mass, they had promptly set off to visit with his in – laws in San Sebastian. That he should be driving all by himself in Bobby’s Lancer, whose aircon refused to work, while they had the Mercedes and the driver, added to his ill humor. Perspiring in the jusi barong plastered to his broad, foreshortened body, his surgeon’s fingers slippery on the wheel, Dr. Caridad steered the yellow car down the length of Aquino Avenue with its shops and restaurants, the moviehouse and his uncle’s decrepit building where he had once maintained a clinic, the mini – buses and jeepneys loading passengers, mostly people from the barrios — the dumb, prolific masses idolized by that goddamn demagogue — crowding half of the thoroughfare across from the church. Then past the plaza where some thatch – roofed food stalls remained more than a month after the fiesta, and beyond it to the glimmering leafshade of Romulo Street where his cousins still lived in the old indestructible houses near the stone bridge. The river, as he had noticed more than once during these dry months, had shrunk to a shabby stream between broad sand banks on which was now spread, like a vivid quilt, the wash drying in the sweltering light. In a rainy season long ago, when he was in the grades at Don Bosco, and before he learned how to swim, he had almost drowned, there below, where women where now pounding clothes beside the thin stream. For no apparent reason another boy a rough dark farmer’s son, had pushed him tumbling into the swollen river…

122


At last on the highway that looped around the poblacion and afforded a shorter route home, in Fortune Village, Dr. Caridad flicked on the radio for music, only to be greeted with a crump of static. It was the same brittle crackling everywhere on the dial, as if some malign electricity in the glittering air had repelled all other sounds. Glumly he wondered why Bobby hadn’t bothered to have the set fixed or gotten one of those removable cassette players when he was so keen on playing wherever he was punk rock or whatever the young people danced to or mooned over these days. For Bobby’s birthday in July, he might get him the newest thing from Sony, a disc player, was it now, if that boy would promise not to turn it on so loud as to bust your eardrums, which was what he liked to do with his stereo when he was home from college, any hour it seemed of the day or night. Nobody, but nobody, Dr. Caridad mused sadly, cared anymore for the kind of music with the sweet and yearning lyrics that he and Maripaz knew by heart during their courting days, about these foolish things reminding me of you and strangers in paradise and such; and he was reflecting on how times had changed, how different kids were from when he was growing up, things were no longer the same, life in general, yes, here in Tarlac, certainly in Manila, the rest of the country, for that matter, when from a block away he saw men in front of his gate. There were three of them, and the tallest one, in a narrow – brimmed buri hat, appeared to be arguing with the security guard. They had their backs to the cemented street and did not see Dr. Caridad coming up until he had slowed down before the two – story house to swing the car toward the gate. The guard, in a dark blue uniform, gestured to the men to back off, stepped through a side entrance under the bougainvillea to push open the black steel panels topped by coils of barbed wire. As Dr. Caridad eased the car into the driveway, the tall man doffed his hat, revealing shaggy hair and a haggard face, nodding and smiling. Strangers: what could they possibly want at this time of day, didn’t they know he no longer saw patients on weekends… Then, one of the men leaned towards the car and raised a hand, as of to halt it, and Dr. Caridad thought the man was vaguely familiar, he had seen him before, but where? The guard waved the men to move back and closed the gate on them with a grating metallic thump. Dr. Caridad parked beside the Toyota van with the cracked window like a glass spider – web where a stone or something had hit just last week, the evening Jocelyn and Susan came back late from that wedding party in Gerona. He should have known better than to let them go driving out there at night, in that troubled part of the province where, he had since heard, shallow graves had been found along the road to Victoria and the soldiers no longer ventured out after sundown. He sauntered out of the garage, rolling the sleeves of his drenched barong further up and squinting in the suffocating light. An ice – cold glass of lemonade, that was what he wanted; then a shower and a siesta; but Santa Maria, those inconsiderate characters at the gate, so early in the afternoon… The guard hurried to overtake him in the shadow of the porte – cochere. 123


“Doctor… They wish to see you, Doctor.” He spoke to the guard also in Pampango, unable to stifle the curt irritation in his voice, “What do they want?” The guard said, blinking anxiously, “They say they are from San Sebastian, Doctor.” “So?” “They say they have come because of a… question” — the guard pronounced it as if with sad distaste — “about Hacienda Margarita…” Dr. Caridad made a mental note to ask the security agency to send someone more forceful and dependable, not this anemic, probably tuberculous runt who looked anything but a sentinel, despite the .45 – caliber pistol holstered at his waist. “In that case, they have come to the wrong place. If it’s some business on the hacienda…” And had this fellow’s brother, as agreed on, come at all today to help around the house? No sign that the lawn had been watered, most of it a powdery yellow, and littered with leaves before the miniature Lourdes grotto, under the overhanging branches of the caimito next door. “They have been waiting for almost an hour now, Doctor. They said it is very important.” Dr. Caridad paused before the front door to dab at his face vigorously with a handkerchief. “Tell them to see Attorney Tancinco. Tomorrow. He is now in charge.” It was then that he heard the day’s first thunder, a brief rumble like distant rocks falling, and he seemed to feel its vibration in the heated air. But what would this be about? Maybe, he should find out, at least: after all, anything that concerned the hacienda… He felt the pressure too of their presence, their silent waiting out in the street. “They said they would not leave until they had spoken to you.” The guard now sounded more forlorn, as if shamed by his own nervous complaint, blinking at Dr. Caridad. “They said they would not take too much of your time, Doctor. They said — ” “Very well then, let them in.” Dr. Caridad exhaled audibly, wiping his face. “Take them to the veranda.” The German shepherd in its cage in a corner of the front lawn began to bark as Dr. Caridad crossed the living room and ascended the stairs towards the huge silver – framed Sacred Heart and the blasts of the Springsteen concert from his son’s bedroom. The afternoon had so darkened by the time Dr. Caridad, iced lemonade in hand, came out onto the veranda that he turned on the overhead light, along with the ceiling fan. The men rose as one, greeting him in polite accents. They were dressed almost identically, in T – shirts and denims. The tall one wore black running shoes; his companions were in rubber sandals. There was about them a kind of humble apprehension and a sourish odor of sweat, which Dr. Caridad had learned to associate with the more industrious peasantry during his stint some years ago as assistant manager on his father – in – law’s plantation. They had barely taken their seats, the three men close together on the wrought – iron couch, rather like the subdued patients Dr. Caridad still allowed himself to see on 124


occasion at the provincial hospital, when the least unfamiliar of the three stood up and said, formally, as if in class, “Doctor, I am Isidro Malabanan, the brother of your encargado in Sapang Malati, Doctor.” “Ah, yes, of course. Your mother had cancer…” “She died last December… Doctor, this is my compadre, Luis Sumulong” —  Malabanan motioned to the gaunt, smiling man — “and this is Placido his cousin, also from San Sebastian.” “Sit down, sit down.” Dr. Caridad thought of his denied siesta and the last few chapters of the Stephen King novel he had expected to finish this Sunday. And he needed to rest up for the next day as he would have to be off early, for the stockholders’ meeting in Camiling… Thunder exploded in alternatively faint and resounding bursts in the hills beyond the river, to the east, and he hoped Maripaz and the girls would come back early. As he well knew, the highway where it curved after the army camp in San Miguel could turn slick and tricky even after just a drizzle. “What is it you have come to see me for?” he said, affecting a jovial gruffness. They would have to walk some distance back to where they could catch, on the highway, a bus or jeepney bound for San Sebastian. No softdrinks let alone coffee for them — that would only encourage them to stay longer. “Let’s hear it, don’t waste time. It looks like rain…” “It is about Pareng Luis here,” said Malabanan. He clasped and unclasped his hands with their knobby fingers and broken nails. “And what would that be?” That new maid couldn’t learn the simplest thing, like not putting so much sugar. This Malabanan was too fair in complexion to be a farmer himself, he was probably half – Chinese, yes, the mother was, one of his charity patients. “Speak up, we don’t have much time.” “Pareng Luis has a small piece of land, very small, Doctor — ” “Riceland? Sugar cane?” “Sugar, Doctor. All these years he has been selling what little he produces to the Central…” “Yes? Go on.” “There was a survey made last month, by the men of Attorney Tancinco,” said Malabanan, his voice fading on uttering the name so that Dr. Caridad, as was his habit when he dealt with the children, the aged and the sick, bent inquiringly forward and almost knocked the glass off the arm of his chair. “The land of Pareng Luis,” Malabanan resumed, “according to them, Doctor…” He could already guess what they wanted, the intercession of the favoured son – in – law. It would not be the first time; it would not be the last. Dr. Caridad no longer relished having anything to do with these things, not since the old man had turned perceptibly aloof, after that confused discussion they once had, about the tractors, at the dinner with the bishops yet… Still, he should listen and pass on the information to Anding and his brother – in – law could take it from there. “Yes, go on about the land of this compadre of yours.” 125


The man called Luis Sumulong gestured suddenly at Malabanan, a small impatient twitch of the hand, and looked at Dr. Caridad straight in the eye and said in a clear, steady voice, smiling, “They claim this plot of land that we have been farming since before the war is part of the hacienda. They have begun to put up a fence that will enclose our land. They said the space would be needed for the new stables they are going to build, for the horses, the race horses of your brother – in – law.” Dr. Caridad held Sumulong’s gaze — bloodshot eyes, and wasn’t that a tinge of jaundice? — until the man looked away, still smiling. Such insolence hardly befitted one who had come to beg a favour. He resolved to conclude this little dismal meeting of theirs sooner than he had intended. He said, “You should talk to Attorney Tancinco. Manoling is a reasonable man, I am sure Manoling — ” Sumulong laughed, and Dr. Caridad, his glance then on the shredded rag of dark cloud gliding closer beyond the water tank of the Rodriguezes, started at the sound like a dry cough and flushed in anger. But Sumulong sat hunched with his bony arms resting on his knees, shaking his head of shaggy hair, eyes on the floor. The pose suggested, not resentment or defiance, but a melancholy puzzlement, perhaps even anguish. Dr. Caridad said, “Have you spoken with Attorney Tancinco?” “I was able to talk only with one of his assistants. Attorney Tancinco is often away, in Manila.” Sumulong reached into a hip pocket and produced a square of folded paper. “With your permission, I would like very much to show this map to you, and to Attorney Tancinco. It shows the old boundaries of Barrio Santo Tomas.” Dirt smudges edged the folds of the ruled sheet, which he held up with thumb and forefinger and extended towards Dr. Caridad. “The fence of Hacienda Margarita goes southward from here, across this creek — ” Dr. Caridad half rose and shrank back in his chair as he pushed a palm against the proffered sheet, as if it were stained by some malignant infection “No need for that.” Must this obstinate pest go on smiling that way? It was time to wind up this farce, in this stupid weather yet. He should never have allowed them in; how they had managed to come this far into the village, to begin with. Those good – for – nothing guards at the entrance… He said, “Let us see what can be done. These matters, you need time – ” “Doctor,” Malabanan said, “we would be most grateful, Doctor, if you could mention this… question… to Attorney Tancinco, and to your brother – in – law…” “I cannot interfere — ” “Perhaps,” Sumulong said, “if they will do another survey, the mistake can be corrected — ” “That may be asking too much,” said Dr. Caridad, then winced from a flick of lightning. It was like the cue he had been waiting for, and he stood up and spread his hands in dismissal even as the thunderclap tore open the sky, it seemed, directly above the house. Sumulong retrieved his hat from the couch. “If your brother – in – law is told of the mistake, he might ask Attorney Tancinco to consider…” “We will see about that,” Dr. Caridad said. 126


“Pareng Luis requests only another survey,” Malabanan said. “Perhaps by other persons, or another group, Doctor…” “That I cannot decide.” “We hope you will help, Doctor,” Malabanan said. “Yes, yes, we will see,” Dr. Caridad said. Only the third man, the silent Placido, whose right arm, Dr. Caridad saw then, bore a long diagonal scar as from the slash of a bolo, shook his hand before they strode down off the veranda. The man’s palm felt as hard and grainy as a splinter of rock. He watched them cross the lawn, not following the flagstone path but stepping on the dead grass, the tall one in the lead, and the dog barking again, in the hot darkened light of the afternoon. The sky above the Concepcion house across the street had turned black, except for the underside of a cloud bank which glowed red and orange from the hidden sun. A mistake, they said, how could they be so certain? There were officials, agencies they could complain to, if it had come to that, Dr. Caridad said to himself, more agitated than he was willing to admit. He knew these people, you surrendered a few square meters, before you knew it they had grabbed and squatted on a hundred more, and there were so many of them, goddamnit. He had gained nothing from talking with them but this headache. The sound of the approaching rain like many voices rising from the earth reached him from the direction of the river, behind the bamboo groves to the east, as he shuffled inside to get himself some Tylenol and tell Bobby to tone down that maddening, mortifying racket of the Stranglers or U – 2 or whatever on that overworked stereo, for God’s sake. For almost an hour it rained fiercely, a warm heavy rain coming straight down. There was a lull of a few minutes, during which Dr. Caridad, roused from a shallow nap by the suspension of the drumming on the roof, could hear the streaming and bubbling in the roof gutters and drains distinct from the hum of the airconditioner. Then, preceded by a reverberating volley of thunder, the rain swept down again, with a different aspect, with wind this time slamming sheets of water, branches and leaves against the walls and windows. In the lamp glow from the bedside table, Dr. Caridad noticed one of his slippers lying in a widening pool between the rugs on the parquet floor. He came out into the hallway, to call a maid to mop up the floor. The door to his younger daughter’s room was open, Jocelyn brushing her hair before her dresser and turning the pages of some magazine. Seeing her father, she skipped towards him at once, brisk and bright – eyed, holding the brush and the magazine, and kissed him on the cheek. “Daddy, we had a wonderful time, Tito Anding said not to fail to come next Saturday, for your golf game, Tito Anding’s so good and patient, I mean, giving us the nicest, handsomest horses in the lot. Daddy, are you all right, you look — so tired — how did the luncheon go, Daddy?”

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“Had a little headache when I got home. The heat. This rain’s a relief, isn’t it? Where’s Mommy? What time did you get back?” “I hope it stops soon,” said Jocelyn, sagging against the doorframe, “there’s this party tonight I simply cannot miss. That guy from Ateneo, Tonyboy Pineda, tall and guapo, like Richard Gomez, remember him, Daddy? He’s picking me up, I mean, with the gang, all of us, it’s the anniversary of the Jasmine Club.” “You haven’t asked my permission,” Dr. Caridad said with mock sternness. “I haven’t, have I, Daddy? May I? Of course you’ll say yes. Yes?” “If this rain lets up, yes.” “You are fantastic, Daddy.” Bobby’s room was unlit and quiet , for once. The boy reclined in the wicker settee under the stairs, jiggling the phone, thin and morose, while the more chubby of the Concepcion twins from across the street stood by, chewing his nails as usual. “Aaah, blasted shit, the line’s dead,” Bobby wailed as his father passed them on the way to the kitchen. Maripaz Caridad was scolding the new maid from Cebu. The tonta, she said, had fried the lapu-lapu in vegetable instead of corn oil, in complete disregard of her instructions given clearly and repeatedly before they left this morning. Dios mio, the kind of help you have to put up with these days. How alike they were, she and Jocelyn, rather breathless and impulsive, and with the same ironic intonation, regardless of the problem, language or audience. Dr. Caridad mentioned the leak upstairs but she did not seem to hear, and he asked about their other daughter. “Susan stayed behind,” said Maripaz Celeridad. “I was hoping they’d all be home this week, before classes. After Baguio, and Hong Kong, I was thinking, before she went back to the university — ” “She’ll keep Papa company for a few days. She’s always been his favourite, you know that. By the way, Anding said to tell you not to miss your next target practice before your shooting arm gets too rusty, he said.” “Something’s come up,” Dr. Caridad said, tentatively. “I may have to go see him one of these days.” “You sound like it’s some unwelcome chore.” Maripaz Caridad gave him one of her quick irate glances, such as he had once considered both distressing and adorable beyond words, an aspect of her wealth, beauty and temper, during their long courtship. It seemed so out of character now, the resentful pride glinting across the tired, slack face. Dr. Caridad said, “Some people came to see me today. Just this afternoon, before it started to rain. They were from San Sebastian.” His wife told the maids to set the table. She said, “Something about the hacienda?” He used likewise to remark on it, the quick, visible transition in her manner, from an exacting calculation, for instance, to girlish expectancy. “They had some problem which they’d want me to take up with Anding.” “Have they talked to Tancinco?” 128


Dr. Caridad made a sound in his throat, half – grunt, half – moan, indicating either yes, no or maybe, to which sometimes he had recourse in such exchanges with his wife. “Must you take it up with Anding?” “A small matter, really. Something about a survey, and the hacienda boundary…” “That’s Tancinco’s job. Just leave it to him, he should handle it. Was it last year, there was this group that was threatening to put up a union, imagine, at the Central, after all that we’d done for them…” Sighing, Maripaz Caridad directed one of the maids to call Jocelyn and Bobby to the table, that had had a long day and she wished to retire early. There was such a flapping of wind and rain now at the windows that Maripaz Caridad had to call across the dining room to where the Concepcion boy stood about uncertainly, “Nonoy, sit down there, time to eat. It’s all right, Nonoy, your folks know you are here, sit down.” “Won’t this rain ever stop?” Jocelyn said. “How awful, how long do you think this is gonna last?” “Forever and ever, and you’re not going to any party,” said Bobby. “Is this a typhoon?” asked Maripaz Caridad. “It’s been falling for hours. If this keeps up…” “There’ve been no storm signals,” Dr. Caridad said. “Not with all this lightning. Somebody remind me to get batteries out one of these days, at least for the transistor  — ” “The phone’s conked out, Daddy,” Bobby said. “Ah, holy shit, I forgot. Fr. Tañedo called when you were out. Urgent, and to please return his call.” “Another fund drive, you can be sure of that,” said Maripaz Caridad. “Peping, it’s about time he got somebody else as devout. Like your Opus Dei friend, the fat obstetrician, what’s his name now?” Dr. Caridad concentrated on the delicious warmth from his brandy. Having given up smoking, he all the more savoured this occasional indulgence, a small glass of Pedro Domecq before dinner, and a special pleasure indeed on rainy nights like this. “If I could only call Minet or Ching and find out,” Jocelyn said. “If Tonyboy doesn’t come by nine, Daddy, could Mang Vicente drive for me tonight, ha, Daddy?” “He’s gone home,” said Maripaz Caridad. “You mean you’re seriously thinking of going to that affair…” “Lousy shit, it must be a swimming party,” Bobby said. “Bobby, how many times have I told you to stop saying that word,” said Maripaz Caridad. “It’s so bastos.” Dr. Caridad said, “Bobby can take you. But nobody goes out, unless this rain stops.” “It’s the first real rain, and about time too, it’s been so hot and humid,” said Maripaz Caridad. “But it’s getting worse. Jocelyn, pass the pochero to Nonoy.” Then the lights went out. “Somebody, bring the candles!” Maripaz Carided commanded, her chair scraping back. “Anastacia! Pining! You know where they’re kept in the kitchen.” 129


“There are no more, Mum,” one of the maids answered tremulously. “Blasted shit, let’s use a flashlight,” said Bobby. “I saw a bundle in that cupboard only last month,” said Maripaz Caridad. “I better go,” Nonoy Concepcion whined. “How awful this rain, it had to happen tonight,” Jocelyn said. “The Club planned something really, really special for the end of summer…” Dr. Caridad stared into the blackness. It was as if he had fallen into an open, undefined space within the night. He groped for his wine glass on the table cloth and could not find it. He closed his eyes and sat holding himself still, he must not move lest he fall again, deeper into this unknown space; and the total darkness he beheld in his mind seemed to be one and the same as the night now filled with the relentless rain and the spray and thud if the wind against the window panes. At around half past ten, with the lights still out and the rain sounding louder in the night, Dr. Caridad at last admitted to himself that the storm was most unusual; and with a prickle of anxiety he rose from his bed to peer out through a window, searching the darkness outside, the black depths that now smelled of wet earth, cold mud, the pulp of water – softened wood, leaves, and grass. From the other side of the house, towards the garage, he thought he heard the barking of the dog, freed to roam the grounds at night. There was nothing to see from the window, no lights or shadows anywhere in Fortune Village, only the faintest strip of gray above the bamboo groves that separated this part of town from the river. He stood there in his pajamas, disturbed by the force and duration of the rain, until he saw, in a white flicker of lightning, the half – submerged wheelbarrow by the swimming pool and the tin cans and planks of wood floating around it in the water below. He cursed the rise of the water outside, the failed electricity, the unending rain. His wife was beside him, and she too tried to see into the streaming dark. “What? What is there…?” He said, “What’s that guard doing?” and he snatched up the flashlight from where he had placed it, by the luminous clock on the night table. Jocelyn was outside her door. “Daddy, what’s going on, oh, Daddy, won’t this rain ever stop?” Dr. Caridad played the flashlight before him, down the hall to the staircase. He realized he could not rouse the help from there even if he shouted, and with increasing alarm, he proceeded down the stairs and the flashlight beam slanted and gleamed across the floor of water in the living room. But where were the maids? And that guard, where was he? Why hadn’t they called him, how could they be so stupid… He stepped into the water, cold about his slippered feet, and ankle – deep, this was unbelievable, why, it had only been a couple of minutes. Where were they? He could wring their necks, damn all of them. His rapid heartbeat seemed to fuse with the drumming of the rain. “Pining! Anastacia!” Dr. Caridad bellowed in the entry to the kitchen, standing in the 130


swirling, softly tugging water. “Inday! Pining!” And with a catch in his voice, “Guard! Guard!” From out of the darkness before him cold droplets sprayed his face and chest. He directed the flashlight at the maids’ room, then, with a tremor of fear, further on to the far end of the kitchen where the back door next to the gas range stood open on the outer darkness. “Anastacia? Pining? Inday?” Before he could reach the door, the German shepherd bounded inside. He patted the dog, feeling it shivering beneath the wet fur. “Pining!” he called out once more, indignant and afraid, and withdrew from the kitchen, forgetting to bolt the door shut against the black void and the flood. How could they… this couldn’t be… He made his way back to the stairs, stepping unsteadily in the water now inches deeper and seeming to suck at his feet. He discarded his slippers in the dining room. Maripaz Caridad was saying something incomprehensible from the darkness at the top of the stairs. “They aren’t here,” Dr. Caridad said. “What?” “The maids. They aren’t in their room.” The dog scratched past him up the stairs. “They are gone.” “That cannot be. Impossible — they must be somewhere — ” “The water’s come inside. Look,” Dr. Caridad panted, pointing the flashlight down over the banister at the water in the living room. It was as if the floor itself, the blue and white tiles, had been torn out to expose the churned earth underneath, now like a porridge of mud reflecting a tiny swaying light. “Oh my God!” cried Maripaz Caridad. “What shall we do? Peping, call for help! We must move the piano, the chairs, the Ming vase, my things in the study. The Santo Niño. Jocelyn, get Bobby, do something, oh God — ” “Daddy,” Jocelyn gasped somewhere in the hall, “what’s going on down there…?” “Bobby, Bobby, help Daddy!” Maripaz Caridad gripped her husband’s arm and would not let go. “Bobby!” The boy joined their huddle on the top landing, his own flashlight creating more clashing shadows. “I’ve got lots of stuff down there, shit,” he snapped as he lunged past Dr. Caridad, who almost lost his balance, wavering on his bare feet. “Bobby!” Dr. Caridad shouted down the stairwell. What was it he wanted to say? He strained to remember, wresting his arm loose from his wife’s grasp, and once more descended the stairs. There were wet footprints on the steps, his mind noted as in a numb, partial trance that dissolved as soon as his feet reached the waterline. Bobby was splashing around under the stairs, demanding, “Where’s that video cassette? I left that thing right here by the phone!” and then Dr. Caridad remembered what it was he had to tell his son. Maripaz Caridad was whimpering behind him, “God, oh God, why, Peping…” Jocelyn said, shrill and plaintive on the stairs, “Daddy? What are we going to do, Daddy?” 131


“The switch, Bobby,” Dr. Caridad began, “the main switch in there beside — ” The rest of his words were lost in the massive roar rising about the house. It was like a huge runaway train bearing down on them, he was to recall months later; like a giant infernal machine attacking the house, it is fury vibrating on the stairs, on the banister, in the foot of water in which he was then standing, followed by the crash of the French windows between the living room and the terrace breaking inward as the roaring, boiling waves of the flood smashed into the house and he was scampering up the stairs. Bobby was pushing behind, gasping, and Maripaz Caridad continued to scream above them amid the glancing shafts and shadows made by their flashlights. Dr. Caridad gathered his family to him and led them away from the stairs. He must protect them, in the dark and flooding house; comfort them, that was what he must do, that was all he could do, and he said, “We’re safe… here… the water won’t rise higher,” before he gagged from the fear. He sank down with them on the sofa in the corridor and, spent and shivering, heard the rumbling, hissing high tide of the flood. The rain dwindled at dawn. Gradually, Dr. Caridad became aware of the altered sounds, of the diminished rain and wind, and the flood not pressing violently now against the concrete house but flowing around and away, slower and spread out like a vast river, like a sea. In the monotone of that ponderous flow, there began a rhythmic muttering in front of him. His wife and daughter were praying the rosary, some of their Hail Mary’s interrupted by sobs and sniffles. Then he too whispered his own pleas and invocations, ‘Save us, O Jesus… Lord, have mercy… Mother of God…” He crouched deeper under the blanket, in the leather armchair, dozed, woke up and glanced at the clock beside him. It was quarter past four o’clock. They had withdrawn to the master bedroom, at the end of the hall, where it seemed they were farthest, as on the high stern of a ship, from the frontal cleaving of the waters moving past the house. The drizzling rain fell, the body of the flood passed by, less powerful and slower now in the still unrelieved darkness. Soon, he was sure, in the morning, the waters would recede. He tried to imagine the mud, the filth, the wreckage the flood would leave on the floor below; the passbooks and time-deposit certificates and other papers, the things they had brought back from Paris and New York in the study, what a mess. The cars, the cream Mercedes underwater, the engine an absolute ruin. Was the flood as high around the casa in San Sebastian? Susan… Anding would come in the helicopter at first light… The river rising, the waters coming down from the mountains and growing, widening so swiftly in the night. But hadn’t they just built that big dike — a dam? — in Santo Cristo, he had attended to some of the men smashed by the overturned crane… The fragmented images turned abstract, drifted away from him. He would confront his losses in the morning, not now, not yet; and he reminded himself to keep still, as when the lights went out, to keep from falling deeper into a black space. But he began to fall against his will, and woke up to the dog’s furious barking outside in the corridor. 132


Dr. Caridad staggered to the door, disconcerted by the cold dimness, the hour, the passage of the strange waters rustling like felled trees being dragged away in a fevered dream such as had visited him once in childhood. The guard dog kept up its barking and growling at the head of the stairs. Was there someone… something… Bobby came out with his flashlight, and he and Dr. Caridad moved forward together, Bobby saying, soothingly, “Prince, what’s bothering you, easy now, Prince…” The flashlight showed the dog bristling and braced as if about to hurl itself down from the top landing. “Prince come back here, c’mon Prince,” said Bobby, and the drowsy thought filtered into Dr. Caridad’s mind that the dog must have come upon one of those cats that wandered homeless in the neighborhood. He glanced down over the banister, and smelled the wet acrid rot of the flood. Dr. Caridad flinched form the odor, and in that instant two images imprinted themselves almost simultaneously in his brain in the half – light from the tall windows by the stairwell, the flood level lapped midway up the stairs, at the twelfth or thirteenth step; and directly in front of that step awash in water, a shadowy shape floated, long and extended like a log. Then the object swivelled so that one end of it touched the stairs at a sharp angle, and Dr. Caridad saw it more clearly then: a banca with men in it. One of them, wearing a hat, was rising and pointing, it seemed, a stick at him. It was absurd — incredible! outrageous! — a banca in his living room. The first volley cut down Bobby and the dog even as the animal sprang down and then tumbled on the stairs into the water. Dr. Caridad hesitated for a second, then ran. Another burst of automatic rifle fire ripped at the ceiling, showering down chunks of wood and plaster as he ran. He slammed the bedroom door shut. He was trembling so hard the knob rattled in his sweating hand. He tore his hand from the knob and Maripaz Caridad and Jocelyn were screaming. “Quiet!” And then, whispering hoarsely, “Be quiet. Don’t make a sound.” He tugged at a chair, tilted it against the door. The rocker too, and that stool — he pushed, kicked at the furniture, building a barrier, a soundless cry trapped in his throat. The armchair, the bed — “Jocelyn, stop that, come push!” Maripaz Caridad cowered beside her dresser and from her mouth issued a shrill, stuttering chant. They’ve killed Bobby, the thought thrust at him as from a distance. Dr. Caridad then proceeded to do what he knew he must even as in his heart, in the inmost center of his being, he recoiled from the lonely and despairing compulsion. These men might still spare them if he placed himself totally at their mercy. But once he removed the gun from the velvet case wedged inside the drawer, the moment he did that, there would be no reprieve, no delaying the confrontation of his own death. The pearl – handled .38 – caliber revolver had, as always, a reassuring compact weight, just right, a gift from Anding. Dr. Caridad collected the picture frames from the round table in the darker half of the room — he knew each one by heart, by feel: photographs of their wedding, of baptisms, first communions and graduations — and placed them one on top of the 133


other carefully on the rug, beside the pail for the leak in the ceiling. Then, almost with a kind of exultation, he positioned himself on one knee, facing the door, with the gun in both hands propped on the marble top of the table. His heart pounded, he felt a longing to weep, and he waited in the cold and the dark. The door exploded in gashes of red flame. Dr. Caridad fired at the smoking, disintegrating door, fired again at the figure suddenly framed in the dissolving dark. The man doubled up and smashed headlong into the overturned rocker, his M – 16 rifle clattering and sliding on the floor. The second man, with a .45 automatic, shot Jocelyn in the breast and stomach before Dr. Caridad could turn the gun steady on the table around to the right and drop him sprawling across the bed with a slug in the back of the head. As the man rolled with a gurgling moan on the bed, a third assailant swung a bolo with vertical force down at Maripaz Caridad huddled against the dresser, slicing her face open from forehead to chin, and then shouting frenziedly whirled towards Dr. Caridad, who fired his last two shots. The slashing blade cut into the flesh of Dr. Caridad’s forearm and chipped the edge of the table, then the man swayed, uttering something like a mournful query, collapsed and lay still. The sounds of the rain and the flood came back to the room, and fading away the thump of running feet out in the corridor. The rain was still falling on the flooded plain that stretched to the far horizon, a light misty rain in the pale dusk of the morning, when the amphibian tank from the Camp Makabulos north of Tarlac came to Fortune Village about two hours later and the soldiers in their green raincoats, paddling their rubber raft, found Dr. Jose Caridad sitting in his blood – splattered pajamas as the top of the stairs, under the shattered frame of the Sacred Heart, looking formal and reflective with his hands clasped on his knees and his head cocked slightly to one side, staring down at the brown flood on the level of the tenth or eleventh step, at the tangled weeds and garbage and chairs and a dead dog and some chickens floating in the nearly motionless water, and saying in a gentle, wondering voice, “They had no right… coming into my house that way… my house… absolutely no right… no… right…”

134


gregorio brillantes

The Apollo Centennial WAITING BY THE RIVER. When Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons arrive on the riverbank, the heat has already begun, the bright humid windlessness of the July morning. It was cool going down the trail from Camanggaan through the talahib and the bamboo brakes: but here by the river the broad slope of sand lies open to the sun, and Arcadio Nagbuya can feel the warmth of the sandgrains underfoot as they stand about waiting for the raft. By Mr. Balaoing’s watch it is not yet seven o’clock: they should be in the city well before nine. The thin, impatient schoolteacher, wearing an orange polka – dot necktie for the occasion, alternately shades and fans himself with a magazine, and wonders aloud what is taking Lacay Ustong so long. His English affirms his calling, a certificate of distinction which all recognize: “I tol’ hem to be hearrr earrrly,” he says to no one in particular, “what eiss de materr wit’ dot man,” waving the magazine impatiently at the miniature hills and craters of gray san, the hollows still wet from yesterday’s rain, the women washing clothes in the green water beside the posts of the ruined bridge, the bus parked on the opposite bank. As he lowers the hand holding the magazine the boys edge closer for a look: reluctantly he opens it for them, the gloss of the pages with the color photographs of the old spacecraft and the astronauts glinting in the hard sun. Arcadio Nagbuya glimpses some of the larger type of the Tagilocan text before the schoolteacher resumes his irritated fanning: ANG NAUNANG TAO SA RABAW TI BUAN… SI ARMSTRONG KEN ALDRIN…” If he could borrow the magazine, to show to the boys: but overcome by a certain shy courtesy he merely smiles at Mr. Balaoing, grateful for the schoolteacher’s brief gesture. THE RAFT. His shirt beginning to wilt moistly around his frail shoulders, Mr. Balaoing has set off for the shade of the coconut grove facing the sandy beach, and he has almost reached the slanted trunks with their fronds shredded by the last typhoon when the boys start shouting and jumping. He hurries back to rejoin the group and nearly trips on a mound, recovers his balance, then proceeds slowly, rather formally, towards Arcadio Nagbuya and the others as Lacay Ustong’s nephew Pedring poles the raft closer to the riverbank. The boys are chuckling into their hands, and Arcadio Nagbuya gives the older one’s hat a scolding brush, pushing it down over the boy’s eyes. Being in Grade Five, Dolfo is not in Mr. Balaoing’s class, and his buck teeth are curved widely in soundless laughter. His uncle’s rheumatism is troubling him again, Pedring explains, digging the pole glumly into the river. Mr. Balaoing squats on the bamboos of the raft, the magazine tented over his head: “ISANG GASUT TAON TI APOLLO 11,” Arcadio Nagbuya reads the white letters superimposed on the gray cratered moon 135


above the faces of the three astronauts. And: “Imprenta ti United States Information Bureau, Southeast Asia Department, Territory of the Philippines,” he reads on the black back cover highlighted by the sun, his lips moving around the words. Happily he tightens his grip on his younger son’s shoulder, and he smiles inwardly at his ability to read both English and Tagilocan, at this rare morning’s journey to the city, the sure gliding movement of the raft, the sun full and warm on the green river. THE BUS. The maroon Twin Sisters Bus is a converted Nakajima truck with five wooden benches behind the driver’s seat. On the high rack behind the windshield rest plastic figurines of the Blessed Virgin and San Martin de Porres: on the rack itself, painted unsteadily on the peeling wood, is a Tagilocan invocation reminding these powerful advocates before the heavenly throne to protect passengers from flat tires, highway robbers, and other hazards of the road. Behind the last bench and occupying the rest of the vehicle is a storage compartment, now filled to the roof with sacks of charcoal, bundles of kakawati firewood, vegetable crates, and chicken cages. On the platform jutting out from the rear of the compartment are piled more chicken cages, a goat with hostile bloodshot eyes, and three pigs grunting passively, bound for the slaughterhouse in the city. The bus is one of the more dilapidated units of the fleet operated by the Hashimoto sisters in the western part of the province, where they own a sawmill, a chain of videoramic theaters, and other enterprises. For a time Arcadio Nagbuya worked for the sisters, in the sawmill in San Clemente: improbable twins, one huge and laughing like a humorous sumo wrestler, the other a delicate beauty with nervous eyes seemingly being pushed outward by her goiter. He might have made foreman had he chosen to stay on at the mill and not returned to the farm in Camanggaan: but the sawdust was bad for his lungs, he recalls now as the curly – haired driver clears his throat and spits out a yellow coin of phlegm and makes one last call for passengers in a mock barker’s voice. “Intayón sa buan, intayón,” and then there is only the loud throbbing drone of the motor and the framework of the bus squeaking and rattling when the wheels shudder over the waterlogged craters on the asphalt road. THE VIEW FROM THE BUS. Mr. Balaoing as usual has taken the only canvas – backed seat beside the driver. Arcadio Nagbuya stares at the frayed sweat – damp collar, the thinning hair combed across the squarish top of Mr. Balaoing’s head: he thinks again of borrowing the USIB magazine, decides against disturbing the schoolteacher, and turns to watch the moving landscape. The fields are dark green where the young rice has been spared by the storm, yellow – brown in places where it lies broken in the flooded paddies: the trees on the horizon are bluish smudges like smoke, the Zambales mountains beyond a deeper blue, almost the same color as the sky. Far to the south, clouds like soiled rags smother the peaks: it seems Arcadio Nagbuya can smell the distant rain in the humid breeze. He remembers his grandfather telling him 136


of the time long ago when the Black Cloud rose to cover most of the sky, and the rains that came after were warm and gray with an ash which made so many vomit blood and waste away in pain. Now the sky is clear but for the remote clouds, and a couple of helidiscs humming in a wide arc over the fields. For a moment the fighter – bombers hang gleaming in silhouette against the mountains, their two – man crews visible in the bubble canopies, before rising vertically, abruptly, cut off from view by the roof of the bus. Something like the premonition of a terrible and swiftly approaching disaster alights on Arcadio Nagbuya’s heart: but Andres, he assures himself, knows what he is doing, he will be safe in the interior of the forest. Children playing around the rusted remains of the armored car near Malacampa pause to wave at the bus. FROM SANTA IGNACIA TO TIBAG. The older boy is asking for a popsicle. Vendors crowd below the windows of the bus making a stopover in front of the municipal building in Santa Ignacia to take on a few more passengers: three young men and a girl with a guitar, an old couple, a man in a shark – skin suit, two priests, some more chickens, and a turkey in a wire cage which the wall – eyed conductor pushes up to the top of the bus and secures with rope. Arcadio Nagbuya buys peanut brittle for the boys, which costs less than popsicles, and promises to buy them ice cream in Tarlac City: appeased, Dolfo and Doming sit chewing solemnly as the bus resumes the trip on the road that is cemented now, wider and smoother between the stretches of broken concrete. All of them get off at the outpost in Tibag: the soldiers with the skull – and – crossbones patch of the 17th Paratroop Brigade, and uniformly tall and lean it seems to Arcadio Nagbuya, are polite and efficient, examining each alumiglass necktag quickly and asking no more than the customary questions, except with the three young men from Santa Ignacia. The lieutenant in command, sullen mouth and dark glasses beneath visored cap, steps down from the porch of the guardhouse and directs a soldier to search the trio and look closely at their index fingers, for the tell – tale grooves formed by triggers of Nasakom pistols. Satisfied, unsmiling, the lieutenant signals to the driver to be on his way, and returns to his rocking chair on the porch, beneath a large poster of the Centennial. For a second as the bus lurches past the porch, the officer seems part of the poster, a masked brown astronaut printed beside the white vertical rocket. “Robberrrss and fascistsss,” Mr. Balaoing cranes his neck to peer spitefully at the receding outpost, and then meeting Arcadio Nagbuya’s neutral gaze, shakes his head and slumps back in his seat. ARRIVAL IN THE CITY. “Malapit na ti buan,” the driver sings out, and “Malapiten, malapiten ti Apollo,” the boys chime in, and the girl on the rear bench strums a rich staccato chord in accompaniment. The young men laugh and yell, and stomping on the floor, begin to sing the Apollo Hymn: “Prom the launch pad at Ken – ne – dy, Neil Armstrong bentured porth por hu – man – ity…” “Tama na dayta!” shouts the driver. 137


“Hindi rocket dayto!” But the three youths pay him no heed and sing on and pound the floor with their boots: Arcadio Nagbuya notices Mr. Balaoing, the stern disciplinarian of the classroom, nodding smilingly in rhythm. The Cathedral is ringing the half hour as the Twin Sisters Bus slows down in the tricycle and calesa traffic around the rotonda with the headless statue of the Last President. Five o’clock, the driver is reminding his passengers, all those who wish to make the last trip back with him should be in front of Qui Sing’s hardware store at five o’clock sharp as he is not going to wait for anyone, not even if he is the bastard son of Don Fernando the millionaire. The shameless who must sting and pound on the floor, he adds, will please, maawa cayo ti tao, take another bus. The young men respond to this last injunction with a chorus of merry obscenities insulting the driver’s mother and the size of his genitals. THE DOME. The plastilium dome like a giant silver egg half – buried in the earth occupies almost half of the plaza and is twice as tall as the soaring memorial to the Heroes of 2045 on the other side of the square. Assembled at the end of June by engineers from the McDonnell Unisat Station in Mabalacat, it is one of similar domes, Arcadio Nagbuya recalls having heard on the radio, set up for the Apollo Centennial in the major cities. In the kiosk tiny and archaic beside the gigantic structure, the band has just finished playing “Pamulinawen” and is blaring out the first jubilant bars of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” as Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons hurry past the softdrink and halo-halo stands and merge with the crowd that has collected before the entrance to the dome, beneath a red, white, and blue banner with “Apollo 11 — 19692069” emblazoned on it. The grass has been trampled into a soggy mat of straw and they shuffle inside tracking mud on the floorboards, watched by a round tall American with a cigar and arms akimbo, leaning and smiling by the door. INSIDE THE DOME. They stand uncertainly in the clear white air – conditioned light, gazing up at the replica of the old three – stage Saturn 5 launch vehicle in the center of the circular hall, its pointed escape tower appearing to thrust through the apex of the concave roof. A mestiza in the blue uniform of the Centennial comes to Arcadio Nagbuya with a sprightly greeting, a Tagilocan pamphlet on Apollo 11, and a simeographed floor plan of the exhibits. He knits his brows over the sketch, as if to memorize it for a test: the hall is divided into several compartments built around the replica of the rocket. Bracing himself as for a dive, a swimmer breathing deeply the coolness of plastilium, he leads the boys to the right, to the first section with the blue – neon legend, “THE MEN OF APOLLO 11.” THE EXHIBITS. The life – size dummies of the three astronauts are strapped in their quaint suits to command module contour seats. Minus helmets, the dermawax facsimiles rigid as idols grin unceasingly at the visitors, who are kept the proper 138


distance by a contemptuous attendant: Arcadio Nagbuya has seen the man before, a clerk behind a grilled counter at the provincial capitol. Displayed on the walls are photographs of the astronauts training for the Apollo mission, relaxing at home, posing with their families, laughing, brave, and handsome a hundred years ago: “A happy Neil Armstrong shown above with wife Janet and sons Eric and Mark. He was born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930… Edwin Aldrin, his wife Joan, and their children Michael, Andrew, and Janice, on a picnic before the historic blastoff on July 16, 1969… Michael Collins and his wife Patricia with their children Kathleen, Michael, and Ann. Michael Jr. was to take after his father and become commander of the Centaur 9 flight to Mars in 2018…” Arcadio Nagbuya comes upon his uncle Faustino from Capas in the section devoted to the moon landing located halfway around the hall. The old man, jovial and garrulous as always, reads aloud for the benefit of the boys the placard for the scale model of the lunar module and Neil Armstrong descending from it to the moon’s surface: “Et was Monde, July 21, 1969. As da whole worl’ wats, Armstrong steyp down prom da ladder an’ da pers man on da moan made da dramatec announce – meynt: ‘Dat’s one smol steyp por man, one djayan leyp por mankind.” “Marunong pala nga magbasa ti lacay,” a voice taunts behind Arcadio Nagbuya: it is one of the young men from Santa Ignacia. Undaunted, the old man bends short – sightedly to read the inscription on the box which holds a plaster copy of the man’s first footprint on the moon: “Armstrong unbeiled a pla – que attats to won op da mow – dule’s leygs. ‘Here man prom da planeyt Eart’ perst set poot upon da moan July 21, 1969 A.D. We came en pays for owl mankind.” Arcadio Nagbuya exhales in relief when the old man says he must go, he has to look for his companions. The next compartment is a projection room: here the crowd is about ten deep around the cinecube, and Arcadio Nagbuya hoists the younger boy on his shoulders. Inside the cinecube Earth, a blue – green globe streaked with cloud, hangs in a black sky above the two astronauts moving in their white bulky suits with the slow tentative deliberation of children learning to walk, while the nasal soundtrack continues its brisk narration: “The lunar landscape is like pale gray sand, littered with rocks. The mountains and craters are not visible. The curvature of the moon is so sharp that the horizon is only two and a half kilometers away… Armstrong and Aldrin plant an American flag with a spring device to hold it upright. They deploy the equipment… Armstrong and Aldrin rest for six hours before beginning preparations for the return to lunar orbit. They have to link up with the command module piloted by Collins…” It is a fifteen – minute show, and Arcadio Nagbuya sets Doming down at the part where they came in: but the boys are insistent, and they stay on to repeat the rest of the film. From the projection room going counter – clockwise, they wander vaguely through the remaining displays: more replicas, diagrams of the Apollo flight, a cybergraph of the Eagle lunar module left on the moon being examined by latter – day astronauts in their bodyfit space suits, a framed statement by President Nixon: “For 139


one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on Earth are one…” The last section they visit contains a mock – up of the command cabin of a Columbus cruiser with a simulated view of star clouds and clusters. On one wall painted to look like a rocketship’s bulkhead are blown – up cybergraphs of the Magellan Space Station and its family of shuttle tugs, the American – Russian installations on the moon, the Venus skylabs, and the international crew of the Uranus mission due to return in 2071. Mr. Balaoing is contemplating a mural on the opposite wall depicting American space projects for the rest of the century, including the first starship mission beyond the solar system, a joint expedition with Britain and Germany to Alpha Centauri: “It is believed that a planet of this star nearest to Earth is the source of the first message from extraterrestrial intelligence ever received by the human race.” This particular revelation is illustrated with a mathematical formula: “Look hearr,” says Mr. Balaoing to the boys, pointing rapturously at the center of the massed algebraic figures, “et eisss de equation por de circumferrence op a cirrcle!” But Dolfo and Doming are now listless and hungry, and care little for mathematics or messages from other worlds. They leave the schoolteacher in rapt conversation with a short bald American in rimless glasses, the smallest American Arcadio Nagbuya has ever seen, shorter even than Mr. Balaoing. At the exit girls in blue uniforms hand them USIB pamphlets on the Centennial, medallions bearing the images of the Apollo 11 astronauts, ham sandwiches and ice – cold Cokes. The afternoon in the plaza is gray with rain, and they wait for the downpour to slacken, munching on the sandwiches. THE RESTAURANT. It is still raining, and they are in the New Washington Café on Nevada Street. The younger boy wants another asado mami, but Arcadio Nagbuya has just enough money left over for the trip back to the river crossing, having bought, earlier in the afternoon, a bolo, a bottle of liniment, a T – shirt each for the boys with Apollo Centennial prints, and a couple of ice cream cones. He may have to wait till after the harvest, he reflects, before he can afford another visit to the city. The High Commissioner is delivering a speech on the videoramic wallscreen between the counter and the kitchen: he is speaking of the first man on the moon and the frontiers of the universe, and the hoarse oratory and the crash of applause like static blend with the receding thunder and the steady boiling hiss of the rain. Arcadio Nagbuya tires of watching the flushed solemn American face on the wallscreen, and he glances about, as if searching for the reason for their being here, he and his two sons in this restaurant in this city called Tarlac, more than an hour away by bus from the river in Camanggaan. Posters from last year’s elections remain pasted and fading by the door. One of the ceiling fans wobbles on its stem, above a table of beer drinkers. At the next table the sad tired waitress in a tight Centennial T – shirt is setting down two steaming bowls of pancit for a large family, father, mother, five boys, three girls, and grandmother or grandaunt. The restaurant opens out on the street, and bunches of flies dot the floor 140


on the same level as the wet sidewalk: a beggar comes in scattering the flies, and a waitress shoos him away. The long vertical rain breaks with fierce little bursts on the black asphalt of the street. The boys stray off to squat before the wallscreen, which now resounds with horsehooves and ancient gunfire, and Arcadio Nagbuya wets his thumb to turn the pages of the USIB magazine. RETURN TRIP. The bus is half – empty when they board it in front of Qui Sing’s hardware store. Mr. Balaoing has taken another earlier trip, and so, apparently, have the boisterous young men and the girl with the guitar: now the bus in the late rainwashed light seems a different vehicle, altered somehow, bigger and emptier, with a different subdued driver, although it is the same curly – haired man at the wheel. In the falling dark Doming snuggles against his father and is soon asleep. Arcadio Nagbuya is drowsy himself and for a while drifts in a shallow uneasy sleep, his mind never quite removed from the vibrating racket of the engine and the forward jerking motion of the bus. It is evening by the time they reach Santa Ignacia, where five men come aboard, and Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons and the faceless strangers sit in silence in the roaring, swaying dark of the unlighted bus. He dozes again and in the dark of his closed eyes his dead wife appears suddenly and then his father, a farmer too, born at the turn of the century and a soldier dying in the Second Asian War: he wakens to the coolness of wind on his face, and then he sees, as he has seen it at this hour for unnumbered evenings, the Magellan Space Station rising in the west, a bright solitary star among the night clouds. THE RIVER AT NIGHT. Pedring does not take everyone across all at once but makes two trips: the river has risen a few feet and the raft is too small to carry all of them gathered on the riverbank. The women and the old folks go first: a baby cries on and on, bleating like a lamb in the small orange glow of the lamp suspended in the middle of the raft, in the night astir with the croaking of frogs and the black whispering flow of the river. Then it is their turn, and Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons squat close to the lamp, clutching at their paper – wrapped bundles, the water slapping at the raft, sucking and gurgling under the glistening platform of bamboo poles. The men with them do not answer when Pedring asks where they are from: one of them, Arcadio Nagbuya notices in the lamplight, is cradling a laser rifle wrapped loosely in a raincoat. A MEETING ON THE RIVERBANK. The man with the rifle hails a group huddled around a flashlight on the riverbank. The figure with the flashlight calls to Arcadio Nagbuya: at once he knows it is his cousin from Concepcion, and the dim oppressive fear surrounds his heart as he remembers the helidiscs hunting over the morning fields. His cousin clicks off the flashlight and speaks to him, not in Tagilocan, but in the old language: “Minta ca Tarlac, Cadio?” and “Wa, Cong Andres,” he replies, “minta cami 141


para keng Centennial,” and the tender fluid accents of their fathers’ tongue, unheard for so long yet never quite lost nor forgotten, bring a swift rush of pride and love that pushes back the enclosing dread. “Cadio,” his cousin says, reaching for his hand in the dark, “Cadio, mangailangan caming tau…” He can hear his cousin’s breathing, smell the odors of the sun and the rain of the long day on his cousin’s clothes, as they stand with their hands clasped in the quiet dark. They were young boys together once: how quickly the years pass… “Asahan da cayung makiabe kekame,” his cousin says, his tone hopeful and confident. “Mako na cami, ating miting potang beñgi. O sigue, Cadio,” and there is the rustle of feet departing across the sand. “Si Tio daytay tao, Tatang?” asks Doming. Arcadio Nagbuya stares into the dark, in the direction where is cousin has gone, his heart warm and beating rapidly. Dolfo repeats his brother’s question, but their father remains silent, and they start off for the trail in the coconut grove beyond the sandy slope of the riverbank. The Magellan Space Station has cleared the tops of the trees, and a smaller, fainter star is moving away from it: another nuclear spaceship going to Mars or perhaps only to the moon, now a sharp – pointed sickle in the eastern sky.

142


brian giron

I Like Walking Sticks "The insect or the cane?" Hm? "The insect? Or the cane?" Ah, which do you prefer? "Why should that matter?" The sun was eavesdropping. Maybe even laughing at our expense in golden streaks of radiant warmth as it set on her and I. Already her hair was making shadows. It matters. "The insect then." Because it's brilliant. "Because it's brilliant." And you wouldn't notice one until it walked. "And you wouldn't notice one until it walked." I had come to know her that well. But these stick insects don't actually walk; we just pretend they do. And words suffice. Except lately that's all they do. Suffice. "Hm?" I prefer the insect too. 143


asterio enrico n. gutierrez

Sculpture After Joanne Diaz

Then take away everything that is not elephant.  — Japanese anecdote Before he can cast cloth off stone – born conception the sculptor must destroy everything of the stone. With pick and mallet, strip limestone, marble, granite until nothing remains but chiselled torso, smooth limb, proud bust emerging from cracked amniotic slab. He must forget the stone’s history and ruthless raze temple to fashion idol, reduce city to rubble for hero to ride horseback. He cannot care for the ancient hands that came before him, river forming slope, blunt edges perfected by packed earth, accepting he can know truth only after destruction, find beauty in the wreckage of another’s creation, almost like my father on his birthday, ripping Mom’s delicate wrapping paper off his new George Foreman grill.  

144


While Drinking Rice Wine Under a Bo Tree I Read Letters Between Li Song and Al “Kneecap� Fabroni At Bai Lin temple, the old cypress is bending from the breeze. The spring winds are winding home. Chimes ring in an empty hut. * Old man is pleased. Heavy rains expected in Dakota. Have birds started migration? * The crane looks up to watch a flock of gulls. How blue the sky! How bright the sun! They are good friends, the crane and the gulls. * Bird received. Where are rest? Pasadena to experience light thunderstorms. * Snow covers the pathway to my home. No peonies bloom in the garden. There is only my wife waiting for me with a jug of warm wine. How I wish I had a shawl to wrap around her shoulders! * 145


Second leg of ham deposited yesterday. But old man dislikes change in weather. Birds better be landing soon. * A gray mist covers Huangshang mountain. The trees shiver in their sleep. I stand in the heart of the forest my feet buried in loam. * Old man says no dice. Birds first, then ham. * Rain has not come in days. My crops are barren. * Old man asking why crops being discussed early. Finish bird migration first. * Crops are really barren. Drought since last month. Need to build irrigation system. Wire tomorrow or boy dies. * What boy? * Sorry, mix up at post office. Forget message. Irrigation can wait. * Do you cook for two kitchens? Old man demands answer.

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* Wise is he who trusts in the sturdiness of bamboo. * Confucius? You said you were a poet. Coming over. Birds better be ready. * To L. Po — Gig is up. Fabroni on his way. Will meet biplane at agreed paddy.

147


isa yap

This morning I find a storm brewing in my dark coffee cup, the smell of gray weather rising in delicate curls of smoke. Somewhere, a bell is clanging and children are opening books dispassionately, their faces bearing the same tepid scowl as the man at the lectern reading from The Song of Songs; the girl who taps out her cigarette before crooning, “My heart went out to play, but in the game I lost you.” The pattering rain drowns out the footsteps of the person you might have loved. No one can tell who is running away. I drink down the sky reflected in the dirty sidewalk, the parched crossroads where a man on his bike keeps the wheels spinning furiously. There is a message somewhere in the puddles until a dog plants his paw inside and takes a piss. If the object was leaving, we have accomplished it. The clouds roll away to make room for more clouds, ignoring the sunlight trying to elbow its way in. I asked myself once, where were we speeding to? Which elusive world did we imagine behind the dingy flowerprint curtains, the self – service gas pumps, the tremolo noise of a city stretching for miles in a harsh embrace? The wind grazes the windows, raindrops splashing across the panes like spit. Somewhere in the shade of a half – lit room, you are closing a book and saying a prayer, hoping for better weather. Elsewhere I am kneeling, listening to the rain, uttering your name.  

148


Begging in a Cordial Language Teach me how to climb a tree without scraping my palms, knees. Tell me the leaves sway greenly and need the sun as badly as I do. Teach me how to breathe slow. The act of saying a name makes itself a moment. Syllables are psalms. Vowels are prayers. The pauses between words are the healing spells of soothsayers. Teach me how to turn my eyes away from the dead. How delicate their cracked skulls, how enchanting the dust. How meticulous the eyelashes of the pokerfaced newscaster seem. He was twelve, she says, in perfect monotone: if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t matter. Teach me how to pray. How to stay awake during Sunday mass, glue my eyes to the movement of the priest’s lips, the angular ribs stark against a cross of wood. Teach me how to cut my steak into tiny squares, hold a wineglass by its stem, unfold a linen napkin onto my lap. Evidence of a well – bred demeanor. My family is not like other families. My manners, like our silverware, must be spotless and shiny. Teach me how to listen for the sound of the world turning — the slow groan, the low agony, the ache of its countless moving parts: each piece sliding across the surface, searching for its place. Teach me how to ask questions without hoping for answers. Help me believe if I need to be somewhere, it is only here.

149


kyra ballesteros

A Soul Seller's Wife As usual, Nita thought of everything: atop his white polo and newly pressed jeans, a crisp new pamphlet advertised Isla de Oro’s Wholesale Soul Barter with Rewards option. Qinto discarded the black button – down, the same one he wore on the third day of his mother’s wake when Nita came home with a bulging brown manila folder, receipts and purchase orders, brutish letters addressed to the late Mrs. Tabillo. After pulling on his clothes, Qinto examined the thrice – folded brochure featuring a young man procumbent on a black, leather sofa. The bright red of his shirt harsh and loud, he lay with his fingers loosely woven on his chest, like a dead man, while a white – coated doctor peeled back an eyelid to study his soul nestling in the black. Quick, Guaranteed Money! Traders may make a deposit at any Isla de Oro branch, Nationwide! Heavy in his hand, the pamphlet came with coupons for free consultations, a list of Isla de Oro branches with their respective phone numbers, and a Soul Quality Assessment self – help guide complete with a neat table listening monetary equivalents. At the bottom, like an afterthought: rural traders warned each soul judged subjectively, prerogative of the attending banker. Qinto could not trust the exclamation marks, the bank’s five – step loan process, or the stiff middle – class man in his polo. His eyes like half – healed wounds, Qinto squinted at the photograph, and huffed, filling his body with air and dust. Despite finally agreeing to sell, his wife could not expect him to lose all his doubt and anxiety. No colorful brochure, no list of frequently asked questions, no guarantees suffice; despite the carefully worded waiver he slid into the back pocket of his jeans, when Qinto glanced at himself in his wife’s oval mirror, he mumbled an apology to his reflection. Kailangan lang talaga. Counting the loose change from a shallow dish on his wife’s dresser, the man Qinto could not recall his wife’s litany of reasons, the bulwark against his own battering doubt. It was half – past noon and from downstairs, his wife called him to lunch. After collecting twenty pesos in fistfuls of twenty – five centavo coins – enough for a jeepney to the Bank and another to return — he half ran down the narrow, low – ceilinged hallway, carefully avoiding the jutting ledge of a small altar. A stiff Sto. Nino advocated peace with an imposing, blank glare. He avoided its vacant eyes even as he dipped a thumb into the dish of holy water at its feet which Nita daily refilled. Their house had been crammed full of little offerings to the Virgin, the Blessed Child, or else slim crucifixes hung above the entryway of every room. There was no escaping his wife’s religiosity.

150


He came into a square kitchen and its large, yellowing tiles as he brushed back his thinning hair. Nita, a petite woman, loomed large in their kitchenette and Qinto felt a calm descend on him, watching her set their only table: a brave, low coffee table surrounded on two sides by their couches. They ate hunched over, plates on their knees. It was cozy. Even seven months pregnant, Nita seemed as active as ever, finding time everyday to complain about her girth, the appalling roundness of her thighs. Every morning, she woke early to prepare his breakfast and pack his lunch. After seeing him off to work, Nita reviewed for her classes in graduate school and every Thursdays and Saturdays, without fail, she rode two jeepneys and a tricycle to her university. His wife ushered him onto the couch, smiling despite the sheen of sweat that covered her face. Bright black curls of hair fell against her cheek. Qinto hid the brochure underneath his plate, its edges jutting out. A collared shirt? I prepared a polo for you. Nita piled his plate with rice first, leaning towards him, forearms damp and the skin of her palm softened by the humid air. It might be bad luck. This was the way they ate: Nita prepared separate bowls of sinigang. He preferred his broth steaming hot, punctuated with a few pieces of thick – cut labanos, the pork chunks delicate and pale. Nita, meanwhile, ate only the kangkong and sitaw; her bowl green and vibrant, the siling mahaba burst open. Between them sat a small mountain of cold rice. Diyosko, there’s no such thing. She waited for him to taste the pork, the bitterness of the green leaves in the soup, the acidity that tickled his tongue. Familiar with and unaffected by his wife’s anxiety, Qinto pulled the rice towards him for a second serving. He agreed and that was enough. He did not need to look at his wife. The bank is near. I’ll have more than enough time. Kain pa. Nita had stopped after her first spoonful. Hands on her belly, muscles in her neck tense, his wife tilted her head back, eyes closed. She had played this many times before, Qinto could never be sure if she was in actual pain or if she simply wanted his attention. Nita rubbed a soft, sore spot on her massive stomach, a little bump in the shape of an angry fist that must have been his son reaching out towards him. That’s how Qinto thought of it. Sumipa yung anak mo. When she had composed herself with a glass of cold water, Nita slid the brochure from underneath Qinto’s plate, ignoring how he pointedly put down his fork when she turned it over to the Soul Quality Assessment self – help guide. He sucked bits of stringy pork from between his teeth. The brochure advertising Soul Retail, the first time Nita had even considered it, had been slipped into the same envelope addressed to Qinto Tabillo, her husband, whose mother had lately passed away. It was news of her death that prompted Mrs. Tabillo’s bankers to supply her son and his very pregnant wife with a history of her loans and purchases. All of this in place of ghosts. 151


Nita crossed herself, her lips pursed. Trenta mil, Qinto. Even twenty – five would suffice. That’s Grade C, it says. Will you need some medicine? One of the drawers in every room contained a box of remedies for headaches, toothaches, stomachaches, pills for diarrhea or simple muscle pain. Nita stocked them with jarfuls of ointment, gauze. Here and there, although neither of them remembered bumping into corners, some band aids, bandages. When his wife handed him some biogesic, he chuckled: I doubt they can cut the soul out of you. It’s not an operation. He kissed her forehead and laid a hand on her swollen stomach. Although his wife rushed to find him whenever their baby kicked, Qinto had never felt his little son move. Nothing. His child was growing to be as reclusive as its father. You should get going soon. His wife looked at him, her face and eyes shining with words but this time Nita did not say them aloud although they crowded together into a hard glint in her eyes. Instead, she said: I’m really proud of you, Qinto. Thank you for this. Her hands were warm on his cheeks and he tasted the apple and banana she ate for dessert, so she was sweet, his wife. Qinto could only scowl and shake his head, their first few arguments surfacing instead of a loving response. He wanted to say: I’m doing this only because you asked. Instead, he finished his plate of food and refused to speak. Sensing his reluctance, Nita moved away, unused to his saturnine silences. Qinto imagined her hands on his face, smoothing his features into a dull stupor. They grew into this, Qinto thought. When they got married, the romantic aspect of physical intimacy was overwhelmed by marital proximity. In the morning, Qino woke up with her hair in his mouth. The things he left behind for her to find sufficed to represent him in her life: left over kakanin from his train ride home or shiny spare change from the LRT ticket machines in the bowl in their sala. In turn, Nita had become part of the furniture he came home to, a fixed point in his life. After their rushed wedding, Qinto began looking for extra sources of income to augment his salary and, for all her preparedness, Nita never expected to be pregnant and married by twenty – four. At first, he argued in favor of selling some of his lifetime, instead. She resisted, insisting we don’t know how long you’ve got. And Banks put a premium on souls. They sold it in bulk to cosmetics companies, the entertainment industry, or the government as pure energy. Nita didn’t attempt to begin another conversation. She sat meekly, her hands folded on her lap, eyes averted towards the kitchen and the stack of dirty pans and plates. His wife was not often upset and he doubted if she had ever been properly angry with him. Her far – off look, the way she detached herself, and left him brooding, frightened him. It made him lonely. Nita? In their small apartment, his voice was smaller still. Qinto wanted to draw her closer, to feel her against him. Huge with child and warm, he fought the urge to weep. Although he didn’t know what it meant to give up his soul, ibenta ang kaluluwa 152


sounded like the screech of tires on cement. His wife continued smiling, her calm unbroken. He stood up, almost knocking plates and cutlery to the floor. Sige, aalis na’ko. When he opened his arms, she stepped into them easily, matching his reticence with wordless acceptance. She handed him a folder of personal documents including photocopies of his birth certificate, NSO clearance, company identification card, and their marriage contract. Despite himself, Qinto grinned. How I love her, he thought, even as she stepped away and turned back. The low, white building of the Isla De Oro Bank shared the highway with two restaurants and a fast food joint. Nita was right: the bank was crowded when Qinto pushed his way in. The row of counters directly opposite Isla De Oro’s thick, glass doors hosted three tellers and two accounts officers. The two dozen people in line paid him no attention. Others occupied rows of steel chairs. The automated queuing machines did not dispense tickets for new accounts or those interested in Wholesale Soul Barter with Rewards, so Qinto timidly walked up to the New Accounts Officer. From a stack of forms underneath her desk, she handed him two pages, stapled together. He found a seat, relaxed, and thought: Tapusin na natin ‘to. After filling out the perfunctory contact details, he moved quickly through questions about his family, their living conditions and his own financial standing. He had expected questions about his health, maybe his religion, but for the succeeding fifteen minutes, Qinto imagined he was the mother of two errant children. Would he turn them over to the justice system? Next, he was on a sinking ship, forced to justify his choice to save only either his mother or his wife. Then, he was forced to estimate how many times he lied in a day. Finally, at the bottom of the questionnaire, in red letters, the penultimate question urged him to estimate the monetary value of a soul. Are you going to sell all of it? A middle – aged man opposite gave him a lopsided grin. The shirt he wore was too large, the collar stretched and discolored from being washed. They held similar forms but the man’s answers were glib and lazily scrawled. Qinto nodded and sank into his seat. Kayo ‘ho? The man smiled. He had waited for this conversation; it had been too long since he had been asked and anybody listened. Yes, yes. This is my fourth time. The man stressed the word, fourth. I’ve been selling since I was old enough although eighteen year old souls rarely fetch a good price. Not as potent as mature growths. During Qinto’s stunned silence, the man reached over and patted his arm lightly. Totoo, totoo! Mind, each new growth takes at least five years. And they’re thinner. Flimsy, plastik. My second soul sold at half the price of my first. Peste! He couldn’t have been more than thirty – three but behind shoddy gray eyes, a vacancy or an absence: a brightly lit room, empty, behind thin curtains. He looked at Qinto with the affinity and condescension an older man had for his subordinates. It’s a side – effect. Like the loss of appetite for everything and anything. Eyes are the windows to the soul, ika nga. You’ll see. His cheerfulness was unnerving. With two fingers, he rapped at his skull, and continued, Walang tao! 153


Qinto felt oppressed by the bank’s austere cream walls, its rhythmic keyboard noises, and clients standing by the counter. He could not shake the feeling that there should be less mechanical efficiency in the place where he was going to abandon his soul. Sensing his distress, the man continued: When my wife left us, I sold my soul again. My third try. I got a good price for that. Drama makes Grade A souls. Very potent. Qinto piped up: my wife is pregnant with only two months to go. And you’re selling now? The man shook his head, pursing his lips, tutting in disapproval. Sayang. Things like that are goldmines. All that emotion. Panganay? Susmaryosep. The New Accounts Officer left her desk and disappeared into a small room next to the safe. When she opened the door, Qinto caught sight of a white room girded with steel columns. Within, a comfortable looking couch, heavily scuffed. She returned to her desk, caught Qinto’s eye, and waved him over. As he walked away, the man raised his voice in a final attempt to dissuade him: Sayang naman, hoy! Malaki-laking pera rin ‘yan! First, the New Accounts Officer read his birth certificate and checked his company ID. When she checked his form to see if he answered all the questions, her eyes bounced quickly from one number to the next. She skimmed the pages before landing on the essential, final detail. Satisfied, she stood up and slipped it into a bright pink folder on her desk. With a tilt of her head, she told Qinto to follow her as she walked to the other side of the bank. She wrote him a check for twenty – five thousand pesos, the amount he had identified as the monetary equivalent of a human soul. The pragmatism with which the bank had worked out how to judge souls rattled him. What about my answers, he asked. The officer smiled. Qinto saw yellowing teeth. Judging from your personal information, your soul will probably be identified as Class C or C+. We very rarely get anything more extraordinary than that. We’re a rural branch, after all. She pointed him towards the little room beside the locked steel doors of the safe. Within the cramped room, a man called Manong Troy sat on a squat stool behind a wooden desk. He pointed Qinto to the sofa and told him to lie down. Pahinga ka muna riyan. The manong was a squat, fat man with large red hands. On his desk, Manong Troy arranged a rectangular, metal box about five inches high and two inches, with a transparent plastic cover. Manong inserted a pair of four – inch batteries. Frayed wires bundled up with green electrical tape had been attached to two electrodes. Its face was a blank screen, three by three inches, surrounded by switches, three knobs, a rubber keypad. Higa ka lang. He tossed Qinto a flat pillow. Manong Troy held up two flat, glass needles, each an inch wide. Ganito. I will slide the soul out of your body through both your eyes. You must not blink. The procedure will take less than a minute. Will it hurt, he asked, won’t you use a sedative, something? Manong Troy scowled. I’m holding a needle, of course it’ll hurt. You’ll see. Manong Troy arranged Qinto on the couch, told him to lie very still, and slipped a needle into the pink flesh surrounding his eyes. Don’t blink. Don’t you blink. Blood blossomed in his vision. Manong Troy disappeared in a crimson flood. Qinto clenched 154


his fists and bit his lips in pain. On the nearby table, the machine whirred to life as the miniscule hollow needles began to suck. He felt the pressure behind his eyes. Ears throbbing with small noises, the room seemed to ring. He tried to hear his soul jingling like loose coins between his bones, tried to loosen its fine stuff from his flesh and muscle. He would’ve liked to feel it heavy in his stomach, grafted to his body. It was over within a minute. Manong Troy told him to lie still as he removed and disposed of the needles. Lightheaded, Qinto sat up and rubbed his eyes while the manong wrote him an official receipt. Qinto was afraid to handle the steaming, fully charged batteries. Manong Troy held one up with a gloved hand. On the metallic, silver labels, he circled the letter ‘C’ to classify soul grade type. Hindi napuno ‘to. Lampas kalahati lang. But the ringing in Qinto’s ears dulled his senses. Shaking his head, Qinto stood and looked around, winded. He barely heard Manong Troy warn him to eat something, the side – effects will hit within a day or two. Receipt in his hand, Manong Troy led Qinto towards the door. He mouthed ‘to the counter’ until Qinto nodded. It was a little past three, mid – afternoon, when Qinto started for home, a wad of cash in an envelope in his hands. The ringing stayed with him, growing louder, reaching an indefinite pitch until it blocked out sound and stray noise, until it deepened to a constant booming in his mind, wiping it clean of light, image, and memory. During the jeepney ride home, Qinto recognized no building or street, his mind wiped clean. His soul left him essential details like his name, his job, the name of his wife, but it took the emotions embedded in experiences, the weight of his life. Qinto felt his mind slip, exhausted, into a slow, black freefall. He felt himself recede, felt himself grow hungry a hundred times over. At home, Nita rushed to him, catching him in her arms. Qinto didn’t know what it meant when she kissed him repeatedly, saying, I’m so proud of you, I’m so proud of you. He remembered he was supposed to be hungry. Manong Troy warned him he would be hungry. The man at the bank mentioned it, as well. Gutom na ako. Qinto pulled off his shoes and settled on the couch. His wife looked at him. She was big with child, heavy, and warm, and she sat beside him, waiting. Aren’t you going to bring me food, he asked, his voice flat, expectant. How did it go? Kumusta? Nita brought him a plate of sautéed corned beef and pandesal, still warm. If she wondered at the change, she didn’t show it and her manner didn’t change. His wife sat opposite, still waiting. She poured him a glass of cold water before repeating the question: how are you? Heto. No longer hungry, Qinto remembered the envelope of money. When Nita saw it, she snatched it from him, counted out the bills, and sat silent after. If it was possible, she grew even bigger as she filled her lungs full of stale, oil – heavy air, her lips clamped shut upon her words. They were there, buzzing like a hive of angry bees. No matter, Qinto could wait and he did. When finally Nita spat out her monologue, she had chewed the sentences into only two mangled phrases: Kulang pa! Nasaan ang trenta mil? 155


rachel marra

Poetry Class “Women are capable of multitasking,” a male student in a Poetry class once said in his attempt to explain why a female classmate’s poem was so full of images and details, that it almost felt like the poem wanted to say a thousand different things at the same time with the same words. It was like being thrown in a small room cramped with fragments of images and objects: a heap of sand, beheaded dolls, hardbound books dumped on a dusty bed, a faceless stranger, a rocking chair, another door with a sign saying to escape, it is necessary to enter again. “That’s why when they make love,” he added, “their minds aren’t really focused on the act. They might even be thinking about other things — like the kitchen stove, the grocery list, or even poetry.” The rest of the males in class wore the unmistakable faces of disbelief and self – pity. The ladies were amused, but who knows? They might have been thinking about other things — like the various ways of making love, the delight that comes with the thought of a pair of lips saying — moaning — their name, how long it would take for a bead of sweat to find its way to their taste buds, hot skin touching hot skin, moist air between two panting mouths, or simply, poetry.

156


isabela cuerva

Bathsheba The night unfurls around her body glistening with dew like finest crystal. Moonlight splinters the night between trees, illumines taut whiteness. A shadow casts itself upon the round of her breast, obscures a rosy nipple. A drop of sweat runs its track, vanishing on the crease between hip and thigh. The lake reflects the moon, the sea of her hair. Beneath a nearby tree, her towel lies, folded. She turns away to face the water. From the roof he watches the line between her shoulder blades. The curve of her waist disappears as she wades in the water. He watches her shiver. Her ribs expand, her breaths quicken —  and he feels them on his face —  feels her skin break into gooseflesh — feels the soft of the hair on her arm catching light —  The night unfurls around her body glistening with dew like finest crystal. I must meet you, he whispers, watching her run her hands down the porcelain of her shoulder, the slight of her cheek cradled by her hair. I must know your name.

157


mikael de lara co

Pastoral 1. The mossless cheek of a boulder, the one facing the sun. And the river, defined by hunger. Once a year it festers and rages and browns everything in its path. Carcass of a cow, countless sacks of slush. The wreckage and the smooth wet pebbles basking among them. 2. A story: My grandfather smuggled a knife to the cockpit and threatened to gut the guy he thought had cheated him off a few crumpled bills. Another story: Once he pulled his pants down, swung his limp, gnarled pecker like a twig from a string. The girls could only laugh. Harmless, they said. We don't mind. 3. All day he stared at the dogs and their slow, slow days. Oh, what time does to an honest man. Mostly he keeps to his trees. 158


4. An overripe fruit thuds to the ground  —   a beat singular and faint  —   as if from a distant heart  —   an almost painful sound. 5. There is an opacity in my grandfather's eyes. He has forgotten how to count, trades a crateful of bananas for a few rusty coins. Oh what time does to an honest man. 6. Mossless Cheek Of A Boulder: Too much shade stunts the saplings. Knife: Do we wait for the trees to fall by themselves? Mossless Cheek Of A Boulder: This brittle pile of leaves. This fading patch of light. Knife: See me poised to gut you. See my serations, blessed by time. Mossless Cheek Of A Boulder: Examine the canopy. Brother, who called us here? 159


Knife: ... 7. Oh what time does to an honest man those gnarled hands how many fingers does it take to pick a fruit blackening on the ground how many fingers to count a river how many to count these clumps of mud and what do they leave behind when even the wreckage has been devoured

160


mikael de lara co

The Doomed Poetry with lilies can’t stop tanks. Neither can poetry with tanks. This much is true. Here is more or less how it happens. You sit at your desk to write a poem about lilies and a clip of 9mm’s is emptied into the chest of a mother in Zamboanga. Her name was Hamira. I sit at my desk to write a poem about tanks and a backhoe in Ampatuan crushes the spines of 57  — I am trying to find another word for bodies. The task of poetry is to never run out of words. This is more or less how it happens: I find another word for bodies and Hamira remains dead. Her son was with her when she was shot. I didn’t catch his name, don’t know if he died. Perhaps he placed lilies on his mother’s grave. Perhaps he was buried beside her. One word for lily is enough; there is enough beauty in flowers. I want to find beauty in suffering. I want to fail.

161


nadine ramos

Discussing Love With An Intellectual there are planes of consciousness that demand rationality. discuss: love as a word, an experience, as the color of the sky when we decided it was time. you asked me once, how to quantify the feeling that comes when our hands are interlaced, if it could be the neuron count in the spaces in between our fingers, or, if our coupled heartbeats summed it up to a truth that perhaps, we weren't or were meant for this. imagine the quality, instead, if the words in this poem, characters counted, could explain why I am like parentheses spread, and you, the words in between. there are studies done on the chemicals that bind, pheromones and gene maps. but here is a small truth: we are held by experience, by the small pleasures that come when beauty blooms in front of us (like words, and bruises). for example: you sent me the sea, encapsulated in the quiet pools of your pupils, your words like the soft waves against the horizon of my stability. we have come to discover that love is nothing but an inundation of irrationality that cannot truthfully be explored or expunged. I once told you there is no such thing as enough —  only: you, me, the ether that ceases to exist when two parts of skin pressed are meant to manifest one thing.

162


douglas candano

A Reply to a Query From: Fransisco Lacson <flacson@ateneo.edu> To: Jerome Limpe <jlimpe@yahoo.com> Date: June 10, 2003 Subject: RE: Folktale Appropriation Query Dear Mr. Limpe, This is in reply to your email of May 26. Unfortunately, I will be unable to meet with you in the next few months. I am on sabbatical until next June, and since I am currently moving around Latin America for a research project, I doubt if it would be logistically possible for us to schedule a face – to – face meeting any time soon. However, since your exploratory research on “Real World Appropriation of Transnational Folkloric Themes” is of personal interest to myself, I see no reason to believe why we could not correspond through email. In fact, I would personally prefer this, given the amount of spare time I have in between my interviews with the locals. Looking at your initial ideas for your project, I cannot help but wonder about the aptness of some of the sources you mentioned. While it can hardly be argued that the cases of Hermes Uy and Ericsson Chua are intriguing and can be corroborated by textual and documentary sources, I would think that their inclusion would serve to muddle your research question since they seem to lean towards a real world appropriation of the mythological, as opposed to the more secular emphasis of the folkloric. Additionally, I also doubt if you would be able to sufficiently analyze these, given your premise of using the Aarne – Thompson Classification System as an analytical tool. Although I am certain that the AT System would contain several entries that would be applicable to both cases, it would seem quite a stretch to expect these themes to fit together in a coherent structure, considering the episodic quality of long – drawn historical accounts and their tendency to lean towards pastiche. What I mean by this is that even if you manage to find several themes in the Uy and Chua cases, it would be hard to claim that these represent real world appropriations since the presence of other factors (economic, sociopolitical, etc.) in such a long time span might render the folkloric incidental. Though I understand the personal reasons behind your selection of the Uy and Chua cases, I would suggest finding alternative sources that cover a shorter time period while indubitably appropriating transnational folklore. I am sure you will be able to find a couple of interesting incidents in the context of your ethnic group. If what you uncover may prove insufficient in proving your research question, you could always look beyond the Filipino – Chinese community since your topic does not seem ethnically restrictive.

163


The reason for this suggestion (as well as my personal interest in your research project) is that (as I assume Dr. Gutierrez has already told you when he referred you to me) I am no stranger to incidents that seem to appropriate the folkloric, having documented several cases of this in the course of my own fieldwork. However, I have yet to conduct a formal study on this owing to the demands of my university duties, as well as the difficulties involved in finding a grant – giving organization willing to fund such a project — a pity, really since these cases have cropped up in most my research projects since the late 1970s! In response to your solicitation of a case – in – point to illustrate any suggestion I may have, and baring in mind your promise of confidentiality, I would like to volunteer my most recent encounter with real world appropriation (Notes from the Field # 010495), which happened in July of 2001, when I was doing fieldwork in Manila for my study on “The Transference and Transformation of Folkloric Themes from Rural to Urban Areas.” Since all my files have been encoded using Lotus Word Pro, I will furnish you a copy of my documentation at the end of this letter. This particular case is interesting since it tends to draw parallelisms to the cellar – of – blood and robber – bridegroom tales (AT type 956) of which perhaps the Bluebeard folktale is best known. Additionally, it also seems to recall the trickster kitsune fox spirit of Japanese lore, albeit in a perverted manner since the reported creatures seem to manipulate the desires of women for procreative purposes, in contrast to the more mischief – driven actions of the kitsune on men. At any rate, I hope that you find the example useful. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I would also like to be given a hard copy of your paper once it is completed. Since I will still be gone at the end of the school year, could you leave a copy with the program secretary? Thank you and good luck. Best regards, Frank Fransisco Lacson, PhD Associate Professor, Applied Folkloristics Program 2nd Floor, Vladimir Kierulf School of Humanities (VK – SOH) Building Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights Quezon City, Philippines Tel No.: 63 2 789-98211 Fax No.: 63 2 789-98212 Mobile No.: 63 940 847-21312 Email: flacson@ateneo.edu

Notes from the Field # 010495 164


In July of 2001 I decided to conduct the Manila leg of my fieldwork. Having already established that the barangay of Lazaro de Chino was a potential hot spot for data on urban faith healers, I arranged to stay in the house of Christina Garcia – Ferrer, whom I had known since our university days. Christina’s house stood in a relatively quiet area not far from the Church of the Nativity and the faith healer stalls that were clustered near its premises. Perhaps because of their close proximity to the area, a substantial number of Christina’s neighbors seemed to have anecdotes pertaining to urban faith healers. As such, the bulk of my fieldwork consisted of interviews arranged with the help of Christina, who managed to tap the networks she had built throughout her years in the barangay council. Since I spent close to a month in Lazaro de Chino, I was able to familiarize myself with the neighborhood and its people. Most of Christina’s neighbors were certainly very friendly, with their invitations to sit with them outside their homes and chat over shots of Emperador. Through drunken conversations with them, I was able to pinpoint new leads for sources in addition to hearing vague, unverifiable rumors about the community such as the baby who was eaten by a goat, the prepubescent girl who returned a crone after disappearing for a year, and the crazy hag who would call out the neighborhood’s teenaged girls in the middle of the night to put a deadly curse on them. Understandably, not all of Christina’s neighbors were that open and warm. There were some who seemed aloof and evasive. Such was an old woman who apparently lived with her middle – aged daughter and son – in – law a few doors from Christina’s house. I never saw her during my rounds around the neighborhood, and it was very likely that I wouldn’t have known of her existence were it not for an incident that happened at the end of my first week. In the early hours of July 6, I was walking home from a drinking session. In contrast to other areas in Manila, Lazaro de Chino was a place where one could walk inebriated without fear of being disturbed. As such, despite the dim orange glow of the street lamps and the desolate atmosphere of the hour, I staggered past parked cars and closed shops with confidence. When I finally turned at the street where Christina’s house stood, I noticed the outline of a figure standing in front of one of the houses. As I drew nearer, I could see that the figure was an old woman smoking in front of an open gate. Because I knew the house belonged to a middle – aged couple of Christina’s acquaintance, I assumed that she was the mother of the woman due to a certain resemblance between them. Although her back was already bent with age and there was scarcely any hair left on her head, the old woman wore short white shorts, and a tight pink t – shirt that revealed her sagging belly. The faint light from the street lamps seemed to accentuate the liver spots and wrinkles on her drooping face as she 165


took long drags from her cigarette and blew smoke streams out her toothless mouth. She appeared to be deep in thought, and did not acknowledge my presence even when I walked past her. Since the pilot study showed that those belonging to older generations tended to yield more anecdotes, that morning I asked Christina about the possibility of the old woman from a few doors down becoming a respondent. Perplexed, Christina asked whom I meant. After listening to my description of the potential respondent, she told me not to bother with the old woman since the family had just recently moved into the neighborhood. However, the quickness of her reply and her uncharacteristically dismissive tone seemed to tell me that Christina knew more than what she was saying. Airing my suspicions, I appealed to our many years of friendship while reminding her that the purpose of my research was to uncover some vestige of human truth. While Christina initially sought to assuage my suspicions, my persistence gradually wore her resolve, until exasperated, she said that she was hardly in a position to talk about the old lady. Asked why, Christina replied that it would be better if I interviewed the crone’s parents. Ignoring my confused expression, Christina continued that the old lady’s name was Innocencia de la Paz, who was unlikely to have many anecdotes pertaining to urban faith healers since she was only nineteen years old. Naturally, all this sounded ludicrous. It was hard to imagine that whom I took to be the crone’s daughter and son – in – law were actually her parents, and it was even more difficult for me to swallow that such a relic was only nineteen. Barely concealing my irritation, I asked Christina what she meant. Christina could only reply that she would try to arrange a meeting between Innocencia’s parents and myself. Although the de la Paz couple had understandably been secretive about Innocencia’s case, Christina felt that my experience with unexplained phenomena would allow them to open up to me, especially since the couple’s search for answers over the past couple of years had proven futile. Knowing that this was the most I could get out of Christina, I asked her to try her best to convince them. Our conversation then ended on that note, with both Christina and myself leaving to conduct our respective businesses. While the old lady occupied my mind at different moments over the next few days, I continued with my data collection, asking questions and jotting down notes despite being distracted by the incongruity of what Christina told me, as well as the image of the crone’s leathery flesh stuffed into those skimpy clothes. In the evening of July 10 Christina dropped by my room to inform me that the de la Paz couple had agreed to an interview. As expected, they had been apprehensive about the idea of someone outside their circle of immediate family and close friends becoming privy to Innocencia’s problem, but had relented after being told about my experience in helping rid a small town in Bicol of what appeared to be Chinese hopping corpses. And so, two days later Christina accompanied me to the de la Paz house. Although 166


I had passed by it a few times, I had never really paid much attention to it, even during the time when I first saw the old woman. Perhaps this was because the de la Paz house was nothing out of the ordinary. Much like the other houses in the area, it was a low – roofed bungalow with a small gate separating the house from the street. Since the house apparently had no garage, there was an early model Zastava Yugo parked right in front of the gate. Squeezing between the gate and the Yugo, we made our presence known inside, with Christina pressing the doorbell switch while trying to avoid its exposed wires, and myself rapping on the cracked and peeling blue painted gate. After a few moments, a lady whom I immediately recognized as the crone’s alleged mother came up to open the gate and usher us into the house. As Christina introduced me to Remedios de la Paz, we made our way past a small, untended garden and through a thin, screened, metal door. Inside, there was an altar on which stood Santo Nino figures of different shapes, designs, and sizes, neatly arranged behind a pair of half – melted candles. After having made our way past the altar and through a doorway, we entered the living room. At this point, Remedios turned to ask us to sit on a battered – looking couch. She then excused herself to call her husband. While Remedios was away, I took the opportunity to look around the living room, which seemed to be almost Spartan, with the exception of several framed photographs propped up on the otherwise bare tables. Aside from the de la Paz couple’s wedding photograph, and one that I took to be Innocencia’s graduation portrait, the pictures appeared to be of the family in various gatherings. From the different pictures, I could see that Innocencia — apparently the couple’s only child, was once a lovely, active girl, although with a bit of imagination it wasn’t that hard to notice the similarities between the girl who was smiling so confidently in the pictures, and the old woman who had haunted me for the better part of the week. As I regarded the pictures, Remedios returned with whom she introduced as Manolo, her husband. Once handshakes had been extended, all of us were seated on the couch, and small talk was extinguished, the conversation soon turned to Innocencia’s case. After turning on the tape recorder and indicating that I understood the matter to be a deeply sensitive family issue and that I really appreciated their willingness to meet with me, I asked the de la Paz couple the circumstances surrounding Innocencia’s predicament. Biting her lower lip while her husband stared blankly at the floor, Remedios started by saying that everything had begun in May of 1999, shortly after Innocencia’s seventeenth birthday. While she then proceeded to give a rather florid description of her daughter’s situation before the tragedy (see tape 010495-1, side A), it was apparent that up to that point, Innocencia had been living a rather normal life. Although she had her fair share of suitors among the neighborhood boys and was known as a good volleyball player, there was nothing really extraordinary about her. She got 167


along with her teachers and classmates, and was usually willing to do her share of household chores. As for Innocencia’s relationship with her parents, both Remedios and Manolo said that they got along with her well enough that she would even tell them about her suitors, which by May of 1999, included a certain Juan del Monte. At this point, a livid countenance seemed to set into the de la Paz couple. Remedios, who had been smiling at different points during her reminiscing of her daughter’s past, began to speak in a more subdued manner, while Manolo, who had only said a few words, appeared to have lost interest in the interview altogether. Since this sudden shift seemed to be connected to Juan del Monte, I interrupted Remedios’ rambling monologue on her daughter’s virtues to ask her why his name in particular was mentioned among Innocencia’s suitors. With sudden interest, Manolo answered for his wife by saying that that Juan del Monte character was responsible for their daughter’s deformity. Although they never met him, Innocencia had spoken a lot about Juan del Monte in the week leading to her disappearance. She had described him as a handsome, charming mestizo gentleman, whose province – based family apparently owned the del Monte Corporation. Additionally, she had also told them that he was in Manila on business, and had been visiting Lazaro de Chino to light a candle and offer a prayer in the Church of the Nativity for the sake of a few sick workers in the company’s plantation in his province, which had not been named. From Innocencia’s persistent mentioning of Juan del Monte, the de la Paz couple knew that their daughter’s disposition to her new suitor was certainly different from the way she regarded the neighborhood boys. However, they really did not expect her to elope with del Monte by the end of the week. As his wife passively looked on, Manolo shook his head while recounting Innocencia’s sudden disappearance and how she eventually returned in her deformed state. In the afternoon of May 10, the de la Paz couple returned home from a family friend’s wedding reception. Since Innocencia had begged off from attending since she said that she wasn’t feeling very well, her parents hardly expected her to even be out of the house that day. Instead, Innocencia was nowhere to be found. In her room, they found a note that said that she and John – John (which was what she called del Monte) had fallen in love and that they had decided to go back to his province to get married and start a family. Although they saw that Innocencia had curiously left behind all of her belongings, the contents of the note threw them in such a state of confused panic that they began to ask everyone in the barangay if they had seen Innocencia. Over the next couple of days, neither Manolo’s rounds around the neighborhood nor Remedios’ frantic phone calls were fruitful, although a few of their neighbors said that over the week, they had seen Innocencia in the company of a tall, handsome mestizo who was chauffeured around in a heavily – tinted, black Mercedes sedan with no license plates. While the de la Paz couple was initially hesitant to approach the authorities because they were afraid of the scandal it might cause within the community, they 168


soon realized that people were already talking to the point that even those whom they did not approach during their initial search were trying to console them. As such, they filed a missing persons report with the police and had consulted a lawyer about the possibility of filing kidnapping charges against Juan del Monte. Within the next two weeks, the de la Paz couple continued to search for their daughter. Manolo took a leave of absence from his technician job to look for details about Juan del Monte, while Remedios tried to ask Innocencia’s friends if she had told them anything in the week leading to her disappearance. Again, their combined efforts did not result in any concrete information. Manolo found out that the del Monte Corporation was not really owned by a landed mestizo family, but was instead, a multinational company with American roots. For her part, Remedios found out that Innocencia had not met up nor spoken to her friends during that week. Despite the numerous dead ends that they were faced with, it never occurred to the de la Paz couple to stop looking for their missing daughter. In the early hours of May 25, the de la Paz couple was awakened by long, consecutive doorbell rings. Manolo said that as they moved through the house, towards the gate, they could hear an incomprehensible wailing coming from outside. When they got to the gate, Manolo said that he had peered outside to see who it was, and was a bit shocked to see an old crone in tattered clothes pressing the doorbell. As Manolo was speaking, I noticed that Remedios’ lips were beginning to tremble and tears were starting to well in her eyes. After asking her if she was alright and being reassured that she was, I apologized to Manolo and asked him to continue. Manolo resumed by saying that he had asked the crone who she was and what she wanted and had been utterly dumbfounded when she called him daddy. Manolo then said that he had then told the crone that she probably had the wrong address and then, politely asked her which family she was trying to visit. To his shock and disbelief, the crone sobbed and asked him why he did not recognize her, while telling Manolo that she was Innocencia. Manolo said that naturally, he found this very difficult to believe, and had been tempted to drive the old woman away as a tasteless practical joker. However, he said that he couldn’t bring himself to do that since the crone’s wailing appeared to be genuine, and she repeatedly said that she was sorry for not only running away with John – John, but for also not contacting them the past two years. Although the crone’s mentioning that his daughter had been missing for two years puzzled Manolo, that Innocencia’s pet name for del Monte had been brought up alarmed him since the de la Paz couple had never mentioned this to anyone throughout their two – week search. As such, Manolo said that he then asked the crone where he kept his checkbook — something that only he, his wife, and Innocencia knew. When the crone said the correct answer, Manolo had no choice but to open the gate. Manolo said that the moment the gate was open, the crone stumbled through then collapsed in the garden. Her stench, filthiness, and relic – like appearance seemed to 169


make a case for the de la Paz couple to drive the crone away. However, because of what she had told Manolo, in addition to the fact that the rags she was wearing appeared to be the tattered remains of the clothes Innocencia wore on the day she disappeared, they were faced with the terrifying possibility that their daughter had indeed, become a crone in the two weeks that she was gone. Manolo continued by saying that although they were unsure of what to make of the crone, they had felt that it was their humanitarian duty to at least help the old woman. Since they couldn’t just leave her lying in their garden, they decided to bring her inside the house before calling for a doctor. While turning her over to get into a position to lift her up, they noticed something strange. In one of her hands, the crone was clutching what appeared to be a decaying piece of flesh that was in the shape of a cord with a small knob at the end. While saying that the thing reminded him of a rotting, organic yo-yo, Manolo said that although they almost vomited from the sight, they managed to dispose of it, especially since they figured it to be nothing more than a piece from the internal organs of a pig or a cow. Once they had disposed of the crone’s rotting baggage, Manolo said that they carried the old woman indoors, where they placed her on the couch. Manolo then proceeded to call a doctor, leaving Remedios, who was trained as a nurse in college but had been unable to take the board exam, to clean and clothe the crone. At this, my eyes shifted from Manolo to Remedios, who had been solemnly following my conversation with her husband. Remedios nodded, then softly said that although she did not relish the thought of looking at the crone’s body, the old woman had appeared to be really in need of a change of clothes and a bath. Besides, she also wanted to see if the crone’s tattered clothes were really her daughter’s. Remedios trembled as she recounted that while undressing the crone, she recognized the tattered garments as the remains of a duster she had bought for her daughter and had accidentally slightly burned while ironing. She then tearfully said that while she found this terrifying, she was even more horrified when she saw her daughter’s birthmarks on the old woman’s body. Remedios said that she had screamed when she saw this, bringing a running Manolo back to the living room. With tears already running down her face, Remedios continued by saying that she and her husband did not know what to do nor how to act in the face of this terrifying evidence. However, they agreed that since the old woman was still unconscious, and as such, was unable to answer any questions that they had, they had no way of ascertaining that the crone was Innocencia. As such, when the doctor arrived, they told him everything except that the old woman had claimed to be their daughter who had eloped two weeks earlier. Instead, they said that the old woman was a distant aunt of Manolo who had suddenly showed up and collapsed at their door in such an ungodly hour. After the doctor had finished examining the crone, he told the de la Paz couple 170


that although their aunt appeared severely exhausted, she would be alright after being placed on IV and allowed a few days of bed rest. Consequently, after the doctor returned to hook up the IV line, the de la Paz couple brought the crone to Innocencia’s room, where she was allowed to rest. Remedios said that the old woman had slept for a little over a day and that when she finally woke up, she had gone into hysterics, incoherently screaming about a baby Dominic, a mansion, monsters, and how sorry she was for the past couple of years. Although they had not understood what the crone was talking about, Remedios said that they had tried their best to calm her down, especially since they figured that they would eventually be able to get the answers they sought. As the old lady considerably calmed down over the next few days, the de la Paz couple said that they began to see similarities between the crone and how they remembered their daughter, both in manners of speech and actions. Additionally, the crone seemed to be unaware of her aged state, since she groomed herself like a teenaged girl and had not understood their questions about being older, even after being faced with a mirror and told to look at herself. In this sense, although they found it difficult to even play with the idea of having an old woman as a daughter, they knew that they had little choice but to accept her as such. However, despite their growing predisposition towards recognizing the crone as their nineteen – year – old daughter, the de la Paz couple said that they still found it hard to do so given her greatly altered appearance, as well as the incongruity and incomprehensibility of what the old woman had said about the two weeks that Innocencia had gone missing. Since what the old lady told them made scant sense, the de la Paz couple said that they decided to look for a person who would be able to translate the crone’s nonsensical ramblings into something more understandable. With this, Remedios recounted that they had decided to talk to Christina, who had not only served as Innocencia’s baptismal godmother, but who also knew a lot of specialized professionals who would hopefully be able to come up with answers based on the crone’s confusing narrative. Since she had only been listening while the de la Paz couple told their story, Christina appeared to have been taken aback when she heard her name mentioned. However, she nodded her head and said that she had not been much help since all her referrals, which ranged from criminologists to psychologists to even psychics and shamans, had all been unable to come up with any explanation for the apparent transformation of Innocencia de la Paz. As such, Christina said that she saw no reason for someone specializing in transnational folklore to step in and try to give some sense of clarity. While I was understandably thrown off by this and the expectant gaze of the de la Paz couple, I nonetheless replied that I was still unable to formulate an opinion since I had yet to talk to Innocencia. I explained that although it was obvious that something out of the ordinary had happened, their story lacked data that only the crone could 171


provide, especially since they had not understood the old woman’s explanation well enough to faithfully recount it. Upon hearing this, Manolo first looked at his wife, then turned towards me to ask if I wanted to meet Innocencia. I nodded my head. This prompted both Manolo and Remedios to stand from the couch while telling me to follow them to Innocencia’s room, which was located near the dining area adjacent to the living room. Once we were outside Innocencia’s room, Manolo knocked on the door. A cracked, hoarse voice answered from inside, saying that we could enter. Despite what the de la Paz couple had told me earlier and my seeing the crone in a skimpy outfit during that first encounter, I was still a bit shocked when I entered the room. Aside from close – up posters of Hollywood actors such as Leonardo di Caprio and Johnny Depp that were placed on the pink walls, I could see around a half dozen teddy bears on the shelves. Additionally, an assortment of hangers and clothes were strewn around the floor and the floral – printed bed. The crone was sitting in front of her dressing table mirror. Although her head only had a few strands of wire – like hair, she appeared to be going through the motions of brushing her hair, moving a brush down her scalp while seemingly unmindful of the red marks that this was causing. When the crone saw us in the mirror, she stopped, and putting down her hair brush beside the different cosmetics bottles on her dresser, turned around to face us. While the crone admonished her daddy for not telling her that they had company, Manolo introduced me as Dr. Lacson, a close friend of her Tita Christina who wanted to talk to her. At this, the crone stood up and approached me, extending a hand that felt like bony leather while asking me how I was doing. While I replied that I was alright, I added that since it was already getting late and I still had interviews scheduled for the following day, I would be visiting her again over the course of the next couple of weeks. With Innocencia’s agreement to this, both Christina and myself bid our goodbyes to Innocencia and the de la Paz couple. During the next three weeks, I regularly returned alone to the de la Paz residence after my daily data collection to conduct interviews with Innocencia. While she gave her permission for me to tape our interviews, which have all been referenced under tapes 010495 — 3 to 27, I also found it necessary to talk to her about a variety of things in order to develop rapport while gaining insight into her context beyond what her parents had told me. This proved to be particularly useful, especially in the latter weeks, when Innocencia started to become more accustomed to my presence, and as such, began to converse with me more openly and less formally. Although I am not certain why she began to open up to me in such a short time, I would imagine that this could be partly attributed to the fact that she hadn’t had anyone to talk to for awhile. Aside from the de la Paz couple and a few of Christina’s other specialist friends during the first few months after her reappearance, Innocencia had little contact with other people. As far as the other people in the neighborhood were concerned, Innocencia had never returned after eloping with her mestizo suitor, and the crone who was occasionally 172


fleetingly seen outside the de la Paz residence during the wee hours of the morning was just an eccentric aunt of Manolo’s who sometimes visited her nephew’s family. While the Innocencia that emerged as a result of these sessions was understandably different from the one portrayed in my initial interview with the de la Paz couple, the data I gathered only reinforced my perception that there was nothing overly unique about her past. However, my interviews with the crone did manage to uncover a few details that helped my understanding of her predisposition and attitude. For example, it soon became apparent that Innocencia had a tendency towards looking at things romantically. In this sense, she talked about how she had a difficult time picturing any of the neighborhood boys as her Prince Charming despite the attention they showered on her (010495 — 7, Side B: 1:25-1:27), and how she felt her parents were overly ordinary and that they were always trying to shape her according to their unfulfilled aspirations for themselves (010495 — 5, Side A: 27:12-28:00). Because of the latter revelation, I tried to steer a couple of conversations towards Innocencia’s relationship with her parents. Despite her repeated insistence that she loved them dearly, it seemed that a certain tension existed between the de la Paz couple and their daughter, especially since she said that she had avoided accompanying them in public despite her denial that she was embarrassed by them (010495 — 5, Side B: 7:54-8:03), and that she had stolen from her father’s stash of cigarettes and had taught herself how to smoke as a way to make her troubles disappear only for a moment. While contrasting her situation to the Prodigal Son, Innocencia also said that she did not understand the reason why her parents had kept her in the house ever since she returned (01095 — 9, Side A). She had not been able to contact anyone since the only telephone in the house was kept in her parents’ room, which was locked when they were away, and when she visited her friends’ homes during the times she had snuck out the house, no one would answer her calls despite her being certain that they were inside. Additionally, Innocencia also said that she also had difficulty understanding why her parents had repeatedly told her that she had aged, and had even shown her mirrors, when she hardly had any wrinkles on her face, even for a girl of twenty – one. While I found this, and her repeated insistence of it being the year 2003, to be a bit delusional, I found it interesting for Innocencia to say that despite everything, she nonetheless understood the shame she had caused her parents, and could do nothing else but accept her present situation. As our interviews progressed, Innocencia gradually began to unravel the situation and circumstances behind her elopement. Due to the substantial number of sessions and the digressive nature of our interviews, I have decided to reconstruct the sequence of events into a linear narrative, which can be counterchecked with tapes 010495 — 8, Side A, to 010495 — 23, Side B. According to Innocencia, she first met Juan del Monte on the first Monday of May, 1999. Since it was already summer vacation, she was walking home from her friend’s house when she narrowly avoided being hit by a black Mercedes sedan. While the 173


car managed to stop within inches of a possible impact, Innocencia said that she had stood in front of the car for a few moments, dazed, until the back door opened and a man, who Innocencia said was the most handsome person she had ever seen, stepped out. Aside from describing him as a mestizo version of Brad Pitt on a tall and well  –  muscled frame, Innocencia said that there was a distinct suaveness in the way the man stepped out of the car and walked towards her. After apologizing to her in a voice that Innocencia described as smooth and deep, the man extended a hand and introduced himself as Juan del Monte. Innocencia said that in her giddiness, she had asked del Monte if he was a movie star. With a laugh, he replied that he wasn’t, and that he was nothing more than a probinsyano in Manila for a couple of business meetings and an errand for a few of his workers at his family’s plantation. Del Monte explained that some workers had taken ill, and had implored him to light a candle for them at the Church of the Nativity during his business trip to Manila. Doing so would really do no harm, and could perhaps even improve the plantation’s pineapple crop. As such, he was on his way back from the Church when his car almost ran over Innocencia. After asking Innocencia her name and shaking her hand for a second time, del Monte offered to make amends by giving her a ride home. Innocencia said since the man’s sense of humor and good looks charmed her, she accepted. In the course of their short conversation during the car ride to Innocencia’s house, del Monte told her that he had been initially hesitant to visit the Church of the Nativity. This was because he was not used to going to church alone, and was prone to loneliness whenever he worshiped by himself. Consequently, he also mentioned that although he wanted to avoid being lonely, he would be going back to the Church over the next few days and that this would probably set the tone for his Manila trip. At this, Innocencia said that she had felt sad, and had offered to accompany him to the Church over the course of his visit, especially since it was summer vacation, and she also figured that del Monte was a decent, sensitive man. With a smile, del Monte said yes, and before Innocencia got down at her house, they had agreed on a time to meet at the Church of the Nativity the following day. Beginning that Tuesday morning, they had met every day at the gate of the Church of the Nativity. After lighting a candle and offering a prayer, they would then spend the rest of the day in each other’s company, since del Monte’s business meetings seemed to always take place in the early morning. Describing these times as simply magical, Innocencia said that those days were probably the happiest in her life. Del Monte, whom she had taken to calling John – John because Juan seemed like such a serious name, had a knack for making her feel special when they were together. This apparently held true even in the seemingly mundane things that they did over the course of the week. As she went through a litany of their activities, Innocencia said that whether they watched a movie, went to the mall, or just had long conversations 174


over coffee, del Monte appeared to be so in tune with her needs and wants that he made her feel like a princess. Even though they just met, he seemed to know her thoughts and was quick to act when she became tired, got bored, or by the middle of the week, wanted to be held and kissed. The way del Monte held and kissed Innocencia appeared to have made a lasting impression on her, since she referred to it on several occasions during our interviews (010495 — 8, Side A: 5:22; 12, Side B: 15:47; 18, Side A: 45:23). While she said that she had allowed some of her local suitors to kiss her in the past, del Monte had made her feel as if he and her were the only people in the world during those brief moments. In this sense, Innocencia said that she felt a unique intimacy with del Monte that somehow gave her feelings of security and content fulfillment in his presence. These feelings only grew stronger as the week progressed. By Innocencia’s admission, she began to think of del Monte and herself as somehow destined for one another, especially considering the fateful circumstances of their initial meeting. Consequently, her mind became preoccupied with the multitude of possibilities that could constitute their linked future — something that was only further complicated by del Monte’s telling Innocencia on that week’s Friday that he was returning to his province on the coming Sunday, as well as his subsequent admission that he had fallen in love with her during their time together. Innocencia said that she did not know how to react to what del Monte had told her. Although she had known that del Monte’s Manila trip would eventually end, and that the feelings she was developing were somehow mutual, these things had been left unsaid and it was quite jarring for Innocencia to hear them verbalized. In her panic, Innocencia said that she had told del Monte that she loved him too, and that she could not bear the thought of losing him, especially since she felt that they had a future together. This prompted del Monte to say that he felt the same way, and that he had been thinking of asking her to marry him and move back to the province to start their joint future, but had been hesitant to do so since he knew that this was a big thing that would entail many sacrifices on her part. At this, Innocencia said that she immediately told del Monte that she was willing to make the necessary sacrifices for them to be together and would gladly be his wife. While Innocencia said that this made del Monte visibly elated, he replied that the enormity of the matter made it something that she needed to think about, and with a kiss, he then told her that he would not be coming the next day to give her time to reflect, and that he would be waiting for her at their usual spot on the Sunday of his departure. After saying that he would understand if Innocencia failed to show up, del Monte kissed her again, and they parted ways. Based on her interviews, the next few hours proved to be extremely difficult for Innocencia. Although she had told del Monte that she was willing to do whatever it took for them to be together, she was afraid that she might be making the wrong decision. After all, she would be leaving behind not just her parents and friends, but 175


also every vestige of her life up to that point. Innocencia said that during those times, her thoughts would repeatedly go back and forth between her parents and del Monte. While she certainly did not want her parents to be angry at her and she did not relish the idea of being called a bad daughter, she felt that going away with del Monte was something she had to do. Not doing so would mean being relegated to living her life according to the constraints of the community as well as her parent’s wishes. In contrast, del Monte seemed to offer a life of unlimited possibilities, and more importantly for Innocencia, happiness. Since she felt certain that she and del Monte would be happy together, and that his family would be more than able to provide for their needs, Innocencia said that she eventually decided to go with her John – John. Besides, she was also certain that her parents and friends would eventually come to terms with her decision, especially since she knew that they wanted nothing more for her except happiness and security in life. And so, Innocencia said that at their usual time on that Sunday, she met up with del Monte at the Church of the Nativity. She had earlier begged off from attending a luncheon wedding reception with her parents by telling them that she was feeling a little under the weather. While her parents agreed to let her stay home, Innocencia said that at that time, she had felt a little annoyed that they had made such a big fuss about her being sick that it took awhile for them to leave the house. This only gave her enough time to scribble a hastily – written note stating the reasons for her departure. During the times I asked her why she neglected to bring even a change of clothes when she left, Innocencia would only reply that she was anxious of what del Monte’s parents would think of her outfits, and had only been placated by del Monte’s telling her that she didn’t need to worry about any clothes since that would be readily taken cared of once they arrived at the Hacienda del Monte. Innocencia said that any misgivings she may have had disappeared once she saw del Monte’s face when they met at the Church. After saying that no words could describe how he felt, del Monte then took her hand to lead her to the awaiting Mercedes sedan. Despite her wanting to take in the scenery of the countryside en route to the Hacienda del Monte, Innocencia said that she fell asleep almost as soon as they left the Church. When she woke up, she said that del Monte had told her that she had been asleep for around six hours, and with a kiss on her forehead, he informed her that they were already inside the hacienda’s compound. In her description of what she saw from inside the car, Innocencia recounted that she was amazed at how much the hacienda resembled how she had imagined it. From where she sat, she could only see row upon row of pineapple tops stretching as far as the moonlight allowed her to see. The only thing that seemed to stand out was the dirt road that they were traveling on, which appeared to cascade up and down towards nowhere. After what seemed to her as an eternity of passing through thousands of rows of pineapple tops, Innocencia said that they eventually got to a concrete road that led up 176


the driveway of a huge mansion. As the car pulled up the driveway, del Monte turned to her with a smile and announced that they were home. Once the car had finally stopped, Innocencia said that del Monte disembarked first. Taking her hand, he then led her out the car, past the marble columns, up the steps and through the enormous doors that led into the mansion. While the interior of the mansion was understandably huge, Innocencia said that there was a certain intimate quality to the place. Though she had somehow expected the furniture to be of the fancy, ornate sort, the chairs and tables in the main hallway appeared to be newer and sturdier approximations of the furnishings they had back home. The similarities between the furniture in Innocencia’s old and new homes further reinforced her perception that she and del Monte were meant for each other, and she could think of nothing but the soundness of her decision as del Monte led her up one side of a grand staircase and through several hallways with unmarked, indistinguishable doors. Eventually, they stopped outside one of the doors. As del Monte turned the knob, Innocencia said that he told her that since they were not yet married, he had arranged for a temporary room for her to stay the night, and that he had also made arrangements with a priest to marry them the following morning. Although Innocencia admitted being a little overwhelmed with what del Monte had told her, she said that her confusion quickly gave way to joy when the door and the lights were opened. Despite the fact that she would only be staying there for the night, her temporary room resembled her room back home. For Innocencia, it was clear that del Monte had gone through great lengths to ensure that she was comfortable, especially considering that he had not been inside her room before. Because Innocencia assumed that del Monte had somehow reconstructed her room from her descriptions of it during the week they had spent together in Lazaro de Chino, she said that she could not help but be amazed by her husband – to – be’s thoughtfulness and sharpness. Of course, there were differences between the rooms that Innocencia regarded as welcome. For example, although the floral – printed bed set and the posters on the wall were different, Innocencia said that the patterns on the sheets were remarkably similar to the ones that she had unsuccessfully asked her mother to buy, and that the posters in the room included angled shorts of Leonardo di Caprio and Antonio Banderas in their relaxed, casual poses. Additionally, Innocencia’s temporary room also had a walk – in closet that was not only stocked with clothes and accessories that she knew would be perfect for her, but it also had a wedding dress on a mannequin at its center. Describing the wedding dress as beautifully bedecked with pearls and intricate lacework, Innocencia said the she hardly knew what to say when del Monte told her that it was hers. As such, even after del Monte kissed her goodnight and had taken his leave by telling her that she should get some rest for their big day, Innocencia 177


said that she had lain in bed for most of the night while looking at her wedding dress through the open closet door. When she awoke the very next morning, Innocencia said that she was already in her wedding dress. While she thought this odd, she did not discount the possibility that she had tried it on during the course of the previous night. As she stepped into the walk – in – closet to look at herself in the mirror, Innocencia said that she was startled to hear a rapping on the door, and del Monte’s voice call her. After she told him to enter, Innocencia said that del Monte walked in dressed in a tuxedo and joined her in the closet. Innocencia recounted that after del Monte told her that he just wanted to make sure that she was ready for their big day, he looked at her reflection in the mirror, paused, then with a kiss, told her that he was so happy because he had waited his whole life for someone as beautiful and stunning as her to come along. After informing her that their wedding would be held in the mansion’s courtyard and a few of his relatives were able to make it, Innocencia said that del Monte took her hand and led her downstairs to an open area where several people were already waiting. Aside from a few men and a couple of girls who were apparently married to some of them, there was also a middle – aged man who had features similar to that of del Monte. Innocencia said that the moment the man saw them, he immediately approached, and with a warm embrace told her that he had heard so much about her from his son, who had called him every day during his visit to Manila. After a while, del Monte’s father took his leave to talk to the other people in the area. When she was sure that he was safely outside listening range, Innocencia said that she had remarked to del Monte that his father was warm and charming, and then asked him where his mother was. Del Monte replied that she had died when he was still a boy. At this, Innocencia said that she realized that she actually knew very little about del Monte. However, because she was certain that she loved him, she figured that they had a lifetime to learn about one another. As Innocencia and del Monte talked to each other, a man in flowing white robes who also looked a little like del Monte, drew near, and after being introduced as the priest who was to marry them, announced that the ceremony was about to begin. Although Innocencia described her wedding as simple, she said that it suited her just fine since the weddings she had attended with her parents had always bored her. The ceremony took place in the middle of the courtyard, which was decorated with flowers and long lace ribbons throughout its perimeter. Innocencia said that as del Monte’s relatives looked on, the priest led them through their vows and symbolic actions. Once the rings had been placed on their respective fingers, the priest told Innocencia and del Monte that they were now married and could kiss. After they kissed, Innocencia said that the people around them applauded, after which del Monte announced that the reception was to be held in the mansion’s main dining hall. Consequently, they all proceeded indoors to a large, high – ceilinged dining 178


room, where on a long, wide table, Innocencia said that there was a spread of her favorite dishes, which ranged from a simple, pesto – tossed pasta, to a lechon stuffed with a paella containing an assortment of seafood such as prawns, lobsters, and interestingly enough, oysters. In the course of the reception, Innocencia said that the guests would repeatedly made their glasses clink in an effort to get del Monte and her to kiss. After everyone had finished eating, several people were asked to give congratulatory toasts to the newlyweds. Once this was over, Innocencia said that she and del Monte were asked to say a few short words. Since she was taken by surprise, Innocencia admitted to be only half – listening to her husband’s speech, which was apparently about how his lifelong search for the one he was destined for had unwittingly ended when his car almost ran over a girl during his Manila trip. While Innocencia said that she couldn’t help but smile at the little bits and pieces that she managed to pick up, she had felt her heart race as del Monte’s speech finished and it became her turn to speak. With barely an idea of what to say, Innocencia said that she decided to recount their love story while emphasizing the little details that had made her believe that she and del Monte were fated for each other. Although she had felt her voice shake as she spoke, Innocencia said that she was happily relieved when she had finished, and everyone in the room applauded her before clinking their glasses again. Shortly after this, Innocencia said that the lights began to dim and music began to fill the dining hall. While del Monte’s married relatives began to stand up with their spouses in tow, Innocencia said that her husband extended a hand and asked her if he could have the pleasure of her company on the dance floor, which was on the far side of the dining hall. As she and del Monte danced at the center of the dance floor surrounded by the other couples, Innocencia said that she had felt that everything seemed just right. In the same manner of their first kiss, she began to feel like she and del Monte were the only people on earth, and coincidentally, the music that was playing consisted of the same songs that she would put on during the times she would dance by herself in her room during the past couple of years. In this sense, Innocencia said that she hardly took notice of the passage of time, until the guests started disappearing and del Monte told her that it was now time for them to retire to their room. Although Innocencia understandably neglected to give the particularities of the consummation of her marriage to del Monte, she did say that when del Monte brought her into the master bedroom, she could hardly see a thing as the lights were closed. Additionally, she also said that she had been initially nervous and that though it was initially uncomfortable, she soon felt that their destiny of being truly together had been fulfilled, and she was happy. The very next morning, Innocencia said that she had woken up to find del Monte missing from what they agreed was to be his side of the bed. As she looked around 179


the master bedroom, Innocencia admitted that she was impressed. Not only did the room have a ceiling comparable to that of the main dining hall, but Innocencia said that it was also probably as big as her childhood home. Moreover, although she had expected the room to be something similar to that of her parents, she was a bit surprised to see that if anything, it was an even better version of the room she had slept in during her first night in the mansion. Save for a few tell – tale signs of del Monte’s co – habitation such as his clothes and a few books on agricultural management, the whole room seemed to be full of things that Innocencia liked. There was a large projection television surrounded by stacks of DVDs of romantic movies, a stereo equipped with most, if not all of her favorite CDs, and most amazingly, an immense walk – in closet that was filled with different outfits, as well as mirrors interspersed between the shelf and closet spaces. Innocencia said that in her delight, she had gone through the contents of the closet, which seemed to be stocked with a variety that included not only outfits that she had only seen in the magazines that she occasionally read, but also exact copies of her favorite dresses. After she had tried on a few dozen outfits, Innocencia said that she began to feel hungry. Almost on queue, she heard the door open, and when she checked to see who it was, she saw del Monte carrying a tray of food. Seeing her, del Monte explained that since he woke up early, he had decided to make breakfast in bed for his new bride. Following her meal, Innocencia said that they spent the rest of the day in each other’s company — watching movies, having meals, and just basically talking until the night had fallen. While there were expected divergences, an interesting pattern began to emerge in the days and months that allegedly followed. Innocencia said that she would have breakfast after she woke up, which she would take either with del Monte in one of the smaller dining rooms downstairs, or in bed during the times when her husband would get her breakfast. After eating, she and del Monte would spend the rest of the day together, enjoying the recreational equipment in their room, swimming in the mansion’s pool, or even just walking around the gardens. Although her new father – in – law would occasionally drop by from his retirement cottage somewhere in the hacienda’s grounds to join them for a meal, there was hardly anyone else who seemed to be regular fixtures in the mansion. Since Innocencia initially expected that the mansion would have hosts of uniformed maids, she had asked del Monte who cooked their meals and kept the house clean and her husband had replied by saying that although they did not believe in keeping maids since their family was “Americanized,” the wives of the plantation workers who had been trained by his late mother in cooking and cleaning would go to the mansion to help around. However, he added that it was also unlikely that Innocencia would ever see these workers’ wives given the size of the mansion, as well as the fact that they were shy and preferred to work without being seen. Aside from all this, Innocencia said that there were also sporadic visits from her 180


husband’s male cousins, who interestingly enough, would always bring their new wives to spend their first night of married life inside the ancestral house in what appeared to be a family tradition. It was on this note that Innocencia said that del Monte had uncharacteristically sternly told her the only rule in the whole mansion, which was to never open any of the guest rooms that were occupied for the night, especially since she as much as anyone else knew that couples needed their privacy during intimate moments. Consequently, Innocencia said that she always made a conscious effort to avoid the parts of the mansion that she knew were occupied, even during the times that del Monte was out supervising the activities in the fields. Since all this suited her just fine, Innocencia said that she became rather used to this daily pattern, which changed very little even after she learned that she was pregnant a few months after her marriage. Despite the discomforts of pregnancy such as the spells of nausea and vomiting during the first few months and the palpitations and decreased mobility caused by her weight gain in the latter period, Innocencia said that she still tried to go about her daily routines. Of course, her situation had caused her problems but her husband’s joy at the news and subsequent efforts to spend more time with her by asking his father to tend to the crop throughout the duration of her pregnancy had made this bearable. In this sense, they would continue walking around the mansion, have long talks, and even occasionally slow dance to soft music in their bedroom, which would make Innocencia feel that everything was just right. According to Innocencia, she had felt her water break in the afternoon of March 9, 2000. Because of the videos that her teachers had made her watch in school, she had been expecting to undergo a tremendous amount of pain over a long period of time. However, this was curiously not the case and Innocencia said that while she had felt a sudden rush of pain, her labor had gone very quickly, and in moments, she had given birth to a baby boy. Del Monte was with her throughout her whole ordeal, holding her hand and giving words of encouragement, although Innocencia said that in retrospect, it was strange why she did not wonder why he had not called a doctor even if one had not been seriously needed. However, at that time, she had considered the whole ordeal as a testament to their matrimonial love. Because it was the feast of Dominic Savio, and Innocencia had not been in any serious danger, they decided to name their son after the saint. Innocencia said that Dominic resembled a smaller, bald version of his father, with prominent mestizo features that underscored his status as a del Monte. By the next morning, Innocencia said that she had recovered enough to walk again. Although del Monte continued to spend time with Dominic and her over the next couple of days, Innocencia said that he soon resumed his field visits, saying that he had no more excuse to prolong his father’s temporary return from retirement. During the times del Monte stayed at home, Innocencia said that things seemed as they were before. While she had initially thought that Dominic’s arrival would 181


somehow complicate their relationship, Innocencia said that she and del Monte’s activities were hardly hindered by the baby’s presence. Dominic hardly ever cried and they considered taking care of him as another thing they could do as a family. In fact, Innocencia said that she noticed that del Monte seemed happiest when he would keep her company as she nursed their son, whom he enjoyed showing off to his cousins during their occasional appearances at the mansion with their new brides. By this time, Innocencia said that she had been living in the house for over a year, and since she learned that del Monte had opted to send representatives to his out – of – town meetings ever since they got married, she urged him to end his moratorium by telling him that she had already adjusted to life in the mansion and that she and Dominic would be able to manage just fine. However, things seemed to be pretty different when del Monte was away. Understandably, Innocencia said that the routine she had become accustomed to changed during these times. Following del Monte’s instructions, Innocencia said that at least twenty minutes before each meal she would write a list of dishes that she wanted to eat and slip it inside the mansion’s mailbox. This would allow the farm worker’s wives to know what to prepare and when she would go down to the dining room closest to the main staircase, the meal would always be laid out on the table. While Innocencia said that in the occasional times that she had been unable to write a list, such as during breakfast on some days, she would still find the exact food she wanted when she passed by the dining room, she always tried her best to write one down, especially since she thought that the worker’s wives were bound to make mistakes sooner or later. As the frequency and length of del Monte’s business trips increased, Innocencia said that she began to look for other things to do. At that point, she had already watched all the movies in the master bedroom, and had memorized the order and lyrics to the songs in the CD collection. And although she had not yet exhausted the numerous outfits in the walk – in closet, she admitted that Dominic’s expressionless staring as she modeled the clothes threw her a bit off. And so, during the days and weeks that her husband was gone, Innocencia said that she would keep busy by bringing Dominic to go explore the mansion’s different rooms. Although she said that she and del Monte had taken walks around the mansion grounds in the past, during those times they would only go through the hallways to get to the main areas of the house such as the garden and the swimming pool. Because of this, she said that she had been surprised when she discovered that the rooms were of different theme, which gave her more reason to move around the house exploring with Dominic. Innocencia said that the times del Monte was gone for more than a week had been made bearable because of these rooms, which although was only as big as the room she had slept in when she initially arrived in the mansion, had enough things to seem like self – contained worlds. In this sense, Innocencia said that she and Dominic would spend time watching different anime DVDs or imagining that they were in 182


a hotel in Paris in the Modern Japanese and French – themed rooms, or they would even have a taste of the rock star life in the punk – themed one. While her exploring and her son’s presence kept her happy, as the days went by, Innocencia said that she began to feel a bit under the weather, even during the times her husband was present. Though she was certain that enough time had passed for her to recover, a few of the weird feelings she had had shortly after her pregnancy still remained. For example, Innocencia said that when she walked, she would sometimes feel droplets run down her legs, which would always be dry when she looked at them. Additionally, she also complained that the headaches that were present during her immediate post – natal period had not only refused to go away, but instead, had continued to increase in intensity until her final night at the Hacienda del Monte. According to Innocencia, on the eve of May 25, 2001 a series of events that was as baffling as it was horrible was put into action. Since del Monte was away in Cebu as part of a week – long business trip, Innocencia had spent the bulk of the day exploring with Dominic. After spending most of the morning watching Bollywood movies in an Indian – themed room, Innocencia said that she had felt hungry, and consequently, she and Dominic went to the master bedroom, where as she was wont to do, she made a list of dishes that she placed in the mailbox. Around half an hour later, when she was more or less certain that the workers’ wives had already prepared her supper, Innocencia said that she and Dominic proceeded to go down to their usual dining hall. On the way there, Innocencia said that she had seen two people — a man and a woman, sitting on one of the couches in the main hallway. When she approached them, she recognized the man as her husband’s cousin Marcelo, who had gone to their wedding and who, after greeting her, told Innocencia that he had gotten married earlier in the day, and had brought his new wife to spend the night at the family’s ancestral home. Because there was nothing unusual about this since the occasional visits by her husband’s relatives were always unannounced given the fact that the mansion’s secure location inside the hacienda did not necessitate the installation of locks and doorbells, Innocencia said that she guided the couple to the closest guest room, where before they closed the door, they fawned over Dominic while saying that they wished to have a baby as cute as her son. After she had made sure that the newlyweds were comfortable in their room, Innocencia immediately proceeded to the dining hall, where she enjoyed a hot dinner that included rice, chicken tinola, and embutido. In the course of her meal, the dizziness and headaches that had plagued Innocencia for the past few months began to recur. While it initially began as a manageable throbbing at her temples, the pain gradually built up to the point that Innocencia’s vision started to blur, and she had to put down her utensil in order to support the weight of her head with her hands. It soon became apparent to Innocencia that this headache was different from the 183


ones she had had in the past. Unlike the previous attacks, which, although painful, would eventually plateau after hitting a certain level, this one appeared to intensify exponentially, to the point that Innocencia described the feeling as though her essence was being concentrated and crushed in her skull. Consequently, she knew that she needed to get help. Since she couldn’t leave Dominic by himself, Innocencia said that she had cradled him in one arm, while using her free hand to lean on the barrister as she made her way upstairs. Although she remembered her husband’s rule on never opening the guest rooms when they were occupied, especially while they were being used by his newlywed relatives, Innocencia said she staggered towards the room where she had earlier led the couple. While she respected the wishes of her husband as well as the privacy of her cousin – in – law and his bride, she figured that they would understand given the gravity of her situation. Besides, she had already been part of the family for a little more than two years, and it was not as if the newlywed’s moment of pleasure was more important than her overall well – being. As such, when she got to the occupied guest room, Innocencia said that she had knocked while blearily apologizing for the disturbance and asking for their help. When she heard no answer, Innocencia said that she had no choice but to open the door. While it was dark in the room, from the light from the hallway, Innocencia said that she could see something that she would have refused to believe if it had not been in front of her. From where she stood, Innocencia could see that the newlywed bride was breathing heavily on the bed as a crone in tattered clothes stood in front of her. The crone was carrying what looked like a fleshy bowling ball that was somehow connected to the old woman through a cord that ran from the ball to between her legs. Innocencia said that as she looked closer she saw that the ball was actually a bald, noseless head, which had what appeared to be a long, tubular tongue that was inserted into the bride’s genitals. Although she admitted that her initial reaction was to turn away and scream, Innocencia said that she then tried to shield Dominic from the sight. However, when she looked down, she said that Dominic was gone, and in his place, was a ping – pong ball – sized head that was connected to her via a cord that went into her body through her vaginal opening, out of which trickled miniscule amounts of blood that ran down her legs. Innocencia said that as she saw the cord enlarge with something that seemed to flow from her body to the head, she had come to the realization that the creatures had somehow taken her baby away from her, and had somehow attached one of their own to her body. While she had felt terrified by this, Innocencia said that she knew she had to detach the thing from her body. As such, she said that she had pulled on the cord slowly and steadily, trying to endure the pain until it came off with from her description, appeared to be the placenta, and she lost consciousness. When she awoke after an indefinite amount of time, Innocencia said that she found herself in the middle of an empty, grassy lot that she recognized as being in the 184


outskirts of Lazaro de Chino. Although there was no trace of either the mansion or any other part of the hacienda, she saw that she was wearing the clothes she wore when she first eloped with del Monte. She also saw that she was still holding what appeared to be the rotting, ant – covered remains of the head and its cord. After vomiting what looked like clumps of soil and grass, Innocencia said that she remembered being so weak that she had to crawl her way home, and could only remember fuzzy images and pieces of conversation revolving around her parents before she blacked out and had awoken in her old room wearing her pajamas. Curiously, Innocencia did not mention bringing the rotting remains of the head back to her house. It was on this note that my interviews with Innocencia de la Paz ended. Over the next few days, as I made time to collate and mull about her case in between my fieldwork duties, I slowly came to the realization that I could offer no advice to the de la Paz couple. Innocencia’s case was not as simple as telling those Bicolano villagers that putting bars across their doorways would effectively put an end to their jiangshi infestation. (Notes from the Field # 961145) For example, although the creatures described in Innocencia’s narrative point to a variation of the cross – cultural vampiric viscera eater, the creatures’ usage of the long tubular tongue appears to have a different purpose from that of the jiangshi or even the Filipino aswang, which generally use theirs for extractive purposes (Albert and Chan 1995, 32.) Because of the lack of literature concerning creatures similar to those described in Innocencia’s case, which seem to have used their tongues to impregnate while relying on what appears to be an umbilical cord to extract sustenance from a constant victim over a protracted period, it was virtually impossible to offer an explanation to the de la Paz couple. Additionally, despite the parallelisms inherent in the case’s marital context and the mention of the unheeded warning, to AT type 956, it was apparent that nothing that could be translated into practical advice could be derived from these. If anything, the closest approximation of the case to the folkloric can be derived from the section on the kitsune found in Morano and De Lara’s seminal work on Japanese folklore, (1983) which describes a case where a fox spirit tricked a man into a two – week marriage that he believed to have lasted for fourteen years. However, despite the parallelisms between the tale and Innocencia’s case, especially in terms of context and the perception of time, this offered neither answers nor solutions since the man in the tale had aged and had permanently lost parts of his mental faculties when he was found. In much the same way, although Innocencia had recovered enough to recount and converse after the incident, she had been unable to accept that her son and the small head were the same entities, which would seem to be the only plausible explanation given the presence of the placenta and umbilical cord, and her constant attachment to her son after she gave birth. More seriously, it was also clear that Innocencia’s denial had implications on her perception of time and herself given her continued insistence of it being two years later than it actually 185


was, as well as her incongruent manner of dress and action. Consequently, there was nothing I could really do to help since the physical damage appeared to be permanent, and there might be repercussions if Innocencia managed to overcome her denial. As such, right before the Manila leg of my fieldwork ended and I left Lazaro de Chino, I apologized to the de la Paz couple for not being able to provide the answers they had hoped for, while telling them that if there was any consolation, their daughterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s case would hopefully serve as a reference for future occurrences of young women returning as crones after disappearing to follow what they perceived to have been their destiny.

186


gemino abad

Prayer O Jesu, forgive! a poet with his poor words, runes like mice in the ruins of space. Day to night, my words merely drift and die; for words other one another, I cannot follow their speech, their thoughts earthbound, or to politics wed; I am lost in their ebb and tide. Did I think words could move mountains? Our daily histories are earthquakes constant as the Furies which interpret our intercourse and make fable of love. Did I think poems could chart Love’s continent? I have found only runnels moment to moment where glints a little snake of water. O Jesu, forgive my unhappiness beyond reason, in vain I have probed for its star – struck root. I acknowledge my blessings, my wife’s love, unacknowledged muse of my days; my children’s quick laughter, both sun and foliage to my every homecoming. Why then do I ask in secret: are all my poems worth their deprivation? are my words even depredations of their setting forth and their evenings? Does not their love too require hectarage Of attention, tilth of care and affection? O Jesu, forgive! for I am indeed blessed and blessed again with my wife’s love which sets aside too deep probing of my unstable nature, and grants my space a treetop stillness where breathes the morning of all my poems’ words. And blessed yet again with our children whose joys wreathe my daily death. 187


O shield, Master, their innocence from the shortfalls and dark comings of my improvident fatherhood. O, forgive ever! Why should I, Lord, be so blessed, poet born without other wings? (5 May, 10 Dec. 1988; 28 Dec. 2011)

188


gemino abad

Twin Brothers On that feast day of the Sacred Heart whence, they say, the strangest love bleeds, the twin brothers passed into our time but having no name, found no shore where their cries could fall. Their father had passed beyond whence he had no mind to return, nor could anyone remember what path upon troublous waters he roved, or what words fell like sand when he left.   Their mother, waiting in vain, turned from her grief and to strangers gave away her sons, she could not bear the sound of waves without certainty of shore.   The first nameless one kicked out of her womb’s midnight sea swaddled in bluegreen weed of its tide, and then the other, unexpected, pushed against his drowning and came with a mournful, watery cry.   The strangers had promised even before they laid eyes on them; waiting, they had reached out in faith to the time they would be born.   How could they tell the gift would be twins, brothers adrift upon their midnight sea? Yet they were already loved before birth, and the strangers’ longing had shaped a sandbar for their coming ashore.   By what strange fate is their stranger mother’s name Mercy, and their father’s that which in an ancient tongue means “twin”?

189


These strangers came in rainy weather and stormy dark, and gave them their names: David, Diego, children by starlight in a cogon shack, still wet with the amniotic cold and sea – green weeds of their birth.   These strangers had always known: at sea, in that timeless journey where nativity is always at peril, one’s name may be the first act of love, and when one answers to its sound, one rises out of the sea, and only then does love come as whole as clear.   Now the strangers wait again for the time the brothers would answer to the sound of their names.   David, here I am, your father, who gave you your name, and here by me your sweet mother.   Diego, here is your brother upon that sandbar by starlight where first two strangers came and gave thanks for your birth.   Your father, I am he, and Your mother is here by me.   Time shall pass, or rather, we shall pass, moment to moment, yet Time shall become more and more our only shore, for so long as our names sound above the waves and we answer each to the other’s call. (21, 29 Sept. 10-11, 14 Dec. 1988; 27 Dec. 2011)

190


vincenz serrano

[I am walking around Manila with my friend] Vincenz Serrano

I am walking around Manila Iwith ammywalking Manila with my friend; wearound are taking friend; we are taking photographs. At photographs. At some point, some point, I see a building to which I I see a building to which I am drawn drawn not because of its not because of its architecture — about architecture—about which I know which I know practically because of its practically nothing—but nothing —WEST  but because of I've always name: EAST. its name: WEST EAST. I've known East to come before West, but always East to come in thisknown instance, West comes first, before West, in this which is, for but someone used to a phrase instance, West comes first, like East is East and West is West, which is, for someone used unsettling, though not bothersome, as if to a phrase like East is East one sleeps at night in a house on a and West is West, unsettling, street named Azcarraga then wakes up to find out the street name has become Recto. I though not bothersome, as if one sleeps at night in a house on a street named Azcarraga am interested of has a link between words: neither preposition thenalso wakes up to find in outthe the absence street name become Recto. the I amtwo also interested in nor verb to suggest a connection. Granted, of course, that the namer of the building the absence of a link between the two words: neither preposition nor verb to suggest a wouldn't timethat with suchof the preoccupations; of buildings are connection.waste Granted,his of course, the namer building wouldn't names waste his time straightforward enough—Burke, Tiaoqui, are Regina—nevertheless, with such preoccupations; names of buildings straightforward enough the — Black urke,of link and the contrapuntal directness fascinate me; must the directness facade. It takes me a Tiaoqui, Regina  — nevertheless, the lack of Ilink and photograph the contrapuntal few minutes shoot—as I am settings and composition—and fascinate me; Ito must photograph thefinicky facade. with It takes me a few minutes to shoot — as I by then some am finicky with settings and composition  — ame. nd byAs then street our children passmy by friend says he street children pass by my friend and wesome resume walk, my friend and me. As we resume our walk, my friend says he overheard one of the boys overheard one of the boys say: If I had a knife, I'd have stolen his camera. I say: Really. say:says: If I had a knife, I'd have stolen camera. I say: He says:and Yes. continue I say: Maybe He Yes. I say: Maybe hehis would've. We Really. say nothing walking until we he would've. We say nothing and continue walking until we reach a shopping mall reach a shopping mall which was once a train station and where, across its main which was once a train and where, across its mainpaper entrance, statuepen—now of Andres stands, and it entrance, a statue of station Andres Bonifacio—holding anda quill Bonifacio  —   h olding paper and quill pen  —   n ow stands, and it is only there where is only there where my friend takes photographs, and, why not, sincemyafter all, this is friend takes photographs, and, why not, since after all, this is Bonifacio, at a certain Bonifacio, at a certain angle the quill pen resembles a knife, by the plinth are cigarette angle the quill pen resembles a knife, by the plinth are cigarette vendors seated and a vendors seated and a woman with an umbrella walking, one of the country's oldest train woman with an umbrella walking, one of the country's oldest train stations is now a stations is now a mall, the streets don't change but maybe the name, I ain't got time for mall, the streets don't change but maybe the name, I ain't got time for the game 'cause the game 'cause I need you, my friend is done taking photos, I am thinking of aperture, I need you, my friend is done taking photos, I am thinking of aperture, yeh – eee – yeh I yeh-eee-yeh need you, he beside is crossing thewoman road,with beside him is the woman with the need you, he is Icrossing the road, him is the the umbrella.

umbrella.

191


deirdre camba

excerpts from Burning Heart an exercise in translation

I saw the Philippines in terms of light: luminous, reflective, hard, and deeply shadowed... Part poet, part panther, I was seduced by the results of this alchemy and felt compelled to visually extract its essence.  — Marissa Roth, from the afterword of Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines 

Author’s note: All verses that appear on the left column of the draft were rendered by Jessica Hagedorn for Burning Heart.

192


Somewhere in the archipelago of scorching heat of 7100 known and unknown islands

Under the canopy of trees next to this ancestral home: sunrise. This is how light and shadow begin: a flare of light is blossoming off the center of the frame and around it crowds a chorus of dark shapes: roof, branches, leaves, bamboo. It is morning in the pearl of the orient. It is microcosm in this familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s garden.

a woman stoops to plant rice a man hoists his infant son on weary shoulders an eagle swoops down on a monkey a boy cleans his gun a rooster orange and black plumage blazing preens and struts in the dusty arena ready for the kill

193


This is all before The War mind you The War changed things made everyone less coy but which war was it?

194

A taxi window is caught in the middle of rolling down and through it, a young man begins to suck on a cigarette, begins to offer an elbow in place of the open palm. In the background is the suggestion of a building, the clues of a tree swaying in the wind. The immediate face, unwashed, is looking far away, resigning some passenger to meet not with eyes, but with the conviction of flared nostrils.


uncaptioned

The brothel door is shaped like a heart. The woman holding it open is shaped like a woman. Nameless, she throws her head back in a laugh, allowing her teeth to glisten in the same afternoon sun that licks her neck. On one side of the open door: asphalt street, passing car. On hers: cotton panties, the curtain of a white button down, drawn for a luminous breast.

195


Perfumed and primed you are lead by the dashing dancer into the grand ballroom of no regrets. Poverty does not exist here, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor resignation, nor rage, nor dullness, nor despair

196

A crowd gathers in a space in front of a church, lifts its many arms in unison, and shakes pictures, prayer books, rosaries, figurines, in its devout hands. Little room is left to move but a woman, straight haired and full lipped, has managed to begin walking away. She moves towards Marissa Roth, bearing the solemnity that punctuates penances. Head bowed, eyes repentant, she parts the crowd and leaves no wake, stuffing a twoâ&#x20AC;&#x160;â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x160;foot crucifix into a paper bag.


This is my song of hurricanes, my song of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Five different cracks fragment a mirror that reflects the shadow of a classroom. To the right, a sign that reads: AM I READY FOR SCHOOL? Did I take a bath? Did I was my face? Did I brush my teeth? Did I comb my hair? Did I change my clothes? Did I wash my hands? Did I eat my breakfast? Did I clean my fingernails? Did I wash my feet?

197


uncaptioned

198

girl or ghost or infrared apparition, in some dark street x years ago. I cannot tell the season.


She feels home here. The ghosts are friendly. Manila with its mega – malls movie stars

On one of the shores, this stretch of graves  —  disfigured crosses and wooden sticks mingling with wild grass. Under the ancient palms, a woman turns towards the sea, obscures her face from the sun Farther still: two boats, white sand, a spray of rocks. Islands she is yet to name.

and politicians seems irrelevant as far as the dead on this remote island are concerned.

199


Here, The clues: archipelago bone ash flesh grass fire spirit water

200

Scribbled on a surface: “God bless us”.


catherina dario

The Goose For Papa

“The goose came with the house!” This is what Lolo told everyone, every birthday party, Noche Buena, every time Lola invited her friends for a merienda and mah – jong. Even when those big, burly men came to drop off a painting or a new piece of furniture, he would stop, offer them a cigarette or two, and tell them to look out the window, past the patio, beyond the flowerbeds, over the hedge. “Kita mo?” he would puff out a cloud of smoke, nudge their sides and flash a cheeky grin. He would point to the small, white speck floating on a pond. “Iyon ang pangarap ko sa buhay.” When the photographers and the magazine people would come, he would tell them the same thing. After showing them the mezzanines, the balconies and the sitting rooms, after my siblings and I had posed against the swing set and the settee, he would bring them to the gardens to show them neither the marble sculptures nor the gazebo, not even the swimming pool or the tennis court. He would bring them to the pond, where the goose would be paddling or sometimes sleeping under the mango tree — luckily not when she was noisily asking for sunflower seeds. That would’ve been embarrassing. After all, she had always been Lolo’s charm. She was always clean and poised, with her beady, black eyes looking as polished as dark tourmaline. The goose arrived on a warm, August afternoon. We had just come home from Sunday mass when a large pick – up truck pulled over outside our gate. I was only four years old back then, but ever since the house was built early in the year; my memory had sharpened to fit in all the people that I had met. Cousins and titas I had never seen in any of our family reunions, college friends of Mommy and Daddy, even old workers from Lolo’s company — they would always be waiting at the gate, with a copy of Lifestyle Asia or Travel and Living in their arms. “Exequiel,” they would tell Lolo, “I read the feature on your house! It’s been so long!” and would turn to me, cup my cheeks into their hands and trill, “Is this Luisa? Ang laki mo na! Last time I saw you, you were just a baby!” Usually they just came in, ate the turon and biko Mommy made, complimented the marble floors and the chandeliers, admire the family portraits and would be gone forever. That day, I wondered if it was going to be just like that. But it was different. Two men came out of the pick – up truck, wearing dirty aprons and oily, black boots. They lifted a crate from the back of the vehicle and placed it down before Lolo’s feet. When they pried it open, Lolo told me to look inside. I could not believe my eyes. Inside, sitting on a pile of straw, was a white, feathery goose. Besides the 201


ones on TV, I had never seen one before. Its beak was as yellow as a banana and its curious black eyes stared right at me. Lolo had the help bring the goose into the gardens. “This is our new pet, Luisa,” he told me, as I followed him into the house. I watched our driver and the gardener place the crate on the grass. The goose ran out almost immediately; its webbed feet almost tripping over the pebbles. It spread its large, white wings and let out a honk. It was the funniest and most amazing thing I had ever seen. A week after, Lolo had the pond made. I was there when he told the people “Twelve by twelve!” He had a giant hole dug up under the mango tree, and I watched them fill it up with pipes and a tank. They covered them with soil and rocks and later on, when the gardener came, lush, green plants and bright, pink flowers. A lot of my friends at school had ponds too, with huge orange and red fish swimming inside. “They said it’s for good luck!” I told Lolo, “That those fish bring lots of money.” Lolo simply laughed at this, “Iha, the goose comes with the house. That is all the luck we will ever need.” I never really knew what he meant by that, but Lola told me that he loved the goose as much as he loved the family. Our family was big, so I figured that was a lot. In the house lived Lolo and Lola, Mommy, Daddy, Kuya, Ate and me, my Tita Vicky and Nina and our five yayas. My yaya, Rose, would tell me about her gansa — the one in her farm. She said that geese had a painful bite (“But don’t they peck, Yaya?”) and they chase you all around your house (“Well, at least they don’t fly.”) until you fall and eat your eyeballs out. This terrified me, and I did not want to go near the goose. I watched Rose prepare her feed of pechay, papaya and sunflower seeds and would walk with her to the gardens. But I never went near the pond. I was too scared for my eyeballs. But still, there was something magical about the goose. I could never really put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the way she spread her wings majestically whenever it rained. There would be typhoons so violent that they would send the windows and the rooftops flying. From my bedroom window, I would watch the storm ravage the flower beds and flood the swimming pool. I was always so afraid that the goose would be blown away. But she wouldn’t. She stood there, wings outstretched as she ran across the gardens with her eyes and her beak shut tight. Ate would laugh and tell me “Tingnan mo o, she wants to fly!” “Of course wants to!” My lolo would scoff, as he lit the candles whenever there was a brown out. “She watches the tiny Maya birds fly! Someday, she will too.” Lolo was always defensive about the goose. The Christmas I turned 10, my parents bought us a Pekingese, which tore through the net in the tennis court and shredded all the bougainvilleas. Lolo never got angry, but when the dog chased the goose out of her pond, he forbade all other animals to go past the flowerbeds and the gazebo. “What if she got killed!” he exclaimed. He propped up a garden chair by the pond and stayed there for weeks. Not even the coaxing of Lola or the smell of his favourite bibingka cooking could make him move. “The gardens are my home,” he said, waving her off. I remembered those words when the walls were built. 202


I was fourteen years old when they closed up the gardens. I was sitting by the patio when Daddy told me that the men had arrived and I should go back to my room. “What men?” I asked him. I screamed and kicked when he had the maids carry me to my room. He said I was too young to understand. But Mommy told me what had happened. Lolo had lost money. “Lolo had to sell the gardens,” she wept, so that Daddy wouldn’t hear her. I stayed in my room for days and I ordered the maids not to draw the curtains. I did not want to see the lifeless stumps of the mango trees, the barren strips of soil, the demolished gazebo and the tennis court. I stayed wide awake at night, so in the mornings I would sneak into Lola’s room and steal her sleeping pills. I was not allowed to have any of them, but I did not have to hear the sounds of the bulldozers and the drills and the large machines that ate up our gardens. The goose was moved to the smaller yard at the other side of the house. Lolo sold the playground and a bunch of other junk to build a small pond for her, but he could not afford the oxygen pipes or the filtration. “It would cost too much,” I overheard him talking to Mommy. His voice sounded like a broken musical box. The pond turned out murky and dull, and as weeks passed, insects and mosquitoes and giant frogs settled around it. I never went near it, but Lolo always did. He pulled up his garden chair and sat there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. He would talk to the goose, but I could never hear what he would say. That summer, we had to say goodbye to some of our maids. One of them was Rose. I was old enough to take care of myself, Lola told me. I wasn’t really sure if that was the reason, or we couldn’t really pay for their salaries anymore. During those last few days, Rose taught me how to fix my bed and clean my bathroom. The toilet had sprung a leak and the fluorescent light flickered overhead. “Your house is getting old, my bulilit,” she pinched my cheeks and smiled. I could tell that she wanted to cry, because the painful knot in my throat hurt so much too. But as fast as it took to break my heart, forgetting about it happened in a blink of an eye. That year, I went to high school. I worked hard, studied well and whenever I would ace a test or brought home a medal, Lolo would reward me with a red envelope with P200 inside. I would stuff the bills into my piggy bank, save up for a night out with my friends. I would spend weekends out of town — sometimes with my friends, other times with my family. “Travel marks no expense!” Dad would tell me. We would book cheap flights abroad and be away for weeks. I would forget about the house, the goose and I would not even remember Lolo, who would stay behind, saying that the goose needed company. “It would get lonely.” The older I got, the more preposterous that excuse seemed. How could a goose get lonely anyway? She was a bird, a farm animal, a dense, flapping gansa that had lived all her life in solitude. Whenever Lolo gave us that petty excuse, I would tell Lola or Mom that nobody even really held the goose. The closest anybody in this family ever got to it was watching the maids feed it. Did we even love the goose? “Would it make a difference if it was dead?” I asked my Lolo once, over dinner. He 203


glared at me from his plate and asked me: “Does this family mean anything to you?” We did not speak after that. He still refused to go to trips with us, even to Tagaytay or Baguio. I wished that the goose died, that she choked on her food or drowned in her pond, that a stray cat tore her long, gangly neck apart. Lolo basked, or rather festered –in the ambience of mosquitoes and flies and the slippery moss of her ugly pond. I could not bring myself to understand why. “Lolo loves that animal,” explained Lola, her eyes fixated on the television screen. As Lolo grew more and more lost in the mucky pond of the goose, Lola shut herself up in her room, drowning her glassy eyes in wine. Actually, we all did. We bolted the mezzanine, locked the storerooms and the guestrooms. The small yard had grown strewn with weeds, dead bark and centipedes. On the rare moments I would drop by to check on Lolo, who would be lying motionless on his chair, I would find the goose nipping at the wildflowers and the beetles. Each time, I would realize that her feathers had grown yellow and damp; her orange webbed feet had been caked with soil. She’s so old; I would think; then run back to my house and order myself to dismiss such horrid thoughts. I did not want to think about it. There was nothing much to say, really. We had grown accustomed to the quiet, and this was helpful when Lolo died. They found him by the pond. He had fallen off his chair. His body was caked in mud and grass. The doctors said he had suffered a stroke — perhaps many, but because he always took himself to solitude, it was nearly impossible for anybody to notice. During the ride home from the wake, Lola explained that during his last few months, Lolo refused to eat or drink anything. He spent all day by the pond and refused to move from his chair. When it rained, he called a maid to stand next to him and hold an umbrella above his head. “Bakit po, sir?” our labandera asked, the first time. Lolo told her: “Kung mamatay ang gansa, gusto kong kasama ako.” That night, when I couldn’t sleep, I walked over to the pond and stared at the goose, who lay next to a rock, sleeping. I hated her. I hated how she took Lolo away from all of us. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The morning after, Mom found me curled up in our patio. I never cried so much in my life. When Lolo died, the house died with him. Lola took to selling everything — the chandeliers, the paintings, the antique furniture she and Lolo spent all their lives collecting. And if it weren’t for the family portrait hanging on top of the grand piano, Lola would have sold it as well. She spent all her days in the casino, wasting away the remains of their measly fortune. When I complained to Mom that Lola was becoming obsessed, Mom told me that Lola was getting really old. “Well, isn’t everybody?” I yelled back. I wanted to break away from the mess, from the house — which was not so much of a house anymore. When I graduated from high school, getting a scholarship to an Ivy League university was the best thing that had happened to me in years. I was always out of the house — fixing my documents, arranging the travel plans, making calls and celebrating 204


despedidas. I was so eager to leave, that when Dad found me packing my bags in my room, he couldn’t help but say: “You’re leaving in two months, Luisa. You must be excited.” He sounded sentimental, and I wanted to hug him and tell him that I was going to miss him and everybody else. But I wasn’t going to lie. When the day finally came and I was saying goodbye to everyone, my sister asked me if I was going to say goodbye to the goose. I pretended not to hear her. I pretended not to hear any of them, their sobs, their sentimental slurring. I would rather not. And when I boarded the plane, I realized that I didn’t have to. Not anymore. I watched the city of Manila grow smaller and smaller, until the tall skyscrapers became a maze of tiny pinpricks. The house, the goose, the motionless carcass of Lolo lying against his rotten garden chair — they were all gone. And I was more than happy to forget about them. The life I had abroad and the life I had back home in Manila were two different things. I had a dorm, which I shared with two girls, one American and one Italian. We hit it off instantly, and we took road trips to San Francisco and San Jose, trying all sorts of food and drinks, meeting all sorts of people. One of those people was Heath. He was tall, blonde, had a killer smile that made me want to stay in the United States. And so, I made sure that I did. I studied hard, made sure that I had every book memorized, that every test had a big, fat A on it. Mom or Dad would phone once in a while and sometimes I’d Skype with Kuya and Ate. They told me that my hair was getting wavier, that my skin was growing lighter, that I had an accent. I told them that everything was great here; I did not bother to ask them how it was back at home. I already knew. Lola was submerged in her wine and her gambling, the house was falling apart, and the goose — maybe she was still alive. I didn’t really care. I was twenty – five years old when the goose died. I had just arrived back home from work, exhausted from another day of answering telephones and posting reminders on the cubicles of my workmates. I lived in LA at that time, and things were going smoothly. I graduated with top honours, moved in with Heath. We got well – paying, steady jobs, got ourselves a cute apartment and paid the bills. We were even thinking of getting married. I came home once or twice for Christmas, but when I wasn’t back in Manila, I wasn’t thinking of my family, of the house, of the goose. In fact, I did not tell Heath about the goose at all. When he was looking through a box of photos that Mom had sent me, I had to force myself to tell the entire story. “That’s just amazing! You know, most people have dogs or cats as pets, but you had a goose!” I told him that it was nothing special, that the goose was my grandpa’s pet, not mine. I snatched the box from him and shoved it back into the closet, hoping that we would never have to open it again. We went out for drinks that night. I made sure that I blacked out.

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glared at me from his plate and asked me: “Does this family mean anything to you?” We did not speak after that. He still refused to go to trips with us, even to Tagaytay or Baguio. I wished that the goose died, that she choked on her food or drowned in her pond, that a stray cat tore her long, gangly neck apart. Lolo basked, or rather festered –in the ambience of mosquitoes and flies and the slippery moss of her ugly pond. I could not bring myself to understand why. “Lolo loves that animal,” explained Lola, her eyes fixated on the television screen. As Lolo grew more and more lost in the mucky pond of the goose, Lola shut herself up in her room, drowning her glassy eyes in wine. Actually, we all did. We bolted the mezzanine, locked the storerooms and the guestrooms. The small yard had grown strewn with weeds, dead bark and centipedes. On the rare moments I would drop by to check on Lolo, who would be lying motionless on his chair, I would find the goose nipping at the wildflowers and the beetles. Each time, I would realize that her feathers had grown yellow and damp; her orange webbed feet had been caked with soil. She’s so old; I would think; then run back to my house and order myself to dismiss such horrid thoughts. I did not want to think about it. There was nothing much to say, really. We had grown accustomed to the quiet, and this was helpful when Lolo died. They found him by the pond. He had fallen off his chair. His body was caked in mud and grass. The doctors said he had suffered a stroke — perhaps many, but because he always took himself to solitude, it was nearly impossible for anybody to notice. During the ride home from the wake, Lola explained that during his last few months, Lolo refused to eat or drink anything. He spent all day by the pond and refused to move from his chair. When it rained, he called a maid to stand next to him and hold an umbrella above his head. “Bakit po, sir?” our labandera asked, the first time. Lolo told her: “Kung mamatay ang gansa, gusto kong kasama ako.” That night, when I couldn’t sleep, I walked over to the pond and stared at the goose, who lay next to a rock, sleeping. I hated her. I hated how she took Lolo away from all of us. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The morning after, Mom found me curled up in our patio. I never cried so much in my life. When Lolo died, the house died with him. Lola took to selling everything — the chandeliers, the paintings, the antique furniture she and Lolo spent all their lives collecting. And if it weren’t for the family portrait hanging on top of the grand piano, Lola would have sold it as well. She spent all her days in the casino, wasting away the remains of their measly fortune. When I complained to Mom that Lola was becoming obsessed, Mom told me that Lola was getting really old. “Well, isn’t everybody?” I yelled back. I wanted to break away from the mess, from the house — which was not so much of a house anymore. When I graduated from high school, getting a scholarship to an Ivy League university was the best thing that had happened to me in years. I was always out of the house — fixing my documents, arranging the travel plans, making calls and celebrating 206


despedidas. I was so eager to leave, that when Dad found me packing my bags in my room, he couldn’t help but say: “You’re leaving in two months, Luisa. You must be excited.” He sounded sentimental, and I wanted to hug him and tell him that I was going to miss him and everybody else. But I wasn’t going to lie. When the day finally came and I was saying goodbye to everyone, my sister asked me if I was going to say goodbye to the goose. I pretended not to hear her. I pretended not to hear any of them, their sobs, their sentimental slurring. I would rather not. And when I boarded the plane, I realized that I didn’t have to. Not anymore. I watched the city of Manila grow smaller and smaller, until the tall skyscrapers became a maze of tiny pinpricks. The house, the goose, the motionless carcass of Lolo lying against his rotten garden chair — they were all gone. And I was more than happy to forget about them. The life I had abroad and the life I had back home in Manila were two different things. I had a dorm, which I shared with two girls, one American and one Italian. We hit it off instantly, and we took road trips to San Francisco and San Jose, trying all sorts of food and drinks, meeting all sorts of people. One of those people was Heath. He was tall, blonde, had a killer smile that made me want to stay in the United States. And so, I made sure that I did. I studied hard, made sure that I had every book memorized, that every test had a big, fat A on it. Mom or Dad would phone once in a while and sometimes I’d Skype with Kuya and Ate. They told me that my hair was getting wavier, that my skin was growing lighter, that I had an accent. I told them that everything was great here; I did not bother to ask them how it was back at home. I already knew. Lola was submerged in her wine and her gambling, the house was falling apart, and the goose — maybe she was still alive. I didn’t really care. I was twenty – five years old when the goose died. I had just arrived back home from work, exhausted from another day of answering telephones and posting reminders on the cubicles of my workmates. I lived in LA at that time, and things were going smoothly. I graduated with top honours, moved in with Heath. We got well – paying, steady jobs, got ourselves a cute apartment and paid the bills. We were even thinking of getting married. I came home once or twice for Christmas, but when I wasn’t back in Manila, I wasn’t thinking of my family, of the house, of the goose. In fact, I did not tell Heath about the goose at all. When he was looking through a box of photos that Mom had sent me, I had to force myself to tell the entire story. “That’s just amazing! You know, most people have dogs or cats as pets, but you had a goose!” I told him that it was nothing special, that the goose was my grandpa’s pet, not mine. I snatched the box from him and shoved it back into the closet, hoping that we would never have to open it again. We went out for drinks that night. I made sure that I blacked out.

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It was September 5th, three o’ clock in the morning when Mom called me. With eyes still closed, my hand groped around my bedside table for the telephone. It took about seven rings until I was able to close my hand around it, and when I did, the phone went on loudspeaker. “Luisa? L — Luisa?” my mom’s voice was choppy through the receiver. I sat up, eyes wide open and turned the phone back to normal mode. “Mom? Can you hear me?” I whispered. The goose died a couple of hours ago, was what she said. Her voice sounded empty on the phone, or maybe that was because I forced myself not to completely listen. I did not want to know the details. Why was she calling me? Why would I care? When I put the phone down a few minutes afterward, I stared into the darkness of my room. For a moment, I pretended that the window was my old window, with satin pink curtains and lace. I walked over to it, hoping to see the gardens — the flowerbeds, the mango trees, the tennis court, the swimming pool, the tall, white gazebo with the pink bougainvilleas. I didn’t. I booked a flight to Manila the day after. I left right away, telling Heath and my officemates that I needed to be back with my family for just awhile. “Something came up,” I told them. If I said the truth, that it was because an old pet died — I didn’t think anybody would believe it. In fact, I couldn’t even believe myself either. I did not even tell my family that I was coming home. Upon boarding the plane, all I could think about was Lolo and how his frail, limp body lay on the old, garden chair. “Don’t you ever forget, Luisa,” he told me that night I wished the goose dead, “The goose comes with the house.” When I arrived back home, I couldn’t wait to get back to the house. I was restless, pushing and shoving my through every line. I almost fell over when I reached for my suitcase in the luggage pick – up. I ran towards the airport doors, demanding the fastest taxi driver in the city. I needed to get back to the house in half an hour. “Ba’t ka nagmamadali?” asked the taxi driver, as we zoomed through the highway. I told him that my lolo died. He built the house that I had lived in most of my life. I told him that my lolo treasured everything about the house — the wide, white walls, the large, red roof, the glossy, silver gate. “At yung mga hardin,” I told the driver. I must have said it five or six times, and each time, I would tell him that I loved running through the flowerbeds with my cousins, going as high as I could in the swing set, jumping into the swimming pool with my pambahay on and Yaya would get so angry. I told him that I loved the house, that you could climb up the mango tree and you wouldn’t realize how big it was. And I couldn’t miss his funeral, because Lolo loved it too. When we got to my house, I grabbed my bag, paid the driver and rang the doorbell. Once. Twice. Five more times. Our old labandera was the one who answered the gate. “Bulilit!” she shrieked, enfolding me in her arms. “Lumabas si Mommy at Daddy mo! Kasama sina Ate at Kuya.” “Okay lang, Manang,” I told her. “Nandito lang ako para sa gansa.”

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I rushed past her, took a shortcut and cut to the yard and I saw that the grass was so tall that it reached my knees. Insects flew everywhere — they circled my head, clung to my hair, bit my skin. I felt my palms grow sweaty and my heart race as I approached the pond, which looked the same as I had left it — stagnant, murky, and strewn with water sliders and mosquitoes. The one thing that was different was the small cardboard box by the edge of the pond. I approached it, nervous, my heart slamming against my rib cage. Why was I so nervous? I never loved the animal. I peered into the box. Inside was a wilted, pallid creature, looking as stiff and pasty as dried up glue. Its wings, which looked like soggy pieces of soiled cloth, were tucked under its feet, which did not look like feet anymore, but sloppy, browning things that looked damp and crooked. This was not the goose; this was not anybody’s goose! The goose was tall and plump and strutted around the gardens with her wings outstretched and her beak high up in the air. I did not want to believe it. I closed my eyes. I did not cry, but I felt like a million strings had been tied up inside me, and some painful, invisible force was pulling and tugging at each of them, over and over, as if forcing me to scream and burst out in tears. But I couldn’t. How — how could I ever love that animal? I stumbled back into the house, opened my eyes and saw the house — its yellowing walls, the cracked, marble floors, the aged, old furniture pushed to one corner. I looked up and saw the holes in the ceilings where the chandeliers used to be, the hooks on the walls where the paintings once hung. In my delirium, I wondered whether this was really my house — the house — the one that I had spent so many days of my childhood running around, screaming, being chased after by my cousins, or Yaya or sometimes Lolo, who would find me under the table and coax me out, saying: “Iha nandito na ang mga photographer. Won’t you tell them that this is such a beautiful house?” In that moment, I turned around and saw our family portrait, which hung placidly across a window. I walked over to it and stared at the picture. I did not bother to look at anybody but Lolo, who sat proud and erect on a cushioned armchair. He wore a gray velour suit, and his hair was slicked back behind his ears. On his lap was me, five or six years old, and I suppose the picture would have been perfect if I looked straight at the camera just like everybody else. In that moment, I collapsed on the floor and felt the walls of the house close up and consume me.

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carissa pobre

The Tenacity of the Foreign Element Robert Schumann self – proclaimed his madness to self – imprisonment. When divine visions of demons would appear he feared to his wife then died two years into asylum. In music one most speculated is Johannes Brahms and Robert’s wife, and self – devoted to her family. In 1879, his godson who was a poet untimely laid rest until Brahms unearthed his soul in Pörtschach am Wörthersee. Sempre dolce, sempre so please do not forget grace. Do not forget tranquillity poco a poco. By the late 1900s Vietnam was plagued and had to excavate the rice paddies that were where once there was and planted humanitarian settlements. The Kreisleriana was this is Robert’s schizophrenic. In harmonics sound is infinitely divisible. Every fraction of a string is a note we cannot hear, but Brahms is very clear. This is still a young man’s elegy. But the widow Clara is lost somewhere in its theme, Vietnam is still the mourning ground over someone else’s disasters. An American who lives across the street here once pushed a trolley of a tank of gas. That was the first time, and the neighborhood watched the ferocity in his endearment. 210


maria amparo warren

Once Leaving I was eight years old and there was a van. Almost fifteen years, and what I make of what I know — my glasses were broken even then, the lenses not as thick — we were running to the airport away from monsters without names. I’m twenty – three and I still wear glasses. They smudge when I view the cityscape from a crowded car in the train as it wails forward. I don’t know what I’m running from, so now I walk. They say when we left, we were strangers and I didn’t know that because once leaving I thought the people the same color and knew cars — not like this one, full of breathing. What I don’t know is what scares me. Once leaving I wanted reasons, why we had no more home and why they told stories of rooftops on fire and wild gunshots. I look below now, I watch pockets for my wallet and for fingers that would take it. I keep my glasses tightly on. Once leaving monsters I never thought of other monsters with scary tongues bumbling words I didn’t know. There could be one in this car who will growl that I’m a stranger. When my glasses are foggy I’m scared of what I don’t know. I am eight or twenty – three in a car around monsters I don’t see or know. Once leaving to these I am a stranger. 211


mark anthony cayanan

What To Call It When It Ends Say promise for that which you miss. Dissociate yourself from accusations, avoid recriminations, use You when you mean I: Say, the promise engulfs and lingers, warm afternoon or affliction. The promise oozes out like pus from an abscess. The promise, kept long after the sell – by date, has a sour taste, has tufts of blue and green sticking out of it, has to be eaten sparingly: Your supply has to last. Or: The first time the promise reared into recognition, color freckled your tremoring vision, light spurted into the smoke – clogged room, yourself so full of it, the promise gliding into you the way promises do, or should. When you awoke that afternoon, you declared the discarded tissues a sign of life. The promise with its capacity to inspire Latinates: the promise as tremendous edifice, the revered regurgitant.Your parted lips revisit the moment. The promise pressing against the skin of the first months, the promise sworn by every night, nudging hello every morning. Within days, the blanket made stiff by effusions of the promise. And how the promise thrust you into happiness, you lost 20 pounds in 11 months. How, before sleep, you lavished the promise with epithets: your Baby Brother, the Babe in the Cradle, Jesus in His Manger, deferential and all unoriginal, from Genet’s catalogue of blasphemies. You could’ve knocked every institution down, brandished the mighty promise, given the world its much –  212


needed multiple spankings. And Long, long, long ago opened your account of the promise to your friends. With your generous hand gestures. How you giggled at your crudeness, as that’s how something is when it can’t be contained. But the mechanism of the promise was mercilessly efficient: Demanded performance thrice each day, five on the weekends; occluded time for anything else. And so you wanted days when the promise had to be left alone, the proper thing to do the euphemism for boredom. Still you groped for his promise in the dark of the theater to preserve the promise of interest, spent time together watching a lot of movies, ones in which someone always dies the first few minutes to set the tenor of the next two hours, and violins lament. Let the promise find its fulfillment in the giant waves whelming the city, spreading their tentacles toward the hero, and so on. Kept rubbing your eyes in the drives back home, the promise best put to sleep. Spent weeks being good, following schedules, until finally: The promise started moving like gossip, passed around from mouth to mouth. Then your friends overheard, as friends conveniently do. Over drinks you recalled the first awkward conversation, how you’d always been drawn to boys who liked to mumble or slouch or crack jokes with silly puns, who could keep their promises to themselves, who felt no urge to stick it into the most proximate premises. The irony sticking out like a turgid promise. Said the catholic nature of the promise surprised you. It didn’t. Said it was all your fault, though you left room for objection. How one time he came home and dropped

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into the hamper unidentified underwear smelling of another’s promise, and you saw it for what it was: a test. And so you wore the test to work the week after just to prove a point, the shape of which you didn’t know. All the while the promise right next to you at night. All the while the window, flung, as promised: All the while the willing neighbor kneading flour as surely as he worked his own promise. Days of bashful glances and small talk before he went over to show you how this was done. Done during afternoons when you were alone. Your evenings bristling with unstated stories. Until one day. When he didn’t come back for his clothes, you didn’t ask for explanations. With none given, the clothes were given away. And then: Weeks of embarrassment. Then sadness, or something that started out like it: The promise excised from your heart, the veins of it still throbbing, extending across the earth, divine and terrible, sidling up mountainsides, sliding along valleys. And so you cried on the phone one night, You’re a dick, you’re a dick, if only to feel it slapping your cheek.

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mark anthony cayanan

A Fatal Error Has Occurred They are marching on the sidewalk leading to the tenement, these specimens of classical musculature. Stripped of color, tunics draped like firm declarations. They are trampling on the chain – link fence, causing stray cats to panic, petty criminals to discard the stolen wallets. Where their soles step on, topiaries fester. This is a social worker’s cough syrup dream. This is a young adult plot. Should this be the world that has to lie in wait. I can feel something over my shoulder wanting to leap ahead of us, bolt past the dead hours of the morning, the maculate afternoons. And what would I not find if I turn. What would compel me to keep still, be taken. When you intrude into the question, you fulfill it absolutely. The sentence I nod my head to, story that does not depend on my telling. I keep insisting that this be about something else, but the years are settling into the skin. Little things keep happening. I have been walking around wearing what I am. What right does he have, disregarding my requests. He behaves like one whose affection I once owned, face as welcoming as a paper plate, examining his nails as a way of seeming busy. He looks at that place and picks out the color of the walls, settles on the pattern of the table runner. He can make friends with the neighbors, know which wine to bring. When he hands you the shopping list. When you ask him which brand. Do you want to tell him when you’ll be back and keep your word. I depend on you to refuse, and you say, All right. Which means what, like so. You are ready to drive into the tidy garage of this new house. Who in the kitchen will ask you to wash your hands. The mismatched chairs of the living room will preserve the ruse that we are each of us still ourselves. And these gods moving toward us, which part of us will they claim. May we ask that we be judged. We are not to be granted a second glance. How everything at first sounds like a delicious secret. But once it’s told.

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agustin rodriguez

Fucking Buckley There was the story of a man who had a gift and a curse — both framing the tragedy of this love. First the gift: for every woman he met, he was able to intuit their true heart’s core. He knew, without their ever having to say, what the cupped hands in the deepest chambers of their hearts held dearest. He intuited what it was they valued, what they lived and wept for, what was the secret sorrow that framed their gravity or anchored their quiet acceptance of whatever tragedy threw at them. Intuiting that, seeing it so well, he knew the words that would open their cupped hands so that he could ease their pain or loneliness, so that he could cup his hand in the secret of their heart and sit there with them. Because of that gift he could have the most profound and intense relationships with women. He could sit in silence with them and he would understand them and that was all that mattered. Their gravity would lighten and they would have love. The curse is that he intuited this truth in all women and to its call he would be captive. And every time it was as if he drowned in their presence. It was like he was caught in the gravity of stars on which he would burn, but he could not help but love them. Each and every one of them he loved. Sometimes he would fuck them because their pain was so palpable. It’s like the girls say about Buckley: they would like to make him cum his despair. He wanted to make them cum with reverberations so deep they would shake the sorrows lose from the secret chambers of their hearts. But he did not have the apparatus to make them cum that deeply. He could only make them cry.

216


rie takumi

A Job in the Morning The empty carnival grounds loomed over Roland even in his dreams. The candy cane – colored tents were mottled and foreboding, the soggy green – brown ground mawkish and cracked with drought in impossible places; the rides looked frail, skeletal, defeated —  they seemed more like displays than working machinery. Out of every place he’s been to since he agreed to help Paul move soon – to – be cadavers, the carnival was the strangest, and he’d been in places no sane person should be allowed to habituate. He should have expected this, of course. Saying yes to a strange little man after saving him from drowning in a mountain of garbage was bound to get Roland in these situations That day outside 7-11 was the last day of normalcy in his life, and he wasn’t quite sure if he missed not hauling dead people or not. What he didn’t miss was this stupid carnival, which hardly changed since the last time they were here. The rides were still wasted, the grounds muddied only by spilled drinks; at least the tents had a few more holes in them. A few suited men were clustered in odd places with others in track suits and jean jackets. Roland was able to hear a few things from their whispered conversations, though he tried to pretend that he didn’t. Long – stocked gun barrels stuck out from some of the men’s jackets; he’d rather see them from afar than feel them pressed against his chest. Those men were new additions to the park — at least, the more interesting additions to the park. Four midgets on a lion walked past them; it was a testament to how much Paul concentrated on not looking lost that he didn’t bat an eye at the sight. The other times they were here, people scrambled to get out, not to stay in. The security in the place couldn’t possibly be a reason for these guys —  the ones with the guns  — to be here. A few corpses in the local medical school, and one in China, attested to that. “These guys might be plainclothes cops,” he told Paul as they walked to the owner’s trailer. Paul looked at him suspiciously over his shoulder. He was short, not midget – short, but short enough to wallow in a dumpster without anyone noticing for a while. His face had the sort of Ivy League drop – out quality to it that was hard to notice when he adamantly tried to bury it by bleaching his hair into Sk8r Boi – trashiness. Roland tried to point out how trashy his hair made him look, but then Paul pointed out that he still kept his bearded band – guy look after he promised his girlfriend to look presentable, so he shut up. “Rockstar,” he said, ignoring Roland’s disgruntled protests not to use the offensive nickname, “if these guys were cops, I would know. Now shut up while I try to remember where the office is.” 217


This left Roland to look around and ponder on how much he hated this place. Even the air around the carnival felt like it wanted to him to keep his mouth shut. Every breath Roland drew crackled in his throat and dried his lungs as though he was on the very top of the rickety Ferris wheel in the middle of the fairgrounds. This was the tenth job they’ve done in the place, and the fourth in a month, but it still bothered him to even see an outline of the fairgrounds. It made him want to turn around and leave, go back to his house or Paul’s, maybe, and sleep, but his friend was already talking to the new owner of this desolate park. Unlike the previous owner’s paunchiness, this man’s fat made him look like a pushover. It didn’t help that he, unlike the Italian – cut suit the man who handled business with Paul before sported, wore a track suit that made him look like a slug. It made him an easy target for his friend’s insults, which ranged from inner – city drag queen to things even hipsters won’t know. As it were, the small man’s voice was reverberating across the nearly – empty carnival grounds. “Four! We ain’t exactly making a killing out here!” “Sure, dude. Three —  and that’s it; that’s the lowest we’re taking.” Roland can practically feel the retort in the owner’s throat. The poor man probably thought he could scam Paul into working for nothing, but the new guy probably hadn’t heard of his friend’s near – legendary panhandling skills. At the end of the deal, a wad of bills considerably larger than just three hundred dollars made its way to his back pocket. Roland tried to count how much the fat slug gave them, but he had inkling he’d be disappointed when Paul gives him barely a hundredth of the width of the bundle. Paul bounced on his knockoff Converse while he and Roland wondered what they were moving this time. A girl? A boy? Perhaps that old guy who worked the Tunnel of Love. The old man told him that he and the mistress were going to try the Astro – Blaster before he had his pacemaker installed. “Remember that old guy in the Tunnel of Love?” Roland asked, ducking under an overhanging electrical wire from a dodgy – looking Tilt – a – Whirl. “Ain’t him,” Paul answered. He had a map of the place in one hand and a flashlight on the other. For all the good that he was when it came to petty crime, he was shit with directions and even worse with asking for them. “We should’ve brought Leticia with us,” mused Roland. Leticia was a highly competent lady – of – the – night, who passed the bar exam a few years back with flying colors before she lowered herself to Paul’s level. Why she’d lower herself from rich to rat – poor, Roland would never understand. In fact, he often wondered why Paul had a decent, if criminally – inclined, set of friends, since the guy was scummy enough to embarrass the Manhattan river. Then again, he is a friend of Paul’s. Leticia was really good with directions and didn’t shout at him as much as Paul. She was also, according to Paul, very good at making off with her customers’ things while they 218


tried shaking off the feeling of having a six – inch heel stuck in places where it shouldn’t. Having known this from experience (multiple experiences, in fact), Paul wasn’t as fond of Leticia as Roland was. He contacted her only when not calling her meant death. Hence his reply, “I’d rather she be dead the next time we meet.” They stopped in the middle of a crossroads as Paul tried to work out if they passed the left they were supposed to turn to. “Why’s there so many corpses here anyway?” Roland asked, more to break the oppressing silence the carnival was pressing into the deepest recesses of his skull. And it was a pretty fair point: he’s been doing this with Paul for the past year, and he’s never done more than two jobs in the same place. Sure, they’ve been to more than one parking garage under a law firm, but it’s never been the same law firm. Paul threw his arms to the side and spun around slowly. “Look at this place. Who the fuck sets up a fucking carnival in a magically – empty field — with real fucking weeds — near New York? It’s near rich suburbs and my shithole slums, near a highway with a high death count, and near New Jersey. The clincher’s that this place’s so dodgy people think it’s stupid to actually throw bodies here.” “We should’ve taken a job far from here. Maybe in Mississippi. Or Delaware,” Roland muttered as they started walking to a crossroad. He noticed a lunchbox containing a picture, some dirt, and a bone, open and half – buried in the middle of it. He then looked up and saw a sign that said ‘Summon the Crossroads Demon — It Really Works!’. “You think this thing actually works?” Paul made a face and responded, “Would explain all the evil shit going down this joint. Is that a hot dog stall, or are they selling fetuses? Jesus H.. I don’t think this place has even heard of hygiene permits.” They were getting closer and closer to the Ferris wheel, despite the layout of the place creating a labyrinth from the stalls and rides. From behind the stands, a few naked or scantily – clad people emerged, covered with mud and substances no one was impolite enough to point out. It reminded Roland of the first time he was shot in the job. Paul plucked him from his shift in 7/11 and dragged him to an abandoned crime scene. The corpse was there, but so were the cops. By the time he and Paul came out of the sewer they hid in, his wound had festered into something ugly and Paul was bemoaning the fact that would miss payment for his apartment that month. Some of the workers slept in the same area they worked in, the cupboards underneath their games or concession things functioning as lodging and storage areas. The corpse they moved five days ago had Paul scrounging through every cupboard in the place, since the former owner thought it was funny seeing them crawl. Amidst the early – morning stragglers, Roland noted that some of the men with

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guns were walking around, trying to look discrete even as their pomade – slicked hair shined under barely – functioning fluorescent bulbs. Was there some kind of congregation of rockabillies in the carnival? In fact, wasn’t Paul in his rockabilly phase when he introduced him to his street friends? He wanted to ask his friend what he thinks of it, but Paul was currently in the middle of a rant touting the importance of having a back – up plan for back – up plans. He ended up complaining that the resulting disaster from the one time they resorted to his back – up plan wasn’t entirely his fault — how was he to know that the husband of the body they were moving would grab his crotch? Roland yawned. “Shift manager from 7-11 made me take the night shift again”. He stuffed his hands inside his hoodie as they moved again. “You and fuckin’ 7-11 lining me up with jobs. Barely shut my eyes this month, man.” They stopped in front of the large Ferris wheel — the one Roland swore has been looking at him funny since they stepped into this god – forsaken place. It was only then that Paul turned to look at Roland to answer, with a shit – eating grin stretching his olive skin, “You’ll do nothin’ but sleep when you’re dead.” “But I want sleep now. Do you even remember what sleep feels like?” Paul had deep, dark grooves under his eyes and had the same shirt he had on when they last met, which was two days ago. It was probably why he was being more of an asshole than usual too, which sucked for Roland. Paul slapped him up his head and retorted, “I still need a partner. And I don’t have much use for sleep.” “Why? D’you lose your apartment?” “Still there, but don’t got much to do there, so might as well get more money.” The Ferris wheel moved slowly as the operator (one of the jean – jacketed fellows) lowered the carriage that contained their departed quarry. Roland doesn’t even remember what happened to the stiff this time: he was busy not sticking his elbow into the butter dish while Paul and the owner discussed the particulars over the phone that morning. The only thing he did remember is that this was the fourth body they had to remove from the carnival over the week. Questions popped into his mind, of course, but over the corpses and cold coffee that he’d gone through with Paul, he’s learned not to question their source of income. It wasn’t his place to question where he got most of his wages, he reasoned. This was something he reasoned with himself since he got to his first corpse, and something he’ll reason until his last, which would hopefully come sooner than later. “Ro, quit playing with your dick and get your ass over here!” Paul was already in the compartment, looking like he’s about to tear off what was left of his hair as he looked at something on the floor. Roland wondered if Paul had questions too, especially when he looked like this, lips pursed and pierced eyebrows set against each other. Roland barely reached the compartment door when he noticed 220


something odd about the scene. “Smells like your breath in the morning,” Roland observed, “but it doesn’t smell like death. You sure this one’s dead?” “It’s not,” came Paul’s reply, barely audible through gritted teeth. Roland found Paul’s hands in his pants’ pockets as soon as he stepped inside the compartment. He was about to shove him off when he saw the supposedly – dead body convulsing on the floor, and instead said, “Phone’s in my back pocket – right cheek.” The body still breathed, though it looked more shitfaced than any 5th avenue hooker they ever saw. It was a she in five – inch platform boots, vest vomit – splattered and stretched over a protruding stomach, and shorts stained with blood coming from the crotch. Roland didn’t easily get nauseous, but the smell of puke and vagina – emanated blood turned his stomach. “Think we should rush her to the hospital?” asked Roland. He covered his eyes. “That’s a stupid idea. What’re we gonna say? ‘We found a fat and – or pregnant hooker in platform double – suede with either vagina or rape blood and vomit all over her in a carnival while looking for a body we were paid to dispose of by selling it to med students at universities.’ That’ll go well in the emergency room. No — we’re calling for back – up.” “Oh. Right.” Roland rubbed his cheeks slowly. He forgot that Paul could be an outright insensitive prick when it came to these things. “How did you know the boots were made of suede? What’s double – suede?” “I always wear a pair when I’m posing as a slut,” Paul sniffed and nudged the lady with the tip of his sneaks. The half – dead woman slowly rolled over and before crashing down, rocking the compartment and exposing two disfigured nipples. Roland covered his eyes with his hands. The last thing he saw was Paul dialing something, and it was only when he hummed, “Pick up the damn phone” when Roland realized something crucial to his pending freedom. “Won’t that fat guy get mad at us for calling on the po – po? And why do you pretend to be a hooker — “ He can feel Paul’s disdainful gaze penetrate the fleshy walls of his hands. “I’m calling OUR back – up, you ‘tard.” Roland blinked twice; once, because he can’t think, and twice, because the Ferris wheel operator’s stupid shiny shield necklace nearly blinded him as the guy ducked into the compartment. The Ferris wheel operator grimaced at the scene and said, “What’re you guys waiting for?” Paul flipped him off and muttered, “Why don’t you call it in with your fancy little Bluetooth earphone shit, motherfucker.” “Hey…” Roland said slowly, kneeling at a spot in the compartment floor that wasn’t covered in any substance. “Doesn’t she look familiar…?” Paul paused in the middle of a conversation to stare at the body. He stared at it for a 221


long time. Then he swore. Hardly an hour later, Roland found himself watching three midgets as they pushed a barrel with another midget in it into a lion cage. Paul’s back – ups were clearing up the mess with the owner, which meant a lot of unsubtle threats. ‘Cause, even though contacting Leticia was an event reserved for near – death experiences, Paul did hire her again and again, despite knowing the inevitable boot – to – the – gonads, and that was akin to caring in the short man’s book. Being the newest one in the crew, they made him the look – out. This, of course, meant, “Do something that won’t cost us our rent money this month”. Roland rather liked it. What he didn’t like was the fact that he had to do it under the devious stares of the willowy roller coaster, the bearded lady, the skeleton man, and the mustachioed aqua – man, who indeed looked like a fish with a moustache (Roland thought that he should’ve been named Catfishman instead). It was bad enough that a job went horribly wrong, but being stared at by circus freaks like he was the freak made everything worse. Though from their standpoint, he supposed he was a freak. Here he was, twenty – five years old, a degree in graphic design and a couple of old band mates lamenting his decision to work for a twenty – four hour convenience store so he could stay close to a girlfriend who made him leave his band and forbade him from getting any more tattoos . What was he supposed to do? Leave her? Join a phony competition and roll around in “bitches and greens”, as Paul kindly put it? The three midgets were about to use the barrel with their fellow midget as a treadmill, with their lion running the conveyor belt they ran on, when something about the Ferris wheel operator struck Roland. Before he can say anything, he was hurtling away from the midgets, dragged along by a frenzied Paul. “I think the guy from the Ferris wheel is a cop,” he breathed, and Paul, despite running pell – mell towards an unknown destination, clipped him on the head. “Why’d you think we’re running, dick cheese?” shouted Paul as gunshots split the air behind them. This promptly shut Roland’s mouth and caused him to focus on not tripping over his laces as they raced past unhygienic concession stands, only to head for far more unsanitary comfort rooms. “They’ll see us come in here,” Roland shouted as Paul hurled him inside the mold – infested bathroom. Paul trapped them in a cubicle, their asses squirming on top of the toilet’s water chamber, and answered, “No, they won’t. They’ll be too busy chasing the others. Leticia’s still in the compartment, damn it. If the cops did see us, they won’t follow us in this shithole.” Roland opened his mouth to ask (which he regretted immediately — he was sure the place was a biological hazard): “We’re not seeing the others again, are we?” Paul merely nodded in response. 222


“Well, damn. I thought LaToya was good – looking for a tranny.” Paul merely nodded again. Roland blinked as he heard people shout outside, and only by the virtue of the restroom’s hazardous odor did the people avoid it. When the noises outside finally subsided, Roland hazarded another question: “What happened?” Paul licked his lips before answering, “Turns out that that the one with the shit – and – piss track suit is a pig from the FBI. The other Pastramis and Goodacinnis around the carnival were moles too.” Paul was red in the face, straining, trying not to shout, “Fuck that cunt”, and it took him a few wild gesticulations before he could continue, “He was going to set us up, see? That’s why he was so easy to talk to about the money — he was hurrying us up for the set – up, so the feds can get us with the other Pegorinos. Well, fuck him. Leticia heeled Ratface in the balls when he tried touching her while me and Jose was talking to the undercover pig.” “I thought we got Ratface to stop fucking the stiffs,” Roland muttered. He probably needed to quit 7-11 because of this. As it was, he was running late for his shift. He wondered if his girlfriend would run away with him. She was the breadwinner between them, so he doubted she’d quit her career for her boytoy. The thought somewhat made him happy. Paul clutched his wrist, and Roland was forced to tear his gaze away from the yellow mould moving on the floor to look at him. “You’re not listening again,” Paul said, his grin feral and a little addled. “The fat – fuckass wanted to close the deal early, so he gave me more than he said he would.” He patted his trouser pocket, the one not pressed against Roland; it bulged with bills. “We have enough here for a little cross – country trip and a place to lie low in Midwest,” Paul said confidently, and knowing him, Roland knew he could make it happen. “What about the others? If they escaped, we need to help ‘em out,” Roland asked as they sneaked out of the comfort rooms minutes later, when they were sure that the search party was well away from them. “An’, I dunno, Midwest sounds like an obvious place to escape to.” “They won’t look past Jersey,” Paul replied. He brought the map of the park out of his jacket and worked out a path away of this place. “Last thing I saw of Henry and Dennifer, they were hauling LaToya on a live tiger while shooting back at the cops. They’ll do fine on their own.” “You sure man? Jose and Dennifer’s got a family to feed, they can’t run. Ratface is a ‘tard. Henry’s gotta take care of LaToya and Leticia. Oh shit, Leticia. What if she doesn’t make it?” They heard gunshots somewhere in the labyrinth of tents behind them. For the first time since Roland met the guy, Paul looked hesitant. “There’s a market for moonshine Midwest, right?” said Paul, stumbling on a rope that held the tent that they ducked behind. 223


“Dude, it’s not just us in trouble,” replied Roland. “You’re the one who told me that we’re all in this together.” “I only said that ‘cause you made me watch that goddamn pansy musical.” “That’s not the point.” “We can’t help them if we don’t help ourselves first.” “We might not get the chance to later if we leave now.” Roland knew that that was that. He pushed his luck, and implying compassion for others rather than compassion for their own asses meant that the conversation was over for Paul. And we were so damn close to talking about feelings. Again, he thought. They marched on and saw a gap in the fence on the outskirts of the fairgrounds. The land before it, compared to the somber nature of the carnival, was wholly unnatural, with its wide expanse of tall grass and boulders. It was a proper wasteland, which meant it looked out of place when compared to the cement pavement on the other side of the carnival. Roland was halfway through the hole in the rusty fence when he noticed that Paul had stopped a long way behind him. “C’mon man, we might get caught,” he said, hearing distant crashes of tents forcibly ripped down. Paul rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t fuckin’ know, man. We got a pretty good set – up here.” And for all the time they had before this particular moment, Paul chose to have a lapse of humanity there and then. They were finally too far away to physically help the guys out and too damn near to an exit to do what Paul wanted before this ridiculousness. Roland did the only thing he could think of that would snap his partner out of it, which was, incidentally, the first thing Paul would’ve done to him if he hesitated. He walked over to where Paul was standing and punched him in the solar plexus. Or, would’ve punched him in the solar plexus, if Paul hadn’t swerved away at the last moment and return the unmade favor. “That’s done with. Let’s go, dickbag,” said Paul as he bounced to the fence. Roland hobbled to the fence, still bent double from the douchebag’s punch. It was fucking painful, but it was way better than having an emotional crisis. Who the hell needed that kind of thing when they’re a few weeks of hiding and bribed copper mouths from being poor again? Not to mention a hours from seeing their friend’s mugshots on a CNN breaking news piece. “D’ya really think we’ll — ” Roland coughed, “ — get back in business Midwest? That easy? We don’t know anyone out there.” It was a split – second event, but he didn’t survive this long without noticing those moments. There was a slight misstep in the bounce of Paul’s knockoffs, just a slight one, but it caused him to walk the rest of the way to the fence. Roland took it as a sign 224


to change tracks. “Couldn’t be easy to knock them conservatives out.” Paul shrugged the best he could as he slithered through the hole in the fence. From this side, it was clear that the sprawling wild rushes they saw from the carnival ended abruptly in a high wall, which probably enclosed a warehouse mart. Which, of course, meant a tricky bit of sneaking around until they met a highway or sprawl of bulrushes and seriously, how the hell were there still grasslands in New – fucking – York? Roland looked at Paul for guidance. Paul shrugged and said, “We’ll get clients from rich old folks wanting to bury prostitutes they imported from Vegas or something, probably. Or not get a lot of clients at all. Too many damn open fields to do real business there. They trudged on nonetheless. Roland thought he’d rather take on the wilderness than step inside a carnival ever again. “Still, dead people there have the decency to stay dead.”

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christine lao

Gretel* so I strayed from the aisle where you’d left me   but left a trail so if you looked   you would know I had meant you to follow so I crumbled   our cookies & they dropped   from my pocket though this was the grocery not a forest of crows   still I went hungry & still I grew cold   as I made my way out & into the mall & its stalls oh its stalls all so brightly lit   & towards the stall with   the toy cars you loved to look at, you said, before they turned into pumpkins   but it was too late & I ran   out of crumbs & by the bakery too so I took off a shoe laid it softly aground   pointing toward the house of gingerbread & sweets 226


that looked good enough to eat though it was only gumpaste on cardboard & I   was nibbling the roof when you finally   found me you & that salesgirl that damsel in distress was it she who had called you back to claim me? But dear silly Hansel, why are you dressed   like mall security? Why the rough hands   pushing me out the door? Now your exit’s behind me   now the lock has been turned now before me the twilight   & its stinking pelt & beyond the unfathomable dark. Why, I say to it, What big teeth you have.

*   First published in Kritika Kultura 19 (2012): 327-328

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christine lao

Sylvia's Mirror AfterSylvia Plath

I am a lake. A woman now bends over me, reaching for what she really is. An old woman rises toward her day after day, a terrible fish. A terrible fish rises toward her day after day. An old woman reaching for what she really is bends over me. I am that lake, that woman now.

228


jenina ibañez

Alamat After Jorge Luis Borges

Everything remembers its past self. Take this river, for instance. This river that named us: taga – ilog. There is a man sitting on the banks in a pose that remembers a past of fish: hands extended in anticipation, or patience, or faith. The boy playing empty – can drums on the back of a jeep, the little girl sipping soda from a plastic bag, the man weaving between cars while selling cigarettes, do they remember? That there was a woman here who madly searched for a lost son. Back when the roads were cobble and all were attempting a different tongue. That wars passed here like monsoon rains, then moved on to other cities. All the stories that seeped into our homes: the parables, the ghost stories, the aswang, the one about the bamboo stalks from which we inherit our strength. In the beginning there was only earth, And the fields stretched as if rivers to the ocean. How it came to be is beyond us. We leave the narratives to our grandmothers whose eyes look upon this city as if it were the fading grey of old photographs. 229


I would like to believe that under this concrete I could still feel the earth tremble. That the sun still exalts past victories. That nothing could be washed away by this infinite rain. Take this street, for instance. There is a man sitting on the sidewalk and he is watching the traffic as if it were a current. As if everything still stretched and stretched always, towards the sea.

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cyan abad – jugo

Feast Day In the island of Halina, they celebrate the Feast Day of the Santo Niño a little differently. For this one day the men cook for their women, husbands roasting pigs and boiling rice for their wives, and suitors laying out strips of fatty pork and beef and chicken on the coals for a tasty inihaw with which to impress their only ones. The younger boys run errands for the older men, harvest some kangkong or sitaw for the sinigang, steal some eggs from under the hens for the leche flan, climb coconut trees for the buko juice, milk the cows for the cream that went with the fruit salad, and go around the village square to ask for a bit of missing ingredient or to babysit. “Tito Dencio, my Tatay is asking if you’ve got a little salt to spare,” Martin might ask, while looking around for his cousin Cely. “Martin, please help Nonoy feed the baby,” Tito Dencio might request, before giving the salt. Yes, the younger boys might have to help, with the younger girls, to take care of even younger children and babies. Once the girls have had their First Communion, they must go with the women to the seaside, there take the boats of their fathers and brothers, husbands and lovers, and sail out into the ocean where they tie the boats together in a circle and anchor them to some of the rocks and corals below. Then they all swim in the deep and enjoy themselves, all of them, singing, chatting, tugging at each other’s braids, or just lying on their backs to gaze at the blue sky above. Today, Cely has gone with them, having had her First Communion last December. Her heart beats in time with the waves as the boats point their bows up, then down. She squeezes her mother’s hand, and her mother squeezes back. Though she is surrounded by other relatives, her Tita Hannah at the rudder, her older sister Maria, and her Lola Donna, it feels as if she has her mother all to herself, because they have left her younger brother Nonoy with youngest brother Baby behind. She cannot wait to jump into the sea and feel the water and the sun on her skin, but she also cannot wait to go home and partake of the feast with her cousin Martin, and compare notes about how different their day was. Soon they reach the reefs that the women have chosen for this year’s celebration. They tie the boats together, singing praises to the Holy Infant, thanking him for their plentiful fish. Then Old Jacinta, the oldest among them, leads the prayer, entreating the Child Jesus for his continued generosity. Cely looks at her from the corner of her eyes, which are supposed to be closed like everyone else’s; she would like to ask Old Jacinta how the Infant and the Child are related, or if the Infant has quickly, magically, grown into a child. Old Jacinta is wrinkled and stooped, and her skin is mottled, but it 231


is fairer than any of the women there. She also has far – seeing brown eyes, which gazes across the ocean towards the mainland, Hosanna, then up at the sky. She then looks at Cely directly and winks. Cely feels a tingling in her cheeks and bows her head, wiping at her brow. She catches herself praying that the praying would soon stop so that she can take off her sticky dress and jump into the sea. Soon enough, as if Old Jacinta hears what she says in her mind, the old woman ends her prayer. The women break into more singing, although some begin chatting among themselves and getting ready for their swim. The moment the song stops, Cely finds she cannot restrain herself any longer. The moment her mother helps her out of her dress, she jumps, among the first in the water. The water cools Cely’s skin even as she feels the warmth of the sun beat down her back. Cely treads in the water, watching her mother help fold the clothes and stow them at the aft of their boat and then help Lola Donna into the water before she can join Cely. Soon they surround her, thWe women in her family, and around them the women and young girls in their village. Cely knows other villages have their own circle too, somewhere in the ocean, perhaps on the other side of the island. Her older sister Maria surfaces beside her, and Cely giggles at the sight of Maria’s breasts. Maria splashes her with water, disgusted, not knowing that Cely secretly hopes that one day she would have the same graceful shape as her sister. If her sister had fins instead of legs, she would make the most beautiful mermaid. Before Cely can splash back at Maria, there is a commotion at the other side of their circle. “Whose boy is that?” someone calls, and Lola Donna thunders, “No boy is allowed here. Who brought him?” Someone else yells, “He’s too young to be Martin,” and Cely knows that Martin is eight like her, because he had the same communion day as hers. Something surfaces in the very middle of the circle, but Cely is too far behind the other women to see clearly. “It IS a boy,” Maria squeals, covering herself. “Don’t be silly,” their mother says. “It didn’t look anything like a boy.” Cely dodges past her mother and with firm strokes tries to get herself nearer the middle. Another girl around Maria’s age squeals. Cely sees a pair of round eyes gaze at her before a splash of water gets into her eyes. Tita Hannah has swum towards her and pulled Cely back. Cely is not sure if the little boy had hair or not. The women, old and young, look around them, at the water, and then at each other. There is a hush, and some of them shiver. Old Jacinta continues to lie on her back, her face to the sky. “If it is a boy, it has to come back up for air.” But nothing comes back up for air. Tita Hannah crosses herself. “Maybe it’s a syokoy. It wants to abduct one of us.” “Don’t be silly,” Cely’s mother scolds her. “It certainly won’t be you,” Maria murmurs at the same time, and then smiles at Cely. Cely was meant to hear. And then the boy appears beside Cely, only it is not a boy but a laughing creature with a tail, all silver – gray and shiny, with a grinning dimpled mouth. It kisses Cely on the 232


forehead, making the girl gasp, and then jumps an arc over her head before swimming away with a flick of the tail to join a school of dolphins all suddenly showing off nearby. The women laugh, and Cely hugs herself, attempting to contain her excitement until she can share the event with her cousin Martin. In their village Martin busies himself with attending to Cely’s younger brother Nonoy. He has just skinned his knee, for the moment Tito Dencio took Baby in his arms, Nonoy had run all over the square like a chicken set loose from the coop. While Martin cleans and blows at Nonoy’s knee, Tito Dencio feeds the Baby with milk from a tiny cup and Martin’s Tatay turns their fattest pig on a spit. All over the square other men do the same thing, while yet others cook the adobo and sinigang in open fires. Tatay smiles sympathetically at Martin and Nonoy, and says, “Why don’t you take a break and go to the beach. See if the women have returned?” Martin and Nonoy do not need to be told twice. They race towards the gate but do not bother to open it, jumping the low fence instead. Nonoy skids a little on the rough grass outside, but this only slows him down a little, and gives Martin, who has longer legs anyway, the lead. Martin has chosen the shorter path that leads from their village to the Church, which stands on Halina’s highest cliff overlooking the sea. From this cliff several of the more daring girls and boys have jumped straight down into the deeps below. It is believed that the Santo Niño himself protects them, and since anyone could remember, only one had been claimed by the waves, and he an unbeliever. No one could remember his name. Nonoy believes in the child Jesus as much as any boy his age, but still he wishes that Martin wouldn’t just jump into the sea but take the safer steps down the cliff and into the beach. “Martin,” he yells, about to ask him his plan. But Martin stops abruptly, and kneels on the turf right at the edge of the cliff. He leans out so far that Nonoy fears for his cousin’s safety, and drags Martin back with his collar. Martin merely points at the sea, and Nonoy squints against the sunlight to have a better look. The women are there, swimming in a circle; with the wind coming towards them, they could just catch bits and pieces of their song. But both boys see something else, a great splash of foam approaching the circle, something not quite in line with the rest of the waves. Before they can even cry out to warn the women, a dolphin breaks through the surface of the water and jumps in an arc towards the middle of the circle. Martin and Nonoy gasp. More curious than the women, who continue to sing, and who appear not to have noticed anything, the dolphin changes into a boy, and dances to their song on the surface of the water. He bends to dip his hands in the water, and then splashes them all in the face as if in benediction. And then with a laugh, he jumps another arc, changes into a dolphin in mid – air, and lands on the other side of the circle. The women blink and laugh, point to the pod of dolphins, then splash each other with water, shrieks filling the air. They are oblivious to one of the creatures breaking from his fellows and speeding away towards the cliffs. 233


Martin stands up and takes to the steps cut from the cliff. He rushes headlong until he is unable to stop his momentum, and spins out of control past the next step and into the air, then the sea, below. Nonoy screams for the women below, but they are too far to hear, and too busy getting into their boats and paddling back towards the beach past the cliffs, further into the cove. He clenches his grimy hands, and grits his teeth, then slowly makes his way down the steps. He keeps a hand on the cliff ’s face, and his feet and toes grip at the unevenness of the stone for better foothold. After what seems like an eternity, Nonoy finally finds himself nearer the sea. He peers over the edge onto the shiny rocks below, nearly sobbing “Martin? Martin?” but there is no sign of his friend. As he comes level to the shore and picks his way among the stones, he hears chortling. He stops and rubs his eyes, for he has seen two dolphins lolling on the sand, and now he sees two boys, wet from head to foot, with sand in their clothes and hair. They lie flat out on their stomachs and chests, the waves on the shore rolling upwards from their feet to their waists, and they’ve got an arm around the other. One boy Nonoy knows to be Martin, the other is someone new. “Martin!” he calls sharply, not knowing what to do. The strange boy leaps to his feet, faster than Martin, and fixes Nonoy with his round eyes. The sand in his curly hair glints in the sun, and he flashes Nonoy a brilliant smile. Nonoy finds himself smiling back. The boy can’t keep still. He dances around, while Martin stands up and brushes the sand off his clothes as best he can. And then the boy runs rings around Martin and Nonoy, crying, “Come and catch me!” They look in fear and wonder as the boy skips to the steps on the cliff face, and then runs up them in a blur of speed. Martin and Nonoy find themselves holding their breath, but they are grinning, too. After a while they climb the steps, hurrying, but much more carefully. Of course, once they reach the top, the little boy is nowhere to be found. That evening, Cely tells her story about the dolphin she thought was a boy, and Nonoy tells his story about the boy he thought was a dolphin, and all the townsfolk troop to the Church in high spirits to celebrate the Mass. There, to their surprise, the youngest friar gives the briefest Mass in all of Halina’s history. None of the other foreign priests are present, also another first in history, for usually they loved to march solemnly down the aisle in all their finery. Most astonishing of all, the carved, wooden, painted and bewigged figure of the Santo Niño, whose feast it was, remains hidden in his glass reliquary, and covered with the usual heavy velvet draperies. Every year the folk expect to file past the Santo Niño, out of his glass box and exposed to the open air. They would caress his feet, kiss his hands, bow or press their foreheads to his hems, or rub their kerchiefs on any portion of the figure. But now, today of all days, to be denied access! It is nothing short of a tragedy. Almost everyone gathers outside the Church after Mass, not willing to go to the village square and start the evening feast. Something vital seems missing; a glimpse of their saint would have been enough. They demand it, they pray for it, and they get their 234


miracle. The young friar had seen their faces of sadness or discontent during Mass and had taken pity on them. He felt the strength of their longing, and just maybe their true faith, and he was not about to let such an opportunity pass. He calls to them from a side door, and at first only the children take notice of the soft voice and beckoning hand. And then the folk begin to quiet, and a frisson of excitement and expectation soon surrounds them. In one body they throng to the Santo NiĂąoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s station, where the priest immediately unveils the carven image of their special saint and savior. In fear and wonder they stare at it. Only Cely, Martin, and Nonoy whoop with joy. They are soon hushed by their parents. For the Santo NiĂąo is completely soiled, encrusted with sand, from his brown curly hair down to his little toes.

235


vida cruz

To Megan, with Half My Heart To my dearest little girl: But then again, you won’t be so little when you read this now, will you, Meg? By the time you read this, who knows, you may have already had your first kiss, your first love, and your first heartbreak, just as I once did. I’m hoping that, even if it seems to me that your Papa and I have been misunderstanding each other’s words for some time now, he followed my instructions to keep this sealed until your seventeenth birthday — just as I’m hoping he did a number of other things I asked of him, such as reading you fairy stories every night and sending you to Miriam. These two are very important. You need a big imagination to digest what I am about to tell you, and I think it would be easier for me to watch over you if you spent most of your school life there. I don’t have much time. They could take you at any moment, that is true, but I am not leaving this car until I’ve written down all you need to know about the truth of why you’ve grown up without a mother. I have to start from the very start, back to my own days in elementary school, with a boy named Vincent. We were busmates from Grades 3 to 7. He’d always been small for his age, dark – haired and dark – skinned, the hand – me – down Ateneo Grade School uniform two sizes too big on him; but what eyes! Green like the leaves of the acacia tree that still stands today at the corner of the Miriam Grade School parking lot (I hope it’s still there for you to see). He couldn’t tell me if this trick of genetics was because of a father who was British or American or French or whatever because Tita Mercy, his mother, would not tell him. We would sit together at the back of the bus, ignoring all the pointing and giggling, and he would share bits of dried mango his mother packed in his lunch box for him and tell me stories of kapre falling in love with the high school girls; duwende tricking the loose change from little boys’ pockets; the lady in white who roamed the campus when the sun went down, wailing, wailing, wailing; and the diwata living in the trees, ever – flitting, watching all the students play and coming out at night to dance. I believed in all those things too, back then. You can believe anything when you’re nine. The difference between Vince and I was that he said that all these creatures were his friends and they often spoke to him. His idea of a “Hello, how are you?” was an “Ever wonder what the kapre in that tree does all day?” and instead of jokes, he told tidbits of folklore. For all these reasons, Vince was often the butt of jokes, the target of the crumpled paper balls, the kicks and pushes, the dirt, the mean laughter. Our friendship began with my curiosity and my guilt. It helped that we were both fluent English – speakers 236


and everyone else on the bus preferred to talk to each other in Tagalog; sometimes, I felt as if nothing anyone did to him mattered so long as we understood one another, even if I knew nothing about folklore before I met him. I never bullied him, but I did not stop anyone from bullying him, either. At first I wanted nothing to do with him, but I was forced to sit next to him at the back of the bus one day, when I got out of school a little later than usual, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking him why he was talking to himself. He obliged me with a story. I can no longer remember what it was about. But then he told me another, and then another, and then another, and before I knew it, we were in front of your grandparents’ house in Sikatuna Village and the all the boys and girls were hooting and calling us a couple and pelting him with Maxx and XO. Days after, Vince would joke that maybe he really didn’t belong there — maybe he was a changeling or a kapre or something, but I never found that funny. I remember having a hard time explaining your to Lola exactly why I came home crying when I had lost none of my things or had any bleeding wounds from falling on the ground either through my own clumsiness or the bullying of a schoolmate. How many little girls know how to explain their first experience of malice, anyway? Did you, Meg? I would have loved to have heard it if you had. By now I’m sure that most people have forgotten, but I used to write stories. I loved it, too. I used to have one of those foot – long pencils covered in smiley faces and a cheap notebook with blue ribbon binding and a family of rabbits on the cover, which had been orange. The first stories I wrote down with these things were not my own stories, though; they were records of the stories Vince would tell me on the bus going home, evidence of how much more I wanted to know. I doubt those first jottings were any good, but he told me they were and said he really appreciated it. He was a storyteller long before I was a writer, and it was he who first encouraged me to write my own stories. (I still have the notebook, actually; if you should ever want to see it, it’s in the taped Aldo shoebox in the very back of the top shelf of my closet. I haven’t looked at it in years.) I’m reading this over again and I realize I haven’t gotten to the point yet. Bear with me, sweetie; it’s a long story and it’s hard for me to write. It sounds like a cheap romantic comedy plot to me now, but there was no denying that Vince was in love with me all that time. I had no idea he was making room in his heart for me alongside all of that folklore; I guess it might have been because I was the first girl, maybe even the first person his age, to be nice to him, to somehow get whatever he was saying. Anyway, he didn't do anything about it, not until many years later, when we were in the middle of high school, in the middle of a Miriam fair, which also happened to be his first time inside the high school campus. Of course, he just had to do it when he’d grown taller, more sinewy, had joined the arnis varsity team, had earned the reputation of someone not to be messed with, and yes, he was popular with the girls. He still loved folklore, but he was also all those things; weird quirks didn’t matter in high school so long as you hid them or joked about them or let your peers know they’d be sorry for bringing them up. 237


Back then, meanwhile, I was awkward, frizzy – haired, mosquito – bitten, skinny. Your grandparents never did let me attend soirees unless letters and reply slips were distributed beforehand. When our religion teacher recited a list of prayers and asked if anyone knew them, I alone raised my hand each time. I was part of the Campus Ministry Auxiliary for all four years of my high school life, too (but they’re actually more fun than they sound and there were a lot of us: we used to clump together at the back of the gym every First Friday Mass, singing and dancing during all the hymns). I also spoke fluent English, got misunderstood, tried again in Tagalog, and was told it didn't suit me. I had friends, but they had no more bragging rights in the matter of boys and parties than I did. In spite of all this, Vince began courting me during the school fair of my sophomore year, the very first time he set foot in the high school campus. I wonder, Meg, are things still the same in the high school as they were in my day? How many new buildings must there be and have they left the Mini Forest alone? Are there any fields left or are they parking lots and swimming pool areas now? Do the students take the stairs or are there elevators for that? Is the old balete ring still there? And what about you — do you also feel left out because of the language you speak or the way you look or don’t look? Does your Papa let you go to soirees? Do you know all your prayers? Or are you on the other end of all these things? If you are, I’d find it extremely funny. Your Lola used to say to me “Life is like that” whenever I found something ironic or strange. But back to the story. “Did you know that human girls encourage a kapre’s attentions when they eat the fruits they give them?” That was what Vince said to me, more or less, while we sat on the bench directly across from the flagpole, slurping mango smoothies (he had bought me mine). There was a slight wind that day. Behind us, beyond the wire fence the administration had put up for the duration of the fair, was the cluster of huge balete trees. I wonder if those trees will still be there when you start going to school. I hope they are. They will make my job somewhat easier. “But you’re not a kapre,” I remember saying. “And these are fruit smoothies. There’s a difference.” “Technicalities, Leni. Give me a break.” Vince was laughing at the time. Only he ever called me Leni. I was Elena or El or Len to everyone else afterward, even your Papa, and I meant to keep it that way. I didn’t want to be reminded of Vince with so little a thing as a name. “Why? You’d give up right away.” Megan, I don’t care how much times have changed from my day to yours; you are to make whichever boy that falls in love with you wait. Yes, even if you love him back. It’s your first indication of his strength of character as well as the strength of his feelings. (Giddy as I was for my first taste of romantic attentions, I let him wait three months for my answer, by the way, which is also how long it took for me to get my feelings for him in order. This period of waiting was one of the conditions set 238


upon me if I wanted to have a boyfriend — specifically a boyfriend who was Vince — born of several big arguments between me and your grandparents; they knew they couldn’t stop me from seeing him or him from seeing me if either of us wanted to.) I remember that just as Vince was about to say something in reply, the wind blew a little stronger then, picking up all the fallen leaves and calachuchi flowers and blowing down the signs of a few booths. A few girls screamed and gripped their skirts. Vince’s eyes sort of glazed over, grew soft, and he turned to the balete behind us, as if looking for something. To me, now, it was as if someone had called out his name and he couldn’t find the one who called him. But when I shook his shoulder and asked him if he was all right, he turned back to me and smiled as if nothing happened. Then he poked my nose and teased me about being worried about him. I am telling you this, Meg, because I think that this is when the trouble began. I can’t recall any other instance that might have been the trigger for Vince’s strange behavior since the fair. After we came back from our sembreak, he began to cut classes and to absent himself for days on end. He was in danger of getting kicked out of the arnis team. His grades were slipping. When he was at school, whenever he picked me up after dismissal, the security guards could not seem to stop him from walking in the corridors in spite of their strict security protocols — visitor’s logbook, visitor’s ID, and all that. He always managed to slip in somehow, and he always wanted to meet me at the half – ring of benches around the same balete tree to share any mangoes Tita Mercy still packed in his bag every day in spite of fights growing more and more frequent between them (I found out because for a long time, he had me eat all the mangoes and I saw that in his bag, his lunch was untouched. Then came all my questioning). When I came out of my classroom, he would typically be looking up into the balete’s leaves. When he wasn’t daydreaming through our conversations, he was growing paranoid — always looking over his shoulder, always asking “Did you hear that?” But I didn’t think much of any of this. I thought it was just him being a little more himself than usual, pretending that it was okay that Vince hadn’t left his strange behavior in childhood like the rest of us; if I kept telling myself that, I could understand just about any of the changes, big and small, that came over him. I could also ignore the fact that, shortly after we became a couple, I started becoming sensitive to tricks of the light — from the corners of my eyes, whenever I passed the Mini Forest, I thought I saw figures moving between the trees. Sometimes, in class — no matter if my classroom was on the first, second, or third floors of the St. Therese of Lisieux building — from the corner of my eye, I would see someone by the window, but then they wouldn’t be there once I took a better look. The girl sitting behind me eventually took a disliking to me and requested a seat transfer because I often asked her if she was blowing down my neck. You would think this was something I would have told Vince, but I didn’t. I was in love with him, yes, but I was afraid that seeing things that weren’t there was contagious; I thought telling him about some of the things I saw confirmed 239


that not only he, but that I was strange — maybe even going crazy — too. I understood him, but that didn’t mean I had to be just like him. Meg, you may be wondering why, if I had seen the trouble from the very beginning, I had agreed to be Vince’s girlfriend — it wasn’t just because I was in love with him; it was because I thought he was the only person in the world that I knew deeply and who also knew me very well. I thought, naturally, that we should be together. Even before we became a couple, we finished each other’s sentences. I learned the fifteen different meanings of Vince’s ‘I love yous’ by paying attention to the way he said it. He knew what all the arrows, blotches, asterisks, and squiggly lines — symbols incompatible with any correction guide in existence — in my notebooks meant. Because he was the one who told the stories and I wanted to write them down as concisely as possible, I developed a talent for getting to the heart of any matter because I learned to ask the right questions when the story didn’t make sense. I came to think of my ability to understand him as both my shield and sword. This was at its truest when the nature of his own questions changed. Where before his questions were about the things around us and full of ease, now they were full of doubt of the worst kind — the doubt that hounds the self. “Do you think dreams mean anything when you’re awake, Leni?” “Leni, why do you think only I can hear these voices? Am I going crazy?” “Who do you think my father is, Leni?” “Leni, remember when I used to tell you I was really a changeling or a kapre or a duwende and maybe that’s why all the other kids used to pick one me? What if it’s really true?” But there is only so much that understanding can do, Meg, especially when the person you are understanding can’t or won’t tell you why he does what he does and you yourself are afraid to open up. Understanding can’t stretch infinitely in all directions like a plane, nor can it travel in only one direction like a ray. And no matter what you do, you can’t hope to understand someone completely; just as I know that if I had been there as you were growing up, I would have understood you the most and the least at the same time. I know, I’ve been there with your Lola. Trust me. And trust me when I say that that’s all right; I think that if we completely concentrated all of our understanding toward another person, we’d have nothing left for understanding ourselves. Which is why it took me an even longer time — longer than the three months it took to understand my feelings for Vince — to realize that we, as a couple, could not go on for much longer. I clung to him for over a year, Meg, in any way I knew how, even though he frightened me and we had a great many arguments over his behavior where before, we never used to argue at all. No one should ever have to make you feel as if you have to cling to them. So after one dismissal time just before Christmas break, I had him meet me under the acacia tree at the corner of the grade school parking lot, the same one under which we first met, and hiccupped between sobs that I couldn’t see him anymore 240


but I wanted us to remain friends. He didn’t like it, he protested, he said he had been looking forward to us going to each other’s proms, but he ended up agreeing with me when I pointed out that he wasn’t even paying attention to how I once said I’d go in a baro’t saya just to test if he was listening. We just needed time away from each other, I thought, that’s all. Maybe a few weeks. Finals were close after all, and that was the summer before our own college entrance exam season. But weeks turned to months without us seeing or speaking to one another. My seeing anything untoward ceased soon after too, to my relief. I also avoided coming near the balete ring, partly because just looking at it opened up a floodgate of memories for me, partly because one of my batchmates, a girl who liked to sit under those trees during lunch breaks, contracted dengue and died. The administration warned us to wear long – lasting mosquito repellant and to avoid staying too long at places like the balete ring or the creek running through the grade school. Until now, I don’t know whether we were too caught up in our own issues or if I, on my part at least, had used busyness as an excuse. Maybe I thought a language could live on even when it hasn’t been spoken in less than a year, but the truth is, Meg, you lose a few more words every day if you don’t practice often. I entered my final year of high school without having even seen Vince once. I was afraid things would end there, but I was even more afraid of picking up the phone and hearing his voice — and worse, the strangeness beginning again. As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry so much on that end. The CMA was having their annual sleepover at school. It’s something we do every year for orientation and initiating new members. We take showers in the creepy bathroom behind the chapel or the even creepier bathroom attached to the Speech Room (where we have our program half an hour after classes end for the day), we walk around the Mini Forest in pairs in the dark with only flashlights to keep us company, then we go to bed in one of the freshman classrooms, usually the one with easy access to the field, directly across the flagpole and the balete trees. Lights out at midnight, but of course some of us stay up and chat with each other, munching on junk food. I went to bed sometime after midnight. I can’t remember the exact time I went to bed, sure, but I do know the exact time I woke up — 3:00. I know because I checked the wall clock as soon as I woke up. I sat upright in my sleeping bag and I was surprised to find everyone around me asleep (they’re usually up ‘til 5:00 sometimes). I hope you never know the feeling of being woken up because of the intensity of someone’s gaze on you, sweetheart. And if everything goes according to plan, you never will. Anyway, I couldn’t find who it was in the room. All the girls and even our moderator slept as if they’d been drugged. I dragged a chair around, I beat the blackboard with a textbook, I shook a few girls, I even sat on a few. Nothing happened. The light in the hallway was on, but dim and flickering, as if the bulb needed changing. I was scared, I didn’t want to get up, but I had to talk to someone, to make sure it wasn’t just 241


someone playing tricks on me. I was stepping over aisle after aisle of girls in sleeping bags, checking on them and shaking a few just to test my theory, every now and then getting jumpy when I thought I saw a shadow move from the corner of my eye, when I saw a light somewhere far across the field. Lights in plural, actually. I thought they were fireflies by the way they glowed so bright and yellow. But they couldn’t have been. There was a strong breeze that should have blown them all away, but they remained concentrated around the balete ring. I peeked out of the slats of the classroom windows to get a better view. That’s when I saw someone standing by the flagpole. It plays out in my head like a horror movie now, the kind where you scream at the stupid girl being chased by the ghost or the killer not to open that door or go into that room or look over her shoulder. That night, I was that girl. There is nothing I can say in my defense, Meg, only that I was scared enough to have wet myself if I had needed to go to the bathroom, and that when I discovered someone was standing there in the middle of the field, I started to hear voices, whispers, words, shifting in volume, mixed and embedded in the wind. I understood nothing. I turned around to run back to bed, but the shadows — the very darkness beyond the classroom windows on the other side of the room, now that I think about it, began to move, to take faceless shapes against the dimmed, flickering outdoor light, banging against the glass, and all the while, my clubmates and moderator slept on. The voices were reaching a high pitch within the room. I was too scared to scream — who would have heard me? — but not too scared to run. That’s what I did. I ran down the steps outside the classroom, down the catwalk cutting across the field, down to the flagpole. My limbs were freezing and my lungs were burning, but I had to keep going no matter what. In fact, I would have run straight into the flagpole if Vince had not stopped me. He was the figure standing next to it. He held me and smoothed my hair and told me to stop crying — I didn’t even know I was. “Eat this. It will make you feel better.” He said. He held out half a mango to me. I took it and let him lead me to a bench under one of the calachuchi trees. We sat down and he began talking of something I no longer remember. All I know was that he was chatting with me as if his being on campus at an ungodly hour of the morning watching a tree glowing with abnormally bright and huge fireflies was a normal occurrence and I was shaking, still too stunned to speak. Vince pressed me to take a bite of the mango, so I did. That was probably the best mango I ever had in my life. Just the right amount of ripeness, incredibly sweet, and it warmed my whole body as it slid down my throat. It also gave me my voice back. I asked Vince what he was doing there, at that ungodly hour of the morning, although those words cannot even begin to express what I wanted to ask him. He went quiet, but he continued looking at the balete ring. I repeated the question. “I felt you were in distress. I came as soon as I could.” I was getting impatient. This was no time for him to be strange and secretive. I noticed he was wearing his school uniform, and it was soiled in many places. “Have 242


you gone home, Vince? Did you have another fight with Tita Mercy? Where have you been? How did you know I’d be here? What do you mean you felt I was in distress?” “Nanay is angry with you.” “Angry with me? Why would Tita Mercy be angry with me?” “Not her.” Vince shook his head. You should have heard the way he said ‘her’, Meg — as if she were a persistent beggar woman, a stranger, a nobody. I was taken aback. He gestured to the balete ring. “Nanay. She says you took me away from her.” At the same time all the fireflies — which weren’t actually fireflies but floating orbs of varying sizes when I really looked at them — circled the tree faster, in a frenzy. You’re probably not going to believe anything about what’s coming next, but I’m going to write it down anyway, because it’s time I told somebody what happened that night, before I go. The tree trunks untangled themselves from each other, slow and creaky like a door older than the buildings themselves, older than anything except perhaps the acacias. From the gaps between the trunks I saw what I thought was another trunk, since the lights from the orbs showed that it was brownish – gray, like the trunks of the balete ring, splotched with moss. Only when I saw her eyes, Vincent – green eyes narrowed in fury in my direction, did I realize that what I was looking at was neither tree nor human. When she spoke, the orbs slowed their floating. When she spoke, the wind died. When she spoke, my blood froze and the surrounding air went cold, the shadows deepened, and I clutched Vince’s hand out of fear — but he’d gone as cold as the air, and when I looked down, his skin had gone rough and knotty as bark and several shades of brown, gray, and green, like army camouflage, warred just beneath. His hair floated as if he were underwater. His eyes, though they looked on me with kindness for a moment — tenderness, even — were greener than was humanly possible. It was worse when he spoke. It was the same language the thing in the balete ring spoke, the language of all living things; it sounded familiar enough to my ears, as if someone were speaking English or Tagalog too far away to hear the words, but if I listened harder, the actual words sounded like handfuls from other languages jumbled together and cohering somehow. It echoed over the trees, in my very bones. I think we all might have known this language once, Meg, just as we once knew our places among the plants and the animals. When I heard Vince speak that way to the thing in the balete ring, I knew two things: 1) I still loved him, and 2) I’d lost him for good. It was one thing to be bilingual, another to be in on an open secret that everyone else except the person most important to you knows about. Isn’t it funny how even just a few words create barriers between people whose hands might otherwise fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? Vince told me that his mother was angry with me because when I broke up with him, he lost his main reason for coming to campus. She had been waiting for an opportunity for revenge, but she could not enter any room that had the Crucifix on one of its walls and I’d so often avoided the balete ring that she never could come close — until now. 243


She would have cursed me on the spot, he said, if he had not been there, if he had not woken up in the middle of the night and broken into Miriam grounds to stop her. “What does she want now?” I asked him. “She wants me to go home,” Vince said. His eyes were fixed on the balete ring and the thing in it. “With her.” “Are you going to?” His eyes were the kindest I’d ever seen them. “Leni, I love you. I think I always will. But I’m a changeling, although I was never supposed to have been switched. I don’t belong here and you know it.” And I did know it. But his way out of it was by moving into another space, another place. Mine was time. It’s by far the more difficult of the two ways, but I guess everything is difficult when you’re the one who has to be the human, when you’re the one who has no choice but to grow old. I was thinking of how to answer him when he said, “Why don’t you come with me?” I felt all the trees, the wind, the orbs, even his mother wait on bated breath for my answer. We argued back and forth for a long time on why I should and I shouldn’t. I said I had school and my parents to think of and what about college? But next to that whole other world waiting for him, what were all those concerns? “Maybe someday,” I had said. Even at that point, I was afraid of disappointing him. This was my mistake. “If I ever get tired of living where I do and the way I do. But not now, Vince, not now.” You shouldn’t say things like that if you have no intention of making a boy hope, Megan. Because hope he did. He said he had to go soon but that we’d see each other again, that his mother wouldn’t harm me anymore, not if he could help it, and that wouldn’t I like to have one last mango with him before he left? This falls under allowing a boy to hope when he should have had none, Meg. I ate that impossibly sweet mango, in fact, up until I felt contractions in my chest and an unstoppable urge to vomit. What came out of me was not the residue of rotten mango, no — I’d spat out my own dusky yellow orb, though it was smaller than all the rest. Vince caught it, threaded a vine through it, and clasped it around his neck. It looked like a half moon or a lopsided grin, glowing faintly on his chest. I asked him what it was. He said it was my heart — well, half of it at least. I wanted to scream at him, to thrash at him, to make him give it back to me — I had many plans for that half heart — but the queasiness had spread to my knees. I was in a cold sweat and I needed to sit down. “Sorry Leni,” Vince said. “Precautionary measures. I need to make sure you’ll make good on your promise. Not that I don’t trust you, of course.” Then he kissed me. It was the most passionate kiss of my life, but I was too weak to understand that until much later, when I woke up to see some of my clubmates looking down at me, worried, telling me I spent the night out here and I must have sleepwalked. I caught a very bad cold from being out in the damp; it stayed with me throughout June 244


of that year and most of July. I got diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized for another month, but nothing any of the doctors did cured me. Only when one of my titas stopped by with a fruit basket and forced me to eat a mango did I start getting better. Tita Mercy was a mess for the next three months. She notified the police, sent Vince’s picture and her contact details to news stations and newspapers, she had the neighborhood watch on their toes all the time, looking for him. She also paid me visits when I was in the hospital, always talking about Vince: a memory of him as a baby or a little boy, their last argument before his disappearance, how he was such an angel, how she couldn’t understand what came over him the past year. She often asked me where she had gone wrong, and I was thankful for the pneumonia’s weakening even my ability to speak, for I had no answers for her, at least none that she’d believe. On the last of these awkward visits, she told me that she had to move on, that she was moving to Canada to live with her sister. All I could do was squeeze her hand. I shocked my whole family, including myself, when I put checks on the boxes next to a number of pre – med courses in all of the college application forms I got my hands on. Now that I think about it, this was probably a direct result of having stayed so long in the hospital, watching the doctors and nurses work on me and my neighbors in the ward. I wasn’t bad at what I did, but I wasn’t exceptional either. You should know, Meg, that after Vince took half my heart, I have been unable to talk to anyone properly. I made few friends and let the friendships I had die. I don’t ask about my patients’ lives if I can help it. I’ve been in many fights with your grandparents over what I should specialize in, which hospital to work in, money, your Papa, why we haven’t gotten married yet, where we’re living, having you, the way I’m raising or would have raised you. I have argued with your Papa over the same things, honestly. I’ve stopped praying, too. It’s as if I can’t seem to make the right decisions anymore, as if I don’t know how to listen or to speak. Did your Papa ever tell you I had five boyfriends as an undergrad in UST before I met him in med school? Or that I didn’t allow him to write me love letters or give me fruits as gifts? Or that when he was courting me, he found me colder than the Snow Queen? Or that when we were choosing an apartment, I put my foot down against any place that had a lot of trees, balete or acacia or what have you (but no; I don’t know if you still live here now, Meg, but we ended up with a small room near Intramuros, which happened to have the one tree, a mango tree, in the whole neighborhood shadowing the window)? I never let him know that I was once a writer or that I once wanted to take up Literature. I’d locked up or turned my notebooks into pages that contained chemical equations and carefully labeled anatomical drawings. I’d given most of my books away and let the ones that meant the most to me once gather dust on my shelf or beneath my bed. For a long while, too, I kept telling myself that diwata and kapre and duwende and all those other things didn’t exist. I almost succeeded, too. 245


And then the other day, I woke up at around 3:00am. Remember that intense gaze I mentioned earlier, Meg? That was the cause again. I woke up in a cold sweat and I had this terrible feeling, so I stood up and put on a bathrobe before going to your crib. When I looked up and saw someone standing over your crib, I had no doubt in my mind who it was even if I couldn’t see his face. He was facing away from the outdoor light beyond the window, but I knew. I also knew that no amount of slapping, shaking, and pouring cold water over your Papa would wake him up. I wish I’d pushed our landlady to cut down that godforsaken tree. “You’ve changed, Leni,” Vince said. He was taller, broader, his hair was longer, and he no longer kept up the pretense of wearing clothes. Still small for a kapre, but a kapre, unmistakably. “So have you.” “You’re older.” “Of course I am.” “You don’t laugh or dream as much as you did.” “You don’t have much time for either in my line of work.” “You don’t write now, either, do you?” “Like I said, I haven’t got the time.” “I hate doing this to you.” He sounded embarrassed, sad. I wondered why. “I’d have thought that by now, you would have decided to come to me. I would have thought that you’d have gotten tired of this life by now. I can reverse all that, you know. Just come with me. I’ll give you the other half back. You can be your old self again.” “You’d be surprised at how much the other half of my heart has learned to put up with, over time.” I said. “You could say I’ve gotten used to it. That’s what being human means, I guess.” I hated how close Vince was to you, Meg. Especially when, after I said that, he looked down on you and went quiet for a few moments. Then he reached into your crib. I shouted, “Don’t you touch her!” And then his eyes were on me, and they were angry, completely drained of what was left of the Vince I once knew. I could see them in the dark, those impossibly green eyes; they’d acquired a slant to the edges that made them look all the more alien. “You know who you sound like? All those kids on the bus when we were little, making us feel like outcasts. Come with me now, Leni. I’ll fix you.” I tried to explain to him, as best as I could, that it wasn’t that easy. I had a life now: a demanding job, your Papa, you. I couldn’t just up and leave. I told him it was never going to be as simple or easy for me as it had been for him. “Him?” Vince gestured with his chin over to your Papa, snoring soundly on our bed. “You don’t love him, Leni. Not as much as he loves you, and not as much as you love me.” “Loved.” “You’ll love me again when you get the other half back,” said Vince. “Come with me. Now.” 246


“You don’t know that,” I was getting angry. I made fists out of my hands and still they shook. How dare he presume to know he still knew anything about me after all this time? “And you just don’t understand. Give me a little more time to — to warn him. To prepare.” “You’ll have three days to get it all in order, then,” Vince said. That probably isn’t even his name anymore, I realize. “You’re taking too long, Leni. I came here to fetch you, but I didn’t think you’d be so hard to persuade. You know where to find me.” “And what will you do if I don’t go?” “Then my precautionary measures stop becoming precautionary. Anywhere you go, anywhere there is a tree or a shadow, I will find you.” He looked down at you, and for a moment, the old tenderness he once reserved for me was there. It made the half heart left to me fill with ice. I knew, I just knew that he would take you back with him, and there would have been nothing I could have done to stop him. “Or would you like me to move on? I’ve never really been good at that whole ‘moving on’ thing, but I can try if you insist.” And so here I am, in the car, writing to you a letter that’s longer than it should have been and probably less coherent than it should be. I’ve told your Papa that I’m just going out for a drive — to clear my head, as it were. In truth, there is no space in our apartment for privacy and this is the only place I could go to write this down for you. I know I should be telling these things to your Papa too — maybe to him the most — but we know, or at least we think we know each other too well at this point. He says he loves me, but I can feel him, I can see him getting tired. I wish I could do more for him, I wish he had a life better than a constant cycle of fighting and making up and fighting again with an unaffectionate wife in this dinghy apartment. But I can’t. Not without half a heart. I feel that there is so much more I should be telling you, Megan, but I can’t remember any of it. Maybe these things I feel I should tell you are supposed to be the things mothers and daughters should learn from one another and for themselves over time. But that’s the one thing we don’t have, and for this, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you are angry with me, sorry if you do not care or have been made not to care about me. You might feel as if I left you and your Papa voluntarily, but I did it for a good reason. If I still believed in prayer, I would have prayed for your life to unfold in a direction vastly different from mine. You know, when you were born, the half of my heart that was left to me almost burst — I didn’t think I could love anything or anyone again. I was really looking forward to figuring out the many meanings of your crying, your different laughs, your funny expressions. I would have wanted to learn how to tell when you are lying and when you are telling the truth, and whether you are doing either in order for me to encourage you to open up or leave you alone. Maybe you would have topped Vince and come up with sixteen different meanings of “I love you.” I haven’t wanted to know someone so much since half my heart got taken away. I wouldn’t have minded if the half that got left to me would have had to work overtime, overmuch. 247


I love you, Megan. If anybody could have saved me, it would have been you. Be good. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll know if you arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Mama

248


mookie katigbak – l acuesta

Wedding Song for a Tikbalang: Or Half light, Ghost rain You don’t know what hurts more: The monsoon or the brief light after That filters through the blinds Where you’re sitting writing a poem Called Wedding Song for A Tikbalang, Rain mated to sun as though the world Could withstand one more marriage Of antonyms. A demon happiness underscores your dark arm by a window where a small but determined light loves you. A dirty yellow only half – hears the rain calling it names. Copycat, says the drizzle, prodigal; The sunlight answering back With the grace of saints, Love — left –  In – a – lurch, it tells the rain, prodigal —  Unaware, you stand between, Calling it grace. How valiant the light is! How gentle the rain! And you might even Linger by the light through the window On a day like today. And you’ll forget, I promise you, how you feel sometimes like a minor character in an important play. 249


ramón c. sunico

To Defy Gravity For Karen Hernandez Montinola

Heavyhearted I remember the sad indigo on your arms how I glanced in silence at the painful flowering of a bruise beneath the hem of a summer skirt or the buttonhole of a sleeve, like the life of the soft – petalled iris, easily torn, as it ran pain’s rainbow of red to blue, but edged in aubergine or a blush that meant not shyness but a million hidden wounds. I remember thinking of porcelain when you showed me how your nails had started to chip, how I hurried to shorten the gaps between our words as we spoke of a birthday in Hokkaido or what your daughters dreamed and what you wished for them in turn. Oh how your body weighed your own dreaming down.

250


It was like one sunny day: I was watching through the window of an elevated room —  one cloud plump, almost purple with rain wending its slow its billowing way across the skin of a blue -  blind sky. The rain will come, I thought, the rain will come. And as if from our eyes it began to fall. I heard your voice sudden like a flash of —  Was it lightning? Was it wings? —  as if you had found your true self and learned to fly.

251


stefani tran

Go back to the mountains, Au Co i. North of here lies a hollow in the earth, your old sleeping – place. Your first memory, that space —  moss rolled into pillows time a faraway trickle of water. Deep breaths, dark air growing around you, gently tracing night in the spaces between your fingers, in the caverns of your eyelids. The pebbles you collected for building the places you found in your dreams —  morphing towers, winding paths —  uninhabited cities, left in the wake of bare footsteps, the bats whispering soft concave songs through their streets. ii. He filled your lap with pearls when you first met — a startle of chattering white, a sudden cascade of light, overflowing from your palms. Your eyes were wide. Your hands, full. They trembled — perhaps because you thought you held the teeth of his foes, or perhaps only from the weight. And even afterwards 252


you couldn’t really understand, what reason there would be to make a gift of the sufferings of small, dreamless shells. But his eyes were stormy pools, deep and strange and shining, and for that, you told yourself, keep still. Look! he cried, how the moon – beads gleam in the gold off the waves! iii. You remember this —  The lee of a rock that stood alone, against sun and wind. Breathless laughter. Taking shelter from creatures with no names. The shadows of crabs, wispy sketches in the sand. A song like the throbbing of the tide. Slow turns, fingers twining, heartbeats in the undertow. The scoop of a bone and how smooth, how easy it was to fill. Salt on tongue, warmth beneath skin. A gull winging away over the sound. Somewhere overhead, lost to the moment —  the faint echo of a lightless place. iv. When you were a child, sometimes 253


you stood where the walls curved towards eternity, and spoke to the silence. You knew well what it was to let words go and have them drift back only as mouthings, as the outlines of what they had gently folded around where your gaze could not wander. That was enough. It had to be. v. He spoke often of how beautiful your hair was — like the long sea – grass, snaking round the mouth of his palace, in the green canyons below. On warm nights, you lay on the shore and he guided your hand towards where, when the moon drew back the tide, a spire broke the surface. You will never have to worry again. I know we will be happy there, and after all —  one kind of darkness is very much like another. Words that lapped, ceaseless, at the edges of your waking. You remember this —  Silver light across a bedroom floor. Silk sleeves, tucked into each other like lovers. Wingbeats of a curtain, descending upon your throat. The clockwork rise and fall of a chest, the ocean, a cocoon of twined breaths and a binding of arms and here 254


you were, always warm and safe and so near. vi. One day, you tried to stack the pearls and make a tower. They were too smooth to build with. They rolled onto the floor and lay there, quivering. The stones cried out in your bones. vii. He has already gone. Now you move shiftless, shift –  less, through the hallways, etching roads in the dust on the windowsill, carving ruts in the wood of the walls. You do not want for company — you have the taut seams of close – fitting tunics, the forgotten lips of swollen teacups. Lute strings, bloated with music, aching to be heard. The ghosts, Au Co, have left this place —  for houses less haunted, for thinner sky. So do this now. viii. Take the lute by the neck. Loosen the strings. Let the notes run off them as beads of rain. 255


Swirl the cups and watch as what has settled at the bottom rises, to cloud the surface. Find a knife and cut through the threads. Hear the cloth sigh as it opens, as the stitches forget their purpose. Then pour it all —  elegies, dead leaves in water, memories of being worn —  into the sea until your hands are hollow. North of here is home. Do not worry —  you will never have to worry again.

256


michelle t. tan

Her Afternoon Lives She opens the book after he leaves. The pages part quietly, and her eyes trace the words that soon become murmurs between her lips. She crosses her legs. Without taking her eyes off the text, she takes a sip of cold water from the glass she has left sweating on the table. She swallows, then turns the page. Her wet fingers leave a small, damp stain on the margin. She is scanning a paragraph, very quickly. Again, slowly this time. The air around her comes to a still. She becomes more aware of her breathing. She continues to read. Outside, a noisy tricycle approaches. The temperature climbs slowly. Between her legs, heat collects as moisture. On the book, the stain starts to fade. She flips the page halfway, then changes her mind. Her fingertips linger over a place in the text. She arches her right foot. When the doorbell rings, Laura hurriedly closes the book. She sets it down on the table and rearranges her dress. Standing up, she feels the back of her head to check the pins in her bun. The wall clock reads 8:40. “Good morning, ma’am.” She peers through the bars of the gate. “You’re early.” “Sir said not to be late. He said he will deduct from our payment.” In front of her, just beyond the gate, stand two men. The taller of the two talks to her, while the other one, darker and more muscular, unloads a toolbox from a tricycle. Both of them wear identical white shirts with “Arces Construction” written on the front in bright red. “Sounds like my husband,” she says, bending a little to open the gate. Taller introduces himself as Richard, and his companion as Jun. He takes loose change from the smaller man as the tricycle puffs away. Jun looks at Laura and lowers his head in greeting. She acknowledges him with a nod. They cross the small garage. She leads them inside the house and up the creaking staircase. At the end of the hall is a room with an open doorway. The two other doors are closed. Almost automatically, the men head inside the last room. It is tiny and a little dusty. Lazy sunlight enters through the jalousies, vaguely brightening the room. It is bare except for a ceiling fan. Laura turns it on using the light switch. Jun bends down and takes a measuring tape out of the toolbox. Richard paces around. He bids her to come closer and points out corners to her, saying things like, “The doorway will come through here,” “Sir already showed us the floor plan,” and “Same off – white paint, right?” She answers, “Yes, yes” and asks how long it will take them to finish everything. “Maybe a week,” he replies, still looking around. “Do you really want to retain this color? The room looks pretty drab.” He turns to her. “Is this a storage room? Why renovate?” 257


Laura is unable to respond immediately. She throws the man a look, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “What’s it for?” he repeats. “It’s going to be a child’s room.” “Really! Sir didn’t mention. Congratulations!” Jun’s measuring tape slips back inside its shell with a loud whirr. He stands and measures the length of a wall. Behind him, Laura sees his shoulders stretch against white cotton. “There’s no baby yet. David wants us to prepare first.” Richard blinks. “That’s why you want the room connected to the toilet, eh?” He laughs and tilts head sideways. “You done, Jun?” Then to her: “We need to see the bathroom now.” She flicks off the light switch and leads them inside the next room, pointing out the toilet on the far left side. The two men enter. She follows, but stops at the doorway. Two men and a toolbox seem too much for the bathroom to handle. “Small space you have here,” Richard remarks. “How will you manage with a baby?” None of your business, she wants to say, but holds her tongue. She glances at Jun, and sees that even he is staring. Richard seems oblivious. “We will punch a hole in this wall for the doorway,” he is now saying, gesturing even within the cramped space. She briefly considers punching a hole in his face, but recoils at the thought. Her mental image disappears with the sound of Jun extending his measuring tape. She ushers the men out of the house as soon as they finish. “We will return tomorrow,” Richard says as they descend the stairs. The planks creak under their collective weight. Laura does not respond. She leads them out the front door and to the gate. “Sir said he will take care of the materials?” “Yes. Goodbye.” “We will be here by 9,” Richard says, and she closes the gate. Inside the house, she picks up the book from where she left it on the kitchen table. She wanders over to the sofa and reads. At eleven, the phone rings. She walks back to the kitchen with the book in hand, eyes still darting at the pages. “Hello?” “Hi. We’re having lunch early today. It’s Rocky’s birthday. What time did the workers arrive?” “Around 9. They just looked at the rooms. They left before 10, I think.” “Did they check the measurements? Were there any problems?” “No problems. They said we’d provide the materials?” “Ron put me in touch with his friend, who gave me a discount. They’ll get delivered tomorrow morning.” “That’s good.” “Cook the pasta tonight. I’ll bring home cake from the party. Don’t forget to buy the groceries.” 258


Laura replaces the receiver and thumbs through the book in her hands. She leaves it facedown on top of the plastic cabinet they use for storing dishes. She does not use a bookmark. She sits on a chair and stares at the refrigerator door. On it hang several blue Post – its, held in place by giant fruit magnets. She takes the one that says GROCERY and with today’s date on it. The banana magnet skids across the gray metal. In his neat, familiar print, David has written two columns: 1 kl. ground beef 1 cabbage ½ kl. chicken breasts 4 tomatoes ½ kl. dory fish fillet 3 carrots 1 can corn 2 potatoes 1 can mushrooms 2 red and green bell peppers 1 pack tortilla wraps 1 pack bread crumbs Peanut Butter On the back: 9 rolls tissue AA batteries Detergent Dishwashing liquid Baygon And at the bottom, in his version of italics: Your conditioner bottle is almost empty. Laura is not the sort of person who makes lists. She believes that if something is really important, it will turn up on her schedule one way or another. But every morning since she married David, she finds herself looking at lists. What to do, what to buy, what to have fixed, which subscriptions to renew. Today, according to David, there are no bills to pay, no gallons of water to order. Today, one only has to shop for groceries. She grabs her handbag from the table and tucks the Post – it into a side pocket. David has already parked the car outside, to save her the trouble of opening and closing the gate. Some grocery – shopping days, he commutes to work so she can use their Vios. Outside the gate, Laura fishes for the car keys inside her bag but comes up with only bits of string. Clicking her tongue, she marches back inside the house and swipes the keys off the kitchen table. From the corner of her eye, she sees the book on top of the dish cabinet. She clips it under her arm before locking up the house. Inside the car, she sees a five hundred – peso bill folded on the instrument panel. For gas! she can almost hear David saying. She adjusts the rear – view mirror and smiles at herself. Smiling makes you look younger — she has heard this advice repeated far too many times to ignore it. Plus her home economics students always tell her to “smile more” in their evaluations. Here I am, smiling! she wants to tell them as she eases the car onto the right lane. The gas station is right ahead.

259


After exiting Shell, she is only able to drive on a little farther before encountering lunchtime traffic around Maginhawa. The cars slow down to a crawl. The line they make bends around the road like a fat metallic snake. Lifting the handbrake, she takes her book from the passenger’s seat and picks up from where she left off. Occasionally, she looks up to check the traffic and move the car forward. She is not afraid of missing a beat. She knows angry honking will be there to prompt her. The myriad smells of the supermarket remind Laura that she has not yet eaten lunch. She pays for a cinnamon roll and starts unwrapping it at the counter. After eating, she grabs a small pushcart and ambles along the aisles. She spends the next hour in circles, selecting items and checking expiration dates. She wipes the dust from her fingers onto her dress. With her left hand she clutches a tiny pencil and today’s Post – it. Crossing each item off the list marks a small achievement. Soon enough, it looks like this: 1 kl. ground beef 1 cabbage ½ kl. chicken breasts 4 tomatoes ½ kl. dory fish fillet 3 carrots 1 can corn 2 potatoes 1 can mushrooms 2 red and green bell peppers 1 pack tortilla wraps 1 pack bread crumbs Peanut Butter On the back page, only “AA batteries” remains uncrossed. She knows to get them near the counter. On her way to checkout, she passes through the toiletries aisle and pauses in front of a shelf stocked full of hair products. Your conditioner bottle is almost empty, David’s Post – it warns. She gets the biggest one in sight. Later that day, after she has put away the groceries and outlined her lesson plan, Laura starts on the pasta. She takes half an onion, bacon, and ham from the refrigerator and clears some shelf space for the cake David will bring home. She chops quickly and arranges the ingredients on a flat plastic plate. As she waits for water to boil, she takes out the book from her bag and turns it over in her hands. She caresses the cover, tracing a finger over the raised font. Rereading the blurb, she imagines herself as a character in the novel and leans against the counter. She tries rearranging the plot in her head. Holding the book in her hands, she thinks about the kind of person she might be in another story. The obsessive mother, the reticent wife, the libertine mistress? She wonders what she would call herself. Patricia? Gail? Desiree? Suddenly she perceives a loud gurgling sound. The pot beside her bubbles over. She jumps to lift the cover but some water still overflows, almost putting out the flame on the stove. That night, she and David share a big bowl of carbonara for dinner. For dessert, they split a fat slice of chocolate cake from Rocky’s surprise party. “You’ve done the groceries?” 260


“Already put them away. They had a promo for corn, buy 1 take 1, so I ended up with two.” “Did you the check the expiration date?” “September, I think. That’s still two months from now.” “Still, you should probably cook it soon. How were the workers? I told Ron to give me his best.” “They’re fine. One’s a bit chatty though, and likes to pry. I think he enjoys it.” “Which one? I’ll talk to Ron.” “The taller one, Richard? But there’s no need — ” “I’ll talk to Ron.” The next day, Jun shows up with a new worker. Very short, shorter than Jun, and extremely young. “Mario,” he says, and nothing else. “He’s new,” Jun explains. “Speaks only Bicolano.” She stares at them both. “He’s a good worker, ma’am,” he adds, and that somehow settles it. Up the creaking staircase they go, Laura leading the way and the men’s toolboxes rattling along in rhythm. She tells them the delivery boys had been in a hurry that morning (they were running on a busted tire) and had insisted to leave the door frame and other things in the garage. “No problem, ma’am. I can carry it up,” Jun says, and she is amazed at how much chattier he seems without Richard around. Inside the room, the men begin taking out tools from a red polyester bag and laying them on the floor. No one points out corners to her or tells her which wall they plan to knock down. Both are crouched down on the floor, their backs to her. “Do you need anything?” she asks. Jun stands up, lifting a sledgehammer with one hand. “We’re fine,” he answers, then hesitates. “Just — can you leave the door open? It’s hot in here.” It is a Tuesday, which means Laura has to teach three classes at Miriam. Accordingly David has written only two things on today’s blue Post – it: JULY 12 Construction supplies delivery (check with receipt) Clear out upstairs bathroom She crosses out the remaining chore and goes upstairs. She places all their things (mugs, soaps, towels, her almost – empty conditioner bottle) inside the laundry basket and carries it to the downstairs toilet, where she accords them new positions. In the kitchen, she reheats leftover pasta from yesterday’s dinner. She cracks open the book while eating, trying to ignore the hammering noise from upstairs. At a quarter to twelve, she checks on the workers. Most of the far wall is already broken, except for a huge chunk jutting up from the floor. Jun and Mario are pulling off lingering pieces from either side. The room is littered with debris. “Are you almost done? I have to leave soon.” “Yes, ma’am. Sir said only until noon.” “Right. I’ll bring up a bag for the trash.” 261


At school, Laura takes advantage of short breaks between classes to continue reading her book. (She finishes most of the first section during the commute.) Afterwards, she stays an extra fifteen minutes in her cubicle to flip through the second section. On her way home, she drops by the bookstore to buy a stack of multicolored Post – its. She takes out the book again that night after David falls asleep. With only a yellow lampshade for light, she reads until after midnight. The next morning, Laura wakes up to the banging of cabinet doors. David is already dressed, in his usual polo and slacks combination, and is rummaging through drawers. Socks and underwear are scattered all over the floor. “Where’s my blue tie?” “Which one?” “My blue tie, my blue tie, the one with the stripes.” “When did you last wear it?” “I don’t remember!” “Blue stripes… Was it the one you wore to the wedding?” “Yes, yes!” he exclaims, standing up. He pauses, then runs downstairs. He returns a few seconds later, brandishing the missing tie. “It’s in the car! I took it off and shoved it in the glove compartment!” She smiles at him, but frowns when he loops the tie around his neck. “It’s all crumpled. Maybe you should wear a different tie.” David looks at her. “But I always wear it with this polo,” he says, and pulls the tie into a knot. He leaves for work after breakfast, squeezing her shoulder while saying goodbye. She reads one chapter before taking a shower and checking today’s Post – it. JULY 13 Schedule air conditioner cleaning (coupon 2 out of 3) Bills: MWSI, Bayantel Defrost freezer The clock says 8:37. Laura calls up Samsung while leafing through a cookbook. By the time she reaches an actual human voice, she has already selected a recipe for next week’s class. Still talking to the call center agent, she crosses out Schedule air conditioner cleaning (coupon 2 out of 3) and switches off the freezer. The doorbell rings almost as soon as she puts down the phone. Later in the kitchen, while getting glasses from the cupboard, she asks Jun, “You speak Bicolano? I heard you and Mario talking through the gate.” “Only a little, ma’am. My father’s from Naga. But I’ve never gone myself.” “How come? That’s sad.” “How about you, ma’am?” “David and I went to see Mayon last summer. It’s a beautiful place.” For a while Jun looks at her like he’s about to ask something, but then he only nods. 262


He takes the tray from her and carries it upstairs. Laura is left pressing her back against the refrigerator. The machine hums quietly along. David has pinned the bills under the cherry magnet. She pushes aside the red fruit and scans the statements. She prepares the exact amounts in two envelopes, which she seals with tape and leaves on the kitchen table so she doesn’t forget. Afterwards, she empties the refrigerator, dumping the meat and vegetables into a small cooler they bought just for this purpose. She wipes all the shelves down with warm water, then waits for the stifling Manila weather to do the rest. She sits on the floor, sweat dripping down her face and neck. She misses having helpers. She doesn’t mind the work, but it was nice having other women in the house, before David drove them mad. In the downstairs bathroom, she scrubs her hands with soap. Jun and Mario continue their hammering upstairs. Laura twists her hair into a bun before climbing the creaky stairway. She drags a chair from the bedroom and places it at the hall’s end, where she can see the workers most clearly. Peering inside the room, she is surprised to find that the men have taken off their shirts. She can see their upper bodies plainly — Jun’s ripped back and Mario’s skinny ribs, both layered in sweat. That chunk of wall from yesterday is just half its size now, barely even, with Jun still swinging away at it. Blag, blag, blag goes the sledgehammer. Even Mario is standing to one side now. Laura can feel her bun unfurling with each blow. Eventually she averts her gaze. Patricia, she decides for today, looking away and down the hall. Shy, unhappy, reluctant Patricia. By the end of that first week, Jun and Mario and Laura establish a routine. The men ring the doorbell by 9, the absolute latest, and she comes to the gate within seconds. The sight of them in the morning always makes her say the silliest things, obvious declarations like “I’m opening the gate,” “It’s raining,” or worse, “David just left,” as if they actually expect to see him and not her. After that the men go upstairs. She pours them two glasses of cold water and waits until Jun comes down for the tray. She climbs up with him, carrying her book. She reads while they work, occasionally running downstairs to answer the phone. Once, she forgets to check the day’s Post – it, and David has to remind her. That night she prepares beef stroganoff, his favorite, and gives him a full update of the renovation as soon as he arrives, before he even asks. That night he holds her hand before falling sleep. On Friday, Mario shows up with spiky hair and a pierced ear. He laughs at her surprised look and says something in Bicolano. She turns to Jun. “What happened?” He shrugs. “He’s making friends.” Tuesday, they begin painting the walls. “We’re almost done, ma’am,” Jun announces. “Just the tiles after this.” Laura nods and goes out to sit in the hall. She has less than a hundred pages to read. She adjusts the chair so she is facing the room. Newspapers cover every inch of the floor. Everything is either white or gray, except for the bright yellow frame running around the new door. The two men are turned to the walls, applying a 263


base coat. Shirtless again, despite the rain outside. When she looks up from her book some time later, Jun is standing in front of her, asking if she wants him to fix the staircase. “What?” “The stairs, ma’am. It creaks all the time.” “But, that’s not part of your job.” “I just thought maybe you want me to fix it, ma’am.” She looks at him. “Mario will not mind being left upstairs,” he says. Jun moves her chair across the hallway and settles it at the top of the staircase. She sits still and holds the book in her lap. He begins at the bottom of the staircase, testing each step to find out where it creaks before marking out points for drilling. Eighteen steps up, Laura watches him work, one finger still wedged between the pages of the book. She does not dare open it. In her mind she hears the whirring of his measuring tape from that first day, extending and going back inside its shell, again and again. A few steps below, Jun comes ever closer. When he offers to help with laundry, she does not refuse. He lifts the basket with one hand and follows her to the back of the kitchen, where they keep the washing machine. She separates the whites from the colors while he stands there watching. As she dumps the first pile into the washer, she asks herself, Patricia, Gail, or Desiree? She considers various scenarios. Eventually she decides on Patricia again, so she spoons detergent onto the clothes without saying a word. She does not protest when he unwinds the wrong hose and snakes it through a small hole in the washer. Water spurts out noisily from a leak in the pipe. “Ma’am…” “Yes?” “Do you want me to go? Upstairs?” Laura digs her nails into her arm. She rests a hand on the washer’s lid, right where Jun’s shadow curves to form a shoulder. The appliance rumbles at regular intervals. Machine heat climbs up her palm. “You can stay,” she says. His shadow shifts by degrees. Jun shows up alone on Wednesday. “I’m opening the gate,” Laura says. “Where’s Mario?” “He and his friends got into a fight, ma’am. Bad one.” “Is he all right?” “He got beat up really bad. He can’t work for a while, but he’ll recover.” “What did Ron say?” “Boss wanted to send him home, but he doesn’t have enough money.” “What about the work here? Will he send someone else?” “There is no one else, ma’am. I have to finish it.” That morning, he barely accomplishes anything. He paints the door frame a new shade of yellow to cover up the white specks from the previous days’ work. Halfway through the last coating, Laura slips inside the room and asks him if he’s hungry. It 264


is barely 10:00. She cooks up several slices of fried dory and serves it to Jun, who has been sitting at the table for the past few minutes, watching her cook. The plate clatters as she sets it down. She sits on the chair across him and continues their conversation. Hot rice steams up between them. Somewhere in that exchange about Bicol she decides on Desiree — rather out of necessity, because Desiree is more liberal than Patricia and can therefore better stomach the idea of having lunch with Jun right at home. She is also glibber, livelier, and definitely more of a charmer than either Patricia or Gail. Laura finds no trouble acting the part. “Is it good?” she asks him. “Do you want more?” He shakes his head. “No, thank you, I’m full. But it’s very good, ma’am.” She says, “Are you sure?” and leans forward to refill his glass. “There’s a lot more where that came from.” They leave the dishes on the table and climb upstairs. Jun cleans up inside the room. She pretends to read in the hallway. Fingering the edges of the book, she tells herself, I need to replace the fish. She writes this down on an imaginary Post – it. Desiree knows how to do these things. Still staring at the open book, she unspools her memory of their conversation and dissects it slowly, setting aside certain parts for later consumption. “Really, ma’am?” he said in reply to her offer. “I’m sure that tastes good as well.” Suddenly the phone rings, and she is Laura again. She reaches a hand around to check her bun. As she descends the stairs, she feels more and more the weight of the pins in her hair, keeping it in place, keeping her in place. “Hello. Did you see my note?” “Yes. I already made the appointment.” “Good. How do you feel about cooking the dory tonight?” “I — ” “Hold on. My cellphone’s ringing. I’ll call you back.” She puts down the phone and thinks of what to say. A few minutes later, it starts ringing again. She picks up after the fourth ring. “David?” “Sorry, it was a client. So, fish fillet?” “Actually, I already ate that for lunch. I was thinking, maybe we can have the chicken tonight instead?” “You ate already? It’s not even eleven.” “Brunch. I was hungry.” There is a scuffle at the other end of the line. Then he says, “All right, whatever you like.” At dinner that evening, he asks her about the workers. “It’s been more than a week. What’s taking them so long?” “They’re not rushing. Ron gave you his best, didn’t he? Also, that boy Mario got into a fight. He was beat up pretty badly, so Jun has to finish the work by himself. Tomorrow’s the last day.” 265


David chews for a long time before answering. “Is that so? Remind me when I pay Ron.” He wipes his mouth and takes another bite. “This is good.” Later, he helps her clear the table and tells her to wash the dishes quickly so she can rest. “You still have class tomorrow,” he reminds her. He takes out a folder from his bag and starts typing away on his laptop. The monitor shines a pallid glow on his face. Cold water runs down Laura’s hands as she rinses the plates. She thinks about tomorrow, the last day, and considers again how Patricia, Gail, or Desiree might act in her place. She knows what each of them would do. She has thought this over many times. In the middle of scrubbing a pot, she glances at her husband, who is alternately shuffling papers and staring at an Excel spreadsheet. On a chair beside him, her novel lies hidden under a pink apron. Listening to the clack – clack of his calculator, she wonders, if she and David had been characters in a book, what kind of story would they live? She remembers meeting him years ago, the strong impression he made and the easy introductions that followed. The rush of excitement she felt the first time she answered his call and heard his voice, asking if she had plans for the next evening. She played coy at first, but even then she had a feeling that David was something else. Smart and confident, he struck her as someone who had a solid claim on his place in the world and who knew perfectly how to operate in it. He showed her as much. When she thinks of those early months, Laura sees him opening doors for her, paying the bills, drawing up plans for subsequent dates. It seemed all she had to do was follow along and smile and keep up her end of the conversation. With David, everything felt easy, marriage included. Soon, they had moved out of a rented apartment and into this house. Soon, they were contemplating having a baby. Happiness swelled within the margins of a daily plan. Memory fails her, now. She remembers the beginning vividly, and she knows the present all too well, but for the life of her she cannot recall an in – between. Nothing has changed, that much she knew, and yet, and yet. She glances at the soapy dishes piled before her, the cluttered table, the blue Post – its crowding the refrigerator door, and she asks herself, where has everything else gone? That night, the lamp refuses to turn on in their bedroom. Her wristwatch stops working. The printer runs out of ink. A cabinet hook shakes loose from its place and falls to the floor. Her comb breaks in half. At each instance, David rushes to scribble on tomorrow’s Post – it. “Get colored ink too,” he tells her. “I don’t want us to run out again.” Lying in bed that night, he promises to buy her a sturdier comb. She asks him to throw in a brush, saying she wants to grow her hair long. He sits up and makes a note of it on his cellphone. She does not read that night. Jun arrives early on the last day. She serves him coffee and an egg sandwich in the kitchen, then they go upstairs. He resumes work in the bathroom. She sits in the hallway and reads. An hour and a half later, he comes out of the room. “It’s done, ma’am,” he says. Standing there with his toolbox in hand, he asks her if she needs 266


him to fix anything else. Laura thinks of the broken lamp, her wristwatch, the fallen cabinet hook from the previous night. She says “No, thank you,” and closes her book. Downstairs, she shows him to the gate. He goes out quietly. “I’m going, ma’am,” he says through the bars. “I know,” she replies. “Goodbye.” After he leaves, Laura calls in sick at school. She goes upstairs and moves her chair inside the newly finished room. The floor is covered with dust and bits of newspaper. In the bathroom, muddy footprints chase each other all over the tiles. She is sure she knows what tomorrow’s Post – it will say. She passes through the new doorway and sits by the window, inhaling the smell of fresh paint. The sun shines fiercely outside, casting a long shadow of her profile across the far wall. The air wafting through the jalousies smells old and sunny. The light in the room is bright. Listening to the whirr of the ceiling blades, she opens her book and reads hungrily into dusk.

267


martin villanueva

Rooms A stained couch, its pillows erect. An old newspaper on the rug. A stack of dated magazines. A dining table, scattered envelopes. A dictionary atop receipts. A chair facing the curtained window. A number on a masking tape label. A telephone left unplugged. Oil and soy stains on the stove. A frying pan with burnt sugar. A container of coals in the fridge. A brown banana and cane vinegar. A shower curtain fully drawn. Square white tiles, and yellow ones. A rag scrunched up behind the door. The seat up on the toilet. A television with a curtain of dust. Remotes on a monobloc chair. A green accordion file of CDs. A crumpled bag of pork crackling. A pair of shoes with peeling leather. A dumbbell, a pair of gloves. A football with someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s signature. A basket full of caps and socks. A bed large enough for two. Pillows limp and scattered. Sheets lime green. A bottle of perfume.

268


gian lao

For When the Heart Tears Into Itself I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know when, nor am I meant to, but there was a time when the remedy was to sit down with the evening and decipher the syllables in the sky. But know that I am not making a wish. I know the Old World has been shelved by some nameless God of libraries. Each small thing named and numbered. Gone are the days one can trace a cloud to the middle of a body of water and feel the prescribed amount of displacement. Even desertion has been overcome. I did not ask for this, but no use complaining. What other way but to want what we have: cruise ships, jets, and all the inherited inventions made to enclose us together in a single world. People no longer lost nor powerless, only human, and therefore silent in the courtroom of the possible world. Because we know it will never be enough. Whatever it is. Already there are machines in the sky meddling with the code of stars. There is the expanding universe, and the self, willfully shrinking into the yearning grave. There are sciences. And poems about everything. This is the world we have broken. Too easy to live and die. To have, in the right books, answers to questions that have never been asked. Yes. That library is sinking into the core of the Earth because its architect neglected the weight of knowledge. That shuttle burst to flames, silent, in cold, soundless space. And Yes, goddamnit, that meaningless girl in that meaningless story in that old book 269


loves you back. We are beyond the finish line now, beyond the industrial beating of these old hearts we’ve been born with — their unchanged engines blowing the steam of century old questions, asking the still – vast atmosphere for all the old answers.

270


gian lao

The Dark Suddenly, hands are all you have to pull the draped curtains of the room apart and greet the moonlight. What is certain becomes clear with only streetlamps and the spaniel tied to a tree, barking two houses down: too much light blinds us, or at least fools us into thinking we cannot look the great Answer in the eye nor conquer it. We can. So I whisper to the wind embarking on its return to coast: how I like the moon reminding us that at night, it is knowledge that pursues us. Easy to look with a clear mind. To commit to memory this room —  this small box of table and chair and bed — or those laughing children outside who you can’t believe are chasing each other at this hour (strange how no one has ever thought that a ghost may be happy; but forget it). Easy tonight to think of the Milky Way as a new map to study. Regress into a time when light didn’t travel — when we knew 271


that when we looked at constellations they could look back at that very same moment. Let go of the curtains now; step back into the dark. Be careful of the furniture; You are a giant here.

272


cedric tan

Dangerous Game Chapter 1 There’s a room. There’s a man in white. There’s a woman in black. There’s the dice, and there’s the board game. whitney

They’re like ordinary dice.

darcy

They are.

whitney

And... This is an ordinary game?

darcy

Depends on how you look at it. *

The board is beautiful and alive. I see things on it. There’s color and movement, there’s happiness and heartbreak alike, and now the sound of music, I can hear it too. This is not Monopoly. Not Snakes and Ladders. This is something else entirely, and I know it because it’s the most dazzling array I’ve ever seen, and every speck of it competes for my attention. A list of the things I see: 1.) A basket of candies left behind one Halloween. 2.) A man and a woman make love on top of a car. 3.) A group of young boys set fire to a kitten’s tail. 4.) A girl falls from her bike and scrapes her knees. * “So, what now?” I breathe, eyes glued to the board that is laid out before me like the feast of a king. My game piece is in the shape of a little man (a little me), and it stands at a crossroad. 273


“It’s up to you, Whitney,” Darcy replies, showing me a sheepish grin from where she sits at the other side of the board. “Your turn.” The paths ahead of my piece are confusing, stretching and spreading out in unknowable directions. So, I trace the course backward instead. It all assures me for a while: That sense of knowing; that touch of memory; that refuge of this is familiar. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. My friend is anywhere I’ve been. * I touch an empty space. “This is where I met my wife.” Darcy nods. “I know.” “I know you know. You know everything.” “Everything so far.” “Yes, everything so far.” In a roll, the lowest is two and the highest is twelve. Imagine, what if she had been on the one or thirteen? I trace the steps backward a little further. The memories are a little hazier with every space back. So, I grab at them. Those memories, my memories, I claw at them and hold them tight and breathe them in Another space.

*

“My first first job.” “Right out of school. Corporate, nine to five, a respectable five – digit salary.” “I hated this place.” “No self – pity, please.” Oh, she’s cold. “You could’ve chosen a different path, Whitney. You had enough time to roll again, you just chose not to. All that time, and you just kept clack – clack – clacking those dice against each other in the palm of your hand...” “You’re terrible at helping a man cope with regret.” “Sorry, I didn’t think there was anything to regret. It was a good job, wasn’t it?” 274


“I said I hated it.” “It still put bread on your table. Between a job and starvation, you’d still choose the job.” * A little further back and I see a jigsaw puzzle. A memory surfaces, and it tells me 1000 — 1 = 999. “What happened here?” “I thought you knew everything?” “I do. I just wanted to hear this story from you.” Her wish is my command, and the story goes: “It was my 11th birthday. Or maybe my 12th. So, my grandpa gave me this puzzle as a gift. It was ‘The Fall of Icarus’, that painting by Bruegel, in a thousand pieces. My grandpa loved puzzles, you know, so we worked on it together, me and him. Slow, painful work. A thousand pieces, after all. “But, it all came together nicely. Three days in, and the puzzle was almost complete. Almost. One piece went missing: a spot of blue in the middle of the sea, on the painting. I must’ve turned the house inside out looking for that missing piece. Nine hundred and ninety pieces, all perfectly assembled — but then this missing piece... It was a tiny hole in the puzzle, a little gap near the corner, but it was the only thing I saw when I looked at it. “So... I got so frustrated looking for it, I started blaming grandpa for it. I yelled at him. It’s your fault, I said. You should’ve let me do the puzzle by myself, I said.” Oh god, I don’t like this one. This is a bad place. “And...?” “After I yelled at him, he had that heart attack.” The woman in black is smiling again. I want to scream at her. Another part of me also wants her. “They all reach the finish line, Whitney.” I wonder if her embrace is as warm...

275


“One way or another.” ...as her words are cold. “The games are fun.” I have to scream! “In fact, the games are the best thing about this world.” “AAARGH!!!” “But — and you know this, Whit — all the games come to an end. Always.” Ah. This. She speaks in the language of knives, and in this mode she’s certainly most eloquent. The words, they crawl across the game board. The shards, they cut deep. When one speaks this dialect, one cannot lie, and Darcy speaks it the best. * I notice something. “Why am I alone? I’m the only piece on this board.” “Obviously. It’s your life. One life, one game.” “And the others?” “Have their own boards.” “What do they look like?” “Some bigger. Some smaller. Some more interesting than the rest. Why?” “Nothing.” “Tell me.”

276


“Just curious.” “Morbid curiosity.” “Curious about their lives, not their deaths. Death is the end of life.” “No, death is a part of life.” It hurts. I look for the right memory to hold to my chest, but there is none. Self –  indulgence, where it was once the anaesthetic, is wearing off. Yes, the memories are painful now. I try to inhale, but it hurts, it chokes. There’s dust in this air, dust and poison and broken glass, and for a moment everything weighs twice as heavy. * “Are you okay?” Darcy asks. “Where’s the finish line?” I demand. “It’s here somewhere. You just don’t see it.” “Does anyone ever see the finish line?” “No. Not your grandfather. Not your friends from that first job. Not your wife.” “Not me.” “No, not you either. Why would you be so special?” There it is! The truth, the damn truth! Raw and refreshing! And she’s absolutely right. Why would I be special? I’m not special, and I know it and I laugh. Somewhere along the way, the path comes full circle, and I am back at that original space on the board. That space where yesterday looks defiantly at tomorrow, and tomorrow just doesn’t give a fuck. * “You look kind of terrible,” Darcy tells me. “I feel kind of terrible,” I tell Darcy. * I will try to describe Darcy for you, now (and I hope my words are enough, that with them you can paint a portrait of her): 277


Her eyes are deeper and more mysterious than a bottomless pit. She stands at the same height as you. She smiles like she’s been waiting for hours, and you’d just arrived at the party. Under the folds of her midnight clothing, her shoulders are pale, smooth and slender. * I confess, I desperately long to hold her by the shoulders, and maybe she’ll step closer and I’ll step closer and she’ll put her arms tenderly around my waist. How would you react, if you saw someone like her standing in front of you? Would you try to ignore her? Greet her like an old friend? Shy away? Tell me about it sometime, won’t you? * “So, what now?” It’s the second time I ask. Her answer is the same. “It’s up to you, Whitney. Your turn.” My hand reaches for the dice. Ordinary dice.

278


“I guess I’ll keep playing.” One of us smiles, and the other smiles back. *

279


This is a game. A complicated one. Dangerous. Tricky. How do you win? How do you lose? What are the rules? When do they change? Who the hell came up with them in the first place? “Give me a break. I don’t want to see you again too soon.” Who chooses the path you take? “Then just keep playing. Play until you finish it.” Yourself? “Darcy, can I tell you one last thing?” The dice? “Of course. What is it?” You throw it. Maybe it’s a bit of both. “I think you’re beautiful.” Chance. Choice. Tied together. “Thanks, Whitney. I think you’re beautiful, too.” Chapter 2

I roll the dice — 

280

Like light and shadows.


alfred a. yuson

A Whiter Shade Another Pacquiao fight in Vegas, another killing on the betting tables, online. Well, given that the odds weren't too good for Mosley's survival dance, a Pacman fan couldn't really expect to make much. Unless one bets large, which is what Ric de Ramos does all the time. He puts in a hundred grand and comes away with 20% net gain, easy. A Bahamas cruise, first – class, leaves but a dent in that sort of winnings. Not that R de R needs it. He's okay for the rest of the nine yards, as buddy Jim the Bad always says. Jim knows all about Ric sitting on quite a stash. And it isn't because they've been long – time Fil – Ams together. Or that they used to be long – lost cousins. Ric turned immigrant seven years after the older Jim did. Why, that was exactly their age gap, they were to learn when they met the first time at a poker session in Reno. Before the night was over, they also found out that the river of time sourcing itself to Baler, Quezon, Philippines, would gently wash the legendary Lolo Mandy, Constabulary General, to a common shore of boyhood reverie. Jim the Bad would hit 60 soon. That's what he tells Ric at the post – fight party. "I'm going senior on you, boy cousin." He tells Ric something else, that for a birthday gift he expects his younger cousin to honor the big contract. Although Ric's focus is elsewhere, he stays suave. "I always honor contracts." "So check your mail tomorrow and print out your e – ticket. I'll see you in Manila in a couple of weeks. Then we party, my golden year bash. By then you'd have made the kill." Ric's eyes pull themselves off the crowd, mostly Pinoys reveling on yet another Pacman win, some sleek ladies in red – carpet gowns. He stares quizzically at Jim. He wishes his older cousin hadn't been so crass, not with that word. "I'll see you in Manila." Jim knew better than to throw a riposte at Ric's back as the younger man made his way to the bar. Aw, shoot, he thought, blew that one, my bad. But only 15 minutes later Jim found a chance to get back into Ric's good graces. Expertly did he steer Senator Dee, big – time Pinoy CEO, and his svelte daughter towards where Ric had picked up some talk with a burly white. One look at the approaching company and the Yank was off, tipping a brow with a finger at Ric. "Senator, this is my cousin Ric, big man here in Vegas. Ric, Senator Cyril Dee and his daughter Clare. You'd do well to look them up as soon you hit Manila by midweek." One look is sometimes all you need to know you're bedding a woman sometime soon. Initial dialogue's a vetting machine, of course. Ric knew he had it, had her in his grasp, as soon as she took pains to explain the butterfly tattoo on her ankle. 281


Lust is like that, some deux ex machina going on overdrive. Before the party at Mirage ended — the best fighter in the world a no – show despite the attendance of two Philippine senators and a dozen of his fellow congressmen — Ric had wangled a coffee meet – up at mid – morn the next day with Clare, 35, marriage annulled three years previous. Now who gets unhitched so soon after hurdling one's Saturn cycle? Suffice it to say that Senator Dee had a clear – minded lady for a daughter. And that she may not have been laid yet since she filed for the split. That would make it four years without a man. Oh, at her age, primetime, she'd be hot. He couldn't believe she had stayed chaste all that long, as she had volunteered with a chortle when he made his move. He had kissed her right after that first coffee date, coming out of the Thomas & Mack Center where they agreed to meet — even before she got into his Porsche. And on the four – hour drive to LA, dutifully taking part in the senator's convoy, they had laughed about Greenspan and Gates and how Mosley had refused to engage, and she told of how at 23 she had earned an MA in Poli Sci at Notre Dame, before "hacking it" through marriage with the Cebuano scion whom she dumped after a couple of years. Why? "Cuz every night we'd turn in, he'd brush his teeth and slip into bed with his white Hanes tee tucked neatly into his white Hanes briefs. Ha ha ha!" In LA he took her to the Santa Clara Racetracks, her namesake. The club's artist – in – residence was among the finest equine painters in the world, she learned. "His works are at the Armand Hammer Museum — watercolors of race horses and gamefowl. Sly Stallone collects 'em, too, so does the Sultan of Brunei." Clare was further impressed when the artist agreed to have her sit for a portrait that very afternoon. So he's really big – time, she thought of Ric — with big – time friends of a varied sort. Hmm, interesting. He's quick to kiss the taste of Juan Valdez Volcan off my lips, too. For his part, during that session — a couple of hours in the artist's Glendale studio, Ric de R. somehow found himself queasy about getting even a whit attached. The last women he had — a couple of blonde American showgirls, a Filipina singer, a Fil – Am dentist in San Diego, a Cubana, a Mejicana, a Chinese – American — it had all been for sport. Well, no one lasted because each one eventually found him weird, he knew. That was okay. He could turn around and find gratification in his prime vocation, out in the shooting range where he still managed to maintain 20-20 vision and a calm pulse. At a thousand yards, a thousand – five, with the Barrett .50 caliber and its sharp scope, no SWAT guy visiting Nevada could out – damage him. At 53, he knew he was still extraordinarily accurate with a rifle. For more than three decades since his dad had gifted him with his first bolt – action, he had steadily out – shot everyone, even the so – called pros, until he turned pro himself with one challenging contract that only went awry when he was forced to high – tail it from the archipelago. On his last practice rounds in the desert only a week past, he had proven it to himself again. Deadeye. 282


And it suddenly came in handy, too, when the senator's daughter asked after Belgian waffles and Colombian coffee, on their way to the parking lot, if he could help spot the white Ford E – Series wagon that had dropped her off. "On a Clare Dee day I can see forever," he deadpanned, then felt sheepish that he had thrown caution to the wind with a pun so forced and harking to accents back home. She had laughed her full laugh, sparkling and lustrous as South Sea pearls — so authentic she threw herself forward at him, and her face was suddenly so close he could do nothing else but stifle her appreciative good cheer by meeting her mouth with his. She kissed back, just as spontaneously, tiptoeing and thrusting the relative brevity of her body upon his. He remembered her tattoo as they disengaged. "You stretched your butterfly wings for me. I like that." This time she looked up at him with a coy smile. "I want to ride with you, back to Bellagio. I'll let the wagon go." And as they sailed in the wind in his dark Porsche, top down, Ric's hand on hers, she asked if he still had business to do that day, or if he could pack up fast after lunch. Cooed in his ear: first he drops her off at the hotel as she had to settle her stuff, then if he can make the run with them to LA that afternoon, why, that would be excellent, as they could have a couple of nights and a day together and maybe even take the same flight to Manila on Wednesday, he was due in that same week, anyway, wasn't he? Clare kept smiling, chortling, trying to recall when she last felt this giddy. And while tilting her dark glasses, remembering that it had been on the breezy roads of Mactan, across the bridge from Cebu and towards the splendid white – sand beaches, when she felt increasingly in love with her fiancé, benedict, hubby, all before it slowly went wrong, that is, dull. Not the fast track for her, really, all she wanted was to run through files and decisions as a professional, hit the paper trail so efficiently it wouldn't fail to help the world. Then a man with a light touch, but who could sweep her off the gravel of the mundane time and again, make her laugh, swoon, gasp over a surprise, even more than simply pleasure her in bed. Since the break – up, even a year before it was finalized, she had looked at no one with anything more than passing interest. Her work with UNDP was exciting enough, with the frequent travel a boost and a balm to the spirit. She was free and she liked feeling free, like now, easing into the Strip in full sunlight, the neons all asleep, beside this man that excited her, noted her every gesture and responded accordingly, observed her at a party for less than ten minutes before asking her when and where she had had her ankle painted permanently, and was that a monarch in full wing? He was much older; that was fine, too. No bumbling with manners and disposition, a sufficient generation removed that the 18 years between them meant the debut of quite a gamut of expectations. And there seemed something enigmatic about this Ric 283


de Ramos. He danced with her in conversation, guided her with quiet assurance across a nightclub floor or into a diner the next morning, across a parking lot, into his... ooh, it just had to be a sports car. Maybe he liked guns too, maybe he was small, we'll soon see, but no matter, he held his cards close to his chest despite seeming transparency. Many older men had tried to hit on her, of course, especially abroad where her father's stature was unheard of. Well, except for a few higher – ups among the old Asia hands. But she just couldn't imagine herself settling with a Caucasian, they were too pale, especially down there. Even the occasional Latino, of an ideal shade, failed to sustain her interest. No one could sing, even at the oddest moments, like a Pinoy. Her four lovers so far had all been countrymen. She was sure she knew how to handle them, while keeping free. She glanced at the man behind the wheel. Now, he may be a challenge. Somehow the smell of gunpowder clung to this Ric. "What time do you and your father plan to take the drive out?" "Two p.m. So we're clear across before sundown. We'll be at the Westin Bonaventure. All night, all day tomorrow, Dad's meeting with his constituency. We're everywhere, right? How about my treat for late dinner, just you and I?" "You mean me and you?" He smiles, thinly, can't help it. She beams, too, sensing a pact. "If you come convoy, then I ride with you." "I have a place in Palos Verdes. Rancho." "So that's where you park this baby." Sweeping her arms out. He pulls his eyes off the road, smiles wider now as he looks at her. "You know me so." "Already." She darts her tongue out. "Already," he intones more than echoes. Again they held hands on the PAL flight to Manila. In First Class. The senator had to stay another night. Clare couldn't dissuade Ric from upgrading her Biz ticket; no need for Dad to know. Only one other passenger up front. They kissed a few times. But mostly she caught up on sleep. She was happy. Two nights in bed with Ric certainly equaled catching up on lost time. As she drifted in and out of a Beta state, fragments of conversation replayed in her head, wrapping images of ceiling, chest, linen, mouth, his hairy balls, her limbs scissoring his head, his eyes turning into slits as she mounted him a second and a third time, that first night... The verbal exchanges were as spare as their congress was fluid. "Of course I believe in fate." In his deep voice. "Were you ever married?" she had asked, blurted out. "No," came the simple reply. Silence. Looking out from his view deck at Palos, sipping coffee late morning, their first together: "Your car seems to have changed color." 284


"It's a 911, Millennium model. Only 911 units produced by Porsche in the year 2000. Photo – chromic processed paint finish, which means it's capable of changing color upon exposure to radiant energy such as light or sun. When it's daytime it appears greenish or fatigue. Towards sundown it turns to aubergine. And at night it is totally black." Over late lunch at an Italian resto, down the hill from his chalet: "How often are you here?" "Only when I have biz in Hell – A ." "What kind of biz?" "Sundry. Investments. Buy art. Big games at Staples Center. When LeBron faces up with Kobe..." "Hope you don't mind, how'd you get so posh?" That merits a grin. "Been lucky. Landed gentry for old folks. Orphaned early. Been lucky. Always made a killing. And I hardly ever lose a wager. Have a third eye for sports results, in particular. Been lucky. The sharpest of third eyes. Crackerjack. Long – range sniper." "You're often abstruse, you know." "Ha – ha. Haven't heard that word used in a long time. Since Chaucer." Seeing a Beretta in his bedroom drawer. "Why do you have this?" "Could come in handy. I role – play, sometimes as Bond." Slithering up to him again. "Oh, you shake me up. While stirring me too. Slurp, slurp." He never asked her about her job. She volunteered it just the same. Twice she mentioned how she'd have to be in Geneva in a fortnight. The lake would be so beautiful, especially with a man like him. Oh, R de R. Slurp slurp. And she seemed to read his thoughts. "Well, if you're wondering, yes, it's my first time with a man in 44 months. Kundalini wake – up time, ha – ha. My Lord, what you've rung up, Ricky – Ric. Call you that, okay?" Throwing a thigh around his pelvic bone. "Before the hub, Bay Dako I called him, ha – ha – ha – ha, three boyfriends. Yup, you're only my fifth amendment. Dimension...." "The circle of," he drawled in his gravelly voice. "Don't get that." "At 35, Pinay, you've only had a basketball team, ha – ha. Slow going." "Dearie, me old – fashioned that way. Until I come." And then a clincher from him. "You know something? When you add our ages, they amount to infinity." "Hmmm. Yes. Luv ya sweetie. And oh, of course they're reversible," she coos as she goes south under the sheet. It wasn't until their second night that she heard him humming while they writhed in bed, California King. It amused her. He even seemed to time his thrusts to the music. 285


"Bach, isn't it?" she asked between moans. "Well..." "Air on G String." "Not really. If you really want to know..." "Uhhh, urhrmmm, yessss..." "The Hammond organ line is certainly inspired by Johann Sebastian's Sleepers, Wake! Well, a bit of Air. A closer melodic influence would be the organ choral prelude, O Man, Lament Your Sin So Great, from JBS' Orgelbüchlein or Little Organ Book. Otherwise, what you hear me hum, for now, has also borrowed from When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge. Eventually, he cover – ed this tune, too." Fascinating man. All that, while losing not a beat in what he had jokingly referred to, arcane as usual, as kanyod Maragondon — albeit he had owed up to being "Quezonian" and not Caviteño. "Ahhh. Ohhh... Were you in music school, darling?" "There. There. There!" "Yes, yes... Oh!" "There! Now you can't come up for air, Clare. Not yet! Hitting your G – spot. Bull's – eye!" In Manila she invited him to come to a cocktail party at their North Forbes place. Dad was playing host. He only remarked that she'd seemed to become inseparable from "that fellow." Was she hooked into a life in Vegas now? "Oh, Dad. I'm very happy with him. I've asked him to join me in Geneva." "So you can both fly First – Class, I suppose." "Oh, Dad, such a sleuth." He laughed. It didn't mean approval, but theirs had become an easy relationship, especially after Mom had passed away a decade back. Besides, there were two brothers before her, both of whom were beginning to take over the conglomerate. She could wander off meanwhile and take her rightful place in the hierarchy, eventually, if she wanted to. Now all she wanted was to sport him around as her trophy Fil – Am stud, get the matrons licking their chops, not to mention her colegiala sisterhood. "My, he's tall, what, 6 – foot – 2?" chirped Charie. "Hmm, yummy, dark and dapper, too." Ric made perfunctory conversation with everyone she introduced. But she didn't notice, scooting off to the foyer upon spotting the entry of the Honorable Secretary of Finance, why, together with the Senate President, that his eyes had steeled into a different slit mode when he looked across the lawn and recognized someone. Clare wouldn't have known that she had missed out on the intros with this fellow, the Governor, as swarthy as Mindanao in Ric's mind's eye. Ric's mouth turned grim. He had avoided getting anywhere close to a subject, any 286


putative target. He didn't favor circling like a hawk. No need to swoop down except with the sight. And then it was quick farewell to the prey. He sauntered across the blue grass towards a koi pond. There, a young girl of eight or so was playing with a bamboo stick, thrusting it into the shallow water to stir up the brightly colored fish. He was about to advise her to stop when a voice came from behind, calling her. "Cristina!" The girl cast the stick aside as she ran off towards the lanai, where a young man, obviously her father, waited with his arms open, urging her on. She nearly stumbled into them. The father noticed that her laces were undone in one pink shoe. He quickly went down on one knee, unmindful of how his starched barong Tagalog crumpled in front and its hem touched the red tiles. Ric appreciated the sight, recalling what he had read long ago, how the purest love was that of a father for a daughter. It struck him then that the picture of a dad bent on one knee while tying up a young girl's shoelaces was the perfect manifestation of such love. The purest kind. But who would obtrude upon the pretty picture than the swarthy, pudgy Governor, three courtiers in tow. The man was gesticulating wildly as he walked towards the edge of the lanai, harrumphing with his large face turned to his companions. He didn't even notice the act of pure love that was unfolding in their path. A courtier had to pull him back to prevent him from falling over the young father. A shoe made a mark on the barong's hem. Ric's eyes were so sharp, from twenty feet away he could almost discern the sorry shape of the partial footprint. Apologies were exchanged, but the Governor appeared to be the offended party, his brows knitting and his fat nose crinkling. Ric noted the look of worry on the young girl's face. He resolutely walked away to find Clare and take his leave. That night at a Shangriâ&#x20AC;&#x160;â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x160;La suite, overlooking the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues, Clare snuggled close to Ric and repeated her invite. "Next week, fly out with me to Geneva, darling. You'll be done with your meetings here by then, as you said." But this time she added something new. "You know, there's a Swiss banker, Gustav, who always takes me out whenever I have to do work at the UNDP liaison office there. He's practically my boss, I submit all papers to him. Very nice, a real gentleman, handsome, plays tennis like a pro. A bachelor at 36. All the ladies in the building have been trying to catch his eye, to no avail. No playboy, no ladies' man. All work, then he hits the gym and the shell courts. Until I came over the first time. And we burned the midnight oil in his office. He offered to take me back to the hotel, but we had coffee and a snack and before we knew it, it was 3:30 a.m. He's asked me out to dinner several times. His staff has been abuzz over that, everyone says he never took any lady out. The last time, five months ago, we kissed." 287


Her hand scuttled down Ric's chest to his navel. She gently filled it with a forefinger and pushed playfully, before stroking all fingers further down until she reached his crotch. She held him, patting up the rising shaft. "But it didn't go beyond that," she continued as Ric remained silent. "I can't really see myself doing it with white guys. Well, I don't know, there was a charming Jewish boy in college with whom I almost made out. Oh, but all that hair. And rough skin. And his inner thighs were so pale they almost seemed translucent, ha – ha." She stirred Ric up with her palm. "Even with chicken, turkey, I prefer dark meat." Now she swept the sheet aside and nestled her head in his pubis. "But this guy Gustav, if he takes me out one more time, I know I'll go home with him. And maybe just close my eyes in the dark, ha – ha." With that, she parted her lips and started her ministrations. Ric reached out with a hand to stroke her hair. He thought to himself, Ha – ha, now she's upping the ante, is that it? With a gambler like me, no less. "We will see," he said, the words slow and separate. He thought he heard a muffled "Yehey!" before he filled up her mouth. And an hour later, as he applied his Vegas version of the climactic kanyod Maragondon, pumping to a forceful cadence, Clare heard him actually sing, that same melody, and now she recognized the song. "We skipped the light fandango,/ Turned cartwheels 'cross the floo – or./ I was feeling kind of seasick,/ But the crowd called out for more..." She almost laughed, delighting in his seeming boyishness. He hadn't even blanched over her Swiss gambit. Now here he was, humping away to the tune that she now recalled had been a classic favorite of uncles and aunts. "The room was humming harder,/ As the ceiling flew awa – aaayyy./ When we called out for another drink,/ The waiter brought a tray..." With each thrust, his voice would alternately go soft and loud. What sort of gamesmanship was this, she wondered as she groaned along. "And so it was that late – errr,/ As the miller told his ta – aaale,/ That her face at first just ghostly,/ Turned a whi – terrr sh – aaaaade of pa – aaaale..." "I can't explain it to you," he said later as they shared nasi goreng from a large plate while settled on the settee. "It's a boy thing. A boyhood thing." "Haha, prithee tell me," she mumbled with a mouthful of shrimp and rice. But he didn't laugh along. And for the first time Clare noted a seriousness to his face that bespoke more mystery, a darker enigma. He downed a double of Laphroaig Quarter Cask from a tulip glass, reached out for his Camels unfiltered and lit one. "I know I'm weird," he said almost solemnly. 288


This time Clare knew it was her turn to listen. But there wasn't much he had to share, or seemed to want to. Again, those cards stayed strapped to his chest. She tried a new tack. "Okay, just explain to me, sir, what are those 16 vestal virgins, pray tell." He begun with a joke, how when they were teeners in the early '70s, as the song turned cult, they would render it in parody and begin their version with "Un – ci – vi – lized Pam – pang – go..." He rocked with hearty laughter this time. "Regional racist," she quipped. "The lyrics are by Keith Reid. He heard what became the title phrase at a party, said to a drunken girl. 'Light fandango' is a play on John Milton's 'light fantastic.' Oh, as tribute, Freddie Mercury and the Queen would also use 'fandango' in that other anthem, Bohemian Rhapsody. Cryptic lyrics make up Whiter Shade of Pale. It's full of literary allusions, take – offs. Shakespeare, even, in the two extra verses that didn't make it to the popular cut, only sung by Procol Harum live onstage. 'If music be the food of love...' Contrary to received wisdom, however, 'miller's tale' has nothing to do with Canterbury Tales. Willie Nelson turned that into 'mirror's tale,' and Reid would approve, tipping his hat. 'Vestal virgins' referred to the handmaidens of Vesta, a half – goddess in Roman mythology..." He poured himself another double. He seemed alone, not even glancing at her. It was as if he had delivered this lecture before. "Fascinating, all fascinating," he went on. "It was released in 1967, when I was 12. It became the most – played song in the UK, of all the songs in the last 75 years. And in 2004, it placed No. 57 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. I was singing it at 17, 18. And now, while short of 57, again I'm singing it, because you're here to screw, and so I love you." Only then did he look at her and smile. But Clare tired of the melody and more so the ritual each time they made love. Ric chose to stay weird, inexplicably. If he didn't show up in Geneva with her, she resolved with certainty that she'd take it up with Gustav. She was like that anyway, she thought to herself, free the very next minute, even after overwhelming passion. He knew it, too, or rather sensed it, especially when he checked out on the weapon, and was told that the hit day had been deferred, the golf tourney wouldn't be on for another week. Jim the Bad arrived, and hosted his 60th bash in a suite on the 28th floor of a high – rise overlooking Manila Golf and Country Club. Ric asked Clare along, and she was cheery all night even as she kept pressing not too subtly, asking Ric if he had fixed up his own tickets, or if he could follow after two – three days, now that his final investments meeting wouldn't be till the next weekend. She could fend off Gustav only that long, she told Ric flatly, to his face. 289


He smiled at her. And in the next few nights, while still pleasuring her immensely, he would still stamp his character on the lady's memory. He sang as he mounted her. "She said, 'There is no reason/ and the truth is plain to see.'/ But I wandered through my playing cards/ and would not let her be/ one of sixteen vestal virgins/ who were leaving for the coast/ and although my eyes were open/ they might just as well have been closed// "And so it wassssss... laaaa – ter,/ As the miller told his tale,/ That her face at first just ghostly,/ Turned a whi – ter... shade of pale." And when he took Clare to the airport and finally told her, "Hold him off for a week. I'll join you within that time," she threw herself up at him as she had that first morning in Vegas, kissed him hard and said that oh it pleased her so, knowing she'd see him again and maybe they could travel around Europe and she'd go back to the Strip with him when time called for it, as they had planned, she had planned, nay, envisioned if in a haze, during those moments of stupor after they had come together. "I'll see you, Clare," Ric said in all sincerity, before he tried to turn it light. "Then I won't ever have my vestal virgin escape my sight, no matter what coast she leaves for." Jim the Bad had given him the key to another suite in the same condominium that overlooked the ritzy golfing greens of the most expensive membership club in the country. Two floors above where they had partied the week before, it was in the name of an Australian investor, Jim said. But any trace would lead to no one, as long as Ric did it cleanly. He was told he would simply find the Bushmaster BA50 and ammo in the wardrobe closet of the master's bedroom. He had asked for a 43 – inch Model 98B Caliber .338 Lapua Magnum, which he favored for its ergonomic pistol grip, among other essentials. With a Harris bipod and a scope, it would weigh short of 18 pounds. He could stand or crouch on one side of the Roman – shaded window, push it open by 3 – 4 inches, and no one would see him from below. Or the Model 95, Barrett, lighter, compact but with pinpoint accuracy, an excellent bolt action rifle — its steel upper receiver reinforced with an M1913 optics rail to support the chrome – chambered, fluted barrel. He could assemble it in less than 60 seconds without the use of any tools. He imagined that the parts would have to be smuggled piecemeal into the residential tower, past the usual security detail. But he had forgotten that this was still a country where big – boss deportment carried a lot of face value across metal detectors and polo – baronged guards.. It was explained that the Bushmaster .50 caliber was what was readily available, ever since it was brought in for the Special Action Force in the mid – 199Os. Well, bolt action single shot was what he needed all right. One shot. Else he'd consider it a poor 290


kill. Having to follow up with one or two more could reveal his vantage to a trained eye on the ground. He also learned that the weapon had proliferated among warlords' private armies in Mindanao. Okay then, he wouldn't mind the 30 – pound weight or recoil. Could only be fitting that Governor Pamanuat takes a .50 BMG cartridge that one of his own may have sold off, after they had bought the same from the military. What goes around comes around. Lastly, he was assured that the barrel had a Weaver – style MIL – STD – 1913 rail for mounting the rifle scope. He went up to the Aussie's unit close to midnight on the eve of the invitational golf tourney. The security was sleepy at best. Nobody even checked his overnight bag that had his binocs. He turned on all the lights and checked out the wardrobe closet. There it was all right, wrapped in a comforter, lying horizontal, the Bushmaster's 30 – inch, free – floating barrel welcoming him with a gleam. The stats paraded in his memory. Magpul PRS Adjustable Buttstock with LimbSaver ButtPad. Manganese Phosphate finish on steel parts. High Efficiency Recoil Reducing Brake (similar to a .243 hunting rifle). 1 M.o.A. Accuracy with M33 Ball Ammunition. Weight of loaded magazine: 3lbs 14.5oz. That's 33 pounds in all. Her age, Clare's. But my goodness, all of nearly five feet, this damned sniping machine. He checked out the windows. Looked out in the moonlight. The course lay to the west. No morning sun would cause a glint from the end of the barrel. He only had to protrude it an inch or two through the window. He needed a piece of tall furniture on which to rest the bipod, else he'd have to crouch. He found a personal ref in the master's bedroom that was just right, a little over five feet high. He wheeled it against the left side of the sala window. It was the perfect angle, overlooking Hole No. 3. He turned off the lights and looked out at the killing ground again. The sand traps looked grey. He remembered someone saying that all golf courses had recently been prohibited from using white beach sand. And he realized that it was also for an environmental cause — double – bladed — that the portly Governor had to be removed from the face of the earth. The warlord had made a mint from illegal logging in the Marcos years. That bought him a seat in the legislature, as a congressman, and when the maximum term ended, he ran unopposed for provincial governor. Now he stood against an international mining consortium that could liberate his home province from his clan's clutches. Thus was the contract rationalized. Oh, Ric de Ramos didn't care. Demons and angels never figured in the equation. A contract was a contract. He would rather not have seen the Governor up close at that cocktail party. He would rather not have seen the look in the little girl Cristina's 291


face when the crude pasha had taken her kneeling father as an affront on his privileged path of swagger. Now Ric would be less than dispassionate when he pulled that trigger. Now he had to rest. Six hours of bedtime, alone. He'd wake by sunrise, have an hour to survey the layout again, use the binocs to follow the course of the flights and spot the Governor teeing off after Hole No. 2. Seven hours left of a once – charmed life. Ric drifted off to sleep. Across three decades into the past, when at 23 he loved a Cristina so much he wept and almost blew himself up when he found her with another guy, at a bar, cooing to one another when he was supposed to be her boyfriend. And the music that played in that haze begun with We skipped the light fandango – oooo... He couldn't touch a woman again for many years, until he got drunk at a stag party and the gang left him with the gift for the groom, urging her to make him happy instead. Indeed she did, until he managed to enter her and started wailing, blaring out that song. And he could never enter anyone without doing the same, even when each one thought him strange, and left him even if they had loved him till that moment, or till the next, and the next, and it was only with Clare that he succeeded in deferring the song their first time, but out it went and rose again from his scarred throat the next night, and now he could not stop her from joining the rest in flight, all the vestal virgins in his life. He would dream himself awake at sunrise, making coffee, sipping the brew as he mounts the Bushmaster and the bipod on the small ref, draws the Roman shades a bit to allow him four inches of sight, pulls the window open. And as he sights the foursome through his binocs, the phone would ring. And Jim the Bad is agitated as he says, running out of breath, the President is here at the clubhouse, the American Ambassador is here, their security details are all over the place, it's not a safe operation anymore, Cousin Ric, you could get nabbed, you're sure to be nabbed, it's okay, one more week, he'll be a great target again somewhere else, just give me time, abort, abort, listen to me, Ric! And he would put the phone down without a word, walk to the window, study the portly figure through powerful lens and see how weakly the sorry man's drive hooks towards one resplendent flame tree in bloom. Ric counts the minutes it takes the Governor in his bright red shirt to find his ball in the rough and smack it hopping back into the fairway, three, four shots to make the green. And the phone keeps ringing as Ric de Ramos draws himself to full height and pushes the rifle's barrel out a bit into space, adjusts the scope, his left eye shut, his deadeye wide open and pressed on metal, seeing the world up close, beyond the pale, seeing Clare in a boat on a lake fed by water from the Alps, seeing the little girl look up confounded, at this man whose figure now fills up a personal sight, walking, walking towards fate. Ric decides to aim an inch lower than right between the eyes, at the very base of that pug nose, it'll never crinkle and snort again. R de R starts to hum his own take on Bach as he arrests his pulse and slowly pulls the trigger. 292


alfred a. yuson

The Ten Most Memorable Moments with D. Thus Far, & Why I Can't Let Her Go 1. That nice long talk at the park, her on a bench, me supine on a concrete path, looking up at trees and stars, and savoring a different kind of intimacy with words in the dark. 2. She crying in the shotgun seat on the drive back to the city. I treasure that, pleasure the vulnerability, its naked betrayal. Although I wished I had not been behind the wheel, and could have comforted her with more than words. Even as her weepy ones were about an alien past. 3. On a desolate, wild – looking beach. Just us, balmy winds, searing sun. A stretch of rough sand, creamish, pebbly by the surf. The far edge of shore, prickly with green. But a boat, yellow, hides in the shade. I pick out tiger's eyes from among the tide of shells. Offer these to her, and the horizons sparkle. 4. On a trimaran, 65 – footer. Like rock stars, our large shadows play on the foredeck. Blue skies then clouds above. Into a bay, placid, where many other pleasure craft sport flags from Rotterdam, Alaska, Fukuoka... Acantus, good white wine 293


chilled and popped and toasted, chips dipped into reverie of setting sun, horns of a mountain so distant inland, unlike our haloes. 5. That afternoon we snoozed together in a van, cradling one another's hands, arms, shoulders. Through dirt roads past coconut stands before reaching asphalt towards town, telling stories until we doze off, then wake entering the island's capital, like the newest of strangers. 6. Or when we saw our mother. Up on a hill she lived, ensconced among yards and gardens, her haven's view of sea below a pacific span towards neighboring islands. Again everything is placid, like Mom's health at 92, is sweet moment for photo – op with the latest book of the author now laid gently back to bed before she coughs more words, even those for loving and remembering. 7. And when we pretended, in a motel room, that I was the landlord's son, mounting her. Harrumphing with imprecations, roaring the stereotyped villain's demonic laughter. As she, perhaps a farmhand's daughter, virginal, sobs and whimpers over imminence of penetration. Then our union is as cinematic as sugarlands imagined as far as eye can see or a horseman cover in full day's traipse towards borders. Rough, soft, the edges of domain.

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jose eos rodriguez trinidad

Moving Stasis On Sheba Chhachhi’s Winged Pilgrims

Every utterance is deficient; it says less than it wishes to say Every utterance is exuberant; it says more than it plans -Alton Becker, Beyond Translation1 In the case of the visual medium, this deficiency and exuberance of every ‘utterance’ can be more problematic and undifferentiated. Inasmuch as it is with caution that viewers analyze the means of expression of the artist, it can still be said that the artistic production conveys less than what it intends and more than what it plans. A paramount example of this dynamic deficiency and exuberance manifested in art is Sheba Chhachhi’s Winged Pilgrims: A Chronicle from Asia (2006) exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum.2 With its critique of the avian flu pandemic, Winged Pilgrims illustrates the idea of ‘moving stasis’ in the dynamics of Asian economies, ecosystems and cultures. Thus, the whole review essay traces this discussion of moving stasis as both a formal and conceptual characteristic of Chhachhi’s art installation. Moving stasis is first manifested as a literal movement of the static in the artwork, and subsequently as an abstraction of the idea that economies, ecosystems and cultures in Asia are in this danger of static movement. The installation art is featured in a dark room where the only sources of illumination are the lightboxes, either those mounted on the wall or those which are integrated in the sculptural installation of “hollow, gray robes of Buddhist ascetics.”3 (see Photo 1) The artist made use of lightboxes in varying sizes through the ingenuous process of layering different screens to form a collage of images — a background of a Chinese painting and a foreground of red chickens, for example. The purpose though of layering these screens is to make the foreground move in scrolling direction from left to right. In the case of one of the lightboxes already mentioned, the scanned copy of the painted

  Alton Becker, “Beyond Translation: Esthetics and Language Description” in Translation: Essays towards a Modern Philology (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1995). 2   From the exhibition: The Collectors’ Show Chimera: Asian Contemporary Art in Private Collections (14 January to 25 March 2012). 3   Alexander Keefe, “Winged Pilgrims: Sheba Chhachhi at Nature Morte” posted 9 January 2008,   accessed 24 March 2012 <http://jugaadoo.blogspot.com/2008/01/ once – upon – time – or – so – story – goes – there.html>. 1

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Chinese background remains static while the red chickens on the transparent sheet of the foreground moves from left to right. It is this movement of the chickens that I consider as the moving stasis. Somehow, it becomes a complete inversion of our idea of the moving image with its literal concretization of a static image that moves. With eight lightboxes on the wall and five lightboxes held by the hand in the installation of the gray robes of Buddhist ascetics, Chhachhi explores and meditates on the idea of different birds — described in the exhibit as ‘eponymous winged pilgrims —  in their moving stasis: in their constant flight from place to place but in their remaining stationary and bound. It is with a certain playfulness that Chhachhi approaches this pastiche and layering in the lightboxes, especially with the choice of images which are juxtaposed: a background picture of gray Buddhist robes which is layered with pelicans of different sizes and foregrounded with the moving static images of men in red contamination suits. Another lightbox also depicts an Indian tapestry of antelopes running in the fields all in rich colors of reds and oranges, punctuated by an image of a man (or a Hindu god) with green skin, and whose moving foreground are silhouettes of hawks. (see Photo 2) With her playful use of the visual — both evidently Asian in tradition and uncompromisingly critical of the process of extreme globalization — the lightboxes achieve a theatrical characteristic without being translated into a narrative. Given the year it was made (2006), Winged Pilgrims would have been gravely relevant as a reactive critique of the avian flu pandemic which spread rapidly in 2005 (serendipitously or fortuitously falling under the Chinese Year of the Rooster).4 At the time of its current show at the Singapore Art Museum, it is quite dubious that the art installation still becomes this critique of the viral spread of the bird flu. Even if the art therefore fails in this aspect because of the time lag, it cannot be said that the discourse shouldn’t be elevated to a greater and more pressing issue which is man’s relationship with his environment — a theme which becomes more universal than the mere reaction at a regional pandemic. As Jaap Goudsmit remarks, “A new phase seems to have begun in the evolution of avian flu viruses. They have found their way directly to man.”5 The quote can be taken in parallel to how our shock is not rooted on the reactive criticism but on the universality and permanence of its discourse. The exhibit evinces a criticism of man’s disengagement or alienation from nature; its description at the entrance may seem more apt as it is told as “the metaphoric murder of certain aspects of humanity (namely, our relationship with the natural

  Mike Davis, The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu (New York and London: The New Press, 2005), 165. 5   Jaap Goudsmit, Viral Fitness: The Next SARS and West Nile in the Making (Oxford: Oxford University   Press, 2004), 23. 4

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world) and a bizarre manifestation of the impact of globalization....”6 This alienation in humanity’s relationship with nature could also be viewed in the light of the art work’s moving stasis: a movement which is falsely depicted as advancement (probably in the guise of capitalistic influx and economic progress) but a stasis in the overall autonomic achievement of the person as a human entity. It is as if there is a coupling and tension at the same time for the existence of social (economic) advancement and individual (humanistic) degradation, of development and dehumanization, of physical movement and spiritual stasis. Winged Pilgrims becomes a concrete and artistic diagnosis of the current trajectory of Asia’s participation in the process of globalization: the region’s supposed movement with a critique of its possible stasis. With the lightboxes’ traditional Chinese and Indian art forms interspersed with documentary images of polluted cities and contamination suits, it cannot be denied that such images are the reification of the tension between tradition and modernity, environment and humanity, ecosystems and economics. There is not much need for elaboration of this glaring idea that between the ecosystem and economy, one has been ‘compromised.’ Wang, et. al. even state: China has been very successful in developing its economy in the past 30 years. However, the severe environmental deteriorations associated with the rapid economic growth have generated serious concerns... [T]he environmental deteriorations have caused significant damages to its economy and socio – welfare, and undermined its economic achievements (emphasis mine).7

  Curator’s description of Winged Pilgrims: A Chronicle from Asia.   Hua Wang, Hongqiang Jiang and Jinnan Wang, “Environmental Protection in China” in China in the 21st Century: Pollution in China ed. Michael Chang (New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.), 1.

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What is different though with Chhachhi’s presentation of this thesis is the emphasis given on the primacy of the environment vis – à – vis the humanization of man (not just the environment per se). It is therefore not simply about the physical degradation which is critiqued but more so the dehumanization and alienation which is concomitant to this environmental endangerment. The exhibit’s provocation of its audience is not only to think of environment as being degraded but also the stasis brought about by economic movement to the human spirit. The absence of the human head and hands at the installation of the gray robes may be an instance of the artist conveying the absence of man or the conscious detachment of man. It is a ‘lack’ which is necessary for the audience to understand the supra – human capability of being confronted with the reality of dehumanization. There is no capable human face which can present this thesis on the stasis of our movement because of our being ‘trapped in the system’ of dehumanizing work and of alienating nature. Aside from the gray robes without heads and hands being a conveyance of this de – humanization, these robes may also parallel with the gray and septic look of contamination suits which are pictured prominently in some of the lightboxes. As the exhibit reacts to the avian flu pandemic spreading around the world, so also could we parallel the robes as the protective cover used to shield one from the deadly virus. In its non – movement (i.e. stasis), the ‘robes’ installation becomes a didactic tool for Chhachhi to somehow remark that the only protection that can be gotten is through a return to nature — Buddhist monks (whose big, gray robes are used for the installation) after all emphasize this common bond man has with nature. These robes become the only protective gear necessary for the avian flu pandemic since even the most antiseptic suits will not save the individual from nature’s deadly force. This idea of the ‘moving stasis’ though is more than just seen in the dialectical force of economics and ecosystems since it becomes evident as well in the cultural dynamics of Asia, most evidently in art. Taking inspiration from Clement Greenberg’s Avant – garde and Kitsch, this essay maps out the presence of the avant – garde in Asian art (the focus in this essay is on Chinese art) and the preponderance of kitschy recreations of ancient paintings, Chinese ‘antique’ vases and lion sculptures. In this sense, the moving stasis is characterized by the forward movement of certain artists in expanding their experimentation with art while at the same time being stunted in stasis by the popular kitschy view that Chinese art is limited to the ancient and archaic versions of art in the Middle Kingdom. Chhachhi illustrates this moving stasis in art through the static collage of the traditional art as background and her experimentation of the moving birds in the foreground and the use of lightboxes rather than traditional painted scrolls. One of the lightboxes has a scanned photo of an inked landscape of the mountain ranges in a fashion similar to Chinese scrolls — black ink outlining the mountains and the 298


trees in a cream parchment – like paper, with Chinese characters that add to our recognition of its origins. This lightbox is foregrounded by an orange mythical creature whose head is that of a human and whose body is that of a bird. (see Photo 3*) In this dynamics of static background and moving foreground, Chhachhi may have unintentionally created a thesis on the moving stasis of Asian art: the static perception of the traditional and the constant wish of certain vanguard artists to challenge this traditional forms of art. Even in the book Modernism and the Museum, Rupert Arrowsmith notes how the British Museum Prints and Drawings Gallery has a small public exhibition of Chinese and Japanese traditional art.8 The same can be said of history and art museums in the different parts of the world where the concept of Asian art has been confined to the vernacular and archaic: to Chinese porcelains, Buddhist figures, Hindu statues, Japanese paintings and so on. In much the same sense, the normal individual would look for these ‘antiques’ to put in their homes to show off their taste in ancient art forms. It is not uncommon to see houses with a confluence of different souvenir art from India, China, Japan and the rest of Asia just to emphasize their capacity to travel. Indeed, Greenberg was right when he said, “Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money — not even their time.”9 But vis – à – vis this stasis and stunted idea of Asian art is a rising consciousness of modern art which tries to transgress the former concepts immediately tied with Asian vernacular art. Even Richard Vine puts emphasis on this in New China, New Art: The show [Inside Out: New Chinese Art], organized by Gao Minglu, then a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, presented not modern variations on traditional Chinese ink painting and ceramics, or Socialist Realist images of the sort prescribed in China since midcentury under Mao Zedong, but startingly up – to – date works from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan by some seventy – two contemporary artists and groups versed in every current Western art form: oil painting, sculpture, installation, photography, performance, video and new media. (emphasis mine)10

  (All photos were taken by the author)   Rupert Richard Arrowsmith, Modernism and the Museum: Asian, African, and Pacific Art and the London   Avant – Garde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 105. 9   Clement Greenberg, “Avant –g   arde and Kitsch,” in Art and Culture: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 5. 10 Richard Vine, New China, New Art [revised and expanded edition] (Munich, London and New York:   Prestel, 2011), 8. 8

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This quote wishes to drive the point that there is this dimension to Asian art. Indeed, the movement of experimental art in China has been unprecedented especially with the common notion that its art scene is flooded only with modern variations of traditional techniques. Ai Weiwei has been one of the most recognizable artists in this movement for the avant – garde; his Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) signals a transgression and interpellation to the cultural importance of age – old and priceless antiques. Experimental art is likewise created by many other artists like Wang Guangyi (Great Criticism: Nikon, 1992) and the performance artist Zhang Huan.11 In this conjecture of the thesis of moving stasis being applied to Asian art as both moving in the avant – garde and being stunted with the ‘tradition’ and kitsch perspective, Chhachhi achieves an exuberance in her art work (‘it says more than it plans’). From her initial intention of critiquing the avian flu pandemic in 2006, Winged Pilgrims now becomes a reification of this idea of the moving stasis in Asian economies, ecosystems, cultures and arts. More than simply a reactive response to the bird flu, her installation becomes a provocation of the cancerous state of Asia’s dynamics as it moves towards the trajectory of rapid globalization. It is a critique of the cancer that moves so rapidly but remains static in the de – humanized corpus. And salvation lies not in the cure but in the diagnosis.

  See: Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century (Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 1999). Add: Richard Vine, New China, New Art.

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alyza taguilaso

Aphasia The truth is all you needed to do was listen: to the quietest of quarks I offer nothing but a set of bones bent in angles foretelling the future. Maybe furniture — upholstered in the brightest shade of jaundice the world could procure. Often, lions would be found lazing about the city. I know nothing of what they prefer to do otherwise. The dodo was last spotted dillydallying in the afterlife, clueless as the last of its kind. Water has always had the problem of where to wash its hair the same way books refuse to keep silent at night. Always I hear them flapping their thin wings, flailing and failing to take flight. They hush the words squirming inside their bowels. I have seen mud slowly make its way amidst a hurricane of monarch butterflies. In my past life I fired a bullet to the sky. Midway through the stratosphere it decided to desire an orbit of its own so off it went: spinning at a speed rivaling stars, all steel and ambition zooming into that vacuous shell of space beyond. Limbless and without a mouth, sometimes I wonder where and what it would be now —  a wavelength, a specter, a muted song sending pinpricks across a continuum of cones and planets situated at the center of solar systems refusing names, the second coming of the Big Bang, a god uncreating its only child. If it had a chance to speak, would it tell me what it really wanted?  

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alyza taguilaso

Examination* 1.

On a scale of 1 to 10, rate the amount of smoke you let in your lungs after receiving yet another failing result (40/100). Estimate the amount of time it takes for your lungs to turn black as coal and dry as the crust of the corridor wallpaper you peeled in frustration.

2. Indicate the number of times you’ve rolled the word succinylcholine in your mouth, how you sometimes see injection as pen, how your body is paper, how your heart needs more ink. 3.

Qualify the pain you feel the less you see your family. Is this type of pain sudden or gradual upon onset? When did you first feel it?

4. How often does it occur to you that each slide you examine under the microscope was once someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, child, and/or lover? What patterns do you see? Which colors? It is pathologic or physiologic? Diagnosis? 5.

After you elicit a reaction from the schizophrenic, making her mimic the many voices in her head — perfect timbre and tone, the sound of children chiming in a crowded hallway, do you still hear the voice in your head echo Not good enough?

6. Classify the relationship existing between the lack of scratches and wounds on your wrists with the prohibition of long fingernails when using surgical gloves. Direct, inverse, or none at all? 7.

In hours, indicate the amount of sleep you get per night and pinpoint the part of your brain that is slowly packing its bags, bringing with it some childhood memories as souvenir, making way for a quiet exit, as the rest of your mind is jammed with terms like apnea, benzopyrene, clavicle, drusen, et cetera.

8. Have you ever felt the need to shade your answers into circles instead of boxes? Have you ever imagined those boxes as bodies to be shaded in, shadowed? Recall your first time seeing someone else’s naked body partly shaded — light lulled down by window blinds. Identify the hormones that surged within you when, the morning after, he turned to the cadaver instead of facing you. No erasures allowed.

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9. Which part of the body do you find yourself praying to moments before the questionnaire is passed to your opened palms? 10. When the patient before you bawls and brings himself to the headboard, clutching the steel of the bed after you mistakenly mention cancer, how long do his cries take before you forget your own loneliness?

*â&#x20AC;&#x192;â&#x20AC;&#x192; First published in The Philippines Free Press

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8. Single malts between us. But hers were mine, too. And hers my appreciation, for the doubles, more than wee drams. From crab cakes to durian we gorge on company and civilized cheer all around the long table — a feast of fine food and fave spirits. Even if I had to call it a night without emptying the last four tulip glasses, else the whisky impair my senses further, before the midnight drive south through the long corridor between our bedrooms. Ah, Islay, island of reckoning, O bridges between our Hebrides, grant me this bride! 9. In the pool of noon sun, warm on skin, breasts and butts a – glisten. In the jacuzzi at night, moon aloft, the gushing water wouldn't get as warm as we wanted. But the embrace between siblings staves off the cold. 10. I had a bad nosebleed. And she was cool. Each drop was augury of weather. Cycle and season loop along, pour down as passion. *** So how can I, may I, detach as if there had been no yesterday, no now, when there may still be —  odious as top ten lists can ge  — odors of tomorrows?  —  18 December 2010

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glenn sevilla mas

An Excerpt from "Children of the Sea"* (An Adaptation of John Millington Synge's "Riders to the Sea")

characters manding an old woman osmar her son, 35 estrella Osmar’s wife, 33 corazon Osmar and Estrella’s daughter, 14 the men and women of caluya setting The stage’s walls are made of katsa (sack or muslin cloth). To the right is Manding Soling’s bedroom. Here, an old bamboo bed occupies most of the space. Near it is an old table with a lighted candle. To the left is a small kitchen with its requisite table and chairs. In one corner is a bamboo cupboard. Near it is the sink with an earthen jar filled with potable water. On the other side of the kitchen is an old cabinet filled with old clothes. Suspended above the stage is a huge fishing net that is dangerously threatening to collapse. time and place A stormy month in the province of Antique, Philippines. The island municipality of Caluya. The farthest from the capital town of San Jose de Buenavista, Caluya and its nine other islands can only be reached by a motorized pump or ferry boat. In Kinaray-a, native language of Antique, the word “kaluya” literally means lonely. the excerpt A dim light reveals the house. Still clutching her rosary, Manding Soling is now sitting on the edge of her bed anxiously waiting for Osmar’s arrival. The sound of angry waves is still heard. Soon, Osmar, Estrella and Corazon enter the kitchen.

osmar

‘Nay?

manding soling

Osmar? Osmar, is that you run? (Stands up and rushes to meet Osmar who hurriedly enters her room.)

In the kitchen, Estrella places the lamp on the dining table. She goes to the cabinet and momentarily stares at the knapsack. Corazon sits and watches her silently. Soon, Estrella hides it inside the cabinet. At the same time…

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osmar

‘Bisa ko (Bless me), ‘Nay. (Kisses the right hand of Manding Soling.)

manding soling

Bless you, my son. (Embraces Osmar.) Thank God you are safe, Osmar! Ano abi ay I had this bad dream kaina (a while ago). I really thought … But you are safe. And that’s what’s important. Ti have you any news about Bendor? Has anyone seen him, or heard anything about him, in Sibay? Ha, Osmar?

osmar

No, ‘Nay. But I’ll continue looking for him when I return from Mindoro.

Estrella enters Manding Soling’s room.

osmar

I won’t stay there long man, ‘Nay. Berto and I will just load the blocks of ice from Manlor Ice Plant and then we’ll immediately go back here. (Sits on Manding Soling’s bed.) Corazon? Corazon!

corazon

‘Tay?

osmar

Abi bring a clean shirt for me anay here. The one I have on is very dirty run gid.

corazon

Dali lang, ‘Tay!

She gets up and goes to the cabinet. She searches for a clean shirt but her attention is clearly on the knapsack. Outside, a gust of wind can be heard. Corazon gets the bag and carefully opens it. At the same time…

osmar

Don’t worry, ‘Nay. Bendor cannot just disappear man, indi bala? He is bound to turn up somewhere soon. And for all we know, Bendor just might be in another island, worried man about us. We never know, indi bala?

estrella

Or he could be floating lifeless somewhere out in the sea. We also never know, Osmar. Indi bala?

osmar

Estrella!

estrella

Your brother has been gone nine days run, Osmar. Nine days! And we haven’t heard anything about him … not a single thing we could pin our hopes on! Tapos you tell us to still hope and not worry?

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osmar

Ti what do you want me to say bay, Estrella? Ha?

A moment of silence.

estrella

I cannot go through another nine days of hoping and not knowing anything, Osmar.

In the kitchen, Corazon carefully closes the knapsack and returns it to its hiding place. She gets a clean shirt and closes the cabinet. At the same time …

estrella

You will not leave for Mindoro. At least, not now, Osmar.

osmar

Estrella! We talked about this run, indi bala? Didn’t we talk about this run yesterday? Ha? And you agreed that I’ll leave for Mindoro the moment I arrive from Sibay!

estrella

What are you saying I agreed, Osmar? I didn’t! You just assumed that I did but I didn’t!

osmar

But our talk ended with you not saying anything about it anymore! It ended with me saying that I’ll leave for Mindoro today, indi bala?

estrella

Osmar, my not saying anything anymore didn’t mean I agreed!

osmar

(Exasperated.) Sus! (Turns to Manding .) ‘Nay, abi talk to her anay

estrella

It’s you who should put some sense into your head, Osmar! Abi listen to reason man ay! How can you possibly go back to the sea when the weather has not improved at all? Listen to it bala! And look at yourself man abi, Osmar! Have you seen yourself lately? Ha? You look like death itself! Rest, Osmar! Rest anay abi. Even for just a night lang. Just one night lang, Osmar. Rest!

and put some sense into her head abi.

Corazon slowly enters the room.

corazon

‘Tay. (Hands over the shirt to Osmar.)

Osmar accepts the shirt but doesn’t put it on.

manding soling

Corazon and I had better prepare supper anay siguro. You must be hungry run, Osmar. 307


estrella

‘Nay.

Manding Soling does not look at Estrella.

estrella

‘Nay!

manding soling

Ta, Corazon.

Manding Soling and Corazon go to the kitchen. Estrella stares after them. Soon, Manding Soling and Corazon prepare the dining table.

estrella

I am sorry but I cannot let you tempt death again, Osmar.

osmar

But, Estrella …

estrella

(Overlapping.) You just don’t know lang but each time you left this

osmar estrella

house to look for Bendor ... each time I watched you leave this house to look for your brother, Osmar … I always felt like I was seeing you for the last time! And I am afraid you will end up just like your tatay! And your brothers! But I kept quiet lang, Osmar. Because even if it was difficult to do, I still somehow understood. But to get ice for the island? I already gave my word to ‘Nong Nestor, Estrella. He is counting on me to be on that boat to Mindoro. Listen man abi to me, Osmar, ay! ‘Nay!

Manding Soling hears Estrella but makes no move to return to the room.

osmar

Estrella, I begged ‘Nong Nestor for this job! And if I don’t take that boat ride to Mindoro, he will give the job to someone else. And you know very well there are many in this island who will gladly take my place, indi bala? Ti if that happens, where am I going to get money bay so you will have something to eat? Ha, Estrella? You know of any other way haw of earning money? Abi tell me. Tell me, Estrella, and I will gladly not leave for Mindoro now! You know why? Because you are right! I am tired! I am very tired run, Estrella!

estrella

But we can do without money for a few days more, Osmar. And even if we eat tangkong (water spinach) and ginamos (fermented anchovies) and pinakas (dried fish) everyday, no

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one is complaining man, Osmar, indi bala? And we will all go on eating tangkong and ginamos and pinakas for as long as they are the only things you can afford! You will never hear us complain, Osmar. Just please stay. Please. A moment of silence.

osmar

Let’s talk about this some other time, Estrella. I am tired. And I still have a job to do. For now, I need you to understand me lang anay. Please.

Estrella doesn’t answer.

osmar

This is my job, Estrella. This is my only job. And right now, I am the only man left in this family, indi bala? If I lose this job, our already miserable life will become even more miserable. I can’t allow that to happen. That’s why I have to leave.

Estrella still doesn’t answer.

osmar

Estrella.

estrella

Of course, you’re right. You are very right, Osmar. Right now, you’re the only man left in this family. And because you insist in doing things your way … because you continue to listen only to yourself … then I will not be surprised if soon, this family will be nothing but a family of helpless women. Now won’t that make this life even more miserable?

A moment of silence.

estrella

Your supper is waiting for you.

And she hurriedly goes out.

*Second Prize, English One – act play 2005 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature

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An Excerpt from “The Death of Memory”* characters juan male, the newcomer the keeper female, masked, guardian of the space and time termino male, crippled vesper male, troubled itch female, sexually abused vida female, the other newcomer All the characters are physically and emotionally tired, and wear very old, very loose, and very dirty clothes. setting An endless expanse of white. At center is a crosswalk with a street sign: Misericordia. Note: The images of the play’s memory sequences may be realized in performance either through film or shadows. The Keeper’s cradle, on the other hand, may literally be a contraption suspended above the performance space, or it may just symbolically be made part of the set design. If so, lights and sound can greatly aid in the transformation of the stage space from an endless expanse of white to the claustrophobic, embryo – like domain of The Keeper. the excerpt Thunder and lightning. Juan falls down. Then, the flickering images of Juan’s memory are projected everywhere. These include a couple dancing, a couple quarreling, a rusty chair, and a woman with her legs spread apart. In a while, red rose petals slowly fall as Juan’s lullaby is again heard.

juan

Roses. I first gave her roses. After we met I sent her roses. After we made love I gave her roses. After we ate we walked and kissed we breathed danced quarreled ran away to a town very far away we kissed made love I gave her roses. Red red roses. In a corner of the room there were withered roses. Brown roses. And I sat on a chair. In a corner of the room I sat on a chair staring at the roses. Metallic. And rusty. Chair. The only chair in the room and it was brown roses and rusty. Chair.

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The faint scream is again heard.

juan

And then she screamed. She screamed like a pig getting slaughtered at night how she screamed. Metal against skin … metal scraping skin it was cold so she screamed. She was screaming my name and she was cursing my name and she screamed. I stood up ready to leave but she screamed. I wanted to leave but she screamed. Moved back to the chair my feet to the chair I was trapped in the chair because she screamed. And then …

The lullaby fades out.

juan

… there was nothing. I was sitting on the chair and there was nothing. I was sitting on the chair and I was waiting for a sound and there was nothing. I was sitting on the chair and I was looking at the roses and there was nothing. So I got up. And opened. The door I got up. He was removing his gloves the doctor I got up. A tap on my shoulder the doctor gave me I got up. (A beat) And there she was. The woman I love there she was. Silent in bed there she was. Blood on her crotch there she was. Silent in bed with blood on her crotch there she was.

The red rose petals are replaced by black ones. Then, the cradle descends. The Keeper is back.

vesper

The Keeper.

termino

Back. She’s still here The Keeper.

Juan and The Keeper stare at each other.

juan

Silent. In bed. There she was. Silent the room the woman I love there she was. She was looking at me with blood on her crotch there she was.

the keeper Murderer. Your own flesh and blood you’re a murderer. juan

And then she turned away. She wouldn’t look at me she turned away.

the keeper Murderer. Your own flesh and blood you’re a murderer. You are. A murderer. The rose petals stop falling.

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juan

I am. A murderer and a coward yes a murderer I am.

Juan stares at his hands as the lullaby is again heard, faintly. Soon, the cradle ascends.

juan

I. Am.

Thunder.

juan

Yes I am.

termino

(Softly) But ... Twelve. The beginning twelve. The beginning Itch was

A moment of silence.

twelve and she was …

Termino looks at Juan.

termino

Your memory, Juan. That wasn’t all of it, wasn’t it?

Juan turns away. Termino and Vesper look at each other.

vesper

So we’re back to how things were? Is that it, Termino? Before Itch left?

Termino doesn’t answer.

juan

Itch showed us the way. Out. So we should do as she did. To get out.

Thunder and lightning. Vesper is rattled.

vesper

But … (A little louder) No! No, not me. Not me, Juan, I’m just fine. Here. I’m really just fine here. After all, we’re back to how things were, right? Even without Itch? Right?

juan

Termino?

termino

Can you? Face your memory, Juan? Face all of your memory, can you?

A moment of silence.

juan

(Not very sure) I can.

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vesper

But thunder, Juan! Can you not hear it? And lightning! When they strike, we’re supposed to just … sit in our corners … and wait! Wait for the moment to pass. Because it always does. Pass. And things become okay again.

juan

And then? (A beat) And then what, Vesper?

A moment of silence. Vesper has no answer for Juan.

juan

You said thunder. And lightning.

Juan scoops up some rose petals.

juan

You also see these. Think they’re real?

Juan scatters the petals that he gathered.

vesper

Our memories are real, Juan.

juan

But they’re just that, Vesper. They’re just memories.

termino

So … we summon The Keeper is that what you’re saying, Juan? Like you did. And destroy it. Like Itch did.

Thunder.

vesper

We’re not even sure where Itch is.

juan

She’s not here.

vesper

That doesn’t mean she got out!

juan

It’s a good enough reason for me! (A beat) Termino?

More thunder. Then, food packs drop from above.

vesper

Now look what you’ve done, Juan. And I’m still full from the last meal!

juan

Then don’t eat, Vesper! You’re not hungry? Don’t eat!

vesper

But the rules, Juan! If we don’t eat … 313


Another set of food packs drops from above. Vesper groans.

vesper

Now look what you’ve done, Juan! Look at all this mess! How can we possibly stuff all of this inside our throats when we are still full from our last meal?

juan

We won’t.

Termino stares at Juan.

vesper

What?

juan

We won’t. Eat that we won’t.

More food packs drop from above. Vesper stares at the scene with disbelief. He rushes to get one food pack and starts gobbling down the rice cake. In a while, however, he stops.

vesper

I can’t. I can’t eat all of this I can’t. I can’t eat all of this I just can’t! I just really can’t. No!

Vesper breaks down. Termino and Juan just stare at each other as the rain of food packs continues. Thunder. In a while, the rain of food packs stops.

juan

And we can’t ever know where Itch is if we don’t do as she did. (To Termino) We have to do something. To get out we have to. Summon The Keeper like Itch did we have to. (To Vesper) Sacrifice something of ourselves we have to. The sacrifice will lead us out. It should. Lead us out of here it should. (A beat) And we each have to destroy The Keeper.

Lightning.

vesper

What? But I can’t do that. I’m sorry but I can’t do that.

Juan looks at Vesper, who laughs nervously.

vesper

I mean, I can’t ever face … and you are saying destroy? … that memory I just ever can’t. I can’t ever go further inside that room I just can’t. Do you understand, Juan, I just can’t! I just. Can’t!

juan

Then I’m sorry. Really, Vesper, I am. (A beat) Your memory.

Thunder.

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juan

Sorry.

The tolling of church bells is again heard …

vesper

What? But it’s not yet time, is it?

juan

I’m sorry, Vesper, but it is time.

vesper

Oh my God but I can’t. I’m sorry, Juan, but I can’t I just really can’t now I’m sorry!

termino

You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Vesper.

… and then the silly children’s rhyme.

vesper

I just can’t, Termino, I just really can’t.

termino

Juan, stop it. You have no right to do this to Vesper, Juan, you have to stop it. Juan, stop it!

Juan just stares at Vesper. The tolling of bells becomes louder.

vesper

Not this time, Termino, no. Make it stop, Termino, make it stop please!

termino

You can’t do this, Juan, you can’t do this to Vesper, Juan, no!

Juan doesn’t say anything. The cradle descends.

termino

No!

vesper

Oh my God oh my God no. I can’t I just really can’t no. I can’t go back there now no. No please no!

the keeper You should. Have knocked. You should have knocked, Vesper. You should. Have knocked. vesper

But I can’t!

termino

(Gently) You don’t have a choice now, Vesper. Just go through it again. Just … go through it.

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vesper

Not now I can’t. Termino, I can’t.

termino

It’ll soon be over, Vesper, right? And you don’t have to go further if you don’t want to. Just go through it the way you always have, Vesper. Just go through it.

A strong force pulls a frightened Vesper toward the cradle.

vesper

No. Termino help me please Termino no! I can’t do this now Termino I can’t no!

Termino stares angrily at Juan.

termino

It doesn’t have to change, Vesper! It doesn’t have to change so just go through it!

The tolling of bells stops. Then, the flickering images of Vesper’s memory are again projected everywhere.

vesper

Oh God. Oh my God.

termino

No change, Vesper, no change.

vesper

Oh my God … (Tries to compose himself) … I can … I can all right. I can go through this now I can all right.

termino

That’s right, Vesper, you can!

Thunder.

vesper

A … A birdcage … Then … red light … In the corner red light … And a schoolbag … A green schoolbag … Walk. I walk. On grass. Then white door. White sofa door.

Vesper hesitates.

vesper termino

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I can’t. I just really can’t. It’ll soon be over, Vesper, just go through it and it’ll soon be over!

(Seething with anger, to Juan) How dare you do this to Vesper, Juan!


Juan doesn’t acknowledge Termino as his full attention is focused on Vesper.

juan

But you have to, Vesper. Go further inside that room you have to.

termino

(With disbelief) Juan!

Vesper composes himself.

vesper

All right. Bedroom door open. Now. And I see … black. Mama in bed black. The room. Black. The bed. Black.

juan

(Overlapping) Go on, Vesper. Go further into your memory. Go!

the keeper You didn’t knock. You didn’t knock, Vesper, you should have. Knocked. vesper

Who. Mama in bed with you who! Mama in bed who is please!

The tolling of bells is again heard.

vesper

Mama. Who.

the keeper Come. Sit on the bed Vesper in. Come. In. vesper

What?

the keeper Come sit beside me, Vesper. Come. Join me. In. vesper

What? What did you say, Mama, what?

the keeper I won’t hurt you, Vesper. Come. In my child come. A distraught Vesper slowly goes up the cradle.

vesper

Mama? Who. Mama in bed with you who?

The images of Vesper’s original memory fade out as the image of a priest standing before a huge cross is suddenly projected everywhere. Vesper bursts into tears.

vesper

No. No not him Mama no. But how could he not him Mama no!

The Keeper extends her arms and embraces Vesper fiercely.

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the keeper But he is blessed my child. My beloved little child he is blessed. He’s the reason why you’re here so you’re blessed. We are blessed. vesper

No! That’s not true Mama please say it no!

the keeper But we are little child we are blessed. Suffer the little children we are blessed. The Keeper’s embrace becomes threatening. She starts to smother Vesper.

vesper

No. Mama say it’s not true say it’s not Mama no. No!

Vesper struggles to break free from The Keeper. The tolling of bells becomes louder.

the keeper But we are don’t you see we are blessed! We are blessed don’t you see but we are! Blessed! Suffer. Little. Blessed! Vesper struggles as The Keeper, who is now a lot stronger, continues to suffocate him.

vesper

No!

juan

Fight back, Vesper! Fight back and destroy The Keeper! Fight back, Vesper! Now!

Termino stares at Juan, and then at Vesper, who is now gasping for air.

vesper

(Weakly) Mama?

The Keeper continues to suffocate Vesper whose hands start to go limp.

termino

Vesper, no!

Soon, the tolling of bells fades out and a bright light shines on the performance area. It is so bright that it washes out the flickering images of Vesper’s new memory.

termino

(Softly) Blinding, shining stars in the end … No!

Termino hurriedly crawls toward the cradle and pulls Vesper away. The Keeper is taken aback. With Termino helping him, Vesper uses what remains of his strength and manages to push The Keeper away. The effort throws him off the cradle. The bright light fades out, and the cradle immediately ascends. The Keeper is furious. Juan watches the cradle go up while Termino immediately attends to Vesper.

318


1972-1992 REITERAtion & REFUTation Major concerns of this period include the craft of writing, as well as bilingualism and socio-politically relevant works.

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P

erhaps as a reaction to its previously radical orientation, heights' resurrection in 1974 focused more on honing the craft of writing. This was reiterated in the 1975 editorial by Jose Mariano and Ricardo Saludo, which stated that "higit sa lahat, layunin ng heights ang bigyan-layunin ang pagsusulat, ang isusulat, at pati ang iisipin at gagawin ng nagpapayaman sa isipan nila o ng iba, sa unibersidad. Kailangang tumulong ang heights upang mailapit ang mag-aaral o gurong Atenista sa karaniwang tao." This call for socially-relevant writing was clearly seen in such pieces as 2 Liham (which was written by Nelson Praxidio and Manuel Rico, both workers in Ateneo) and Nina San Agustin's Isang Ngiti, Noel (1976). On the other hand, the following years focused more on recapturing heights' tradition as the 1978 publication featured pieces from earlier issues. The rise of new writers was also welcomed, as they pushed for the continued thirst for literary excellence. Such prominent writers as Benilda Santos, Rofel Brion, Danton Remoto, among others, were recognized for their craft. This focus on tradition was also seen in the historical study initiated by An Mercado and her team in 1985. The influence of the past was also clear in the reiteration, refutation and revision of Emmanuel Torres’s 1952 pronouncement of the death of literature. It served as a stable point from which all the myriad of voices of succeeding editors return and take up from — showing not a sporadic movement from past to present and present to past but a recurrence of change. 320


The concern about social relevance, echoed again by Danton Remoto in 1982, resurfaced over the years. Some issues decided to focus on such traditional themes as love and nature despite political upheaval, but this was seen by Joel Pagsanghan in 1984 not as "kaburgisan o kawalan ng malay ukol sa lipunan. Ipinapakita ng mga ito na mahal natin ang buhayâ&#x20AC;Ś At nagagalit tayo kung ang buhay ng ating kapwa ay hindi iginagalang". Rico Abelardo offered his view in 1987, saying that "Gasgas at kupas na ang talinhagang ginamit. Hindi kasinlinaw ng mga tema noong nakaraang rehimen ang mga paksang politikal ngayon kaya't maaaring walang nararamdamang sipa o tulak ang mga makata sa kampus na sumusulat dito." On the other hand, other issues decided to tackle these concerns head on with such features as the Crame Collection in 1985, and the tribute to Ateneo writer-martyrs like Eman Lacaba in 1986. Bilingualism, brought up as one of heights' objectives in 1974 through the encouragement of Filipino translations, was again a major issue. The large number of English works in such years as 1988 was tempered by the influx of Filipino pieces in the succeeding volumes. This was reflected in the following years which featured works in other Filipino languages, with topics often focusing on the countryside.

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Art Editorial Visual Art in heights began as an accessory to the literary works that the folio contained. Covers and section dividers were the only visual highlights in the early years of the publication. They were nameless, given small page space, and did not embody anything beyond what they were, the publication. Without a body of literature, the visual accessory would serve no purpose.   However, people like Pio Castro (Art Director, 1962) and Jose Lacaba (Art Director, 1963) felt that visual art can be much more than that. In the following years, the way heights used and featured visual arts changed. In 1964, the folio itself was made up of cardboard and Manila paper and in 1968, the folio was designed to look like a Tide box. Visual art was used to make a statement for experimentation and accessibility.   Decades after such bold designs, heights moved from using art, not only as a medium for expression but a means to pay homage to Philippine visual arts, through the Comic Issue of 1995. It addressed not only the progression of literature, but also the resurgence of Philippine comics and the rising interest of the community for the visual arts.   Finally, in 1997, heights formally opened the Art Gallery section of the folio with the editorial of Rommel Joson. Over the years, heights has refined its collection of Atenean visual art in order to establish itself more clearly alongside its older counterparts in English and Filipino literature. Even John Paul Marasigan gave it a permanent place in the organization by coining the “the Official Literary and Artistic Publication and Organization of the Ateneo de Manila University” in 2007. Still, the tradition of visual art has a long way to go before it is as firmly rooted.   Even though in the beginning visual art presented by heights to the community only began as an accessory to literature, it has been evolved beyond that. It has become its own body of Art, whose purpose is its own.   It may be to capture the fluidity of movement in Chua’s Savannah, the ominous glow of a mundane grocery refrigerator in David’s photograph, and fragility in Maguyon’s Maselan. Or function as commentary on the effects of consumerism in Dolosa’s Do Not Overuse Your Whitening Cream, the objectification of a human being

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in Lascano’s Grocery Shelf, and an ironic reversal of fortune in Ruiz’s Doña Angelica Carpaccio. At its core, visual art’s purpose is to allow the viewer to see through the eyes of another, the artist. Calanoc’s Solipsists gives us his rendition of the self that will never know anything outside of its own realm, Marasigan’s Traverse expresses the magnitude of a journey which exists within and beyond the lowly traveler, while Reyes’ Creation Cycle is her abstraction of an endless process of rebirth.   These artworks are a great sample, together with many others, of the tradition of art in heights — tradition of expression, of growth, and of plurality. Therese Nicole Reyes November 2012

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Jose Tence Ruiz. Do単a Angelica Carpaccio. Oil on primed linen (52.5 x 213.4 cm).

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Jose Alejandro Dolosa. Do Not Overuse Your Whitening Cream. Collage and acrylic on paper (27 x 28 in).

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Jose Alejandro Dolosa. Witching Hour. Paper, acrylic, and oil on wood (17 x 22 in).

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Jose Alejandro Dolosa. Banahaw. Plaster of paris, acrylic, and pebbles (25 x 15 in).

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Kylo Yu Chua. Essense of the Masquerade. Cast-marble with lacquered whites (12 x 6 in).

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Tintin Lontoc. Control. Digital.

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Noelle Pabiton. The Gray. Graphite on paper (9 x 13 in).

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Juan Viktor Calanoc. Solipsists. Book sculpture (5.5 x 7.5 x 0.8 in).

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Meagan Ong. Windmill. Ink, rice paper, thread (13 x 3.5 x 0.5 in).

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Kylo Yu Chua. Savannah. Cast-marble with lacquered whites (22 x 10 in).

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Matthew Lee. Better Half. Digital photography.

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337 Therese Nicole Reyes. Creation Cycle. Ink and alcohol markers (6 x 33 in).


Pam Celeridad. Delilah. Acrylic on 4 pieces of canvas (39.5 x 39.5 in).

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Alfred Benedict Marasigan. Traverse. Acrylic on canvas.(24 x 24 in). 2nd Place, Maningning Miclat Art Competition 2012.

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John Alexis Balaguer. Yoni. Photomanipulation.

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Nicole Maguyon. Bago Kita Masdan. Digital photography.

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Victoria Isabel Yap. If only you looked through. Photography (4 x 6 in).

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Tommi Principe. Illustration II. Digital (9.5 x 6.5 in).

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Panch Alvarez. Santiguar (from the Exorcism series). Ink on paper (5.1 x 8.1 in).

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Nicole Maguyon. Maselan. Digital photography.

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Angelo Juarez. Living on a Prayer. Film photography.

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Regine David. Untitled. Digital photography (13 x 19 in).

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Wilford Almoro. Anatomika III (The Heart). Mixed media (9 x 9 in).

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Patricia Lascano. Grocery Shelf. Digital.

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Peter Paul Blanco. Golden Harvest. Oil on canvas (18 x 24 in).

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Pahiyas Festival. Oil on canvas (18 x 24 in).

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Jamie Bauza. Great Distances. Watercolor and acrylic (9 x 12 in).

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Wilford Almoro. Anatomika II (The Eyes). Mixed media (9 x 9 in).

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Jose Tence Ruiz. Icarus in the Age of Spandex. Oil on primed linen (122 x 213.4 cm).

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Alfred Benedict Marasigan. Microcosmos. Oil and acrylic on canvas (20 x 20 in).

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1992-2012 CHANGE & CONTINUITY

This period is marked by its constant drive for excellence, as seen in the release of special issues as well as the restructuring of HEIGHTS over the years. The influences of technology and modernity are also seen, yet the importance of history is still recognized.

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I

n the last twenty years, heights was marked by expansion and exploration of new possibilities. Special issues on such themes as travel and coming home (1992), comics (1995), Rizal's life and works (1996), pop culture (1997), women (1998), ekphrasis (2005) and sexuality (2005, 2009) were published during this time, as well as the Seniors’ Folios. These years also saw the official launch of the Kuwentong Pambata Book Grant in 2008, which first traced its roots to the 1996 Sa Bukal ng mga Panaginip issue on childhood and retrospection as well as the 1997 publication of the children's storybook Ang Katapangan ni Atoy Magiting. The constant drive for excellence also led heights to be more conscious of its role in developing a community of readers, writers, and artists appreciative of beauty. Indeed, the 1993 editorial declared that "[heights] ay hindi lamang magasin na tumatanggap o tumatanggi sa mga akda kundi isang organisasyon ng mga kabataang manunulat at kritiko na nagtataguyod ng panitikan sa kampus sa pamamagitan ng isang semestrihang magasin at iba pang mga gawain." The 1994 issue which featured essays on writing reiterated this idea with the aim of debunking the Myth of the Ivory Tower. The constant restructuring of the staff line-up (1993, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007) was also seen as an important step in achieving heights’ goals — finally

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formalizing the inclusion of the Art Staff in 2002, the Design and Production staff in 2007. 2007 also marked the beginning of the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Constitutional Reform; it was continuously edited through the years, and was ratified in 2012. The heights Writers' Workshop in 1995 and the heights Artists' Workshop in 2010 were also established with these ideals in mind. Events like the creative talks, training talks, Salimbayan Talks (co-sponsored with the Loyola Schools Filipino Department) as well as collaborative projects like Serenata (2006) Poetry in Motion (2008), Ekphrasis (2010) also reflected these objectives. heights' effort was in turn recognized, receiving such awards as the Gawad Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr. from the College Editor's Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in 2002, and the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg Best Literary Organization from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) in 2009. Technology and modernity were also influential, seen in such volumes as the Millennium Issue (2000), 3D issue (2010), and Chroma (2011). heights also made use of the growing prominence of social and digital media to reach out to its readers through the creation of its official Facebook and Twitter accounts, official staff blogs, launch of its new website, and the digitization of folios.

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Despite the rise of the digital age, history had always served as a stable foundation for heights, evident in the efforts to trace its roots as well as the production of a narrative historyâ&#x20AC;&#x160; â&#x20AC;&#x201D;â&#x20AC;&#x160; an endeavor that continues from the nineties to the present. However, time itself has robbed us of the opportunity to archive all issues in our attempt to provide a rigorous historical account. As heights commemorates its 60th anniversary, the themes of timelessness, pluralism, dynamism, also animate its celebration. Today, heights continues to uphold its tradition of art, beauty and excellence in its unceasing cultivation of a literary and artistic culture within and beyond the Ateneo.

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Gemino Abad (Department of English) Gemino H. Abad. University Professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines (up). He teaches literature and creative writing in up and Ateneo de Manila. He has 40 books to his name (poetry, fiction, literary criticism, anthologies) for which he has received many honors and awards. Cyan Abad-Jugo (AB Literature 1991 / Department of English) Cyan Abad-Jugo recently put out her first young adult novel, Salingkit: A 1986 Diary (Anvil 2012). She also recently wrote a 6-chapter series for children entitled "The Earth-Healers" for the Learning Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Kenneth Isaiah Abante (BS Management Engineering INSERT INFO) Marami nang napaglumaang tsinelas si Ken. Mahilig kasi siyang maglaro ng tumbang-preso. Madalas niya mang hindi matapon ang pamato sa linya, masapul ang lata, o mahabol ang taya, patuloy pa rin ang pagtanaw niya sa tinutudla. Jim Pascual Agustin (AB English Literature 1990) Si Jim Pascual Agustin ay nagsusulat at nagsasalin ng mga tula sa Filipino at Inggles. Lumaki siya sa Marikina at pinalad na makatanggap ng Tulong-Dunong Scholarship sa kabutihang-palad ng yumaong si Fr. James O'Brien, sj. Ang mga una niyang aklat ay Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, 1992) at, kasama ang mga kapwa-Atenistang sina Argee Guevarra at Neil Imperial, Salimbayan (Publikasyong Sipat, 1994). Inilathala ng University of Santo Tomas Publishing House ang kanyang mga bago at ilulunsad pa lamang na mga aklat: Alien to Any Skin (2011), Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (2011), Sound Before Water (2013), and Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (2013).Naninirahan siya sa Cape Town, South Africa mula noong Oktubre 1994. Nagsusulat siya sa kanyang blog www.matangmanok.wordpress.com. Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry in Filipino and English. He grew up in Marikina and was a lucky recipient of a Tulong-Dunong Scholarship with the help of the late Fr. James O'Brien, sj. His early books are Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, 1992) and, with fellow Ateneans Argee Guevarra and Neil Imperial, Salimbayan (Publikasyong Sipat, 1994). His recent and forthcoming books are published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House: Alien to Any Skin (2011), Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (2011), Sound Before Water (2013), and Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (2013). He has lived in Cape Town, South Africa since October 1994. He maintains a blog on www.matangmanok.wordpress.com.

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Wilford Almoro (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006-2011) Dr. Wilford Almoro taught Illustration as Visual Narrative at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies for five years (2006-2011). He now divides his time between his advocacy work at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society as their shelter veterinarian, and illustrating for local and international magazines. His works have been published in local magazines like Rogue, Pulp and Mega and international magazines such as The Sunday Times Magazine (Australia), Men's Health Australia and Discovery Channel Magazine. He also co – illustrated the 2012 edition of the Philippine Almanac. Panch Alvarez (AB Political Science 2009) “After every exorcism session, there must be an evaluation to check progress or lack of it. Then make any necessary changes in strategy.”  —Jose Francisco C. Syquia, Director, Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism John Alexis Balaguer (AB Communications 2012, Minor in Creative Writing) Lex graduated with a degree in Communication and a minor in Creative Writing in Ateneo de Manila, March of 2012, and has been figuring out what to do with his life since then. He's almost done. Kyra Ballesteros (AB Communications 2011) Kyra Ballesteros graduated in 2011 with a degree in ab Communication. Most of her four years in Ateneo were spent in the Publications room with Guidoneers and heightsers. After graduation, she wound up with a semi – stable job at a local publishing house. She hopes to succeed her current boss as a publishing manager. Lles promises to write better stories. This one is for her brother. Harley Barcenas (4 BFA Creative Writing) "Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue."  — David Hume Para sa aking pamilyang laging nagbabasa ng aking mga isinusulat, sa mga kaibigan ko na siguradong nag-ambag din sa antolohiyang ito, at ikaw na nagbabasa ngayon.

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Jamie Bauza (BFA Information Design 2011) Jamie is an illustrator and designer from Quezon City. She loves children's books, and will make many, many books of her own someday. Say hello over at http://jamiebauza.com. Christine Bellen (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Nagtatapos ng disertasyon para sa kanyang Ph D sa Hong Kong Baptist University. On leave siya bilang miyembro ng kaguruan sa Kagawaran ng Filipino. May binubuo ring aklat ng kanyang mga dula, at isang bagong dula niya ang ipalalabas ngayon Jan.-Feb. 2013 ng Ateneo Children's Theater. Peter Paul Blanco (BA Philosophy 2005) Peter Paul Perez Blanco is the fifth and youngest son of the Blanco Family of painters, who started painting at the age of 11 months. His family owns and manages the Blanco Family Museum and Blanco Family Academy in Angono, Rizal. He graduated with a degree in Fine Art from the Academy of Art University (San Francsico, usa) and Business Administration from the National College of Business and Arts (Taytay, Rizal). He is a member of the Art Association of the Philippines. A multi – awarded painter, he has won several artistic achievements and held painting exhibitions in the Philippines, usa, China, and Spain. Aside from painting in oil, he also dabbles in bronze, terracotta, and wood sculpture. Gregorio Brillantes (AB Literature 1952) Gregorio C. Brillantes, a Litt.B. journalism graduate of the Ateneo de Manila, was executive editor of the Philippines Free Press and editor in chief of Asia Philippines Leader. He has served as editor and writer for various other publications, including Focus Philippines, The Manila Review, Veritas, National Midweek and Philippine Graphic, of which he was editorial director and literary editor. He has received the Southeast Asia Write Award, the Gawad CCP para sa Sining, the Gawad Alagad ni Bonifacio, Araw ng Maynila Award for Literature, Catholic Mass Media Awards, National Book Awards, Palanca Hall of Fame and the Gawad Sining ng Lahi from the Ateneo de Manila University. He is the author of The Distance to Andromeda and Other Stories, The Apollo Centennial, On a Clear Day in November Shortly Before the Millennium, Chronicles of Interesting Times, Looking for Jose Rizal in Madrid, and The Cardinal’s Sins, the General’s Cross, the Martyr’s Testimony and Other Affirmations.

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JV Calanoc (4 BS Management) JV Calanoc is currently taking an undergraduate degree in the Ateneo de Manila University in BS Management. He was a fellow in the first Ateneo heights Artists Workshop (ahaw) where he discovered his love for paper as his primary medium. He is currently working on his portfolio, requiring at least 50 sheets of paper to be cut everyday. He would like to dedicate this piece to all the children, old and new, in the Art Staff, especially Moli. Japhet Calupitan (BS Chemistry Minor in Philosophy and French Studies 2012) Nagtapos si Japhet Calupitan ng bs Chemistry, Minor in Philosophy and French Studies noong 2012. Kasalukuyan niyang pinagsusumikapang makamit ang kanyang ms Chemistry sa Ateneo. Bukod sa pagiging abala sa larangan ng agham, madalas din niyang sinusubukang magsulat ng mga tula at mag-aral ng pilosopiya. Patuloy siyang nangangarap, umibig, at umaasa. Nicko Caluya (4 BS Computer Science) Magtatapos si Nicko sa kursong bs Computer Science, na may espesyalisasyon sa Interactive Multimedia at Games, at minor sa Panitikang Filipino. Naging kalahok siya ng ika – 16 Ateneo Heights Writers' Workshop at ika – 11 Ateneo National Writers' Workshop. Siya ang kasalukuyang punong patnugot ng heights, at nagpapasalamat siya sa lahat ng mga miyembro, at sa mga nagdaan at kasalukuyang patnugutan. Patuloy kayong mananatili sa buhay ko. Deirdre Camba (4 AB Literature — English) Deirdre Camba is currently finishing her major in Literature while minoring in Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University. She was accepted as a fellow for both the 17th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop in 2011, and the 11th Ateneo National Writers Workshop in the summer of this year. Her work has been published on heights and Spindle. Deirdre writes because she cannot sing. Burning Heart is her latest (and ongoing) attempt. For Maggie, Pabling, and all my good mornings. Douglas Candano (BA Development Studies 2005) Douglas Candano holds a ba in Development Studies from the Ateneo de Manila University (Development Studies Departmental Award, Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts in Fiction), and a Masters of Urban Planning degree from McGill University.

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A former associate editor of heights, he has received a Philippines Free Press Literary Award and a Don Carlos Memorial Award for Literature for his short stories, and has received fellowships to the 8th Ateneo heights, 4th Ateneo, 45th Dumaguete, 7th iyas and 14th Iligan National Writers Workshops. His stories have appeared in heights, Story Philippines, the Sunday Times Magazine, the Philippines Free Press, the Philippines Graphic, and the Likhaan Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, and have been anthologized in Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 1 (2005), A Different Voice: Fiction by Young Filipino Writers (2007) and Lauriat: A Filipino – Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology (2012). He is currently working on his first collection of stories. A Reply to a Query was first published in A Different Voice: Fiction by Young Filipino Writers and included the epigraph, "For a traveller, a few months before her journey came to an abrupt end". JC Casimiro (AB European Studies Minor in English Literature and Hispanic Studies 2012) Nagtapos si Joseph Casimiro na cum laude na may kursong ab European Studies (International Relations track) with minors in English Literature and Hispanic Studies noong 2012. Noong nasa pamantasan, nagsilbi siyang punong patnugot ng heights at direktor ng dalawang palihan ng publikasyon. Kasalukuyan siyang nagtratrabaho sa Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, at nagtuturo ng Ideological Influences of the European Union sa European Studies Program ng Ateneo De Manila. Mahal niya si Isabela Cuerva. Mark Anthony Cayanan (Department of English) Mark Anthony Cayanan is also the Associate Editor (literary section) of Kritika Kultura, as well as one of the editors of the Kritika Kultura Anthology of New Philippine Writing in English (2011). At present, he is working toward an mfa in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he won the Jerome Stern Award. He is the author of the poetry book Narcissus (admu Press, 2011). Pam Celeridad (4 BFA Information Design) "Your faith was strong but you needed proof You saw her bathing on the roof Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you She tied you to a kitchen chair She broke your throne, and she cut your hair And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"  — Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

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Kylo Yu Chua (BFA Information Design 2010) Kylo Yu Chua was born in Vancouver, Canada during the early summer of 1988. During his childhood years, he developed a passionate curiosity for the visual arts, however it was only during his late adolescent years that a deep affection for the craft of sculpture began to take hold in him. Mikael de Lara Co (BS Environmental Sciences 2003) Mikael de Lara Co is the recipient of numerous awards for his poetry, among them back – to – back Palanca grand prizes for poetry in English (2007) and Filipino (2008); grand prizes in the Maningning Miclat Awards for Poetry in English in consecutive contest years (2009 and 2011); and a Free Press Literary Award for Poetry (3rd place, 2009). He has translated the works of Edgar Calabia Samar and Michael Coroza into English. He works in government. Kristian S. Cordero (MA Panitikang Filipino 2011 / Kagawaran ng Pilosopiya, Ateneo de Naga University) Ilalabas ng ust Press ang ikaapat na aklat ng mga tula sa Bikol at Filipino ni Kristian Cordero ang Canticos: Apat Na Boses ngayong Disyembre. Kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng humanidades at panitikan sa Ateneo de Naga University. Vida Cruz (4 BFA Creative Writing, Minor in Literature — English) Vida Cruz was a fellow for fiction in both the 16th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop and the 51st Silliman University National Writers Workshop. She is a freelance writer for The Philippine Online Chronicles, where she reviews books, movies, plays, and occasionally covers news events. Her fiction has been published in heights and One Hundred Loves (UP Press). She is currently working on her senior thesis and is getting together the post – workshop anthology of sunww Batch 51 (a.k.a. the 51sters). She would like to thank a whole bunch of people who (probably unwittingly) participated in the making of her stories, for all the new things she's learned and continues to learn about writing, and for one of the most magical years of her life (in general). But that list would take up more pages than would be commendable. Furor Scribendi. Isabela Cuerva (4 BFA Creative Writing) Isabela Cuerva is a 21 – year – old Creative Writing major at the Ateneo de Manila University. She was a fellow for nonfiction at the 16th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop, and a fellow for poetry at the 11th Ateneo National Writers Workshop.

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Her work has been published in the Kritika Kultura Anthology of New Philippine Writing in English (2011), heights, and Buklod. She is currently the Associate English Editor of heights . "Bathsheba" is part of the collection Bathsheba's Redemption. For Joseph Casimiro, always Cathy Dario (1 BFA Creative Writing) Why I chose to be a writer? I was moments away from ticking a "safe" and "practical" course on my ACET application, but I remembered this quote by Dennis Waitley "It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, but in the happiness of the pursuit.'' Regine David (BFA Information Design 2010) Regine David is a 22 – year old artist and photographer born and raised in Manila, Philippines. A former member of the Arts Department in heights, her work has been shown in various exhibitions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, USA, France, and the Philippines. She is currently pursuing her bfa Photography studies at the Savannah College of Art & Design in Lacoste, France. Angelica Maria de Asis (AB Interdisciplinary Studies 2012) Nagtapos si Angelica Maria De Asis ng ab Interdisciplinary Studies bilang magna cum laude noong 2012. Nag-aaral siya ngayon ng ma Literary and Cultural Studies at iginugugol ang maraming oras sa pagbabasa. Kapag may kaisipan o damdaming kumikiliti sa kanya, nagsusulat siya. Produkto ang dulang ito ng isa sa mga araw na iyon. Ang kanyang email address ay angelicadeasis@gmail.com at ang kanyang numero ay 09174355295. Nakatira siya sa lungsod ng Marikina. Danilo de la Cruz, Jr. (Radio Journalism in Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism, 2008) Nagtatrabaho si Danilo R. dela Cruz, Jr. sa tv5 bilang news writer. Nagtapos ng kursong ba Philippine Studies sa University of the Philippines sa Diliman, Quezon City at kumuha ng Diploma in Radio Journalism sa Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University noong 2008. Nalathala ang kanyang mga akda sa mga antolohiya, magasin, diyaryo, at iba pang publikasyon. May ilang gawad na ring nakamit sa mga patimpalak-pampanitikan. Tumatayong executive producer ng Media Central, Inc.  — isang kompanyang multimedia na gumagawa ng independent films.

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Allan Alberto N. Derain (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Guro sa Kagawaran ng Filipino ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila si Allan Alberto N. Derain. Awtor ng nobelang Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag at ng Iskrapbuk na koleksyon ng kaniyang mga maikling kuwento. Jan Brandon Dollente (AB Interdisciplinary Studies 2009) Para sa halos tatlong taong katahimikan na nananahan sa pagitan natin: Mike, Anne, Moreen, Walther, Jamie, Marie, Lles, at Tim. Tara, basagin na 'to (na pwede ring: basagan na 'to.) Jose Alejandro Dolosa (BFA Information Design 2011) Dolosa’s works mainly delve into religion, consumerism, and the human condition. He often tries to explore dualities in his subject and appropriates it with irony to create commentaries. In his ongoing series, Covergirl, Dolosa wants to present a glamorous death. Initially working from the images of girls from fashion magazines and catalogues, he depicted them up close with their diseased yet stylish faces almost occupying the entire artwork. Part death portait, part advertisement, the series expresses the humor and horror of dying for fashion. In Banahaw, Dolosa presents a society mired by their material representations of the divine. A critique agains blind adoration, the artworks present a religious irony on presumed acts of faith that proved to be a hindrance rather than a sincere experience.  —  Jake Dolosa was born in San Juan, Metro Manila and raised in San Pedro, Laguna. He was a recipient of the Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts in 2011. Abner Dormiendo (3 AB Philosophy) "To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,

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to let it go." — Mary Oliver, In Blackwater Woods Para sa mga taong nakapanangan na sa aking mga buto. http://lagimlim.wordpress.com/ Brian Paul Giron (AB Political Science 2003, Department of History) Brian Paul Giron tells stories for a living. He is very fond of construction cranes. Vladimeir Gonzales (Kagawaran ng Filipino, 2003-2005) Si Vlad Gonzales ay guro ng malikhaing pagsulat, panitikan, at kulturang popular sa up Diliman. Naging bahagi rin siya ng Kagawaran ng Filipino sa Ateneo de Manila University. Isa siya sa mga manunulat na Milflores Publishing, at regular na nagsusulat at nagpo-post ng mga litrato sa vladgonzales.net. Asterio Gutierrez (AB Literature — English 2006) Aste Gutierrez has published fiction and poetry in various publications locally and abroad. He is a two – time first prize winner for the short story in the Palanca awards, while his poetry been selected for inclusion to the international Best of the Net anthology. He works in advertising. He lives in Makati. Jenina Ibanez (2 AB Literature — English) Jenina is fascinated with faith and forgetting. She’d like to thank these amazing groups of people who have helped her with her writing: heights, everyone at the 18th ahww, wod, and Verso Recto. Alwynn Javier (AB Development Studies 2001 / Kagawaran ng Filipino 2007-2011) Si Alwynn C. Javier ang Editor – in – Chief ng Heights noong 2000-2001. Nagawaran ang kaniyang mga tula ng Palanca noong 2000, 2003 at 2009. Pagkaraan ng maraming taon, nasiguro na niyang ang mundo ay hindi umiinog sa pag-ibig, musika at mga kaibigan lamang—nariyan ang crispy pata, dalawang tasang kanin, at regular Coke sa basong puno ng tipak-tipak na yelo. Angelo Juarez (3 BS Management Engineering) "I'm just lost as you are"  — Sydney Wayser huor.tumblr.com 369


Mookie Katigbak – Lacuesta (AB Communications 2001) Mookie Katigbak – Lacuesta is currently working on her second book of poetry. She is the Editor and creator of Metro Serye, a literary folio featuring new poetry, fiction and graphic art. A prizewinning poet, she won Palanca Awards for two short collections, The Proxy Eros and Sl(e)ights, both of which were eventually included in her first collection of poetry, The Proxy Eros, published by Anvil in 2008. She also won first place at the Philippines Free Press Awards for her poem, As Far As Cho – Fu – Sa and was lucky enough to represent the country at the 2012 Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia. Christine Lao (AB Philosophy 1995) Christine V. Lao was a fellow at the Silliman National Writers Workshop. Her poems have appeared in Kritika Kultura and Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry. Her stories have been featured in Philippine Speculative Fiction; Philippine Genre Stories; the Philippines Free Press; and the Philippines Graphic. She teaches political philosophy and legal theory at Ateneo de Manila's Loyola Schools, and is finishing a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines. Gian Lao (BS Communications Technology Management 2010) Gian Lao is the son of Wilfredo and Fioretta, the brother of Liam, and, currently, the boyfriend of no one. He graduated from Ateneo in 2010. Patricia Lascano (3 BFA Information Design) A mess of conflicting ideas and personalities, beaten, packed and contained into a single socially – conforming entity.  Matthew Lee (4 BS Communications — Technology Management) Currently setting up his bbm and procrastinating for Philo Orals. Will probably cram. (55/140) Ariane Lim (2 BFA Creative Writing) Sa mga kaibigan ko sa high school na hindi ko na nakakausap, sa pamilya kong unti-unti ko nang nakakausap, sa mga bagong kaibigan kong masyado ko nang madalas kausap, kuwentuhan tayo.

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Mark Benedict Lim (AB Literature — Filipino 2009 / MA LIterature — Filipino / Kagawaran ng Filipino) Si Maki—ang minsang nagpapakamakata, nagpapakakuwentista, nagpapakadeep, ngunit lagi namang nakatunganga—ay kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng Filipino at Panitikan sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Nagtapos siya ng kaniyang dalubhasaan sa Panitikan (Filipino) noong 2010 at ngayon naman ay kumukuha ng doktorado ng Filipino – Malikhaing Pagsulat sa University of the Philippines – Diliman. Samantala, hinahanap pa rin niya si Ligaya. Tintin Lontoc (4 BFA Information Design) Tintin Lontoc is a 4th year bfa Information Design major and freelance illustrator. In her spare time, she composes songs for the piano and writes science – fiction short stories. She is especially fond of choctails. Marc Christian M. Lopez (1 BS Applied Math in Finance) Nagpapasalamat si Marc sa mga taong mahalaga sa kanya: sa kanyang pamilya, sa Block X2, sa mga kapwa – dormers niya (lalo na sa C302 at sa mga ka – Aerie niya nung finals week), at sa mga kaibigan niya sa loob at labas ng Ateneo. Lubos pa rin ang kanyang pasasalamat sa mga nakasama niya sa ahww. Salamat muli sa pagkakataon. Higit sa lahat, sa Kanya. Pasasalamat para sa liwanag. Naghahanap pa rin… Nicole Maguyon (4 AB Humanities) Mo is graduating in 2013 with a degree in Humanities and concentrations in Creative Writing and Information Design. Her works have been previously published in heights and Buklod and was a fellow for the 2nd Ateneo heights Artists Workshop, where Bago Kita Masdan was one of the photographs she exhibited after the workshop. Bago Kita Masdan deals with the perception of society on beauty, especially in a technological age such as ours, while Maselan is about transience and fragility. She would like to thank Kat, for all the shared packs, books and breaks; Sam, for the laughs, and the insanity; heights and the Editorial Board 2012-2013, for the madness and the love of art and literature.

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Aidan Manglinong (3 BFA Creative Writing) Heartless 2K13. Shoutout to some kickass people: Block E2014, thank you for putting up with my ‘habits’ and my ‘unconventional’ sense of humor. Writerskill. heights, lalo na ang Bagwisan. Skalyx and Litsoc. The Fellows of the 18th heights Writers Workshop . My profs. And of course, my brothers: Ben, Jeff, Jonix, Timbol, De Paz, Maslog, Ong Chiong, Sasan, Carl Lance. Maraming salamat sa inyo. “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” — Samuel Johnson Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan (4 BFA Information Design) Alfred won 2nd place in the Maningning Miclat Art Competition 2012 with his piece Traverse last September 2012. With the night sky as his constant inspiration, he finds solace in making art, and thus, will continue to pursue artistic excellence. He profusely thanks his Mom and Dad, Wolfie, Hannah, Nicko, Mo, Pao, Geneve, Deirdre, Sara, Audrey, Maan, the heights 2012-13 eb and the lx Committee, heightsers past (Kyra, James, JC, Tina, Jamie, Lex, Lyza, Walt, Wy) and present, soh and the fa Program (Doc Marlu, Ms. Roxanne, Pam, John Tan, Kookie, Shanice), and God, for the never ending support of all sorts, for being my greatest fan despite everything, for the poisonous jta friendship (haha), for all the fun and intellectual times, for believing in my vision, for being the only home I've had away from home, for the and for the Infinite Love, respectively. His current life goal is to be a world – renowned and financially stable artist who travels occasionally. Find him at http://artistbynecessity.tumblr.com for commissions, WIPs, and more updates. Rachel Valencerina Marra (BFA Creative Writing 2011) Si Ace ay kasalukuyang kasapi ng Kagawaran ng Filipino sa Ateneo High School. Bahagi siya ng bfa cw '11 at pakiramdam niya, ang tanda-tanda na niya. Humigitkumulang limang minuto lang kung lalakarin ang layo sa pagitan ng Loyola Schools at ahs, pero tuwing tatawirin niya ang pagitang ito, para siyang naglalakbay sa dalawang mundo. At okay naman. Nakakapawis, pero keri naman daw.

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"Hi" raw sa mga kaibigan, kakilala, katrabaho, kapamilya, mga dating estudyante, mga estudyante niya ngayon, at sa Diyos. Tulad ng nakagawian, siya ay nagpapasalamat sa inyong lahat. Glenn Mas (Fine Arts Program) Glenn Sevilla Mas is a Ford Foundation International Fellow who earned his mfa in Playwriting from the Catholic University of America in Washington, dc. His plays have been presented at the Callan Theater and the Kennedy Center in Washington, dc; the Top Floor Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; the Lion Theatre in Philadelphia; the ccp, The Black Box Theatre in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China, and the Rizal Mini Theater and Fine Arts Theater of the Ateneo de Manila. He has represented the country in theater festivals and conferences in France, Australia, Bangladesh and the United States. A member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Center of International pen, he has won nine Palanca awards for his plays and has three books published by the ust Publishing House. He is an assistant professor and the Theater Arts Program Coordinator of the Ateneo de Manila. Ralph Menchavez (AB Economics 2006) Naging Editor – in – Chief (‘05-’06) at Patnugot sa Filipino (‘04-’05) ng heights noong mga panahong hindi pa uso ang fb at Twitter, at ang tanging paraan lamang upang palihim na manuyo ay sa ym status. Nagkamit rin siya ng Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts para sa Poetry noong 2006, naging fellow ng Ika-10 Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop, at nakapaglimbag ng ilang tula sa heights noong nasa Ateneo. Kahit lampas kalahating dekada na siyang alipin ng mga numero bilang management consultant at tumutulong na magpalago ng negosyo sa iba't ibang bahagi ng mundo, hindi pa rin niya nalilimutan na mas mahirap ang sumulat sapagkat walang formula na mas titindi pa sa mga katagang nais sambitin ng puso at haraya. Meagan Ong (4 BFA Information Design, Minor in Literature – English) Meggie is learning, always learning. Thank you Mum, Pong, 3 – Kamote, Ayay, bobb, Britt, Lani and heights, especially the EB. Michael Rey Orlino (BS Electronics and Communications Engineering 2012) Si Mike ay taga – Alabang. Ito ay para sa pamilya ko na laging nandiyan sa panahon ng hikahos at kagalakan at sa Panginoon, na lagi't laging nandiyan sa lahat ng panahon.

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Noelle Pabiton (4 AB Literature – English) It’s remarkable how much courage we can gain out of the compliments of people we know so little. Thank you to the two Ateneans who stopped in their tracks for a few minutes to watch me sketch. I don't recall their faces or even what they said to me, but they made my day. Carissa Bernadette A. Pobre (3 AB European Studies) At present, Carissa is also taking a minor in Creative Writing. To heights, which has always been the impetus to be better, and to Audrey, Paolo, and Deirdre. She lives in Quezon City. Allan Popa (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Si Allan Popa ay autor ng walong aklat ng mga tula kabilang na ang Basta (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2009), Libot ng Durungawan (High Chair, 2009) at Maaari: Mga Bago at Piling Tula (up Press, 2004). Nagwagi na siya ng Philippines Free Press Literary Award at Manila Critics Circle National Book Award for Poetry. Nagtapos siya ng mfa in Writing sa Washington University in Saint Louis kung saan siya nagwagi ng Academy of American Poets Prize at Norma Lowry Memorial Prize. Nagtuturo siya sa Kagawaran ng Filipino ng Ateneo de Manila University. Tommi Principe (1 BFA Information Design) Tommi is a bfa id freshman who shuttles between her Loyola home and her parents' Makati abode. When she's not attending to the gazillion and one requirements for her maiden semester, she pounds aways at the skins with her Vic Firth choice hickories or she lounges around wearing her Polar bear printed flannel shorts. She can survive on chicken fillet meals and her favorite place in the planet is Dhoby Gaut. (Try saying that rapidly a couple of times.) Zosimo Quibilan (AB Interdisciplinary Studies 1993) Nanalo ng National Book Award (2006) at Madrigal Gonzalez Best First Book Award (2008) ang "Pagluwas" (up Press, 2006), aklat ng maiikling kuwento ni Imo. Mababasa ang iba pa niyang akda sa kcet, International Literary Quarterly, Kweli Journal, Philippines Free Press, Likhaan 3, Kritika Kultura, at iba pa. Kasalukuyan siyang naninirahan sa Los Angeles kung saan patuloy siyang nagsusulat at paminsan-minsang nagbibigay ng panayam tungkol sa panitikang Pilipino sa ucla. Nanungkulan siya bilang Editor – in – Chief ng Heights noong 1992-1993.

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Nadine Ramos (3 AB Political Science) Nadine is currently studying Political Science, with a minor in Hispanic Studies. She is also a writer for The GUIDON's Inquiry section. She is often found in cafĂŠs at odd hours, sipping the establishment's cheapest drink and scribbling on a red notebook. Therese Nicole Reyes (4 BS Psychology) As of 2012, Therese Nicole is currently finishing her bs Psychology degree in Atenero de Manila University while juggling her role as the Art editor of Heights. It was through an unsual set of circumstances, a submission rejection, a philosophy class under Sir Dennis Temporal, and the creative support of Lexis Balaguer and Emmanuel Reyes, that she finally found and embraced her artistic passion. She won't let go. No matter what. thenimore.tumblr.com thenimore@gmail.com Julz Riddle (AB Communications 2010 / MA Filipino Literature) Laging gutom. Agustin Rodriguez (Department of Philosophy) Agustin Martin G. Rodriguez is the current chair of the Department of Philosophy, Ateneo de Manila University. He has published research on Scheler, Habermas, Derrida, governance, democratization, discourse theory, and poverty in various journals including Philosophy Today, Philippine Studies, and Filipinas. He is the author of the books Governing the Other, The Winding Road to Representation, and Pag-ibig ang Katwiran ng Kasaysayan, but in truth, he would rather be writing literature. Jose Tence Ruiz (Ateno Grade School 1969 and High School 1973) Jose Tence Ruiz has spent the last 56 years, 36 as a visual practitioner, trying to make sense of the the last 56 years, among thousands of other years upon which he might dwell. He has struggled to make art, in its multiple guises and has been recognized for some work and vilified or ignored for others. He has exhibited close to and very far from where he originated, which is both Sta. Mesa, Manila and Cubao and he sees to it that while his body might stay in the present and in the Philippines, that his imagination goes way further. Sagala de Ligalig is his 19th one person show, and is by no means his last. He is drawn to the decoratively tragic.

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Edgar Calabia Samar (Kagawaran ng Filipino) Si Edgar Calabia Samar ang may-akda ng mga aklat na Pag-aabang sa Kundiman: Isang Tulambuhay (admu orp, 2006), Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog (Anvil Publishing, 2009), Sa Kasunod ng 909 (ust Publishing, 2012), at Halos Isang Buhay: Ang Manananggal sa Pagsusulat ng Nobela (ust Publishing, 2012). Nagtuturo siya sa Kagawaran ng Filipino sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila at kasalukuyang direktor ng Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices. Nagkamit na siya ng mga parangal mula sa Palanca, NCCA Writer’s Prize, PBBY – Salanga Writer’s Prize, Gawad Surian at Gantimpalang Collantes para sa kaniyang tula, kuwento, kuwentong pambata, sanaysay at nobela. Longlisted sa Man Asian Literary Prize ang nobela niyang Eight Muses of the Fall (salin nina Mikael Co at Sasha Martinez) noong 2009. Naging writer in residence din siya para sa 43rd International Writing Program ng University of Iowa noong 2010. Benilda Santos (Fine Arts Program) Si Benilda Santos ay nagsilbing Direktor ng Fine Arts Program ng isang taon, naging tagapangulo ng Kagawaran ng Flipino sa loob ng limang taon, at gumanap na Dekano ng Paaralan ng Humanidades sa loob ng dalawang taon. Premyadong makata rin siya ng Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature at nagtamo na rin ng Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas sa tula at sanaysay sa taong 2003. Kasama sa kanyang mga aklat ng tula ay ang Pali-palitong Posporo: mga tula, Alipato: mga bago at piling tula, at Kuwadro Numero Uno: mga tula. Vincenz Serrano (Department of English) Vincenz Serrano is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University. Apart from teaching courses in literature and creative writing, he is coordinator of the ab Literature (English) program and an editor of Kritika Kultura. Eugene Soyosa (AB Economics 2009) Eugene Soyosa was a member of heights from 2007-2009 and was a fellow in the 14th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. He currently lives in Taguig City. Ramón Sunico (AB Humanities 1976, MA Philosophy 1981, Departments of English, Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies) Ramón C Sunico, RayVi to his friends manages Cacho Publishing House. He designs books, writes, edits, translates and teaches. He has taught for the Ateneo’s departments of Literature, Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies. He now teaches creative writing online for its Asian Center for Journalism. He belonged to the editorial staff

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of Nonoy Arao who with Rolando S. Tinio as moderator revived heights after it was silenced by the declaration of Martial Law. In 1976, while still a student and inspired by a reading organized Tinio, he and Eddie Boy Calasanz held a poetry reading by both teachers and students and hosted by the Philo Club. A year later, as a teacher and now moderator of the Humanities Club he founded, he continued the poetry readings that would be held every semester for the duration of his time as a full – time teacher. In the 80s, he moderated rp – books, one of the first listervs (online mailing lists) ever on Philippine culture. Jason Tabinas (AB Economics 2008) Naging bahagi si Jason Tabinas ng heights — Bagwisang Filipino (2005-2008) at nagtapos ng AB Economics (2008). Nalathala ang ibang mga tula ni Jason Tabinas sa Likhaan, High Chair Online Journal, at Philippines Free Press. Alyza Taguilaso (BS Biology 2010) "Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.  — Lisel Mueller, "The Blind Leading The Blind" In between running around wards and fighting the urge to sleep for 100 years, Alyza subsists on oatmeal, deadlines, and thoughts of the sea. She tends to a hedgehog named Mumu and a cat called Serafee. Rie Takumi (4 BFA Creative Writing) This Creative Writing senior is glad that, though her submissions didn’t make the Sesquicentennial folios, her work is published in the lx folio alongside her friends and literary greats. A Job in the Morning is a work – in – progress that’s been revised for over a year now. It is hovering in the uncertain state between being a stand – alone piece and a part of a loose collection. It also retains the grammatical errors it had since its first drafting (which the editors corrected), a wound that was inflicted by the writer’s awkward relationship with tenses. The writer nervously thanks God and Jesus, nervously because her stories do not always contain morally – upright characters. On a human level, she thanks her family (her grandmother and father, especially) and friends (topnotchers listed alphabetically: A.J., Alex, Block E, Cedric, Dan, heights staffers [all of you, seriously], High School Friends [you know who you are], Mavi, Mon, Ray, Sebb, Pat, Pao, Shanice, Tintin), who continue to support her in many ways and know things that the other party should not, and will never, know. (And this is way longer than it should be.) 377


Cedric Tan (IV BS Management, Minor in Literature — English) Leon Cedric C. Tan is a senior majoring in Management and minoring in Literature — English. He was a fellow for fiction at the 17th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop. Besides heights (which he is currently serving as English Editor of) he has been published in the Philippines Free Press and the Philippines Graphic. He has never let go of his old love for high fantasy, and plans to one day publish a novel with swords, magic and dragons. For Audrey and Therese. “You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint paradise, and in you go.”  — N. Kazantzakis Michelle Tan (BFA Creative Writing 2011) Michelle sustains herself mostly with food but cannot deny gorging on film and paper between meals. She is currently at the University of East Anglia, stuffing her brain with overpriced movies and endless library loans. Gastrointestinally, she survives on sandwiches and bland English food. She accepts charity. Salt and Maggi magic sarap urgently needed. Paolo Tiausas (4 BFA Creative Writing) “Liwanag ka,ang sabi mo; sa 'yo naman ang sagot ko, dilim ako” — Alejandro G. Abadilla, Liwanag Ka Kasalukuyang nasa huling taon ng pag-aaral ng Malikhaing Pagsulat si Paolo Tiausas sa unibersidad. Naging fellow siya sa tula noong 16th AHWW noong 2010 at sa 11th ANWW nitong 2012. Nailathala na ang kaniyang mga tula sa Heights, Matanglawin, Spindle, at Philippines Free Press. Laking pasasalamat kay mami-dadi-kuya-patty-pie, laking pasasalamat sa mga guro sa panitikan, at laking pasasalamat sa mga karamay sa araw-araw na drama ng buhay. Stefani Tran (II BFA Creative Writing) Stefani Tran is nineteen years old and a Creative Writing sophomore, although sometimes she likes to pretend she is a zoologist. She looks way more Vietnamese than she feels.

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Eos Trinidad (IV AB Interdisciplinary Studies) Eos is a fellow of the 16th Ateneo heights Writers Workshop, 3rd J. Elizalde Navarro Workshop on the Humanities and Arts, and 1st imust – plus. He has been part of the 2011 Beijing Forum and the 2012 tf – learn Asian scholarship for the National University of Singapore. Martin Villanueva (BFA Creative Writing 2008, Fine Arts Program) Martin Villanueva’s poems, essays, and short stories have been published in Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, Philippine Daily Inquirer, High Chair, and heights, among others. He has won the Carlos Memorial Award for Literature and was a fellow at the Silliman National Writers Workshop. He teaches and is currently the coordinator for creative writing in the Fine Arts Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. As an undergraduate he was a member of the heights English staff, and he is now the staff 's faculty moderator. Rooms was previously published in the Philippines Free Press. Maria Amparo Warren (AB Communications 2011) To everyone who might be reading this, the only thing I ever aspire for is kindness, and I find traces of it everywhere: in a taxi where the driver will speak with me about politics, in the smile of a child becoming a fast friend over a shared paintbrush, on the jeep where a woman cradles a kitten, in a tapsihan five hours away from Manila where a shopkeeper serves me a cheeseburger with banana ketchup and tells me of a two – bus – trip to return me home, in a secondhand bookstore where someone will ask me my name and why I wear a bag with spikes, in the second floor of an empty coffee shop where someone will eventually listen to me break down in tears. There it is, however far I wander, feeling like little feathers of light that I can almost feel with my fingers. I am sure that I will at least try to write, if there is at least a sliver of kindness in sharing the things that feel most real to me and hoping, in earnest, that you'd understand. (Pipay turned 23 this September and will eventually finish her ma in Creative at the University of the Philippines Diliman. This is for her family, her whitefeet, her beach bums, her kythe kids, her classmates, her teachers, her students, and her turtle.)

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Victoria Isabel Yap (BS Management 2010) Isabel Yap studied in Ateneo for two years and served as English Editor of Heights before moving to California, where she is currently finishing a degree in Marketing, with minors in English and Japanese Studies, at Santa Clara University. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in heights, the Philippine Speculative Fiction series, Diaspora Ad Astra, The Philippines Free Press, and Santa Clara Review, among others.  In her spare time she likes reading, writing, playing videogames, and listening to Nujabes'  Aruarian Dance on repeat. Alfred Yuson (Department of English) Alfred A. Yuson, nicknamed Krip, has authored six poetry collections, three novels, and well over a dozen other books of short fiction, essays, full – length play in Filipino, poetry translation from Filipino to English, travel, children’s stories and biographies, apart from having edited numerous other titles, including literary anthologies and corporate coffee – table publications. He has gained numerous distinctions, including the SEAWrite (SouthEast Asian Writers) Award from Thai royalty and the Gawad Balagtas from the Writers Union of the Philippines, both for lifetime achievement. He has been elevated to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Yuson has participated in various international literary festivals and fulfilled numerous writing grants abroad, taking him to all of the neighboring countries in Asia – Pacific as well as numerous European countries. He has attended far – flung poetry festivals in Finland, South Africa, Colombia, and Nicaragua. His fiction and poetry have been translated into eight languages. He has also received the famas award and Catholic Mass Media Award for film screenplay, and has served for over a decade as a member of the Movies and Television Ratings and Classification Board or mtrcb under the Office of the President. Yuson serves as Philippines Editor for manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, published by the University of Hawaii. He contributes a weekly literature and culture column to a national broadsheet, The Philippine Star, and a monthly column for Illustrado, a monthly magazine for expatriate Filipinos published in Dubai. He taught fiction and poetry for a decade in Ateneo de Manila University, where he held the Henry Lee Irwin Professorial Chair.

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Acknowledgments Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ and the Office of the President Dr. John Paul C. Vergara and the Office of the Vice – President for the Loyola Schools Mr. Rene S. San Andres and the Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs Mr. Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz and the Office of the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Ma. Luz C. Vilches and the Office of the Dean, School of Humanities Dr. Marianne Rachel G. Perfecto and the English Department Dr. Jerry C. Respeto and the Fine Arts Program Dr. Alvin B. Yapan at ang Kagawaran ng Filipino Dr. Edgar C. Samar and the Ateneo Institute of the Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) Mr. Christopher F. Castillo and the Office of Student Activities Ms. Marie Joy R. Salita and the Office of Administrative Service Ms. Liberty Santos and the Central Accounting Office Ms. Christina R. Barzabal and the Purchasing Office Ms. Lourdes T. David and the Rizal Library Ms. Carina C. Samaniego and the University Archives Ms. Yael Buencamino and the Ateneo Art Gallery The MVP Maintenance and Security Personnel The University Physical Plant Office Karlo Amparo, Mark Cinco and the Computer Society of the Ateneo (CompSAt) Mr. Ronnie Ong and Athena’s Fine Furniture and Sashworks Mr. Luther Aquino and the Guidon Mr. Alfie Pena and Matanglawin The Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral ng Ateneo de Manila, and the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo To Haranya of UA&P, the Thomasian Writers Guild of UST, the Malate Literary Folio of DLSU, UP UGAT, UP Writers Club, and UP Quill And to all the contributors of this anniversary folio


Editorial Board Editor – in – Chief

Nicko Reginio Caluya [bs cs 2013]

Editor – at – Large

Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan [bfa id 2013]

Associate Editor

Paolo Tiausas [bfa cw 2013]

Managing Editor for Communications

Deirdre Camba [ab lit (eng) 2013]

Art Editor Therese Nicole Reyes [bs psy 2013] Associate Art Editor

Nicole Maguyon [ab hum 2013]

Associate Design Editor

Meagan Ong [bfa id 2014]

English Editor

Cedric Tan [bs mgt 2013]

Associate English Editor

Isabela Cuerva [bfa cw 2014]

Filipino Editor

Jeroshelle Santos [bs ch – mse 2014]

Associate Filipino Editor

Ariane Lim [bfa cw 2015]

Production Manager

Audrey Mae Ferriol [ab eu 2014]

Associate Production Manager

Patricia Santos [bfa id 2013]

Finance Assistant

Maan Mendoza [bfa id 2013]

Head Moderator   and Moderator for Filipino

Allan Alberto N. Derain

Moderator for Art

Yael A. Buencamino

Moderator for English

Martin Villanueva

Moderator for Design

Pepito Go – Oco

Moderator for Production

Enrique Jaime S. Soriano


Staffers Art 

Dyanne Abobo, Manuel Angulo, Micah Barker, Adrian Begonia, JV Calanoc, Nicole Castañeda, Pamela Celeridad, Francis Doloroso, Angela Escudero, Monica Esquivel, Momo Fernandez, Yanna Justiniani, Matt Lee, Kriselle de Leon, Kimberly Lucerna, Gracie Mendoza, Maan Mendoza, Julianna Montinola, Moli Muñoz, Justyn Ng, Sara Nothdurft, Veronica Oliva, Jan Eli Padilla, Nicole Soriano, Ali Timonera, Jenelyn Venancio, Aaron Villaflores, Fleurbelline Vocalan

Design 

Anissa Aguila, Bianca Carandang,Timothy Chuang, Kenzie Du, Bianca Espinosa, Karen Fuentes, Bea Ignacio, Andi Lanuza, Jenny Lapus, Dale Liwanag, Katrina Lontoc, Tanya Mallillin, Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan, Sara Nothdurft, Bea Policarpio, Nicole Soriano, Gino Tuazon

English 

Paco Adajar, A. A. Aris Amor, Billy Atienza, Tasha Basul, Christabel Bucao, Deirdre Camba, Regine Cabato, Gian Dapul, Cathy Dario, Jio Deslate, Adam Eleccion, Javison Guzman, Jenina Ibanez, Leona Lao, Joseph Ledesma, Samuel Liquete, DC Mostrales, Lara Pangilinan, Elijah Pascual, Hannah Perdigon, Carissa Pobre, Andie Reyes, Bianca Sarte, Stephanie Shi, Micheas Elijah Taguibulos, Rie Takumi, Pam Villar, Kazuki Yamada, Paolo Zaldarriaga, Noelle Zarza

Filipino 

Selina Ablaza, Chise Alcantara, Ace Ancheta, Japhet Calupitan, Nicko Reginio Caluya, Patricia Cendaña, Luigi Cortez, Dustin Cruz, Abner Dormiendo, Reia Dangeros, Geneve Guyano, Kara de Guzman, Roselyn Ko, Kimberly Lucerna, Mo Maguyon, Aidan Manglinong, Lj Miranda, Hannah Perdigon, Lorenz Revillas, Paolo Tiausas, Roanne Yap

Production

Kim Ang, Gwen Bañaria, JV Calanoc, Punky Canlas, Momo Fernandez, Jonnel Inojosa, Kriselle de Leon, Ysa Ocliasa, Harvey Parafina, Carissa Pobre, Renzo Santos, Melissa Yu, Cressa Zamora


The LX Committee Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan and Paolo Tiausas

LX Committee Heads Historical Research

Ace Ancheta and Tasha Basul (Committee Heads); Samuel Liquete, Micheas Taguibulos, and Noelle Zarza (Committee Members)

Print and Teaser Video  Promotions

Maan Mendoza and Aaron Villaflores (Committee Heads); Momo Fernandez, Mo Maguyon, Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan and Moli Muñoz (Committee Members)

Interview Video Promotions

Pauline Marie S. Villar (Committee Head); Christabel Bucao, Samuel Liquete, and Lara Isabel Pangilinan (Committee Members)

Design Dale Liwanag (Committee Head); Bea Ignacio and Gino Tuazon (Committee Members) Website and LX Logo   Installation Launch

Kriselle de Leon (Committee Head); Gwen Bañaria (Logistics Head); Ysa Ocliasa (Programs Head); JV Calanoc (Promotions Head); Cressa Zamora (Food and Drinks Head); Alfred Benedict C. Marasigan (Design Head); Momo Fernandez and Punky Canlas (Hosts); Kim Ang, Deirdre Camba, Maan Mendoza, Cedric Tan, Paolo Tiausas, and Pat Santos (Logistics Committee Members); Adrian Begonia and Jan Eli Padilla (Documentation)

Folio Launch

Carissa Pobre (Project Head and Programs Committee Head); Gwen Bañaria (Assistant Project Head and Logistics Committee Head); Punky Canlas (Food Committee Head); Bianca Sarte and Noelle Zarza (Food Committee Members); Regine Cabato, Abner Dormiendo, and Cressa Zamora (Logistics Committee Members); Kim Ang, Ysa Ocliasa, and Pat Santos (Programs Committee Members); Harvey Parafina (Promotions and Documentations Committee Head); Jonnel Inojosa, LJ Miranda, and Melissa Yu (Promotions and Documentations Committee Members); Kriselle de Leon (Venue Decor Committee Head); JV Calanoc, Cheska Mallillin, and Ali Timonera (Venue Decor Committee Members); Audrey Mae Ferriol (Finance Head)


3rd ateneo heights artists workshop

10-11 November 2012 Femar Garden Resort and Convention Center, Antipolo City Panelists Joel Alonday Yael Buencamino Dan Matutina Jason Moss Leeroy New Claro Ramirez Fellows Nikita Bacalzo (Photography) RD Bolinas (Photography) Nicole Casta単eda (Digital Illustration) Sofia Dasmari単as (Illustration, Watercolor) Therese Reyes (Illustration, Ink) Pia Samson (Painting and Mixed Media) John Tan (Mixed Media) Ali Timonera (Digital Illustration) Aguinaya Taguinay (Photography) Fleurbelline Vocalan (Digital and Watercolor, Illustration) Workshop Director Nicole Maguyon


Workshop Deliberation Committee Jamie Bauza John Alexis Balaguer Eliana Javier John Paul Marasigan Workshop Committee Assistant Director, Logistics Head: Momo Fernandez Logistics: Jen Venancio and Moli Mu単oz Documentations: Adrian Begonia Finance: Maan Mendoza Design Meagan Ong Heights Moderator Ms. Yael Buencamino


Call for contributions Open to all Loyola Schools students, professors, professionals and employees, and alumni Written works in English & Filipino poetry, short fiction or excerpts from longer works of fiction, literary essays, critical papers on the literary and visual arts, one – act play scripts and/or screenplays Visual art drawings, paintings, photographs and photomanipulations, or visual art in any other medium Submit your work/s to filipino: heights.filipino@gmail.com english: heights.english@gmail.com artworks: art.heights@gmail.com Use ‘Submission’ in the subject – line of your email submission, and include a short bio or write-up. Contact us Room 202, Manuel V. Pangilinan Center, Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University heights.ateneo.org@gmail.com heights-ateneo.org


(2012) Heights LX, Anniversary Issue  

The 2012 Heights 60th Anniversary Special. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manil...

(2012) Heights LX, Anniversary Issue  

The 2012 Heights 60th Anniversary Special. Heights is the official literary and artistic publication and organization of the Ateneo de Manil...

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